Hello mommas and anyone reading this!
My name is Nikki Imperial and I am 28 years old. I am married to the love of my life; Hector Imperial and we have been together for 10 years now. I grew up in Phoenix, Arizona and currently still reside here. I received my undergraduate degree from Arizona State University back in 2015 and my graduate degree from Grand Canyon University in 2019. This is who I felt I was before I lost my son and I thought I had seen all life had to offer, but nothing compares to being a mother and I was fortunate enough carry my son, Keanu Ancesar Imperial. Keanu is Hawaiian for a “cool breeze over the mountain” and we decided to name our son this because we felt he was his own person and he would go with the flow, wherever life takes him, and he did.
I found out I was pregnant March 14th and while I suspected I was, I kept thinking I was going to start my period. I had just come back from a Vegas trip with my best friend and kept telling her that I thought I was pregnant – she also thought I was! I went to my mom’s the next day and I had told her I was feeling “off” and if she could ask my stepdad to buy a pregnancy test since he was at the grocery store. When he got back to their house, I took the pregnancy test and sure enough that test lite up, PREGNANT!
I was so excited and yelled for my mom to come into the bathroom! I remember that day like it was yesterday! She was thrilled and we both started crying tears of joy and excitement. We quickly went to the store to figure out how we were going to tell my hubby because I definitely couldn’t wait, and neither could my mom! We surprised my husband and he was beyond excited! If I could relive this moment every single day of my life, I would. The look in my husband’s eyes was definitely priceless. We later ended up telling all of in-laws and of course, my siblings! I kept telling my husband I know it’s a boy I can just tell, and he thought it was a girl.
Being pregnant during a pandemic was awful for many reasons, but the main one being that no one was able to go to appointments with me. I changed OB’s after my second appointment and went with Dr. Plimpton, whom had delivered my sister-in-law’s two daughters, my husband’s other sister, and some of his cousins. I loved my doctor and the fact he allowed one person to be with you at your appointments. My baby was growing perfectly, everything was showing up positive on the ultrasounds and on June 17th we had a gender reveal, IT’S A BOY! I jumped for joy and observed everyone around me filled with joy and so so happy! It was such a beautiful moment that I embedded in the front of all my memories.
On July 16th, I began to feel back pain and what I described as my son laying super low on my pelvis. I had no idea that this wasn’t normal and a sign of preterm labor. On July 18th, around 5 am, I told my husband something wasn’t right. I called my sister in a hysterical panic and she calmed me down, giving me instructions to breathe and call my doctor. I did, left him a voicemail and he returned my call within 5 minutes saying he was sure everything was okay, but that he wanted me to go to Labor & Delivery just to be sure and that he would meet me there. Thankfully, the hospital is less than 10 minutes from my house and unfortunately due to Covid restrictions, my husband was not allowed to go into triage with me, so this caused me to panic again. When they admitted me, all of the staff was friendly, hooked me up to the monitors and as soon as I heard my son’s heartbeat, I calmed down. They said everything sounded great and a doctor would be in to see me shortly.
Well, three hours later my nightmare began. The doctor informed me that I was 4 cm dilated and that a high-risk doctor and NICU doctor would have to come speak to me regarding the options for my baby. WHAT?! OPTIONS?! I busted into tears and begged for my husband to be able to come upstairs. Luckily, they allowed it due to my situation. The doctors came in and told me my baby boy only had a 20% chance of living and if he lived, it wouldn’t be a good quality of life. I blanked out and stopped listening to anything they were saying.
They said I had an “incompetent cervix (IC)”, which means that once my baby starts gaining weight, my cervix cannot hold him up alone and that I would need assistance with a stitch, known as a cerclage. They did an amniocentesis on me (removal of fluid from the amniotic sac) so they would be able to place water bag back inside me without breaking it and causing fluids to leak. They asked for cultures to ensure there was no infection, when those results came back negative on Monday, I was told I would get a rescue cerclage Tuesday morning.
