Today is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day and what better way to honor our children, then by hearing from a mother who has suffered greatly.
“I was joyously pregnant 24 weeks and 2 days with our fourth and final baby that would complete our family. (Honestly, I don’t enjoy the physical symptoms of pregnancy i.e. gaining weight, swelling, morning sickness, overly tired, etc. I do however, find God’s work amazing and recognize that life is truly a gift and find my joy in that truth.)
On the way to the hospital that morning I was eager and nervous. I was headed to my doctor appointment and hopeful that I was going to be hearing a strong heartbeat of this little baby. I was nervous because this pregnancy was different, it hadn’t felt like any of my others, but I was confident that after hearing the first heart beat I would feel at ease.
I was listening to the Christian radio station that morning (I don’t think I EVER turn it off!!) and heard the song “Worn” by Tenth Avenue North. This song is dear to me as I have listened to it since it has been playing on the radio (over a year) and nearly every time it brings me to tears because I know what it is to be worn and to feel so weak and continuously wonder “when does my struggle end?”, “what does rest feel like?”
I have been on my knees crying and calling out to God through many struggles. I can relate to this song and as I cry out to God, he reminds me of the blessings He has given to me so underserving. When I hear this song it revives me and I don’t feel alone in my struggles, I become hopeful.
That morning at the stop light waiting to turn into the hospital I felt such a wonderful peace come over me at the start of this song. Throughout the entire song I wept for others who were in the valley of their struggles at that moment.
Those whom the storms of life seemed as though they would never let up, I knew all too well how uncertain and divided they felt. I prayed over them. As I watched people pass by me I called out to Jesus on their behalf. I was reassured of God’s never failing love for me and was broken at the heartache of others, the Holy Spirit was definitely present in my car that morning!!
My doctor has delivered each of my other children and we have come to know each other pretty well (as well as you can in a doctor/patient relationship) I feel comfortable with her and she knows I am someone that wants to know the blunt truth about things (at least when it comes to medical information).
As I was feeling uncomfortable while she was measuring she said with a more high pitched voice than normal, almost as to over compensate the horrible thought that entered her mind, “How sure are you about the 24 weeks 2 days?” I told her we were trying to get pregnant so we are pretty sure of when we conceived. She came back with a smaller measurement of about 16/17 weeks.
I knew right away that something was wrong. I knew I could possibly be (not likely) a couple of weeks off but to be 7/8 weeks off in my calculation of the conception date wasn’t right. My heart sank, I was holding on to some hope….
I was mentally preparing myself for the complications or disabilities my child might bear throughout their life, but I held on to the truth that God will give me strength when I need it (Philippians 4:13)!!
The Doctor wheeled in the Doppler so that we could listen to the heart beat. As we sat there with the lights off she scanned my belly, I couldn’t see the screen so I stared straight up in to the white ceiling just praying to God.
I didn’t have any words come to mind I was just clinging to him with the phrase “Oh God, Oh God…..” I needed him and was calling out to him with all my heart!!! I glanced over at her and she looked at me and said “Dawn, I am sorry but I don’t see a heartbeat.”
I just started sobbing, my heart had broken. I didn’t know what to do. I felt so out of control, I didn’t know what had happened, what was next, how could my baby die and there be no physical signs, what am I supposed to do, how and what exactly do I tell my Husband/kids/family/friends??
I went down to radiology so they could confirm that there was no heartbeat and give a better estimate of the gestational age. The hard part was feeling so alone walking the halls and entering the waiting room balling and watching the Mother’s Day specials on the TVs. I couldn’t hardly bear it……I was just going through the motions.
I went to have the ultra sound, they told me the gestational age was 16/17 weeks, and there was in fact no heartbeat. The technician took several medical measurements and pictures and when I asked her if I could have the information and pictures they took, she was not sure how to respond.
After calling her supervisor their response was, “We don’t really do that.” I explained to them that these could be the only pictures I have of my baby, I would buy them (I figured insurance doesn’t cover a copy).
I don’t need to go into the details, they weren’t very sympathetic and I was appalled at how they handled it but I did in fact get my ultra sound pictures (and more than the one photo the supervisor agreed to).
