Surgery Update

As I shared in my last post, during my pregnancy with Chet we discovered the cause of Ginny’s death. I was born with a septum in my uterus, which divided the upper portion of my uterus in two. The septum interfered with blood flow to Ginny’s placenta causing her to lack the nutrients and oxygen she needed to survive. Despite Chet’s placenta growing onto the septum as well, he grew and was born healthy at 39 weeks. It was truly a miracle! 

Thankfully a uterine septum can be removed with a quick outpatient surgery. The decision to have the surgery was simple. Daniel and I wanted to do everything in our power to prevent what happened to Ginny from happening again. Even though we were not planning to have another baby anytime soon, we wouldn’t be able to rest knowing how risky it would be for me to get pregnant. 

I scheduled my septum resection surgery via hysteroscopy for July 1. My parents came to town to help take care of Chet during surgery and recovery, and Daniel came with me to the hospital. As we arrived, we saw sunflower garden flags outside the gift shop – God always sends reminders of Ginny. It was nerve-wracking to be put under general anesthesia, but overall I felt peace about the surgery. The hospital was well organized, and things moved quickly. Before I knew it, I was waking up in post op trying to reorient myself (which was difficult to do since I left my glasses with Daniel). My very kind nurse helped me. 

One of the doctors came in to inform me about the surgery. The septum was much larger and thicker than they expected, but they were certain they removed it all. As she explained this, I broke into tears. She asked if I was alright, and I replied, “Yes I’m just thinking about my daughter who died.” She understood and was empathetic. Daniel and I went so long without knowing what happened to Ginny, so to get confirmation that what caused it was significant and is now gone was overwhelming in that moment. 

The doctor then informed me that there was one complication during surgery – the last portion of the septum went so deep into my uterus wall that while removing it, they made a small perforation in my uterus. This was a risk they mentioned prior to the surgery. It’s unfortunate, but thankfully the uterus heals very well on its own. The area that was perforated was the least-risky place, and it should not pose any additional risks in future pregnancies. 

My recovery has gone smoothly. I’m so grateful for my parents and Daniel for taking care of me and Chet this week. I couldn’t do this without them. Any discomfort that I have been in during recovery feels so minor compared with the benefits of this surgery. I’m so grateful. 

I still can’t believe we found out what caused Ginny’s death! I can’t believe that it was fixable, and I can’t believe Chet survived in the womb prior to it being fixed! I’m so relieved that it is fixed now. 

This surgery has me asking “why” again. Why was I born with this septum? Why didn’t we find it sooner? Why did Ginny die? Why was Chet spared? I think it’s ok to ask these questions even if we don’t always get answers. Life isn’t easy, but God gives me peace by reminding me that we have hope. Ginny is happy and loved in heaven, and we will be a complete family together one day. 

Thank you for all your prayers! 

An Explanation

When the doctor said the words, “I’m so sorry. I have to give you the worst news.” everything went still. I could not believe what I was hearing; I was in shock. Yet somehow I still mustered the question, “Is there any way to know what happened?” He replied with a response that we would hear several times over the next 6 weeks, “Sometimes these things happen, and we have no way of knowing why. Fifty percent of stillbirths have no explanation.”

Half of all stillbirths have no explanation? How is that possible? With everything we know, how in the world is that possible? 

During labor with Ginny, Daniel and I discussed it. We would have tests done on me, Ginny’s body, and the placenta to try to find what happened. We decided it was not because we needed to know what happened to Ginny (nothing would bring her back), but it was so we could have all the information to help in planning our future family. All the tests came back negative. No cause could be identified. Doctor’s gave us reasons why it wasn’t a cord accident, it wasn’t genetic, it wasn’t anything we did, it wasn’t anything we didn’t do, it wasn’t my thyroid, it wasn’t my antibodies, it wasn’t an infection… The list went on, and everything got crossed out. I was relieved and disappointed at the same time. All they could tell us was that Ginny was small for her gestational age and the placenta was small and unhealthy.

