Conversations

A friend of mine called me when I was three weeks into the nightmare I now live with every day. Her cousin had just joined the worst club there is, she was now a mama like me. A mother of loss. I instantly felt the need to reach out to her. Going through this is so very hard, and I had already learned that reaching out to others was immensely helpful. I recall being drawn to help her and her family in any way that I could.

When I hadn’t heard anything from her in a few weeks, I didn’t think much of it. Of course she didn’t know me, and she may have not been interested in opening up about the worst day of her life to a complete stranger. Three weeks later, her cousin, my friend, assisted in getting us into contact, and I’m so thankful she did.

A few days ago, she finally reached out to me. I recall before we spoke, thinking how lucky she was. Yes, she lost her sweet baby girl, and that’s the most terrible thing in the world. But, I felt as though she was more fortunate than I. Because she is still a momma after this, she has two boys at home to love on. I had assumed that would be better than what I have, my empty arms, childless. I had assumed wrong.

Once I got to talk with her, it was clear to me how very sweet she was. She talked with me about her struggles, and I shared both my struggles, and what I have learned in the time I’ve been grieving. She prayed for me over the phone in the deepest, most endearing way. I told her about all the scenarios at which people had changed my perspective, and what my views were on how to handle what we were going through, as it really does change you. Then, she had her own hand at changing my views.

We spoke about how terrible it is to go through something like this. I told her at first, how angry I was at God, and how I had really questioned my faith. After all, what kind of God would ever intentionally put someone through what we’re suffering through? In the calmest tone, she said to me “our God doesn’t want this” he soothing words washed over me as if I had been submerged in waves of relief. I believe she is right, she said “We live in a fallen world. This is why this happens; he didn’t do this to us”

My questions in faith had been immediately answered. This wasn’t the plan from the beginning. My miracle was, but his death was not. My little Skylar was meant to be, but I don’t believe God meant for this to happen to him. I was supposed to hold him as he cried when he was born. I was supposed to see his eyes open. I was supposed to watch him grow up. This fallen world took him from me, so on the bad days that I wish to no longer be here, I am not to blame.

We then discussed how difficult it was, the physical and emotional pain. How hard it was to deal with people again, and how hard it is for her to explain to her sons why their little sister is gone. In the time before I spoke with her, I had assumed everything was easier because she still had babies to hold. I recall the moment she mentioned how she told her boys, my stomach leapt into my throat, and cold chills covered my body. How difficult it must have been, explaining what happened to two small children. How terrible it must have been, to see their reactions and answer their questions. My heart instantly broke for her all over again.

Talking about my sweet boy always brings me so much joy. I love to tell people how beautiful he was. When I asked about her sweet girl, she spoke of her with such grace. Hearing someone else speak about their baby that’s now gone was so different, because for once it wasn’t me. Though it is sad, she spoke of her with such unconditional love. How lucky that little girl was, to have this very woman as her mommy. A mother’s love really is breathtaking. I recall feeling so grateful, that this complete stranger had opened up to me about such a raw hurt. Her words brought tears to my eyes for a whole different reason. I was in awe of this woman I had never met.

Just before we ended our phone conversation, she asked me a few questions about my experience of being a mother of loss. I recall telling her how very sad I am, and that God could have easily just said “no” to me, when I asked to be blessed with a baby. She asked me one simple question that changed everything in my heart. She said “If you could go back in time, and change everything, would you? Would you have never gotten pregnant?” She already knew what my answer would be.

The truth is, I would do it all over again. I would go through labor, I would lose my boy, I would see his little heart on that ultrasound screen motionless. I would do it all. In fact, even if I knew it could be worse. I would go through a much longer labor, worse pain; I would endure so very much worse if I had to. Because, I got to see how absolutely beautiful our baby could be. I got to feel the flutters of little hands and feet in my belly for months. I got to know what it’s like to love someone more than yourself.

I would do it all over again, just to see his face. I would endure it all, just to put his little fingers around mine one more time.

In the hour that we spoke, my heart had been healed so much. I find so much comfort in people giving me their perspective, and allowing their opinions to change my heart. My only hope is that through our conversation, I may have helped her as much as she helped me. Because, that was why I wanted to reach out to her in the first place.

 

Relationships 

When tragedy strikes your life, it’s amazing, the reactions you get from those around you. Some relationships grow, and others fall. I’ve noticed that some people embrace you, fighting tears for your sake, and wish you well. Often, people will offer to help you in any way they can. Others, don’t know what to say.
If it takes a village to raise a child, imagine the hurt that follows, when that very child is lost. My village is hurting, just as I am. Michael and I have become so humbled at the large amount of outpouring love we’ve seen over the past month since we lost our sweet baby boy. I’m in awe of the people in my life. However, some people have disappeared.

