Thursday, May 26, 2011

These Last Few Weeks - Part 4

I think this is the book that has meant the most to me in my loss of our tiny Journey Peace. I wish I would have known about it years ago. I wish that in my first miscarriage I had known it was ok to grieve this kind of loss, that we would heal better if we first took the time to grieve

When we contacted Infants Remembered In Silence for a remains container they also gave us a care package with a tiny square knit baby blankie, a prayer shawl, an angel pin, and the books in the picture below. It was very helpful to read other mom's stories and to read that the pain and emotion was indeed normal and part of the healing process. I wish every clinic would give something like this to mom's who miscarry or loss a baby before it is born. Centering Corporation is an excellent resource for small booklets of resources for grieving families.

I have been incredibly blessed lately by Sherokee Ilse, author of several books on loss. She has walked the path of both miscarriage and stillbirth and has such a heart to help other moms. Four years ago when I had my second miscarriage a friend gave me Empty Arms written by Sherokee. It made a huge difference in my grieving and healing then. And this time when we learned our baby's heart was no longer beating I felt more "armed" or perhaps better prepared for how to grieve. I knew to seek out the help I felt I needed. Sherokee has many great resources for grieving families at her site Babies Remembered

There are quite a few books we can always order online, but when a mom learns the baby she is carrying has died or has a fatal prognosis it is helpful for her to get words of comfort and encouragement right away, not 5-7 days later due to shipping and handling. Recently I visited a small Catholic bookstore near my home and asked what books they carried for parents grieving the loss of a baby and I was glad to find both of these on their shelf:

Below I've listed a pretty long list of books that I have looked at on Miscarriage and Baby Loss. I have not read all of them but I have looked at many of them and read reviews on most of them.

Grieving The Child I Never Knew- A devotional companion for comfort in the loss of your unborn or newly born child by Kathe Wunnenberg

Empty Arms - Coping with miscarriage, stillbirth and infant death
by Sherokee Ilse

When A Baby Dies
- Answers to comfort grieving parents
by Ronald H. Nash

Always Precious in our Memory
- Reflections after miscarriages, stillbirth, or neonatal death by Kristen Johnson Ingram

Empty Arms
- Emotional support for those who have suffered a miscarriage, stillbirth, or tubal pregnancy by Pam Vredevelt

When a Baby Dies
- Psychotherapy for pregnancy and newborn loss
by Irving G. Leon

Silent Grief - Miscarriage - Child loss, finding your way through the darkness by Clara Hinton

Pregnancy After a Loss - A guide to pregnancy after a miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant death by Carol Cirulli Lanham

When A Baby Dies - The experience of late miscarriage, stillbirth, and Neonatal death
by Nancy Kohner & Alix Henley

No New Baby - This book is for young siblings
by Marilyn Gryte

Miscarriage: A Shattered Dream offers a comprehensive, insightful perspective for families experiencing a miscarriage.
by Linda Hammer Burns & Sherokee Ilse

Stolen Joy:
Healing After Infertility & Pregnancy Loss
by Anne Barney

Our Stories of Miscarriage- Healing with Words: Fifty contributors, including four men, share vivid, real life accounts of how miscarriage has affected their lives
by Rachel Faldet & Karen Fitton

Stillbirth The Invisable Death:
by John DeFrain

The SIDS Survival Guide: Information & comfort for grieving families, friends & professionals who seek to help them
by Joni Horchler & Robin Morris

Gladsome Rose: A bereaved mother's journey into faith

by Irene Vodantis Lafakis

Mother's Manual
: Contains prayers for special situations, such as a disabled child, a miscarried baby, difficult pregnancy,
by Fr Francis Coombes

I'll Hold You In Heaven by Pastor Jack Hayford

"Mommy, Please Don't Cry"
by Linda De Ymaz
The Next Place by Warren Hanson

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Their names written in the sand

There is this wonderful mommy, Carly, in Australia who took her grief and sadness after losing her tiny son and she turned it into help and healing for not just her but many angle mommies. She takes the most beautiful sunset pictures at a beach near her house. And while you can buy her photography if you would like, for parents that have lost a child of any age (before, during or after birth) She will write the name of our angels in the sand and photograph it for free and then post the pictures along with what ever other information you wish to post.

