If you missed it, read Part 1 here.
At 1am on Sunday, January 3, my phone buzzed. I have never bolted out of bed so quickly - the birth mom's water broke, and she was on her way to the hospital! I scared Nathan half to death waking him up, and we rushed as quickly as we could to get out the door. Our bags were already packed and in the car, so it didn't take long before we were on our way, though not before taking a picture of our excited faces. I looked at the clock and just tried to memorize every minute of the night I knew would change our lives.
We got to the hospital and rushed in. It was quiet, and we went straight to the floor where our baby was to be born, talking about the gender and our plans for bringing him/her home. We checked in, and the nurse told us that the birth mom was with the doctor, and they would get us when she was ready to have the baby (I was going to be in the delivery room while Nathan waited outside).
I don't know how long it was later that Nathan received a text from one of her relatives. It simply read, and I quote verbatim, "The kid has past." We both stared at it. I prayed it was not true. Nathan, trying to be strong, told me that maybe they meant he/she was past due, since they had spelled it that way. I just felt sick, and we clutched each other's hands while we waited to hear from somebody, anybody, about what was going on.
It was 20-30 minutes before the relative came in and talked to us. The baby was not moving. They had not confirmed whether he/she was alive or not, but they couldn't figure out what was wrong.
I have never prayed so hard in my life. I prayed for a miracle. I called my family and asked them to pray. I begged God and told Him that this glimmer of hope would be our child's story. That this would not be the end. I was still on my knees in the waiting room when the doctor came in and confirmed our worst fears. They still did not know what happened, but our baby was dead before even getting the chance to take one breath in this world.
What happened next is a foggy, distant memory to me. We thanked the doctor then walked out of the first exit we could, even though it was on the opposite side of the building from our car. I was bent over, the wind knocked out of me, pleading with God that I would wake up in a few minutes, that this was all just a dream. We just cried out to Him. We didn't know what else to do. We were both sobbing and could hardly breathe. It felt so unreal as we pulled out of the parking lot with an empty car seat in the back. This was our worst nightmare, something we never thought would happen.
Somehow Nathan drove us home safely. I remember just standing in our house with empty arms in total shock and disbelief, exhausted because it was around 3:30am at this point. It had all happened so quickly and unexpectedly. We grabbed our sleeping bags and put them in our baby's room to sleep, amidst all the gifts sent by friends and family and things we had bought to prepare for our little one. We finally got to sleep around 5am.
I woke up a few hours later and checked my phone. I had thankfully decided to put it on silent because we needed the sleep. We had told a couple people when we found out, and woke up to a flurry of emails and texts expressing deep sympathy. The one I cared most about came from the birth mom's relative, though. He confirmed that our baby died because the cord was wrapped around the neck, and told me what I already knew in my heart - it was a boy. Our son. Our little Joel.
This is where we are now. A lot has happened since then and at the same time, not much. Gifts have continued to pour in. It's a strange and sad thing to come home to a box of baby things sitting next to bereavement flowers on the doorstep. We had family surrounding us, but it reminded me that they were supposed to visit to meet Joel, not to mourn him.
I thought the weeks leading up to meeting Joel were long, and I was right...but even longer were the days after he passed. My heart ached, and the grief would hit me at strange times - during a workout, while I was reading - as well as expected times, like when baby gifts came or when my mom left after her impromptu visit. Sometimes I mourn his death, sometimes I mourn the loss of not being parents, and sometimes I mourn both - these are the hardest days.
I wish I could end on a happy note, but this blog is unfortunately not that. It is not happy, but it is our story. It is the story of our first son, our Joel, who was loved fiercely without even being born. I know that his story will continue to pour out in my life and in my blog, but this part - the ugly, messy part - needs to be told. He deserved to have it told.
The peace I have is this: while I can't explain or understand why Joel died, I do know that he was loved deeply. I do know that while he was alive he was cared for, and now that he is no longer here he is missed. I do know that January 3 will always hold a special and painful place in my life. I know that our God is faithful, even in times that feel far more broken than beautiful.
This is Joel's story. Thank you for walking on this journey with us, no matter how broken it is.