Hello, dear friends! I have decided to resurrect my old blog. I plan to post photos with scriptures and short messages just as before. It just occurred to me as I type this message that it has been almost exactly two years since my last post. A lot has happened in my life since then. My husband, who is still in the Navy, now works in another state. Our daughter is now two, and in April I gave birth to a soul in heaven. This post will be much, much longer than future posts, but I would like to share my story with those who would like to listen. (Okay, it’s like a short book.) This post is pretty detailed and graphic about giving birth to our stillborn child. It may make some people uncomfortable to read it. It may not be suitable for everyone. I need to tell my story, and for those that read it until the the end: Thank you for listening! It means more to me than words could ever say.
Our baby’s due date would have been today: August 26, 2016. My husband and I named her, but we would like to keep this information private on this site. I dedicate this blog to her memory. My husband and I were looking forward to our living daughter having a younger sister to go with through life, but the Lord had other plans for our family.
We found out on January 1 through a home pregnancy test that we had another baby on way. When I was 14 weeks pregnant, I finally got to see our baby on an ultrasound for the first time. (We had a lot of problems getting our referral approved by insurance in a timely manner to see our doctor.) The baby had a beating heart and was kicking and moving happily in my womb. We took a little video of her beating heart, and we had a few cute little photos of her “waving hello” and moving all around. A genetic test showed our baby would be a healthy baby girl. I already knew that in my heart. At Easter we told everyone we were having a girl. We laughed and joked how our anatomy scan, which was scheduled for the day after Easter, would confirm our child was indeed a girl. (Daddy was still in disbelief since he really wanted a boy.) We were so blissful and dreamy at this time. We couldn’t wait for a detailed view of our baby on the way.
My husband and I went to the hospital very early in the morning for an anatomy scan the day after Easter. I still had Easter stuff all over the house. My mom was watching our daughter. Since I am an older mom, and my pregnancy was considered high risk, we were at the perinatology department. We looked at our baby’s body on the screen. We could see her little arms and legs and all of her bones. We could see her little face. I asked if I could see her heartbeat, and the ultrasound technician gave some rambling explanation why we couldn’t see it right now. He said the baby appeared to be sleeping and was jiggling the ultrasound device against my belly to try to wake her up. Eventually he left the room and said we might have to wait a little while for a doctor to come in since our appointment was so early in the morning. He advised I start doing jumping jacks and whatever possible to wake the baby up. I got up off of the table and started dancing happily around the room waiting for the doctor to come in and share in our joy.
When the doctor came into the room, I laid on the table. I told him I thought I woke the baby up. He looked at me and my husband very seriously; straight into our eyes. He said the baby wasn’t going to wake up. The baby had passed away. My whole world came crashing down in an instant.
The baby isn’t going to wake up. Those words will haunt me for the rest of my life.
Sadly, this isn’t the first time I have encountered this kind of tragedy. Twice before during an ultrasound my worst fears were confirmed. I lost two babies to ectopic pregnancies before my living daughter was born. The doctors told me twice these haunting words: There is nothing in your womb. I will live with these words for the rest of my life too.
I began trembling all over. My legs were shaking and my heart was racing. My husband immediately grabbed my hand. I was too numb to cry. Too numb to fully comprehend this tragedy unfolding before me. I didn’t even get to see my baby on the screen again. Suddenly the reality hit me that there is dead baby in my womb. But as a Christian, I believe that my child went home to be with Jesus in heaven. That is the only comfort I could take in as the doctor continued. He said the baby had no heartbeat. The baby was dead. The baby probably passed away between 16.5 and 17 weeks. That day I was 18 weeks and three days into my pregnancy. The doctor said the pathology department would do an autopsy and everything possible to determine what happened. He told me repeatedly it was not my fault. There was nothing I could have done to prevent this tragedy from happening. He said it was most likely a genetic defect or an infection that took the baby’s life. He said I could talk to my doctor about next steps. He asked us if we had any questions. My husband and I sat there numb with grief. I asked if I could have a picture to remember her by. He printed one out and handed it to me. How can you ask questions when you just learned the baby you thought was growing inside of you is now dead? We went from planning our baby’s nursery to planning our baby’s autopsy and funeral in an instant. Devastating. Overwhelming. Incomprehensible.
