Two pink lines
My pregnancy was unplanned and came at an unfortunate time during our lives but nevertheless we were thrilled. Baby #4 was due June 21, 2011. I remember at the ultrasound learning we were having a boy. Already blessed with 2 girls and 1 boy we were excited to have another boy making it an even number of boys to girls. This pregnancy was near perfect. I felt wonderful, had energy and I literally had the pregnancy glow, all things I never had with my previous pregnancies. Working, raising 3 children and feeling my tiny baby grow and move in my tummy; it doesn't get better than that.
May 8, 2011
It was a beautiful spring day, although it felt more like summer. Most people called it Mother's Day but we called it the birthday of our beloved son, Rylan. While many were preparing to celebrate the day honoring their moms I was preparing to become a mom for the fourth time.
I started feeling pain in my abdomen but surely I wasn't going into labor. I still had six weeks before my due date. I had already had three babies so I thought I'd know when labor was approaching. I was wrong. After the bleeding started we rushed to the hospital, we arrived just one hour before Rylan was born at 10:53am. I think someone was in a rush to join this world. He was a beautiful 5lbs 3oz blonde little bundle of prefect joy.
Being six weeks early he had to go to a hospital that could care better for him. The local hospital that delivered him is very small and not equip to care for babies that need extra care, ie a NICU. They took great care of him while waiting for a special team of people to transport him an hour away to the bigger hospital. My doctor agreed to discharge me from the hospital so that I would be free to go with my baby. The first time in the hospital history to discharge a mom only one hour after delivery.
His dad and I left shortly after the ambulance that was transporting Rylan. Driving an hour away up here in New Hampshire is regular occurrence and never seems like that long. But on that day the ride seemed to take an excruciatingly long time. We arrived to find our baby boy safe and sound in quite capable hands.
Half a life-time in the NICU
The NICU at Elliot hospital is pretty spectacular as far as NICU units go. The doctors, nurses and all the staff there are very kind and generous. They do an excellent job at keeping the parents informed on progress, setbacks and anything related to their children. Every morning they would come to his room and gather me for what they call "rounds". Rounds is where a team of staff consisting of Doctors, Nurses, Case Managers, Neonatalogists, Respiratory Care Therapist and any anybody they felt could benefit the health of your baby sit down and discuss your baby's progress and treatment plan. Let me tell you it was quite a production. I was thankful to have worked as a Nursing Assistant for the prior 10 years because I could just barely understand what they were talking about it.
I knew this....my Rylan was going to be ok. He hadn't needed any support since shortly after birth. Not one single bit of help surviving. The team of specialist were impressed, nicknaming him "Rylan the Superstar"
Elliot Hospital encourages all parents to take an infant CPR class. I personally didn't think we needed the class, our Rylan was a superstar and I had three other children. I felt like a pro at motherhood. But we were excited to do anything that would get Rylan home with us sooner so we eagerly attended the class. The instructor told us about the possibility of our baby being unresponsive and what to do if that happened. We even took turns practicing CPR on a doll, it seemed easy enough even though I knew we would never need it.
We met some of the most courageous parents while at the NICU. If you ever needed to believe miracles exist talk to a parent with a newborn in the NICU. There were parents there juggling more than just 3 older children and an hour drive. I had it easy. One mother had given birth to twin girls 16 weeks early, they had already been in the NICU for two months and weren't even discussing the possibility of going home. Many of the parents had to go back to work while their little ones were still in the NICU because their family leave had already expired. I truly felt blessed because I didn't have it that bad. Rylan was so healthy and only lived in the NICU for nine days. At the same time my heart broke for the parents of the other newborns.
The perfect ten, days that is
Rylan was home with his family. I was so relieved to not have that hour drive that I failed to appreciate the significance of having my family complete all under one roof. Rylan still needed frequent observation from his doctor due to being premature so I took him to the doctor every couple of days. At every appointment he seemed to be healthy and he was gaining weight appropriately. At his two week appointment, just four days before he died, the doctor said "He looks great. He won't need to come back until his two month check up." Relief, with all the worries behind us Rylan was doing great. No more trips to the doctor for awhile meant we could finally settle down into our routines and he fit in perfectly. Rylan didn't do much of anything but sleep and eat, typical newborn I know but he was a preemie so really that's all he did. Our days were filled with lots of baby cuddles and waiting for the wonderful but ever so brief moments when he would peek his little eyes open. He seemed to be doing so well we were anxious to have him venture out into the world. On May 27, 2011 after nursing him as usual I put him to bed and went to bed myself believing my world was complete and perfect.
The Twentieth Day
May 28, 2011, Aaron woke up in a panic, I quickly woke to see was the urgency was all about. I looked down at our baby boy..sleeping..I thought. But no he looked different. Instantly realizing something wasn't right Aaron called 911 then we took turns doing the CPR just as we had learned. Silently thanking God for going to that class. I'll spare you the details that are forever burned into my being. One officer came in and looked at Rylan, he knew it was too late. Several rescue workers showed up and whisked Rylan quickly out of the house. I remember a feeling of relief that a qualified person would take him and fix him. But, the next few minutes were a blur. People telling me things I didn't understand. Our baby was gone. Confused, scared, sad, hurt and so many emotions at once consumed me.