I was able to briefly talk to my husband between radiology and the next meeting with the doctor. It was heart wrenching to hear his cry over the phone while listening to the kids playing, laughing and arguing in the background (he was babysitting for me during the appointment).
The meeting with the doctor was a bit of information but not much. We discussed the next steps: admit, induce labor, leave, and wait for test results. She also revealed to me that my circumstance was rare but thankfully there was no infection settling in my body, which is why I had no idea that I had miscarried.
She informed me that my body was carrying as if baby was alive and there was no way for me to know unless my body rejects it or an ultra sound or Doppler would detect defects. Doctor told me that she would typically admit me right away due to the length of time I was carrying a fetal demise (7/8 weeks) but since there were no signs of infection, bleeding or any complications she released me to go home and give them a call back for when I was available to make the appointment to deliver the baby.
Her recommendation was that evening, Friday before the weekend (Mother’s Day weekend) if possible, or early the following week. I had no idea what to commit to, there was so much to figure out and so little time, I just needed some time to think.
Everything was going too fast. I couldn’t stop it or slow it down. After the appointment I called my mom and told here all that had happened and of course she sympathized in her own heart ache. She was very supportive in whatever we decided to do and would wait to hear.
I went home and was embraced by my husband. My kiddos were out back playing with the neighbor which was a blessing, it gave us enough time to figure out what we needed to do. We decided it was best to be admitted to the hospital that evening so that we could make sure I remained as healthy as possible (mentally and physically).
Packing had begun, my parents were heading up and we already had a babysitter in place because that was to be our first “date night” hiring a babysitter to attend a wedding. With it being our first baby sitter (not a family member) watching our children it was already hectic and stressful.
Babysitter came, kids were excited about it and we were in the clear to leave the house and sit and talk with each other before we rushed off to the hospital. We had all the questions of why did this happen, how could I have blood work done that didn’t detect an issue within this time, why did my body carry baby this long after it was no longer living, what was this going to be like, what was he going to look like, etc. The only hope to these answers were the tests they would run on me and baby after delivery.
Next topic was how do we do this? In a small group we had attended at our church we had watched, supported, and prayed for a family that went through an infant loss and gathered some ideas from their faithful walk. One of the ideas was to have a photographer there so that we could have pictures of our baby.
Recognizing that these moments we would have would be brief and significant we wanted to make sure that we captured them so that we would have them always. I called a friend of mine that has a photography business and she was more than willing to do this for us!!
We shared our news with a few close friends of ours and a couple of my girlfriends went above and beyond in planning childcare the following day (delivery day) for my kids!! God has placed some amazing people in our lives, we are so thankful!!
We headed to the hospital around 8pm and were admitted. They walk us through all the steps of what ideally would happen and then of course they walk you through the worst that could happen. They were delicate in explaining the medical procedures and what they would be doing and reassuring me that they would keep me informed as the situation unfolded, since no one is every really sure what to expect in these delivery situations.
My friend (the photographer) arrived at just the right moment to be suppordblog2tive and we did an impromptu maternity shoot. We had a great time capturing belly shots the best we could. It was just what I needed to lighten the mood and to capture these precious moments of carrying our fourth baby, for the short time that I had.
The nurses started to induce labor that evening and would intensify it in the morning when the doctor came in. A very uncomfortable, heavy hearted night seemed to last. I didn’t think I would ever get to sleep, they gave me sleep medicine per request so that I could get a couple hours of sleep.
It worked, I got two hours of sleep. Morning came and they increased the Pitocin, I received pain medicine but because it made me drowsy I refused any more of it. I wanted to be awake and aware during the delivery.
As contractions began to intensify thoughts began shooting around in my head. I couldn’t help but think of the worst circumstances happening: surgery, placenta ripping/tearing, emergency surgery, bleeding out, death (ok, maybe we can blame some of it on the hormones).
I couldn’t comprehend that I was going to meet and say good bye to my little baby all in the same moment, an emotion that was too unbearable for this momma. To help calm and lighten the room Brian began playing music and the first song to play was “Worn” by Tenth Avenue North, I bawled.
Hearing the song reminded me of earlier that morning, a time when I knew God was present and his love for me was bigger and better than what I would face in my life. I knew that God was with me even then, in the delivery room, no matter what and that I could rely on him!! (Matthew 28:20) God knows just the right moments for the Holy Spirit to lead….Brian, my mom and I all cried together.
