Today, my blog post will be very personal and bittersweet. On this day, 11 years ago, I gave birth to my firstborn baby, who was stillborn at 26 weeks of pregnancy. Sometimes I can hardly believe it’s been such a long time since this momentous event. And even though it was so many years ago, I still think about her often.
As a newly married couple, my husband and I were scared but excited when we found out we were expecting our first child. I was young and healthy, and the pregnancy was completely uneventful up until my 25th week. At that time, I noticed that the baby was kicking less and less. When I asked my doctor about it, he said that babies’ movements varied and I shouldn’t worry. After several days of no movement, however, I knew that something was wrong.
At the doctor’s office, they did an ultrasound and told me that the baby had died. To say I was in shock is an understatement; the following hours were a blur as I called my husband and my mom to have them meet me there. The most vivid thought I had during that time was that maybe if I got up and left the doctor’s office and started running, I could run so far that I would get away from this awful tragedy. I was terrified of giving birth to a dead baby.
The next morning, I was induced and blessedly, the labor was short and uncomplicated. Only my mom and my husband were with me, and we cried together as we held our little baby girl, whom we named Sarah. Handing her back to the nurse and knowing that I would never see her again is still the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life.
In the months to come, we grieved her loss deeply. Nothing made sense – the doctors were unable to determine how she died. But the most nagging question was this:
How could the loss of this baby, whom we never truly knew, hurt so much? The answer is simple: in Sarah, we saw the promise of new life, of hope, of dreams to be fulfilled. The emptiness of those unfulfilled dreams was staggering.
A few years later, I worked up the courage to get pregnant again. This time, I visited several specialists and they determined that I have a blood disorder that causes clotting during pregnancy (Protein S deficiency), and this most likely caused Sarah’s death. To prevent it from happening again, I gave myself daily shots of a blood thinner throughout my second pregnancy and the one after. Thankfully, God has now blessed us with two beautiful and healthy children. Their arrival did much to dispel the grief and sadness we had felt for so long.
When I first lost my daughter, I felt so alone. I didn’t know many women who had lost a baby in this way, since it’s not as common as miscarriage. I felt like an outcast as I watched all my friends get pregnant and have healthy babies. I soon learned that infant loss is very common; it’s just not often talked about. Either it’s too painful, or too private, but many people internalize their pain and don’t talk about their losses.
However, my loss was a very public one; my dad is an author, speaker, and the pastor of a large church, and not only did everyone at church know, but it was mentioned on my dad’s radio shows and other places. Because of this, I began to receive cards and letters from women – literally around the world – who had suffered similar losses. This was such a blessing to me, and helped greatly with my healing.
Not long after our loss, my dad, with the thoughtful tenderness of a grandfather, dedicated one of his books to Sarah. This is how the dedication reads:
In loving memory of our
precious stillborn granddaughter Sarah,
who even now beholds the face
of our Father who is in heaven.
Because of this dedication, my dad started to receive letters and calls from parents who were grieving the loss of their babies and looking for someone to talk to. My dad passes on their contact info to me, which has led to countless cards, emails, calls, and new friendships as I reach out to others. I never, ever could have known that God would use my experience in this way.
So, as I end this post, if you or someone you know has lost a baby or a child, please feel free to leave a comment or send me an email. I am happy to talk to anyone who wants to share or just needs someone to talk to. No one understands like someone who’s been there too.