We entered into pregnancy with Chet holding our breath with our eyes wide open. We didn’t know what had happened; it could happen again. But this time we would be closely monitored. If it looked like Chet was showing signs of growth restriction, we could potentially take action. 

Little did I know that all of Chet’s monitoring would actually shed light on what happened to Ginny. At the 11 week ultrasound, the technician identified that I have a septum in my uterus. The maternal fetal medicine doctors described what a separate uterus was. The interior of a normal uterus is shaped like a triangle, and mine is more of a heart. There is a divide at the top half of my uterus. It was something I was born with. Usually this anomaly results in recurring early miscarriages or preterm births. There wasn’t much data on whether it causes late stillbirths like mine. They couldn’t tell how large my septum was since my uterus was stretched during pregnancy. But if my septum was significant, they said it was possible that Ginny’s placenta had reduced blood flow. That aligned with the fact that the placenta was small and unhealthy, resulting in her growth restriction. The doctors explained that Chet’s placenta was growing up onto the septum, but we were already monitoring him. We would have to wait and see if it impacted his growth. 

Thankfully Chet’s growth was never impacted! He was born at a healthy 8lbs 10oz at 39 weeks!

After Chet was born, my doctors referred me to get an ultrasound of my empty uterus to evaluate the septum. I was nervous to get the ultrasound for multiple reasons: 1) ultrasounds are always kind of triggering since we learned Ginny had died in an ultrasound and 2) I so badly wanted an explanation for Ginny’s death. I was afraid that this, like all the other tests, would lead nowhere. I postponed the ultrasound multiple times because of this, using COVID as an excuse. Once I was fully vaccinated, I had no more excuses and anxiously went to my appointment at the hospital. 

God’s grace shows up again and again. He provided comforts for me during my appointment. As I was waiting in the crowded waiting room, I met a husband and wife who were staying at The Family House where I worked. They were there to get a check up after being 2 years cancer free! They told me how helpful Family House was to them and what a special place it is. Hearing that warmed my heart and helped me during the anxious wait. 

When I got called back for the ultrasound, the technician was a sweet young woman. She asked if Chet was my first, so I told her about Ginny. She empathetically listened, and then shared that she had a miscarriage two weeks earlier. We were able to have compassion for each other. We discussed losing a baby, when to decide to try again, and pregnancy after loss. We said we would be praying for each other. She was the exact right person at the exact right time. We both needed each other, so God allowed our paths to cross. 

After the scan, an OB who I’d never met came in. He said that my septum was in fact significant. He said that septums like mine do cause 2nd and 3rd trimester losses. The good news is that it can be removed with a simple outpatient surgery. 

It was the answer I wanted. It gave me such peace. This explains what happened to Ginny, and it is fixable! I knew in my heart that it was my body and not hers that caused her death, but I didn’t have an answer until now. Ginny’s death could’ve been prevented if I had known about my septum, but I had no way of knowing. Some guilt was lifted from my shoulders. It wasn’t something I did, and I couldn’t have known. 

A couple weeks later I met with a surgeon from the fertility clinic. He said my septum is 1/3 to 1/2 of the way down into my uterus and it is very wide at the top. It is more of a wedge. He said I am a great candidate for the surgery. The surgery only takes 30 minutes, and the recovery is only a day or two. When I asked him his thoughts on this causing my stillbirth, he explained that the portions of the placenta attached to the septum would not receive adequate blood flow to keep up with the needs of a growing baby. Then he said, “What I can’t explain is how you had a healthy pregnancy.”

We knew Chet was a miracle. This confirmed it. He is a miracle in so many ways. He beat the physical odds to be born big and healthy even though I have a septum. He brings us so much joy and love as our rainbow. And because of him, we now have answers about Ginny. I’m so grateful for our boy! 