I was so numb that I was able to handle the rest of our appointment well. I couldn’t feel any feelings at all, and I felt guilty for it. Somehow feeling numb helped me focus on the doctor’s words. I know God was in the room with us in that moment. I told the doctor that I didn’t want to offend him, but I wanted a second opinion from my own doctor. He was kind enough to arrange for us to meet with my doctor in the afternoon. He asked if we needed some time alone in that room. I said no; we wanted to leave. Truthfully, I just wanted to run out of the hospital as fast as I could with a blanket over my head. I wanted to pretend this was all just a bad dream that I was going to wake up from soon. I just couldn’t believe I had lost a third child. I bawled my eyes out for a few minutes in the car while my husband comforted me. He doesn’t wear his emotions on his sleeve like I do. He is in the Navy, and military personnel mask their emotions. I know he was awash in grief as well. It was gloomy and sprinkling outside. I knew the weather was befitting for that day.
My dad works very close to the hospital, and my husband and I debated telling him in person at work. We called my mom and delivered the news to her over the phone. We called my husband’s parents and told them as well. We called my brother and repeated the same thing. I hated giving people bad news. I feel like I let everyone down. I wish I could have protected them from having their hearts instantly broken too. It brought me great pain over the next few minutes and the next few days to share with people that they would never see or hold our baby. Our dreams and their dreams were now gone. We stopped by my dad’s work, pulled him aside, and told him that our baby went home to be with Jesus. Those were my exact words. I repeated them, and he began to cry and gave me a big hug. We all had a group hug. Then we left with little else to say between all of us. I felt bad having to tell my dad at work in person, but I knew it would be better than waiting until he got home and finding out after everyone else.
When we got home, my mom was crying. My in-laws were there too. And there was my living daughter happy as could be, oblivious and unaware of what was taking place. Too young to comprehend life and death. I showed them all the only little picture I had of the baby. My father-in-law is the head of the prayer ministry in our church. He is a true prayer warrior. We all knew that Mark and I would have one more chance to see the baby on an ultrasound scan again in the afternoon. We prayed the Lord would bring the baby to life or would help us to accept that it was His will that she had passed away. You can imagine how much Mark and I wanted to believe the baby wasn’t really dead.
My doctor soon called and was more than happy to squeeze us into her very full schedule. We drove to her downtown office, right next to the hospital we had just been to in the morning. We sat in the office surrounded by pregnant women. Thankfully our wonderful nurse called us into a room. I was so happy to see the nurse I loved. She was full of compassion. Then our doctor came in. I laid on the table and Mark sat in a chair. She flipped on the monitor and began the ultrasound. Her equipment wasn’t as fancy as the hospital’s equipment, but there was our little baby. She wasn’t moving. I asked the doctor to use the doppler to listen for heartbeat.
There was nothing but silence.
We knew it was true. The baby was not alive. She had no heartbeat. My world fell apart again. The doctor confirmed that the baby had passed away. She was very kind and full of compassion. I could’t have asked for a better doctor to walk through this difficult trial with us. All I could think of in that exact moment was that our baby looked so peaceful curled up in my womb. As though she was sleeping. I felt a sense of peace wash over me. She was not in pain. She was not suffering. Only her body lay in my womb, but her soul was in heaven with Jesus. It felt strange knowing I was carrying an empty shell inside of me. I admit a part of me wished I could be in heaven to see her right there and then. That moment–seeing our baby look peaceful and “sleeping”–is still a precious moment to me. It would help carry me through the days to come.
The doctor told us more bad news. She said that because the baby’s bones had ossified (hardened) at that stage of the pregnancy, I would have to give birth to her. You can only imagine all of the fears surrounding my husband and I in this moment. I had to give birth to a dead baby? No way. Not me. Not us.
