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“I can’t find his heartbeat,” the nurse said, “I’m so sorry Alexandra.” My entire body went cold. From head to toe there was this numbing ache that I can’t quite put into words. My head was empty. My heart was empty. Most of all my arms were empty, and suddenly the weight of his body, still inside me, felt like 1000lbs. I remember feeling like I couldn’t catch my breath. A feeling I now know would never go away. The universe had decided to test how much pain it could inject into my heart without it actually breaking. The blood whirled around inside of it like a tornado – stirring up every memory, every moment of my pregnancy. If only I had known that those months with him would be the only months with him, I would have savored every second. I had felt him move and felt him live, though parted by a barrier of flesh. I wanted nothing more than to feel him move in that moment.They told me that I could not deliver that evening, because the hospital was too full. There were no rooms so I had to come back the next morning. That night was the worst night of my life. I didn’t sleep, couldn’t sleep, knowing that he was gone. I held my stomach all night long and before I knew it morning had arrived. I was induced around 9am and did not deliver until 9:46pm. That meant I had 12hrs and 46 minutes to ask myself the hardest question that I have ever had to answer;

Did I want to hold my stillborn son?

“Of course you do!” “Of course you don’t!” My first instinct was to tell them no. The nurses obviously said ok, but one in particular made a point of asking me periodically if I had changed my mind. She gently told me that if I didn’t hold him, I may later regret it. And honestly, I didn’t know that I wanted to hold Colton until the moment he left my body. It was as though every fibre in my being wanted him back in my arms. I waited a few excruciatingly long minutes while they gave him a blanket and cute blue hat. The nurse brought him in, placed him in my arms, and left me alone with my beautiful baby boy.

My first thought was about how normal he looked. Small, obviously, only 7.5 months along, but he looked like a baby should. His skin, though a dark red color, didn’t take away from the fact that his face was so beautifully perfect. It looked as though he could be sleeping and I even imagined him opening his eyes. I held his tiny little hand. I cried so many tears that landed on his face like rain drops. “I love you, I love you, I love you…” I whispered the words repeatedly. I looked him over and tried to memorize every detail that I could. I memorized the way that his bottom lip was pursed, the way his head smelled, the feeling of his fingers in mine, and the feeling of instantaneous love that I felt for this tiny human. After only about 5 minutes, as though it were involuntary, I reached over and pressed the button to signal the nurse. I think that subconsciously I knew if I didn’t let her take him in that moment I would never be able to. I hugged him, kissed him and whispered that I’d love him forever. Then I let him go.

In a way my son gave ME life. Colton gave me freedom. That may sound selfish to some, but I say that only because of how much I love my child. His father was an angry, emotionally and physically abusive disgrace for a man. If my baby had come into this world he wouldn’t have been able to live the life that I envision for my future child. I wouldn’t have been given the chance to live the life that I envision for myself. That feeling that I talked about earlier – not being able to catch my breath – it is still there. I think it always will be. It’s the feeling I think all mothers who lose children have. Over time it becomes bearable and we learn to live normally again, even with the baby shaped hole in our hearts. Things remind me of Colton on a daily basis and it’s amazing how easily I find ways to work him into conversation. Now that the pain has dulled, I have an urge for people to know about him. To know he existed. It makes him feel like he was a real person if other minds have thoughts about him too.

But he was a real person, he was my son and now he’s my angel. Colton Joseph Marks, born still on March 15, 2014.