My Son Lost His Life … But He Saved Mine

October 26th marks 13 years. 13 years since I delivered our stillborn son.

To put it mildly, 2004 was not my best year.  On June 15, 2004, at 27 years of age, I was newly pregnant, and after a routine blood test, I was subsequently diagnosed with Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia {CML}. My amazing doctor at MD Anderson Cancer Center told me I could delay treatment until after my son was born. I was healthy enough to continue the pregnancy.

Fast forward many months of routine blood work at MDA and bi-monthly visits to a high risk OB/GYN, I was feeling exceptionally lucky. I was still in good standing with the oncologist and the baby was picture perfect. 

It was a Sunday afternoon, and I felt him kicking.  But what I didn’t know at that moment … was that it would be the last time I felt those precious kicks inside me. My husband and I went shopping for more maternity clothes that day and had dinner with my parents. But by the day’s end … I knew. I expressed my grave concern to my husband, and he told me it would be okay. But it wasn’t.  It was never okay. 

I already had a scheduled appointment on Monday. The entire day, while I taught 6th grade, I knew — but would not let myself truly know. 

I thought the ultrasound was going to be the worst of the experience, but it was only the tip of the iceberg. Seeing your baby lay lifeless in the comfort of your womb is something you never forget. I can still close my eyes and see him.  

An umbilical cord accident. That’s what ended my son’s life. It was not my cancer, it was not my uterus, it was nothing I did wrong. At the end of the day, my body and my love could not save my baby. He died. 

At 29 weeks gestation, in a Labor and Delivery room at St. Luke’s Hospital, I delivered our son. It is by far the worst experience of my life. I cannot recount the story without tears streaming down my face. I can still see the hospital room, the look on family’s faces, the kindness of the nurses, and the amazing bedside manner of my OB. I can still hear the countless refrains of, “I am so sorry.”

I thought the worst was over. It wasn’t. What could possibly be worse than delivering a stillborn? The aftermath. I was wheeled out of the hospital the next day with no baby, no car seat, no nursery, nothing. I left with emptiness. An empty belly, an empty heart, an empty future.

The funeral was heartbreaking too. Do you even know how small a casket is that fits an infant? I hope you never do. The Rabbi cried. We all cried. How do you come to terms with burying your hopes and dreams? How do you even process putting your own child into the ground? If only the funeral ended my worst life experience.  But it didn’t.

After the funeral, my milk came in. Huge, milk filled breasts were attached to my body, but I had no baby to feed. I would stand in hot showers, crying, as my milk came draining out. It was awful. My milk took over a week to dry up.

Two and a half weeks later, I had done nothing more than lay on my couch, cry myself to sleep {which only ever lasted a few hours}, and try to  shop for non maternity clothes, which was a disaster! I had a pregnant belly and no baby. Even my attempts at shopping was horrendous. 

The day before I was to return to work, I hemorraghed. This was rock bottom. I was rushed to the hospital, lost half my body’s supply of blood, and was in and out consciousness. A D&C was performed to remove a piece of stuck placenta, and I remained in ICU until I was released the next day. I was done. 

Months later, we moved. I couldn’t stay in the home I was supposed to bring my son home to. I just couldn’t. I couldn’t stay in the city where I was “the girl who had cancer and whose baby died.” We moved to the suburbs and started over, literally. 

At first, we told no one my story. No one. We were just the cute young couple with a dog that bought a house in the neighborhood. I reached remission status, was living in a new place, and I could finally breathe.

In 2008 we adopted our first daughter and then in 2011, our second.

As each year passes, the grief is less … but the hole in my heart is permanent. I should be knee deep in planning my son’s Bar-Mitzvah, but I am not. I should have a moody teenager in my home, but I do not.

After thirteen years, I can tell you I have a whole lot more. Even with a hole in my heart, I have a blessed life. My marriage is strong, and my girls — well, they are the gift that keeps on giving. I cannot even imagine my life without them. They have my whole heart, my whole mind, my whole world. I am beyond proud to be their mother. I am beyond happy. I have been able to find the joy in all I do because I have experienced profound sadness.

Every story has a reason, and my reason is my son. Had it not been for the pregnancy, I would have never known I was sick. 

My son saved my life. I am a mother, wife, sister, niece, cousin, and friend because of my son. 

My son gave me life … and I will cherish each day because of him.

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Michele is a native Houstonian and loves everything Texas, including the Longhorns. She and her husband were married in January 2002 and are parents to the most wonderful girls, Penelope {August 2008} and Pandora {August 2011}. A former educator, Michele is passionate about education and student learning. She spends most of her days volunteering at her daughters' schools and tutoring neighborhood children in reading. Michele loves her big family and enjoys traveling to see all her relatives as well as being the fun aunt to her nieces and nephews. Her daily goal is to laugh each day and enjoy the moments. Becoming a mom was the greatest gift for Michele, and she treasures it all, even the tantrums. You can read more about Michele, her life, and her parenting adventures on her personal blog The Adventures of Tomboys in Tiaras.



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