I’m scheduled to have my septum resection in early July. I’m a little nervous but mostly just relieved.  After over 2 years we finally have an answer. It doesn’t bring Ginny back, but it does offer some rest. I am blessed to be part of the small percentage of loss moms who found out what happened and can do something to hopefully prevent it from happening again. 

The Little Things

Especially early on, even the smallest things can derail your whole day in grief. These are the things that make it exponentially harder, but most people wouldn’t even think about them. 

For instance, just picking up your phone can bombard you with triggers. I spent the 8 months pregnant with Ginny googling everything pregnancy and baby. All my ads were geared toward baby items. My Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Youtube were all perfectly curated for the happy new mother. When Ginny died, I couldn’t handle any of it anymore. There was no where to turn. I tossed my phone to my sister Keri, “Can you please take care of this? I don’t know; just click anything and everything unrelated to baby stuff.” She spent a long time on my phone trying to re-curate my feeds. Cooking, knitting, airplanes, decor, anything NOT baby. It worked somewhat, but it would take months to not feel attacked with baby stuff every time I picked up my phone. 

These attacks would even come in the mail. When I was pregnant with Ginny, I bought several relatively expensive nursing bras from Motherhood Maternity. Upon checkout they insisted I sign up for free magazine subscriptions. Little did I know, month after month I would bitterly dump “Parents” and “Family Circle” straight into the recycling bin. I didn’t have the energy to figure out how to unsubscribe. I also ended up wearing those nursing bras without a baby to nurse. I wasn’t going to go spend more money on regular bras, but my body had already changed. Every morning when getting dressed, I put on a reminder that I was a mom without a baby…like I needed reminding. 

The worst was on Ginny’s due date. I got a package in the mail. I thought it was so sweet how someone remembered Ginny’s due date and sent a gift. I opened the box to find samples of baby formula. It was a slap in the face. 

Even taxes hurt more than usual. 2018 we were expecting; 2019 we were not. “Are you sure you don’t have a dependent? Our records show that you might.” No there is no dependent. There are hospital bills, but there is no dependent.

These little details of life can still hit so hard. But it’s also in the small things where I find so much comfort. God uses little things to remind me he doesn’t leave me alone. 

He has used small ways to connect me with other hurting moms. Shortly after Ginny died, we wanted to give away many of her baby girl items. God put it on my heart to reach out to a family from our church we didn’t know well. I knew they had baby girls and thought they could maybe use the items. I emailed the mom. She responded saying that they didn’t need the baby stuff, but they too had a stillbirth a couple years earlier. She was able to comfort me make me feel a lot less alone. That’s the real reason God put it on my heart to reach out. I’ve had several other similar instances where I’ve been connected to other women at just the right time through the Holy Spirit.

Similarly I prayed that God guide my career path after Ginny died. A job opened up where I most enjoyed volunteering at the exact right time. But the job was full-time, and I wasn’t sure if I was ready to jump in full-time yet. I applied and interviewed anyway. The manager called me in to tell me that I didn’t get the full-time job, but they were considering creating a part-time position. Would I be interested? God provided exactly what I needed and gave me the small sign I needed to know it was the right move. That job has provided me with so much hope, healing, and purpose. 

There have also been many small reminders surrounding Chet’s birth that show God is in this. The summer after Ginny died, we visited my uncle and aunt. We went to their church, and after the service the pastor and his wife prayed over my womb. They spoke encouraging words over us and said that one day our house would be filled with laughter. One year to the day after that prayer Chet was born. 

While in labor with Chet, a woman walked in asking if I wanted to participate in a study in the event I needed a C-section. She described the study and told us to think about it, and she would be back. She returned after about 20 seconds (clearly not enough time to think it over). She said she saw my chart and that many many years ago she also lost a baby at 35 weeks. She said she also had subsequent babies, so she knows how hard it is. She encouraged me and Daniel when we needed it most during labor with Chet. 

