This is my birth story.
Sometimes things don’t go as planned, sometimes it isn’t what we wanted. I never got to take my son home from the hospital, but it was a day I met him and said goodbye. It was a day that changed me forever.
If you asked me two years ago if I wanted kids, I would have told you, not now. I wasn’t ready for the soccer mom minivan, responding to text messages months later, or watching the same cartoon movie on repeat. I wasn’t ready for my Spotify to be changed to songs from Frozen or that I couldn’t drop everything at a moment’s notice to take that one trip. I just wasn’t ready.
On June 2, 2018, I got a text message from my husband at 7:00 AM in the morning. I had just finished a shoot off Loveland Pass. I watched the sunset on June 1st off Mount Evans and woke up on June 2nd to the sun rising at 10,000 feet up. Both somewhere nestled in the Rocky Mountains as the winter snow still graced the peaks. When my phone final hit service, my husband’s text said, “call me when you can.” I didn’t think much of it. So right on I70 I called him and, in the twists, and turns, he asked me if I had talked to his parents. “No,” I said, I mean why would I. His voice got shaky and the words I’ll never forget came out of his mouth. “Dillon passed away last night.” It took a few times of me saying “wait, what” to me even understanding that he had just lost his baby brother, my brother in law. I can’t remember that drive home that morning, I remember shaking, tears filling in my eyes, and not believing what I heard on the phone. Did he say it right? Did I actually hear it correctly? When you get those calls, you’ll play things back in your head to what you want to hear. Only to understand you heard it correctly.
I’ve lost grandparents. I remember one day my grandpa had fallen down and I cried. I thought, there will be a day where you aren’t going to be here anymore. Grief hit me early before they passed. When they finally left this earth, I had accepted they had lived a full and fulfilled life. They were loved and I accepted their death with an open heart. When it came to losing my brother in law, it hit quick. You never grieve for someone you think you will never lose until they are gone. Dillon was so young, so full of life. In good health and by a freak accident, he was gone. That quick. And in a split second, our worlds changed forever.
That month we cried. More than we had ever cried. And in that “not right mindset.” I told my husband; I want a baby. He thought I was crazy, “how does death make you want children?” For me, it was as simple as life is short and we aren’t getting any younger. I felt like for the first time in my life, I could not of thought of a reason why we should wait. The minivan or not being able to respond to text messages due to babies crying seemed so irrelevant to me. That out of all the places we could travel too, will still be there. That out of all the excuses I had in the past, there wasn’t one I actually thought was good enough to say, “let’s wait.”
I downloaded my apps for tracking fertility. I bought the Wink temperature tracker. And with that first month, we tried.
I didn’t expect to get pregnant our first try. There was no way I could of been that lucky. You hear those stories, the stories that stick with you. Typically, they are the stories of couples not getting pregnant for years and years. Typically, those stories are what we think we are going to be. That 1 percent.
I was going to buy a bottle of wine that night, but instead I re-routed to the grocery store and picked up a pregnancy test. I went home, peed on a stick, and waited. As I put away groceries, I took a look and there sat one strong line and one tiny faint line. I think I stared at it for at least an hour. “No way,” I thought. Although, it was. I wanted to call my friends that have kids and ask them their opinion, but instead I just sat all afternoon looking at the clear blue pregnancy test. It was hard to wrap my head around that I wasn’t the only one in the room. There sat our baby, the baby growing inside of me.
You think of the ways you will tell your husband one day that we are becoming parents. It’s almost like proposing. “Hey, I have some news that will change our lives.” So, I sat and thought, what should I do. How am I going to tell my husband? Maybe I should go pick up a onesie with some cute saying. Will he cry? Should I record his reaction? I sat there for HOURS looking at the stick, thinking of how I’m going to tell him when he got home from work. Honestly, they were all great thoughts, but the moment my husband walked in the door I told him to look at the stick and his reaction was, “well that’s not a really strong pink line.” Expectation vs reality.
The next day, I called the doctors and they told me to come in for a blood test. So, I did, and a few hours later, I got a call telling me I was 4 weeks pregnant.