To see the beautiful pictures Carly took during sunset on a beach in Australia click on each name:

Liberty angel date Nov 15 2004

Elijah angel date Sept 2007

Eden angel date Aug 2010

Journey angel date May 2011

These Last Few Weeks - Part 3

Back in 2004 when we experienced our first miscarriage, I did not know there were books, or online groups, or other things that might help me remember the baby we had just lost. Some people around us did not even consider it a "baby" ... because "you were only 10 weeks along". It did not matter to me how far along I was ... I had spent over a month getting excited and planning for and dreaming about this sweet baby to come. And then it was over ... no more baby, no more dreams.

I had not yet walked this horrible road, I didn't know how to cope. I admit I avoided most of my family and friends for a while. I could not go one minute without thinking of my baby, without feeling such sadness and I doubted that most people in my life could understand that. I didn't want to have to explain why I would just spontaneously just burst into tears. Then, a friend who had miscarried years before sent me a book titled Empty Arms. And that motivated me to search for other books ... it helped to read other mom's stories. And another friend whose baby was stillborn several months before I miscarried sent me a sympathy card and flowers in a beautiful glass vase that was shaped like pink and blue baby blocks. She also gave me a sweet teardrop remembrance necklace. Her recognition of our loss and her willingness to talk about our baby meant more to me than anything.

We have now lived through 4 miscarriages and have come to learn that most people would rather not discuss the loss. Many loved ones will avoid contact with grieving parents in those first weeks. And if they do come around they encourage you to "move on", "try again", or "go home and hug those kids you do have". I know death and grieving can be uncomfortable subjects and most people who have made those comments had good intentions, they only wanted to see us feel better. But please know those are not helpful things to say to a grieving mom or dad, and there is simply nothing that will make us feel better right now.

A parent experiencing a loss (miscarriage, still birth or death of a child) already knows you can't fix their situation, they do not expect you to, nor do they expect any magical words to make them feel better. Trust me there simply are none! What we need is someone to say how sorry they are for our loss, ask if we named the baby and then if we did have a name for our baby please use that name. Ask if there is any special way we want to memorialize or remember our baby (or babies). And most importantly we need you to listen ... just listen ... you can't fix it, please don't try to, and please don't try to talk us out of our grief. We need time to grieve, true healing can't begin without first grieving. If grieving moms feel that we must try to stuff our grief down inside or hide it away it only ends up eating us up inside and causes various other problems.

One of the saddest things to me was that I had held this tiny little life inside of me, I loved her so much and was dreaming of names and nursing and first smiles and all those wonderful baby things. Once my baby was gone I still loved her, I wanted others to still love her too. But almost no one ever mentioned her again. I couldn't wipe out all those dreams and all that love ... it grew roots inside of me ... it became a part of who I am. It hurt so much to think that to most people in my life she just disappeared overnight. But thankfully my friend who had experienced stillbirth got it! She used Liberty's name and let me talk about what I was missing and what I was feeling. She let me grieve with out attempting to fix it or fix me. I've come to realize that moms who lose our babies (at 4 weeks, 4 months, 4 years or any age) need memories to hold onto and it is of some comfort to know that others want to share in those memories. I realize its hard to talk to a mom about the baby you may have never met, or the child who has been dead for a year now. But trust me, we want to know that our baby or child is remembered and still loved by other people.

Every mom is different, we had different dreams, different ways of expressing love and we'll have different ways of grieving. So I don't think there is ever going to be one pat answer for how to help a mom who has lost a pregnancy/baby/child. But I can share what has helped me and the other grieving moms I've talked with and gotten to know. The teardrop necklace has been a treasured possession of mine ... it not only reminds me of my baby but of a friend who cared enough to walk this sad road with me.

The books and websites and poetry that I've been sent have allowed me to know I am not alone in this grief that others have walk this road and survived.

Grieving moms can feel such strong grief one minute and such anger the next and simple things seem to no longer make any sense ... many of us in our first days of grief have wondered if we are going insane ... and many of us who have no one to share with do indeed go insane. It is a sad lonely place to be. But when I heard other moms describing the same thoughts and feeling that I had been having it made a difference. I've heard many other moms say that sharing their story with other moms and hearing the stories of others' grief helped them survive. Again, I'll remind you it does not "fix" anything, it doesn't make it "all better", please do not make that your goal ... but sharing with us and letting us share helps us survive.

