For most women, their water breaking is a joyous moment. For most women, that gush of fluid signals the beginning of the end. For most women, that moment comes after months of “time served” during pregnancy. But for some women, it doesn’t. For some women, their water breaks too early. For some women, their water breaking is the start of a horrifying new existence filled with doctors, scary statistics, and heartbreak. I am one of those women.
In October of 2014, I discovered that I was expecting another baby with my wonderful husband. We have a blended family that consists of my husband, myself, my daughter, his son, and our daughter. I was hoping that this baby would “even things out” and give me the boy that I had wished for since I was old enough to think about having babies. I love my girls, of course, but I wanted to experience raising a boy, too. Between October and February, my pregnancy progressed normally, with the exception of some slight bleeding right at the beginning of my pregnancy.
On February 7, 2015 I was going about my normal life. My husband and I had yet to find out the gender of this baby, but we were extremely excited about the prospect. I was 19 weeks and 2 days, so the time to find out was coming up quickly. My husband is a full time college student, and I was helping him with his homework on the couch when I felt a little trickle. I thought that maybe I had to use the bathroom. When I stood up, fluid gushed down my legs. My heart froze in my chest. No, I thought, it’s too early. It couldn’t be. Of course, I chose to err on the side of safety, and I told my husband that we had to go to the hospital. Once we got to the hospital, a test was done that verified that my water had indeed broken. I was transported to a bigger hospital that was about an hour away.
Once I got to the hospital, a team of doctors checked me, did an ultrasound, confirmed that my water had broken, and then broke my heart, all in a matter of about thirty minutes. “My advice to you, Mrs. Cowley, is that you go ahead and deliver this fetus. The fetus will not survive, but even if you, by some miracle, did manage to carry this fetus long enough for it to survive outside of the womb, it would have lifelong disabilities. And the fetus probably won’t survive anyway. The chances are extremely slim.”
My husband and I looked at each other in shock. I reached for his hand and barely choked out, “That is NOT an option. We are not going to allow anyone to kill our baby! If this baby dies without intervention, then that is what happens. But I can’t kill my baby!” I looked over at my husband and said, “I’m sorry. I don’t know how you feel about this. But I just can’t do that.”
Over the course of the next month, every single day was another milestone. Every moment was precious. Because there was no amniotic fluid left, no matter how many ultrasounds were done, we didn’t discover the gender of our baby. Although I desperately wanted to know so that I could begin referring to my baby by his or her name, the gender had ceased to matter to me. I just wanted my baby to LIVE.
On March 3, 2015, twenty four days after my water broke, my son was born too early. My son was ten inches long and weighed only fourteen ounces. He only survived for a couple of minutes after birth before he passed away. My heart broke into a million pieces, and I never thought that I could survive the absolute heart wrenching pain that I was feeling. Yes, I had other children to look after, and yes I could try again (as many heartless people pointed out to me), but those children could never replace the one that I had lost. My son was dead. The son that I had dreamt of having for years. It felt like a cruel joke. I had prayed for a son, and that prayer had been granted. And then the answer to my prayers had been snatched from my hands. I had to say goodbye to my son before I ever got the chance to say hello.
But I would do it all over again. Every single moment. Every single tear. Every single second of mind numbing, soul crushing agony. Because no matter how short my son’s life was, his life mattered to me. He existed. If I had the choice to go back and not have gotten pregnant with him, to not have gone through that pain, I wouldn’t choose it. My son was precious to me for the time that I had him. And losing my son has made me appreciate my other children even more. I understand that life is not guaranteed, even to the young and wonderful. I understand that every single moment is a moment that will never come back, so I have to enjoy it while I can. I am fully aware of the realities of the death of a child because I lived it. And I will never take my children for granted again. I keep my promises to them, I stay up later just to rock them to sleep, I hold them a little tighter, and love them a little harder. That is what the death of my son has taught me. And I hope that this story gives you pause tonight when you’re at your wit’s end, and you just can’t take it for even another second longer. Drop what you’re doing and give your babies a kiss. They could be gone tomorrow, and you’ll never have this chance again.