Our Little Bobby
I had hoped to be pregnant for months. When I took a test at the end of February that was positive, I felt like jumping for joy. I had felt there was a child missing from our lives, and was so grateful to God for giving us this child. I took the test the day before Ash Wednesday, and realized a couple weeks later that a nauseous stomach and lack of energy was what I would offer up for Lent. I was sick and tired, but I decided I wasn’t going to complain because I knew feeling sick was a sign of a healthy baby.
We told the kids right away, and then everyone else. We were sooooo happy. Can you believe it? God blessed us with another baby!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!! The kids were happy and excited, especially Rachel (7). She would ask almost everyday, “How long till the baby comes now, Mom?” We would talk about how she was going to be such a good “little Mommy”, and Lucia (4) would get excited about being a good little mommy, too. Rachel (7) would come over and touch my belly at least once a day, ask me questions and tell me how she was going to help care for the baby.
At 16 weeks, I felt the baby kick for the first time. Oh, how wonderful. See how strong he is kicking, so strong, and firm enough for me to feel at such an early stage. The day I felt the baby kick was also the day I was asked to be a model for an ultrasound at our pregnancy center. I was able to see the baby flip around four times in just a few minutes. I was so happy to see my healthy little baby. I thought, “At last, now I can relax, quit worrying, and be excited.”
I felt the baby kick on Sunday and Monday, but not the rest of the week. I figured that it was early, and I was lucky to feel anything at this point. Over the next week, I started to swell and gained 7 pounds. I called the doctor on Tuesday to ask if I should be tested to see if I was starting to go into pre-eclampsia.
I went in for the test, and when the nurse did the Doppler to hear the baby’s heartbeat, there was none. The doctor tried….no heartbeat. He did an ultrasound…no heartbeat. He said he was sure the baby was dead, but he would have an official ultrasound done to confirm it. I called Jim, who had stopped at home during lunch. I told him the baby was dead, and he was stunned. We were both stunned. He stayed home, and we scheduled the ultrasound for 3:00 pm that same day. It confirmed that the baby had died very recently.
We called the doctor’s office to schedule the induction of labor for the next day. We went to cemeteries and funeral homes looking for a casket for a very small baby. We found a lovely little black treasure box. and I came home and made linens for the box.
We went to the hospital at 6:00. At 7:00, a nurse named Kathleen began taking care of us. She had had a miscarriage, and knew all the right things to say. She was genuinely interested in our situation and in us. She called in a Catholic chaplain to pray with us, and we were able to receive Jesus in the Eucharist.
Kathleen prepared me physically for what would happen. She also worked on preparing me emotionally for the stupid, insensitive things people would say. She explained that they would not mean to hurt me but, comments could and would hurt and it is okay to set limitations and grieve however I needed to. She knew all the right things to say. She showed us a drawer of little baby items, and offered to let us keep anything that might help us in our grieving process. She suggested a smell for the baby blanket that would help remind us of the baby. Later we chose rose tree smell.
By 6:00, little or nothing happened to start my labor. Maybe labor won’t start because he is alive, I thought. Three times I asked the nurse to try and find a heartbeat. They tried but they didn’t find one.
Jim stayed by my side the whole time, and even snuck me in some food to eat. Oh, but he fed me more than physically. He stayed by my side, and would rotate back and forth between saying prayers and reading information on losing a baby to help me accept our loss.
I said, “I don’t believe it! I don’t want to accept it! Let’s just watch some TV, and pretend this isn’t happening.” He would gently explain that we needed to prepare ourselves mentally and spiritually. Again he would return us to prayers and reading information on helping our children deal with the loss, and more prayers. We prayed the rosary. As we prayed it, Jim said he felt the mysteries come alive in what we were suffering. He said he finally had a sense of what Mary must have been feeling in these mysteries by watching what I was going through. I felt humbled by these compliments comparing me to Jesus’ mother. Jim cried tears of great sorrow throughout the day as he prepared both of us to accept our loss and prepare us to meet our dead child’s body. By seven o’clock we were thoroughly exhausted emotionally and physically. We were trying to decide whether to stay and continue to try inducing me or to go home and try again next week. We decided to continue to try inducement until morning.
Jim was so good to me and the nurses were so genuinely caring. I felt blessed with my care. I kept an inkling of hope maybe I wasn’t going in labor because the baby was alive and fighting for its life by not letting me go into labor. But, I knew the truth. My baby was dead!