In my most recent loss we came to realize my body was not doing the job of miscarrying on its own. It was terribly emotionally painful to know that the belly I felt swelling and growing no longer had a living baby inside it. And my pregnancy symptoms were not going away. When I would eat and then still become nauseous and sick, I would get so angry ... why couldn't my body just realize!!! So we ended up needing a d&c this time. We sought out help from I.R.I.S. (Infants Remembered In Silence). I wanted a small casket like container to take to the hospital for our baby's remains, so we could later have a service and bury our baby. My friend who helped and blessed me so much in my first miscarriage came to my rescue again and was able to pick up the container from the I.R.I.S. office in Fairbault and get it to me before the date of our scheduled d&c. I.R.I.S. not only sent the container we needed, but an angel pin for both me an my husband, a sweet tiny baby blanket, several books and pamphlets on loss and grief and support, and a hand knit prayer shawl with a card from the woman who knit it and then donated it to I.R.I.S. She too had experienced a miscarriage years ago and wanted to provide prayers and comfort to other women in their tome of grief. I was overwhelmed with the love and compassion these gifts expressed.

During my search for more information on d&c and containers and burying this tiny baby I came in contact with a woman who wrote one of the books that I.R.I.S. had given me. Her name is Sherokee Ilse and if you click on her name you can read her story and see her books at her website. She offered to be what we describe as a perinatal loss doula. Click HERE to read the best description I have found for what a perinatal loss doula does. And you can click HERE for another point of view about having a doula during loss. I can not even begin to put into words the ways that Sherokee and Kara Jo have bless us and helped us through this past two weeks. Kara Jo is a dear friend of mine who was to be my birth doula. Coincidentally she had actually taken a class last year given by Sherokee on loss in pregnancy and how a doula can help the grieving family.

God blessed me with not one comforting doula, but two! Then he blessed me with several other angels on earth ... a sweet nurse who had walked this road of loss her self and a wonderful chaplain who came in to pray over us not just once, but twice. The hospital we were at has an OB nurse, Sheila, with the specific title of "Perinatal Loss Coordinator". Sherokee had worked with Sheila before and contacted her a few days before my d&c. Sheila helped us navigate hospital policy so our baby's remains could go home with us. She also helped the surgery staff know what I needed, she stayed with me in the OR and she blessed us with a sweet little lamb and blankie. Kara and Sherokee read scripture to me and Allen, they prayed with us, they helped me ask the hard questions and made sure that the medical staff respected my wishes and caringly addressed my fears. They brought books, poems, the tiny baby blanket and things that helped me feel cared for in this sadness. My baby was being born ... yes tiny and no longer alive ... in fact he had already been resting in Jesus sweet arms for a few weeks, but his body still had to part from mine. I can't describe the lonely aching that comes with this realization. Its not how it should be!

Whether it happens with blood and cramping at home or in the sterile medical environment of a d&c in the hospital, a baby who is no longer living needs to leave its mother's womb. Its not what I wanted ... not how I wanted my baby to leave my body. I wanted him to grow and kick for months to come and be born wiggling and crying. I wanted his daddy to cut the cord, wrap him in a blanket and place him in my arms. I wanted to kiss his sweet head and toes, nurse him and sing him lullabies. None of those things were possible at this birth, but my doulas made such a beautiful effort to help me grieve that loss. My baby's remains were respected as just that - my baby. I received a tiny baby blanket to cover my baby with, we placed him in a tiny cradle and we played hymns and lullabies from a cd we brought with us and we were given a certificate and hospital bracelet with his name and mine on them. He was real, he was ours. And it is OK that we miss him. Its ok to miss the dreams that will not be.

I am well aware of how we were lifted up in prayer as we learned our baby no longer had a heart beat and then the next week when we headed to the hospital for a d&c. Although I wish this never had to happen, I can tell you I see God's hand in many of the "circumstances" in the last two weeks ... placing certain people at certain places at just the right time to bring me comfort. And the cards and meals and phone calls arriving at just the moment I was in need ... I know better than to believe in coincidences ... we call them "God-cidences". My Heavenly Father sees my pain and relates better than anyone ... His son died too.

I want people to know there is no way to make this time "good" for any mom whose baby has died ... but there are certainly ways to make it worse. Please don't avoid a grieving mom and please don't try to "fix" her. Just be with her, honor her needs and her memories. Sherokee told me that our goals were to try and have as few regrets as possible and maximize our path to healing. We took care to respect this birth, to give us memories and time to love our sweet Journey Peace. It is not the birth I wanted but it was much better and much more healing than the impersonal and lonely "medical procedure" it could have been. It is my hope that those who care for and work with pregnant moms would grow and learn that there are ways to help us, there are ways to provide us a few precious memories ... those are moments we carry with us the rest of our lives, those moments and memories help to launch our healing process.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

These Last Few Weeks - Part 2

I've been trying to find a good online video or youtube video with the lyrics to this beautiful song by Michael W Smith, titled "Hello, Good-bye". Below is the best I could find ... its a tribute to triplets who died too soon, but they have the lyrics added in ... I love the song

Over the years and as I have walked along the road of sorrow I've found that art and music can provide much healing therapy. I've been searching out appropriate songs this past week and compiled them together in a playlist on you tube.