Unfortunately, this didn’t happen, my contractions began, and they moved me from labor and delivery to high-risk. My nurse was awful and didn’t have my monitor connected to watch my contractions. I told her my pain was a 10 and she ignored me. My contractions were unbearable but couldn’t get up to walk around because I wanted to keep Keanu inside me for as long as I could. She insisted I just had to poop, so when I got up to use the bathroom, I felt a pressure in between my legs, waddled back to my bed and told my husband to call the nurse NOW! She came in calmly and said a doctor would be in shortly and about 2 minutes later the doctors came in. She screamed for someone to call the doctors for NICU, high-risk and my doctor because my Keanu was coming now!
It all happened so quick and I didn’t realize until later on. I had my baby boy all natural, on July 23rd, at 9:33pm. I didn’t have a normal labor, my son was whisked away quickly and taken to the NICU and I can’t remember if I even heard him cry. I didn’t notice my husband wasn’t in the delivery room with me until later on. I didn’t know if my son was alive or dead until my husband told me he was doing great and in the NICU. He showed me a picture of him, and I was so in love, he looked just like his daddy! They gave us our “passports” to enter the NICU and told us that no one would be allowed in, just daddy and mommy.
The 19 days he was in the NICU was a roller coaster, but our son exceeded the odds because he wasn’t even expected to live 24 hours. He was off all IVs, tolerating feeds, and breathing on his own! On August 11th I got the worst news of my life, my baby boy had passed. The doctors told us he fought hard and even came back after they did CPR, but that his lungs couldn’t hold on. It kills me that I didn’t get to say goodbye, but I know he felt our love. They let us have family come hold him and say their see you later and farewells. I had never cried like that, this couldn’t be real, he was meeting his grandparents for the first time and he was an angel now. My heart broke that day and all of me died with him.
Every time I talk about my son, it feels like I am swallowing glass and I get so choked up inside. Although grief is “fairly new” to me, it feels like it has been a lifetime. Another grieving mother once told me that grief hits you like ocean waves. I believe that is the best piece of advice I have been given. Some days I feel like I am beginning to heal and then grief tells me not today Nikki. I feel like I can’t breathe, and I am drowning.
Losing a child has changed my life forever, in good and bad ways. I feel like I am stronger now, but also feel weaker – I can see how that makes no sense whatsoever, but it is how I feel. I have tried to cope by reading books on infante loss because we are a tribe who understands this ugly awful pain. I am currently trying counseling and while it isn’t my cup of tea, I know grief is something bigger than me and that it is what is needed for my husband and me. I used to believe I was a faith-based person, but when my son gained his wings, I hated God. I was so angry with him! How could he take away the love of my life and tease me with motherhood?
It took me a few weeks to regain my strength and know that my son was with Jesus and that if I couldn’t have him here, then I knew that was the next best place for him. I feel that I hurt more feeling that my parents and siblings are hurting and there is nothing I can do to help them. Keanu was the first grandbaby on my side of the family and the first boy on my husband’s side of the family. I begin to feel so many different emotions, that I feel grief swallowing me up and consuming me – then I return to the same dark hole I do not want to crawl out of. I know my sweet Keanu wouldn’t want me to hurt like this and boy do I try to not cry every time I see his beautiful face.
I never knew I could love and admire someone so much. My son had strength and courage I had never seen before and I knew the moment I laid my eyes on him that he was destined for something big in life. He sure did it. He came here in a time of uncertainty and desperation and spread love to everyone I know. Of course, all mothers think this about their children, but my Keanu was truly special. He brought my parents together, my husband and my family together, people from high school that I hadn’t talked to in years, and even strangers. My heart feels incredibly heavy, but knowing my son is in heaven with all you sweet babies his friends and my loved ones, brings me peace.
We had so many plans to do things together, the wolf pack, Keanu, Daddy and Mommy and while our plans have changed, I look for the light at the end of the tunnel when I can see you again my sweet boy. Aloha ‘Oe my love, until we meet again.