It has taken a lot of time and courage to put the details of our loss into a post. All parents long to have more time with their children, watching them grow, enjoying every moment of their precious lives. And we were no different. We hear about the precious gift of time as it is preached continually: “Enjoy these moments.” “They grow up in the blink of an eye.” But what if you had to say “goodbye” to your child before you ever got to say “hello”? My husband, Jeramie, and I were expecting our first baby in July 2020. Experiencing pregnancy for the first time was already a crazy journey and full of new-mom nervousness, but adding the scary elements of navigating a pregnancy during a pandemic was even more stressful. Even though I had had my fair share of never-ending “normal” sickness and discomfort, I was very blessed to have had a healthy pregnancy. We did everything right, never imagining what would go wrong the week before his due date. Yet one day, almost one week before his due date, our baby boy, Anderson, stopped moving. I had just attended my last appointment that week where everything appeared normal, but out of caution, we went to the hospital to make sure he was okay. We were in no way expecting to see what we did. Immediately, the nurse attendants ran an ultrasound to check Anderson’s vital signs. At that moment we could see that his heart was no longer beating. Full of absolute shock, devastation, and somewhat denial, we were not ready for this news. We were ready to be parents. His nursery was complete, full of all of the gifts received at our recent baby shower. My hospital bags were packed. His car seat was in the car and ready for our trip home with him from the hospital. And after 5 years of marriage, we were anticipating the dream of having our growing family complete with Anderson. And just like that, our world turned upside down and was forever changed. The phone call I made from the hospital telling my family that “we lost him” was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It was so much to process while I still couldn’t even believe the news myself. This just couldn’t be happening.
After crying in the arms of my family, we went home to repack my hospital bag and returned to the hospital where we would soon begin the process of my delivery. Due to the strict conditions of the pandemic, we were not expecting to have family allowed to visit us during or after delivery, so saying goodbye before returning to the hospital was a moment almost too difficult to handle. Later that night, we checked in. I was induced early the next morning and delivered Anderson that afternoon. Upon delivery, it was discovered that the umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck 5 times, cutting off his lifeline. From that point on, everything during our stay in the hospital almost seemed surreal. Things appeared to happen suddenly, yet also in slow motion. I’m pretty sure I was in shock and mentally numb for 24 hours, even as I held Anderson in my arms. He was a perfect 21-inch, 6 lb. 15 oz. baby who resembled Jeramie in so many ways–even his long legs and large feet had Jeramie’s likeness.
To our surprise, we were blessed a gift we were not expecting: our families were allowed inside our hospital room to comfort us and to meet and hold our sweet boy. That time was so precious and full of unforgettable moments that I will treasure for the rest of my life. I do remember feeling protective as I handed him off to each family member for their turn. As any newborn, his little body was fragile, and I was especially protective over him, knowing that our time with him would be short. I had never held or even seen someone deceased. My first close experience with death was with my own child. While it was a blessing to have my family with me, I worried how different he would look each time he was returned to my arms. He was so fragile but looked so peaceful at the same time. I had to keep reminding myself that he wasn’t just sleeping and his appearance would keep changing. I so badly wanted to freeze time and remember what he looked like when I first saw him. I was scared to fall asleep that night to wake up seeing a different boy than the night before.
While we received amazing care during our stay in the hospital, our time with Anderson was limited. Having more time to hold our baby after he passed would have gifted us additional memories with him: getting to hold him, give him a bath, take photos–all physiologically important moments for any new mom. I later learned about the “CuddleCot,” a cooling device in a portable bassinet, grieving families can have the precious gift of more time to spend with their lost baby at their side while keeping the baby’s skin and overall appearance intact. The cooling pad can be placed under any bedding, including a personal bassinet. We did not have access to this device but would have used it in a heartbeat if we had had the option. Every moment spent with Anderson was precious to us but extra time would have been priceless.
Part of my grief journey has been asking the question, “How can I still be a mother to my baby who is no longer with me on earth”?
Research shows how new mothers with living or deceased children have the need to experience new-mom tasks. Some of these things could include holding their baby, giving him/her a bath or changing their diaper. I experienced something similar referred to as “aching arms,” which is the urge to hold and cuddle your baby, especially when you no longer have him near. Leaving the hospital without Anderson made me feel empty physically and psychologically. Having a CuddleCot could have provided us more time to work through many of these “new mom urges,” to mother my baby with these tasks at least once before saying goodbye.
To imagine that other parents will experience a loss like ours is tragic but also a reality. My prayer and plan is to gift a CuddleCot to a local hospital so that no other parents in our community will have to say goodbye to their baby without the time they need to see and hold their precious child. I have been so blessed to have the best family and friends mourn and grieve with us this past year. This has prompted me to pay these blessings forward by fundraising to purchase a CuddleCot for a hospital in the Bryan-College Station community. How beautiful that God orchestrated the best people around me for all of us to make this vision a reality.
How do I know God had the perfect name for Anderson all along? His initials spell ACT (Anderson Chase Todd). And gifting a CuddleCot back to our community will be the first of many hopeful ACTs for Anderson #actsforanderson. I hope that by knowing my story, you are able to hug your loved ones tighter, especially your babies (little and grown).