First, I want to thank you all for coming out and celebrating the lives of your precious babies that were taken too soon. For some of you this is a walk you do every year, for others this is your first. For those of you here today for the first time I am sure you were a nervous wreck this morning, and every day for this past week leading up to today were hard. I am sure you had a knot in the pit of your stomach and wondered how you were going to keep it together. I am even more certain that today is something you never wanted to do. It is something you never imagined would be on your calendar year after year after year. I know these things because 7 years ago I was in your shoes. I felt those same emotions. I wasn’t able to keep it together and the good news is, you don’t have to either!
In order to get where you want to go, you must first identify where you are right now.
John Pierpont Morgan said "The first step towards getting somewhere is to decide that you are not going to stay where you are."
John Pierpont Morgan said "The first step towards getting somewhere is to decide that you are not going to stay where you are."
Where I am today isn’t even close to where I was 8 years ago. Let me share with you our beautiful, painful, but oh so worth it journey!
February 9th, 2009 was a normal day at work until I took 2 different pregnancy tests that revealed to me I was indeed pregnant. I had had my suspicions but those two little pink lines confirmed it. I went the entire day thinking of how to tell my husband. I knew he wasn’t going to be excited because this wasn’t planned. I wasn’t even sure if I was excited.
After telling Dan that I was pregnant we both were quiet for quite some time. We took the time we needed to process everything that was happening. How our lives were going to change. I stressed over not having a big enough place to live and that Dan was currently on unemployment. How were we going to make it work? I didn’t know how all of it was going to fall in to place, I just knew it would.
I had the perfect pregnancy. I was sick in the beginning but it subsided. I was in amazement that there was a human life growing inside of me. I prayed for my baby every single day. I wrote to my baby in a journal I kept beside my bed. I was thankful for the blessing because I knew that all children were blessings from God. I was about to become a mom for the first time and although I was scared, I was excited.
Routine doctor appointments showed that our baby was developing at a normal rate. My blood tests came back great and I didn’t show any indicators of having anything go wrong. I had never been pregnant before so when I was getting that beautiful baby bump so early, I didn’t think anything of it. By the time I was 20 weeks pregnant I looked as if I was almost full term. People would even joke I was pregnant with twins. We quickly shut them down because all of our ultrasounds and Doppler readings only showed one heart beat. I knew there was only one baby in there!
Dan and I drove separately to the big 20 week ultrasound because he needed to take our son, Shane, who was Dan’s from a previous marriage, to school that morning. Shane came to live with us permanently just 2 months before because his mom passed away. It was all new to us and even more for us to figure out. But we were figuring it out together. As I waited and prayed for my bladder to not explode and me to not pee everywhere it was hard to contain my excitement. I needed to know if our baby was a boy or a girl. Dan knew he was a boy…so he says. I wanted our baby to be a girl since we had our son Shane and I grew up with 6 brothers. I had had enough of boys! I needed someone on my side wearing pink!
As I lay on the bed with the U/S tech to my right and Dan sitting in the chair at the foot of the bed he asked the tech how many babies were in there because he thought he saw her type the number 2. She laughed and said, nope, just 1.
As the U/s continued the tech in training seemed to be having trouble with getting the images needed, or so she said. At that time they brought in another, more experienced tech so she could get what the doctor needed. At that point we were told we were having a baby BOY! Yes, my husband was right, although I don’t like to admit it. He finally broke a smile and showed some excitement. Shane was going to have a brother to play in the dirt with, climb trees with, and become best friends with.
As the techs finished up we were told they were going to make sure the radiologist was happy with all of their images and they would be back to let us know shortly. Because we thought everything was ok Dan left to take Shane his book bag that he forgot in in the car on the way to school. Within 3 minutes of Dan leaving in come the two techs and the radiologist. He cut right to the chase. “Ma’am, you are pregnant with twins but there is a caveat.” I was in shock. My hand instantly moved over my belly like I was going to protect not one, but two of my babies. I was told that I had one twin that looked normal and healthy and another one that was developing as tissue and wasn’t viable. My world stopped. In that moment I was broken. Completely broken. I was scared and alone. From there I was told to head directly to my OB’s office and she would be waiting for us. I went home to get Dan and frantically I informed him we had to go. On the way I was able to explain, through the tears, what I had learned.
