December 2021: Honoring Eli O'Leary Censky
Every "happy birthday" also comes with "and I'm thinking of Eli today," and I wouldn't have it any other way.
22 Weeks of Magic and Excited Anticipation
Having a baby is no easy feat when you’re a same-sex couple. It’s not cheap either. When my wife and I found out she was pregnant, it was pure magic. She took the positive pregnancy test on a road trip back from New Orleans and it made the trip so much more fun. We surprised our parents! We flew to California and surprised my mom and sister by having them simultaneously open a card that contained a photo of the 8-week ultrasound. We had my dad open a present that had a little Packers onesie in it.
The twelve-week scan was perfectly healthy! Whew, past the point of concern. We could relax! All that was standing between us and our baby now was that 20-week scan where we’d learn if the baby was a boy or a girl. The anticipation was stifling! December 13th, 2016, was the 20-week scan, although it was closer to a 22-week scan. The baby was active! We’d taken so many videos of little bumps protruding from my wife’s belly.
We walked into the exam room giddy with excitement and my wife laid down and exposed her stomach so the ultrasound tech could start taking pictures. She told us to close our eyes if we didn’t want to know the sex of our baby right away. It was all so exciting! The ultrasound tech left the room, and we awaited the doctor to come in to give us the “all-clear.” An agonizingly long wait later, she came in.
Disbelief - You Must Have the Wrong Room
I have recurring dreams of this moment. The doctor had long blonde hair and was wearing a white coat just as you’d expect any doctor would, but the look on her face didn’t match the excitement in ours.
“I want to let you know that your baby has a serious heart condition.”
My heart and my stomach hit the floor and splattered everywhere. The room went black.
“The chances of your baby surviving are not good.”
Excuse me? You must have the wrong room I thought.
The next three days were agony. We had already made a pregnancy announcement and most of our family and friends knew we were expecting a baby. For me, the hardest part was telling our friends and family that this baby was not going to survive. I called my mom from the lobby of the hospital while I watched what seemed like hundreds of other pregnant women enter their ultrasound rooms. Suddenly I was resentful of pregnant women. This would last a long time.
A Bittersweet Birthday
Eli O’Leary Censky was born and died on Friday, December 16th, 2016. It was also my 30th birthday.
Grieving the loss of a baby meant also grieving the loss of the feelings of joy and excitement, and it meant grieving the loss of our baby’s future. Our lives are changed forever. My birthday has changed forever.
If a silver lining has come of this, it’s that we are able to share our story. Almost exactly a year later, one of my best friends and his wife lost their son in a nearly identical situation. A year after that, one of my wife’s best friends lost her son. People who have not experienced the loss of a pregnancy or a child will say to us “I can’t imagine how you’re feeling,” and they’re right. They can’t. But being a parent who has lost a child creates a connection to other loss-parents in the deepest way.
I’m celebrating my 35th birthday this year on the five-year anniversary of my son’s death. The day is always bittersweet. Every “happy birthday” also comes with “and I’m thinking of Eli today,” and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Submitted with love by Molly Censky, one of Eli's moms.