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Sullivan Anderson | Featured Story

My name is Tora Anderson. I am a devoted wife to my husband, Nick, and a loving mother to two sons, Scout and Sullivan. My husband and I had always planned on having two children.

We also knew that we wanted those children to be two years apart. Our oldest son, Scout turned 2 years old on April 17th, 2020. This is when my husband and I began discussing trying for baby #2.

However, this decision was far more difficult than we could've imagined as we found ourselves in the middle of a global pandemic. After months of back and forth and weighing options, we finally decided that we would try for a second child. We felt as if the world needed some lightness and joy after a year of quarantine.

On November 30th, 2020, I took a pregnancy test and learned that I was expecting. Words cannot describe how overcome with joy I was. Our family would finally be complete. A family of four. My husband was away on a hunting trip when I discovered that I was pregnant with Baby #2.

When he returned I surprised him by wrapping the pregnancy test up in a box and gifting it to him as an early birthday present. My husband was shocked and excited when he opened his gift. And so we began planning our future as a family of four.

Christmas came and we gifted both sets of our parents with ornaments that read, "Baby Anderson #2 Due August 2021". My parents celebrated and cheered. My in-laws cried tears of joy. We began discussing names and dreaming about what an incredible big brother Scout would be. I attended my first OBGYN appointment in early January and all was well, besides morning sickness which tended to last all day as it did with my first pregnancy.

On January 12th I found myself hospitalized due to vomiting and dehydration. I told myself, "This is all worth it. The end result is worth every trip to the bathroom to get sick." Fortunately, the OBGYN kindly prescribed me anti-nausea medication which cured my vomiting for the most part.

I spent my days working from home and talking with Baby #2. We listened to Mozart and I stroked my belly with pride. I encouraged my 2-year-old to give my belly regular kisses and began discussing the meaning of being a brother with him. By February I had made my way into the second trimester and began to feel better. I found myself with more energy and began taking daily walks.

On February 6th, my husband and I attended a 30-minute ultrasound appointment. We were told that Baby #2 was another boy. At first, we felt slight disappointment that we would not have the opportunity to parent a girl, but by the end of the ultrasound, we had fallen in love with the little boy we had decided to name Sullivan Smiddy Anderson.

We watched as he moved all over the screen. "I never even saw my first son move this many times during my entire pregnancy!" I exclaimed. Sully was full of personality and already showing off for us. He stuck his thumb in his mouth and waved excitedly at my husband and I.

I could tell he was going to be wild and untamed, unlike our 2-year-old. But I was ready for that challenge. By the time my husband and I left the appointment, we were enthralled at the idea that we were going to be "boy parents." We already had all of the clothes and toys we would need. I already could picture Scout and Sully wrestling around with one another, thick as thieves.

I attended my monthly checkup with the OBGYN and once again, all was well. I FaceTimed my husband as they played Sully's heartbeat on the sonogram. This was always my husband's favorite part of appointments during our first pregnancy. Weeks passed and I continued to check off every day as I was one step closer to meeting my second child.

On March 1st, 2021 I attended an appointment with my OBGYN. The Nurse Practioner advised that my blood pressure looked great and she was pleased with my weight. She reviewed my blood tests with me and explained that all of my levels were normal. We reviewed any questions and concerns that I had and then the Nurse Practioner handed the medical student the doppler. Silence.

She couldn't find a heartbeat. I'm not one to freak out or be dramatic, so I just figured that he was moving around wildly as he had at our last ultrasound. The Nurse Practioner grabbed the doppler and took over. Silence.

She asked if my bladder was possibly full. As always, it was. I ran to the bathroom to relieve myself and texted my husband. "They can't find a heartbeat. They're having me empty my bladder now and then they're going to check again. I'm sure it's just because of my anterior placenta. If they still aren't able to find a heartbeat, then they will do an ultrasound".

Fortunately, my husband had finished work early so that he could attend this appointment with me. My husband was eager to be there since COVID-19 had prevented him from attending any of my other appointments. I re-entered the examination room. My husband shortly followed. Once again, the Nurse Practioner put the doppler to my stomach. Silence.