Our wonderful OB was there, waiting for us just as I was told. We talked about so much, about options and about how my care was going to be transferred to a high risk doctor and I had an appointment the next day.
Our appointment on June 2nd, 2009 is one I will never forget. Our new doctor was cold, hard, and abrasive. I was just told one of my babies was going to die outside of the womb and he didn’t provide any comfort. Instead, he asked me to have an abortion. I couldn’t catch my breath. I couldn’t believe what I had just been asked. No, absolutely not. These were my babies and I wouldn’t terminate my pregnancy. My 2nd option was to let nature take its course. If we did that we would have about a 30% chance of survival of our “pump” twin as they so kindly referred to him as. Lastly, I was given the option to have an umbilical cord oblation and that would require me to be transported to Cincinnati. I wasn’t able to get in for over a week. I was left waiting with a heart full of worry and a mind I couldn’t shut off. The heartache was deep inside of my soul. I never knew one could love so deeply and be so hurt by that same immense amount of love.
On June 7th I woke up to a small amount of blood in my shorts. Dan and I rushed over to the ER and we were escorted to labor and delivery. Upon arrival my cervix was checked and it was still closed. I was able to hear my sweet baby boy’s heart beat on the Doppler. My blood pressure started to go back down to normal. As I got up to go to the bathroom I noticed that I had peed a little, or so I thought. The nurses came in and wiped it up like nothing ever happened.
I was sent home that evening to lie on the couch and get to Cincinnati the next morning. They were upping my surgical appointment so that my babies would have a fighting chance. Around 11 pm that night my husband asked, for the 50th time, if he could take me back to the hospital. I had been having contractions but wouldn’t admit it. I was still peeing my pants, or so I thought. On the way to the hospital, which was a 7 minute drive I had 9 contractions. They were coming hard and piggybacking off one another.
Once I was put in the Non-Stress test room, yes, the one you are all familiar with, the nurses checked and realized I wasn’t peeing myself, I was leaking amniotic fluid. I could see the worry on their faces but no one was talking. I was only 21 weeks 3 days pregnant. My babies wouldn’t survive outside of my body. My body was failing them.
It was just moments later when my water broke and I knew my babies were going to die. My husband did the best he could to reassure me that everything was going to be ok. I cried out to him that it wasn’t going to be ok. The amount of fluid and blood that came out of my body was so bad that my husband asked me to not look. I was then transferred to our regular room where I suffered through the contractions, one by one. As family started to arrive the contractions just keep getting worse. No pain meds, no epidural, nothing. When I think of cruel and unusual punishment I think of having to deliver your baby knowing that when you do, your baby will die. It is the worst experience anyone can ever endure.
June 8th 2009 at 5:37 am I delivered Quinton. From pictures I know that he had 7 toes, and looked completely healthy from the torso down. Quinton was born as an A-Cardiac (meaning no heart) twin with TRAPS syndrome. His amniotic fluid was being pumped in to his brother and his brother would reverse it back out in to him keeping him alive and growing. For some reason the medical staff decided it was a good idea to not let me see Quinton. To put him in a mauve colored puke basin, cover him with a towel and remove him from my room. I never once was able to touch my son, kiss him, or hold him next to my heart.
Just 13 short minutes later Denton was born. At first I didn’t want to hold my son. I didn’t want to face the reality that he wasn’t going to make it. As I hear my husband ask our doctor if she can save him I hear her tell him there’s nothing they can do. Denton was born with a beating heart but his lungs weren’t developed enough to allow him to take his first breath. When I finally chose to hold my son I noticed he was perfect. He was tiny. Denton was 15 ounces. He had 10 toes and 10 fingers. His pinkie finger was crooked just like his dad and his brother Shane’s. I could see the unibrow he was going to have….you know, just like his Dad and brother! I could see his heart pounding so hard through his chest. 17 minutes after Denton was born he passed away in my arms. That was the last time I saw him.