Where there are relationships that have grown, others have dwindled. Some people that were so very close to me, have become ghosts. Some acquaintances now, won’t even speak to me. At first, I understood the change, I understood the hesitation to come to me in comfort as so many had. I had assumed it was just hard for them. But, as time goes on, it seems to hurt worse.

I am grateful for the friends I have, the people that brought us food, the friends that came to sit and cry with me when I needed it. Some even go out of their way, just to make me laugh. There are some that I’ve grown closer with, friends that reach out to me often, to be sure I’m okay. I am so fortunate for the people that have stayed by my side. I just can’t help but wonder, about the people that have disappeared, and why.

But, I’ve never had trouble letting go. My parents had always found such humor in my lack of tolerance for things. I’ve never had time for those who would turn their backs on me. Life is too short, and no one who has been given the power to hurt me and does, will ever be given that power again. I’ve always been so careful to never hurt someone’s feelings, because you never know what others are going through. Therefore, if someone is hurtful, I have trouble coming back from it, what if there was something I was going through? What if I needed them?

When tragedy strikes your life, it is never expected. Imagine being in an argument with close friends just as it happens. People that were so close to you, people you told everything to, suddenly decided they were no longer there for you when you did nothing wrong. Imagine your closest friends no longer speaking to you for weeks, and you having no idea why. Then, being told your baby’s heart was no longer beating.

Imagine the shock. Have you ever lost something dear to you, even just for a moment? You turn around in the grocery store and realize your kiddo is missing. Maybe you walk into your backyard and notice your furry best friend is gone. Or maybe someone calls and says your mother is sick. How does that feel? When your heart skips a beat, when your stomach instantly knots so hard that it sends bile into your throat. In panic, maybe you can’t breathe, maybe you can’t speak, maybe you can’t stand, or walk.

What do you do?

After the ultrasound tech said those words that echo in every nightmare I’ve had sine it happened, “there’s no heartbeat”. She asked if there was anyone she could call for me, if I needed my phone. I didn’t know how to tell Skylar’s Daddy, my husband, that his baby was gone. I knew I must tell my mama in person, as she would not handle it well. Who else, did I want to speak with, she asked.. I wanted my friends.

Imagine how that feels. Imagine sitting in a dark ultrasound room alone, as the ultrasound tech went to get the doctor. Imagine sitting there, looking at your son on the screen, but not being able to touch your stomach like you always used to, because of how angry you are. You’ve failed the one person you loved more than life itself. Imagine how hard it is to breathe.

Imagine, once you get home from the hospital, and you announce to the world how your life has suddenly turned so dark. Imagine hearing from everyone, even the ones that were angry at you. But, some don’t reach out. Some, are invited to a friends house to help you feel better, but don’t show. Some coworkers avoid you in the hall at work, and haven’t said a word to you since you’ve returned.

I try to not be resentful. I try to understand. But sometimes, when I look back on these relationships, it is hard. When I find it bringing me down, I turn to the friends that have grown closer since. The people that reach out to me to be sure I’m okay. I turn to the friends I’ve had for years that I’ve grown so much closer with over the last month. Of course, I’ve lost so much, but I’m always sure to look at how much I’ve gained.

I am fortunate. There are so many remarkable people in my life, and everything I’ve been through has only made me stronger. I have a wonderful family, and an incredible husband who was there for me through it all. Maybe the ones that can’t spend time with me right now are just struggling. I’m always careful, you never know what others are going through.

Compassion

In the years that followed graduating high school, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. That is, until a woman I now call my grandmother insisted I belong in the medical field. My ‘grandma’ who is of no blood relation to me, had been an RN for years. I valued her opinion far more than others, as she knows me sometimes better than I know myself.
Instantly, I knew I must try my luck within a local doctors office, as I trusted my grandmother and her opinion. After all, she has claimed me as her own for years, and loves me even though she has no obligation to. I am so lucky to have her. But, the story of our relationship is for another day. 

I have now worked in the medical field for over six years. When my grandma mentioned how good I would do in this line of work, she spoke of it with such joy and excitement. I had worked at the doctors office for less than a month and knew she was right. I now work at a different office, and have changed roles through the years, but my feelings have never changed. I belong in a place where I can help people, where I can put my compassion to good use. 

