The story of my son, his life, birth and death.
I got pregnant with Abe in May of 2018. The first sign of pregnancy was exhaustion and excessive drooling (the two going together of course, when I would wake up from a long hard nap with a pool of drool on my pillow – something that I’d never experienced before!). We had been trying since January, so I took a pregnancy test the day I was supposed to start my period. The sweetest, lightest, pinkest line appeared on the strip – I was pregnant! I remember going for a walk, giddy and trying to comprehend the news. I told Dave that very day when he got home from work. I said, “Look in the oven, I made something special!” He looked in and there was a bun with a flag saying, “You’re a dad!”
We told our family the next Sunday, Father’s Day. They were so happy and excited. It was pure joy.
The months went on as my baby and my belly grew. We chose not to find out the gender, so we didn’t know if he was a girl or a boy. A dear midwife friend of ours took care of my maternity care, coming by every couple weeks for a check up and a chat. Everything was perfect and Abe continued to be healthy. There were absolutely zero red flags. In fact, my pregnancy felt amazing. I walked every day, ate healthy, dry brushed and did pregnancy yoga. I loved dressing my bump. And my skin never looked better. But pregnancy was taking so long! I was ready to meet my baby!
Finally February rolled around. Abraham’s due date was February 19th. I made lists and checked them off for all of the home birth essentials I needed, postpartum care supplies, baby clothes and diapers.
February 19th came…and went. Then February came…and went.
Before I knew it I was 42 weeks pregnant.
I wasn’t concerned at all. First of all, at this point, I was invincible. Nothing bad would ever happen to me or my baby, I expected him or her to be in perfect health. I was just tired of waiting! I also knew that the baby gestational period in most countries actually goes to 42 weeks, so you’re not even considered late until then. But now, I was tired of eating pineapple and walking and all the other natural induction methods.
I remember one night, around this time, I sat in the bath tub crying out to the Lord, asking Him to please let me just have this baby! He returned by reminding me of the hymn, “It is well with my soul.” No matter what happens, if babies aren’t budging in the womb, “thou hast taught me to say: it is well, it is well with my soul.” I knew then that there was a bigger picture happening. And I knew that God was in control, not just of my pregnancy and delivery, but of all history and life.
My midwife scheduled a membrane sweep for a couple days later, and it worked! Sunday, March 10th, at 42 weeks 5 days, I finally went into labor. I was so nervous and excited and happy. Dave and I had been timing contractions off and on for days, and when we finally realized it was time to call the midwife we were thrilled. It was a “butterflies in your stomach” kind of thrilled – we sure didn’t know what to expect! And the baby we’d been waiting for was finally on their way!
Dave set up the birth pool and my midwife arrived. Family came upstairs and hugged and kissed me. I was crying happy tears. So ready. I wanted a quiet labor in the darkness of my bedroom, alone with Dave as my body took over and did it’s work. I was ready to just relax and breathe into each contraction and each push. I envisioned breathing my baby out into the warm birth pool, catching him and pulling him up onto my skin. I don’t remember many exact details as far as when I was dilated or effaced or anything like that. But I believe I was 10 cm and ready to go this first night. I got in the birth pool, it felt amazing. Almost too amazing, as it slowed my contractions. The next morning: still no baby. I was very disappointed and as time ticked on to 24 hours…two days…three days of labor, my disappointment and frustration increased. My four days of labor are organized kind of weirdly in my brain. I don’t remember full days, just moments and sections of time. I didn’t look at my phone or a clock the whole time (intentionally!) so that had me in kind of a weird dream-like state. But I think the timing went something like this:
The night of the 10th: First night of labor. Very relaxed, trying to just let my body do it’s thing.
The day of the 11th: I walked downstairs to the family in tears. Still no baby. Everyone hugged me and loved me and encouraged me, and we spent the day together as labor continued. It was my parents, David’s parents, David’s sister and my midwife. It was such a blessing that they were there. We walked about the yard, stretched, got in the birth pool, got out of the birth pool, walked up and down the stairs. Contractions still weren’t as close together as they needed to be. Still dilated.
Night of the 11th: This was the hardest night of labor by far. My back labor was excruciating. We tried pushing, since the contractions were pretty close together, but every time a back labor contraction started up my entire mind would be so focused on the pain I couldn’t push. I had been ready for normal contractions, I did my research. But this back labor was so intense I truly couldn’t handle it. Finally, I took some Benadryl to possibly help me get some sleep. I felt like a small pox patient from the 1800s, laying on my bed in fitful rest. Every 15 minutes I would feel the contraction creep up and I’d call out for pressure on my back. David, resting next to me, would push on my back while either my midwife, sister in law or my mom would come to my front and let me grab onto their leg and hand as the contraction pulsed through my lower back and spine until it finally stopped. Truly, awful. This makes me thankful for my mind and body’s natural ability to numb itself to past pain and difficulty. I finally got about 1 hour of sleep in the wee hours of the morning.
