Grief, Infant Loss, Stillbirth

These days I see so many babies being born and who were just born. It’s all so bittersweet for me. I’ve always loved babies and I still do. Ever since Finn died, seeing these babies brings a twinge of sadness followed by a wave of happiness. I see everyone enjoying and even sometimes not enjoying all of the little things their babies are doing, and I wish it could be just the same for me. I don’t begrudge them because their outcome was better than mine. We all wanted the same outcome. I know if they could snap their fingers and make my baby alive and healthy, they would.

The road to having children, especially a second child, wasn’t an easy one for me. Knowing the time it took the first time around, we knew we didn’t have the luxury of scheduling a baby, so we decided to let things happen as they would after Jaxton was born. Except nothing happened. We continued to try on our own for a couple of years with no luck, after which we consulted with a reproductive endocrinologist.

A few months of testing later we had no definitite reason of why were struggling with infertility, but with medical help, we finally had a baby baking. The baby seemed to be healthy and we were road tripping with everyone else and noting the mile markers until we reached our destination, bringing him home. Then, when the destination was finally in sight — BAM, engine failure. Our baby’s body that wasn’t quite so healthy after all failed him, and he died.

Now we are stuck on the side of the road, longingly staring at the destination that is just out of reach, listening to cars zooming by us, watching all the bumpers fading away into the distance as they appoach and then take the exit to that promised land. We get pictures and stories from the people there enjoying their babies … and we want to be there with them.

It’s been a long, long road to having another baby, wrought with frustration, disappointment, and grief unimaginable. Now we press forward, struck down but not destroyed. Right now, that destination, a promised land of sorts for me, is so visible, bright and gleaming, beckoning me to bliss within its limits. It’s hard not to fix my eyes on it. Yet while writing this, God put it on my heart to remember to fix my eyes on what is unseen rather than what is seen, an eternal glory that far outweighs these earthly troubles.

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. – 2 Corinthians 4:8-11

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. – 2 Corinthians 16-18

Infant Loss, Stillbirth

When coming home from the hospital without a baby unexpectedly, you may not be expecting a baby any longer, but your house still is. In our case, the nursery was painted, the crib was assembled, and the rocking chair was positioned. Baby toys filled the cube organizer. Newborn onesies, hats, and tiny socks were unpacked and in the closet ready and waiting for our new arrival. The only thing missing were the wall stickers that we hadn’t quite decided on yet. The pack n’ play, bouncy seat, and car seat carrier were also standing by. A double stroller traveled with us in the trunk of our car.20160102_121116

And then…. no baby came home.

I suppose the first instinct for some may have been to completely dismantle the crib, and hide away everything baby related. To me, the thought of that was unbearable. It would have been like losing my baby all over again. Even though Finn never came home to his room, it is my reminder that he did exist. It is his placeholder, and is decorated for him, just as some parents decorate the graves of their children. The nursery represents the missing person in our earthly family, and the hope I have to one day bring a child home to this room.

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Finn’s room is where his urn now rests on the cube organizer. I usually go in there every day to open the blinds and let the sunlight into the room. I imagine he would have loved the sunlight he never got to see directly. I draped his baby blanket over the rocking chair, and I sometimes sit in the quiet room rocking as I did when he was alive in my belly, thinking of what it would be like to have him here with me. I run my fingers over his blanket and reflect on the time I spent with him here on Earth, both inside and outside the womb.

As Finn’s mother, I take pride in the place I prepared for him here on Earth, but I know it can’t even compare to the room Finn’s Heavenly Father has prepared for him. I think of what a beautiful place he is enjoying now, in the presence of our Savior, surrounded by the splendor of heaven and the songs of angels. As I saved a place here on Earth waiting for him to join me, I know he is now saving a place  in heaven waiting for me to join him.

“In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?” – John 14.2

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Grief, Infant Loss, Stillbirth

A lot of people tell me that they can’t even imagine what I must be going through. I get it, I couldn’t have imagined either before it happened to me, and even what I had imagined doesn’t stack up to the reality. I write this as a mother who has experienced the birth of my living child and how it compares to my experience of having a stillborn child. I wrote this in hope that through my experience parents will gain an even deeper appreciation for their children, as I have for my own living child through this experience. I also hope to bring about a deeper understanding of the emotions and experiences a bereaved parent faces. If you really want to try to understand, here is the best I can do.

Picture the moment your child emerged from the womb and you heard that loud, beautiful wail and saw their limbs flailing as they drew their first breaths. Now imagine they emerged completely limp, still, and silent.

Remember gazing into your baby’s eyes, watching that rhythmic sucking of their mouth as they drew in nourishment, evolving from the moment they were born. Now imagine their eyelids never opened, their mouth never rooted in anticipation of being fed, every moment wasting away a little more.

Remember that moment you dressed your baby up in their going home outfit and proudly buckled them into their car seat for their first ride home? Instead, imagine kissing your baby goodbye for the last time, sending them to their autopsy and walking empty handed out of a birth center that is so full of new life, never to see your child again.

