Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Still

Written by Melissa

Stillbirth is a near impossible pill to swallow.

For 9 months, a mother carries this child in her womb, sacrificing everything to ensure this child has the best chance of survival.  Enduring seemingly endless days of morning sickness.  Then there's the weight gain, the sleepless nights, the incessant trips to the bathroom, etc.  Prayers said over this child night and day.  Fantasies about what life will be like with another child in the family.

There's so much hope, expectation, planning, dreaming...

And in a moment, it all comes to a dramatic and painful end.
And there's nothing anyone can do to stop it or to roll back time and prevent it.

The mother and father are immediately confronted with thoughts like,
"Did we do something wrong?"
"Is there something wrong with us?"
"Could this have been prevented?"
"Are we being punished?"
"What if...?"

And the infamous, unanswerable "WHY?!!!"

Physically, mother still has to go through the normal pains of childbirth.
Then there's the afterbirth...  The shot of medicine to shrink the uterus back down...  The engorged breasts with no relief...  The weeks of bleeding...  The weight gain that needs to be lost...

But the body heals with time.  Perhaps with no scars, even.

Then, there's the dreaded quiet.  Hence the term "still" birth.
Night's are the worst.
When you expect to be awakened by the cries of your infant, you instead wake up to complete and utter silence.

And still it proceeds...

All the baby paraphernalia needs to be packed up and put back in storage.

Unknowing people ask, "How many children do you have?" and you never really quite know how to answer them.

Family portraits always have this glaring, gaping hole.

For a long while every time you see a baby, especially one born around the time you delivered, there's this tug-of-war/kicked-in-the-gut feeling you have to contend with.  You are SO happy for that other family.  But it hurts to the core of your being that you don't have your baby to hold.

And you're always looking at children the same age as your lost baby, watching them grow and mature, thinking to yourself "that's how big our baby would be now" or "our baby would be doing that right about now, too".

Your arms are empty.

It's a nightmare I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy.
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One year ago on (Friday) April 9, 2010, this happened to my husband and I...

We were joyfully expecting the arrival of our 5th child.  Prior, all we'd known or experienced were textbook pregnancies and births of our four beautiful, healthy, vibrant children.  How could we have anticipated anything else?

Everything was ready.  Birth kit was ordered (as we were planning our third home birth).  Nursery prepped.  Clothes and diapers laid out.  Babysitters lined up for the older children.

Labor started three weeks early.  We tried contacting the midwife, but we could not reach her.  We left several messages.  Labor started fast and strong, but neither my husband or I suspected anything could be wrong.  This was my fifth child.  Things very well could progress quickly.  Children were immediately picked up by babysitters.

Honestly, we didn't suspect anything was wrong until her water broke and it was not clear.  I immediately began pushing like crazy to get her out in fear that she may inhale meconium.  It was just me, my husband, and my girlfriend who was attending the birth at this time.  Our midwife had finally returned our calls and was on her way.

Ready or not, the baby was coming.  My husband delivered our sweet Francesca Rose.

Absolute silence...

As I was catching my breath with relief from delivery, I heard my girlfriend say from behind me in a quivering voice I will never forget... "she's dead"...

WHAT?!

Everything from this point on is a blur.  I remember the midwife arriving five minutes after delivery, getting a shot of something to shrink my uterus (as I would not be nursing), getting cleaned up.  Then the coroner and a man from the funeral home coming to fill out paperwork and take her little body away.

I remember looking at her lifeless face and body.  I couldn't bring myself to hold her.  She was so fragile.  I touched her nose.  That was it.  We couldn't even bring ourselves to take pictures.  They took her body away to the morgue to get an autopsy done.

The midwife prayed over us.  Then left...

Utter silence.

As long as I live, I will always remember those nights in the beginning.  SO incredibly and horridly quiet.
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We literally clung to God and His Word like never before.  It was the ONLY thing that pulled us through this past year.

We knew and believed the following basic truths:
1- God is perfect and can do nothing sinful.
2- God is sovereign over all things and nothing can exist outside His will.

"And we know that God causes ALL THINGS to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according His purpose."  Romans 8:28

We were immediately faced with this issue: were we going to trust in God's Word OR were we going to trust in our "feelings"?  We could not see or understand how losing Francesca could be "good", but we chose to place our full faith and trust in God's flawless, unchanging Word.  SOMEhow and in SOME way at SOME time, this experience was going to be used for good.  Someday soon, when we reach heaven, we will see the complete picture.  All the dots will be connected and we will see fully how and why Francesca died when she did.  We will then fully rejoice in God's perfect plan that we could only see in part here on earth.

