by Angie Lemont Bresnahan, HRH Mom and Volunteer
When my friends at High Risk Hope asked if I would be willing to write a piece about my son, I was so honored. As I started reading through many pages I had already written in the past about him, it became clear to me that my story was going to be harder to convey than I thought.
After a round of IVF and 3 surgeries, I was finally pregnant. TJ and I were thrilled to find out we were going to have twins. I had an easy pregnancy until my 25-week appointment on January 28th. I was sent straight over to St Joseph’s Women’s Hospital due to a shortened cervix and was placed on hospital bed rest, where I was to remain until my due date in May.
On February 20, 2016, I gave birth to my twins at 28 weeks. Beren came first, weighing 2 lbs 9 oz. Adalyn followed weighing 2 lbs 9 oz. They were the cutest little things we had ever laid eyes on. The next few days were spent going back and forth between Beren and Adalyn’s rooms. Holding them was the best feeling I had ever felt. I loved rubbing their soft hair on my chin while smelling their soft skin. I loved the way they would squeeze my finger as we stared at each other. I would whisper how much I loved them and that I would take care of them and be the best mother I could be. My two babies that I had always dreamed of were here, and we were over the moon. Adalyn was having some complications but Beren was in good shape for being born so prematurely.
5 days later on February 25th, my life would change forever.
I was upset when I got home from the hospital that night. Beren was crying when I left and I felt so guilty for leaving. Why was he upset? Was that his way of asking me to stay, “No Mama don’t leave me, this is all the time we have left.” I kept thinking on the way home how much I wanted to stay, but something inside me told me it was time to go. I think that was God’s way of protecting me. He didn’t want me to see what was about to happen.
TJ and I were upstairs when the phone rang. I didn’t recognize the number. I wasn’t going to pick it up, but something inside me told me to. It was Beren’s neonatologist. There was a tone in his voice. I don’t remember exactly what he said, but I remember him saying something about Beren’s heart rate and asked if we would come to the hospital. The drive there took what seemed like forever. TJ was talking but I couldn’t find any words to respond. That was the longest drive of my life because I didn’t know what was ahead of me.
The long hallway in the hospital that lead to the elevator seemed longer than ever. The doors opened to the NICU and we ran past security yelling, “they called us,” as the woman at the desk tried to stop and ask for our NICU passes. As we turned the corner I saw the crash cart outside his room. I felt like someone had punched me in the stomach. I walked into the crowded room. I saw him lying there as the doctor was giving him chest compressions. They continued trying to revive him until we got there, instead of stopping after they knew he was gone. Looking back, that means so much to me. He had caring hands on him and he wasn’t alone. They waited until we got there so we could be there when he took his last breath. The doctor turned to me as if in a movie and said, “I’m sorry, we did everything we could.”
I started screaming. I kept screaming, “my son is dead.” I looked around the room at the faces and I could see the pain in their eyes. I sat in the same chair I held him in just a few hours earlier and just stared at him. I was trying to memorize his face. I couldn’t believe this was going to be the last time I was going to hold my son. I rubbed his hair on my chin and it felt so different. I held his little hand that didn’t squeeze me back. That’s when the numbness set in. That numbness still hasn’t gone away. They asked me if I wanted him baptized. The Chaplain said a few words and placed holy water on his forehead. My beautiful baby boy was gone.
As the days went by, we waited for answers. What happened to our little boy? The staff was just as baffled as we were. He was fine when we left an hour before. They couldn’t figure out how his health declined so quickly when he was doing so well. It took a few weeks for us to get answers. Beren’s autopsy stated he had an infection around his heart. We still don’t know how he got the infection.
Adalyn remained in the NICU for 95 days. As she fought to get stronger, I watched all these parents leaving the hospital with “It’s a Boy“ balloons. They were all so happy. Baby boys heading home. All the while I couldn’t take mine home. Why? I kept thinking it’s just not fair.
One Last Goodbye.
On a rainy day a few days after we lost Beren, I received a call from a hospital coordinator saying that he would be picked up that day by the funeral home. Later that afternoon, I was leaving the cafeteria to go back to Adalyn’s room. Up ahead, down that same long hallway, I heard the employee access only door open and two nurses walk five steps across the hall and enter another employee access only door. They were pushing a stretcher with a small blue blanket on it. It didn’t hit me until I was already in the elevator. I felt like someone had punched me in the stomach, again. I went back down to the first floor and ran to the doors I had seen the stretcher go in moments before. As I banged on the door, a doctor came out. I asked her if that was Baby Boy Lemont. She said she believed so. We checked with the security guard and he confirmed. That was my son. I asked if they had already left for the funeral home and they had.
I headed back up to the NICU and collapsed on a chair outside and sobbed. I didn’t want to go back to Adalyn’s room right away. I didn’t want her to see me so upset. I stared out the window searching for the hearse. One of our nurses, who I am still close with today, thinks it was Beren’s way of saying goodbye one more time. I just so happened to be walking up to those doors and look up for those 3 seconds it took the nurses to cross the hall with him on that stretcher. What are the chances?
The day Adalyn was released from the hospital was bittersweet. We were so excited to be bringing our little miracle home after 95 days. But we were leaving the only place Beren had ever been. And we were leaving without him. After l left the hospital I was afraid I would lose my memories of him. I was afraid over time I’d forget the way he smelled and the way his skin felt on mine.
I still lay awake at night and can’t believe this happened. My son was taken from me. Why? I still can’t wrap my head around it. For the first few seconds when I wake up every morning I think, “Was this all just a dream?” Then reality sinks in and I remember that he is not in the next room.
I often wonder, what’s it going to be like for Addy? Will she feel him, see him, and talk to him? Will she feel like something is missing? Will he come to her in her dreams? Will I find her talking to him while she plays? I hear stories of a living twin seeing their sibling when they are young. Too young to explain the visit to an adult. As I watch her grow and achieve milestones I wonder about him. Who would he look like? Adalyn looks just like her father. Whose personality would he have had? Would he love books and swimming like she does? Would they act the same or be total opposites? I am left with a lifetime of wonder.
The grief process is very unpredictable. It comes in waves and is very strong. Some days I can get through the day without crying. Others, it’s unbearable. I know that he would want me to be strong for his sister. She is a perfect little girl. Despite the odds with being born so prematurely, she is perfect in every way. She is smart, caring, and full of life. Just like I know he would have been.
I hope writing this article will help others. Helping others has been so therapeutic for me. Death is not a subject people like to talk about. Especially when it comes to children. 1 in 4 women will experience miscarriage, infant loss or stillbirth. Many celebrities are breaking the silence and sharing their stories as well. We don’t want our children to be forgotten. We won’t let them be forgotten.
Resources that Angie has found helpful through her journey: Empty Cradle, Broken Heart, by Deborah L. Davis, It’s Ok That you are Not Ok, by Megan Devine, https://stillstandingmag.com/