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I’m Still Standing

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I’ll admit there are days when I want nothing more than to go back to the person I was on September 8, 2012. They day before everything changed for me forever.

On that day, I still didn’t know too much.

Everything changed on September 9. I woke up that morning with a terrible feeling in the pit of my stomach. I knew something was wrong with Luke when I woke up. I did everything I could to get him to get moving…and nothing.

These are not the things you expect on your 39th week of a completely uneventful, healthy pregnancy.

When we walked into the hospital that day, I remember being told by everyone that they were just SURE everything was fine. I told myself over and over that they were probably right. But I just couldn’t fight that feeling that something WAS wrong.

I just didn’t know how wrong. I don’t think I ever could have guessed that when I felt something was wrong, that he was actually already gone. Nothing to save. Nothing we could do. Just gone.

No one thinks about these things when they’re pregnant. Not until that moment when everything turns upside down on you and you’re forced to face a reality that you never could have imagined.

Sitting there in that delivery room, hearing that we wouldn’t be bringing Luke home with us–ever–that was the minute my life changed. The minute panic set in. Hopes and dreams were dashed. Grief entered, never to leave again. And I had no idea what I was in for.

That day. That week. That year. I still don’t always know what to expect, three years out.

During that 39 weeks Luke and I spent together, I can say for certain that never once did I entertain the thought that I could lose him to a cord accident. That he could possibly just slip away silently after being there so strong for me the entire pregnancy. Or that I wouldn’t even be able to say for sure when he died. Thoughts like that are unimaginable when you don’t know too much.  They would never cross your mind because you never lived in a universe where tragedies like that happened.

But on September 9, it was like I moved residence to Planet-My-Baby-Died. And there was no turning back.

I switched to survival mode. The day is still a blur to me. I was induced, with no idea what to expect. I’d never birthed a child, let alone a baby without a heartbeat. I had no idea how I’d survive.

I did, somehow. Luke’s delivery was complicated. He was 9 pounds, 12 ounces. Shoulder dystocia is a nightmare as it is, but in my case? This was the worst nightmare. I remember blacking out, thinking that maybe I wouldn’t survive either. Maybe that would be OK?

But I’m still standing, three years later. Those first minutes, hours, and days were near impossible. Every step I took was the most difficult step I’d taken in my life. I had no idea how to go on living the life that I was living before I knew I was pregnant with Luke. Everything was supposed to change when he arrived, and yet, there we were. We were changed, but by something we never even imagined could happen. The emptiness and despair of that first week home without him were (hopefully) the darkest days of my life. Somehow, with the support and love of the most amazing family and friends in the world, I’m still standing.

It’s hard to admit that the life I have now wouldn’t be mine had Luke not died. But having him made me a better person. I’m someone people reach out to when they hear of tragedies like ours. I’m willing to be an ear to hear those who have walked these same steps as I have. I know how it feels to experience the unthinkable firsthand.

When you know too much, you know how to be there for people. You know that there’s a dark side to the light that shines on so many others. I understand that not everything is sunshine and daisies. It’s not that I’m jealous (though sometimes, I am). I just know how it feels to be stuck in the dark and come back through all of that to find happiness, and sometimes, I think that might make the joy that I experience even sweeter.

When you know too much, it’s hard to go back and be person you were before. But Luke is part of being who I am now, and I wouldn’t give that up for anything.

 

Jennifer Watanabe works in consulting and is a mama of two–Luke, who she carries in her heart, and her rainbow baby, Lena. She blogs about life and loss on her blog http://dearbabyluke.blogspot.com in hopes to keep her son’s memory alive and spread stillbirth awareness.

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