I can go on and on with examples of small ways God has shown up in my grief. Whether it’s a butterfly lingering around me at the arboretum, Ginny’s sunflowers blooming the day Chet came home from the hospital, a text from a friend at the exact right moment, or circumstances falling into place, God has been near in tangible ways. I feel his nearness in my heart, but the fact that he also sends small concrete reminders is such a gift. 

Wilting

Ginny’s 2nd birthday was a sweet time at the beach. I felt good that we honored and celebrated her life. We reflected on how much of an impact she’s had on us. I left feeling blessed. 

Then the next day it hit me. That tsunami of grief I thought I had avoided. Those heavy and dark feelings of fresh grief came back. It felt like a punch in the gut; my heart was being wrung. Two years later and the disbelief returned – How did this happen?! Why did this happen?!!

It hit me during Chet’s nap time. I was working on my computer at the kitchen table next to a bouquet of flowers my family sent the previous week to remember Ginny. I looked up and noticed some of them had started wilting. My heart sank – this means her birthday is over. Then my mind was brought back to the week after Ginny died when all the bouquets loved ones sent started wilting. The sight and smell of turning flowers triggered such a wave of memories and grief. I remembered that when the flowers died, it felt like Ginny was dying all over again. How could time be moving forward? How could we be moving away from holding her instead of moving toward holding her? My heart was breaking yet again. It felt like she was dying all over again two years later. I just miss her. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. I want her here. How can we keep moving forward? I just want to hug her. 

Tears started streaming and didn’t stop for a long time. It was actually dawning on me that it has been two years. She should be two. She should be here, but she’s still gone. It still hurts…really bad. 

The pain in my heart somehow makes her feel closer. Maybe two years isn’t as long as it sounds. I try to remind myself that I’m not just getting further from when I held her on Earth, I’m also getting closer to when I’ll hold her in heaven. Each day I’m getting closer to her. It still hurts. 

Happy 2nd Birthday, Ginny!

Dear Ginny,

Two years old?! How is that possible? Two years of missing you, and two years and 8 months of loving you. It feels like I’ve loved you a lifetime already, but it also feels like you just left us. My arms still ache for you, and my heart still breaks everyday missing you. 

I’m grateful we get to celebrate you at the beach today. It feels like you all around us, from the sunflowers greeting us at the door to the bright pink sunset. We are so blessed. But even with all the sweet reminders and God winks, we just want you here with us. We want to hug you and kiss you.

We wish you were here! We wish you were playing with your brother. But just because you are not here doesn’t mean you aren’t a part of our family every single day. You are our first born. You are our big sister. You are ours, and we are yours. And we will be together again. 

Happy Birthday sweet girl! We love you very much! 

Love, Mama

Parenting After Loss – First 6 Months

With nothing to compare it to, I’m not sure what about my parenting is different because of our loss. I can make guesses…most of my guesses have to do with either fear or gratitude. I don’t think I would have as much of either if Ginny hadn’t died. Life’s moments are more precious when you know how fragile it all is. 

It often collides into me when I’m rocking Chet to sleep. I think it’s because: 1) we are in his room that used to be Ginny’s nursery, 2) he looks so very precious sleeping in my arms, 3) I think of sleep as the most vulnerable time because of SIDS, 4) the stillness allows the blessings of the day to catch up to me. I can’t contain my gratitude for him! How did I get so lucky that he is actually here?! I want to kiss his cheek, but I don’t want to wake him. I kiss him anyway. What I wouldn’t give to kiss Ginny one more time! I can’t let the opportunity pass – I never do.

When it’s time to place him in his crib, I deliberately and symbolically place him in God’s hands. I am not the sustainer of life. I again pray Your will be done. As I lullaby, I often sing Chet a worship song called “Abba, I belong to you.” It is such a comforting song, and it is a good reminder for me. Chet does not belong to me; Chet belongs to Abba (God the daddy). I quietly step out of the room peacefully knowing that Chet is in God’s hands no matter what. 

