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"We talk about them, not because we’re stuck or because we haven’t moved on, but because we are their parents and they are ours.

No passage of time will ever change that."

Max Hale Espiritu

September 27, 2010

In January 2010 we were shocked to find out that I was pregnant with our third child. After an infertility struggle to have our first two children, and thinking we were done having children due to the economy crashing, to then find out we got pregnant on our own at a time we never expected, we had so many emotions. We quickly went from shocked to excited and started planning for our son’s arrival.

On the morning of Saturday, September 25th, 2010, in the midst of getting ready for work, I noticed that I hadn’t felt my baby move like usual. I was 38 weeks pregnant and had just been at my 38 week appointment the day before, so I never anticipated anything bad was going on, but did attempt to listen to his heartbeat on my cheap store doppler. After not being able to find his heartbeat, I began to worry a bit and just needed reassurance from a physician, so I decided I would go to the local hospital to have them check everything out.

Upon arriving at the ER, they had me go directly to labor delivery where they hooked me up to the monitor and I finally heard my baby’s heartbeat. They ran a non stress test and asked me to have some orange juice to try to get him moving. The nurse had mentioned that they weren’t seeing the decelerations that they would like to see and I immediately thought maybe they would need to deliver him. After an hour and still no movement, I was told a doctor looked at the test strip and was okay with me going home and following up the next week with my provider. As I waited at the desk to be discharged, I was feeling very confused and alone. I really wanted to ask for an ultrasound to see my baby, but didn’t have the nerve to second guess medical professionals or advocate for my baby and myself at that time.

I decided to stay home from work that day and see if I felt him move at all. The day turned into evening and my worry grew but everyone around me had continued to try to reassure me that the baby and I were fine and that happens when they run out of room. I was also told that because I went to the hospital, that I can rest assured that things are okay. I truly felt unheard and alone in my thoughts. I knew in my head that I was going to call my hospital as soon as my family went to bed that night.

Around 11pm I called the birth center at my hospital. Upon sharing with them everything from my day, they immediately asked if the hospital I went to that morning had run a biophysical for me that morning. I didn’t know what that was and proceeded to ask. A biophysical is simply an ultrasound done to look for an apgar score to determine if the baby is in any danger and if they should perform a c-section immediately. When I told them no, they said I needed to come in right away. Of course I was scared but never had the thought crossed my mind that my son died. I snuck out of the house on my own and rushed to my hospital 15 minutes away from our home.

I arrived at the hospital and was immediately brought into the room and explained my story again while the nurse covered my stomach in gel and moved the doppler around. She couldn’t get Max’s heartbeat and said she was going to grab another doppler and that it might be the batteries. I laid there in disbelief but still not aware of the true horror happening. The nurse came back and continued to look for his heartbeat. Again after not finding it, she told me she was going to grab a doctor and an ultrasound machine. I immediately went into fight or flight mode, but couldn’t go anywhere.

I called my mom and quickly explained as much of the situation as I could and asked her to find a way to get ahold of my husband and tell him where I am and what is going on.

After what seemed like forever, a random doctor came in and proceeded to run the ultrasound wand over my stomach while my mom watched and I remember staring at the dots in the ceiling, waiting for him to suddenly find his heartbeat or say “lets get her to the Operating Room”. This went on and on until finally my husband came bursting in the doorway and asking “did you find his heartbeat?” that is when the doctor turned and said “I am just trying to confirm your baby died sir.” Tears suddenly started flowing and I noticed the nurse's jaw drop behind his shoulder. I screamed and asked the nurse to get the doctor out of my room and call my doctor and tell him I needed him.

Once my doctor arrived and tried the ultrasound machine again and apologized and hugged us and really couldn’t give any answers about what happened, we were then made aware of the many decisions we needed to make. But I was not able to wrap my head around everything we were being told and our two small children who had been ripped out of bed were sitting in the waiting room unaware of what had happened to their little brother. We made the decision to go home and take time to process our grief over this tragedy.

The day of his birth was just like the births of our other children, we looked forward to holding him and seeing him for the first time. But then quickly realized there would be no monitors for him and that the pain would be too much to bear on top of the immense grief we were feeling, and that I would need an epidural for the first time. Once he was born, we were so happy to hold him and look at him closely but then realized how we would need to remember everything about him because we would have to say hello and goodbye in that 24 hour period we would be with him.

I delivered our baby at 4:03pm on September 27, 2010 at Lakeview Hospital in Stillwater, MN. We let our little boys in to see their brother and we felt it would be important to let them pick his name. They chose to name him Max after their favorite childhood book we read together all the time, “Where the Wild Things Are”, as they brushed his hair into a faux hawk and we took video and photos. We had Max’s little footprints inked and he was measured and weighed. We had the nurse clip some of his long black hair for us to keep. We did a flat mold of his hand impression and had a photographer come and capture our time with Max and the unique little features of him so that we wouldn’t forget anything about him.

The next morning we knew we had to say goodbye and I felt I needed a plan in place for that. I chose not to have a funeral home pick him up until we were out of the hospital. I was so blessed to have my very dear friend, Lauren, as my nurse to leave him with. Our boys said goodbye to their brother and then I rocked him to Nora Jones and sang to him, like all my babies, as my husband video the moment. I then kissed him goodbye and handed him to my husband as I ran from the room out of the hospital.

When my husband came out, we realized we were lost and had no idea of the process of what we needed to do. We proceeded to walk through the local cemeteries to find a beautiful resting place for our son. I quickly realized this was all happening on my 36th birthday.

We were blessed with a beautiful funeral director, who has since become a dear friend that holds a special place in our hearts. She created the 3D hand and foot molds for us upon request. She dressed him and took photos of him in his diaper and the ducky jammies we picked out for him and him with all the things we wanted him to have with him in his casket since we wouldn’t be seeing him again. This was all based on so many time sensitive decisions we didn’t realize we had to make. In hindsight, I quickly realized that so many decisions we had to make were almost forcing us to choose things we didn’t want, out of the financial strain it would bring us. I also knew that many things we wanted, such as specific songs, wouldn’t be allowed at our church, so we needed to have his service at the funeral home which is more expensive. I knew I didn’t want other parents to be forced into a financial hardship and to have to choose things like cremation over burial if they didn’t want that just because of money. I never want other parents to feel like they can’t have the goodbye they want, which is why Halos was born.

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