The Emotional Toll of a Stillbirth
Guest writer: Stephanie Raver
The early morning ritual, during my second trimester, was to hit the snooze button and snuggle up to my husband and enjoy feeling my baby kick. She always wiggled around like crazy when I was close to Chad. I had quite a big belly by this time. For some reason, the early morning hours of September 12th felt different to me. I had a feeling something was wrong. I was not feeling Timber kick like usual. I told my husband. He tried to convince me everything was just fine. He assumed I was worrying over nothing. He chose not to go to work, and instead, join me in going to the doctor to check things out, even though he was adamant there was not a problem.
WE ARRIVED AT THE DOCTOR’S OFFICE EXPECTING THEM TO TAKE A QUICK CHECK AND SEND US ON OUR WAY. I STILL HAD A BAD FEELING AND HAD YET TO FEEL HER MOVE. THEY TOOK US TO AN EXAM ROOM RIGHT AWAY. THE NURSE ATTEMPTED TO FIND A HEARTBEAT, BUT COULDN’T. SHE LOOKED AT ME WITH TEARS IN HER EYES, AND I KNEW. I KNEW I HAD LOST MY BABY. SHE HUGGED ME WHILE WE ALL CRIED.
From there, it is all a blur. I was far enough along in my pregnancy that delivery was the only option. I had to go through labor, knowing that my baby was not alive. When she was born, she was perfect. There was nothing physically wrong with her. We had the option to do an autopsy. While I was desperate to know what went wrong, Timber was perfect the way she was. I was not going to change that. I went home to newly decorated nursery, no baby bump any more, no baby to hold any longer, and a shattered heart.
LIFE AFTER LOSS:
The last few weeks were more difficult to get through than the first. I didn't know how I would get through those first few days, but I did. Looking back, I was in shock. I remember thinking that it couldn't be real. There was no way this could have happened to us. It felt like a nightmare and I kept waiting to wake up from it. We had a house full of family with us. We had a beautiful memorial. Then, family all went home. We went back to work. Reality set in.
Going back to work was good and bad. I was afraid of how it would feel having an empty house after having so many people there. I knew I couldn't sit at home alone. So, I figured jumping back into the swing of things would be my best option. It was good to get out of the house. It was good to be around people.
MY BIGGEST FEAR AND MOST DREADED MOMENT WAS RUNNING INTO SOMEONE WHO DIDN'T KNOW WHAT HAD HAPPENED. I KNEW IT WAS BOUND TO HAPPEN. OF COURSE, WHEN IT DID, I FELT LIKE I GOT PUNCHED IN THE STOMACH. A LADY CAME IN TO WORK, AND AS I WAS SITTING BEHIND THE DESK, SHE CASUALLY AND BUBBLY SAID, "SO, WHEN IS YOUR LITTLE ONE DUE?" I COULDN'T EVEN ANSWER HER. I LITERALLY COULDN'T GET THE WORDS TO COME OUT OF MY MOUTH. I JUST STUTTERED. SHE MUST HAVE BEEN ABLE TO TELL BY THE LOOK ON MY FACE AS TO WHAT HAD HAPPENED. SHE DIDN'T MEAN ANY HARM BY HER QUESTION. I WAS SITTING BEHIND A DESK, SO SHE DIDN'T NOTICE THAT I OBVIOUSLY DIDN'T HAVE A BIG PREGNANT BELLY ANY MORE. I KNEW A SITUATION LIKE THIS WAS BOUND TO HAPPEN, BUT IT DIDN'T PREPARE ME WITH HOW TO DEAL WITH IT. I WAS A MESS. THERE WERE LOTS OF TEARS THAT DAY.
Just when I think I am doing better, I feel like I get knocked down. Little reminders pop up. Seeing a pregnant woman nearly kills me. I feel like that should be me. That WAS me just a few short weeks ago. It's hard to even look at them. It just makes me sad. Whenever I get those feelings, I pray. I ask for comfort. I ask for strength to get through that moment. I pray that those people never EVER have to experience what I did. I pray that they will have a healthy child and love it more than anything.
