Trigger Warning: This is a story about infant loss.
With 4 healthy, beautiful boys at home, I was shocked and so scared when the ultrasound showed 2 tiny beating hearts at my first appointment with my 5th pregnancy. My youngest son was only 10 months old and I had a strange feeling things were different this time. I just knew. And there they were on the screen, two tiny little beating hearts.
Throughout my previous 2 pregnancies, I remember feeling like we had cheated death. 20% of pregnancies end in loss. I had 4 perfect, healthy babies and now, without even planning it, we had 2 more on the way. I remember feeling incredibly scared because a twin pregnancy often presents so many more challenges than a singleton pregnancy. Among all of the planning and preparation got the birth of our twins, my husband was transferred out of state. I was 37 weeks pregnant when my husband unexpectedly lost his job. A week later, with double breech twins, my water broke.
My beautiful babies were born on January 23rd by cesarean section and were big and healthy. Matilda was born first, a footling breech, weighing 5lbs 15oz, and Ferris was born second, weighing 6lbs 8oz. Matilda had such a tiny little face and looked nothing like her brothers, she looked just like me. Ferris had the cutest little elf ears, they didn’t stick out but they came to a cute little point. They never spent a day in the NICU and went home with me 48 hours after they were born. My heart was so full. My family felt so complete. We were so happy.
On April 1st, my world came crashing down around me. My husband was out of town trying to get a business started and I was home with our 6 kids trying to hold down the fort. After nursing Ferris back to sleep and getting my big boys on the school bus, I responded to Matilda’s cries and found Ferris not breathing. I waited 15 minutes on the phone with a 911 operator as he told me how to perform CPR on my lifeless baby. The police arrived and took over CPR until the ambulance arrived.
It was 6:45 in the morning when I called my husband to tell him that his son wasn’t breathing and was being taken to the hospital. He jumped in his car and started the 6 hour drive home. I called my neighbor to come watch my 2 middle boys and my doula to please come relieve her, and my friend Natalie who jumped in the car to meet me at the hospital. I was hysterical and didn’t know what to do next. Matilda was hungry. I had to nurse her before I could leave. The officer told me I couldn’t drive myself because I was too upset. He loaded Matilda into the back of his car for me and we headed to the hospital.
When we got to the hospital, they said they had been working on him and trying to restart his heart. I went into the room and I still remember seeing him, his body was much more ashen than it had been at home, swollen already, probably from the medication given and the fluids. He didn’t look like my baby. He was so cold. I actually had a glimmer of hope that this wasn’t my baby! That my baby must be in another room, just fine. And then I saw his ears. His cute little pointy elf ears and I fell apart. I was so glad Natalie was with me. I may have only lived in that town for 6 months, but I had made so many amazing friends in that time. Natalie was my rock in those moments and so many afterwards.
The Doctor said he was going to try to get his heart started one more time. My husband prayed on the phone but it didn’t work. They unhooked him from the machines and handed him to me. The chaplain came in and prayed for my baby. I don’t remember how long I held him and cried but I don’t think it was very long. A nurse came in to tell me that Matilda needed to nurse. I was engorged and asked for a pump because I knew I would need to pump Ferris’s milk when she was done. I talked to the detective while I nursed and pumped. I wanted to see my baby again but the nurses said that wasn’t a good idea.
Natalie drove me home and my husband arrived a few hours later, right before our older boys got off the bus. And we had to tell them that their baby brother was not here and was not coming home. My oldest son’s screams of horror are forever etched in my memory. There was something so overwhelming to me about losing a baby, and still having to be a mom to my other children. I had to show a strength that I just didn’t have. I had to be a safe place for them when nothing felt safe to me anymore. As much as it hurt to lose a baby, the pain was compounded by seeing my children hurting too.
The next weeks are a blur. My mother in law came, my mom, my friends were there, crowdfunding was started to cover expenses and the funeral was planned by an amazing woman who just took everything off my plate. People just picked up the pieces and did what needed to be done because I couldn’t do anything except nurse my baby girl. I didn’t want to be alone. I didn’t want to talk but I wanted people around me. I felt safer when there were people around me. I didn’t want to sleep. I couldn’t eat. I lost 30 lbs in the month after Ferris died.
But life kept going. That’s the thing with loss. My world came crashing down around me but it still moved forward. I kept wishing this was all a nightmare and I would wake up soon. I kept thinking that there is no way this is really happening. He was just here. He was fine. My perfect little baby was just fine. And now he’s gone and I had to figure out how to live without him. I had to figure out how to parent my living children when a part of me was dead. I had to figure out how to be a mom to a twinless twin.
My Ferris has been gone for 6 months and I still don’t know how to do this. I have 6 children, but I am only raising 5. I have a baby who is forever missing a piece of her heart and soul and I will never be able to fix that. I have children who are afraid to tell me that they’re sad because they don’t want to make me cry and a husband who panics every time I call him because his world shattered with a single call from me.
I’ve been told that the pain changes with time, but never goes away. So far that sounds accurate. In the beginning I was in a haze. I felt like I had been punched in the stomach and was trying to walk through jello. After a few weeks, the reality that this wasn’t a nightmare started to sink in. He was gone. He was never coming back. It was raw pain and so incredibly painful. Now it’s a deep ache in my heart. I think about him constantly. I see Matilda growing up and I imagine what Ferris would be up to right now. I’m still in a daze. Moving through life in survival mode, just trying to make sure everyone is fed, clothed and smiles each day.
After someone you love dies, there is a beautiful little window of time each day when life is as it was. That little bit of time between when you first wake up and when you remember that they’re gone. I miss those moments. I know that my baby is in the arms of his savior and my faith tells me that I will see him and hold him again one day. But trying to be a mom to these beautiful babies on earth, when a part of me is living in the future, dreaming of the day that I get to see my baby again, hold him and kiss him and tell him how much I’ve missed him, is a difficult balance. One that I’m still trying to figure out and sadly, I may never get it perfect.
If you would like to follow mama Brittney’s journey with her 6 children take a look at her blog, Born Crunchy.