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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.