On Friday we had learned that William was beginning to fade. Over the weekend, we waited for our next heartbeat check on Monday.
On Sunday night, I slept deeply. I found it hard to wake on Monday morning. I half-heartedly added a few items to the bag we had packed in case we had to rush to the hospital. I just didn't feel as though Monday was going to be the day.
We were going to my local OB's office for the check and would go on to CHOP if no heartbeat was found. I just didn't believe it would happen like that. I was sure that if William's heart stopped that week, we would discover it at our weekly CHOP appointment on Wednesday.
As we waited to go to the heartbeat check, I reminded my husband to get the bag we had packed. We don't need it today, but we should have it just in case.
I sat on the couch and read to William. I read him a children's book about a parent telling his child how much he loved him. I rubbed my belly longing for him to kick. I could feel exactly where his body was on my right side. He always loved being on my right side. Sometimes I would get up out of bed and there would be a huge bulge to the right of my belly button. I loved imagining him curled up in his favorite spot within me.
Just before we left, I snapped a few pictures of myself in the mirror and asked my husband to take a picture of my belly. I rarely did this throughout my pregnancy, but those pictures are such a treasure to me now. I didn't realize they would be the last pictures of me carrying William.
We got in the car and drove to the doctor's office. I awkwardly walked up the path to the door. Even though I was just under 7 months pregnant, I was measuring much bigger. I looked 9 months pregnant and ready to deliver at any moment.
Don't worry, said a woman standing by the door, You're in the home stretch now!
How could she have known the truth to her words?
We walked back to the examining room and the nurse asked if I wanted her to take my blood pressure and weight.
That would be great, I said. Let's listen to the heartbeat first.
Why did I feel so confident that we would hear it?
I'm going to write about William's birth with a level of detail and candor that goes deeper than my typical style of writing. It may be difficult for some people to read, but I'll do this because it helps me process what happened. I'll also do this because William's birth is now part of my journey as a mother.
Mothers often share their birth stories. They talk about whether they had a vaginal delivery or a Cesarian. They talk about how long they labored and how they managed their pain. I want to share my story, too...but my story is one of birth and death.
Our society is often uncomfortable talking about death. The death of an infant makes people even more uncomfortable. Years ago, people rarely spoke of their stillborn children. They were made to feel as though they ought to forget the trauma...to move on. I believe that every child's story is worthy of telling, no matter what the circumstances or outcome.
William was born still, but he was still born. His birth story deserves to be told, and I've earned the right to tell it.