On a rainy day in June, I was released from the hospital. My beautiful son had been born sleeping early that morning. As requested, my doctors allowed me to go home as soon as they knew I would be okay. I had lost so much that day, but there were also so many things I had gained. 

I was in the hospital for 36 hours, and in labor for 20. I met many people in my time there. So many came to love on us, care for us, and offer their help in what would be the roughest day of our lives. The nurses assigned to my care were remarkable. I often think of them now, and how grateful for them I am. I strongly believe that the only reason I made it through this nightmare was because of them, and their compassion. 

At this hospital, they have a nurse that specializes in cases like mine. She only visits with women like me, who will go home empty handed. I recall, at my doctors appointment when they told me my baby boy was gone, they didn’t want me to leave until I spoke with her. My, how badly I wanted to leave, I needed my husband. But, I’m glad they persisted. I remember thinking to myself, how could anyone want to do what she does? How could she handle this? I remember asking her this, though I don’t recall her response. I then remember telling her how much of a blessing she was. She was there for me from the moment my world turned upside down. Her name is Bonnie. 

I had to go home and wait until the hospital had a room for me. It would be over 12 hours. Once the hospital called, at 4:21 the next morning, Michael and I headed for the hospital. I was admitted an hour later, and who else would be there, but sweet Bonnie. She came in early that day, just for me. The entire time I was there, I remember feeling such relief every time she walked into our room. She helped us with everything from funeral arrangements, to the labor process. She made everything seem so much less scary.

She wasn’t the only nurse that helped me through the roughest days of my life, there were several more. I remember thinking about the ladies that helped me, and what they must have been going through. Their jobs were usually filled with joy, as they often welcomed little lives into the world every day. How hard it must have been, to walk into my room, and feel so much sorrow. My, how much they saw me cry. 

Talking with my family about my time in the hospital, I continue to learn about things the nurses had done for my family members, not just myself. Food, blankets, socks, one even got my little brother urine specimen cups and saline syringes for his contacts. Not only am I grateful for everything they did for me, but I feel so much relief when I know my family was taken care of, as well. I spent so much of my time worrying about them, and how miserable it must have been to spend so much time there, just for me. 

As each one of the nurses left me for the last time before I left for home, they all hugged me so sincerely. They all wished me so well, each one hurting for me. I’ve since gotten a card signed by them all in the mail. They did several other things I’m so grateful for, they did clay castings of our boys hands and feet, and got locks of his hair. They were phenomenal people. I feel so fortunate to have been cared for by every one of them. They are the reason I made it through it all.

I recall holding the clay casting of Skylar’s foot, as we pulled out of the parking lot. My eyes, so swollen, burning, and exhausted that crying no longer seemed possible. I remember thinking about sweet Bonnie, and all the things she had done for us to try to make this easier, like the clay I held in my hand, an exact replica of the toes I had dreamt about kissing, but never did. 

In that moment, I didn’t cry with the idea that we were going home empty handed. I didn’t weep at the thought that we were leaving our son in that hospital, or what might have been. I didn’t dwell on the fact that in the car behind us, a couple fought about getting their new baby into the car, and didn’t know how lucky they were. The only thing that went through my mind was Bonnie, and how deeply I felt I needed to do for others, what she had done for me.

I want to help mommies like me.

I want to be a nurse. 

I’m starting school in October, and helping women like me is what I was supposed to do with my life. 

Sometimes

Sometimes, in the very moment you’re struggling, god sends you someone, or something, to remind you of how strong you are. He reminds you that you’ve been through so much, and he reminds you that he is in control. Sometimes, you must listen.

After losing our boy, I returned to work quickly. I had been back to work for exactly one week, and had been doing so well. However, this particular morning, I was not. Grief is like the ocean. At times, the water is calm, and breathing is easy. Others, you are hit with wave upon wave of drowning, breathtaking emotion without warning.

On this Wednesday morning, as I’m sitting at my desk fighting tears because something had triggered me, I was trying to pull myself together, trying to weather the wave I was just hit with. As I took a large number of deep breaths, I start listening to my surroundings, searching for a distraction. I hear a conversation about a family going through the process of adoption. Something tells me to get up, and intrude. I must hear about their story, how they got where they are, this is something I’ve been interested in for years. I must know. Without hesitation, I rise.

I ask the family if they feel comfortable telling me how they’ve gotten where they are. How hard has it been?

The mother begins to tell me about their deep need for an addition to their family. They have a daughter, and she is also a mother of loss. Three years ago, she lost her second daughter at birth. She is also the mother of a baby born sleeping. She then moves on to tell me about how the adoption process proceeds, as I swallow the lump in my throat. She sees my eyes welling up, the look of concern and interest on her face.

