After years of trying to start a family and multiple first trimester losses, my husband and I were ecstatic when, in 2018, we found out I was pregnant. Everything was going great. For the first time, I had made it to the second trimester and we were happy beyond words.
Because of all my previous losses, I was considered high risk and had an early anatomy scan at 18 weeks. We were nervous, of course, but thought we would leave that appointment knowing we had a healthy baby.
Shortly after starting the anatomy scan, there was a prolonged silence from the ultrasound tech. She then said the words no parent ever wants to hear: “I can’t find his stomach.”
Photo Credit: Lauren Spangler
As she scurried out of the room to get a doctor, my world went into a tailspin. My heart starting racing. My eyes boiled over with tears. I had a gut feeling we were about to be given horrific news. Sure enough, I was right.
The doctor came and diagnosed our son with a rare birth defect called Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia. CDH cases can range in severity, and our son's was about severe as they come. There was a large hole in his diaphragm. His liver, intestines, and stomach were in his chest cavity. Because of this, his lungs were severely underdeveloped. His condition was so bad, we were told his chance of survival after birth was slim.
The doctors and specialists urged us to terminate the pregnancy and our answer was an immediate no. We had waited so long for him and loved him so much. There was just no way we were going to give up him. Ever.
The weeks that followed his diagnosis were full of testing and trips to New York City for speciality care. Each week, his condition worsened and we knew in our hearts that the inevitable was coming. But nothing, absolutely nothing, can prepare you for a baby's death.
On a hot, sunny August morning, six weeks after his CDH diagnosis, our sweet son Charlie was born sleeping at 24 weeks. I remember it like it was yesterday.
He had passed away that Friday while I was at work.
I vividly remember the horror of that night. Desperately searching for his heartbeat, frantically waiting for my husband to come home, pacing the living room back and forth screaming at my mom through the phone, “I can’t find him!!! I can’t find him!!!” Tears falling like faucet water. Packing our bags and leaving for NYC at midnight.
I gave birth to him on Sunday morning and we spent the next two days in the hospital, surrounded by our wonderful family. It was a surreal moment—getting to hold and kiss and cherish the little human you so desperately wanted and loved. But also watching them, knowing they’re not breathing and they never will.
It was the best and worst day of our lives.
After our son passed away, we continued to try to start a family and continued to have losses. We then moved on and tried to adopt and when that failed, we gave up.
It’s funny how life works. It was two months after we gave up on parenthood that we found out we were pregnant again and the baby was healthy. It had taken us 7 years but now we have been blessed with a beautiful boy.
I wish more than anything that our son Charlie had survived, but I am confident he is his brother’s guardian angel, watching over him and protecting him.
I hope that Heaven is treating him well and I hope he knows how much he was wanted, how much he was loved, and how much we miss him.
Thank you Lauren Spangler for sharing your story. Shared with permission.
Losing a child is the most heartbreaking thing a parent can experience. Loved Baby is a beautiful resource to help grieving parents of faith through their darkest days. Pregnancy AFTER loss can also be disorienting. Courageously Expecting is an empathetic and encouraging companion for those who are pregnant after losing a baby.