Day of the 12th: This was rest day. My midwife recommended that we just chill and relax and try to let my body do it’s work. Hoping that my mind would relax and loosen control. We had a sweet time with family, contractions continuing on and off, watching movies and hanging around the house. It felt like the whole day lasted 15 minutes. As evening approached I started to get anxious. I asked our parents to gather around us and pray. Afterward my mother-in-law said, “What’s that song, Peace Like a River?” And we sang, “It is well with my soul.”
Night of the 12th: Contractions had decreased so much, but I was still dilated. I sat upstairs on my bed with David to try to rest. I think I may have fallen asleep for about 45 minutes. When I woke up the house was dark and everyone was asleep (I don’t blame them!). I felt so scared and anxious and alone.
Day of the 13th: I went downstairs to my midwife saying “today is your work day!” And I spent the next hours walking up and down stairs, doing stretches, cleaning the floors, trying and trying to get my body to do what it needed to do. Make that oxytocin!! I felt like I worked for each contraction. I think I was partially afraid that my back labor would start up again, so maybe my mind was fighting my body without me realizing it. As evening approached I started to get anxious, I really didn’t want to spend another night of this. I told everyone that I needed a rest, just 5 minutes. I went upstairs and sat in the rocker and prayed. Five minutes later, Dave came up and we decided it was time to go to the hospital. Our midwife agreed and we packed up and left. It was chaos as my mom, mother-in-law and sister-in-law packed up a bag for me, Dave called the hospital and someone organized who was driving. I had gotten my 20 week ultrasound done by a doctor in High Point who believed that a woman should have her baby however she wants, whether that be at home, a hospital or a birth center. So we knew we wanted to touch base with him and have him deliver our baby. By God’s grace, this doctor was on call that night and would be at the hospital. We packed up and headed out around 8:00 PM.
On the way to the hospital, my back labor started back up. We had a 45 minute drive and check-in, then I think I got my epidural around 10:00 PM. Sweet, sweet relief. I didn’t even care about the needle. In fact, I had a back labor contraction as the anesthesiologist was injecting me and I didn’t flinch. I was so ready to be done with the pain. As the numbing medicine rushed through my lower body I was happily able to relax. My mind was so blurred and fuzzy. Not from the drugs, but from pure exhaustion. I’d slept around 3-4 hours in the past 4 days.
It may seem strange that we didn’t go to the hospital sooner. But from what I’d read and heard, hospital staff is often rude to moms that tried for a home birth and didn’t have success. This was not my experience, thankfully. But it’s sad that this is often the case. I was and am so grateful for modern medicine being able to step in when my body couldn’t do what it was supposed to. I am thankful that I got the opportunity to try to birth at home, and I am thankful that there was a good hospital available for when things didn’t go the normal route. I don’t plan on trying for a home birth ever again, but I have seen it be a sweet thing for many women.
Anyway, rant over.
Oh, and another reason we didn’t go to the hospital sooner – we were in a perpetual “maybe this is it!” “just one more hour!” state for four days. We were hoping that my body would just do what it needed to do and it kept being sooooo close. Ok, rant definitely over.
The nurses and hospital staff were incredible. I didn’t feel judged or condemned, they took me in and took such incredible care of me. My first nurse, Mo, blessed us with her wit and banter, really putting us at ease. You could tell she really cared. All the nurses and staff were, seriously, so amazing. So there I lay in my hospital bed, ginger ale in hand, no pain, watching TV. Someone brought me a sandwich from Sheetz which I swear was the best sandwich I’d ever eaten. I soon fell into a blissful 2 1/2 hours of sleep. Mo woke me up around 4 AM and said, “it’s time to push!” I pushed for four hours. At some point there was a shift change, and Mo had to leave and got replaced by another nurse who, I’m afraid I don’t remember her name. She was a lot more businesslike and serious and stern than Mo had been and it made me nervous at first. I thought “Here’s that condemnation I was waiting for!” But she turned out to be a real blessing because she had seen similar labors before and knew something was up. She was serious because she knew the situation was serious. She was able to gather all the necessary supplies and staff to be ready to care for our baby as soon as he came out – giving Abe his best chance of survival. She was my first indication that something might be wrong. At about 3 1/2 hours of pushing the doctor came in and said if we don’t get this baby pushed out in 20 minutes then we’re going in for a C-section. I pushed with all my might and at 8:15 AM on March 14th, 2019 my son came into the world. All 10 lb 4 oz of him. I felt a wave of relief as he splooshed onto the table. Dave whispered, “It’s a boy!” I pulled up my nightgown for them to put him on my belly, skin to skin, but they took him away. I realized then that the room was actually full of people, nurses and specialists and professionals from the NICU. They took Abe to the warming table and were working on him. My doctor carefully and quickly removed my placenta and sewed up my tears (I had 3rd degree tearing). There was a lot of blood. I was so confused and struggling to see my baby. “Is my baby going to be ok?” I kept asking. One of the doctors working on Abe said, “He’s going to be fine! He’ll be ok.” And was very reassuring and I believed him. So I knew at this point that something bad was happening, but I thought it would just be some NICU time, or health issues – I never once thought it could be death. After about 15 minutes of working on him right next to us, they wheeled Abe away and into another room. For the next hour and 30 minutes we waited in agony as they worked on our son. What was happening? What was wrong? We knew they wanted to intubate him. Something about his lungs, he wasn’t crying. My placenta was green, tinged with meconium. I felt very powerless. Praying and calling out to God. My brain wasn’t grasping what was happening. I remember breathing so heavily into my hands, covering my eyes, waiting. I remember thinking, “There’s no way anything bad will happen – God knows I couldn’t handle it!”
