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  • Writer's pictureKaycee Lynn Pancake

Happy Angelversary, Ryder Isaac Richardson

We weren’t planning on getting pregnant just yet, we just sucked at natural family planning. But the doctor had said it was okay for us to try even if our bank account and tiny apartment didn’t, so we rolled with it. When I got that positive test before I even missed a period, I was nothing but excited.

We found out we were pregnant early. I felt him kick early. I showed really early: I was the size of a twenty-week pregnancy at thirteen weeks. Because of family history, we went ahead and did the fancy blood test, so we got to know that he was a boy early. Where I sit now, I am so grateful for every bit of extra time I had to get to know my son.

Because I took the pregnancy test so early, that second line was really faint, and I wasn’t certain what it meant. So I didn’t have a super cute way to tell my husband: I just bum-rushed him while he was trying to get ready for work, holding a pee stick in his face asking him what he thought it meant as if he would know more about pregnancy tests than I did. I ended up googling it at work a little later that morning and calling him to tell him that the All Mighty Internet said we were indeed pregnant. I was sitting on the floor with my nanny kiddos, heart pounding and grin growing; I felt like I was going to explode with excitement and I couldn’t focus on the activities I’d planned for that day. So instead I finally looked at my kiddos, hand on my belly over the kiddo that—for the first time in almost eight years of childcare work—was actually mine, and I said: “Hey Friends, what if Miss Kaycee has a baby in her tummy?” Aside from Ty, they were the first ones I told. They started giggling and trying to lift my shirt to give my belly a kiss.

I remember how we told everyone.

My Sister in Law: we were having a game night and I was pulling food out of a grocery bag that I’d brought to contribute to dinner. “Here is some beef for the spaghetti, here are some dinner rolls, and I brought some lemonade and wine glasses so that us pregnant people can pretend that we’re drinking—” at which point she started screaming “Shut up! Are you serious?!”

My husband’s parents: we were going to get together and give Mamma D a little box with a bow on top and a pacifier inside, but while we were on the phone trying to schedule something she took the phone from my father in law and said, “Kaycee’s pregnant, isn’t she?!”

My parents: it was Father’s Day and we got Dad a card and signed it with a note that said, “Congratulations, you get to be a grandpa again!” Both his eyes and his grin got huge, and we all stared at Mom waiting for her to get it.

My bosses: “Man, I’m so congested, I have a cold but I can’t take anything for it,” *pregnant person belly rub*

Our Bible Study: it was Ty’s birthday and he said, “Look what my Mom got me for my birthday,” and pulled out a onesie, and we laughed as one person around the room at a time got it. We did the same to a friend who came over for dinner. She laughed and said it was cute, then did the double-take and looked at me, and I did a happy dance right there at the stove.

Morning sickness was actually evening sickness: I could fight off the nausea all day and typically wouldn’t have to throw up until the evening. “Come on, Little Buddy,” I would tell Ryder as I prayed to the porcelain gods, “Be nice to Mommy!” But he was worth it. He was worth every bit of it. It was the price I was happy to pay for the honor of letting my body take care of my son.

We threw a gender reveal. We had ice cream sundaes with pink lemonade or blue Hawaiian punch, and everybody put on either pink or blue beads to indicate their guess. Then we went outside where Ty had tied a smoke bomb to his drone and flew it over the parking lot. The blue smoke came out kind of green, but it got the point across.

I had quite a bit of cramping through the whole pregnancy: I was on lifting restrictions from about week seven on. It was the uterine fibroid, we knew: a tumor made out of muscle cells gone crazy. Sometimes fibroids cause complications, but sometimes they don’t, but the surgery to remove it comes with its own risks, which is why my doctor recommended that we see if we could get pregnant without taking it out first—which clearly wasn’t our problem. We were monitoring it, our optimistic assumption was that it would move up and out of Ryder’s way as he got bigger. As I dealt with the pain while it grew along with Ryder, we knew it was “just the fibroid.” Rest a lot, take it easy, limited lifting, it’ll be fine.

It was a crazy week that week. My third nephew was born, so I spent quite a bit of time taking care of his two big brothers. One of my nanny moms had her baby, so the routine was off at work and that baby’s big brother was struggling with it. The “rest a lot” plan didn’t go so well, but I knew my turn was coming in four or five more months.

But it was bad by that Thursday. Pain management tricks weren’t working, and I couldn’t even fall asleep. I texted my nanny moms that I wouldn’t make it in the morning—something I never did at that time.