One thing I will never forget is how time seemed to stop when I heard the words "I'm sorry but we've done all we can do" Yes they really do say that in real life too. Except I heard it as something like "your life is over....there is no hope" But nonetheless it was true Rylan was never coming back. Our lives were forever changed.
But we are not criminals
As if waking to find your child passed away wasn't bad enough they had to do a mini investigation. Outside our baby boy alone and lifeless in the ambulance because for whatever reason they stayed out there for hours. Inside we were being questioned about every detail of our lives. They asked us about our relationship, our past relationships, our health history, our children's history, our finances, even went as far as asking us to hold a faceless baby doll to demonstrate how we carried Rylan and how we lay him down in his bed. They gathered bottles and formula, blankets and clothes. And they took lots of pictures. I've seen enough episodes on the ID channel to know they were just doing what they had to. You could see all over their faces this was killing them too. I was trying to be as helpful as I could but at the same time I wanted to yell, scream, throw things, cry, but more than anything I wanted to die. I was not angry with them for doing their jobs but I was angry at the situation. That was the one and only time I was angry about it.
Family, Friends and a Community
With a wonderful support system we some how managed to make it through those first few days, still to this day I don't know how. Both us not eating and wanting to just go to bed and wake up with our son, where ever he may be. Which I probably would have if not for having my three other precious children that needed their mother because after all their baby brother had just died. For my children Lauren, Hayden and Mason I carried on. I don't remember much about the days following. Funeral plans were being made and talk of where to bury our son, making sure the other children were alright and being taken care of. Thanks to an amazing community of family and friends Rylan had a beautiful graveside burial and lovely memorial service.
The he nevers...
The first few weeks following Rylan's passing I couldn't help but dwell on the things he never got to do and the things he will never get to do. I knew I shouldn't but I was heart broken and couldn't stop the thoughts from coming. Slowly though those thoughts turned into I'm going to do this for Rylan because he won't get to do them for himself. That helped ease the pain just a little and today I still try to live by that theory.
I'd heard about it. Never really gave it much thought or questioned exactly how it happens. Honestly I never thought it would happen to my family. In my opinion most parents think only about the good things that come along with having new baby. As long as the baby is healthy, right? We've all heard that. Sadly it is just not that easy. Rylan was healthy, they found nothing that could explain how or why this happened. I began trying to learn more about the cause of SIDS but there is no information out there. The only way we can prevent this from happening is more research.
A way of life
People kept telling us it will get easier. I would always ask them "when?" I desperately wanted to know when the pain would stop, when would I start feeling better. I will say that for me it hasn't gotten easier but it has gotten different. They call it the grieving process but I disagree. In my opinion a process would imply there is somehow an end to it however there is not. A parent would never stop grieving for their child. I call it a way of life, a way to function because it is something you learn to live with. I've learned to cry when I need to but also turn the sadness into a way to honor Rylan. I've been told everything happens for a reason. I hated hearing that after Rylan died because I honestly couldn't see that there was any reason why my son was taken from his loving family. As time passed though I started feeling like there was a reason why this happened; possibly so that Blayn would be able to join our family or maybe so that I would learn to cherish each moment, help others when I can, offer support to other grieving families? Maybe I will never really know but I will keep searching for my reason.
A brighter tomorrow and a rainbow
Feeling like once Rylan was born our family would be complete we agreed it would be the right time for me to get my tubes tied. I never got the opportunity to discuss it with my Ob because Rylan came six weeks early then we were so consumed with him to give it any other thought. But after his death I had a strong feeling there was a reason I wasn't able to talk with my doctor or follow through with it. We were meant to have another baby. I was sure of this as I was of my own name and Aaron agreed.. I had heard that sometimes during such a time of intense grief it is difficult to conceive given all the changes and stress your body is going through. I am about as fertile as can be so naturally I had zero trouble getting pregnant even under the circumstances. Joy and then fear. I wasn't prepared for all the different emotions that would come along with having another baby. But I never questioned whether or not we were doing the right thing because I just knew that it was. It was a long road and somewhat of a difficult pregnancy but here today we have our little Blayn, our rainbow after the storm. Blayn born 5 weeks early just one day after the first anniversary marking Rylan's one year in Heaven. Divine intervention? I think so.
A life goes on
What next? I intend to live each day in honor of Rylan. Be a great mother to his siblings for it is them which give me a reason to survive my own grief. Raise awareness and encourage SIDS research. Reach out to other grieving families. My long term goal is to start a non profit organization, as well as an Art & Photography business dedicated to raise funds which would be used to support SIDS research and provide assistance to grieving families for memorial services, headstones or mental health support, etc...
Most of all, I want to live a life that would make Rylan proud!
Find important links here:
Rylan Christenson - Memorial page dedicated to Rylan
Rylan's Fund - The start to my dream
Hogs for Hope - Annual bike run benefit for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome Research @Children's Hospital in Boston
SIDS - Awareness and Support