Even when you know it’s coming, even when you think you’re as prepared as you’re ever going to be…nothing can really prepare you for losing your baby.
I have documented the loss and grief that has accompanied my latest pregnancy in previous blog posts. First, it was losing a twin at 16 weeks. Then, it was learning a devastating diagnosis about our remaining twin. But, over the past few months my husband and I had tried to come to a (somewhat) accepting state of mind about what was happening – carrying a baby who was only expected to live for a short time. He was a boy, and we would name him Lachlan John Carroll.
We had done our best to prepare our two kids, Lucas and Rowan, for what was expected to happen to their baby brother. Lachlan’s heart would stop functioning at some point after birth. Doctors told us we should expect to get at least one day with him, but maybe more. After delivery our family would all go over to Roger Neilson House – a fabulous palliative care home for children here in Ottawa. In the weeks leading up to Lachlan’s birth we received such wonderful support and counselling from the Roger Neilson House staff. I was confident we would have a loving place to gather as a family and make memories in the short time we had.
We tried to get the kids to treat Lachlan’s birth like a celebration. We planned to get him a birthday cake. Lucas chose some special outfits for him to wear, and matching stuffy elephants for each child to have. I had even ordered matching toques with adorable pom poms for them to wear together. It made our grief a little less as we focused on the positives.
Little did I know 2017 had one last heartbreaking curveball for us to deal with.
My induction was scheduled to take place on the afternoon of December 28th. As I packed my bag for the hospital and got ready to leave around midday, I realized in all the hustle and bustle that I had not felt Lachlan kick since the night before. Lachlan was a very active baby throughout pregnancy, so this was unusual and alarming. But I thought, “life couldn’t really be that cruel, right?”
However, when we were admitted to the hospital the doctor confirmed that as of that morning, Lachlan had died. I would now be delivering him stillborn.
We would never get to see his eyes open, or hear his little voice. I just wanted one day with him. That was how low my expectations had sunk, and even that was being taken away from us.
After a long night of induction labour, Lachlan was born on the morning of December 29th. He weighed 8 lbs 11 oz, with a lot of hair, a button nose, and a total family resemblance to Lucas and Rowan.
Although we no longer qualified to go over to Roger Neilson House, the wonderful staff didn’t forget about us and they came over to the hospital to visit. Our counsellor Carol held Lachlan and fawned over him, just as one would any newborn baby. A photographer came and respectfully took these wonderful photos, which I will always cherish. And two other lovely staff came to make hand and foot casts of Lachlan, and hand casts of Lucas and Rowan as well.
Later that morning Lucas and Rowan were brought to the hospital by my parents. Leo had to break the difficult news to them out in the hallway – that their baby brother was already gone. As sad as it all was, it was still so lovely to see both of my children hold their baby brother.
Lucas struggled at times with the visit, and hesitated to hold Lachlan at first. But he came around, and I’m so happy he will have these short memories to hold on to. He especially liked the idea of giving Lachlan a “haircut”, so we would always have a lock of his hair.
In the end, we got to spend 8 hours with our baby boy. He was cuddled, washed, sung to and loved. As the sun was setting, Leo and I knew the time had come to say goodbye. I can honestly say I made it through most of that day without crying. But, having to say a final goodbye and hand Lachlan over to the nurse, truly shattered my heart and the tears wouldn’t stop coming.
It has been hard to come to terms with the final disappointment of losing Lachlan on the very morning we were supposed to meet him. It all seems so unfair. But I have tried to think about it differently. I like to think that he was holding on that long for us. Lachlan held on through Christmas, so we could have a happy holiday all together. He held on until my parents flew in from Vancouver, just the day before, so that his big brother and big sister would have someone to take care of them and comfort them.
And, perhaps, in some way, Lachlan just knew it would be too hard for his mom and dad to watch his final breaths. Maybe he knew that it would be too difficult to just watch him slip away without trying to use extreme measures to keep him around for longer.
One week has now passed since Lachlan’s birth and death. The hardest week of my life. But, even through the grief it is amazing the strength you can find inside yourself. And, it is overwhelming how friends and family hold you up and keep you going in your time of need.
Leo and I are finding our way. What we do know is that it helps to hear Lachlan’s name. We love to talk about him and share his photo. We don’t want to push our grief away and try to forget. So, please don’t be afraid to ask about him, or ask about us. The more we can talk about him and remember him, the easier it is to smile through the memories. Lachlan is as much our child as Lucas and Rowan. We believe he is our angel looking down on us, along with his twin who we lost months before.
Until we meet again sweet boy. Lachlan, we love you.
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