Throughout this, I received emails, phone calls, and cards in the mail from people that I don't hear from very often.You never realize how a simple text, email, or social media post can help someone. It may be small, but it really does mean a lot to hear from people and know that they are thinking of you; that they care, and that you aren't alone. It just goes to show that no matter how long time passes, friends are friends. Even if you don't talk to someone on a daily basis, they still care. I hope to remember this and to be able to reach out and be there when someone I know is hurting. I can't thank my friends and family enough for being there for us.
I HAVE HEARD THAT TRAGEDY WILL EITHER MAKE OR BREAK A MARRIAGE. I BELIEVE THIS IS 100% TRUE. I FEEL CLOSER TO MY HUSBAND THAN EVER BEFORE. WE'VE ALWAYS HAD A SPECIAL CONNECTION. I DON'T KNOW WHY OR HOW IT WORKS. ALL I KNOW IS THAT I'VE NEVER FELT CLOSER TO HIM THAN I DO NOW.
When we were making arrangements for Timber's memorial service, I was worried about Chad taking on so much responsibility. He told me he wanted to say something at her service. I was fine with him speaking, but didn't know how he'd have the composure to do that. Meanwhile, I was wallering in sorrow. I was wondering how we were going to put on a service and have it not be a complete cluster. I was wondering how I was even going to physically make it out of the house to this. I couldn't even think straight, let alone arrange and plan an event like this. I guess that's where Chad picked up the slack and made it happen. He did everything. Literally, everything. He made the service go exactly the way we wanted it to. He did all the preparations, picked up all the flowers, made sure everything was where it should be, made an amazing speech that touched the hearts of so many people. He is my rock. I've always thought the world of him, but now I see him in an entirely different way. He really is an amazing man!
IT WASN'T UNTIL I WAS WRITING THIS POST THAT I REALIZED THAT IT'S BEEN A WHILE SINCE I'D THOUGHT ABOUT WANTING TO LAY IN BED ALL DAY. I'M NOT SURE IF IT'S THE STAGE OF GRIEF THAT I WAS IN, OR THE FACT THAT I HAD A HEALTHY, HAPPY, ACTIVE LITTLE BOY WHO NEEDED ME. HE NEEDED HIS FAMILY. THE WORLD DOESN'T STOP BECAUSE OF SOMETHING LIKE THIS. I STILL HAD TO BE A MOM. I STILL HAD SOMEONE TO TAKE CARE OF.
I couldn’t just give up. Colter kept us so busy and occupied that the moments of sorrow were interrupted with life. Life, as in, kindergarten school work, reading books, playing trains and racing monster trucks around the house, seeing who can slide the farthest across the tile in our socks, seeing who makes the funniest faces when the vacuum hose suctions it, jumping on beds, water fights IN THE HOUSE...just life. He made it happen. I love that little boy more than he'll ever know, as he is truly a saving grace.
Since this happened, I felt like I was sitting at a fork in the road. One road was very dark, filled with depression and sadness, bitterness, anger, and pain. I feel like it would be so easy to go down that road. But, I didn’t want to. I wanted to mourn, but I didn’t want this to make my life bad. It was a horrible event that I will never forget, but I want to be happy and feel JOY. I don't want to feel guilty about laughing. I didn’t want the rest of my life to be miserable. There will always be a hole in my heart, but I wanted to be able to enjoy every minute of every day despite my loss, despite the fact that it still hurts to breathe. Every. Breath. Hurt. And, my heart still physically ached. But, I wanted to take the other road; the one paved with Faith, where I leaned on my beliefs and trust in God. The one where I leaned on my husband, family and friends to lift me up. The one where I tried to learn from this experience to make me better person, a better mom, and wife, and to be there for others going through similar experiences. This is the road I had to take.
I'd never been so mad at God, yet trusted in him more than in that moment. I'd never been so heartbroken, yet felt so much love. I've never felt so sad, but happy to have at least 1 healthy child. I've never felt like I was going through hell, yet felt so close to heaven.
For more information on stillbirth and how to support those going through go to American Pregnancy’s website.