A family member in the hall thought they heard Abe crying and came in to tell me “He’s ok! He’s crying!” Giving me a few moments of false hope. But it was someone else’s baby. Not mine.
Around 10 AM family members came shuffling into the room, the doctor had asked us all to gather together. I knew what this meant, but my brain wasn’t ready to believe it. Once we were together, my mother and father-in-law, my sister-in-law, my husband and myself, he spoke the words that have haunted me for the last 9 months:
“I’m sorry, but you’re baby has died.”
We wanted him with us. They brought him covered in tubes and tape. Dave and I held him in our arms and named him, Abraham Peace Cobb. Our big, beautiful boy, looking so perfect. Looking like he was just asleep. We declined an autopsy because that was the only way we could get all the tubes off. We just wanted to hold him. To hold our boy, our son. He felt so amazing in my arms, against my heart. His cheeks were so cold to kiss, but they were soft. I couldn’t believe that he had been formed in my womb.
It was the strangest mix of joy and pride to finally meet and see my son, and sorrow that he was already gone.
I can’t express through words the grief that overwhelmed us. Wails and weeping came from that hospital room as more family arrived – my parents, my sister, David’s brother, my brother, my brother-in-law. Our pastor and his wife and several elders showed up to pray over us and offer support. We all took turns holding him, loving him. It felt dream-like. Could this be real? I kept trying to grasp it. My son was gone. He wasn’t waking up. I smelled his sweet skin, touched his soft hair. Slowly the life left his body completely as his joints and limbs began to stiffen and grow colder. We had to say goodbye. For good. It tore us apart to give him back. We wanted to keep our son with us forever, but we couldn’t.
It was a twisted choice in which there is no right or wrong way. It just shouldn’t be.
All of our family gathered into the room for one last goodbye and we sang “When peace like a river attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll, whatever my lot thou has taught me to say “It is well, it is well with my soul.”
And then he was gone. Never to hold him again.
The next day around noon we left the hospital without our son.
We spent the next days and weeks and months lifted and carried by our family, by our friends and by our church. My body slowly healed from labor. I spent many hours taking baths, playing candy crush and watching the same TV show over and over. Eventually David had to go back to work.
We’re still healing. Still raw. We still miss him so much, our arms aching to hold him. He would be 9 months old this month. I imagine him to be one of those fat babies that you could just prop up sitting with their chubbiness. I imagine him to be bright and happy, but not giggly. I imagine him to be wise beyond his years. I guess because, in fact, he is wise. Abraham has seen Heaven, he’s there with Jesus. He has seen the glory land, he’s walked with the Lord. He’s held by God. He knows far more than I do and ever will on this earth. Abraham is more alive than I am right now.
It has absolutely felt at times that God was far away. That He didn’t exist or didn’t care. But as I look back over this journey so far, I can say beyond a doubt that He is right here beside me. God has never left our side. He is redeeming this pain, redeeming the hurt.
We had a memorial service for Abe a week after he passed away. Talk about surreal. I never thought I’d have to choose what dress to wear to my son’s funeral. I didn’t want to do it. I didn’t want to see anyone or be seen. But more than any of that, I didn’t want to stifle Abraham’s sphere of influence. If this was a way that my boy could be known, that God could be glorified through his little life, then let’s do it. I’d like to share the testimony I shared during that service, words and truths I’ve clung to in the hardest season of my life:
“My sweet boy.
I will miss getting to see him grow up.
My heart aches to hold him in my arms.
Even still, I can say that God is good.
God’s definition of good doesn’t end when someone dies.
For with God there is no death.
I know I will see my boy again. He is being held in the arms of a loving God.
I am so grateful for the time Abraham spent on this earth, kicking and dancing under my heart.
And in my heart he will stay forever.”
For with God, there is no death.
There’s so much more to tell, this isn’t the end of Abraham’s story. He touched so many lives with his.
His testimony continues. This is only the beginning.