I never got another chance because as my sons had just died I too was fighting for my life. My blood pressure had dropped to 50/80 and I couldn’t deliver my placenta and it was starting to tear. That’s when I met Kristin and was introduced to Tiny Purpose. I remember Kristin coming in, getting really close to my face and talking to me. I remember I couldn’t talk back because I had the oxygen mask on. I was so sick. What I remember most is the smell of coffee on Kristin’s breath as she tried to comfort me and cried with me. I didn’t get a chance to interact with Kristin or be in any of her pictures she took. I was bleeding out and I had to be rushed in to surgery. I was kept in the hospital for 5 days and received 3 blood transfusions. I am so thankful for those of you who donate blood to help save the lives of people like me!
I share my story with you because sharing my story reminds me and everyone else that my sons were real. That they mattered then just as much as they matter now. That I am a different person because they existed. Sharing my story with all of you also lets you know that you aren’t alone. You aren’t alone in any of this. I wasn’t alone either!
It is because of organizations such as Tiny Purpose why I am able to stand here today and share this pain, heartache and ugly reality that so many of us have lived and are currently living. Tiny Purpose came in to my life at my most vulnerable time. Alaina, Renee and Kristin were strangers to me, yet they knew my deepest and darkest pain.
I am thankful for Tiny Purpose for so many reasons. I want to encourage you, if you haven’t, to reach out to Tiny Purpose. Let them come and invade your personal space. You won’t be sorry.
I challenge you to allow this to happen so you too, can walk through the stages of grief. I’m not going to lie, there were times I had to be dragged through these stages kicking and screaming, but I got there. Sometimes I would pitch a tent and stay in the camp of pain & guilt. Sometimes I would make great progress and other days I would slide right pack in to Anger! It was slow, it wasn’t easy, but it was worth it.
Today I would like to journey through the different stages of grief together.
The first stage of Grief is Shock and Denial. You may not want to deal with your loss because you want to avoid the pain. You may feel like you have it all under control. I promise you, that one day, sooner or later, your grief will catch up with you. It will wait and when you are least expecting it you and your grief will come face to face. It is going to be painful, it is going to hurt like hell, but I promise you, it is worth it! You are worth it!
The 2nd stage of grief is Pain & Guilt
After the initial shock of losing Denton and Quinton wore off I found myself blaming myself for what happened. If only I had been married when I got pregnant, if only I had lost more weight before we conceived, there were too many if onlys to count. My biggest one was, and still is, that my body failed me. My body was made, by God, to conceive, carry and deliver babies. My body was supposed to do its job and it failed!
My husband once said to me, “At least you have someone to blame!” He was referring to God. Little did he know, I blamed myself!
Maybe you blame God and maybe someone has told you that you are wrong for doing so, please hear me when I tell you that you are NOT wrong! God is bigger than the blame, He hears you, He loves you, and He is grieving with you, because you are worth it!
The 3rd stage of grief is Anger & Bargaining
I found myself tolerating a whole lot less. My patience was worn thin and everything I had left to give was broken. I was angry. I was angry at the world and I was mad at God. Although I didn’t blame Him, I was mad at him for allowing it to happen. I was mad he didn’t perform a miracle and save my twins.
Maybe you find yourself making promises to God. Maybe you tell him you won’t ever think badly of anyone ever again if he would just bring your precious baby back. I know I did!
Relationships were damaged, some beyond repair, due to anger. Was my anger justified, absolutely! And so is yours. I challenge you to allow yourself to feel the anger. Don’t try to fight it, don’t try and cover it up. You need to be able to work through it to get through it. The ones who love you will still be there, waiting, with open arms. Because you are worth it!
As you move through the stages of the Grieving process, Stage 4 is Depression, Reflection and Loneliness. Have you ever laid in bed next to someone and felt completely alone? I took my maternity leave after Denton and Quinton were born. I wasn’t able to sleep and I was becoming more and more depressed. I was spending a lot of time alone. Whether it was alone in my thoughts and feelings or physically removing myself from situations that involved other people.
Your friends and family may think, some may even say, that you should be moving on with your life. Some may tell you that you need to get over it. It is hurtful and not true. You don’t have to get over it, and you will never get over it. You just learn to cope. When that flood of sadness hits you, please know that you are normal. That what you are feeling, is normal. But please, don’t ignore it!
This is the time in your journey that you truly understand the magnitude of your loss. And you may even realize that just because it is the worst thing in your life, it isn’t the worst thing in someone else’s. People will want to “Encourage you out” of this depression. You may want to punch them in the face, and that’s ok. This isn’t something you can be talked out of and you need to know, that is ok. That you are ok, and you will be ok. And that OK may look differently for you than it did me. Did you know that when you hurt, Jesus hurts with you? He hurts with you because to Him you are worth it!
