There are two areas that are still really hard for me to talk about with regards to Ginny’s death and my grief. This shows I still have work to do to process my feelings. Both areas are related to regret. In grief, some of the darkest spirals come in the forms of “what if’s” and “should of’s”. Theres no way of knowing what would have happened if we had done something differently. In reality, we made the decisions that we thought were best based on the information we had at the time. With some of the hard decisions, we made the only decisions we could handle.
The first of these hard topics is wishing we could’ve saved Ginny before it was too late. This starts at my 34 week prenatal appointment when the midwife said my belly was measuring small. She scheduled us for a growth ultrasound for 4 days later. Why didn’t she send us to get the ultrasound immediately? Why didn’t we insist on that? Knowing what we know now about how that ultrasound clinic works, we definitely could’ve gotten an ultrasound that day. Of course we don’t know if that ultrasound would’ve led to the doctors to induce me, send me for an emergency c-section, or do nothing. But if they did deliver her, Ginny could be here.
I rack my brain over and over again thinking about the weekend after that 34 week appointment. Did her movement decrease and I didn’t realize? Did I even know what baby movement feels like compared to contractions? I remember thinking she had slowed down on that Friday night, so I did kick counts. She passed the kick count in 5 minutes, so I felt reassured. I remember feeling like maybe she wasn’t moving as much on Sunday morning, but we had to get to our childbirth class and I didn’t have time for a kick count. Daniel and I quickly listened to her heartbeat and went to the class (I felt her move while in the class and felt better). I should’ve taken the time to do the kick counts or just gone straight to labor and delivery if something felt off. But I convinced myself that I was just feeling paranoid because the midwife said I was measuring small. If I truly thought she was in danger, I would’ve gone to the hospital. I really believed that nothing bad would happen. I thought she was meant to live; I thought she would be fine and healthy. How I wish I could go back and rush to labor and delivery and give birth to her before it was too late! But again, there’s no way of knowing what would’ve happened. She may have died during delivery or in the NICU, or she could’ve lived. None of that’s what happened, and there is no way to change the past. I need to make peace with knowing we did what we thought was best with what we knew.
The second tough area is related to decisions we made about Ginny’s body. While I was in labor with her, we had so many hard decisions to make. We had to decide if we wanted an autopsy, tests on her placenta, MRI, bloodwork. On top of those, we also had to decide what to do with her body. We could have her cremated by the hospital – it was the simplest option, but we wouldn’t get her ashes. We could coordinate for a funeral home to either cremate her or bury her. That would likely be expensive, or we might be able to get an organization or funeral home to help with the costs. Would we have a funeral or memorial service for her? I had to make all these decisions while in painful labor, knowing that birthing and holding my child’s dead body was ahead of me. The thought of coordinating anything was too much for me or Daniel to even fathom at that moment. As much as I would have wanted to give her a memorial, most all of our families were across the country, and it felt like too much to ask them to come. We knew we weren’t going to be in North Carolina forever, so burying her there didn’t seem right. Daniel and I had long before talked about how neither of us cared what happened to our bodies after we died. So we both agreed to have the hospital cremate her. We were both good with that decision. But as months went on and I heard more and more stories of stillbirths, I never heard of anyone who made that same decision. It seems everyone else has their baby’s ashes or a burial spot and headstone. Were we bad parents to make that decision? Would people think we didn’t love her? I’ve had people ask about what we did with her body, and some people seem shocked or sad to know we didn’t bury her. One person even questioned my decision, “Aww you don’t even have her ashes? It would be so good if you had her ashes.” – as if she would be able to change my mind. That was a terrible feeling. It’s too late to change my mind; there’s nothing I can do now! I did my best to justify our choice, “We aren’t our bodies. Ginny is in heaven.” I do believe that. Although I am so grateful we were able to hold Ginny’s body and others got to see the proof of her life, she was not in her body. I did not sense her presence while holding her; she was already gone. Daniel and I made the only decision we had the ability to make at the time, and when I think about it for more than a minute, I don’t regret it. It did help that Daniel’s grandma had a stone placed in their family cemetery for Ginny. I love that so much. Now we do have a physical place to go to honor and remember her, even if her body isn’t there.
I hate that I have to wrestle with these thoughts. I hate that I have to question my decisions after it is too late. I hate that there’s no way of knowing what was best and I just have to face the facts of my reality. It takes a long time to deal with these things. It hurts. I need to lament the loss and pain. I bring it to God, open-palmed and open-hearted. He can take every bit of regret and replace it with hope.
If you have things in life you wish you could go back and change, know that you are not alone. It does help to think through it, process it, and even talk about it. As part of that, we have to let go of what we can’t change and know there is hope. Jesus is with us in our regrets, sorrows, grief, and fear. He can lift the burdens and make our hearts light. We don’t have to carry regret.
“My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me. But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:20-23
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
“You have kept count of my tossing; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book? Then my enemies will turn back in the day when I call. This I know, that God is for me. In God, whose word I praise, in the Lord, whose word I praise, in God I trust I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me?” Psalm 56:8-11
“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:8
“Surely there is a future, and your hope will not be cut off.” Proverbs 23:18