She said the baby would not look weird. It would look like a little tiny baby. It would’t have three eyes or look deformed. She said it would be a tiny human. She said she has helped others mothers gave birth to their deceased children and it gave them comfort to see and hold them. I thought to myself: No way. I wasn’t that strong. I could never be one of those moms. I was too afraid to see a deceased child. She told me I had two options: 1) I could go to the hospital and she would help me birth the baby, or 2) I could go to Planned Parenthood and have a dilation and extraction (D&E). The second option meant I would be put under anesthesia, and I would not see the baby. The baby would be pulled out of me in pieces. The doctor explained that, if I gave birth to the baby, having it intact meant they could do an autopsy and perhaps find out what happened. She gave me until the end of the week to decide and told me I could ask any other questions that came up between now and then. She said that the baby probably would’t be born before then, but I could go to the hospital if she did. The doctor also said I could have the baby tomorrow or anytime that week, if that is what we wanted.
Five days to decide how to birth a baby that wasn’t alive. Talk about a big decision.
I asked for some pictures of my baby. My doctor printed four or five and sent us on our way. I went home and my mom, daughter and in-laws were there. We looked at pictures and cried. I agonized about the decision I would have to make. I kept the baby’s ultrasound pictures in plain view. She was a real person. I wanted to do what was best to honor her life.
Very few people knew I was pregnant. Close friends. Family members. Some people at church. I was guarded this whole pregnancy because I know what it was like to have to tell everyone you’re pregnant and then you are not. I had to do it twice already. My parents let my family members and close friends know what had happened. I wrote an announcement on Facebook the next day explaining how we were pregnant and that the anatomy scan revealed the baby had passed away. I explained that we had to decide how to give her birth and that it would happen next week. One of my friends wrote me a private message and told me one of her family members had a stillbirth. She put me in touch with that person. It was huge blessing to speak with her online. She explained what she went through, and she said she was glad she held her baby. Her baby passed away close to his due date. She put me in touch with a group of women on Facebook who had all had stillborn babies. I knew our baby was only 16.5 weeks along when she passed away, but she was still a human and to me she would be considered stillborn. She was almost fully formed with a beating heart. I don’t believe that just because the medical profession has decided 24 weeks is when a baby is considered a stillborn person that a baby born before this time isn’t really a baby. What if medical technology in the future is able to save children even younger? Will the definition change? Ask any mom who had birthed a child before 24 weeks and they will tell you that their child is a human being. Ask any nurse in the room what it is, and every one of them will tell those in the room it is a baby. I contacted the women on the recommended Facebook group and asked them to explain what it was like giving birth to a stillborn baby. I asked them what they thought I should do. I looked at pictures of all of their children. They were all beautiful, and it broke my heart to see so many babies that did not make it on this earth. More than 50 women all told me to go and see my baby. They said I would regret it forever if I did not. I prayed hard for all of the women in that group too. I still do.
I knew of someone I had grown up with who had a stillborn baby. I found a video she and her husband made with their church about her experience. I watched it and wept. It was a huge blessing to hear another mom describe what it was like for her to go through a similar experience. I spoke with her online after watching her video. She was kind enough to explain everything in further detail with me. I was surprised to learn her baby passed away around the same week mine did (around 16 weeks). She told me he was a boy, and she strongly encouraged me to give birth to my daughter. To see her. To hold her. She said she would do it again if she had to do it over. Those words would stay with me throughout the week.
I just couldn’t fathom seeing my baby without the breath of life in her, but I just couldn’t fathom walking into Planned Parenthood either. My husband told me it was my decision. He would support me either way. I couldn’t imagine walking past abortion protestors who didn’t know anything at all about my story. I didn’t want to sit in a room full of women contemplating the unthinkable. My baby was wanted. She was a gift. My precious gift. I didn’t want a doctor without a care in the world to pull her out of me and discard her. I wanted to honor and respect her life and birth her with dignity. I wanted to be surrounded by caring and compassionate people who would treat her as my child and help us say hello and goodbye in the best, most humane way possible. But could I handle being in the maternity ward with moms delivering children alive? Would I hear them giving birth? Would I hear their babies crying?
