Hopeful Readers: I met Shirley just one month to the day after losing Jake. In fact, during the same hours I was birthing him, she and her husband were in the same building in a loss support group, praying for us. The group coincidentally met the same night our son was born. We met in the same group, 4 weeks later. Shirley has been a huge support to me and we have bonded immensely. We know our sons are together in heaven. She is one of the strongest, most courageous women I know. -Lisa
My name is Shirley Criswell and I am glad Lisa has given me the opportunity to share my story. My husband and I were married in 2004. At that time, I had no interest in having children. I’m an only child and have never been around children. Quite frankly, they scare me. A year after we got married, I had to have emergency brain surgery, and had a 2nd operation in 2006. I used that “medical emergency” as an excuse to not have children right away. In 2008 my husband was deployed, so again, I used the excuse of not wanting to be pregnant while he was away; so saved again. When he returned in 2009, we decided we would try. I think I wanted to try more for him and for my family as I would see my parents looking at little children and I would wonder what our children would look like.
We weren’t very consistent in trying and most nights just chose sleep, but in 2010 we told ourselves we were doing this. We weren’t getting pregnant. I was tested and nothing was found on my part saying why we weren’t getting pregnant. My husband was then tested and found he had the equivalent of a varicose vein that was killing off his sperm. He underwent surgery in February 2012 and in July 2012 we found out we were pregnant. Success. I had an uneventful pregnancy even though I hated every minute of my body not being my own. I’m a runner and I still ran half marathons while pregnant up until my 7th month when I decided walking would be better. I was your typical ignorant pregnant lady. In my mind if you made it through our first trimester you were good and if the baby made it to 37 weeks there was nothing that could go wrong.
40 weeks came and that baby boy was just as stubborn as I and wasn’t coming out. I had a non-stress test at 40 weeks and 3 days where my husband and I listened to our son’s heartbeat for a solid 20 minutes. Everything was fine. The doctor asked us if we wanted to induce and I elected to just let nature take its course and we scheduled a follow-up the next week if the baby didn’t come sooner. That night I had pancakes for dinner because the baby loved pancakes and would do flips and somersaults which I felt him doing right before I fell asleep. It’s funny how when you get that far along, you just take for granted what you’re supposed to feel when you wake up and again being ignorant, I went about my day. By 9am I thought to myself how I hadn’t felt the baby move, so I had a snack. Nothing. 11am I had another snack. No movement. I told myself to just wait until lunch, because he always moves after lunch. By 1pm I had felt absolutely nothing. I called my doctor who told me to go to labor and delivery.
Calling my husband and mother to tell them I was going to the hospital just to make sure everything was okay were hard calls, but I was calm. I still didn’t think something could be wrong. They were waiting for me when I arrived at the hospital by myself and took me into a room. The nurse turned on the ultrasound machine and just kept going over and over my stomach. Over and over. I finally asked if she could see a heartbeat. She told me no, but she was going to have a doctor come in and check. My husband arrived while we were waiting for the doctor who he came in and did the same thing with the wand. Over and over he scanned my belly. I could see my husband looking at the screen that we just had seen the night before, and tears were rolling down his face even before the doctor said anything. My husband knew and then the doctor confirmed our son was gone.
The doctor may have said he was sorry, I can’t remember. I remember him saying he couldn’t tell on the ultrasound the reason for this happening, but he would call my doctor to let her know. Just like that, seconds, we went from expecting a baby to having absolutely nothing. They asked us if we wanted to go home and wait until I went into labor or just go to a room now. I elected the room. Within minutes of getting into the room, they explain to you that you can have the hospital cremate your yet to be born baby or get a funeral home involved. I had never thought of such things. Parents aren’t supposed to cremate or bury their children.
My doctor arrived to start induction and explained it was going to most likely be a little more painful as they do not have to protect the baby at this point so the medicine they are going to give me will cause strong contractions. I guess the felt it assured me “ to get everything over with sooner” – to protect me. What a joke. My mother arrived, who besides my husband and I, so much was looking forward to this little boy. She was so upset she was literally vomiting in the room. It was truly a nightmare. I cried through the whole night.
On May 9th the contractions started and at 1:06pm Maddox James Criswell was born sleeping. He was beautiful and perfect in every way. He had my husband’s looks and auburn hair. It was silent. My family and I were able to spend a full 24 hours with Maddox. I sang to him every song I knew to sing. We took pictures and tried to think of everything we could and should do to keep his memory alive. The following day the funeral home picked Maddox up and we left the hospital empty handed. I never knew emptiness until that day.
Driving home in silence, and entering our house without our child still takes my breath away when I think about it. Our hopes, dreams, and memories we thought we’d have with Maddox were just taken away. The funeral was the following week and I never knew my husband and I knew so many people as the crowd that filled the church that day. I could feel the love in that church that day for my husband and me. We finally were able to take Maddox home with us where he belonged. I prayed for long nights and short days because I just didn’t want to be awake without my child. I hated being pregnant, but in that moment I would have given my life to be pregnant with Maddox again. I was able to tell you how many months, weeks, days, hours and almost to the minute that had passed since we lost Maddox during the first year. I still think of him daily and I imagine the rest of my life I will be thinking of the child he would have been and the man he would have become.