“Is she dead?” was the question my baby’s mother asked. The doctor had entered the room not long after we had the ultrasound. She was a middle-aged doctor of Indian descent I believe. “Yes, your baby is gone” was her reply in an empathetic, yet stable tone. I can still picture the doctor’s face clearly. I remember her glassy eyes. I remember the conversation…..the very brief conversation. And just like that, after about 38 weeks in the womb, Ariana was gone. My daughter died. And it felt like a part of me died as well. You could not have painted a smile on my face. You could have told me the funniest joke in the world, and my face would not have shown a single crinkle. Like me, you probably laugh when someone tickles you. It’s instinct. You can’t even control it. But I would not have laughed on this day. Even smiling was unthinkable to me.
I remember being in the room physically, but I wasn’t really there. You know how that feels, don’t you? When answering the simplest question takes all of your mental faculties. When your mind cannot process anything else except that one huge thing you are dealing with. I wanted to wake up and realize it was all just a really horrific nightmare. Have you ever felt this way? Like you’re still holding out hope, even for the most far-fetched possibility. When the odds of anything good happening are impossible, but the end result seems so disturbing that you still hold on for a miracle. That was me. That was unsaved, professing believer me. I wanted a miracle from a God I was enemies with.
The shock had just enough time to settle in and shake me to the core. And after the truth hit home that all my worst fears were now realized, the doctor said something like, “Your baby will need to be delivered as soon as possible.” I thought, “What?! What do you mean ‘be delivered’? She’s dead! Today?! NO! I can’t see her like that. I’m not ready for that!” In the midst of all the stress and shock, I completely forgot that Ariana would need to be delivered as soon as possible. Otherwise, it can cause great harm to the mother. The nightmare, or should I say the harsh reality, had just begun.
During the previous months, I bonded with my baby girl. I had already felt her kick several times. I was also with her during many ultrasound appointments. And there were numerous appointments with specialists. You see, Ariana was a Down Syndrome baby. And when you are pregnant with a Down Syndrome baby, there are a whole slew of things that need to be monitored. So I already knew this was going to be a difficult nine months. What I did not know was how difficult it would become. Life would never be the same after our ultrasound appointment on February 19th, 2002. My dead baby girl had to be delivered. I wanted to be there so bad…….more than anything, but yet I also wanted to avoid it like the plague. Has there ever been an event in your life like this? Where you were hating the very thought of it, and looking forward to it at the same time? It’s impossible to explain, isn’t it?
I’m a little fuzzy about what happened once the meeting with the doctor was over. If memory serves me, I believe they said it was best for us to leave and come back the next morning. I can’t quite remember where I drove to afterwards, or how I was even able to drive. But wherever it was, I had to stop and pull over to let out a pool of tears. I couldn’t bear the thought of anyone seeing me in the state I was in. My system was still shocked, and only a tiny hint of reality was beginning to sink in. But the next day reality would rush in full force…….with no mercy.
The hospital staff scheduled us for delivery the day after the ultrasound. It was February 20th, 2002. I don’t think I got a wink of sleep the night before. How do you sleep when they tell you your baby girl is dead at roughly 38 weeks? How do you sleep when they tell you that you must return the next day so they can induce labor, in order to deliver your baby girl……..who I already know is dead? You don’t sleep. You don’t laugh. You don’t feel. And you can barely even think. You wander around is some sort of stupor. And you still keep wondering when you’re going to wake up from the nightmare. When people talk to you, all you hear are jumbled words. You are not in a state of mind where you can concentrate very well on complete sentences. Heck, I was still trying to process the sentence “Your baby is gone.” I still can’t quite process it even to this day. And it’s been 14 years.
When they know that your baby will be stillborn, they normally have to induce labor. So we knew that Ariana’s delivery would be soon, but time would tell exactly when it would happen. As hours went by, I kept wondering what my dead baby girl will look like. Will I recoil at the sight? Will I be able to contain myself enough to hold her? Will the hospital staff let me hold her? Will I faint? Will there be a miracle? Will God do this for me, just this once?!” ** Will He make my baby live again? Does God still bring dead people back to life? My brain frantically tried to process all these questions at once. Nothing mattered except her. All other things didn’t just take a backseat, they were left on the highway 100 miles back.
