Today, Luca would be two years old.
I have been thinking about what I want to write today, and in all honesty, agonizing about it.
And for me, as Luca’s mother, I want to always honor him and his life, no matter how short it was. It’s almost as if because he didn’t get the chance to experience this world in that little body of his for very long, that I have to make everyday count even that much more.
When you lose a child, you lose all remaining innocence you have in life. You are forced to realize the urgency of your time in this world and are reminded to not take it for granted.
So today, we will celebrate his life on the second anniversary of his birth. We will head down to the beach with our tribe of friends and family, let lanterns fly into the heavens, and skip rocks with his name into the Pacific Ocean.
I will love myself and those around me in his honor, and be open to his lessons today. Especially today.
I will be easy on myself, and come to terms with not being able to think of more to say. No more agonizing, just honoring.
And because his life gave me my mother voice way before Elia came to save us, I will share one of the versions of his birth story, our birth story.
Gina and I decided several years ago that we wanted to be mothers. We had testing done, consulted doctors and reproductive specialists, and after several rounds of IUI, conceived our son.
The pregnancy with Luca went smoothly. In fact, it was such a beautiful pregnancy. I was healthy, growing life inside of me, and thriving at my first months as a mother.
We had decided about half way through the pregnancy, to have a home birth. We sought co-care through our hospital midwives and our own private midwives. The pregnancy flew by, or at least it seems so now. Every week my measurements looked good, baby looked great, and on a Thursday in March, I started the labor journey when my mucous plug came out.
It was happening, he was getting ready to come out, or so I thought! I was one of the lucky mamas who had to work through prodromal labor. By Saturday contractions started picking up, and I asked my midwife to come. Labor still wasn’t regular, but it was hard. We worked on spinning baby moves, breathing, stretching, laboring.
It was work, but every bit made me think we were getting closer to meeting him.
I do remember looking at my midwife and saying- “I don’t think I can do this”.
She responded “you already are”.
Sunday morning we continued laboring, I wasn’t yet 5 cm. We walked, we moved, we danced, I took contractions on the trees in the neighborhood, I worked. It was beautiful, my wife and I swaying to the music in our head, to his birth playlist, moving with the faint wind. There were songs about home, about love, about acceptance. I thought long and hard about the songs on his playlist, and I wanted him to be welcomed into the world mindfully, even in music.
We headed back inside the house, and as we had been doing for the last several hours, listened for his heart rate. This time it was different, and the words I had identified as fearing the most from all of our birth prep classes were uttered, and we had to get to the hospital.
All that followed after was completely beyond any of my wildest imagination.
We arrived to the hospital in the ambulance, and when the OB and residents gathered around me to ultrasound and look for my son’s heartbeat, the emotion was immediately a somber one, and all I heard was “there is a flutter”. And with that, I was signing papers to consent to surgery and was being wheeled into the operating room. I had barely gotten my pants off and the catheter was being put in while the mask was placed on my face, and I was screaming with the faintest voice I had left “My baby!” Over and over again, until I fell asleep.
We had arrived at 11:05, and Luca was born at 11:16. He was silent when I gave birth to him via emergency cesarean and I was under general anesthesia. He was lifeless when he was taken from my womb. The doctors restarted his heart and hooked him up to machines. While he struggled to survive, so did I.
During my cesarean, the doctors had done an amazing job getting him out so quickly, but had unfortunately nicked a blood vessel, and I began to develop a hematoma and ultimately bleed internally. Barely out of the operating room and in recovery, I thought we were in the clear, when I could see an unusual amount of doctors around me. I asked what was going on and was told after some poking and prodding and a decrease in my blood pressure, along with what my wife later said was me turning ghost white, that they either needed to open me back up and give me a hysterectomy to remove the bleeding uterus and source of the internal bleed, or I’d have to wait until the next day to get an embolization.
I wanted to see my son. I had already asked if I could start pumping, and no one would answer my questions. My wife went down to the NICU to see Luca, and then came back to me making arrangements with the doctor to remove my uterus. We had only planned on having one baby, and since he was here I figured I didn’t need it anymore if it meant I could take care of him sooner.
But the look on my wife’s face was enough. I knew something was wrong. And when she began to explain to me what methods they were trying to use to help our son, it became evident what was coming.
We decided to keep my uterus. I felt calm in my responses, but every time my wife or the doctors would talk to me about what they were doing with him next, my blood pressure went through the roof. I started leaking protein in my urine, and was in the surgical icu for he next 16 hours. All the while my little man was in the NICU, holding on.
The embolization was done the next morning, and there was finally talk about me getting to see him, but it was also accompanied with the ultimate truth that when I saw my son, he would be removed from life support, and come to die in my arms.
And I turned to my wife and told her I couldn’t bare to meet him.
It would hurt to much, and I couldn’t do it.
But she told me I had to, and I knew I needed to, I was just so scared of more hurt, and how I knew I was going to fall in love with him the minute I held him, and ultimately would have to give him back.
So I was finally moved to labor and delivery. Barely 50 feet from where he lay hooked up to his machines. They dressed him up in the clothes we had packed in the hospital bag for him to come home in. The doctors and nurses lay him in my arms and immediately I recognized him, my son. He was perfect. So beautiful.
I could hear him trying to breathe, just a little. It was labored, but I heard it, and I kept thinking, once he’s on me, it’s going to make it all better. I tried to have him on my skin, but it wasn’t working. I could tell he was slipping away.
And he did.
He died in my arms just before the sunset, on March 11th.
I think I died then too.
Birth was nothing like I had imagined, so very far from the beautiful and gentle home birth we had planned. My first child, my son, was gone.
They determined he was an IUGR baby, and that his placenta had given out. There were no indications at any point in my pregnancy.
The remainder of the stay at the hospital was mostly horrible. I was shipped to the antenatal unit, where nurses wouldn’t mention my son. We watched tv aimlessly in the cocoon of the hospital, with the doctors checking in on us to share their condolences. The residents took to us and would come visit us daily, but otherwise we were numb, in our 9th floor room overlooking the city we had so much planned for.
After 5 days, I was discharged. I was wheeled out of the hospital with a bouquet of flowers, and a weighted teddy bear that I wanted to throw at someone. I got into our car, the brand new car seat was still in the back, waiting for our son.
And that was it, no one told us what to do next. So we drove ourselves home. Just my wife and I and the car seat, and that fucking weighted teddy bear.
No one prepared us to lose a child. So the next part of our journey started.
It’s not as often that I get to tell the story of Luca’s birth anymore. Especially since we had a love filled planned cesarean for his healthy little sister this past fall. But it’s important that as women, we share our stories. Loss has been part of birth since the beginning of time, and it’s sad, yes, but it certainly doesn’t make it okay to ignore just because it makes people uncomfortable. My son existed, and I, and other loss parents, should be able to share our stories and our children.
My birth story is relevant. And I’m so thankful to have been given this opportunity to share.
As women, as mothers, we are doing the very best we can. And we should try, really try, to hold space for each other no matter what our experience, and especially birth experience. No judgement, just love.
Luca love. Today and always.