As I write this to be shared on February 28th, I think of the significance of that number. My second son, Corbin, was born on the 28th of December in 2011. He lived for 28 days, and we buried him on January 28th, 2012. I’ll never look at the number 28 the same way again.
After having an emergency C-section with my first son in 2008, I decided to attempt a VBAC for my second pregnancy. I found a supportive doctor, took good care of myself, and felt well-prepared for my unmedicated natural delivery. I was 40 weeks and 2 days pregnant when I woke up the morning of December 28th. When I stood up, I noticed that my water had broken. Within about 20 minutes we were on our way to the hospital. I was having strong contractions, but through the pain I was still so excited to meet my baby boy. A short 8 hours later, my world collapsed.
It happened so fast. I was breathing through contractions when I started feeling the need to push. I knew he was coming. The nurses told me to stop pushing, we moved to the bed, and my doctor rushed in just in time for Corbin to be out in 3 pushes. He was placed on top of my chest, and it was only then that we knew something was wrong. His body was lifeless and unresponsive. The doctor immediately cut the cord and said “we have to get him breathing.” Corbin’s heart had stopped and “Code Blue” was called. To this day, we have no answers to how or why his heart stopped during delivery.
I really have no way to describe the shock of witnessing doctors giving CPR to my son’s tiny 8-lb body. Corbin had no heartbeat for 17 minutes before the doctors were able to revive him. They detected a shallow heartbeat and continued to work on him until he was stabilized enough to take him to the NICU. I was helpless and terrified, only catching glimpses of him through the crowd of doctors.
The next few minutes, hours, and days were a blur as they performed a multitude of scans and tests on him. After 3 days, I was finally allowed to hold him. I was still recovering in the hospital and we continued to remain hopeful. He was 5 days old when we received our devastating news.
Corbin’s brain scans showed no activity. He was simply deprived of oxygen for too long. The neurologist told us that he would never walk, talk, eat, or the worst part… he would never know that I was his mommy. He would never know he existed. My baby, the one who moved when I sang to him or played music, who I spent months preparing for and bonding with, who we spent a year desperately wanting and trying to conceive, was now gone forever. There was no hope for his brain to heal because of the extent and location of the damage.
The neurologist then discussed all our options moving forward. Having to make end of life decisions is not something I would wish on anyone. It haunts me every day of my life. The “what if’s” keep me up at night more often than I want to admit. Always wishing that we had given him just one more day to receive his miracle.
At this point, we would either need to move him to a long-term care facility or take him home on Hospice. They said he would eventually die, but there was no way of knowing how long it would take for his body to stop functioning. We had to live every day like it was his last. It was 28 days of constant goodbyes.
They allowed us to stay in the hospital with him until we made our final decision. The nurses thought it would be a good idea for us to spend time with him, taking pictures, giving him a bath, and doing footprints. One of my most cherished moments was singing him the song “Blackbird” by the Beatles. I’ve always been thankful to them for making those suggestions because ultimately, that made us decide to take him home with Hospice care and enjoy the time we had left with him.
We also still needed to care for and comfort our first son, who was 3 at the time. He was a light in our darkness. It did add another level of complexity to our loss trying to explain death to a small child. He would ask a lot of questions we couldn’t answer and it hurt to see his sadness.
Time seemed to stop while I lived on my couch with Corbin in my arms for nearly a month. It was difficult for me to prepare for the inevitable, but it was during this time that we had to plan his funeral. I was holding Corbin when we visited and chose his future gravesite.
Corbin passed away peacefully on January 25th. I comforted him in tears as he took his last breaths. His 28 days with us shaped me into a different person. It’s been 5 years since I held my sweet Corbin for the last time. Depending on the day, 5 years can either feel like yesterday or an eternity. I would give anything for just one more moment with him.
I’ve always considered myself an empathetic and kind person. I’ve been thankful for what we have and I try not to take life for granted. Most of the time, I talk about how losing Corbin has changed me for the better, but some days I don’t know if I believe that. Losing a child has taken my innocence and honestly has brought bitterness to my heart that wasn’t there before. It’s even more difficult now to see the terrible things that happen in the world; so many children hurting or abused or in the foster care system. Why was Corbin taken from us when we wanted him so badly? I will never have an answer to that question.
Even with those feelings, of course I am grateful for my time with Corbin. Through our tragedy, I was shown incredible love and kindness from others. We have met wonderful people who are walking the same path on the journey through grief. I am now involved with child loss organizations that help others through their grief, and we host yearly gatherings to remember our children and find peace together. Being involved with such a caring support system has been a healing outlet for me. I would not be where I am today without the support of my loss community. We all say it’s a group nobody wants to join, but once we’re here, we are glad to have each other.
About Anna’s Grace Foundation Anna’s Grace Foundation is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization supporting families in the Greater Baton Rouge Area who experience miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant loss. Each and every day one of our neighbors, friends, coworkers, or family members will experience the devastating loss of a baby, and Anna’s Grace is there to provide emotional and financial support so that families can focus on healing. The Anna’s Grace Quarter Marathon is on March 26, 2017. For more information or to register, visit http://www.annasgrace.org/registration.