My husband said he wanted to have baby footprints, and he did not mind seeing the baby. In the end, I felt the only place I could give birth was in the hospital. I took great comfort in knowing my doctor and my husband would be there to help me through my birth. I looked up the hospital, and I learned it was a Catholic hospital. This helped me make my decision too. It would be the same hospital where I learned the baby passed away. I made a list of questions for my doctor. We saw her in her office for the ultrasound on Monday afternoon, and I called her back on Friday morning. I had a list of nearly 20 questions for her that she answered in less than 10 minutes. I was shaking, knowing I couldn’t change my mind. This was it. I was going to give birth to my dead child in the hospital. I had prayed about it, and the Lord gave me peace that I was making the right decision. Even though I dreaded it, I knew God would be with me in the hospital. And my husband. I would not be alone. I was scheduled to come in on Sunday night. That was even sooner than I expected, but I did not want to carry this child in my womb anymore. I knew it was time to let her go.
I had already packed away all of my maternity clothes that week. I didn’t want to see them in my closet or in my drawers. It was my way of beginning the processing of letting my baby go. I wrote our baby a beautiful nine-page letter that my husband later read to her in the hospital as I held her in my arms. My husband and I picked out some very personal mementos to take pictures with our baby in the hospital. It was very awkward going shopping for these items, and it took all that was within me not to cry. The lady who helped me at Hallmark listened to my story. She helped me pick out some items. She hugged me after we paid for them. I greatly appreciated that she listened to me. I wanted to tell my story to the whole word, but I didn’t know how people would respond. I told my story again over the phone to the Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep photographer who agreed to photograph our baby, even though she was not 24 weeks along when she died (this is the company’s policy). She warned me that the baby might not be born in a way where she could photograph her, but she would try to be there. I would not be taking a baby home from the hospital. I would be taking home memories and a few items to remember her by. That was it. I would enter the maternity ward with a full womb, and leave it with an empty womb and empty arms. I was dreading this moment. It was tomorrow.
I took my final shower caressing my womb and saying goodbye to my baby with tears and water streaming down my face. I had my mom do a little maternity photo shoot in the backyard with us. I was sad thinking about how I had planned to get professional pictures taken with our living daughter in just a couple of months. I am glad my mom took those pictures in the backyard. They remind me of the happy times I had carrying my child inside of me. Of the life that lived and died inside of me. Of the beautiful child God knit together in my womb. Now I was feeling a mixture of both dread and curiosity about what would happen next. I just didn’t know how I was going to get through it all. All I could do was pray for God to give me strength. He was there with me through my two ectopic pregnancies and with me when my living daughter was born breech. He would be there with me again. I called the hospital to set up a room and a time to go in that Sunday. I would be in a room away from the other moms giving birth. My door would be marked so everyone who entered knew what was happening. I was happy to learn I could go in two hours later than I was originally supposed to. They said the paperwork wouldn’t take very long to fill out. This meant I could watch the sunset. I knew that was a sign from God. God knows how much I love sunsets. My soul feels connected to His heart and to heaven when I see a beautiful sunset.
The sunset was radiant and colorful that night! The clouds reminded me of an angel. My mom and I watched it on top of the backyard hill as I took some glass beads and created a little visual about heaven and angels on the table. The sunset was long, and my husband drove us right into it on the way to the hospital. Its afterglow was amazing. It would carry me through the next few days of being in a hospital room with absolutely no windows and no sense of night or day. When we arrived at the hospital, my in-laws met us there. They watched me set up all of the little mementos I would surround my daughter with when she would be born. They prayed with me as several nurses tried in vain to put an IV in my arm. I had told the nurses that when my living daughter was born, my IV was put in my arm wrong. It felt like someone had stabbed a fork in my arm, and it left me with severe bruising for three weeks after she was born. They did not want to repeat that mistake at this hospital, haha! It took the anesthesiologist to finally get that IV in arm. It was quick and a little painful. Now I just had to be induced. My in-laws left, but I was grateful for their visit and their prayers.
I told the first nurse my story, and it was too much for her. She actually left the room and never came back again. Thankfully, all of the other nurses that were with me during the next several days were full of unending compassion and kindness. It was exactly what I needed as I was going through one of the most difficult experiences of my life. They brought me snacks and juice and medication to help me sleep. (How do you sleep when you are in the hospital for something like this?) I got to know my nurses pretty well. They knew I had my Bible and my scriptures at my bedside. I told all of the nurses how I wanted to take pictures with the baby. They were all ready and willing to help. They all knew the phone number of the Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep photographer who would come to take pictures. The baby was not born quickly. They had to call the photographer every single day to give her an update.