… and then I turn on the monitor. Daniel and I watch that monitor like it’s Sunday night HBO. We analyze his heart rate and oxygen levels. We listen for cries and watch for wiggles. Hounding the monitor is better than leaning over him to check his breathing a million times which would be the alternative. We follow every single safe sleep rule every single time.

That’s the dance of parenting after loss – knowing you are not in control so trustfully handing everything over to God and then anxiously pulling it back inch by inch until you think you’re in control again. Then the thoughts come in: what if I accidentally drop him? kneel on him? scratch him? What if he chokes? What if he gets COVID? What if? What if? What if? ….I deliberately and symbolically place him in God’s hands as I place him asleep in his crib… the dance continues.

It can be exhausting. Parenting in general is exhausting. But I daren’t complain. I feel so guilty if I complain about Chet ever. It is a miracle he is here with us; what right do I have to complain? I was voicing this to my lactation consultant as she was helping me with my severely damaged nipples. She said, “This is really hard. You are doing a great job. It is ok to complain about this. It is ok to cry about this.” Just as I learned that joy and grief coexist, I am learning that you can feel so grateful and at the same time acknowledge the difficulties. It isn’t taking things for granted. (By the way, my nipples healed around week 8 after Chet has his tongue tie fixed – Hallelujah!)

I do feel a bit of anger when I think about how we shouldn’t be figuring things out for the first time now. We should have already been through this before. We should have experience with the newborn stages, the sleep regressions, the diaper rashes. We should be pros at loading the car up for a drive. We should know how to adjust stroller straps. We should have known not to buy those flimsy off-brand milk storage bags. I’m frustrated I didn’t know. It’s in the everyday reminders that we are 2nd time parents with 1st time problems. These inconveniences don’t matter at all; the hard part is that we are reminded that we missed it all the first time around. 

My heart wilts every time I think about her being here. I imagine bringing him home from the hospital and seeing her sweet reaction to meeting her baby brother for the first time. I imagine her making him laugh by being silly. I would need to always keep an eye out that she’s not sneaking him a gold fish or squeezing him too tight. Daniel and I would divide and conquer bedtime. We would have family hugs and family prayers. She’d show him everything. They’d be best friends. I’m sorry she’s not here. 

I’m so happy she was here though. Although he hasn’t gotten to meet her yet, Chet has a sister who loves him. He will always know her as part of our family. We will celebrate her life and look forward to meeting her in heaven. We acknowledge the broken world we live in and how it is still so full of beauty and love. We never take things for granted, especially every day we have with little brother. 

Senses

I almost cried in the grocery store today. It wouldn’t be the first time, but this time it took me off guard. I wasn’t even thinking of anything sad. I wasn’t imagining if Ginny was with me. I was just shopping, and it hit me. Suddenly my mind was taken back to my living room late February 2019; suddenly my heart churned. Why? I looked around. I realized I was walking past the fresh flowers. Ahhh that explains it. The smell of fresh flowers triggered that feeling. We had 9 fresh flower bouquets around our living room the days following Ginny’s death. The bouquets were given to us from friends and family all over the country who care for us and Ginny. Now the smell of fresh flowers can instantly bring me back to that time. It’s not a bad thing. I like having such emotional reminders; it makes me feel closer to Ginny. 

There are lots of things like that. In the early days, everything reminded me of Ginny and our loss. But now I get reminders throughout the day (like when I see the 9 empty vases on top of our refrigerator). Only a few are powerful enough to bring me to tears or bring me back to moments of pregnancy or early grief. 

When I hear the album Father of the Bride by Vampire Weekend, I am brought back to summer 2019. I remember listening while reading books about grief, driving to volunteer at Family House, or walking to the library to write my blog. I love that album, and it will always remind me of the summer of grief. My heart aches a little every time I hear it.