We had to take every thought captive.  In going through the grieving process, it is so incredibly easy to let your mind go into dark, Godless valley's.  Self pity.  Anger.  Bitterness.  My husband and I had to constantly keep each other accountable to thinking only things that were true about God and His character.

"Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things."  Philippians 4:8

"Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.  And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing."  James 1:2-4

It brought us much comfort, too, knowing that Francesca never felt pain, sorrow, hunger, lonliness, grief over sin...  All she knew was the constant presence of her mother enveloping her body.  And in an instant, she was brought before her Creator in perfection, in heaven.  When  our ordained amount of days are up, we will see her again.  We never really "lost" her.  That would imply she was gone for good.  But we know where she is and that we will one day be reunited with her.  We spent many a day and night pouring over Scripture that deals with heaven.  A FANTASTIC read is "Safe In the Arms of God" by John MacArthur!!!

Scripture also says in Psalm 139:16, "Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them."  Francesca's ordained time was 36 weeks in the womb.  There was nothing I nor my husband (or midwives or doctors, etc) could have done to change how many days she would be with us.  God ordained them.  Just like my days are ordained.  My husband's days are ordained.  Each of our children's days are ordained.  Death doesn't surprise God.  He knew before the creation of the world how many days each of us would have on this earth.  Francesca's passing was not a fluke thing of nature.  It was perfectly set aside by God, the Author and Creator and Sustainer of life.
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Fast forward a year.

How has life changed?

1- My husband and I now have a MUCH deeper faith and trust in God.
2- Going through this experience has caused us to live out what we believe in boldness.
3- Our immediate family is definitely closer and more loving, as we no longer take our days together for granted.  (Each day is a gift!)
4- Any day now, we are expecting another blessing!  God in His wonderful and generous way granted us another child three months after Francesca's passing.  My due date is May 4th!!!

Job 1:21, "... The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away.  Blessed be the name of the Lord."

We sang this song at church this morning!
So fitting!

Blessed be Your name
When the sun's shining down on me
When the world's all as it should be
Blessed be Your name


Blessed be Your name
On the road marked with suffering
When there's pain in the offering
Blessed be Your name


You give and take away
You give and take away
But my heart will choose to say
Lord, blessed be Your name

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SPECIAL UPDATE: Melissa had a healthy baby boy.  Baby G arrived at 5:00AM 5/4/11  The baby was 7lbs 4oz, 19 inches long.  Take a look!

6 comments:

Jen said...

♥ ♥ ♥

I'm so sorry for your empty arms. Praying fervently that your delivery goes (or went!!!) smoothly and God heals this hurt in His time.

♥ ♥ ♥

Beth said...

This post is so open and honest; thank you for that. I am so sorry for your loss. Please know that this was helpful for me--even though I have never experienced the loss of a child, I have friends who have. Your post gave me some insight that helps me understand their grief better. I will be praying for your delivery (or aftermath); may these be blessed days for your family.

"Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted." ~Matt. 5:4

admin said...

I'm blessed by your courage, Mel! Thanks for sharing this, and how wonderful that we can celebrate the birth of your beautiful baby this morning!

Andrea said...

Today is yet another reminder that God's mercies are new every morning! Rejoicing over your new birth, as we still pray for your healing to be complete.

monkeyberry said...

I can not even imagine and I am so sorry for your loss. It is one that no parent should ever have to face. Thank you for sharing.

Lynne D. said...

Melissa, your post is where my husband & I found ourselves on Oct. 25, 2010. We went to the doctor the previous Wed. for our last appointment ahead of the c-section, everything seemed fine. On that Monday in the hospital, none of the Dopplers could find Elizabeth's heartbeat. An ultrasound was ordered & confirmed what I refused to admit but had to, Elizabeth Ruth was DEAD! I have felt your pain & I am still dealing with the healing process. I know it was not easy to write your blog, but I found it very helpful. When I reach heaven, I will have 2 of my children to greet me (unless I miscarried twins), since I had a miscarriage prior to the birth of our daughter who is approaching 3. I feel your gaping holes in family pictures too. I cannot wait to hear about your '11 arrival!!! It will definitely be the wind beneath my husband & my human wings that there can be life after a stillbirth!!!