As someone who’s always struggled with anxiety disorders, I was way beyond my tolerance threshold. I wanted so much to hold my baby girl, and to see her very first smile. To hear her first coo. To change her first diaper. I’m guessing that most new fathers try not to think about their first diaper. But for some reason, when you know your baby is dead, you would give anything for the opportunity to change that first stinky mess. Even the burden of knowing she had Down Syndrome seemed like such a minor issue compared to death! And then the envy started. Why are other daddies leaving with their baby girls to go home? Why not me? Why am I waiting for a dead baby? Lord, Please Help! Why Is My Baby’s Birthday Also Her Death-day? This is not fair!! This floor is called the birth wing, but for Ariana it’s a death wing? Of course, I didn’t get any answers then, and I still don’t have any.
I couldn’t eat. Food was detestable to me. For the first time I can remember, I had no appetite…….period. But somehow I managed to scarf down a quick meal. I don’t know how. Maybe because it had been nearly a day that I hadn’t eaten, and I was starting to feel weak. I’m really not sure. In fact, all the good things that I normally enjoy seemed so distant to me. Just a blank stare on my face is all I could muster. I looked like an empty stoic. This was deceptive though, because I was anything but unfeeling. My emotions were being ripped apart. My heart was breaking. There is no right or wrong way to feel devastated. Grief takes many forms. It goes through many changes. Never judge someone’s grief by what you see on the outside. Our bodies and minds are just too complex for that.
I wasn’t detached emotionally. Perish the thought. It’s just that sometimes your body doesn’t know what to do with your grief. Your emotions are somehow so shocked, and yet so guarded all at once. It is like being paralyzed on the inside. You just sort of go numb. Losing a baby can be sort of like a fight or flight syndrome for your emotions. Instead of adrenaline pumping, muscle tensing, steadfast alertness to danger, your body seems to push everything to your emotional core. I didn’t know what to do with it all. I didn’t even want to be around anyone. I just wanted to go home with my baby girl…….like all the other fathers on the birth wing were doing. Instead, I went home with a lock of Ariana’s hair, a couple of her tiny footprints, and some pictures and memories of her severely bruised face and blood red lips.
But I don’t regret those moments. I would show up at her birth again if I could go back in time. She was hard to look at, but I couldn’t take my eyes away from her either. And in the midst of all the redness and bruises, there was beauty. And I mean true beauty! It was her eyes! I wish you all could’ve seen them. I wish I could accurately describe them, but I’ll never do them complete justice if I try. But I will brag though. Aren’t daddies allowed to brag a little about their baby girl? Even when they die? Her eyes were violet. Yes, violet! And I mean Elizabeth Taylor violet. And just like Elizabeth Taylor, no contacts were needed. Ariana was beautiful! Bragging? Yes, absolutely. Exaggerating? No, absolutely not.
Now back to the painful stuff. I didn’t get a birth certificate. Pennsylvania did not even recognize stillborn births at that time. Thankfully, that law has changed. But the moment can never be redone. And even if I had taken home a Birth Certificate, that slip of paper doesn’t quite fill your crib. It doesn’t cry at 3am wanting a feeding. It doesn’t poop. And it doesn’t have Down Syndrome either. But you know what…….. stinky diapers, insomnia and chromosomal disorders are precious gifts when seen from the right perspective.
After waiting for several agonizing hours, and trying not to get too excited about my baby’s birth, they finally said, “IT’S TIME!!” It is strangely surreal, because you still get excited! You think, “I am going to be a daddy!” YES!! But then, all of a sudden you feel like you shouldn’t be excited. Why? Because you know, soon after delivery, you will be burying your baby girl. How can you be excited when such an appalling prospect looms? I don’t know the answer. But you still have this sort of joy because your child is about to be born. She was still my child. No matter what. I cannot explain this. And I hope none of you reading this ever experience the exact feeling I’m referring to. No one should ever have to. It’s a fallen world……a cursed earth……..babies should not be stillborn. I digress.
During the birthing process, there are brief moments when you forget the impending sorrow. I probably felt the same adrenaline flow of any other father-to-be. Remember how I told you earlier that I dreaded this very moment from happening. And, at the same time, I wanted to be there more than anything in the world. Well, you could not have pried me out of that room with a crowbar. Perhaps I was still hoping that somehow God would bring her back to life. Perhaps I just wanted to see my baby girl…….even though she would be dead.
