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Thursday, July 14, 2016

the loss of an angel - a story of stillbirth by Elizabeth Dean

I am grateful to Elizabeth Dean for sharing her heartbreaking story of losing her son at just 23 weeks along. She has gone through something no mother should ever have to survive. And yet, she considers herself stronger because of it and even a better mother to her now twin boys. I admire her courage to share her experience in hopes of helping others realize they are not alone.

My good friend experienced a stillbirth baby recently and I am at a loss for words on how to support her. I hope that this piece not only helps moms who have gone through this, but also those who have friends going through it and how to support them as they grieve.

Thank you, Elizabeth. Your angel baby is smiling down on you today and always.

Images shared from Elizabeth Dean

1. When did you deliver your stillborn baby? How far along were you?  
I delivered on June 29th 2014. I was induced at 23 weeks and 2 days 

2. What do you remember about that day, leading up to finding out that your baby had passed? 
I remember making my boyfriend call the hospital to see what time they wanted us to come in so I could be induced to deliver. When they told him as soon as we could I broke down because I was not ready. I had found out 2 days prior that my baby had passed and I wanted to wait as long as possible to keep him inside of me. I remember going to the hospital around 9a and my body would not stop shaking. I was not crying I was too nervous to cry. The nurse was concerned I was showing no emotion and my mom told her that I'm one to keep it in as much as I can. My legs trembled so much you could see them shaking. In my head I kept asking how much is this going to hurt since I never gave birth before, I wondered what he looked like, would I hold him, when would I be able to go home, how would I feel afterwards.. So many questions kept running through my mind I felt like I wasn't really present.

3. What do you recall about that day as you delivered your baby, realizing your baby had died? What feelings did you experience?  
I had 2 days prior knowing he had died.. 

I never cried so much in my life during those days. I was sad, scared, angry, confused, nervous how I would cope after he was delivered and I went home without him. I remember refusing to get an epidural because I wanted to feel the real pain of giving birth. I felt like some how I caused him to die. 

4. What were some things that helped you through this difficult time? What did others say or do that really helped you feel stronger and supported? 
My boyfriend was by my side the entire time and just reassured me he was there for me and he was hurting too. My parents and brothers stopped their lives to be there for me. They all came to the hospital before I delivered to let me know they were thinking of me. My mom was in the room along with my boyfriend when I delivered him and just having them there was comforting. 

People can't say much during this kind of situation but just being present helps. My family encouraged me to eat, talk, cry, laugh, just kept me busy before and afterwards. 

5. What did not help you during this time? What do you wish others had realized or done differently when trying to support you?
Seeing pregnant women did not help. For a long time after seeing or hearing about pregnancy made me cry. I was pregnant with 2 of my other friends and one of them had an early on miscarriage, I had a stillbirth, and my other friend stayed pregnant. It was hard to talk to the pregnant friend for a while. Eventually I was able to but during her pregnancy we didn't talk much about her actual pregnancy. I honestly can't complain about how I was supported. My family was amazing and still to this day recognize Kieran's birth. 

6. Did you find any supportive resources like Web sites, books, doctors, etc. that comforted you during this time? 
I read a few online websites about losing a child. I also spoke to a woman I know who had 2 stillbirths. I think talking to woman who has gone through similar experiences helps to know you're not alone and someone actually understands what it is like.

7. Do you know the reason why your baby was born stillborn? How do you feel about what happened? 
At 22 weeks we found out in an ultrasound that there were many complications and most likely we would lose Kieran during pregnancy or shortly after he was born. We chose to keep going with the pregnancy and see what happens. A week later I knew he had passed and we went to the hospital to confirm it. 2 days later I delivered him. We ended up getting an autopsy done so we would know for sure what was wrong since before they couldn't tell us. 

It ended up being amniotic band syndrome which means there was a rupture in the sac which allows fibrous string to attach onto the fetus and cause damage. As the fetus grows the bands constrict growth. When we found out that this is sure a rare thing I was relieved to know I could have more children and this would not be passed out. I also felt sadness that my baby boy had to go through this and hoped he did not feel pain when this was going on. 

8. How did this experience make you a stronger mother? 
It made me stronger because even though I was sacred, I was given the choice to terminate or carry out my pregnancy, I decided I will always give my kids a fighting chance at any cost. I will never take the time I have with them for granted and love them unconditionally.

9. What may you have learned from this experience? 

I learned that things are out of our control and I truly believe things happen for a reason. I think God has a plan for us all and it won't always be easy but some people are meant to go through things that others are not. 

10. What were some of your hardest moments, things you could not do for a while, such  as see pregnant women or attend baby showers or talk about your baby? 
My hardest moment was holding my baby and only seeing his feet because my doctor told me it would be best for me not to look at all of him since he wasn't fully developed. Leaving the hospital and going home without my baby was also hard and seeing the things I had already bought for him. My milk came in that was painful and hard and a reminder that I had no baby to feed for several days until I dried up. Seeing pregnant women was hard or hearing people talk about new babies.

11. How do you honor your baby now? Did you do anything to remember your little one? Are there things that help you on the anniversary of the baby's birth or death? 
We have Kieran's ashes in a Irish keep sake on my dresser along with pictures of his feet and a little angel statue we bought. We also framed his foot prints with a poem that's hanging in our living room. My mom planted a bush of blue hydrangeas in her yard that bloom every year in June when he was born. I went with my dad and we both got tattoos in his honor. This is only the second year of his birth, last year we released balloons and this year we will do the same. Once our twins get bigger we will involve them and see if they want to do something special. 

12. What have you learned about stillborn situations in general? 
I learned that they are not talked about often. 

13. What is your advice to someone who has gone through this experience? What is helpful when grieving this loss? What do you wish someone had shared with you? 

My advice is to just cry and grieve the loss as long as you want. No one can tell you if and when it will get easier. Everyone handles loss differently and the loss of a child is something you will never truly get over. I find being with family is helpful and seeing all of the keepsakes we have around the house. I wish someone forced me to go to therapy.

14. You have since had babies again. How was your pregnancy? How did you know it was time to try again and move forward with your family? What was difficult during that pregnancy? What helped ease any fears you may have had? 
Once we found out the results of the autopsy we started trying right away. We knew as long as what happened was not due to genetics we would try again soon and in October I was pregnant. At 6 weeks pregnant we found out I was having twins! It was a shock and doesn't run in either of our families. I was terrified for many reasons but mostly because twins is considered a high risk pregnancy and I had a chance of losing one or both now. Every doctors appointment was difficult because I was worried I would be told bad news. I held my breath every time we listened to the heartbeats. Once we reached 20 weeks and found out the sexes I felt better. The specialist did an extensive ultrasound and said everything looked perfect on both boys. 

15. How is your life now? Are there moments that are tougher than others, and how do you manage? 
My life has its ups and downs just like anyone else. I was blessed with twin boys who recently turned 1. They keep me busy and I love being their mom. I think about Kieran every single day. When driving alone for long periods is my toughest time and I always replay my delivery and just cry. I've thought about starting therapy soon because I think I have some PTSD from the whole experience and maybe there are better ways to manage than just crying about it all.

16. Anything else you want to share? 

Just that I am sorry for anyone who has lost a child. It is such a tragic thing no one should ever have to go through. Some days will be better than others but know that you are not alone. 

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