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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Remembering my darkest day

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Jamie Barrand
Today is Sept. 21, 2010.

To most people, it's just another day. For me and my family, it marks the anniversary of the most tragic thing that ever happened to us.

On Sept. 21, 2000, I gave birth to my son Andrew John. He was two months premature, and as the result of a birth defect that hadn't been detected, he died an hour and a half after he was born.

Andrew had a complete tracheal atresion -- in short, he was born without a windpipe. While he was in my womb and I was breathing for him, he was fine. The ultrasounds had all looked good -- I remember watching his chest rising and falling on the ultrasound screen.

But once he was outside of my body, he couldn't breathe on his own and there was nothing anyone could do.

That day was the darkest I had ever known. I walked through a couple of weeks after it in a fog ... medicated and numb. I hardly remember Andrew's funeral.

But time when on, as it does. I still think of Andrew every single day. I still miss him and love him, and I know I always will.

Something I do remember about my son's death is that people just didn't know what to say. I think that's something a lot of us struggle with when we're trying to express our sympathy to someone who has lost a loved one.

While most would simply tell me they were sorry or come right out and tell me they didn't know what to say to me, others said things that were more upsetting to me than comforting.

I know they didn't mean it, but I was so emotionally raw at the time that those things they said were very cutting.

I had just lost my son. Whether or not I or anyone else believed it to be true, the last thing I needed to be told was that he was "in a better place."

For a parent, the death of a child is a completely different experience than any other death. Of course it was painful when my father died, but that was the way it was supposed to happen. Even if we don't talk about it and don't think about it, on some level I think we all expect that we will bury our parents someday.

You don't ever expect to have to bury your children, and people don't understand. When the death is a baby, people who haven't been through it sometimes understand even less.

People would refer to my losing Andrew as a "miscarriage." While I understand that miscarriages are a painful loss, actually giving birth and having the baby not survive is not a miscarriage.

Someone actually said -- and I can't remember the exact words, but this is the gist -- that if I was going to lose my son it was better that it happened right after he was born was I wasn't so attached to him.

I don't even remember what I said in response. I was floored that someone would say something like that.

I was attached to Andrew from the second I knew I was carrying him.

No one else really knew Andrew, but I did. He grew under my heart, and I felt him kicking until moments before they gave me a spinal block at the hospital and performed the c-section via which he was born.

To me, he had a personality. He liked Pachelbel's "Canon in D" ... I would put headphones on my stomach and let him listen to it, and I could feel him moving around as it played.

For all three of my preganancies, I read one book over and over again to the babies while they were in utero. I read "Goodnight, Moon" to my daughter Dani and "Oh, the Places You'll Go!" to my son Will.

To Andrew, I read a book called "Snuggle Puppy." Every night, just he and I would curl up and I would read to him.

He recognized the voices of his father and sister, and when he heard them he would start kicking.

No, I didn't get a chance to know all my son's quirks. I didn't get a chance to see him grow up. But to me and to my family, he was more than an abstract idea ... he was a person. He was one of us and already had his place.

Then there was the fact that every plan my husband and I had made for our lives --and for the rest of our lives -- included Andrew.

When he was gone, we had to replan everything.

I've heard of many cases where the death of a child destroys the relationship of the parents. I can see how this could happen.

In my husband's and my case, however, it had the opposite effect.

Together we went through one of the most horrific things imagineable. He was a rock for me, and now I can't imagine going through anything in my life, good or bad, without him.

It's been a decade now since we lost Andrew. A lot has changed in our lives since.

I think about him every day, but every year on his birthday I really pause to reflect.

I think about what he would be doing now. I think about how our lives would have been different if he had lived.

There are times when I feel Andrew's presence around me. I know that sounds strange, but I really do.

I know he's gone, but I feel like a part of him is still here with me. I feel like he is there when we celebrate joyous occasions. I think he looks after his little brother, and I think he is there to comfort us when we're going through rough times.

I sense my son around me when gentle breezes blow through my hair, when a white butterfly floats into my path as I'm walking or when I see a rainbow cut a stormy, gray sky in half.

I know it's probably just me trying to pull something from the air that isn't really there; trying to make myself feel better.

And you know what? Most of the time it works.

I will never forget my son. I will never forget what he looked like or how it felt to be pregnant with him. I will never forget him, period.

Today would have been his 10th birthday, and I've taken time our to remember and honor him.

Fifty years from now, it will be his 60th birthday. And if I'm still on this Earth, I will stop to think of him, and to wonder what might have been.

Jamie Barrand is the editor of the Banner Graphic. Her e-mail is jbarrand@bannergraphic.com.