Wednesday was just a normal day. I showed up for my routine 38-week doctor appointment – my second-to-last visit. My doctor started to listen for the baby’s heartbeat. I noticed that it was taking a bit longer than usual and I could tell that he was getting a little nervous. “Stephanie, we have to find the baby’s heartbeat.” He told me to dress again and go over to get an ultrasound. Over there, as I watched on the monitor, I saw that the baby’s chest didn’t have any movement and I started to worry that this could be very wrong. He had another doctor come in and they confirmed that they had a very good view of the chest but that there wasn’t any movement. Then they started telling me how they were sorry for my loss. In my shock I don’t think I accepted it. I asked my doctor if this meant that he was positive and he was. They told me I could make some phone calls and then they left. I texted Eldon to call me immediately. At this point, it still hadn’t set in. I think I actually thought there still might be a chance that they were wrong. I told Eldon that they couldn’t find the baby’s heartbeat and that the ultrasound confirmed that he was gone.
Eldon came immediately to the doctor and we talked in his office. Knowing that this pregnancy and my previous ones had been healthy and low risk, I think my doctor was in shock as well because there was no explanation for it. We determined that we would induce labor that day.
In my own heart after hearing the news I felt like I could handle this. Strangely enough, I felt peace even upon hearing that my baby was gone. But I knew that as soon as I saw him and he was actually in my arms that it would be so much more to handle.
Everyone was so caring and sensitive at the hospital. Eventually I got an epidural – my hardest one yet – and a few hours later he came. I didn’t even have to push once – he just came. But there wasn’t a cry. All was quiet. The nurse wiped him off a bit and then handed him to me.
He looked just like Eldon and like the girls when they were born. He had a sweet little nose and a cute cleft in his chin. His ears were perfectly formed and his hair was about as dark as Ellie’s when she was born. I wished so much that I could see his eyes. Would they have been brown or blue? I kept waiting for him to miraculously take in a breath and be with us, but he was still and quiet. I held his sweet little hand and just stared at him.
Eventually Eldon took him while the doctor finished helping me. I felt somewhat in a daze and emotionless from the medication and the whole experience. Then I looked over at Eldon and saw him holding his sweet little boy, crying. His little buddy. His little friend who would have played baseball with him.
When the medical staff finally finished, they left us alone with him and we sobbed and sobbed. He was so perfect and so beautiful. He was so close to being a part of our family, with two sisters eagerly waiting for his arrival.
About that time, we determined that we should name him Goodwin, Eldon’s middle name. For so many months, we tried and tried and could never determine a name. I remember one time expressing that it was like a stupor of thought, and I laughingly said maybe it was a girl after all. But in that moment at the hospital, we knew Goodwin was right and it was the perfect name for this angel baby.
The nurse took him a little while later to measure and weigh him. Eventually my mom and Eldon’s parents came and they were all able to hold him. It made me so sad to see his sweet little body already deteriorating. He was so lifeless. At that time we had our final goodbyes. I kissed his sweet head and held his hand one last time.
I’ve had a flood of emotions with this experience. First of all, I have been so grateful to have peace despite the heartache. I know that he is a real person. Some people might feel anger in having to go through an entire pregnancy and then not have a baby in the end. But I did make a baby. And although he was taken from us, I do feel so grateful for the opportunity I had to make a person and carry him with me over these past months.
It’s strange how the brain tries to overcome tragedy. On one hand, my mind tells me that I was never pregnant and there never was a baby. But then I see pictures of him and remember holding him, and I feel all the regret that I will never get to be with him again in this life. He will never get to play with his sisters, and they will never get to make him laugh. Ellie will never get to hold his hand when he cries like she said she would do. I’ll never get to see him in the sweet clothes I collected or wake up to him each morning. I wonder if it is more painful to lose someone after having them, or lose someone without having the opportunity to ever know them.
I wish with all my heart that he were still alive. Despite all the uncomfortable and difficult days and nights of taking care of a newborn, I would gladly deal with those struggles just to snuggle him and comfort him.
Sometimes I feel bad that I complained so much during this pregnancy. It was so much more uncomfortable than my other ones. This experience has really softened my heart. I realize that being pregnant and having babies is a special gift.
Despite the absolute heartbreak, there have been many tender mercies along the way. We were able to choose a name and find a funeral home with considerable ease. Many, many people have been generous and the outpouring of love has been almost tangible.
Sophie has made several comforting remarks along the way. At one point, she remarked, “Well, I guess Baby Brother is in heaven with Grandma Goodwin.” Later, I asked her if she was sad that Baby Brother wasn’t here or if she was happy that he was in heaven and she said, “I’m just happy that he got a good name.” And this morning she prayed, “Please bless Baby Brother that he’ll be okay in heaven with Grandma Goodwin.” We didn’t realize it at the time, but I think naming him Goodwin let Sophie make a connection with someone she once knew, Grandma Goodwin. So even though she will never know Goodwin in this life, she can feel like he’s not alone.
Another sweet moment came when we were at the cemetery picking out the plot. We had a few options, and I noticed one of the name plaques nearby was for a baby girl named Ellie. I liked the idea of Goodwin being placed next to Ellie. About a minute after the man helping us placed a flag in the spot, the sun came out from behind the clouds and shone brightly on the ground. We felt like we had made the right choice.
I think over time we will find peace in normal life and we will be able to cope. I know there will be moments that trigger the feelings of sadness and regret. Like when I saw the girls dancing and laughing together, holding hands, it made me sad to realize that there won’t be a little Goodwin running around with them too, laughing and being silly. But then I felt happy hoping that the girls will grow closer together as they still just have each other. And I hope that there will be more children to help us fill the hole that is in our hearts.
I love you, Goodwin. I wish I could have raised you and held you a little longer. I wish we could have heard your laugh and seen you grow up to be a fine person. But for now, I will always have you in my heart as my sweet, angel baby.