When my husband and I decided to start a family, it took nearly nine months for me to get pregnant. I was so excited, so filled with anticipation and hope. Those feelings made it all the more devastating when I found out that I had lost the baby at eight weeks. The doctors and nurses that saw me at the time were decidedly unsympathetic. It was hard to believe that they could be so callous. My world had just turned upside down and I had no one to turn to for advice on what had just happened. For months I felt alone and depressed. I also felt frustrated and jealous of the people around me – it seemed like everyone was getting pregnant and having babies.
Four months later, I was overjoyed to be pregnant again. In December of that year, I received the best gift ever – a healthy baby boy. Almost three years later, our family expanded. This time it was with a beautiful baby girl. We had talked about stopping after that – two seemed right… but the more I thought about, the more I wanted another child in our house. A short time later, I was happily surprised to find myself pregnant yet again. The timing wasn’t ideal – it was during a very stressful time in our lives – but we were committed to making it work.
Once you have a miscarriage, you are never really comfortable during those first few months. When I made it past the first trimester, losing my baby never entered my mind. I took pride in taking care of myself and my babies. I went to all of my doctor’s appointments and took my vitamins. That pregnancy was mirroring my other ones – I gained a lot of weight, developed painful varicose veins, was frequently tired and had several bouts of severe nausea. It was a pretty typical pregnancy for me. As far as anyone knew, everything was normal and my baby was healthy. We found out that our baby was a boy – and an active boy at that! He was a lot more active than my other children were during their pregnancies. How I loved touching my belly to feel his constant kicks and movements! I had no idea how much my world would change on one terrible night in April.
I woke up that night to go to the bathroom and when I didn’t feel him moving, I became nervous. I did all the things you are supposed to do to wake your baby up – drink something cold and sweet, lay on my side and monitor his movements. No matter what I did, he didn’t move. My on-call doctor said it was normal for babies to sleep 45 minutes or so- but after an hour I made the decision to go to the hospital. When the nurse couldn’t find his heart beat, my anxiety spiked. When my doctor confirmed that my baby boy had died, I was completely blindsided…shocked… my whole world seemed to shatter at that very instant. I was 36 ½ weeks pregnant.
We made the decision to name our son Colin. While enduring the 16 hours of labor it would take to deliver him, I would instinctively touch my belly hoping for a miracle. It was then that I would remember – he wasn’t alive. I remember taking my hand away, being angry. I was filled with a sadness that I had never felt before – like I would never be normal again. I would never be happy again. At the time, I thought I was angry at Colin for leaving me…. but I was really just angry at the injustice of it all. I also felt ashamed that my body couldn’t protect my child. I blamed myself and wondered how life in the world could go on now that my son was dead. I wanted to run away, where no one would know me. I didn’t want to see that look of pity on their faces, feeling like a dark cloud was circling over my head. I knew there were babies being born alive all around me and I felt so isolated and alone. I lay in the hospital bed reading pamphlets and books on stillbirth. I am so grateful that the hospital provided them because not only did they give me guidance, but reading other women’s stories made me feel less alone. I realized that this had happened to other people – 1 out of 160 pregnancies. In the midst of my grief, I started to feel a little hope. It would be a very long and hard journey, but maybe there was a chance that life would get better. I had two children at home that were going to be hurting as well and I knew I had to be there for them.
It was over 3 years ago that I delivered and lost my son Colin. He was born on April 17, 2012, weighed 6lbs 3 oz and was 19 inches long. The cause of death was listed as unknown. I can close my eyes and it all comes back to me like it just happened. The memories and emotions are still vivid – they will be ingrained in my mind forever. The way he looked when the doctor placed him in my arms, looking so much like his brother and sister. He was (and is) breathtakingly beautiful and perfect… but was so still and quiet. The short 13 hours I had with him will always be sacred and special to me. I am so grateful for the compassionate staff of doctors and nurses that treated me and provided me with keepsakes from his birth. We were also lucky to meet a volunteer photographer from Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep. She took beautiful photographs of my son that my family and I will always cherish.
Losing my son was absolutely the worst thing that has ever happened to me. For a long time I was stuck on April 17, 2012. It was very hard for me to move forward. Many days I felt obsessed – if only I could go back to before that day. Before tragedy came into my life…. before I was a bereaved parent. It was difficult for me to get used to living with grief and pain every day. My body had been physically and mentally prepared to bring my baby home and there were constant reminders that he was missing. Outside from my family, I had never really asked for anyone’s help before – but I knew I wasn’t going to be able to do this alone. I knew I needed help. Connecting with other bereaved parents was essential to my mental health. I met parents who had lost children several years ago. It gave me hope that they had managed to find joy and happiness again in their lives. We joined a wonderful support group – the MISS Foundation (Mothers in Sympathy and Support). My husband and I attended their meetings religiously every month. The challenge – there were a lot of days in between meetings and some days were so hard I often wondered how I’d make it through the day.
It was especially hard during the first year after Colin. I experienced anxiety wherever I went. You just never know when something will trigger an emotional breakdown. In addition to the support group, I found a therapist who was also a bereaved parent. She would tell me that even though our triggers hurt like knife wounds to the heart, each time it happened I would get stronger ….and she was right.
About a year after Colin passed, and after our beautiful rainbow baby Cooper was born, I was finally able to accept living with grief. Most days I am used to managing the pain- I have never tried to deny it or run away from it. It is now part of who I am. It’s part of how I honor and remember Colin. If I need to cry, I cry. If I want to talk about him, I am pretty lucky that I have many people in my life that will listen to me. But there are never enough people to talk to about my Colin, so I take every opportunity I can to do so. I want people to know and to remember him with me. I also want to raise awareness because stillbirth is more common than people think- about 26,000 babies die each year in the U.S. I find that the more I share, the more I find other parents and/or family members who have experienced something similar. It reminds me that we really are connected.
When I heard about the Loss Momma photo shoot Jade was doing, I knew I had to try and be a part of it. I wanted to do it for myself, Colin, and for all the loss mothers out there. I knew Jade would help bring people together and help us tell our stories in a unique and beautiful way. I never expected it to be as life changing and healing as it was and for that I am tremendously grateful!