One of the strongest reminders I’ve had came a couple days after Chet was born. I knew it was coming, still nothing could have prepared me for it. It was when my breastmilk came in, the sharp tingle of milk letting down – the painful pressure of being engorged. When my milk came in after Ginny was born, it was like a bitter slap in the face. I wanted so badly to feed her, but she wasn’t there. Each let down was a cruel reminder that my baby died and that I couldn’t mother her. I worked hard to stop the milk from continuing to come. I took Sudafed. I wore tight bras. I put cabbage leaves in my bra (it’s a thing). I applied cold compresses. Eventually the milk dried up, and then I was sad to feel it go. That felt like the last proof of my motherhood. When Chet was born, I knew I wanted to breastfeed him. I didn’t realize how much the feeling of milk letting down would trigger emotions from when Ginny died. It hurt. It took me right back to that week of brokenness. Thankfully I couldn’t dwell there long because this time I did have a baby to feed. The relief while he nursed was physical and emotional. 

A couple weeks ago Daniel took care of Chet on a Saturday morning and told me to go to my favorite coffee shop to pick up a chai latte for myself. I obliged. It had been since before COVID that I had my favorite chai at my favorite coffee shop. As soon as the taste hit my tongue, I was flooded with memories. On at least 5 different occasions, friends had met me here to talk one-on-one about Ginny. Those sweet friends listened to every minute detail of my sad story. They weren’t afraid to talk about her. They cried with me, sat with me in the mud of mourning, shared their own stories, and made me feel a lot less alone. I’m so grateful for each of them. When I got home, Daniel asked how the chai was, and I replied, “It tastes like grief.” He looked confused and said sorry. I smiled, “No it’s a good thing.”

With so few memories with Ginny, I’m grateful for anything that can bring up the emotions when I was closest to her. I hope these feelings don’t fade. 

Imperfect Christmas

The holidays are really hard after a loss. When the entire family is together, the absence of the one who died is overwhelming. All you can think of is that they should be here. 

I remember once we found out we were pregnant with Ginny, I imagined bringing her home to Oklahoma to spend Christmas with her grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. I would imagine her waking up on Christmas morning and opening gifts. I couldn’t wait! When she died, all those dreams would be left unrealized.

When the holidays approached after Ginny died last year, each picture perfect Christmas card I saw felt like a small punch in the gut. They reminded me that I’ll never have a picture perfect family because Ginny will always be missing on Earth. 

The grief was so strong last year. I knew it would be a challenging time, especially because I was also in the first trimester of pregnancy with Chet. My emotions would be out of control. I tried to set expectations for myself and others. I tried to give myself grace to feel however I felt, and I told family that I might need to step away into a back room or sit out some gatherings potentially. I did do all those things, and it was still really hard. 

The first night after the long trip back to Oklahoma, I wanted to make sure that Ginny was remembered and that family knew it was ok to talk about her. I gave homemade bracelets to my mom, mother-in-law, sisters, and niece. The bracelets were in a set of three: one with pink beads, one with gray beads, and one with white beads. The pink represented Ginny’s life. She was a real person who lived on Earth. The gray represented our suffering and what we’ve learned in grief. The white represented hope for heaven and our future family. It was a sweet moment to explain the bracelets and hand them out to the women in my family. But that moment also led to one of several really hard moments of the holiday…

My mom was touched and thankful for the bracelets, but then she realized hers might be a little loose. She wondered if she could swap with one of the sisters or maybe I could adjust it. It was an easy enough request. I did want the bracelets to fit perfectly, but I couldn’t handle that at the time. I blew up and yelled, “Well if you don’t like it, just throw it away!” and stormed off. I hid in a back room and broke down crying. My mom found me and apologized. She assured me she loved the bracelets and what they represent. In tears, I told her why I was really crying, “I wanted to bring you a precious grandbaby for Christmas. Instead I brought you this ill-fitting consolation prize.” She  hugged me and told me how much she missed Ginny too. 