A few intense contractions and it was time, 1 push later baby was here (May 10, 2014 @ 11:13 am). Brian watched as baby came out, baby was perfect. God was truly protecting me as my amniotic sac was still intact and the placenta came out right after (which has not happened in any of my healthy deliveries).
No tearing, excessive bleeding or surgery needed. What a blessing!! We were all relieved after the delivery because many of the unknowns had now passed. Brian cut baby’s cord, the nurse cleaned baby off and examined for any defects and there were none. There was no physical evidence of why baby passed in the womb.
Brian then announced that we had a BOY!!. We had hoped for a baby boy during this pregnancy (obviously we had no control or choice, we knew we would be blessed and overwhelmed with joy with a boy or girl, we had just been hoping Ephrem would have a baby brother), knowing we had lost a son added to the overwhelming sorrowful emotions that already filled the room.
Brian and I spent time with him and held him in the palms of our hands. Emotions were intense and mixed, it was great to see his little body while at the same time wonder “Why was he taken so soon?” “He looked so perfect, what went wrong?” “Was God protecting us?”
He measured from head to toe at 7 inches, weighing him in at 3.1 oz. He was so delicate and small but yet I could see distinct physical attributes the distinct eye brow line alreaddblog6y formed that all of my children have graciously inherited from their father, the body build that is similar to some of his siblings.
It is amazing to see God’s most precious work at such an early stage in life. I fell in love with him even more the moment I saw and held him.
After holding him and having my parents meet and hold him the nurse asked us about a name for the “birth certificate”. (The hospital gives complimentary birth certificates since he was born prior to 20 weeks gestational age it isn’t required by law.)
We looked at each other and were now faced with something that we weren’t prepared for either. We had not officially picked a name, Brian had a favorite which I liked also, and with my dad’s offering we used his middle and when we looked up the meaning of the names it was perfect for our new little guy. His name: Gunnar Keith.
We had all the time we could with Gunnar Keith; I was able to leave the hospital that Saturday. I was home for Mother’s Day and able to bake Ephrem’s Cake for his birthday on Monday so we could celebrate his precious life.
Ephrem and Amberleigh were curious about Gunnar the moment we came home from the hospital with no baby. We were able to explain to them that God wants Gunnar in Heaven (Matthew 18:14) and that’s where he is.
Gunnar was obedient to God and will meet us when we get there. God is good all the time, even though there is heartache. God’s plans are bigger and better than ours and we know that Gunnar is in Heaven learning and growing where there is no pain, fights, tears, heart ache, illness and he will be excited to see us when we get there.
I explained to them that when they see daddy or me cry over the next few days it is because we miss Gunnar not because he is hurt in any way and reassured them that I was healthy and not going anywhere.handimage
Gunnar is here, maybe not physically but I hear/talk about him at least 3 times per week with my husband and kids. E & A are always asking about him and wanting to go visit him in Heaven. We have had some amazing spiritual discussions that have started with questions about Gunnar.
Ephrem was going to share a room with Gunnar. He emptied out his dresser and calls it his ‘old’ dresser and some days wishes that Gunnar was going to fill it with all his clothes, jam jams and toys. We are all excited that Gunnar gets to be in Heaven and has met Jesus and God before us and we can’t wait to get there to meet all of them.
It warms my heart to know that Gunnar is remembered by them, and I am thankful we were able to capture some moments with him so when they are old enough they are able to share in those memories.
It brings tears to my eyes to wonder what great things Gunnar would have done had he been here, then I realize I can’t take what moments and the imprint he has had on my life away from him.
I chose to recognize the 16 weeks he had were precious and he has left an impact in this world, if only on me and my family but it is meaningful and purposeful, otherwise God wouldn’t have formed him. (Romans 11:36) For each of you that have had to hear the words fetal demise, miscarriage, or still birth my heart aches for you.
I know each of our stories are different but significant. Please know that my heart breaks for each of you. God’s heart aches too!! I want each of you to know that God loves you more than you know and he wants you to call out to him and reach for him during these heart aches.
You are NOT alone and your babies will never be forgotten, their stories no matter how short they seem have a great impact that can be used for God’s kingdom. Continue to press on and rely on Him. (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)(John 16:33)