When Hello Means Goodbye – Surviving a Stillbirth

As I looked through my drafts of post ideas, I saw my “Baby Bumpdate” post sitting in the queue… as I stared at the title I realized something… when I was pregnant and my baby was alive and healthy, I had no problem happily posting “bump pics” and sweet little taglines on how much we loved him, how excited we were to meet him, how we couldn’t wait for him to join our crazy family. He was real. He was my son. We dreamed of his future, how he was going to be my little buddy, how he was going to love cars and hockey just like his dad, and how he was going to be just what our spunky little Gianna needed. I was going to have 2 babies under 2 for a few weeks… oh, I was so ready for the challenge! However, sometimes life plays out a lot different than you imagined. Just because Michael’s life on earth ended early, doesn’t mean he had less of an impact on our lives or that because he never breathed a breath out of my womb meant he was not our son, Gianna’s brother, or my baby. No, quite the opposite actually. God helped me see that while my “bump dates” were designed to help anticipate his arrival in the earthly sense, we can now anticipate and look forward to our reunion in heaven.

Now that I have an angel baby of my own in heaven, my heart aches even more deeply for those women who have lost babies at any stage. When you are past the point of pregnancy where your loss is no longer considered a miscarriage but a stillbirth, not many people can relate to you, and many people have no idea what happens when a baby dies – I know I didn’t.

Michael was considered a stillborn. I had to be induced and deliver him in the hospital. We held him, loved on him, and prayed over him. We had to fill out a death certificate, make funeral arrangements, and leave the hospital without our baby. Instead of our newborn son, I was wheeled out with a box of his memories in my lap.

Deciding to make our grief public has helped my husband and I recognize our baby Michael and his place in our life. Talking about him and what we have been through as a family has helped free some of my emotions, making it seem less like a burdensome secret that no one can know about. Sharing my story and the little legacy my son left behind is a complete honor.

BIRTH STORY: My sweet angel baby, Michael William. 4/7/16

We had just arrived in Chicago for a little family adventure and were welcomed by SNOW (in April?!). We had gotten a hotel in the city and had a week full of cheesy touristy activities planned. That night as we sat in bed, I realized I hadn’t felt the baby move that day, which for him was super abnormal. He normally kicked and stretched ALL DAY LONG. I was so worried, I didn’t get ANY sleep that night. The next morning my husband could tell something was wrong with me, I was in a complete fog. I told him I was concerned and this was not normal for him. My husband knows that I don’t worry unnecessarily, so for me to be this concerned REALLY worried him. We waited until lunchtime to call the doctor – honestly just hoping it was all the walking and being busy I just wasn’t paying attention. The doctor advised me to go back to the hotel, eat something sugary and lay down on my side. If I didn’t feel the baby move X amount of times in an hour then I needed to go to the ER. Within 20 minutes of laying there, I knew. I felt him there, but he wasn’t moving. In my heart I knew he was gone. I had just spent the entire night before begging God to make him move, for my baby to be okay… I felt nothing. Holding out my last stitch of hope, I just prayed he was sleeping or in some new weird position that I couldn’t feel him as well…

We were forced to go to the ER… in downtown Chicago… with a toddler (cue the horror music). Upon arriving we were informed that “due to an incident that shut down all of our rooms” the wait was 2hrs and 45min (cue even more horror music). All we needed was an ultrasound to check on our baby! “Nope, sorry. You have to go through the process,” said the nurse. My husband decided that was not good enough and walked the extra block to the Women’s Center and let them know what was going on. They told me to leave the ER immediately and that they would see me right away. We found out we lost our son that day. 

We were supposed to stay in the city until Friday, but with the doctor’s permission we went back to our hotel, packed up and began the long drive home. We couldn’t imagine having to deliver our son in a strange place, with all of our support so far away. We drove about 1/2 way arriving at a hotel at 3am to at least rest our eyes, knowing that neither one of us would get any sleep. We drove the rest of the way home the next morning and began the daunting task of mustering up enough courage to drive to the hospital.