And years ago it became my habit to make Psalm 23 bracelets whenever I was troubled or could not sleep. It keeps my hands busy, yet doesn't require as much concentration as some crafts. So the other night started making psalm 23 bracelets again. Wednesday I needed some more beads and a friend offered to drive me to a local bead store near our home. The lady working in the bead store happened to have made these adorable little angels from beads ... I was so taken with them. She took time right then and there to teach me how to make them. So, bow I can change it up ... Psalm 23 bracelets some sleepless nights and tiny beaded angels on other nights.

Here are a few pictures of my newest angels and bracelets:

These Last Few Weeks - Part 1

I've wanted to write about what we are going through ... losing our baby ... the end of a pregnancy, but I keep erasing whatever I write ... its so hard to write about something causing such pain.

We were so excited back in March to find out (while on Vacation in Jamaica) that I was pregnant again ... We love our big family and we love every gift of life the Lord blesses us with. I admit that mixed in with my excitement and celebration there were fears. This was my 9th pregnancy ... we have 5 living children, so we know the possibilities. But at 6 weeks and again at 8 weeks we saw that beautiful blinking blob on the ultrasound screen ... utter relief!!! But at my 10 week ultrasound on May4th I could see it as soon as she started there was nothing blinking, I could tell she was searching around for it ... but even before those dreaded words came out her mouth I knew "no heartbeat" and the tears began to fill my eyes ... my mind reeled with "oh Dear Lord, here we go again!! Again? really? Again! Why does this keep happening?"

I took my time getting out of their paper sheet and back into my clothes, I shot out a quick text to my prayer warrior friends asking for prayer cover as I dealt with bad news. And then I called Allen ... told him there was no heart beat and that i needed him desperately. He had been so giddy and excited with this pregnancy, I felt like I was disappointing him in the horrible way, it hurt so much to tell him my body could not keep this child, our child, alive. It hurt so much to tell him the sweet tiny baby he was so happy about was now dead. And then my body let me down even more by not kicking into gear and starting the process on its own. My past three miscarriages have been able to be at home ... its horrible no matter where you are, but I feel better being this vulnerable in my own home. I really do hate hospital and so did not want to end up needing that d&c. But my body failed yet again, the baby had stopped growing, but my uterus and my hormones still thought I was pregnant ... I hated walking around, knowing the baby inside of me was dead. A week later another ultrasound showed the same thing, my uterus was not even trying to let go of this baby, so we ended up with a d&c.

I once described miscarrying to Allen as "this horribly violent bloody mess" ... Its as if I'm living through a hurricane or tornado and my baby was being ripped away from my arms, away from my body, leaving me with a bloody mess. The physical pain adds to the emotional pain, and I felt myself spiraling out of control. The loss of control when a baby dies ... when a pregnancy ends is frightening. All my mothering instincts are to protect my babies ... but I had failed this baby. Such anger and guilt and sadness filled my soul ... I rotated between wanting to scream and throw things, to crying uncontrollably, to numbly crying softly until exhaustion took me off to sleep. And then I would awake right back at more anger and more pain. I can only imagine how confusing and volatile I seemed to my sad, grieving husband, and yet he was my rock ... leaving work early and rushing to be by my side. Day after day looking me in the eye and reminding me how much he loved me. Reassuring me I was not to blame. I know to him, he felt helpless and unable to comfort me ... but the truth is his presence was the only thing on earth that brought me some bit of comfort, his words and eye contact that told me he still loved me and that we would get through this together, were the only thing that made an ounce of difference to me in those days. Unfortunately he has learned how to help me in these kinds of moments by living through previous experiences, three previous miscarriages. This is one experience I wish on no one! But since we have walked this path before we knew a few things that helped and we had learned that some things make this process even worse.

Allen's experience told him it was time to step in and be my buffer ... my go between between me and the world. People can say the most hurtful insensitive things when they are uncomfortable and don't know what to say. I know they don't mean to hurt me, they are unsure of what to say and they feel helpless because they can't understand what I am going through. So Allen handled all phone calls and just told people I was not up for talking right now. Oh how I wanted to just curl up in a ball in a dark room and never ever wake up. When those thoughts pass through your head it can really be scary ... I really did want to die ... the pain of living through this was going to be long and hard, I just wanted to be in heaven where God promises no pain and no tears. But that is not yet part of God's plan. Four of my babies have beat me to heaven. And now I need to figure out how to keep living ... and not just how to process my own grief, but I need to help my five living children through this ... there would be no new baby ... they need to process grief too. Its an exhausting combination with no guaranteed time line. Much like the physical side of miscarriage, walking through the emotional grief is unpredictable and messy.