The Nurse reassured me that she believed that we couldn't hear the heartbeat due to my placenta. She advised me that she believed that everything was fine and that she was going to have an expert nurse come and check me. She exited the room. I could tell my husband was concerned by this time. But ever the optimist, I reassured him that everything was fine and that I had just felt Sully move the day before.

We sat in silence until the expert nurse entered the room. She greeted me with a joke to calm my nerves. It worked. She took the doppler to my stomach and once again...silence. The expert nurse excused herself at this point and told us that she was going to get the doctor. Seconds later the doctor appeared and took the doppler to my stomach. I hadn't met this doctor before but he seemed no-nonsense. Straight to the point. Silence.

The look on his face began to worry me. He asked that the expert nurse bring in an ultrasound immediately. I laid back on the table and my husband held my hand as they put the ultrasound gel on my stomach. I can still feel the butterflies in my stomach from that moment. The nurse quickly returned with the ultrasound machine and they turned it on. I should have known that something was wrong because they didn't even point the screen towards me like they normally did. But I didn't. I had no clue.

That was until I looked at my husband's face. His eyes were squinting at the screen and he looked serious. I was confused. Nobody said anything. Then quicker than they had laid me down on the table, they were hoisting me back up. "I'm so sorry, but there's no heartbeat", said the doctor. What did he mean? No heartbeat? That's impossible.

I sat there shocked. I was well into my second trimester, miscarriages don't just happen at this stage. Besides, I had just had a healthy ultrasound three weeks beforehand. My mind couldn't process what was happening. I couldn't even talk. I couldn't even breathe. I stared at the doctor dumbfounded. "So am I going to have to take medicine or have a D&C?" was all I could muster. "

"No. I'm sorry, but you're too far along. You have to go to the hospital and deliver him." And that's when the sobs began. And I wish I could say that they ended, but that hasn't happened to me yet. The rest of the evening was spent making plans for my 2-year-old son, packing, writing down questions, and making funeral arrangements for Sully.

The next morning, my husband and I arrived at Labor and Delivery at 9:00 AM. The nurses were kind and already had our paperwork and room prepared for us. Our room was marked with a purple bereavement banner, notifying the world that it was an emotional room. My morning nurse Cynthia, had lost her first child, a daughter, at 20 weeks. She was kind and shared tears with us.

A pill was inserted into my vagina to soften my cervix and induce labor. I can't begin to explain the dread that I was filled with the entire day. We had been warned that it could take days for me to deliver and that a doctor or nurse may very well not be present for delivery. I was terrified for what my husband would experience if he was the only one there with me.

By my second dose of medicine, I felt nothing and was worried that I may be at the hospital for a long time. I hated the thought of being away from my two-year-old for so long and this increased the anxiety I was already feeling. However, by my third dose of medication, I felt period-like cramping and I realized that it was working. My husband and I spent the day crying and signing forms that didn't even seem possible. "Funeral Arrangements for Your Child." How do these words even go together? I couldn't process it.

Fortunately, my husband had a family friend in the funeral business and he agreed to take care of everything for us free of charge. By 8:30 PM I found myself in active labor. I had originally wanted to deliver naturally, without an epidural because I wanted to feel everything. However, I realized that with all the emotional suffering I was experiencing, why would I add physical suffering along with it? I requested an epidural and quickly began to dilate.

I was told I would only need to dilate to a 6 to deliver him. I was so nervous about a vaginal delivery since my other child had been born via c-section. I just wanted to pause time. I didn't want to deliver. My husband asked if we could have another ultrasound just to make sure he wasn't alive. The nurse reassured us that it wasn't necessary. I loved my husband for at least asking that.

We asked the nurse how our son would look when he arrived. She explained that it would depend on how delivery goes and how long he has been deceased. This worried me. I knew that I wanted to see my son, but to be honest I was afraid. I knew this was something I had to do. I just needed the courage to do it.

Around 9:00 PM I was relaxed from my epidural and dilated to a 6. My sister had expressed an interest in being there for Sully's arrival so she was present. I can't begin to thank her for the role that she played in Sully's arrival into this world. My nurse began to prepare the room for delivery and wouldn't leave my side.

I was so relieved knowing that a medical professional would be present for Sully's birth. I suddenly felt pressure on my pelvis. I looked at the nurse and advised her that I believed that Sully had dropped. The nurse checked me and appeared bewildered. "He's still in the sac". The nurse explained that the sac would likely burst during delivery and she attempted to get it to pop while we waited on the doctor. It didn't burst.