I had never experienced anything like what I was feeling before, I didn’t even know those types of feelings existed. I was in shock, totally numb, desperate, helpless, devastated, confused, angry, overcome by sadness and grief. Just complete torture. I was terrified. I didn’t know what to expect and I was scared. I couldn’t stop sobbing.

I will never forget that long drive home from Chicago, and the seemingly longer drive to our own hospital. My husband and I clutched each other’s hands the entire time. Taking turns sharing what we were feeling, but trying to be strong for one another at the same time. I’ll never forget my husband looking me in the eyes, with tears in his own, telling me, “We are going to be okay. I promise you, everything will be ok.” I am so grateful for his strength.

It was April 6…. Our third wedding anniversary… and walking into the hospital, the same hospital we had welcomed our sweet Gianna at, was unexplainably painful. I wanted to run the opposite way, and just never stop running. Within 12 hours of starting the induction process, the doctor broke my water and literally within minutes my body went into game time mode. This whole situation was already complete torture and I decided I did not want to feel any pain. I just wanted an epidural. It had only been 15 minutes from the time they broke my water and I asked for an epidural, to the time the anesthesiologist came into the room. By that time my body was just pumping out contractions, with no breaks in between. I was barely able to turn over on my side and as the doc prepped his tools behind me, I felt the baby was coming. I never got the epidural.

We met our son April 7, 2016. At just shy of 27 weeks he was absolutely beautiful. Every feature was perfectly detailed, he was only missing the extra baby pudge that was to come in the following weeks. He had dark fuzzy hair, long eyelashes, his daddy’s fingers, and perfect little lips. I never knew such heartache.

It was all so surreal, nothing I ever thought I would go through personally. I kept thinking to myself, this is so stupid, this can’t be real. I couldn’t understand why God would allow my baby to die. What GOOD plan includes my baby dying? I was such a mess I couldn’t make sense of anything. Why couldn’t I save him? Holding him was the most painful experience of my life, but also watching my husband kiss his son for the first and last time, to see my daughter reach out and say “bebe, mommy” to her little brother… my heart shattered over and over again.

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In desperation, I yelled at God, I told him I hated him for this, for ignoring my pleas in the hotel room. It did nothing, it only made me feel even more discontent. That wasn’t me. I knew God loved me dearly and was holding me close even in my desperation. I knew Jesus’ mother Mary was embracing me in my suffering. Only then was I able to find some peace. The only way I was going to overcome the pain, was with Him.

“I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” Romans 8:18

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Prior to being induced I had the opportunity to connect with two people who had also experienced stillbirths. They were able to help prepare us for meeting our baby. They were able to help us think of things that they had done or regretted not doing – things that you don’t think about in the moment since your emotions are all over the place. At first, some of it sounded incredibly weird. Having the hard conversation about delivering your dead baby, then having to think about how much time do we spend with him? Do we want to take pictures? Do we arrange to have any keepsakes made? Do we want our daughter to see him? What about funeral arrangements?

As much as I wanted to NOT think about it and just wake up from the nightmare, I am so grateful those women were willing to share their experiences and provide comfort since they had been through it too. Now, as a mother of an angel myself, I would tell anyone who finds themselves in this unfortunate and tragic situation to spend as much time as possible with your baby, memorize their body, dress them, bathe them, hold them, talk to them, pray over them, and take as many pictures as you can.

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I am so thankful we were urged to take pictures. We now have lasting memories with our son. There is a beautiful ministry called “Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep”, a group of volunteer photographers that come to the hospital and take the most beautiful, intimate pictures. We will never forget his little hands, long skinny feet or the fact that he had his daddy’s ears. What seemed like a weird thought before everything happened, ended up coming completely natural to us. We wanted to make sure that we didn’t regret not taking pictures or having keepsakes. Our Hospital has a program called Heartstrings – it facilitated several different charities that donated handmade blankets, baby clothes, teddy bears, and other keepsakes. These memories are EVERYTHING, because at the end of it all, that is all you have.

