I lost my son, Jack Holden, to Fetal Hydrops this past January. Jack was going to be born with Down Syndrome, and we were ready for that; we were embracing it even. But suddenly there were words being spoken about plural effusions and early delivery at 30 weeks. This, I was never ready for. And having to make a decision to let go of the little boy you were prepared to love unconditionally for the rest of your life so he wouldn’t have to suffer: no one could ever be ready for that.
We spent the little time we had with him, giving him a lifetime’s worth of love in what seemed like only moments, and then said goodbye. After something like this, you’d expect a person to say it was all a blur, but the reality is I remember every moment of this time with such painful clarity. I wish so terribly it could have been longer, but I suppose that is what dreams are for.
I wish there was a way to remember every single detail of a dream – the good ones anyway. Whenever I wake up from a dream I want to remember, I close my eyes and try to will my mind to go back to whatever corner of my brain it was created in. I always hope to squeeze just a few more seconds out of it and have a piece of it to hold on to forever.
One of the things I remember most about my experience at the hospital that first night after I’d had Jack and he’d passed away was the sheer terror I had about falling asleep. I was just so afraid of the dreams or nightmares I’d have. Thankfully, for the next few nights, I dreamt of nothing. I truly believe the mind is a very powerful thing and mine was protecting me from anything that could hurt me any further.
For a few weeks I would stay awake through the night, avoiding going to sleep, nervous about what was waiting for me. Part of me was relieved when there were no dreams, and another part was so desperate to see my baby that I would settle for whatever I could get.
When a dream finally did come, it met the expectations I had in terms of the heartbreak that came with it. I dreamt that the doctors had made a mistake. Everything was happening as it had actually happened at the children’s hospital. They told me Jack had passed and gave him to me as soon as the surgery was over, except that he yawned; he was breathing. I was screaming to anyone that would listen that he was alive, they’d been wrong. I was so happy and so relieved.
Those feelings had been so real to me that when I opened my eyes I was so confused. I thought maybe I had woken up to feed him or that the whole ordeal had just been a god-awful pregnancy dream – those can be intense. When I got my wits about me and realized I had just been dreaming, that my son had in fact died, it awoke the feral beast in me. I cried again in a way most people can’t imagine. After that, I didn’t sleep again for days; if I did, it was for less than an hour at a time. For days I thought of that dream. I wouldn’t let go of it. I couldn’t.
There have been a few more like that over that last few months, but not many. Last night, I dreamt of him again. When I woke up this morning my heart hurt. I felt the loss all over again. All day I felt so sad. I felt so angry that this is how my life will be for the foreseeable future, so desperately wanting to wake up from this bad dream. Like I do whenever I feel like this, I talked to my husband. I cried as I told him about the dream, and he didn’t tell me not to cry. But he did say something that I thought about the rest of the day. He said that maybe I need to look at these dreams in a different way. Look at them as a chance to see Jack.
We aren’t able to curl up on the couch or nap together like I did when Kennedy, my 3-year-old daughter, was an infant, so Jack Holden meets me in my dreams. And every so often, when my heart seems to call out for him the loudest, I dream of the little boy I miss so badly.
One of the hardest parts about dreams like this is that no one really wants to hear you talk about them. It’s too uncomfortable for people that have no experience with losing their child they so desperately wanted to know. And so you keep them to yourself for the most part, though these are the only times you can visit with this precious little person you literally, physically ache for. But during those sleepless nights, or moments you awaken and realize all over again what you’ve lost, maybe find a tiny sliver of solace knowing there is at least one mama out there who is with you on this long and difficult journey of the grieving mother.