We ended up in the ER. “We’re pretty sure it’s fibroid pain,” we told the nurse practitioner who was helping us. We never even saw full-on doctor, and they wouldn’t take us up to labor and delivery because I wasn’t far enough along yet. They found his heartbeat, and I hadn’t realized how worried I had been until I felt the relief. The NP did a pelvic exam and was confused by how difficult it was for me. “I’m sorry, was that painful?” Well, let’s see, I’m in here because I’m already in excruciating pain and you just invaded and poked and prodded and made it about five times worse, so what do you think? But I assumed if it was preterm labor, she would have seen something down there. She said it all looked good. A tech came in with ultrasound equipment, and we got to see him playing around in there. I remember asking if my pain was agitating him. I can’t remember exactly how she answered, but she assured us that he looked fine.

When the NP came back in, she was ho-humming something about my appendix and couldn’t even decide if we needed to do an MRI to check it or not. We knew it wasn’t my appendix. We told her we’d go home, thank you very much. They gave me morphine to try to get the pain under control, and by then it was about one in the morning.

The meds bought me a few hours of sleep, but then the pain was back and even worse. We followed up with my OB on the phone, who--after expressing her confusion over them not only thinking it was my appendix but also trying to find it behind my child on the ultrasound--told us: “Well, I can give you a script for pain meds, but those aren’t good for baby, so try not to take them. If it gets so bad that you can’t handle it, you can go into the hospital for a morphine drip, but that would be even worse for baby.”

So I fought. It was just pain, I could do this.

I spent a lot of that weekend in the bathtub just trying to relax. At one point, my husband was literally lifting me in and out of the tub, helping me get back into bed, using oils and trying back rubs and anything we could think of to just try to get my body to calm down. Every time I finally nodded off, another cramp would wake me up. And a few times a day, I had to cave and take a narcotic. My uterus was so tight and tense that I couldn’t feel Ryder moving. Ty helped me check. It was the one time he ever got to feel Ryder kick.

Early Sunday morning, the pain had sunk lower, so low and so severe that I fell to the floor when I tried to get up for a glass of water. But after more than a decade of experience with fibroid pain every month, I thought it was the pain moving or changing like it was going to ease up soon. It was five thousand times worse than what I went through every month, but I was familiar with the pattern my periods took, so I thought it was a good sign. In hindsight, it was probably the point that I went into labor. I didn't know. Ryder was my first pregnancy. We hadn't taken the birthing class yet. No one in the ER or my OB's office had told me what to look for. I didn't know.

Ty had already missed two days of work, so we both decided he needed to go in that morning. My dad came over Sunday morning to help me out.

He was there when my water broke.

My ability to tell the story of my son falters here. I remember every bit of it, but it happened so fast and I was so powerless that the PTSD threatens to shut me down recalling any one of the dozen “sticky moments” as I call them: things that happened or that we had to do or that someone said that seemed to make the bottom fall out of my world and make me question if tomorrow could really happen, if the earth could really keep turning, if I could still live after this. I still can’t drive past that hospital: my son died there, and I felt like I did—or at least should have—over and over and over again that day.

His precious little heart was still beating. It beat as I tried so hard to stop contraction after contraction, as my doctor and the nurses prepared for his stillbirth while I was still trying desperately to figure out how to make it stop, how to keep him inside of me until I finally screamed “I’m sorry” and let him go.

I don't know how long it took the doctor to realize that my son was between my legs. I don't know how long it took me to understand what had really just happened. I don't know how many times I had to hand my son's body to someone else because I was still in labor with the placenta from when Ryder was born at 9:30 in the morning until 3:45 that afternoon. I don't know how many family members or pastors saw the blood on my blanket.

I do know how many decisions my husband made so that I could focus on what my body needed me to focus on. I do know what my doctor had to do and how many times she had to do it to resolve the retained placenta long after it no longer had a use. I do know how hard it was to walk to the bathroom and have to learn how small I suddenly was again. I know how wrong every moment of that day was.

At a day shy of twenty weeks, Ryder was already 10.1 ounces and 10 inches long—he was built like his daddy. His tiny little foot with his monkey toes like mine was only as long as the end of my thumb. Healing Embrace, the nonprofit organization we were in contact with that day, was able to hunt down a volunteer photographer for us so we could have pictures of our son. Our perfect, beautiful, innocent son.

The past year has been the hardest of my life. It’s not that I haven’t been through hard things, but rather that there is no way to understand or be prepared for how very hard it is to be a parent for a child that is no longer on this planet with you. I’ve done hard things in my life, but none of them compare to loving a child you’ve lost. Our society talks a lot about how hard it is to be a parent, but I don’t often hear how hard it is to be a parent to an angel. You spend so much time thinking about how to raise a little person who can make a difference in this crappy world, but then suddenly this crappy world takes that little person away and you’re left with the burden of trying to make sure the world knew that that little person did make a difference in it. Maybe the world doesn’t notice Ryder because he didn’t even get to take a single breath outside of me, but especially from where I sit, the world is totally different because he was in it.

Happy Birthday, Ryder Isaac. Mamma loves you so very much.

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