Holding Our Angel

Loving After Loss


January 3, 2016: The Viewing

On January 3, 2016, we had the private viewing of our son at the funeral home.

It was just my husband and I. I wouldn’t have been able to handle seeing my friends and family and dealing with them. We were in a small room, with a couple of small couches and chairs along the wall. The trash can was on the complete opposite side of the room from the casket, and I moved it closer to the casket. I remember thinking how stupid that was of them–the trash can needed to be where everyone would need it most.

His casket was so small. When we were making the arrangements, the funeral director asked us how long our son was. We didn’t know, we never got that measurement. She said she would order the 2.5 ft casket. And it was so much smaller than any casket should ever be. It was white on the inside, and covered in blue flower roses on the outside. It wasn’t the bed we were expecting to lay him in, but it was the best we could do for him.

We had decided not to embalm our son, and the funeral home did a good job of letting us know there was a deadline if we wanted to see our son, but not pressuring us.

We spent about 25 minutes with him. He was so beautiful and he looked so peaceful. His tongue was slightly sticking out, and I just couldn’t help but think how adorable he looked. I went in thinking I would want to pick him up and hold him. But I couldn’t. He looked so peaceful where he was, and truthfully, I was a little scared to pick him up. I did touch him, and he felt cold But his skin didn’t feel too different.

I mostly cried and told him how much I love him. We described his nursery, and told him how much we missed him. But mostly we repeated over and over again how much we wanted him here with us. I left one of the few pictures we have of the three of us in his casket for him to be buried with. It’s a picture of him in our laps in the hospital in San Francisco. We took a couple of pictures of him in the casket. It may be morbid to some, but we loved how he looked and wanted to remember him that way. In SF, he looked swollen and different than he did when he was first born. At the viewing he looked more like he did when he was born.

The SF hospital gave me a “remembrance heart”. It is a larger outer heart with a smaller heart that is nested inside. The smaller heart I tied around his wrist when we said goodbye at the hospital, and he was supposed to be buried with it. The larger heart I put on a chain and wear as a necklace. I never confirmed with them if he was buried with it, and I like it that way. Because I would be devastated if it was lost, or thrown away. I like to think he is buried it with it.

I am grateful for the viewing. I only have good memories of it now, 2.5 months later.


The First Trimester

…And the pregnancy test came back positive.

It was March 26, 2015. A Wednesday. My period was 4 days late, which never happens, so I took a pregnancy test “just to be sure”. I was thinking (hoping?) that my period was late because I was under a lot of stress at the time.

But I was pregnant. My reaction, to be very honest, was not a good one. My first thought was “No, this can’t be happening. I can’t be pregnant. I don’t want to be pregnant”. I immediately began crying and freaking out. Though I wanted to be a mom eventually, I was convinced I wasn’t ready to be a mom right then.

My husband’s reaction was very different. I’ve always referred to him as my rock, as it describes him perfectly. He isn’t overwhelmed by life. He is able to quickly accept the curve balls thrown at him and handles it really well. He has great faith in God, which is why he able to quickly accept any change in life. He knows God will take care of him no matter what. This is one of the things I love most about him (but it also drives me crazy).

So my husband’s reaction was “Ok, we’re having a baby. What do we need to do first?”. I freaked out more, he hugged me and assured me that everything would be ok.

I’m glad we didn’t announce the pregnancy until after the first trimester because it took me the first trimester to work through my feelings. I don’t like changes to my plan, and this was a major change. I had a lot of doubts about whether I was ready for a baby, if our marriage was ready for a baby, and how this kid would fit into our lives.

Was I ready to be selfless and put the baby first? Would I be able to provide everything he needed? Would I really be able to unconditionally love and accept my child, even if he made different choices than what I wanted for him? My mind began to over-analyze every possible decision we would make for the next 20 years, every possible thing that could happen… except my baby dying.

I have a lot of guilt about my reaction to the positive test. I worried a lot in the first trimester that I would miscarry because of the doubts I was having. I know that sounds irrational, but it’s how I felt.

And now that Theo isn’t with us, I can’t tell you the amount of guilt I have over my initial reaction. I feel like a failed as a mother, that he didn’t grow properly because I didn’t love him enough from the beginning. That if I had a different reaction, if I had been overjoyed initially instead of overwhelmed, he would have been healthy and lived. And I also feel regret: that I wasted those first few months not cherishing and loving him enough.

Physically, my first trimester was pretty boring and typical. We did have a scare in the first couple of weeks. I was on the IUD at the time I got pregnant, and was displaying a couple of symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy. So for the first couple of weeks, I got multiple blood tests and ultrasounds to make sure the pregnancy wasn’t ectopic. But around week 7, the doctor confirmed the pregnancy was not ectopic and we were so relieved.

I was fortunate that I didn’t have morning sickness, but I did feel nauseated all. day. long. It was awful, but I’ll take nausea to throwing up any day.

I tried to be as active as possible during the first trimester, and took breaks from exercising when I felt too sick. I was able to eat pretty healthy though, which I am grateful for. Ice cream made me feel just as sick as broccoli, so I figured I would eat the broccoli. I took a prenatal vitamin every day, and I didn’t have any alcohol after we got the positive test back. I’m a vegetarian, so I didn’t have to worry about avoiding raw fish or lunch meat because I was already doing that!