Reason for Posting on Infant Loss
So why did I decide to post about loss. Well, I’ve seen several questions in different forums and on Facebook about how to respond with the stillbirth or infant loss of a friend. People are unsure how to respond. I get that because I was the same way. Until you’ve been there you aren’t sure how to respond. For that reason I decided to share my own story through which maybe you can get your own ideas of what to do and also what not to do.
My Story of Infant Loss
My story began 14 years ago today. Well maybe a few days before that. I was 39 week pregnant with our fifth child. We had already had one “scare” when test numbers indicated possible Trisomey 18. But an amniocentesis test proved that those fears were unfounded. But we knew it was a boy and he had a name Samuel Theophilus. He also had a personality demonstrated during the aminocentesis test when we watched the ultrasound to see him grab the needle as it was inserted for the test. I was older and slightly high risk but everything seemed to be fine until it wasn’t.
That morning 14 years ago I called the doctor and ask if I could come in. They did the Doppler and didn’t get any fetal tones. They sent me to have the sonogram and the minute I saw the image I knew the worse had happened. I didn’t stop praying I was wrong but I also prayed to accept the truth. They called my husband to meet me and we headed to the hospital. My choices were to go home and let nature take its course which could take several days or go to the hospital and be induced. We choose the later because with a family at home I just couldn’t see a way to hide out and I didn’t think I could take the stress of one well meaning but uninformed person asking me when my baby was due.
And this began my journey through grieving and recovery. As I laid there waiting for my son to be born I prayed that even if I never knew about it I wanted something good to come from my loss. This is also where the miracle of other people began to be played out in our lives. I’ll admit I’m weird and when stressed I start to think about the silly but practical things that need to be done. I fall apart later when the crisis as passed. So I was stressed about the fact that my husband’s car was left in the medical office parking lot, I mean how much would it cost if it got towed. But friends from church already had that covered, a team had been dispatched to pick up my husband’s keys and get the car back to our house. Other people step in to make sure my children were cared for.
Meanwhile at the hospital the staff has used a special sticker for the door of my room so that even the person dealing with emptying the trash would understand what was happening and be able to respond appropriately. While we waited our pastor stopped by and let us know that people were praying and that the children were cared for. He also reassured us that the church would make sure that the funeral expenses would be taken care off. That one thing was such a load off my mind because the tragic truth is that all of the expensive of child birth are the same even for a stillbirth and you are adding the cost of a funeral to those other bills. And for those families who have a child who survives for a time there might be even more medical costs added.
After Samuel was delivered the hospital staff brought in a disposable camera and allowed us to get a picture holding our son. After they came and took Samuel they cleaned and dressed him and then took the rest of the pictures including shots with him laying with a large teddy bear. We didn’t learn about this to until later but those pictures are so precious and I didn’t even think of getting more pictures at the time. I was too raw and frankly worn out.
The next morning while we sat at the hospital our church and family sprang into action. The arranged for the carpets to be cleaned, had the youth group do some stuff around the house, and took my children over to another house to go swimming. And even better when the doctor decided to release me early and I knew I couldn’t face all of that activity they quickly packed up and moved out never taking offense that I needed some quiet when I got home.
Back to those pictures when I left the hospital, I didn’t leave empty handed which is their policy. I left with a box containing those precious pictures, the clothes and blankets worn in the pictures, a lock of hair, foot prints, and the extra hospital bracelet. I left with information on resources if needed to deal with my grief. And I left with that giant teddy bear which continues to reside on a shelf over my bed.
The funeral that our pastor provided was beautiful and so meaningful. He was a wonderful celebration. I was also surprised by how many people arrived. Also, the local funeral home was wonderful. They took such good care of us. When I called to ask if I get more of the special thank you notes they have given us they even offered to drop them off at the house for me.
The first few weeks were hardest because I needed to rest and recover just like any other birth but I had no little one to hold and cuddle. The first week my husband stayed home and the church provided meals. The second week my homeschool support group stepped in. Every day there was another mom and another meal. Each mom contributed something special and unique. One mom just sat with me and let me cry and vent. She let me share funny stories about the other kids. She let me sit there quietly while she sat there in silent support. Another mom came with her older girls and her baby. While I got to hold and love on her little one, she and her girls went into action doing laundry and cleaning house. Another mom brought her two boys and sat down with my four and they did crafts and played games. Another cooked and put up some meals for the freezer. And one did several different little things that while the actually items have faded from memory at the time they were so important to my health and healing.