Three days later and no baby. Three days of waiting, and waiting and waiting. Three days of my doctor and nurses manually and uncomfortably checking my cervix and placing tablets in my most most sensitive areas. Three days in a room without windows. Thank goodness my husband never left my side except to go to the bathroom and to grab a bite to eat. I only knew what time it was because of the clock on the wall. Was this baby ever going to come? I hated being stuck in the hospital waiting. Watching television, and occasionally leaving that awful room in between medications to go for a walk out in the sunshine, hand-in-hand with my husband. Three days of reading scriptures about heaven and eternity, and many prayers lifted up to God. Three days of calling my family and telling them the baby still hasn’t come. Three days without seeing my living daughter. That was hardest of all. I had never been away from her for so long. Three long and agonizing days. Three more days to carry this child inside of me.
I was given a booklet called “When Hello Means Goodbye” on my first night in the hospital. I think it prepared my heart for the baby’s birth. I read the whole thing out loud to my husband. The hospital also gave me a weighted teddy bear. It was the same weight as newborn baby. The first two drugs the doctor inserted in me did nothing to bring on labor. It wasn’t until the third drug was administered on the third day that I began having some bleeding and contractions. The doctor had talked to me earlier in the day about having a C-section if this third drug didn’t work. I said no way. I had already had one, and I wanted to have a vaginal birth. It was the only chance I would ever get of having one. (My womb is heart-shaped, and any babies I carry to full term will always be breech babies.) I told her I wouldn’t have any more children if it meant a third C-section. She said that if the third drug didn’t work, she would order a drug they don’t carry in the hospital. It would mean I would have to go home and come back to the hospital. Go home and then come back again? Ugh, no. No, no, no. I didn’t want that scenario to happen. I was both scared to death and relieved when I finally experienced some bleeding.
I bled and had mild contractions for a few hours. The nurse came in and said my doctor wanted to give me FOUR TIMES the last dose to induce labor. Previously she had told me it might be dangerous, but she changed her mind after doing some research. I DID NOT want to have a dose that large. The nurse said we could try half that dose and see what happens. We did, and I prayed the baby would finally be born. We were all ready as ever for this event to happen. My contractions got worse, and I finally told my husband I might need some painkillers. I DID NOT want an epidural. I had one with my living daughter and vowed never to have one again. Two hours later the baby was finally born close to midnight. I had one big, painful contraction and my water broke. Out with my water came the baby. No pushing necessary. No drugs needed. She was finally her. And I really, really wanted to see her. Nineteen weeks and four days of carrying her in my womb. Her still birthday is April 5, 2016.
I told my husband to call for the nurse, I think the baby has been born. He called for her while I was in labor and she and the head nurse rushed in. They cut off my clothing and confirmed the baby was born. By the look on my husband’s face, the birth experience was pretty messy. They asked if I wanted to hold her. They were trying to shield me from what she looked like, but I could actually see her already. I asked to hold her. They handed her to me on a piece of cloth. My husband and I looked at her beautiful little body. We both cried and marveled at this tiny person. She was so small. Her fingernails were perfectly formed on her perfect little hands. Her face looked just like her sister’s face. Her eyes were closed. She had very small feet and toes. She was pink. We could feel all of the bones in her body. She had her mouth open. Her female parts were all perfectly formed. We could feel her little ankles, her wrists, her rib cage. She had no hair on her head or anywhere else. She had a small piece of the umbilical cord attached to her belly button. She was very fragile. The most amazing part of all is that she looked just as peaceful as she did when we saw her on her last ultrasound. She came out with arms folded across her chest, and I never touched them or moved them. They were perfect just the way they were. It was an answer to prayer to see my baby look so perfect. Unfortunately, her body would not hold her shape for very long. We would not get photos with our Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep photographer after all. My dear, sweet husband took several pictures over the next two hours. We had known this might be a possibility. I love photography, but this is one time I couldn’t take pictures–and that says a lot!
