Today is Angelo’s first birthday. We’re celebrating it with an angel hair frittata and angel food cake, and will go to the tulip festival this weekend. We were gifted with so many white tulips when he was born that I can’t help but think of him when I see tulips! I wasn’t a blogger a year ago, so I’ll help you understand what it was like to give birth to a stillborn baby by sharing some journal entries from a year ago.
Here’s what I wrote the day before I gave birth:
April 22, 2008
I’m not sure when Angelo’s kicks actually started slowing down. I might have felt him move a couple times on Saturday, then nothing on Sunday. We went to the doctor on Monday and I started crying before the ultrasound even popped up on the screen. I knew my baby was gone. It was so quiet in that room, and even though an ultrasound doesn’t usually make any noise anyway it was quieter than it had ever been. On all the past appointments the ultrasoundist always laughed at how squirmy Angelo was and half the pictures would turn out blurry. Now there was just a baby floating, hand and foot up by his head. I think his face looked different—before I had always seen the hint of a smile or a joke on his lips, I swear, but yesterday he was expressionless.
The next afternoon I went to the OB’s to get induced. I had this conversation with Vincenzo:
V: You’re going to the doctor’s so they can build Angelo, right?
Me: Honey, the doctors can’t fix Angelo.
V: [giving a yelp] But they need to fix him because he died!
Me: Baby, even doctors can’t fix someone who dies.
V: [hugging me] Then being dead is a very, very bad thing.
Me: Vincenzo, if you died then yes it would be very sad. But you were meant to live for a long, long time. This was exactly how Angelo’s life was supposed to be. It’s right for him.
And the journal from the following day:
Our nurse wrapped Angelo in a blanket and gave him to me and he was so warm, so precious. And so skinny! He did look like a T13 baby, with the wide nose and flat ears. His sixth fingers and toes were kind of crazy—and precious all the same. His fingers tapered to delicate ends, each with a perfect fingernail on it. At one point his tiny fist was resting on his face in a way that turned the corner of his mouth upward and I saw what a beautiful smile he would have had. The tiniest bit mischievous, like his older brother’s. We never saw his eyes but I know they were blue like Kevin’s and mine.
Dad and Wendy showed up first and Wendy was so genuine, exclaiming over and over again, “He’s so beautiful.” Michelle and Mom came next. Mom was the perfect Grammy, speaking softly to him, and she kissed his forehead—something I hadn’t brought myself to do yet. When she gave Angelo back to me I kissed him over and over again. I kept my hand cradled around his head to remember the size of it, the realness of it, and to give him back some of my warmth. The mood of the whole room was bright and cheery, as it should be at any birth. Dad came last and commented, “He looks just like an angel.”
Our last half hour with Angelo’s body was intensely precious. The family and nurses left while I held Angelo, and Kevin and I cried a lifetime of tears without saying anything. I told our boy what a big deal he was and what a difference he had made in the world. I told him he made Vincenzo into a big brother, and he will always have that. I said we did our best to care for him while he was alive and now that he is dead we will do our best to care for his memory.
And finally we were ready. The nurse set Angelo’s body in a bassinet and covered him gently with blankets. I said, “I love you baby. I love you so, so much,” and she wheeled him away from us. I have done my best not to think of his body beyond that point. I think of him only in my arms.
Thank you all for helping me keep Angelo’s memory alive. He had such a special, unique place in this world and he definitely left it a changed place.
*When we found out about Angelo’s T13, we were told of a website called “Now I Lay me Down to Sleep” that hooks up professional photographers with people in our situation. We ended up with Jennifer of Bella’s Image Photography, who is an amazing photographer and also now a friend of the family. Thanks again, Jen!