As a blogger, I may be compensated in some way (either pay, product, or experience) for sharing the post below All opinions are my own. ~Heidi
When I sat down to consider my blog and what direction(s) I saw it moving in for 2016, I felt very strongly that I needed to resurrect the series that I started back in 2014 on real life experiences. I believe that God allows us to experience difficult situations in our lives so that we can understand and offer help to others in similar situations. By sharing our experiences, we are making connections. So, I hope to share a lot more from-the-heart, been-there-done-that experiences with you this year – some will be my own, but many will be from Guest Bloggers who have agreed to share.
Up first, my sweet friend Valerie . . .
There are many forms of Infant Loss, including miscarriage, ectopic (tubal) pregnancy, preterm birth, stillbirth. For this post, we’ll focus on Preterm Birth.
From the World Health Organization:
Preterm is defined as babies born alive before 37 weeks of pregnancy are completed. There are sub-categories of preterm birth, based on gestational age:
- extremely preterm (<28 weeks)
- very preterm (28 to <32 weeks)
- moderate to late preterm (32 to <37 weeks).
>Every year, an estimated 15 million babies are born preterm (before 37 completed weeks of gestation), and this number is rising.
>Preterm birth complications are the leading cause of death among children under 5 years of age, responsible for nearly 1 million deaths in 2013.
On this very day 26 years ago, I gave birth to a baby girl. A very small, very sick baby girl. It was the day I was exactly twenty-four weeks along in my pregnancy, six months.
Nothing could have prepared me for the journey of the loss of a child. There is no book written with advice on it. And with the birth and death of my baby, I unexpectedly joined a club that no parent wants to be in.
I had gotten pregnant when my firstborn, Megan, was just a year and a half old. Born with Down syndrome, Megan kept my days filled to the brim with her care, but I was excitedly anticipating another baby.
When I was eleven weeks along in the pregnancy, I started spotting. I wasn’t overly concerned, because I knew that sometimes that happens and it doesn’t necessarily mean a dire problem with the pregnancy.
During the next three months, I started bleeding heavily, sometimes huge clots the size of an orange that frightened me immensely. The bleeding came and went, though, apparently with no rhyme or reason. I was in the hospital several times, sometimes overnight, sometimes a few days. I was put on partial bed rest, which was difficult since I had my active toddler, Megan, to care for. But I tried to take it as easy as I could and still keep up with the laundry, cooking, and housework. Later I would think of the day I had washed the kitchen floor, a taxing job, and wondered if it was my stubbornness that caused me to start bleeding again and end up putting our precious unborn baby at risk.
I imagine there’s no end to the self-blame parents carry as a burden for years, thinking back on the situation. At least for a while. It can be any number of things; we try to find a reason for the tragedy, anything we could have done to prevent the eventual loss. And when no one else is to blame, we naturally turn the finger of blame on ourselves.
Only through a lot of prayer, and many years of growth in the Lord, was I able to come to terms with my baby’s death, realize I wasn’t to blame, and accept the fact that sometimes things just happen, for no particular reason at all except to prepare us to be a comfort for someone else going through the same thing in the future.
In the third week of December, 1989, I was bleeding badly enough to be put on total bed rest. I was not to get out of bed except to use the toilet, and to take an occasional shower. There was no way I could take care of Megan, so my husband had to take a leave of absence from his job.
On the 13th of January in the new year, 1990, I started having contractions and was admitted to the hospital. I was miserable, worrying for Megan at home, and for the baby inside me. I could feel the kicks that represented the little life within, so far still safe and protected in my womb. I was given medications to stop the contractions, and had several ultrasounds, which showed that my baby had very little amniotic fluid surrounding her. The diagnosis was abruptio placentae, which is when the placenta starts pulling away from the uterine wall. It meant that my baby was not getting all the oxygen and nourishment needed. The doctors would do their best to keep me from going into labor, to try and prolong the pregnancy as long as possible to give my baby a fighting chance at surviving.
A week later, still in the hospital, on a Friday night, I started having contractions again. The doctor gave me more meds to stop them. It was the highest dose. And when the contractions wouldn’t stop, they told me there was nothing else they could do. I was in full labor.
I was bleeding profusely, and the doctor told me that there was a possibility that they would have to take the baby to save my life. I was so heartbroken and distraught, I called my pastor and his wife, at midnight, waking them to tell them what was happening, share my crisis, and have them pray for me.
A few hours later, I was wheeled down to the delivery room. My husband was called and came immediately after arranging for a babysitter for Megan. The next few hours are a blur, just a sad, devastated blur. I do remember hearing a young girl in the next delivery room screaming and crying out as she labored to deliver her own baby. She didn’t seem to have a family member or friend with her, just the nurses. I prayed for her several times.