We memorized every detail of her body. We placed her body on butterfly wings, as my husband read aloud my nine-page letter to her. We also read her some scriptures and shared some thoughts with her. One of the Catholic nuns at the hospital came in and prayed with us. She told us she could tell our faith in the Lord was strong. She asked us the baby’s name and then she blessed her. There was a cross above our bed. I felt the presence of God with me there in the room. He gave my husband and I a peace that surpasses all human understanding. The nurses weighed and measured our little girl. She was smaller than a can of soda. She was too fragile for me to dress, but we took a lot of pictures with our mementos. It is hard to say hello and goodbye all in one night. Eventually we had to say goodbye. The nurses came over and asked if we were certain. We knew they would take her down to the morgue. They took her from us, dressed her in some sweet little outfits, and took a bunch of pictures for us that I wouldn’t see until later.
I wish my story ended here. Unfortunately, I wasn’t done giving birth. My placenta would not come out.We waited for 45 minutes, but it was still retained. An anesthesiologist came in and explained to me that I had three options for removing the placenta: 1) I could have an epidural and be awake while they painlessly did the procedure; or 2) I could be heavily sedated and not remember anything while they did the procedure; or 3) I could be put out completely under anesthesia while they did the procedure. I had kind of a sore throat, so I opted to be heavily sedated. I only remember being nervous as they got started, feeling a little pinch, and then I remember nothing. When I woke up I was nauseated, but one of the nurses who attended to me while I gave birth was there beside me. She told me I was going to a different part of the maternity ward. She said it was a privilege and honor to be with me during this experience. She handed me a beautiful box with beautiful printed pictures the hospital had taken and printed of my baby. The box had our baby’s footprints in it, her measuring tape, a card with her birth information, and some beautiful pink crocheted baby clothes. It was precious to me.
I was wheeled into a big, beautiful room. We had huge windows to look out of. We could watch people coming and going from the hospital. We could see the lovely fountain out front. Our room even had two beds. My husband could rest and sleep in his own bed instead of the big chair he was in for the last three days. Inside some cabinets a baby bassinet and rocking chair were tucked away. It was sad to see them there. They reminded me of when my living daughter was born and all of the joy we felt holding her and spending time with her. This was different experience. I had heavy bleeding all the next day and tremendous pain. I tried to watch television and forget about my pain. At my breaking point, I got out of my bed, wobbled over to the the head nurse who was checking in on me and cried out that I was in such pain that I definitely needed stronger pain medication. My swelling was not going down and my bleeding was still bad. My doctor ordered another ultrasound to find out if any parts of the placenta were still retained.
Later that night I was wheeled down to the ultrasound technician. I was able to talk to him for a long time while he was waiting for a phone call to find out what he was supposed to be checking for. He was such a sweet person, and I enjoyed my time being able to talk to someone about everything. He showed me where “chunks” of my placenta were still retained. Somehow they had been missed during my last dilation and curettage (D&C). He said this meant I would probably need a second D&C. Ugh. Here we go again. It’s my never-ending story, haha!
The nurse that night helped me order a special breakfast. I was so hungry, and I took one bite of it in the morning as I waited for the doctor to come in and tell me our next steps. Before I could take another bite the doctor came in the room. She told me I couldn’t eat another bite of food for the rest of the day. I almost cried. I was so hungry. This was so disappointing. She said I was going to have another D&C in the late afternoon, and I was going to be put completely under anesthesia. That meant I couldn’t eat anything at all. I could only have a few sips of water the whole day. I was so miserable that day. I was bleeding and heavily sedated. They wheeled my breakfast away, and all I could think about was food and water while I was trying to be distracted by the television. I was in too much pain to read or think or do anything. I was glad I never had any visitors.
Later that evening I met with my anesthesiologist. He was very compassionate, and he made me feel so calm before my procedure. I had to wait for a short period of time while the doctor and nurses prepped everything. He told me how he lost a child at 18 weeks, and he understood what it feels like to be in my shoes. He even let me keep the same IV in my arm. (I refused a new one even though it was recommended.) He put me under so gently and quickly. The doctor did a guided ultrasound this time so she could get everything out. She said she should have done it the first time because the placenta was stuck around one of the “horns” of my heart-shaped uterus. The shape of my uterus had made things difficult to remove. When I woke up, I felt like a new person! I was wheeled back in our room where I quickly recovered. The doctor had said I could go home that night, but I knew I wasn’t strong enough yet. I asked to be discharged in the morning.
