When Brad got home from school, he wrapped his arms around my belly. Randy and I weren't sure how to explain what had happened -- we were so confused ourselves. "The baby was sick, and angels had to take him to heaven," I told Brad.
"How did the baby get sick?" he asked. We told him we didn't know; it just happened. I could tell this was difficult for him to comprehend -- I still obviously had a baby in my tummy.
While Randy was lying down for a nap, I paced the house, wishing my pregnant belly didn't exist. I tried to separate myself mentally from the child inside me. I avoided looking in the mirror and refused to put my hands on my stomach. That touch had been so comforting once -- a reminder of the precious baby growing within. Now I just wanted it to be over.
I called Dr. Williams to see if we could have the delivery that night. She said she would meet us at the hospital at 8:00 that evening and induce labor. Dr. Williams explained that once the baby was born, we could hold him for as long as we liked. We would be able to take photos too. That struck me as weird: I doubted that I would want to hold our lifeless baby, much less take pictures. But as I was packing, I put a camera in my bag anyway.
At the maternity ward, I kept my eyes lowered, hoping not to catch the gaze of a friendly stranger who might smile at me in anticipation of a baby's being born. After we checked in, a nurse showed us to a delivery room. Because I wasn't at all dilated, Dr. Williams suggested a suppository to soften my cervix overnight before inducing labor in the morning. Randy spent the night by my side on a roll-away cot, and in the morning, Dr. Williams administered Pitocin.
Contractions came on quick and hard. After a few hours, I had an epidural. There didn't seem to be any reason to endure such tough physical pain, especially for a labor with such a sad end. At 3:36 p.m., we delivered our baby. It broke my heart to hear Randy say, "It's a little boy." I thought of Brad and the little brother he had so wanted but would never get to know.
The nurse wrapped the baby in a blanket, and my arms automatically reached for our son. Randy and I both cradled him and cried over what we had lost. He looked so perfect, just as Brad had been when he was born. I told the baby how much we loved him and how we would miss him. I told him about his big brother, who had named him Brian. As I held his tiny body and snuggled his soft cheeks, I felt the first and only sense of peace since looking at that ultrasound screen.
Randy and I spent several hours getting to know our baby. I was exhausted but forced myself to stay awake, sensing that every moment counted. I unwrapped Brian's blanket and studied the little feet that had so often kicked me, the knees that I could almost still feel poking me. I asked Randy to get the camera from my bag and snapped a few pictures of him holding Brian. Then he took a few photos of me with our son. I'm so glad we did this. Looking at those pictures now brings back memories of how wonderful that short time with Brian was.
The next morning, we left the hospital -- not with our newborn but with a keepsake box containing a lock of Brian's hair, his hospital identification bracelet, his footprints and handprints, a couple of Polaroid pictures the nurses had taken, and the little hat and blanket he had been wrapped in.