Soundwaves Perinatal Bereavement Support

Bereavement Support For Parents Grieving the Loss of a Baby During or Just After Pregnancy

Hope and Understanding August 22, 2009

One of my oldest and dearest friend is going through a very tough time lately. Her brother-in-law (to whom she was very close) just died a very difficult death to Lou Gehrig’s Disease. While she was at his funeral she got a phone call from her mother saying that her father had not been able to get out of bed for a few days and had now fallen on the floor and she couldn’t get him up. To make a long story short, once they got him to the was hospital they found he has late stage brain cancer and only has a few months to live. Needless to say I want to be there to support her, as she was for me when I gave birth to my stillborn twin sons.

At that time she wrote me a beautiful poem that I would like to share with you:

 

Two Angels in Your Garden

Two Angels found your garden

At this last summer’s end

To be their place of rest

And to comfort my close friend

 

To stay close by through autumn’s glow

through your grief and sadness

to heal all your tender wounds

and protect you from the madness

 

So the frost does come

And turns gold to brown

So cold, and empty would the winter be

Without those souls around

 

Then one spring morning

Hope comes peeking through

Watch it showered with love and joy

And grow to something new

 

When welcoming the summer warmth

And the beauty that has rose

Have no fear or sorrow

That comes with seasons close

 

For two angels in your garden

In their arms is where you’ll be

Find calm and solace there

And new hope where they lead

 

I hope I can be there for her as she was for me at this difficult time. Once such tragedy strikes any of us (and from my perspective especially after losing a baby) we all need someone who can pick us up and give us some sense of comfort and hope for the future. You might find this in a support group, surrounded by people who have gone through the same experience. You might find it in something someone has written, or, if you are lucky enough, you have friends and family who will be loving and patient with you as you grieve during this difficult time.

I hope you find some sense of comfort and hope here. I am thinking of all your angels today…

Until Next Time,

Claudia

 

 

 

 

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Heartbreaking Decisions July 28, 2009

I write the following with all respect to the grieving parents who have had to make these heartbreaking decisions…

From the moment we are told that our babies are gone, a myriad of unimaginable, heart wrenching decisions are thrust upon us that must be made within a very short period of time. If you experience a miscarriage, you may be asked if you want a D&C or D&E, if you want to miscarry naturally, or if you want to wait or do the procedure right away. I learned from my training that you can be given a miscarriage “kit” by your doctor or hospital to take home in order to catch the remains of a baby and bring them to your doctor or local hospital. Some people save the remains to  have a memorial service (sometimes the remains are intact, tiny and look very much like a baby).

Still others may have to make the agonizing decision to terminate a pregnancy if a baby has severe abnormalities and wouldn’t live outside the womb. A baby’s life might be severely compromised by it’s abnormalities. A woman’s life might be compromised by her pregnancy. A parent may choose to have an elective reduction, if through IVF there are too many babies. Women may be asked if they want to continue their pregnancy or choose to end their pregnancy under any of these circumstances.

If your pregnancy goes to 20 weeks or beyond and your baby dies, still other decisions are to be made. You may be given the option of delivering your baby on the OB floor of the hospital with all the other expectant mothers. Or you may deliver on a GYN floor. I opted for the OB floor because I very much felt like I deserved to be there. Other mothers in the same situation I know opted for the GYN floor because they didn’t want to risk hearing any crying newborns.

If you deliver naturally, you are given the option for medication- to induce labor, to reduce pain, for nausea and/or diarrhea. I was given sleeping pills the night before I delivered because we were given the option of giving birth to our twin sons the night we learned they died, or wait until the next day to deliver (the decision we ultimately made).

A baby may be born alive, but terminally ill, and the parents may have to make the heartbreaking decision to take their baby off of life support. A parent may have the option to hold their baby while he or she is dying.

