by Cindy Hershberger
Stephen Lewis Hershberger
Stephen's story begins in July 1995. My husband, Jay, and I have two other children, Valerie (9 yrs) and Brett (6 yrs) but we wanted one more child. When I found out I was pregnant we started telling family and friends. It was so much fun telling Valerie and Brett that they were going to have a baby brother or sister. They could hardly wait! Our doctor gave us the due date of April 30th and the waiting, dreaming, and planning began.
My pregnancy was wonderful. I love being pregnant and enjoyed the entire nine months. The kids enjoyed putting their hands on my expanding belly and feeling "our baby" move. We chose names, brought the baby bed up from the basement and the whole family helped put it together. I washed baby clothes and put them in the dresser. The bassinet was set up in our bedroom where our baby would sleep at night to make those late night feedings a little easier. I looked at it every day, several times a day, and knew that soon I would be seeing my child lying there, making those newborn baby squeaks, and filling our house with a newborn's cries.
On April 15th, at one day short of 38 weeks gestation, we found out our dreams would have to remain just that - dreams. Our child had kept me awake until well after midnight with his usual nightly stirrings, but I realized that afternoon that I hadn't felt movement for awhile. We ended up at the clinic around 4:30 pm and the nurse started checking for a heartbeat. When she couldn't find it with the small monitor, she brought in one of the monitors they strap on you during labor. When she still couldn't find a heartbeat, she brought in a portable sonogram machine and an OB-GYN Dr. The Dr. found the baby's heart and said those words that will live forever in my memory "Ma'am, I'm afraid it's not good news. There's the baby's heart. It's not beating and it's dilated." I said "You mean my baby's dead?" And she said "Yes." The next few minutes are a blur. Jay was holding me and I was sobbing. Our nurse-midwife came over and just held my hand and let me cry. I remember looking at Jay and saying "Now I have to go through labor and delivery for nothing?" It wasn't for nothing, it was for Stephen, but I can honestly say that I have never known so much emotional pain before in my entire life. After several minutes I tried to pull myself together because we needed to tell Valerie and Brett. We brought them into the room and I told them that our baby had gone to heaven to be with Grandpa Andy. They both just hugged me and we cried some more.
We decided to get the delivery over as soon as possible, so I checked in to the hospital at 7:00 that night. The nurse-midwife put Prostin gel on my cervix at 10:45 that night and our beautiful baby boy, Stephen Lewis, was born at 1:39 am after only 3 hours of labor.
Stephen was perfect. He weighed 7 lbs exactly and was 20 1/2 inches long. He was so beautiful and so still. I never heard him cry. I never saw his eyes, wide with wonder, look into mine. I never felt him squirm in my arms. I never felt him suckle at my breast. Instead I held my perfect baby boy and cried. I told him over and over how much we loved him, how sorry I was that I couldn't keep him alive. I know his death is not my fault. As he was delivered the cord was wrapped twice around his neck and there was a "true knot" in the cord, but I still feel like I let him down. We took pictures of him. I gave him his only bath, looking him over from head to toe, and then dressed him. We took more pictures and held him even longer. We held him until 5:30 that morning when we knew it was time to let him go. It was the hardest thing I've every had to do in my life.
His funeral was Friday, April 19th. I had to say goodbye again, knowing that I would never again hold his tiny little hand in mine, or kiss his silky head, until our reunion in Heaven.
Now I visit a tiny grave almost every day. I water the flowers we planted on his grave and tell him how much I love him and how much he is missed.
It has been 8 weeks now since Stephen was born. Now I have memories of a precious baby boy, with hands shaped like mine and long fingernails, of a little round face with his brother's full cheeks, a chin that looks like his sister's and mine, and a nose that he got from his PaPa. Maybe he would have had his Daddy's beautiful blue eyes, we will never know. He has all of us in him, and we have him in all of us.
We are planning on trying to have another child. Right now, we are trying to heal.
I hope that maybe someone who reads this will realize they're not alone and feel a little better. I have been helped by reading the stories of other babies' lives and the people they touched. Stephen has left his legacy in my heart. There is a place in our family that is Stephen's alone, and we will love him forever.
April 16, 1996
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