Friday, November 25, 2011

No, Honey, He Has Passed

I lay back on the table and lift my shirt, exposing my stomach.  This particular nurse has checked William's heartbeat several times and knows to start on my right side.  I know where William is and I know that she is placing the doppler exactly over his body.

Instead of the familiar whooshing sound of his heartbeat, I hear nothing but white noise.

I cover my face with my hand and start gasping.  She is moving the doppler around my stomach.


My gasping turns to wailing.  I'm pressing my hands against my mouth to stifle the screams.  My husband is holding me.  He is crying.

The nurse's eyes are red and filling with tears.  She says something I cannot hear because I'm crying in agony.  She walks out of the room and comes back with another nurse.

I grab her hand as the new nurse moves the doppler around with urgency.  The new nurse stops for a moment and listens to a faint slow heartbeat.  The two nurses begin talking to one another.  They are trying to figure out if it's William's heartbeat or mine.

I know that it's mine.  I know his heartbeat and I know it has stopped.

They leave to get the doctor.  I'm sobbing in my husband's arms.  The doctor comes in and tells me that we are moving rooms so she can do an ultrasound.

I can barely walk as we emerge from the room and begin crossing the hallway.  There are four or five nurses standing in the hallway watching us.  Some of them are crying.

I know there are patients waiting only a few footsteps away for their appointments.  I know their babies are alive and mine is dead.  I am biting my arm to keep from screaming.

I lay on the table and lift my shirt a second time.  I tell the doctor to turn the screen away from us.  My husband has draped his body over mine.  We are crying.

I look at the doctor as she stares at the screen, shaking her head.

Is he alive? I ask in desperation.  I already know the answer.

No, honey, he has passed.

A nurse walks in.

My baby died, I tell her through the sobs.

Another nurse walks in.

My baby has died, I say again.

The doctor shudders and looks away.  When she faces me, I can see she is beginning to cry and trying to gain composure.

Each time someone new comes in the room, I tell them that my baby has died.  I'm saying it again and again so that I can believe it to be true.

My screaming turns to moaning.

God, please help us.  Please help us. baby...I whisper.  I'm wrapping my arms around my stomach, trying to hold him through the barrier of my skin.   

We love you...Mommy loves you.  Mommy's here.

My sister-in-law has been waiting for us and comes in after the doctor tells her what has happened.  She is crying.  We place our hands on my stomach.

I suddenly realize that we must go to CHOP now.  I begin telling the doctor what to say when she calls.  I'm frantic.  She gently tells me that she knows what to tell them.  I begin saying goodbye to the nurses.  Some of them hug me.  Most of them are still crying.

They let us leave through a back exit so that we don't have to walk through the waiting room.  I stop crying as the elevator slowly descends.  We walk to the car.  I'm numb.

In the car, my husband hands me William's clothes and blanket.  As we drive to CHOP, I begin removing the tags and stickers.

Silent tears are streaming down my face as I prepare for my baby.  I stroke the sleeper we've chosen for him with my fingers.  I hold the matching hat to my lips and begin kissing the fabric.  I gently rub the beautiful blue blanket against my neck.  I do the same with each piece of his outfit.  I use his clothing and blanket to wipe away my tears.  I do all of this slowly, as if performing a sacred ritual.  I want William to be surrounded by my scent when he's born.

It's the only way I can care for him right now...and it calms me.

I look out of the car window.  The sun is shining.  It's a beautiful day to meet our son.

My stomach is cramping as we park the car.  We walk to the elevator and I wonder if I'm just nervous or having contractions. 

The elevator opens at the fifth floor and we begin walking to the special delivery unit.  As we approach the waiting room, I see my doctor.  There are many doctors at CHOP, and they are all wonderful, but this doctor is our special doctor.  She has worked with us the most and has talked to us and cared for us.  We love and trust her.

She sees us.  We are walking toward one another and I open my arms.

As she embraces me, I whisper, Do you know?

She nods sadly and tightens her embrace.

She leaves briefly to prepare for my admission.  While she is gone, our genetic councilor arrives.  She has been so dedicated to us and we love and trust her, as well. 

Do you know? I whisper.

Yes, she says quietly as she hugs me.

Our doctor comes back and we walk quietly into the delivery unit.  My body is shaking violently as we walk into the room that has been chosen for me to deliver our son.


Realizing that William's heart had stopped beating was one of the most traumatic experiences of my life.  At first, I wondered if I should try to forget this part of his birth story.  But I feel an urging to remember...even though it's so painful.

William's heart stopped beating.

It's so hard to accept, but it happened.  It's part of his story. 

I have come to understand that part of my love and commitment to William is acknowledging every part of his story, even the most devastating.

My prayer is that God will help me process the traumatic moments of William's story.  As time passes, I pray that He will ease the pain and brokenness I feel while allowing all the memories of William's story to remain.


  1. I came across this quote from writer George Macdonald who lost children of his own:

    If the very hairs of our head are all numbered, and He said so who knew, our children do not drop haphazard into this world, neither are they kept in it by any care or any power of medicine; all goes by heavenliest will and loveliest ordinance. Some of us will have to be ashamed
    of our outcry for our dead.

    Beloved, even for your dear faces we can wait awhile, seeing it is His Father, your Father, our Father, to whom you have gone. Our day will come, and your joy and ours, and all shall be well.

  2. My dear Ali,

    You don't know me, but Robin S gave me your name and I have been following your story. I have been exactly where you are. I have been in your place and this post brought back so much...I walked with you, word by word, reliving all of the same moments. While I blogged about our experience as well, I did not have the courage to share this moment as you did. We are sisters in Christ and sisters in grief. Please know that I am hurting and grieving with you, while also rejoicing that our boys, William and Christian, are safe, well, and whole in Heaven and we will have the tremendous blessing of spending eternity with them. I can't begin to know the pain of not having our faith and the reassurance of our reunion. The Lord has a plan for your family and this is just the beginning. If you ever want to talk to someone who knows what you are going through, please feel free to contact me, even if it's just to scream it out. ( Please know that you and your husband are in my thoughts and prayers.

    A Grief Observed by CS Lewis (written after the death of his beloved wife) was a poignant read for me at this time. Knowing that a great man of faith like him could struggle with the same fears and questions about God as I did helped give me peace that it was ok...I wasn't crazy or a bad Christan. God's shoulders are big enough for my pain. If you want to email me your address, I would be happy to send you a copy if you would like to read it.

    Sending you hugs,