There were other moments like that. For a lot of people Christmas is already a challenging time with extended family and friends. When you add grief on top of it, it can feel impossible. There will be people who say the wrong thing. It may be the comments that should be helpful but are not, like everything happens for a reason. It may be someone explaining “healthy” and “unhealthy” ways to grieve and insinuating that you are doing it wrong. It may be someone pretending like nothing ever happened. It can all be painful, but God can give grace to get through it. It helps me to remember that the whole family is grieving and we are all trying to navigate it in the best ways we can. 

If you are grieving this Christmas remember to give yourself grace. It’s okay to avoid things that are hard. It’s ok to step away if you need to. It’s ok to say “no” to a gathering (especially with COVID as an excuse). And most importantly, it’s ok to talk about your loved one who died. It’s ok to remember and honor them this season. It’s ok to grieve however you need to. 

I was recently reminded of something very helpful in a Joyful Mourning podcast. When it feels like Christmas is imperfect and broken, keep in mind that it was always imperfect. Jesus was born in a manger far from home. He was born to die. Mary would live to see her son die. But Jesus bore all the brokenness for our redemption. If it feels too hard to read the verses describing the celebration of Jesus’s birth, maybe read the Easter story instead this year. God will meet us where we are. Remember that it is through Jesus’s birth, death, and resurrection that we are reunited with God and our loved ones are in heaven for us to meet again. 

As hard as last year’s Christmas was, there were some really great moments as well. I asked family members to donate the gifts they would’ve gotten for Ginny to charity. They all did, and that blessed Daniel and me so much. We also got to announce to extended family that I was pregnant again. My favorite response came from Daniel’s grandma. She looked us each in the eye with tears in hers, and told us she was proud of us. In that moment, she was recognizing how hard this was and celebrating the new life at the same time. She then offered to get a stone to memorialize Ginny right next to great-grandma Ginny’s grave. It was such a special moment. We were also blessed to see a stocking for Ginny hung in both my parents’ and Daniel’s parents’ houses. 

This year is going to look a lot different. We won’t be able to travel back home to Oklahoma due to COVID. It will be so sad to not be with our whole family at Christmas. But it will also be Chet’s first Christmas! I can’t wait to see him look at the tree and give him his gifts. His stocking will hang right next to his sister’s. We will take an imperfect family picture on an imperfect Christmas day. Sounds like a memory I will treasure forever. 

Stillbirth Q&A

How can you comfort a friend who has experienced baby loss?

  • Know there is nothing you can say or do that will fix it or ease the pain. Do not even try. What is the most helpful is to sit with them in the pain. Acknowledge it, and validate that this is really hard. You can do that by listening, texting, or even sending a card. You do not need to offer a silver lining, as much as you may want to. 
  • Say their baby’s name! Let them know you are thinking about their baby. Don’t be afraid to bring it up. Remember important dates like heavenly birthdays and due dates. Send a text or call on the anniversaries of those dates, year after year. That is such a blessing to a mom or dad whose baby died.
  • Be understanding if they don’t seem like the friend you used to know. They are never going to be the same, and they are coming into their new identity. Be supportive of that. Invite them, but let them know it’s ok if they don’t come to your baby shower or if they want to sit out your birthday party. Give them grace after grace, but please keep inviting them. It is very isolating to lose a baby, and it can often feel like you are losing friends too. Keep reaching out. 

What’s the best way to tell a friend who lost a baby that you are pregnant?

We had wonderful friends write us a heartfelt letter telling us they were pregnant a couple months after Ginny died. It meant so much, and we were truly happy for them. I definitely recommend writing a letter, text, or private message. It is good for the friend to be able to process the emotions ahead of a face-to-face meeting. You can tell them one on one, but I definitely would not recommend announcing in front of a group or via a social media announcement. Even if the friend is really happy for you, they will still have a lot of conflicting and difficult emotions. Give them grace and patience.

How could you bear the pain of childbirth without a living baby? Why didn’t you have a C-section?