Since we have walked this path before Allen and I have learned how important it is to be honest (yet age appropriate) with our kids. If thinks are left for them to wonder about there imaginations can create some horrible things, so I practice deep breaths and I cry out in prayer for God to give me the right words at the right times. And my Lord, my Creator, answers those prayers ... not always as I expect ... but he does answer my prayers and he does give me the words I need, when I need them.

I have several other things to write about ... things I highly recommend people NOT say to a grieving mom, be it a miscarriage, a still birth or an infant death ... people should just learn to NOT say certain things. And then I have a picture list of things that have blessed my soul, have helped bring healing in this yucky mess. I'm also compiling a list of books I found helpful and where I found support online. I'm still working on those posts and lists, and will post them here on my blog as soon as they are finished.

I'll close this post with a beautiful song I hear for the first time in mid April ... God was working to prepare my heart even before my baby died:

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

What I wrote just days after ...

I keep wanting to write ... I keep willing words to come out ... something that makes some sort of sense, something that in some way explains what I am feeling and experiencing, but nothing comes ... I can't muster the words. So instead, today I searched for other's words:

For it was not into my ear you whispered but into my heart.
It was not my lips you kissed but my soul.
~Judy Garland

No one sees the broken heart
That lies beneath my smile
No one sees the loneliness
Thats with me all the while
Silent tears gently fall
That others do not see
For my precious child
Who meant the world to me.
~Author Unknown

My blood, my breath – all you ever needed
My heart, filled with a mother’s love
the moment I knew
My arms, never to hold you close
My eyes, never to behold you face
My ears, never to hear you cry
My soul– the only connection to you
I have left.

By Christine Grabow,
Mom to Jordan Grabow,
Miscarried April 29, 2002

There is a sacredness in tears
They are not the mark of weakness, but of power
They speak more eloquently than 10,000 tongues.
They are the messengers of overwhelming grief
Of deep contrition and unspeakable love.
~Washington Irving

For those few weeks-- I had you to myself.
And that seems too short a time to be changed so profoundly.
In those few weeks-- I came to know you. . . and to love you.
You came to trust me with your life. Oh, what a life I had planned for you!
Just those few weeks—
When I lost you. I lost a lifetime of hopes, plans, dreams and aspirations. . .
A slice of my future simply vanished overnight.
Just those few weeks-- It wasn't enough to convince others how special and
important you were. How odd, a truly unique person has recently died and
no one is mourning the passing.
Just a mere few weeks—
And no "normal" person would cry all night over a tiny, unfinished baby,
or get depressed and withdraw day after endless day.
No one would, so why am I?
You were those few weeks my little one you darted in and out of my life too
But it seems that's all the time you needed to make my life so much richer
and give me a small glimpse of eternity.
~By Susan Erling


by Amy Cady (written 3/99)
for Hope (lost 1/10/99)

Please do not ask if I am better now -
Know that I am not.

Please do not simply ask, "How are you?"
I am grieving. My child is dead.

Please do not ask my husband, "How is your wife?"
Comfort HIM.

Please do not say, "Has it already been three months?"
It feels like three years to me.

Please do not make less of my baby's life by saying, "You'll have more."
She was the one I wanted.

Please do not tell me, "Time will heal."
Time is a four-letter word.

Please do not say, "God knows best."
I am angry with God.

Please do not say, "She is in Heaven."
I want her here.

Please do not tell me how great your life is -
I am living a nightmare.

Please do not tell me about someone else's healthy new baby -
It's like a knife through my flat, empty belly.

Please do not say, "You look as if you were never pregnant!"
I WANT to look pregnant. I want to BE pregnant.

Please do not keep silent and not mention her name -
She was real - do you not think so?

Please do not ask, "What do you need?"
I need my baby.

Please do not say, "If there is anything I can do..."
Please just do it. I can't ask.
Please do not ask if I am better now -
You know that I am not.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Our Angel Babies:

Liberty John
Due Date July 4th 2005
Angel Date Nov 15 2004

Elijah Lee
Due Date March 27 2008
Angel Date Sept 7 2007

Eden Sky
Due Date April 2011
Angel Date Aug 2010

Journey Peace
Due Date Nov 29 2011
Angel Date May 2011