Child Loss Grief Motherhood

It Was a Perfect Day…Until It Wasn’t

Written by Kathleen Sullivan

April 29th.

As soon as the receptionist handed me the card, I began to obsess over the date.

April 29th.

It had a nice ring to it, no?

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On April 29th2008, I would be 21 weeks and one day pregnant. I had heard they performed this sonogram earlier in some cases, but I wasn’t about to argue.

We had gotten this far.

This was our time.

We were blessed.

Also known as the anatomy scan, this was one of the more exciting tests performed during pregnancy. It was the one in which you got to find out the baby’s gender. Although I could barely contain my excitement, I also felt a sense of disappointment. I knew it was a boy but was secretly hoping for a girl. I even had a name picked out: Carolina Rose. Carolina was a tribute to my late mother, Carolyn.

I couldn’t help but feel guilty wondering if preferring one gender over the other made me a bad mom. However, I knew that what I felt was not uncommon. Many women were partial to one or the other. I wasn’t alone. Besides, this baby was going to be so loved no matter what.

During those days, when coming home from work on the subway, I would typically refer to the calendar on my phone. I loved this special time. The countdown seemed to be going so slowly. In the end, it didn’t matter as I knew the day would eventually get here. One time, after a particularly rough work day, I put down my phone to view a beautiful sunset. The train was on the elevated line and I had the most beautiful view. To me, the sunset symbolized the joy and happiness that was ahead. It symbolized the end of winter and the beginning of spring. A new, beautiful beginning. I had tears in my eyes.

In what felt like forever, April 29th finally arrived. I was employed as a special education teacher and worked in shifts. After my morning case, I would meet my husband, Brian, at the subway station and we would ride into Manhattan together. By the time my test ended, I would be ready to go to my afternoon assignment. I had chills just thinking about it. I knew I would be so elated by the end of the day and would barely be able to concentrate. It was a beautiful thing.

Brian picked me up on time and we started our journey from Brooklyn to Manhattan. The song that always annoyed me happened to be on in the car. Interestingly enough, it was starting to grow on me. Nothing would get me down today, even a slightly irritating song.

Once at the office, I felt as if I was being tortured. The wait was never-ending. Finally, I was called in. I was frustrated at Brian for not being there. He was still parking the car.

The sonogram technician and I agreed to get started and wait for Brian to reveal the gender.

“Your baby likes to hide,” the sonogram technician noted.

I wasn’t exactly sure what she meant by that, but I smiled nervously. Brian arrived just in time to hear the words I was waiting for:

“You are having a . . . boy!”

The lady then quickly made an exit while mumbling something about “needing the doctor to come and take a look at something.”

I just knew.

“Is there a problem?” I asked the doctor as she studied the screen with squinty and concerned eyes.

“I’m afraid so. I think I found a problem with the baby’s heart,” she answered.

We were quickly whisked out of the office and told to go to their recommended pediatric cardiologist.

As we were leaving the office, I noticed the sun had appeared with a gentle breeze.

It was the perfect day.

Until it wasn’t.

I felt like I was going to be sick.

Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome was the diagnosis given by the pediatric cardiologist.

He went on to explain the left side of the baby’s heart was severely underdeveloped. Three surgeries, a possible transplant, and termination were some of the words I made out as I sat in a complete state of shock. Although, I was safely seated on the exam table, I thought I was going to pass out.

We had some very tough decisions to make. Our precious baby was so very sick.

Why was this happening?

Was I being punished for secretly wishing for a girl?

All of this on April 29th—a day I was certain would be one of the best of our lives.

The next four months would be spent at a high-risk office with many tests and procedures. We would be delivering in a hospital with pediatric doctors that specialized in this condition.

On September 8, 2008, Liam Jude entered both the world and our hearts. The burst of love that I felt as the nurses placed him on my chest was a feeling that I will never forget. I loved him so much.

Then they took him away.

Why?

Little Liam had nine way too short days with us. He passed very unexpectedly. The doctors said he was doing great and that he would be coming home soon.

I felt betrayed.

They lied.

Today, 10 years later, I sit in my lovely home waiting for the kids to get off the bus. It is nearing the end of the year and spring is in the air.

It has been such a long journey, filled with both despair and joy.

My living children have kept me going through all my sadness.

My living children are my strength.

That doesn’t mean it hasn’t been hard.

It also doesn’t mean I have moved on from the grief.

It is still there—and will always be.

However, I have learned to be happy again.

I have learned to stop blaming myself.

I have learned that there is promise.

There is hope.

One of the best things Brian and I did was to join two neonatal bereavement support groups. I will never forget that one meeting in particular.

“We are having another baby,” Brian announced.

It was just five months after the loss of Liam and was a bittersweet announcement to make.

Our group leader, Ivy, told me to focus on one word: hope.

Hope not only gave me the strength that day, but so many other days as well.

Hope continues to give me strength.

Love continues to be what I feel for Liam and my living children.

I am not only grateful for hope—but for the love I feel every day.

About the author

Kathleen Sullivan

I am a freelance writer and full-time mom. My work has appeared on: The Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, Brain, Child Magazine, Mamalode
xoJane, Parentco., Mommyish and Your Tango.

I can also be found blogging at: http://www.threekidsonehusbandandabottleofwine.com/