Bereavement, loneliness, heartache, love, and despair all took on a new meaning in July of 2015.
I was a new mom; I had just delivered my son three days prior, and, boy, did I go through the wringer. Dealing with an emotionally (and sometimes physically) abusive boyfriend who prioritized partying and his friends over our relationship and the baby I was carrying, my nights were long and my mornings were filled with sickness. I spent a lot of time wondering if it would get better once the baby came.
On July 22, 2015, I woke up thinking this would be just like any other normal day. I woke up to get my boyfriend up for work at 4:30 a.m., since he regularly slept right through his alarm. After arguing with him for a few minutes (because we argued every day over every little thing), he left for work and denied my attempt at a kiss goodbye. I laid back down and suddenly felt a sharp pain in my side. I got in the shower thinking it was just Braxton-Hicks contractions, but soon realized that wasn't the case. I got out, got dressed, walked into the room where my boyfriend's mom was sleeping, and told her it was time.
From 4:30 a.m. to 4:33 p.m., I experienced every possible emotion and sensation—anxiety, pain, anger—then, at 4:34 p.m., my son Bryce was born.
"Are you ready to hold your son?" the doctor asked me as he laid a beautiful baby on my chest.
I just started crying. In that moment every argument, every second of anxiety and fear was worth it because my baby was finally here and, God, did it hit me like a ton of bricks.
My stay at the hospital was two days. I needed blood transfusions due to my anemia. That was like going to hell and back—not once, but three times. I would've preferred to deliver two more babies than receive another transfusion.
The day after I went home from the hospital—July 25, 2015—has become a day that will forever haunt my soul. I was awoken around 6 a.m. by my crying newborn baby, who needed to be fed. After feeding him, my ex wanted him to lie in the bed with us. After arguing with him for a while about how the mattress was too soft for Bryce, I ended up putting him in the playpen next to our bed and we all fell back asleep. Nine in the morning rolled around and we went to eat breakfast with my ex's mom. She watched Bryce while I showered.
After my shower, I put the baby in the swing, so I could clean and start my schoolwork. Around two o'clock, my boyfriend and his mom both went out. My boyfriend came back around 3 p.m. and started watching TV. I played with Bryce until I needed to go to the bathroom, so I got up, put Bryce in his playpen, and went. At 3:30 p.m., I realized Bryce was unresponsive. I yelled, "Call 911!" to his grandpa, who had just walked into the house, and I started performing CPR on my newborn baby immediately.
I remember getting tired after around fifteen minutes of compressions and having his grandpa take over while I asked the 911 operator, "Will my baby be OK?"
"Ma'am, I cannot tell you an answer to that, but as long as he isn't turning blue, I think he'll be OK."
"He isn't. He's still warm as well," I squealed, as the police officer escorted by three EMTs walked into the bedroom and ushered me out. I jumped in my ex's truck and beat the ambulance to the hospital. It was probably the most unsafe thing I have ever done in my life.
At around six o'clock, a doctor walked into the room with a few nurses and put his hand on my shoulder. All of a sudden, the hairs on my arms stood up and I begged him for good news.
"I'm sorry, but we were unable to save your son."
I will never forget those words. They are imprinted on my mind, and when I think about that moment, my heart sinks all over again. We were escorted from the hospital by a state trooper, who was taking us somewhere to make statements. As we left, a swarm of people surged around us—people from my family, people from my boyfriend's, friends I hadn't seen since high school. I didn't know how they knew. I still don't.
It took a few months to get the autopsy back. When we finally did, we realized no one was to blame. There's nothing we could have done. Bryce was a victim of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. One year and seven months later, I sit here with a different outlook on life than I ever thought I'd have.
Some days I want to stay in bed and cry. Others, I want to take every adventure and live my life to the fullest. I'm still living on an emotional roller coaster. I might be laughing when something reminds me of Bryce and I'll just get sad. Certain songs make me feel weak and queasy, and sometimes I actually want to listen to them.
I'm a lot to handle, and I'm guarded. I'm scared of love and I'm scared to get close to people. You just have to bear with me. I'm going to be OK. I'm just still a little broken.
People always ask me how I stay so strong. The truth is that I don't. There are so many moments when I'm screaming at the sky or acting like the world doesn't exist. Everyone has tough days. That's what death and loss do to someone.
If you know someone who lost a loved one, don't make the mistake of thinking you can't bring up the loved one. People worry about that a lot—with me especially. Losing a child is such a sensitive subject, and people are afraid to mention him.
My response is always, "My son existed. He was here and God needed him in heaven, so he took him back. I am not going to fall apart if you mention him. I won't get angry. I might show you pictures or videos and tell you stories from the time that he was here, but I'll never be upset that you brought him up."
Almost two years later, it affects me differently now. I hurt less, but I think more. So many "what ifs" go through my head, but overall, I'm happy. I graduated high school. I'm in college now. I met a guy who makes me feel safe and happy. I know now that Bryce is safer in heaven than he would've been on earth.
If you've experienced the loss of a loved one—whether it's a child, a parent, or someone else, my advice to you is to focus on the positives. I know it's cliche, but I truly believe that everything happens for a reason. That belief has helped me so much. When my anxiety gets to me, I write or I go for a run. I'm here for you and so are all the people in your life who love you. Time heals.
If you take one thing away from this article, let it be that life is short. You never know when it'll be the last time you get to hug your parents, or talk to your sister on the phone, so treat each second like it's your last. Life can be taken from us at any moment.
Thank you for taking the time to read this.
Rest In peace, my sweet, baby boy.
Mommy loves you.