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  • Writer's pictureJen Chappell

Share Your Story Tuesday, Cooper Allan

Three days before Christmas 2015, I found myself at my best friend's house waiting to see if two little lines were going to appear. My first-born son was thirteen at the time and gratefully I know how wonderful being a parent is. I was both thrilled and terrified when I found out I was pregnant. I have had an ectopic pregnancy and a few miscarriages, so I also understood the pain I might feel. Could I carry a child again and bring life into the world? I was hesitant to tell anyone, but his father was so excited that keeping it quiet didn’t last long at all.

We were being seen at our local county hospital. There were no complications during our pregnancy other than gestational diabetes, which the doctor said I could control by walking and monitoring my diet. Our due date flip-flopped around quite a bit, but the doctor finally settled on September 1st. At one point, the perinatal specialist we were sent to for a growth scan said to move our due date to August 25th. At my following appointment with our doctor I had asked which due date we were going to be using. She had said we are going to stick with their charts. I don’t think I will ever stop wondering why the doctor didn’t listen to them. Why didn't I push for her to change the date?

On September 7th I had heard his heartbeat at our last appointment. I often think about how I had no clue that was going to be the last time I heard it. Memories are all so foggy and jumbled together. I remember my doctor mentioning doing a sweep but for some reason we didn't do one. We scheduled induction for two days later.

I arrived at the hospital around 5:30pm on September 9th ecstatic to finally meet my son. When we first got into the room, his father was told he could go get a drink or snack since it would take a bit to get the monitors and everything set up.  I laid there anxiously waiting for the nurse to tell me what I was seeing and hearing was wrong. How/why did I not notice something was wrong?! Can I please go back to two days prior and make them deliver him right then? It seemed unbelievable. Multiple monitor positions, a new monitor, an ultrasound machine, a more experienced nurse... his heart was not beating. Everything was instantly numb, surreal. A blur. I called his father to tell him to come back. I really don’t remember what I said if anything other than “come back.” Once he got back to the room a doctor came in and confirmed that our son was no longer alive. I called my best friend, his aunt. I was taken to a different room, more secluded, away from the other mothers giving birth.

I learned later from my best friend that the hospital had taped a piece of paper to the delivery room door that said “extraction.” But there was no extraction taking place. I was giving birth to my stillborn son. I carried him in my body and gave birth to my baby boy. There was no damn extracting. I was a mother giving birth.

I was a mother grieving birth.

Everything is jumbled together in one confused and terrifying mess. The hospital gave me pain medication, which only made the whole thing seem that much more unreal. I laid there touching my lifeless belly, going in and out of tears, asking myself repeatedly if it was real life. I told myself it was and “you have to be strong or you’ll never make it through the night.” I thought about the mothers in other rooms and hoped everything was going well for them. I felt so empty. So broken. Like I had failed him, his brother, his father, and myself. How was I going to get through giving birth knowing I wasn’t going to get my baby? There really was no choice.

I remember being asked questions and being told different things by the nurses. Do I want to hold him or take pictures? What do I want to do once he is here? Burial, cremation? Everything felt so overwhelming and crazy. I had no clue what to say or feel. I wanted so badly to be able to make it not so. I’ll never not want that. I wish I would have known then that I would want more pictures. I remember feeling him start to get cold and not wanting to remember him that way. I feel guilty for that. I feel guilty for everything.  I wish I would have known I just wanted to hold him a little longer. I suppose nothing will ever be enough and those are just feelings a parent who has lost a child will always live with, along with the “what ifs” that regularly haunt me.

Cooper Allan was born September 10th, 2016 at 10:45 in the morning. He weighed 8lbs, 8.9oz. and was 21.5in long. I’ll never forget how quiet that birth was. Or how long and dark that night felt. Will I ever be the same person again? Three years later, I feel like I’m still fighting my way through it all. I still feel like I’m trying to accept that at the very least, for whatever reason, a piece of me is always going to be missing. My soul is always going to carry an empty space longing for all the wonderful, trying, heartbreaking and heart-mending moments that would have come along with watching my second son grow up.

My two best friends were pregnant with me during my pregnancy with Cooper. They were also with me throughout his stillbirth. One was there during his delivery. She was currently still pregnant expecting her first child. I remember looking over at her and feeling horrible she was a part of this but grateful she was there. I had told her she could leave, and I would understand. She didn't. That will be something I will never forget. The one I had called after finding out his heart was no longer beating came shortly after I called her. She had gone home for the night, her oldest child, my niece was at home anxiously waiting to hear about our new baby. She returned the following morning seconds after Cooper arrived. I will never forget seeing how wonderful it felt to me that his Aunt still wanted to hold him.

I said yes to all the tests and things that might help us understand why we lost him. Umbilical cord tissue testing, placenta tests, an autopsy, various tests on myself. There was no answer. From what I can tell and sort through after talking to different doctors, he was most likely in too long. Based on my LMP, I was a little over 43 weeks pregnant. A doctor from the hospital told me “sometimes these things just happen.” Somehow, I have to accept that answer because, well, I guess sometimes things like this just happen.

He was perfect. A beautiful baby boy. Why couldn’t the world have him? Why the hell couldn’t I have him!?! How am I going to explain this to his big brother? To family and friends that loved and were waiting for him? I can’t even explain or make sense of it in my own heart and mind. When he was placed in my arms, I didn’t want to let go. I wanted the world to stop, to freeze time so I could be with him a bit longer, just how he was at that exact moment. I wanted so badly to be able to give him the breath from my lungs… to stop death from continuing its process. I had shut down from the outside world. I shut down from almost everything around me.

We had decided on cremation. I don't remember much about that process. I might as well have been a puppet that was following directions from my puppet master. Mybrain had shut down and I had forgotten the simplest tasks. Daily tasks. Ones I had been doing for years. I had no clue what I wanted to do with my son's remains, we kept them. He is currently in an urn on a display cabinet in my living room. Along with him are gifts and trinkets that remind me of him. I still talk to him daily.

Leaving the hospital, I had no clue what I was doing. All I could think about was getting home to my living son and trying to explain to him and help him through this. How to still be mom when I felt I had completely failed at being one. Again, my best friend came through and helped his father and I put away all the baby items we had out. We had prepared our home for our son. We brought home an empty car seat to a home full of baby items that would never be used by us. Two year later I eventually gifted them to a local shelter for women and children. If it were not for my son, Coopers father, and my best friends I might not have made it through. I can't find the words to express how empty everything felt and still feels. Being completely honest, they are all the reason I made it this far.

I used to always believe everything happens for a reasonbut I just can’t convince myself of that anymore. My life has been turned upside down and I continually fight numerous battles trying to find myself and my happiness since I lost him. I have spoken with and met parents who know this pain... I just can’t think of any reason for these things to happen. Our children are not “supposed” to die before us.

I will love you forever Cooper Allan. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of you. I don’t think that will ever change. I am not sure if it will ever hurt any less. I’m not sure the days of sadness or anger will ever go away, but I do know I’m beginning to manage them a bit better as time goes by. I will continue to strive to be my best even on the days I feel subpar. Thank you for touching my life and helping me grow, even in your absence. It feels odd to say it but, Happy birthday. I love you.

My heart goes out to all parents who have felt this loss. You are strong and brave. You are heroes. I hate that I find some strength in knowing that even though I may feel isolated or lonely, I am not alone. I hope somehow our story helps someone, just as others’ sharing has helped me along this journey. Thank you to The Cooper Project for giving us a place to share.

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