Think of when you first brought your baby home, and brought him or her into the nursery you put so much love into preparing, with stacks of outfits and diapers waiting to be worn, and a crib ready for much slumbering. Now imagine the same as you come home with empty arms and these things sit unused, collecting dust.

Think of your older child kissing his little sibling’s head or holding them while you look on proudly. Now imagine they can only kiss a picture of their sibling and hold their hospital blanket.

Think of the postpartum recovery, the pain, hormones, producing milk, a body that is geared up and ready to care for and nurture a baby. Now imagine there’s no baby to nurture and help you forget those ailments, with the added grief that your baby is gone.

Recount all of the dreams you have for your child and all of the experiences you ever hope to have with them. Now imagine those hopes buried forever along with your child.

In the good times, when you hold your peacefully sleeping child and watch them reach each new milestone, give thanks to God because there are mothers with empty arms who can only imagine what that would be like. In the hard times, when your child is crying, fighting sleep and their eyes refuse to close, give thanks again because there are mothers who never get to see those eyes open or hear those cries.

 

Grief, Infant Loss, Stillbirth

As I walk through this grief journey, I have so many people tell me how strong I am. I don’t feel strong, but I think what they see is Christ strengthing me (Philippians 4:13). Sometimes I think about where I would be in this journey without God, and it’s a scary thought. Without God and the encouragement of His word, I would certainly be angry and bitter at the unfairness of life, especially given Finn’s death on top of our fertility issues. I would likely be in a deep, dark pit of despair with no light shining in. I think I would also feel a lot of unrest.

Something I have felt ever since we found out Finn had died is a great deal of peace about the situation. In the hospital during labor, lyrics from the song “Lord (I Don’t Know)” by the Newsboys kept repeating in my head:

Lord I don’t know where all this is going
Or how it all works out
Lead me to peace that surpasses understanding
A peace beyond all doubt

The interesting thing is that I hadn’t heard that particular song for years, yet it came to me when I needed it most. This was the inspiration for the verse that is printed on Finn’s urn, Philippians 4:7.

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

The next couple of weeks after Finn was born was filled with questions. I felt tremendous guilt because I thought that I inadvertently did something that caused Finn’s death or didn’t go to the hospital soon enough. The preliminary autopsy results came back with no abnormalities, adding to my fear that I somehow failed to save my perfectly healthy baby from dying. Then, we got a call from the geneticist saying she had an explanation for Finn’s death, and we scheduled an office visit.

It was a long few days waiting for that meeting, but when it finally came, we got a completely unexpected explanation — Trisomy 9. It was quite shocking to discover that every cell in Finn’s body had this extra chromosome when he looked so perfectly formed. We learned his condition is always fatal, and that most babies with Trisomy 9 are miscarried in the first trimester.

It was then that Finn’s purpose began to sink in. At the doctor’s office laying on the exam table, I prayed to God that he would allow me to become pregnant and send me a baby to love. God answered my prayer in a way I never imagined. I did get pregnant (after 2.5 years of no success on our own), and God sent me a baby to love, but he was not designed for Earth. There was nothing on Earth that could have sustained him. He wasn’t meant to survive here for a reason. He had a purpose in heaven.

God allowed me to experience the joy of another pregnancy and loving another child. It wasn’t overshadowed by the knowledge my baby was going to die until the very end. And through Finn’s death, my faith has been strengthened beyond what it ever has ever been. It has given me a platform to share the love of Christ, celebrate the meaning every unborn life has, help other grieving parents, and share information that can help people understand grief, and even save other babies. I don’t yet know what Finn’s heavenly purpose is, but the ripple he has created so far on Earth had been larger than I could have imagined and I know it is because God is working this for our good.

The biggest difference between grieving with God is that I grieve with the hope that I will see Finn again, healthy and whole, when I join him in heaven one day. While this doesn’t negate the need to grieve or change the fact that I miss him or wish the outcome could have been different, it does bring me great comfort to know he is in a place more beautiful than I can imagine, where there is no suffering.

Finn, Grief, Us

Part of losing a baby is grieving the loss of the experiences you thought you would have with them. In general, baby clothes usually don’t remind me of Finn. Most of the clothes I had for Finn were Jaxton’s hand-me-downs, and he never actually wore clothes after he was born since the clothing we had to choose from was way too large for him. I did buy a few outfits especially for Finn while I was pregnant, and while shopping today, I saw a “Little Brother” sleeper almost exactly like the one I had gotten for him. Not only do I grieve the things I will never experience with Finn, like dressing him that sleeper, I grieve the experiences Jaxton will never have with his little brother. I know Jaxton would have showered him with plenty of hugs and kisses and helped take care of him. He isn’t old enough to fully understand what happened to his baby brother, but we still remind him that he is a big brother and that his little brother is an angel in heaven (and can fly, that’s important).

The Little Brother sleeper Finn never got to wear