Break The Silence
By Jennifer Swartvagher on May 21, 2014
Was I ready to relive the pain of stillbirth?
My fingers trembled as I turned on the television. Who was I kidding? I wasn't brave enough to do this. I can't even watch the opening of “Up” without tearing up. I started to change the channel, but I couldn't do it. I was transfixed watching, knowing full well what was going to play out.
My husband walked in and realized I was watching “that movie.”
When the main character, Maggie, first worries something may be wrong, I silently screamed at her to go to the hospital. I still beat myself up about not getting to the hospital in time to save them. My boys were gone, long before I knew there was a problem. There was nothing I could do, but still I hold on to that guilt. I don't want another mother to carry that same guilt with her.
When the doctor brought out the ultrasound machine, I needed to brace myself. I remember Elijah's last ultrasound. When they called in a second obstetrician, I knew.
“There's no heartbeat. Your baby is dead.” I didn't believe it. He was still kicking.
Suddenly, I wasn't alone on the couch. A little voice asked, “Mommy, why are you crying?” Another little person handed me the tissues. Soon, I was surrounded with love.
Maybe I could do this.
At one point, afraid the movie was too intense for little eyes, I asked the kids if they wanted to watch cartoons. Evan told me that he was too emotionally vested in the movie for me to change the channel. My mind immediately flashed to the image of him carrying Elijah's casket out of the church and placing it in the hearse. He was so proud to carry his brother.
He needed this movie as much as I did.
It is time to heal.
After I lost Bennett, I would wake up and reach down to touch my belly, thinking he was still there. Then I would remember, and realize I must have been dreaming. I should have been counting down the days until his birth, instead I was counting the days since I last held him. Three months later, we were expecting again. By 25 weeks, Elijah was gone as well. In all honesty, I was prepared for it, as prepared as you can be for the death of your child. You lose that innocence of pregnancy once you lose a baby. With each pregnancy afterward you simply wait for the other shoe to drop.
Flashing back to the birth scene. I was back in that room again. Laboring and delivering a stillborn baby is a surreal experience. The pains are no different from birthing a live baby. As you push and will this baby to be born, you want to stop time and just remain in that moment. The pain meant he was still with me. Once he was born, he wouldn't exist anymore. The pain just continues on in your heart.
A silent room, somber faces, and a marker on the door to signify grief instead of joy. I can still feel their quiet bodies upon my chest as the heaviness of death filled the room. I never expected to fill an album with pictures of the worst day of my life. Still, I documented every inch, every moment, every tear.
As the credits rolled, I felt a heaviness lift from my shoulders. I do not feel strange anymore.
I am not alone.
Return to Zero is helping break the silence.
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