I remember watching those all-too-real videos during the birth classes. I remember hearing other parents of newborns describe how messy things can get. Sometimes they say that new daddies even faint at the sight of all the grossness. I have heard stories like this. I don’t doubt they are true. But I think sometimes they must be fainting because of joy they can’t contain. That is my theory anyway. Maybe it’s a combination of both. But I do know this: when your dead baby is headed through the birth canal and you see her tiny little head, gross doesn’t bother you. When you know that you will only be with her for a very short time, gross doesn’t bother you. When you know you’ll be picking out a casket for her the next day, gross doesn’t bother you.
Sure enough, Ariana was on her way. I cried when I first saw the top of her head. And I cried even more when she was all the way out. Were my tears joy or were they pain? Have you ever been unable to tell whether you were happy or sad, or both?! I got to do some of the things other daddies do when their babies are born. So much so that I almost forgot. So much going on that I almost forgot……….forgot how sad I was supposed to feel. Can you believe that? Yes, for brief moments you forget that you are not taking her home with you. Everything seems so natural, until you see the collapsed skull and black and blue face. She didn’t cry. I never wanted to hear someone cry so bad in all my life. Seems like a strange thing to say, doesn’t it? But……. she didn’t cry. Everyone else did. God performed no miracles. No happy ending here.
I remember when I first held her. She was so tiny. 18 inches, 5.8 pounds. The nurse showed me how to hold her and protect her head. And you know what, I followed her advice exactly as she told me. I dotted every “I” and crossed every “T”. I was so afraid of hurting her head. I know, I know. She was dead. But in those moments after birth, you don’t act like your baby’s dead. By instinct, you protect them as best you can. Her body was so flimsy too. I held her so tightly. I didn’t want to let her go. Ever.
There are many other things too painful to describe. I’ll spare you most of them. But one thing really stands out in my memory. Her lips were crimson red. They say this is due to depletion of oxygen, and also blood pooling after death. It was really odd though. It didn’t look messy. It didn’t look weird. It looked kind of cute. You may think that’s weird. Maybe it is weird. But it’s my story. And again, I can’t explain it. I remember cradling her tightly in my arms and saying: “Now Ariana, I told you that you are not allowed to wear lipstick until you’re 14.” The nurse smiled.
Then, they gave her a short bath. I got to hold her, as did the mother. I got to cut the cord too. Yes….the cord. That precious life-giving line of blood to my baby. How ironic is that? How cruel it felt! That same life-giving cord was the very instrument of her death. It was wrapped twice around her tiny little ankle…… very tightly wrapped. Baby Ariana was too strong. She was too energetic. I wanted to ask her why? Little girl, why did you have to kick so much?! Why would you put all of us through this? I know, I know, ridiculous. Not her fault. She didn’t know.
It’s all a product of the fall of Adam. And yes, God ordained my baby’s death. He allowed it. He decreed it. It all had, and still has, a purpose. God knows. I do not. But I do know this: human rebellion is devastating. Babies die because of it. Sometimes they die before you ever hear them cry. And all of this stuff happens because Adam and Eve ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God told them not to. And He meant it. At that moment, I wonder if they realized just how much pain they plunged the world into. From that point on, there would be sickness, pain, grief, death, and of course, more sin. Because of that one wicked act, parents have to sometimes bury little babies. Yes, sin is that destructive. God is that holy.
Just how destructive is sin? Well, I’ll just say it like this. The day after Ariana’s birth I had to walk into a funeral home and say, “Hello, I’m here to pick out a casket for my baby girl.” That is not the way things should be. That is not the way things were originally created to be. That’s what sin has done to us. That’s how devastating it is.
I wanted to lay my little girl in a crib, not a casket. I should have been playing with her. Instead I had to bury her. No more could I look into her beautiful violet eyes. But one day………yes……a day is coming!
Until we meet again, Ariana, I love you. There will be no bruises the next time I see you. And that is something daddy can smile about!
** (See above for this reference note. It is in the paragraph right below the picture of Ariana’s grave site. Below is the explanation.)
I was not a Christian at the time. I named the Name of Christ, but I was not truly redeemed. I didn’t go to the Scriptures for comfort. I am pretty certain that I prayed……albeit briefly. And even though I prayed, it was as a false convert indulging in a life of sin. Even so, God is sovereign, and He could have shown mercy and let my baby live, if He had chosen to. But it would not have been so much an answer to my prayer, as it would have been God simply being gracious and kind to me and the mother of my child. In the end, it is all about what glorifies Him. Even if He had chosen to preserve Ariana’s life, and given me such an amazing gift, I would have shamefully celebrated the gift over the Giver. It would have been her over and above Him. I am not even sure how much I would have thanked Him for saving her life……..had He chosen to do so.