Living Post Baby When There Is No Baby

If I heard “be patient and kind to yourself” once, I must have heard it a million times. For me, it was easier being patient with myself in the hospital or the few days after I got home. Now, as life moves on, as it must, I know being patient is important, but it is so, so difficult. To the rest of the world, you were pregnant and now simply, you are not. No one knows the physical pain, heartache, or emotional roller coaster you have endured and continue to navigate as the days pass.

I promised myself I would take 2 weeks off of everything to reconnect with my family and allow myself to recuperate. Physically I started feeling pretty good in the second week… But emotionally I was still suffering. Emotions are sneaky bastards. Really. Sneaky and ruthless. They catch you off guard and a totally good day can suddenly go south in a split second.

Especially in the early days and weeks after losing your baby you just have to take it hour by hour. Luckily the bad moments become more spread out as time passes. I found that being busy was good, it gave us a distraction to focus on and not let silly thoughts flood my mind. I am haunted by the thoughts of why couldn’t I save him? That was my only job, to make sure he grew healthy and strong. Was it something I did? Could I have prevented it? When I think rationally, I see that these are pointless and destructive thoughts, but sometimes in grief you just don’t think rationally. And when sleeping means dreaming, sometimes your mind plays out some cruel tricks. My husband has been so good at getting me out of my funk, and not allowing me to seriously entertain any of those ideas. We just focus on the good that has come from Michaels passing, and embrace that no matter what, this was his purpose.

I just gave birth, I just gave birth. I’ve been putting that thought on replay recently. My sweet husband is so good at gently reminding me that I just gave birth a couple of weeks ago and that I need to not be so hard on myself as I whine or meltdown about the fact that the only thing that fits me are yoga pants. I endured the physical pains of just giving birth without the joy of my sweet baby to help me forget them. You have to go through all the post-partum aches and pains, without the prize. The extra baby weight, lactating breasts, hormonal changes, bleeding, and sore everything.

I am thankful to be healing great physically and even more grateful to have had someone who has been through this, available to give me advice and encouragement. I was terrified to get a breast infection (even with nursing Gianna I still got an infection) so trying to suppress lactation was a terrifying thought to me. I was extremely diligent about icing, changing out cabbage leaves (those stink btw), using my essential oils, drinking specific teas to help reduce milk supply, and binding. I did end up pumping, but just enough to take the pain away. The engorgement went away by the middle of week two and no infections!

Seeing The Good

As much as I was confused, devastated, totally helpless, and completely numb, even in the hospital we were able to see the impact Michael was having in our lives and in the lives of those around us. Our relationships with our families have been renewed and put into perspective. Life is precious and life is fragile. An “I love you” goes a long way. Every nurse and doctor went above and beyond in their care for us. Each one of them embraced us and cried along side of us, they became genuinely vested in our story and were caring for us from their hearts. One of my nurses told us that she specifically chose to work in this quiet wing reserved for families who have lost their babies, because she has learned that miscarriages and stillbirths result in a silent and painful suffering. She felt like God was calling her to provide comfort to those parents, and help them find peace.

“Just as you do not know how the life breath enters the human frame in the mother’s womb, So you do not know the work of God who is working in everything.” Ecclesiastes 11:5

If Michael’s only purpose was to bring my husband and I closer together, then he has done just that. We thought we were in a good place before, but it wasn’t until this experience happened that we realized how far we still had to come. We have never felt closer or more connected. We have never had more open and raw conversations. We have never held each other, supported each other, listened to each other to the depth that we do now. He was my hero in Chicago, and has been my rock since. Selflessly loving and serving me every moment of every day since we lost Michael, making sure my physical and emotional needs were met. I’ve learned that different people grieve differently, and that is okay. I handle things much differently than he does, but it doesn’t lessen our love for each other. It is just different, and there is something beautiful about being able to love and support each other through difficult times.