We waited for the doctor, however, he was taking a while. The nurse asked if I was ready to push. I told her I felt like I could. I asked my husband if he was ready. He cried and shook his head "no". He knew what I knew. His arrival would validate the finality of his life. There would be no going back. No imagining that things might be okay. This was it. I told him that I knew he wasn't ready but we had to do this. He just shook his head in agreement.

I told the nurse I was ready to push and she positioned me. My husband held my right hand and my sister held my left hand. I gave one big push and Sullivan Smiddy Anderson arrived at 9:26 PM on 3/2/2021. I expected that the deafening sound of silence would give way to the horrible noise of my son's dead body falling onto the hospital bed, but it didn't.

The first thing I remember hearing was my sister saying how incredible Sully looked in his sac. The nurse asked if I wanted to see him and I stated that I did. I looked down and saw my son peacefully floating in his sac. It wasn't scary. It was beautiful. My amniotic fluid gave his still body movement. The nurse then busted open his sac. "He is so beautiful. He's perfect," my sister exclaimed.

And that was all I needed to hear. Any fear that I had felt about seeing my son's face, left my body at that time. My sister's comment gave me the permission I needed to look. I will never be able to thank her enough for that. Had I not gazed upon my sweet Sully boy's perfect features, I would have spent the rest of my life regretting it.

The nurse then explained that it was clear what had happened to my sweet boy. His umbilical cord had wrapped around his neck numerous times, killing him. This news destroyed my husband, however, it set me free. I knew at that moment that there was nothing I could have done and that my son's death was not my fault. I knew that it meant that I would not have to worry about future pregnancies having genetic issues. I was relieved.

After the cord was unwrapped from his neck, Sully was placed on my chest. He was so much lighter than his brother had been. I gazed down at him. My sister was right. He was perfect. He had broad shoulders and tiny hands and feet. The cutest fingernails and button nose. He looked just like his brother. The nurse told me he would have been another big 8-9 lb baby like his brother. That comment made me proud. I had done a great job growing my son, while I was able to. I had taken great care of him. I felt a mother's pride in that moment.

My husband, sister, and I spent the evening taking turns holding Sully. My husband and I sobbed as we tried to take in what little time we had with him. I told him how much I loved him and how much his brother loved him. I sang him songs that I had sung my oldest son when he was an infant. We took pictures with him and apologized that hello also had to be goodbye.

Our night nurse brought in a cooling cradle and we were able to keep our son in our room with us for the rest of the night. The next morning we awoke, dreading our final goodbye. It's difficult to cram a lifetime of love into 12 hours, but we did it. The worst feeling was leaving the hospital, knowing that my son was in the morgue, waiting to be picked up by our family friend with the funeral home.

My husband asked the nurse to make sure he wasn't alone. She promised us he wouldn't be. The hardest thing about losing Sully is knowing that I will have to spend the rest of my life missing him. I'll never get to hear him say his first words, or watch him take his first steps. There will be no first tee-ball game, no graduation ceremonies, and no mother/son dance on his wedding day.

Losing a child is difficult because you have all of this love, hopes, and dreams and now they have nowhere to go. A wife who loses a husband is a widow. A child that loses their parents is an orphan. But there is no name for a parent who loses a child. That's how horrible the loss is.

My son was so small, as he was born at 17 weeks and 3 days. He was originally wrapped in a normal baby blanket, which made it hard to handle him and interact with his tiny body.

I was constantly in fear of dropping him or having him slip through the blanket. Bridget’s cradle allowed me to handle my son in a loving and caring way. I was able to fearlessly maneuver him and pass him back and forth between my husband and sister.

It also allowed me to closely snuggle my little boy in the short amount of time I shared with him. I still keep his cradle in our memory box. It has some blood on it from my delivery, which I find oddly comforting. It feels like a piece of him is still with me when I touch it.

Written by Tora Anderson, mother of Sullivan Smiddy Anderson, born into Heaven 3/2/21 at 17 weeks 3 days

Please leave some love and encouragement for Tora in the comments below. We appreciate your prayers for their family.


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