Around ten o’clock, I began to have some decent contractions. Kathleen who had given me tremendous care all day came in to introduce the new nurse Sherry. Kathleen was giving Jim and I a big hug goodbye and telling us how she was going to pray for us when suddenly my water broke. Oh No! It is definite, “I’m going to have a dead baby.” Jim saw the huge amount of water on the ground. He bent down to wipe up the water and I think his heart fell right down into it. His face was in so much pain. His heart ached as he sobbed cries knowing the inevitable. I wanted to take the pain away from him but it was impossible. It was time for me to do my job as a mom and birth my baby, my dead baby.
My contractions weakened and Jim knew I was too nervous to sleep without him by my side. I slept on and off for about three hours. Then at 4:00 am the weak yet “stronger” contractions resumed to do there work of expelling my child. I called in our nurse around 5:00 am and I told her that I had been having contractions. Soon after 5:30 our baby was born.
The nurse placed the baby on my chest. Oh, how horrible he looked! He was a bright dark red. His mouth was open wide. I worried that he might had suffered.
Jim kept telling me to look at our baby’s hands and feet. They were so beautifully made. I held perfectly formed little fingers and toes with little fingernails and toenails.
Oh how the Blessed Mother must have felt holding and seeing her son’s dead body all bloody and knowing his agony.
Jim then said, “Our baby, Bobby is not here; he is not in pain. He is with God. He can see God’s face and he is so happy. He sees the beatific vision. Bobby is held by the Blessed Mother and by the Father God who loves him so much. He sees you are sad and he wonders why because he is so happy. He has more joy than we can imagine.” Then a song came into my mind, “I Can Only Imagine,” which speaks of how we can only imagine how wonderful heaven will be.
Jim took a couple of pictures of the baby and then placed him in a jar with water. The baby’s appearance changed. His head reformed and his mouth closed. He no longer looked in agony; he looked asleep. His arms and legs floated around freely allowing his fingers and toes to move with the water.
Bobby was 8 inches long and weighed 6 ounces. I slept on and off for the next two hours. When I woke up I held my baby, Bobby, in his jar and cried for my and Jim’s loss. Physically I felt much better after the surgery. Just before 11:00 Kathleen stopped back in the room before she started her next shift only 12 hours after she left the hospital. She had brought us a book that she bought “An Empty Cradle A Full Heart” on early loss of a baby. You could tell she was emotionally in touch with us and felt our loss.
I cleaned myself up, and we went home with our newly delivered dead baby, Bobby. I passed by many rooms with happy moms and newborn babies. One mom passed me in the hall with her newborn on her lap. Mine was on my lap, too, in a coffin.
We came home the same day I had the baby. When I arrived home, my children greeted me. My parents had done a wonderful job taking care of the kids. It was great to come home to a clean house. The children had put up balloons and a happy birthday banner to celebrate the birth of their brother, Bobby. KAtrine had made a birthday cake to eat after dinner. Everybody was so kind but I still had a dead baby. Bobby would not celebrate his life with us. I hope he feels the love of his siblings while he is in heaven.
We showed the family the baby in the jar. They were amazed at how beautiful all his features were. I could have never shown Bobby to them as he looked when he was born. Now in the water he was beautiful. When people would come in the next couple of days the little kids would ask visitors would you like to see my brother, Bobby, he died. I was especially worried about Rachel since she was the most excited about the baby. All the kids were a little sad and shed a few tears but they handled it very well overall.
Several times a day I would rock the baby wrapped in a rose tree smelling blanket, and cry. The tortured face that was so hard to bear at first, now looked peaceful and even seemed to grimace a little. I love that precious face on my little boy Bobby. I will always love my son.
Jim was so good to me. He took such good care of me. He really loved me “as Christ loves the Church.” He never judged me. He cried with me. He would hug me and we would hold the baby between our hearts. This experience brought our relationship to a new much deeper level. I needed him and he completely poured himself out for me. Even though this has been a horrible experience, I treasure this time with Jim and the deep love we have shared throughout this experience.
Jim’s Mom, my sister and a couple other friends came to visit the day I came home. A few more friends came to visit the next day. I could not handle any visit longer than 20-30 minutes. I needed to get back to the baby. I appreciated their effort but, I only had two days to hold my baby until I placed him in the ground…. never to hold him again.