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19 thoughts on “I Wanted To Lay My Baby Girl In A Crib, Not A Casket”
This was as hard for me to read as it probably was for you to write. I still wonder what life would have bern like if I had not lost my baby too! Thanks for sharing this. God bless your soul.
Thank you S N A for your sweet comments! Very thoughtful of you. And I am so sorry for your loss as well. )-: May the Lord give you strength all of your life to cope with your devastating loss. God bless you too!
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You’re welcome. Thank you for your words of kindness and blessings.
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Jamie this was beautiful, I cried so much…Your words were so truthful and beautiful..I remember her eyes were violet..she was beautiful, and she wasn’t down syndrome like they said…but even if she would have been she still would have been beautiful..They are all God’s precious children..
Thank you mom! Yes, she was beautiful either way. She was a gift either way. (-:
[…] did not take a single breath outside the womb. Before you read this poem, you will need to read her story. Her story is my story. And it is gut-wrenching. So………..to really […]
Hello, I saw your blog shared on a Facebook page I follow and have been reading a few of your beautiful posts about your precious Ariana. I’m so sorry she is not here with you, but what glorious hope knowing you’ll see her again!
My daughter Lily Katherine was stillborn 2 days past her due date on March 16, 2010. She’d be in 1st grade this year. I miss her each and every day. I was 20 when I had and lost her. I share much more about her and my testimony on my blog: http://www.roseandherlily.com
She is my first and only born baby as of right now. It’s a unique grief to lose your only child, I’m sure you understand what I mean.
Thank you for sharing and being a voice for those of us with babies in Heaven.. You point to Christ with your words and also show how devastating stillbirth is and that it’s not something one ever “gets over.” It’s also refreshing to see a father blogging about stillbirth, which is rare. I’m not with my daughter’s father now and I hope he will carry his love for her the way you do for your daughter. We aren’t in touch at all. I do know he was heartbroken when she died and was greatly looking forward to her being here.
Anyways, God bless.
Hi Hannah!! Thank you so much for your sweet words!! I have been on your website looking around quite a bit. I will be back many times I’m sure. In fact, I saved your page to my Pinterest Board for Stillborn Babies. All I have to say is that your little Lily Katherine is so precious. She is beautiful. I couldn’t listen to the song just yet. I remember crying so hard when I heard the Greene’s sing their song about “Jesus has a Rocking Chair.” Wow, very powerful stuff. May the Lord continue to use you mightily to bring comfort to others who have gone through a similar fire as you have. He has already used you to bring comfort to me. (-: God bless you sister!
Wow, Jamie. This brought back so many memories. They came in like a flood. The time the doctor said, “Today is not a good day.” I was 24 weeks along. My son was stillborn four days later, two days after they started the induction process. I never named him. Never looked at him. Never lay him to rest. I wasn’t ready. And I wasn’t ready 11 months later when I was only eight weeks along and heard the same words again, “I’m afraid today is not a good day.”
I had to wonder about the prophecy that said my son would reach people for Christ without saying a word. Did God’s word through His servant return to Him void? Perish the thought!
Years later, I published a novel in which a relatively minor character deals with pregnancy loss. Eighty-nine thousand words to make ONE point spoken by the character: “God is not limited by something so inconsequential in the grand scheme of things as our breath.” I wanted readers to understand that God can STILL use us (or our babies) even if/when/although we pass away. Our breath isn’t a deciding factor for Him. He is THAT awesome! 😀 😀 😀
And in the 14 months since my novel has been published, I’ve received a few accolades. Even a Book of the Year Award. But what means the most to me are the emails telling me how much my book has encouraged someone going through a similar loss… any loss. How much they NEEDED to hear what I had to say.
It’s living proof that the prophecy spoken over my firstborn has been fulfilled. I now have a four-year-old son… my survivor, and I wonder what my life would have been like it I had three kids under the age of nine right now. And I smile, because the Lord knows I couldn’t have handled it 😀
Thank you for sharing.