Once you deliver a stillborn baby or your baby dies shortly after birth, the decisions can be overwhelming. You may be asked if you want to hold your baby and if you want to have pictures taken (there is now a wonderful organization called “Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep”, a group of volunteer photographers who will come into the hospital and professionally photograph your child). You may be asked if you want to bathe your baby, if you want your baby in your room with you for a period of time (I’ve been told you can keep your baby with you for quite a long time now, although I would imagine the longer you keep your baby with you the harder it is to say goodbye).

Phone calls need to be made to immediate family to tell them about what happened. Family may want to know who they should contact. Clergy may be contacted. You may need to get in touch with someone where you work to let them know your circumstances.

You may be given the option to have last rites given to your baby,  and you may choose to have your baby baptized if you are Christian. Funeral and memorial decisions need to be made: whether to cremate your baby, and what you want to do with the ashes. You need to choose a cemetery and perhaps a headstone if you plan to bury your child. A memorial service may need to be planned. Friends may need to be told if they don’t know about your baby’s death already.  The list can go on and on. I’m sure I am not listing all of the possibilities here.

Virtually all of these decisions are difficult, and must be made while you are in shock, can’t think straight, and just want it all to go away. Hopefully, there are good people on the staff in your doctor’s office and/or in the hospital that can help you through the process thoughtfully and with great care.

Sometimes, the decisions we make under such incredibly stressful circumstances can bring tremendous guilt and stall our healing. Often, nothing can change the way things happened and nothing can bring our babies back. We can’t turn back the clock. Above all, no one deserves to be judged for the decisions that needed to be made under these unimaginable circumstances.  The only thing we can do is try to move forward knowing that we did the best we could under the horrendous circumstances we were in at the time. No one can ask more of us than that.

Remembering your babies with heartache and love…

God Bless until next time.

 

I’ll Be There… July 8, 2009

While watching excerpts from the Michael Jackson memorial service, I couldn’t help but wonder where all those people were during Michael’s time of need. Accused of child molestation at one point, a drug addict, seemingly in pain both physically and mentally, Michael was very much alone. He was surrounded by people who loved him, who wanted every piece of him, yet he was alone.

When you lose a baby before or just after birth, the loneliness can be excruciating. You can be surrounded by people… just like Michael was, but feel totally alone, totally empty. Those are hard, cold days.

The thing that kept me from being sucked into that realm permanently was a true bond with two friends who allowed me to indulge myself during that difficult time in my life. They got me away from my house and my bed (where I’d spend every moment if I could) out into the sunshine…and they listened. They allowed me to bare my soul about my stillborn twin sons, about my miscarriages, about my misery in being infertile and childless. They listened over and over again. I will be forever grateful to them, because I really believe they were catalysts to my healing and in turn, a part of the reason I have my sons today, now ages seven and eight.  Human contact, bonding and care is essential to all of our well being no matter what our circumstances.

I write this blog with all of you in mind who are suffering the loss of a baby either before or just after birth, hoping that in some way I can bring you some sense of comfort, care and peace. Know that I am here for you in spirit and in my prayers.

Until next time…I’ll be there.

Claudia

 

Good Grief June 25, 2009

Can there be such a thing? Not sure, but I know that there is a  way of grieving well that can bring you out on the other side with acceptance and some sense of peace.

New grief is strong, unrelenting, and can be completely incapacitating. When you first lose a baby you are still very much attached to your child emotionally, even physically. Hormones wreak havoc, milk comes in (if your loss was later), our bodies can still “look” pregnant and we can certainly still “feel” pregnant. Some people akin losing a baby to losing a limb. Even though your baby is gone, he or she can still very much be felt with the heart, body and soul. 

I believe the care we receive and how we move through the grieving process when we experience a loss can make or break how we fare with our grief. When I had my first miscarriage the care I received was marginal. The doctor was almost flippant about telling me there was no heartbeat, and when I ended up in the emergency room because of a reaction to a drug prescribed for excessive bleeding, the doctor never even bothered to show up. My grief over that miscarriage was intense. I felt as if I couldn’t talk about it to anyone about it. Because of all of those factors my emotional recovery was slow, painful and not very “healthy.”