We kept the baby in a glass bottle filled with saline water. It took some of the redness away from his skin and animated his body a little as the water moved. This helped the kids to view the body and accept the death of their brother. I would change the water about every four hours because it would begin to take on a red tint. For me, changing the water was like changing Bobby’s diaper. It was the only way I had to take care of him.
On Friday afternoon, a friend took the kids for about four hours so Jim and I could have some time alone with Bobby and each other. We took him out of the jar, held him, and took pictures. I told Jim to look at his beautiful face; he was smiling. Jim couldn’t believe it. His little mouth was slightly opened and his upper gum showed like a young baby might start to smile. We then went to Church, placed Bobby near the tabernacle and asked God to take our son into his arms and care for him. We asked that Jim and I be reunited with all of our children in God’s heavenly kingdom someday. We held hands and prayed in the silence of the church as we placed all our trust in God. When we came home we began to write our own story of what happened.
Many people e-mailed and wrote to offer prayers and help. That was very kind of them. Others brought dinners for a few days. The dinners were a nice help. I was weak from the blood loss and physically challenged so the dinners helped both physically and emotionally. I could not handle any frustrating problems; it was too much. I needed help. No one can help! No one can bring back my baby!
People said stupid things as Kathleen had warned me. Some people would say I should be grateful for the children I had. I took great offense at that. I do value those children. Some would try to find and say religious or profound meaning behind my loss. I just need to grieve for my baby, Bobby, for a little while. I only had Thursday to Saturday to hold his body and cry then he would be rotting in the ground and I would never hold him again. I needed prayers and love and some comments felt like criticism. I really didn’t feel like talking. I really liked the letters, e-mails, and prayers but only Jim and the kid’s hugs could lift my heart and seemed to consol me.
On Saturday, I spent the next hour holding Bobby. I changed his water for the last time. I kissed his head and cried. Jim hugged me as we placed his jar between our hearts and listened to the song. “I Can Only Imagine” I cried, “He is not here. This is his body. He is in heaven. He is happy.” Jim hugged me and said, “Yes, he’s with Jesus now. We can say good bye.” He took Bobby in his jar and sealed it and placed it in the coffin for the last time.
We spent the next two hours getting our seven earthly children ready for the burial. I so wanted a funeral but he was not baptized alive. I ached for confirmation that Bobby was in heaven and happy. My friend, Gina had sent me the same song that came to my mind in the hospital “I Can Only Imagine” not knowing that was the song I heard in my mind after I delivered him. The song was my only sign of a confirmation that Bobby made it to heaven.
At 2:00 we were all dressed and ready to go to the burial. Jim told the kids to get into the car. He held my hand and said,” Lets go bury our son” as he broke into sobbing tears. Our broken hearts lifted each other up to have the courage to pick up the casket and leave for the graveyard. The whole family prayed and offered up our sufferings on the way to the cemetery.
We met our parents and Fr. Don and they followed us to the gravesite. Father began the prayers and asked us to read the prayers that he asked us to write. Jim cried as he read his prayer stopping often to try and regain enough strength to finish. Frank read a prayer Jim had written for the children. Katrine read the prayer I had written.
Father explained how Elizabeth felt John the Baptist leap in exultation in her womb when he met the Lord at Mary’s visitation to Elizabeth. He thought maybe when I felt Bobby the last time he was leaping in exultation when he met the Lord as he left my womb. Reminiscing on Fr. Don’s eulogy now, means a lot to me, but at the time I felt so numb. After the short ceremony, we asked everyone to leave so we could bury the baby. Jim held me and we cried together. We then wrapped the casket many times in plastic wrap and Jim looked at me for the okay before he placed Bobby in his casket in the ground. I reached down and touched the casket o.ne last time. Then, Jim covered the casket and a large piece of my heart with soil. The kids came back and each gave a stem of small roses for the gravesite. We placed then in the periphery of the hole and a couple of baby toys on top. We left the cemetery where my baby’s body will rot and my soul will ache until His Kingdom comes. Then God willing all of our children will be joined with us in heaven.
I came home to find a vase of flowers and several letters sending love and condolences. Slowly, very slowly I returned to my life. Each night for several weeks I would stay up late at night and cry as I wrote in my journal. Writing let me release my emotions and continue to heal.
I still cry as I write about my experience and emotions but I know God can bring good out of all bad situations if we trust him.