Hi Marsha!! Thank you so much for the comments. It was so sweet that I read through it at least 3 times! I am so sorry about the loss of your son. )-: So very sad. It sounds like you are truly drawing on the strength of the Lord through all of this, and are an inspiration and comfort to many others. I have been looking through your website, and I love it. So much neat stuff to dive into. (-: Wow, praise God for the success of your book. What an amazing way to turn something painful into something that is a blessing to others. Keep up the good work, and God bless you. (-:
Hi, Jamie! I’m sorry for you and your wife’s loss. I pray that the Lord continues to help and comfort you and your wife. I know how difficult it can be to loose a child. I lost two children who were alive many years ago due to domestic violence. The beauty in stories like yours and mine is the testimony we have to share with others. Your daughter lives on through your testimony and her death seems to have brought you closer to the Lord. Now your daughter can touch the lives of many people. God’s divine plan for our lives can be difficult to understand during those turbulent times but, he knows what is best for us.
God’s divine plan for my sufferings and losses was to ultimately blog (The Lord is Calling) my story too and to share him and his love with others. To tell others how he has transformed me and changed my life. Praise the Lord!
I’m looking forward to reading more of your blog in the coming days. My the Lord bless you both. Linda
Thank you Linda for your heartfelt comments!! I have been on your website, and wow, what a story you have as well. You are able to comfort others with what you have been through. I hope to stay in contact with your site, and all the great resources you have there. (-: God bless you, and may the Lord continue to use you mightily in His Kingdom…..for the benefit of many others.
Oh, just as an FYI, my wife Leah is not the mother of the baby. But she has been a great source of comfort to me! (-:
Jamie, I had tears in my eyes as I read this. Thank you for allowing readers into your private thoughts and feelings. I know God will use your pain to help someone (maybe more).
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Thanks for your thoughts and encouragement Beckie! You know how to build people up, as always. (-:
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Beautiful tribute to her and beautiful journey through your thoughts and feelings. ❤
Thank you for sharing.
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You’re welcome Tammy! I appreciate your kind thoughts. (-:
This was so beautifully written and captures exactly what it is to lose your baby and the future you had mapped out for them. I lost my daughter Isabella Grace on 13th March 2010- the day before Mothers Day here.
You’ve captured so much of how I felt – how can you go home knowing your baby is dead inside you? How can you be planning what to put in her coffin instead of wondering what to dress her in. I remember sitting in the funeral home arranging it all and watching people walk past outside thinking how impossible it seemed that they could just be going about their normal duties when I felt that my heart was actually physically broken.
I remember dreading delivering her and seeing her – wondering whether she would look dead or just like she was sleeping. I also remember how excited I was so see her – to find out if she was a boy or a girl and what she would look like. Then how proud I felt of this beautiful perfect baby girl God had given me, however briefly. My husband felt really angry that if there was a God (he’s not a believer) that he would take our baby. I just felt at peace that his way is perfect and whatever his reason for this happening, he doesn’t make mistakes. I believe that this happened for a reason – that maybe she was really sick and this saved her from a lifetime of pain. I take comfort in the fact she never experienced any pain of this earth – she fell asleep warm in my belly and woke up in the arms of Jesus. I have that on her headstone “born into the arms of Jesus”. I know that people wouldn’t believe it but when she was born she was smiling. She had one arm behind her head and was smiling. It looked like she had fallen asleep and smiled when the Angels came to take her home and that’s massively comforting.
Reading your post brought back such memories. It captures what we all feel when we went through what no parent should and it shows so clearly how much you loved your baby girl. Thank you for sharing this with us. I am sure our girls are great friends in heaven along with all the other babies babies that never had a chance and one day we will see them again in their perfect heavenly bodies. God bless you and your family xx
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Wow, Vickie, thank you so much for sharing these comments with me! I apologize for taking so long to get back to you on this. Every time I wanted to take time and think through it, I kept forgetting to come back to it! Guess I am getting old. )-: Please forgive me.
This is such a heartwarming story you tell here. “Born into the arms of Jesus” I LOVE it!! What a perfect phrase for a stillborn baby! And yes, I am quite certain that our babies are great friends and supremely enjoying being in the presence of our Savior! One day, we will worship Jesus together with our babies. Isabella is in perfect joy and peace right now, with no pain. Same with my baby, Ariana.
Let us look forward to the day when we will have the greatest family reunion ever! God bless you, Vickie.