Honestly, I sat stunned. How did it happen that quick? What am I going to be like as a mom? Birth? Oh my gosh, birth? How does that come out of that? Is it a boy or girl? Names? I’m so lucky.
So just like that the first trimester hit quick. I found myself getting grossed out by idea of warm fish or meat in general. Fruit bars and broth soup were the only edible thing I could get down. The hardest part was not telling anyone. It’s like I had a big secret of exciting news and instead I had to keep it in. I could fall asleep anywhere. A nap in my car, great. And remember anything, oh man. Unless I wrote it down, pregnancy brain was in full effect. And trust me, you don’t believe it until you are there. 2+2= I can’t do basic math.
As my twelve weeks approached into my second trimester, I was relieved! It’s a hump you want to get over quick. Praying your little miracle doesn’t become that 1 in 4.
At 18 weeks, we found out the sex. I went back in forth about it. Maybe we would wait until birth. Maybe the doctor can write it on a piece of paper, and we can read it together at a beautiful lookout. And just like all the amazing thoughts about how I was going to tell my husband that I was pregnant, it went out the window. We were sitting in the ultra sound room, you can just tell us here. She sat and scanned the baby’s body. My head told me girl. I had dreams of a little girl. I was craving fruits and vegetables, it had to be. “That’s the little arm, leg, ohh wait, that’s a scrotum. It’s a boy.”
I’ll be honest. Expectations have ruined so many things in my life. This was one of them. I truly thought I was getting a little girl and instead, it was a boy. I dreamt of pink and tea parties. Little flower dresses on Sunday afternoons. After the news, all I could possibly think of was cleaning pee off the toilet seats or fart jokes forever.
It took me a few weeks to buy anything boy related. And if you’ve been shopping for baby clothes, anyone would know, girl clothes are definitely cuter. At 20 weeks I walked into Gap and bought a handful of outfits. I started to dream of his little body fitting in them. What is he going to look like? What’d he was going to teach me? My little human. And that week I felt his first kicks.
Second trimester flew by. No swelling, I didn’t get huge like I expected. Pregnancy was easy. And before I knew it, I was walking into my third trimester.
At the end of January, I had my baby shower as well as a move into our new home. The first things we moved into the house were bags of baby stuff that were given to us from family and friends. We picked the room with the view of the mountains. I imagined myself reading bedtime stories, watching the sun rise and set from the window. As much as I imagined our baby in his clothes, I saw him growing in his room. In this house.
Moving and pregnant do not go well together. Organization gets thrown out the window. Frequent naps became the center of your world. As time approached my due date, I kept thinking how our worlds were going to change. That’s what pregnancy does to you, so many dreams.
As the final weeks set in, I started to get nervous for birth. All these blogs tell you to write up an ideal birth plan of how you want it to go. Like we have a choice. I wasn’t sure what a contraction would feel like. At the end of pregnancy, it’s like you have prepared for this, your body is meant for this, but you are never really ready until it’s time.
On March 31, 2019, I felt my first contraction. It was in the morning and I looked at the time. They were about 20-40 minutes apart, so I did what they tell you to do. Time them until they are 5 minutes apart. My husband and I carried on with our day, getting breakfast, getting the car washed, cleaning the house. And at about 4:30, I told my husband it’s time.
I thought, did I pack my bag right. Am I remembering everything? Grab the camera. Don’t forget the camera. Then another contraction would kick it, nope who cares time to go. So, we got in the car and drove to the hospital. Every little bump made in the car was painful and as I sat there remembering the breathe, we drove.
My husband dropped me off at the front and went to park the car. As I tried to remember everything they told me and prepared for me for this moment. It was here. After filling out the paperwork, they put us in triage. And if I could ever pause a moment, it would be that one. That was a moment that hit me harder than any moment will ever in my life.
The nurses came in with their heart dopplers and put it on my stomach. Naturally, your baby’s heartbeat comes quickly and for me, it was silent. My heart started to race as they brought in the ultrasound machine. Why is it not coming up I thought, I’ve always heard it so quick. As the nurse put the gel on my belly, I looked at my husband. The nurse scanned my belly. Silence. I could just tell by the look on my husband and nurse’s face. Things weren’t looking so good.