My husband and I packed our bags. I slept very well. The next morning they pushed some antibiotics into my arm through my IV port. It was like a stinging hot rush of liquid. They said they had to do it one more time later that morning. I was dreading it. The doctor came in shortly thereafter and cleared me to go home. She gave me a prescription for Ibuprofen and Iron tablets. She said I didn’t need any more antibiotics, and I could eat a good breakfast. We could see out our window that it was raining outside. I ate a good breakfast, changed out of a hospital gown and finally put my own clothes on. I was both dreading and anticipating leaving the hospital. In every room of the hospital I had a special picture card on my door that indicated I had given birth to a deceased child. It was a leaf with a teardrop. The back of the card had a poem on it. Everyone who walked into my room knew what happened. They showed me kindness and compassion. I knew when I left the hospital there would be no such sign indicating to the rest of the world that I was the mother of a stillborn child. I had to leave the hospital without my baby and face the reality that lies ahead.
The lactation nurse consulted with me on what to do when my milk came in. I had to wrap my breasts in lettuce leaves and try not to stimulate my milk. She gave me a handout. It could take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks for the milk to dry up. She told me she lost two babies, and she never got to see them because she wasn’t very far along in her pregnancies. I told her my story, and I opened my special box and showed her the precious pictures of my baby. They truly touched her heart. It was my first chance to really tell my story. It helped me leave the hospital feeling confident I could put one foot in front of the other and move forward. I was so exhausted and very anemic. It was hard to walk without being out of breath or feeling lightheaded. I wasn’t used to walking slowly. Everybody knows I love power walking. This experience, however, had really slowed my steps. With my hospital band still on my arm, my husband drove us to the pharmacy. The songs on the Christian radio station all made me cry. Danny Gokey’s “Tell Your Heart To Beat Again” song really hit me. It has become my song of grief and healing. When we finally drove across town to the pharmacy, I waited in a long line to place my order. I was tired, and I didn’t really want to be in public. Not even at the pharmacy. I didn’t want to be anywhere where I might see a pregnant woman or a little baby. I just wanted to go home and be alone. Away from the world.
I came home and spent a lot of time crying and grieving and resting and sleeping for the next few days and weeks. My milk came in when I got home from the hospital. It is truly a cruel thing when your body wants to nurse and there is no baby to nurse. I smelled like cabbage leaves for a while and my breasts were very full, swollen and tender. I was relieved it only took about three days for the worst of the pain and swelling to go down, and another few days for my milk to begin drying up. The hardest part of leaving the hospital after a stillbirth is that no one sends you cards or flowers and many people don’t even acknowledge what has happened. The maternity ward gave us a card when I left the hospital that was signed by everyone who attended to me. I cherish that card. People don’t want to bring up the subject of losing a baby. They are afraid to speak with you about it because they don’t want to see you cry or risk offending you with their well-meaning (yet often poorly stated) words. Losing a baby is a very lonely feeling. You cannot share photos of the child you just gave birth to because it is considered taboo. No one wants to talk about it. My baby did exist. I gave birth to her, and I wanted nothing more than to talk about my birth experience and about her. My family and closest friends were the only ones who really made an effort to be there for me. Never ask a grieving woman to come to you when she is ready. She won’t. You must go to people when they are grieving. Grieving people are already using every ounce of strength just to wake up and live another day. Grieving people are physically exhausted and emotionally drained. Grieving people need help but they are too overwhelmed to ask for it or arrange it. I am most grateful to my parents and in-laws for helping my get through the hardest days of my grief.
My husband and I had to pick a mortuary for our baby to be cremated. My dear, sweet husband made all of the arrangements. He picked up the baby’s ashes for me. We got them back in a tiny white, plastic box that can fit in the palm of your hand. I didn’t want a funeral for her. It felt too awkward, and I wasn’t ready. I didn’t want the comments or the attention. I just wanted her ashes home with me. They now sit on a shelf with all of the mementos we had in the hospital around her. This past Monday I finally received a custom-made white wooden box from Lithuania with her name on the outside and her birth date and some other special words on the inside. I put our baby’s ashes in it and her mementos. It was a very emotional process this month for me to pick out this box knowing it is where I plan to keep our baby’s ashes forever. Although I know our baby is in heaven, I appreciate having a special designated area to remember her brief life here on earth.