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We were COMPLETELY blown away by the love and generosity of our family and friends. Even now, I can’t thank our support system enough for everything they did to help us through this difficult time. We are not people who like to ask for help or even feel okay accepting help when it is offered. So to have so many people reach out was truly a humbling experience for us.

I struggled with whether or not I was going to write this… but ultimately gave in to the inner pull to share it. It’s part of my story, it’s one of those major events in life that shape you into the person you were meant to be. It’s my way of recognizing and honoring my son and also allowing myself to grieve. It’s my way identifying with and bringing light to those who have silently suffered through a miscarriage or a stillbirth. It’s my way of honoring life from conception to natural death. We chose to humanize our son’s death because, he was human, he was our son, a grandchild, a little brother. In our house, we talk about him every day to help the pain of missing him go away.

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We have comfort in knowing that he is resting comfortably with the Lord, playing with the angels and lovingly looking down on us. I will never understand why he cannot be here with us, but I trust that God has everything under control. That his purpose is bigger than what we see now and His plan for our family is more beautiful than we could ever imagine. Oh my sweet angel in heaven, your mommy and daddy love you. Pray for us and watch over your big sister!

Our lives are forever changed, and I trust they needed to be.

xo- J

“And they were bringing children to Him, that He might touch them; and the disciples rebuked them.  But when Jesus saw it He was indignant, and said to them, “Let the children come to me, do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of God.  Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”  And He took them in His arms and blessed them, laying His hands upon them.” Mark 10:13-16

17 thoughts on “When Hello Means Goodbye – Surviving a Stillbirth

  1. Holly Moore says:

    I am friends with Lauri and Branden and they told me about all of this as it was happening. We prayed for you and still do. I know this is painful. So thankful you have God and know to turn to him and the blessed mother for comfort and peace. -Holly

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    • jschulman&company says:

      Holly, thank you so much for your love and prayers. It’s been a difficult road, and one that I never imagined myself on, but every day I am completely blown away by the love and generosity of everyone who continues to pray and think about us. ❤

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  2. Jade says:

    I am so sorry for your loss. It is very brave of you to share your story and great of you to bring light to an area of suffering not many people hear about or understand

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  3. Paula Doyle says:

    This is a beautiful story and thank you for sharing. I gave birth to my sleeping angel 5 weeks ago. I was 37+5 weeks. I am devastated and cannot see much light. Like you my angel was perfect in every way. I am raging he will not meet his sisters but am confident that in time he will appear to them and play with them that way.
    I just hope I can open my heart to God again and forgive him for taking my boy away from me.

    Sincerest condolences to you and your family. God bless.

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    • jschulman&company says:

      Oh Paula, my heart is aching for you. I am so, so sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing your story with me, I know it’s not easy to do. Some of the best advice I was given after losing my son was to be patient with myself. I didn’t really know what that meant in the moment, but in the weeks that followed I realized what it meant. Grief will sneak up on you and I would get upset with myself for breaking down, or being mad at God. I pray you allow yourself the time to heal, and the freedom to mourn and cope how you need to. There is no handbook or timeframe. Please have hope in knowing your light will shine once again, though some days it might feel lost. I will confess, I still struggle some days with God, though I have moved from “why did you do this to me” to “why did you let this happen”. I’ll never know, but for my own sanity I had to realize that God doesn’t want bad things to happen, and he mourns along side of us. I cling to the hope that he will bring light out of this darkness and create something beautiful. I also have made it a point to talk about him often, we pray for baby Michael every night and keep a picture of him out. That might not be for everyone, but for me, acknowledging his life and place in our life has eased the sting over time, but I know that hole in your heart will never completely go away. Sending you all my love and prayers… our sons are playing together in heaven and looking down proudly at us. I know it. God bless you, Angel Mama.