There are more risks to the mother with a C-section than a vaginal delivery, and I wanted to deliver her as I had imagined. It was a way to mother her. It was so scary, but it felt like such an honor. I did have an epidural, but it didn’t work on the right side. Looking back, I’m glad it didn’t because it gave me physical pain to yell through. My heart was in such agony that I needed that physical outlet.  Although it was hard, I look back at that day with love and pride.  Giving birth was the easy part. Living everyday after without Ginny was the hard part. 

Did you take pictures of Ginny’s body? Do you share them? Why?

  • There is absolutely nothing wrong with sharing pictures of a baby who died. Just as all parents are proud of their kids and want to show them to the world, loss parents feel the same way. These are the only pictures we have of our children. When we see them, we see their life, not their death.
  • This wasn’t something I thought about before Ginny died. We made this decision while I was in labor. It seemed so strange to me to take pictures of a dead person, but it would be our only chance to have pictures of her outside the womb. It didn’t seem right to me to take pictures of her with our phones. That seemed so casual. I didn’t want to take a picture of her the way I would take a picture of a latte. I didn’t want to see her as I scrolled through my phone. It felt like a sacred moment, and the phones did not seem sacred enough. We decided to have the nurse take pictures of her with a camera. I wish we did take pictures of us holding her as a family, but I couldn’t handle that at the time. We made the decisions best for the moment. We keep the photos in our memory box the nurse made. I have only shared them with a few family members and close friends. They are so precious to me. Maybe one day I will share them more broadly, but for now I hold them close. 
  • There is an excellent organization called “Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep” that send photographers for this very purpose. I knew about this, but decided I didn’t want a photographer there. 

Why do you talk about your stillbirth? Why do you blog?

  • I talk about Ginny often to whoever will listen. I talk about her because I think about her all the time. She’s my child and is still a huge part of my life. I love her so much. When I think and talk about her, I’m filled with love (just as anyone is when they talk about their child). I appreciate all those who listen and who bring her up in conversation. I’m sorry if it makes you sad or uncomfortable. It really does make me happy. 
  • At first I struggled with whether I wanted to post about Ginny’s death on social media. But then I realized that I had posted about expecting her so it felt strange to not say anything else. I planned to post once to announce her death and not mention it again. But then I started writing. I started writing just for myself for my own healing. I was not planning on sharing; I didn’t typically share much on the internet, especially something so emotional and personal. But then I felt that the Holy Spirit was prompting me to share. I didn’t want to, but I did anyway. After I posted, I realized how many people could relate to our story. It led me to meet several women who also lost babies. I realized how much of a stigma there is around baby loss and death in general. I realized how little people actually know about grief. It is valuable to share our stories to help each other feel a little less alone and give each other permission to grieve. 

What’s the hardest part of stillbirth?

When your baby dies, you don’t just lose a baby. You lose a toddler, a child, a teenager, an adult child. You miss every birthday, Christmas, first day of school, wedding, grandchildren. You miss every “good morning” and every “good night”. You miss every hug. You miss every sporting event and evening stroll. You miss all the would-be memories and all the mundane moments you would’ve forgotten. You miss it all.

What’s the hardest part of pregnancy after loss?

The hardest thing for me was feeling like my body was a ticking time bomb. It was painful not knowing when or if your baby is in danger. By the end, waiting and trusting was so difficult. It is the second hardest thing I’ve ever been through. Of course it was worth it all to have Baby Chet. 

Do you plan on telling Chet about Ginny?

We already talk to Chet about his big sister Ginny in heaven. We will continue to talk about her, so Chet will always know her as part of our family. We include her in family traditions. For example, when we went to the pumpkin patch, we picked out a pumpkin for Chet and one for Ginny. We have a Christmas stocking for Ginny too. Anytime we see a butterfly when we go on family walks, we are reminded of Ginny. I tell Chet that Ginny’s thinking about us and loves us.