At 11.50PM, September 6th 2017, I gave birth to death. My first son was stillborn at 36 week gestation and – as every mother would say – he was by far the most beautiful, perfectly adorable baby I have ever laid eyes on. He had my nose and cute little lips that were unmistakably his dad’s.
It had been an unimaginable day. Prior to his delivery I was obviously in a lot of pain, but the second I held him I was overcome by an emotion I can only describe as happiness. I felt proud, of myself, my unwavering husband and my peaceful sleeping baby. The three of us had done the unthinkable, together.
I certainly did not expect to feel that way. I thought I was literally going to die or at the very least cry like I had since we were told that our baby had passed away. It was only a day after our last doctor’s appointment, but it felt like a lifetime ago. I was so afraid of the thought that after an agonizing 30-hour induced labor, I was not going to hear the sound of my baby crying.
Surprisingly, I felt nothing but love and joy.
The nurse took photos of the three of us together and I was smiling in all of those pictures. Some people may say that I was in shock or that it was adrenaline talking, but I took it as my highly anticipated entrance to motherhood. I was never going to see him open his eyes or deliver his valedictorian speech, but I was already a proud mother.
Despite the tormenting heartbreak and this heavy weight I am going to carry for the rest of my life, I am grateful for the months I was able to care for him. I carried my son within me for nine months and in my hands only for minutes. The only worldly legacy he left was a set of foot prints and some photographs. I now need to believe in the afterlife as it will be the only place where I get to see him once more. Our encounter was too brief, but his memory will remain with me forever.
My husband and I may have left the hospital empty-handed, but he is still a father and I am still a mother.
Yes, it is unsettling to think about the future nowadays; I am undoubtedly nervous about the holiday season and meeting the extended family for the first time since my son’s birth/death, the next Mother’s and Father’s Day and towards the end of the year, my best friend’s due date (we were so excited to raise our boys at the same time). It is a fact that my husband and I will never be able to take a complete family picture again. Even so, nothing can take our parenthood away from us.
Sarah Ayu and her husband, Galih, live in Jakarta, Indonesia. Their first son, Rainer Bhadra Yogaswara, was stillborn at 36 weeks gestation due to unknown causes. She is doubtful that time will be able to heal a wound from such a devastating loss, but is determined to find ways to cope and persevere. Previously a stranger to maternal and neonatal issues, Sarah seeks to connect with other still parents to help ease each other’s sufferings and raise awareness. Thank you for reading her story.