Infant Loss, Stillbirth

All of the statistics I have found surrounding chromosomal abnormalities:

The risk of having a child with Trisomy is not higher than normal unless one or both parents have chromosomal abnormalities. Our chromosome test results were normal, so we have an average risk.

The risk of having a child with chromosomal abnormalities does increase with age, from 1/526 at age 20 to 1/8 at age 49. At age 27 my risk was 1/455, so still fairly low, but somebody always has to be the ‘1’ in statistics.

About 95% percent of embryos with genetic problems are miscarried. Chromosomal anomalies are responsible for about 60% of early miscarriages.

About 1 in every 160 pregnancies ends in stillbirth. Chromosome disorders account for 15-20% of all stillbirths.

Only 2 -3% of live-born infants have chromosomal abnormalities.

Infant Loss, Stillbirth

With empty arms, I kissed my baby goodbye and touched him for the last time in my life. The hospital man said he would take good care of him. I watched through tears as he was wheeled out of the room until he disappeared from view.

With empty arms, I walked down the hallway of the maternity ward that seemed to stretch a mile, past the nurses’ station receiving many the sympathetic look. It felt like the walk of shame, with nothing to be ashamed of.

With empty arms, I left a place that held so many new lives, one already finished. From one of the rooms, I heard a newborn cry, the first cry since I arrived. The cry of a new life just beginning, still so many kisses to be given.

With empty arms, I walked through the double doors, down the elevator, through the lobby, and waited by the front doors. A proud father walked out with a smiling big sister to bring around their car.

With empty arms, I waited for our car with my nurse. I looked back inside the building where I had parted with my baby minutes before. In the lobby, another nurse stood behind a mother in a wheelchair, a cart next to them bearing gifts and a car seat with their most precious gift of all.

With empty arms, I sat in the passenger seat with a memory box on my lap, all that remained of my baby to take home.  Empty arms, empty womb, full of memories.

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.