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  4. Lindsey says:

    Our baby Calvin was born into heaven December 18, 2016. I was 41 weeks pregnant. He was my 4th baby. Like you the day before, Dec 17 was our anniversary. We laid awake feeling him move until 12:30 and I was having contractions. I went to sleep and suddenly woke at 6:47 that morning. The first thought that crossed my mind was that he wasn’t moving. I tried feeling for a while only to never feel movement. I called the hospital and we went at about 1045. They did an ultrasound after trying to find heartbeat and found no heartbeat. I was induced and had him at 5:57 p.m. He was absolutely perfect and beautiful. It has only been seven weeks and I’m still sorting through so many emotions and questions. However, I know God has a purpose in this for His glory so I pray daily we help Him to fulfill his plan. Thank you for sharing your story. You are correct everyone goes through this so different but it is comforting to hear other stories because there are bits and pieces that are similar you can relate to. .

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    • jschulman&company says:

      Lindsey, Thank you so much for sharing your story… I couldn’t help but to cry when I read it and my heart is sincerely breaking for you and your family. Once you’ve experienced a loss, it always stays with you in some form, which now seems to be both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, it brings us back to our own story and emotions, but on the other hand it gives the opportunity to truly empathize with another suffering mom to which I firmly believe generates a powerful and sincere form of prayer. A good friend of mine who also lost her baby at 40+ weeks was my greatest inspiration for healing. Though our stories were not the technically “the same”, they still were. We both lost our children and suddenly we became sisters. She encouraged me to tell my story, talk about our son, and give myself enough grace and patience to heal how I needed to and what was best for me and my family. Please know you are in my prayers. Your sweet angel is looking down from heaven so proud, and is praying for you and the rest of the sweet family. It’s hard to see any positive now, but give yourself time and continue being faithful and patient. Sending you all my love and prayers beautiful angel mama. xo

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  5. Ashley T. says:

    I came upon your post right after Christmas 2016 but only now have I been able to read it. I gave birth to a little girl, Caroline, Dec. 21 who was born with her wings. This has been the most difficult thing I have ever had to endure. We, too, have an older daughter and she has been amazing through this loss. As a Christian I believe in my heart that God was there, has been, and is there with me. I just want to say thank you for what you wrote. I do pray that you and your little family are doing good.

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    • jschulman&company says:

      Ashley, Thank you for taking the time to share your story with me… my heart just breaks for you. Like you, my faith, and the faithful people around me helped guide me through the dark moments and reminded me that God loves me, my husband and my daughter, and loves my son now resting in heaven watching over us. I believe that for whatever reason, our angel babies were needed in heaven, that was always their purpose, and to be their mommy’s were always ours. I’m sure you can relate, but not a day goes by that I don’t think about him and the better person I became because of him. Be patient and kind to yourself, everyone deals with grief differently and that is ok ❤ You are in my prayers sweet angel mama! xo

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  6. Jessica says:

    Wow, what an incredible story. I’m 23 and don’t have any kids, nor am I married…but reading your journey reminds me that there is hope for my future. It opens my eyes to the reality of one day becoming a mother and the gift that God entrusts us with.
    Thankyou for sharing your story, your strength and your continuous trust in God. He is forever watching over you and your beautiful family with loving eyes.

    Thankyou for being so honest and supportive for women everywhere regardless of their situation, you’ve opened an incredibly powerful door of support and trust.

    Thankyou for reminding me of the strength that is entrusted into women.

    God Bless you J & your family and your forthcoming beautiful new addition
    X

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  7. Jackie says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this. My husband and I went through a loss of our baby girl at 23 weeks and I can relate to all of your feelings. Thank you for your story. I don’t feel alone as I read your post, as I had before. I’m very glad I found your blog!

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    • jschulman&company says:

      Jackie, thank you for sharing your story with me, I am so sorry to hear about your precious little girl! My heart just breaks for you and your husband. It’s a difficult road as you know, but I promise you, though the pain never goes away, it will get better. You are strong and beautiful mama, and I know your angel is looking down from heaven so proud! I hope you will be patient and kind with yourself as you navigate the times ahead, grief plays out differently for everyone. Sending you all of my love and prayers sweet angel mama. If you ever need an ear to listen, I am here! ❤

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