In July 2015, I found out I was pregnant, due in April 2016. My husband and I were over the moon. I will never forget the first time I heard my daughters heartbeat, at that moment I knew what true joy was. It felt as if for a moment everything in my life up until then made complete sense. My pregnancy was normal in every way possible. I gained the proper amount of weight. I measured perfect. My blood pressure was always perfect. After every single appointment my doctor would say, “everything looks great guys!” My life was a dream, an absolute dream.
On April 4th, 2016 at 39 weeks and 1 day, I went into labor. I began to time contractions, and labored at home as long as possible. After laboring at home for almost 10 hours my water broke. My husband immediately rushed us off in the car and we were on our way.We got to the hospital in record time and were so excited. I watched as my husband rushed around, he was already the best father.While we were in the waiting room, my husband turned to me and said, “Don’t worry, Harper and I will get you a really good mother’s day present”. I smiled, I try to hang on to that moment. My husband was not someone who cried very often, but I could see his eyes welling up as he looked at me and held my hand. This was the moment we were waiting for.
They took me back to triage and got me into a hospital gown. We were so happy, this was it, we were going to meet our Harper and put a face to the little girl we had gotten to know over the last 39 weeks. Our last appointment had been just two days prior and the doctor said Harper sounded like a happy healthy baby girl. They put the heart monitor on my belly. All of a sudden the doctors looked horrified. Then doctor after doctor came in. I didn’t want to believe that anything was wrong, but then I said, “What, what?! is she ok?!”. Then the doctor said the unimaginable. “There isn’t a heartbeat”. My mind went blank, everything went quiet, I was in shock. I replied, “What????! What are you talking about? There isn’t a heartbeat?? Check again!!”. They did, and still there was no heartbeat. I pleaded that maybe they could cut her out and resuscitate her, but they said it was too late, she was already gone.
My husband and I sobbed, and sobbed, it was an absolute nightmare. I felt a pain that I never knew before. It felt like all the hope that had previously existed in the entire world disappeared in that moment. Then the realization came to me, how will I get her out? Did I have to still go through birth? Could they take her out? I could tell that even all the medical school in the world did not give the doctors in that room the words to fit this moment. I had to do it, I had to give birth to my daughter just like every other mother, Harper deserved that.
Being wheeled down the hallway on a hospital bed, I felt like I was dead inside, quite literally. I was once filled with so much life, but now Harper was gone. The light inside of me was now out, and there was nothing left but the realization that life is sometimes this giant piece of steaming shit. My labor went into the early morning. At 8:27am on April 5th, Harper Michele Horwitz was born. She was 7 pounds, 4 ounces and 21 inches long. She was beautiful, perfect, just seemed like she was sleeping. My husband and I held her and told her we loved her. It was hard to hold her, such a horrible sense of powerlessness. We had to meet our little girl and say goodbye to her all in the same day. At that moment I knew I would never be the same.
Through the unthinkable loss of my daughter I found the need for there to be more support for grieving parents. I did not know where to turn, it seemed no one understood, except for those who had lost a child as well, they knew the pain. There should be a rule in life that a parent should never outlive their child, but life simply does not work that way. The problem was it was hard to find those parents when I needed them. I found myself in chat rooms at 3am searching for anyone who could tell me my heart might hurt a little less one day. I also found people I thought were friends just couldn’t handle something so sad, I felt alone. It almost felt like I was walking amongst strangers simply because no one knew what to say.
The stigma surrounding the death of my daughter is a hard reality to deal with. I have been told that she never existed and to try again. I have been judged for having a picture of my daughter. I do not get the validation that “normal” mothers receive simply because Harper wasn’t here long enough. The hurt from the loss of my daughter is blaring on a daily basis, but the stigma surrounding stillbirth leads me to believe I should get over it. In my grief I realized I am only one parent amongst millions that face stigma in their grief through the loss of their child. Whether your child was lost through overdose, suicide, violence, illness or perinatal loss, you deserve to feel supported, not judged or analyzed. This is why Proud Parents of Loss was started, to build a place specializing in the support of grieving parents, without stigma.