On Saturday morning, January 20, 1990, after a pop heard on the monitor from the stethoscope strapped to my abdomen, I couldn’t resist pushing, and with the second push, my baby was born, a baby girl. We named her Bethany Rose. She was whisked away to the NICU within minutes, while the nurses and doctor finished with me. I was very weak, and very worried about my baby.
My husband went to see her in the NICU. After he came back, I was wheeled in to see her. She was so tiny, just one pound and five ounces. I reached my hand in and stroked her tiny leg, talking softly to her. Telling Bethany that Mommy loved her.
And as I was overcome by how small she truly was, how she was so sick and struggling so hard just to live, I was overcome by such grief and heartache, I started crying so hard that I couldn’t even see. The nurse took me back to the delivery room, where our pastor and his wife were, along with my father and his wife.
The neonatal specialist came and talked to us….about options. We needed to know the extent of Bethany’s condition, and decide what to do if she stopped breathing. How far to go to keep her alive. It was a decision no parent ever wants to make for a child. Amid tears and exhaustion, as I hadn’t slept in 24 hours, we talked and decided if she was so sick and struggling, we didn’t want to prolong it for her. Even making that agonizing decision was awful, and even though it was what we decided, I still felt so torn and awful for having decided *that.*
As my husband turned to go tell the doctor our decision, the doctor came into the room to talk to us. To tell us that Bethany had just died. The choice had been taken away from us and had been handled by God. Though I forever wished that she had lived, I believe the Lord knew that had we given our decision to the doctor to withhold extensive life saving measures and then she died, I would have never been able to forgive myself, always questioning, always circling round the what-ifs and if-onlys.
I don’t think I can even convey the horrific grief of learning that Bethany hadn’t made it. My husband and I held each other as gut-wrenching sobs were torn from me, the pain so intense. Our pastor and his wife, as well as my father and his wife, were still there in the room with us. It was only the second time in my life that I have ever seen my father cry.
At some point, I was taken up to a room in the hospital. I don’t remember anything about the rest of that day. But when I awoke and started getting dressed, after having prayed, I began singing hymns of praise to God for his infinite love. I have never felt such a comforting peace settle over my soul as that morning, in that sad moment that I so desperately needed the “peace that passeth all understanding.” God’s love for me, and for Bethany, was a soothing balm to my grief-stricken heart.
I was released from the hospital that day. I went home and hugged my Megan so tightly, ever thankful for the blessing of my 23 month old.
The next morning, I woke with breasts painful and heavy with milk for the baby that I hadn’t come home with. I cried as I took some Tylenol to relieve the pain in my breasts. But there was no pill for the pain in my heart that morning.
We buried Bethany two days later, January 24th, in a cemetery about ten minutes away. It was a private, graveside funeral, with just our pastor and his wife present, along with the funeral home director, who I had known all my life. After a few words and a prayer were spoken, it was time to leave Bethany in her tiny coffin in the frozen earth. At that moment, I felt a grief and sadness so heavy on me, I could barely stand. I didn’t want to leave my baby there. I wanted my baby alive and in my arms to nurse and cherish. But it wasn’t meant to be.
The rest of that week is mostly a blur. I do remember my arms aching for Bethany. I never even got to hold her. That particular thing was a wound I carried for many years. But I did have one blessing: a nurse in the NICU had taken a Polaroid photograph of Bethany and given it to me. Barring my other children, that picture is probably the most precious thing I own.
The Aftermath & How I’m Dealing with It
The next Sunday, I was strong enough to go to church. After being seated, the service began, and one of the women in our small church got up to sing, and she sang “It Is Well With My Soul.”
No song could have spoken to my heart on that very day as that one, simply because it was true. Though my heart was burdened with the raw pain of having lost my child, God loved me. He was still on his throne, and he was still there comforting me and loving me, and….Bethany was with him and resting in the hands of his love, safer than anywhere else she could be. It was well with my soul.
In the years that passed, the grief and heartache lessened. It got easier to think of Bethany and talk about her without breaking down. I do still cry at times; I’m crying right now, remembering it all. But the sadness and grief shift into a solemn acceptance of God’s will, of his perfect plan for our lives. And resting in that warm embrace of God’s peace and love, I can say that even though Bethany Rose died, it truly is well; it is well with my soul.
Valerie Cronin is a mom to 4 children. She and her children lived in MA for 47 years before moving to VA to be with her fiancé and his children 4 years ago. After homeschooling for 18 years, she is currently at home caring for her family and writing two blogs. East Coast Day Shift is about family life, and The Magic Meal Fairy is a cooking/food blog.