It took forever for autopsy results to come back. There was nothing out of the ordinary that would have indicated why she died. The chromosome analysis had come back about a month after we gave birth. It indicated she had a genetic defect that could have caused our baby to have a terminal kidney disease in her second decade of life, eye problems and severe developmental delays. The doctor said this probably was not the cause of death. At least I had some answers, which gave me a little comfort. Many mothers never get any answers at all. Unfortunately I have spent the past several months sorting out medical bills that were incorrectly billed directly to us. It has been a huge hassle on top of trying to work through my grief. I am still waiting to this day to find out if I will ever be billed properly for the chromosome analysis we had done. I am grateful we have good medical insurance since my entire experience would have cost us a small fortune.
Although I am still slightly anemic, I am physically well. My husband and I are already trying to have another baby. Emotionally, I have good days and bad days. I am still grieving. I still have more days filled with sorrow than joy, but I know this will change with the passage of time. Grief changes with time, but the loss of a child will always stay with me. My husband and I still desire more than anything to give our child a sibling. We hope and pray I can give birth to one more baby here on this earth that we can have and hold and raise up in the Lord. And if the Lord instead calls us to raise our child as an only child or to adopt a second child, He will direct our hearts down one of those paths. I look forward to what the future holds. God is still good. God is still in control. Our daughter’s short life served a purpose. She is part of God’s plan too. God loved her just as much as He loved my grandma who lived a long and full life and passed away in July. I hope my grandma got to meet her great grandchildren in heaven. There are three of them up there. I look forward to seeing all of them one day too. I hold the hope of heaven before me. I look forward to eternity and the time when I can put this life behind me. But I know that God has not finished writing my story here on earth. All four of my pregnancies over the past six years are big part of my story and who I am today. Through them I have learned to trust and rely on the Lord more than ever before.
When I gave birth to my daughter, I gave birth to a soul in heaven. Seeing her little face gave me a glimpse of heaven. She is at peace. I feel closer to heaven than ever before. I read a saying recently that said that when stillborn babies’ eyes open, the first thing they see is Jesus. What a comforting image. If people were to ever ask me if I believe in heaven, I would say yes without hesitation. I held my lifeless child in my arms, and I know she was a person and that she rests in eternity with Jesus. I have read many scriptures in the Bible pertaining to death and eternity. I look forward to sharing them all with you in photos and blogs over the coming weeks. I have been hungry to read the Bible. It is healing and life giving. It helps me work through my pain and grief. It draws me closer to God during a time in my life where I really need Him to help me through the valleys of despair and discouragement. Satan can surely use this experience to bring me down. I need the Lord to continuously lift me up and carry me forward. I am still Faithfull4him–faithful to a God that created my life and every life–short or long–with a divine purpose.
I pray that everyone who reads this blog understands the value of your life. Jesus died for you, so that you can have eternal life! Do you believe this? Do you know where you will go when you die? Death will come to us all. Some sooner than others. Are you ready? I thank the Lord for each and every one of you. May He bless you as you go about your days. Walk in truth. Walk in purpose. Walk in the newness of life in Christ. Rejoice! One day we will be with our Creator in heaven for all eternity. No matter what tragedies we go through in this life, we can rest assured that in heaven there will be no sorrow, no pain, no suffering. Our lives here on earth are short and difficult. The Lord hears our prayers, sees our pain, and He is there to be a comfort to us.
The day after I came home from the hospital, a couple of rainbows appeared in the sky after a rainstorm. The Lord knows how much His creation speaks to me about Him. These rainbows in the picture below touched my heart. I watched them change in the sky for more than an hour. A spectacular sunset soon followed. I felt the presence of God near me. And I still feel His presence with me today. Thank you Lord that you never leave us nor forsake us. Thank you for a peace that surpasses human understanding.