We decided we wanted a living reminder of our Samuel and we decided to build a butterfly garden. Through donations from my husband’s work, stuff brought by family, and a beautiful myrtle from my prayer group we got started. We started the project and one weekend family came over and worked in the hot sun to bring our dream to life. Samuel’s Garden is still a special place and every year when the myrtle blooms it is a reknewing of the promise of life-everlasting.
I was able to be with my friend when she gave birth to her own son two months later. It was hard but it was so exciting to be a part of this new life. We had planned on our boys being friends and growing up together and that wasn’t to be. But I was brave enough to say the offer of help was still on the table and she was brave enough to accept my help.
Life seemed to get back on track but as that first Christmas approached I was paralyzed into inaction. I couldn’t get into the spirit. I felt guilty because my living children needed me to be happy about the holiday instead of grieving the one that was gone. My head knew better but misplaced guilt can really grip you. My children decided that they needed to take action. The took turns just giving me hugs as I broke down and wept. Then these 4 boys who were 17, 9, 5, and 3 got into action. They asked if they could get the decorations down and I said as long as they put them back (by the way they did). They got everything set up. They cooked and baked. They took charge and Christmas happened. And I’m glad there was a tree when my friend and her son stopped by to give me a pair of little ceramic booties with Samuel’s name on them to put on the tree. Life comes with changes and I don’t see my friend very often any more but every time I put those booties on the tree I am reminded of not just my son but of the friend who thought enough to remember.
I have one neighbor who sufferer her own loss years ago and she will come over with a plant or just a hug and remember my son on his birthday. It is good to know he is not forgotten. It was also meaningful to know that Samuel’s funeral help her to have healing and closure since she didn’t have the chance to say goodbye to own little one.
This is just highlights of how I was blessed by others during this terrible time and how I continue to be blessed. Hopefully, you can find comfort or ideas from my story.
Some Random Ideas for Helping During Infant Loss
It doesn’t matter whether it’s a miscarriage that happens early on, a mid-term loss, a full term stillbirth, a child who is born in distress and dies later, or a sudden infant death the loss will hurt and it will be felt. One of the worse things that was said to me after one of my miscarriages was “well at least it happened early and there was probably a problem anyway”. And after Samuel someone said, “well at least you hadn’t gotten to know your child”. Sorry it hurts and it is tragic. Would losing a child later hurt more I don’t know but don’t discount the pain of losing a child who never took a breath.
Be there in practical ways. Often we who are grieving are afraid to ask for help. We don’t want to bother anyone. We don’t feel social. So offer, ask what practical things need to be done. Offer to do laundry, house keeping, or cooking. If they have other children offer to help with child care. If they children are older maybe take them to a park or to do something special with them. They could use a break and it can give mom a chance to grieve without feeling guilty. When it comes to meals offering it in different ways helps. Having a hot meal ready to go can be a life saving especially if people have to return to work, having pizza delivered can be a special treat, but having a meal frozen for later use can be helpful as well. Often the meals we received were more than we could eat in one sitting so we had lots of left overs. So it was really nice to have a meal to pull out of the freezer a couple of weeks later when the regular busyness of life started back up.
If you can afford to offer financial help. Faced with funeral expenses or extra hospital costs can make the loss seem so much harder to take. Like adding salt to the wounds.
And when you don’t know what do say, it’s okay to say I don’t have words but I’m here and I’m praying for you.
One more don’t say thing that popped in my head as I wrap this up: “Oh your so much stronger than I am”, “You have such a stronger faith”, or “I could never survive such a thing”. Let me tell you when you are spending hours praying and crying you don’t feel very strong, you are struggling and wrestling with God to understand, and believe me if you had ask me the day before it all fell apart I would have told you I couldn’t survive either. When people tell you how strong you are and how much faith you have it can become a barrier to asking for that help you need. You don’t want to let people down and let them know how close from alright you really are. You are afraid if you admit your pain that somehow you are letting God down and that you are saying in affect I don’t really have enough faith. And finally, you survive because you have too. Life goes on, kids need to be fed, laundry gets dirty, school needs to happen, and each day you move forward. It gets better but there will always be moments when the loss is as raw and real as the day it happens. The trigger might be a simple as a stupid commercial but you will cry and move on because that is life.
And finally, if there is another pregnancy understand that it will be really difficult emotionally because I know sometimes it’s hard to hang on to your faith and trust that all will be well. To let go and enjoy the journey without worry. To again be afraid to admit your fears and weakness because you don’t want to be a bad testimony. So be there and be supportive in any way you can and just being there will continue to help.