“I lost my son three weeks ago. I was 36 weeks.”

Her hands rise to her mouth in shock. I see you mama, you know where I am. You feel for me on such a different level than everyone else. How cruel is it that I find such comfort in those that know my story because they’ve been there.

We begin to exchange our stories. The remarkable similarities comfort me, until we connect on a much higher level. We share the things we do to remember our babies, I mention my tattoo, and she mentions they’ve just celebrated their sweet girls third birthday. She mentions the date. Until now, I had been so proud of myself for containing my composure. Until that very second, I didn’t know our babies had the same birthday. My tears keep me from being able to form words. Instead, I expose the now healed tattoo on my right collarbone, his name and birthdate now visible.

Of course, in the conclusion of our conversation, we exchange contact information. As they leave, I can’t help but think to myself, how remarkable that was, how I needed to talk with someone in that very moment.

I’ve learned that there are no coincidences, there are only reminders.

Brown Recliner

In this brown recliner I bought at a garage sale, I weep. Holding a tiny light brown teddy bear, and a soft white blanket with my sons name printed all over it in blue and gray, I weep. These being the few sentimental items from my hospital stay just weeks ago. This, the blanket he was wrapped in when we said goodbye, and the bear the hospital gave us after they took pictures of them together.

This recliner, in the corner of the nursery I put together with so much hope and joy. I look at the clouds my mama and I painted on the wall, my baby’s name was Skylar, it all seemed so perfect. I follow the clouds on the wall until my eyes fall onto the corner shelves my daddy helped me hang. On them, a framed picture of my first ultrasound, a willow figurine of a mother and father with their new baby, and a small wooden box that now holds my precious baby boys ashes. 

I sit here sobbing in this brown recliner. The recliner I planned to spend countless hours and late nights in, rocking my baby boy, my Skylar. I remember sitting in it for the first time. How I tested it to be sure it was just perfect, proper swivel, rock, and reclining were all necessary. On a hot summers day I tested this chair at an older gentlemen’s driveway garage sale, boasting to him about how my sweet husband and I were having a baby boy in just a few short weeks. I’ve never been so proud or excited in all my days. 

It’s funny, how you get so much advice from even strangers about how becoming a new mom will be. Most will tell you how hard it is, how tired you’ll be, how your life is over. You’ll never have time alone again, you’ll never sleep again. Some will tell you to enjoy every second you have, because babies are miracles, and they grow so fast. Not one person warned me that my life could literally shatter in an instant. No one mentioned that I could be sent home from the hospital empty handed. Now I weep in a brown recliner in a nursery I have no need for. Wishing I had my baby boy in my arms. My, what I wouldn’t give to suffer exhaustion at the will of my beautiful boy. I would give anything in the world to hear him cry.

If I could give the world advice. It would be to never say negative things about motherhood to a pregnant woman, or her family. There is no possible way to know what they are about to be put through. Think about your words. Do you want them to echo in her mind? Your statements of negativity about your sweet baby. 

I read something recently that said “the love of a parent of loss is so much greater”. 

Love your babies. You never know who might be wishing they had them. 

You never know how lucky you are.

Not Just a Memory

On my way home from the hospital after the appointment that will forever be known as the worst day of my life, I remember thinking, “I can’t do this.” A little voice in the back of my mind reminded me that I am strong, but I didn’t believe it. ”I can’t do this. I’m not strong enough.”

I was alone, sent home to wait; as the hospital did not have any bed’s available for me. It had been less than an hour since I had been told that our son no longer had a heartbeat. It had become very real in my mind that I was going to give birth, and in the following days my first son would be born sleeping.  Stillborn is still a term I cannot swallow.

I was alone with my thoughts, in 5 o’clock traffic.

My previously less than flawless faith was being questioned. How could HE do this to me? Why do I deserve this? How would anyone deserve this? These questions soon migrated to something a little deeper. How can I use this? I was given this for a reason. I can use this to help someone. How can I help someone?

“I can’t do this.” However, looking back now, I did. I gave birth to the most beautiful little boy I’ve ever seen, and then made funeral arrangements for him. I was in the hospital, in labor for twenty hours, but went home childless. Here I am, less than three weeks later, writing about our story without snot-smearing ugly-crying.

I did it. Less than three weeks ago, and I can’t shake this feeling that I’m supposed to do something with it. This story isn’t supposed to be just a memory, and I’m not supposed to just remember. I can connect with so many people that are hurting so bad. What a terrible club to be in, those of us that have lost. Loss is also a term I have trouble with.

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