You ever have a moment where you just take your mind away for a minute. You close your eyes and imagine yourself on a beach. Somewhere happy. I did that for a minute. Warm sunshine hit my face; I could hear the ocean waves crashing onto the shore. Then I came back to reality. Still silent. I wanted to leave the hospital. Just get up and walk out. Pretend that my world that was crumbling down wasn’t real. I took for granted that small little thump, thump, thump heartbeat. It wasn’t there and as much as I could pretend in my head this wasn’t happening. I still had to give birth.
My husband claimed someone came in to tell us our baby had died; I don’t remember ever hearing it. Maybe I was still on that beach somewhere. It didn’t hit me until they placed me in the delivery room and our nurse for the evening came in to tell us, “I’m so sorry for your loss.”
So many people tell you, birth. It changes your life. It’ll be the best day of your life. Our “day” was so different. The nurse asked if I wanted epidural. I thought, anything to take the pain away is good. I shook my head yes. Although, the pain of heartbreak, there is no drug for that. The contractions were coming quick. The nurse asked if I wanted Pitocin to speed up the labor. I shook my head again. She left the room to get the drug and as she came back, she checked my cervix. “Oh wow, I don’t think you need this,” she said. I had already contracted 2cm in the hour I was there.
The Anesthesiologist came in the room. It was quiet. All anyone ever said walking into our delivery room was “I’m sorry for your loss.” As just a reminder that we weren’t going to be able to bring home our baby.
I had hoped that something wasn’t right with the ultrasound or heart monitor. That the doctors and nurses weren’t right. That my miracle could become a miracle. But as much as I placed myself on that beach, I placed my dreams there too. And just as quick as those 2cm came, I went from 4cm-10cm in the next hour.
I could have had him that moment, but I waited for my doctor. She had been with me my entire pregnancy. She had been on vacation that week and was flying back into town. She rushed from DIA to the hospital. As she walked into our room, I was ready to start pushing. And within 15 minutes, we met our son for the first time. 11:55 PM, 5 pounds 7 ounces, blonde hair. Silent. He was perfect.
I watched as tears filled my doctors’ eyes. She placed him on my chest and his lifeless body sat in my arms. Just as his silent heartbeat, so was the room. Tears ran down all our faces. “Oh, but the dreams I had for you,” I thought.
I could imagine the things people take for granted in those delivery rooms. The sound of a baby’s cry, the laughter and happy tears. For us, it was silent and beeps from the machine. A lifeless heartbeat was a forever broken heart in mine. I examined his tiny feet and hands. Oh how he looked so much like my husband. I had always wondered if I would get a little toe head and there was his blonde hair. And as much as he laid lifeless in my arms. He was perfect.
We left the hospital less than 24 hours of being admitted. That morning we listened to a mother screaming from the sounds of labor. I never screamed once. We imagined how happy that room was, when you could hear a pin drop in ours. Sadness and silence, not even believing it was real.
We got home that Monday afternoon and we laid in bed. I felt like something was missing. And as tears filled my eyes, I missed him. I had only known him for such a short time. Saw his face for less than 12 hours and I missed him. I always will. I missed his kicks, my endless trips to the bathroom, my cravings. I missed his hiccups, my belly, I miss the dreams he gave me. I missed who he would have been in the world. How much he could of changed it. How much he changed my world.
God called him in his arms before he hit mine.
There is a thing called fetal-maternal microhimerism. When you are pregnant you and your baby’s cells mingle. The slip back and forth between each other, like a beautiful dance within your body. Sharing little pieces with one another. Becoming one another. Even if I only got to be with Sawyer for 9 months, he was a part of me and will always be. Sawyer Thomas Conrad, you are forever my angel, my shooting star. The light breeze on a warm summer day. The birds chirping on an early morning. The little diamond glints of snow in the winter. The lady bugs and butterflies. The sunsets.
I read somewhere that heaven is like “the blink of an eye.” I imagine you in a field of daisies, dancing to country music like your daddy. You are so caught up in the moment that you turn around and there we are. In the blink of an eye. There we are with you.
Photos by: Grace Gatto Photography and Kisa Conrad Photography