I used to think that the saying “I can remember it just like it was yesterday” was so cliché. That it was something someone said when they were setting the stage for the embellished account of events that they were about to expel. But. I do. I remember it just like it was yesterday. April 24th, I was scheduled for a level two ultrasound and genetic counseling. I arrived at my appointment and took my place in front of the genetic counselor. We had a wonderful conversation about Xander. I spoke of my history and his father’s history. I recalled the miscarriages that both of our mothers had and I informed the counselor. We chatted a bit more and I was sent out to the sonogram room.
The sonographer and I chuckled because the best shot that he could get was of Xan’s boy parts. He never disappointed when it came time to position himself to show off his “turtle”. His heart beat was so strong and he was moving as normal but my cervix was nowhere in sight. In fact, I was in labor and didn’t even know it. I had dilated 1 centimeter and was sent to the hospital to get a stitch put in my cervix to keep it closed. Unfortunately, by the time I made it to the hospital I had dilated to 2 centimeters and the membrane was down in the vaginal canal. I remember the look on the doctor’s face as she advised me that she could not put in the stitch. She said in a shaky voice, “I’m so sorry. You are going to have to have the baby. At this gestational age he will not survive. I am so sorry for your loss.” I couldn’t understand. His heart was still beating strong. He was still alive. Why are they giving me condolences and Xan is healthy and strong?
They presented me with so many options but I chose to lay there in that bed until my water broke. And it did. My heart was broken because I knew what faced me. I cried for hours. My parents and my best friend drove 11 hours so that I would not have to face the birth of Xander alone. Every single doctor that would come in contact with Xander I wanted to talk with and the hospital accommodated that. Everyone told me the same thing, “There is nothing that we can do.” My next question was, “Why?” They would respond in medical terms that equated to he was not developed enough. I wanted to advocate for him and his survival and that is exactly what I did.
On April 25th, 2018 at 10:53 am Xander Monroe Preysley Dorcilien made his entrance into the world. He was chocolate with smooth skin. He was 15oz and 11 inches long. He had fingernails and lashes. He had my lips and his dad’s weird toes. He was perfect. When I pushed him out her kicked me in the thigh, as if he was telling me, “Mom. It’s too early!” When I looked at him I was amazed that at 21 weeks and 6 days he looked like an actual person. The day was the most tragically beautiful day of my life. It was a day that light and dark meet up in the same place and existed simultaneously.
When I held my son it was like holding my own heart. I wept and I apologized to him. I told him that I was sorry that I did my absolute best. In my heart I felt that I failed him. I felt that I robbed him of the chance to run barefoot in the grass and eating cookies and ice cream. I felt that I robbed him of bedtime stories and kisses from his father and I. But most of all, I felt that I robbed me of being his mom and watching him grow.
The day after I delivered Xander I was released from the hospital with a keepsake box. My best friend held this huge white box and we walked out, without Xander. The hardest thing that I had to do that day was walk out and leave him with people that I didn’t know. As we struggled to locate my car parked in the parking deck we stopped the parking patrol for assistance. The first thing that she said was, “Let me have some of that cake!” as she pointed to the keepsake box. It felt like the breath was sucked from my body. My immediate response to her was, “That’s not cake. I lost my son and that’s what’s left.” Her face was filled with pity and embarrassment.
I walked in the hospital with a baby and I walked out with a box. A box of things that would remind me in days to come that I have nothing but things left. I have no Xander. I laid in bed many nights and cried. I prayed and I asked God to show me the purpose in this pain. I wanted to know what it was that I needed to learn from this. I knew that the lesson wasn’t that God needed another flower in his garden. I knew that the lesson wasn’t that it wasn’t time for me to be a mother. One day it finally hit me. As Xander’s mother it was my duty to ensure that he was as purposeful in his death as he would’ve been in his life. In order for me to do that I had to ensure that I was functional. I started counseling and I also allowed them to put me on medication for depression. I learned in this time that it was okay to let people know that I was not okay. That I felt that there was a hole in my heart that would never ever be filled.
I pinpointed so many things that I wanted to change about this experience. I wanted to change the fact that women who cannot afford outside services would have to walk away and leave their babies at the hospital and allow them to cremate them and keep their remains. I wanted to change the fact that some women would have to explain to others that desired a piece of cake that the box she had was filled with disappointment, literature, and footprints of her child. From these personal experiences I founded Zeal of Xander. His organization was created so that no other woman at UNC Hospital would have to be questioned about what she carries in the cake box. And prayerfully she won’t have to walk away without know where her precious baby’s remains will call his/her resting place.
What I know for a fact is that time doesn’t heal all wounds. I still hurt for him daily. I also know that every single day I find a reason to live productively for him. Day by day I see a bit clearer. I can assure you that you will too. It is okay to hurt. It is okay to cry. Please don’t allow anyone to expedite or put an expiration date on your grief. Know that without a shadow of a doubt you are a mother and you did the very best that you could.
Xaviera 'Zay" Bell