The 5th stage of grief is referred to as the Upward Turn. This is the time when you are adjusting to your new normal. You are learning how to live with the loss of your baby. You are starting to integrate yourself back in to your old life. But you realize that your old life included your baby, so you have to create a new identity. For me, this came in the form of returning to work. I knew I was throwing myself in to the wolf den because people would start to ask questions. I was pregnant when I left, and not when I returned. Because I worked through the other parts of my journey I was able to adjust. My depression lightened and I began to smile again. But this didn’t mean my work was done. Jesus never lets us feel complacent. You know why, because we are worth it!
Stage 6 is Reconstruction & Working Through. As your life returns back to its new normal, or your new normal, you will find yourself being more realistic about life. During this time in your journey you start seeking realistic solutions to the problems that have come because your baby is no longer here. You start to feel like your sanity has returned. This is when my husband felt like the person he fell in love with was back to her old, but new self. Maybe your marriage or relationship suffered, or ended, because the overwhelming stresses of having your baby die was too much. Maybe family relationships and friendships were broken or bent just a little too far. This is when you will decide if you want to repair them or walk away. I’m so thankful that Jesus lets us makes those decisions, because He thinks we are worth it!
Finally, we arrive at Stage 7 of the grief journey. Stage 7 is when acceptance and hope come alive. You have learned through the last 6 stages how to deal with the reality of your situation. Don’t confuse acceptance with instant happiness. You will never return to the carefree, untroubled, blindly optimistic person you once were. That person is gone. But this new person that has risen from the ashes is even more beautiful, even more strong, and even more put together. She knows how to love deeper than she ever imagined possible. She knows that it can all be taken away so she doesn’t take anything or anyone for granted. She learns to extend grace to others who may be facing similar situations, and she also learns to accept and expect grace to be given to her!
Acceptance for me was knowing that I didn’t do anything wrong. Knowing that it could have happened to anyone and being thankful I didn’t have to walk this journey alone.
You may start to dream about the future again. Maybe you start thinking of trying to have another baby. My husband and I were told to wait at least 6 months, so we waited a year before we decided to try again.
For some of you this is a real possibility, but for some this dream never comes true and you ask Jesus to put a new dream in your heart. When you think of your baby you will be able to remember them without the pain you once felt. You will still be sad, but you can smile now through the tears. Your joy will start to return. And you may start to feel guilty because you feel happy. This is normal! You are normal!
My hope rests in the fact that I know, without a doubt, that one day I will see my precious sons again. I know they are in heaven and that one day my arms will be full. Jesus tells us in John 16:22-23 that
A woman has pain in childbirth because her time has come; but when she brings forth her child, she forgets her anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. 22So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. 23In that day you will no longer ask Me anything. Truly, truly, I tell you, whatever you ask the Father in My name, He will give you.…
Because of this, my faith in Jesus, I know my Joy will fully be restored because WE ARE WORTH IT!
My hope looks like my 2 children living at home. Shane, my son from my husband’s first marriage, is a living miracle. My hope is affirmed when I look at his face and know that he was spared by God at just 26 weeks gestation. My hope is restored when I look at my daughter Sophie, who is 6, and I see all the obstacles she has overcome to get to where she is today. See, just because Jesus gave me the opportunity to have another baby, it didn’t mean it wouldn’t come without its challenges. Soph was born with a rare genetic syndrome that we have done battle with for the last 6 years and that we will continue to battle for the rest of her life. She is my other miracle.
Wherever you are today on your grief journey know that you aren’t alone. Take a look around, you are surrounded by people who know your pain, people who live with the same pain you feel on a day to day basis. You are surrounded by people who understand your journey. Your journey may not look like theirs, but they know and they are there for you, just as Tiny Purpose and the men and women I have met because of them have been there for me. Don’t try and do this alone, you won’t succeed. You will get discouraged. Let us, let Tiny Purpose, come in and love you, you won’t regret it!
I want to leave you with this quote:
“You will lose someone you can’t live without, and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly—that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.”
― Anne Lamott
― Anne Lamott