After I gave birth to my stillborn twin sons, in many ways I was fortunate. The care I received from the nurses, doctors and other hospital personnel was phenomenal. I believe that that truly mitigated my healing process. I was able to express and release my pain, and didn’t bottle it in. I grieved loudly, and for a long time. But in some strange way I was made to feel that some how, some way I would be O.K.

At the time I wasn’t aware of the phases of bereavement, or of some of the physical symptoms I would experience caused by of the intense grief I was feeling. I am listing those phases and some signs and symptoms you may experience if you are going through this below, in the hopes that you might understand there is a natural order to the grieving process, and that your grief will eventually soften with time. You may also find with time that you incorporate the loss of your baby into your life, you “adjust” to your loss and your memories of your pregnancy and baby become bittersweet. 

The following  “tasks of grieving” were taken from the California SIDS Alliance and based on phases of grieving as outlined by the work of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and  J.W. Worden on understanding the grieving process:

  • Shock and Numbness/Accepting the reality of the loss- This is the initial phase of grief where you may feel stunned, have emotional outbursts, functioning is impeded (not eating or sleeping well for example) and you have difficulty making judgements. You can’t believe this is happening and have difficulty accepting that your baby has died.
  • Searching and Yearning/Experiencing the pain of grief- In this phase you may be very angry or guilty, restless, sensitive to stimuli and you may test what is real. You realize your baby isn’t coming back and at this point you find yourself feeling really intense pain over your loss. It has been found that people who allow themselves to succumb to this intense pain are better able to move forward through their grief later on. 
  • Disorientation/Adjusting to life without your baby- You may feel disorganized, depressed, guilty, and have an awareness of reality. Your intense grief pain begins to subside a bit, and you begin to think about your life- what to do with your baby’s things,  going back to work, getting pregnant again. 
  • Reorganization/Moving On-  You have a sense of release, renewed energy, make judgements better and return to normal sleeping and eating habits, adjusting to life without your baby. You may feel some sense of guilt during this phase- thinking, ‘how can I be happy when my baby has died?’ But you do allow yourself time to feel happy again, knowing that you will never forget your baby and that your baby will always hold a special place in your heart and in your life.

The ideal goal of “good grief” is to move through these phases over time (you may move back and forth through certain phases, but overall your grief is forward moving). If you start feeling “stuck”, please seek help either from your doctor or a grief counselor.

Some signs and symptoms you may experience throughout this time are: exhaustion/fatigue, loss of appetite, aching arms, blurred vision, restlessness, shortness of breath, irritability, resentment, overwhelming sadness, preoccupation with the child who died, mood swings, isolation (you don’t do the things you did before), anger with spouse and/or God,  and the list goes on.

Good grief is hard work, and while you may feel bits of normalcy early on, it will take a while (a year or two, sometimes even longer) before you really feel “normal” on a day to day basis. 

Over ten years after having my miscarriages and giving birth to my stillborn twin sons, I still miss them and wonder what life would be like with them here. I do cry about them sometimes and feel a bittersweet sadness that they are not with me today.  My older living son often says that if I had had the twins there would be four boys in our family. The fact is that wouldn’t be true.  I would have stopped at two children. And I would never have known my living sons…I couldn’t imagine my life without them. Life has a funny way of working itself out that way.

And I’ve said this before, but please know you are not alone in your grief. There are so many of us out here remembering our babies with heartache and love. Until next time…hang in there.

 

Father’s Day June 16, 2009

The Father’s Day after I gave birth to my stillborn twin sons my husband and I hosted my family at our house for a dinner together. My niece made my husband a tie out of paper and crayons. She also made one for her own father (my brother) and her grandfather (my father). My husband and I had not yet successfully had a healthy, living baby. Upon seeing my husband wearing the tie, my father said “Hey, why did you get a tie? You’re not a father yet.”

Those words cut me like a knife. And although he didn’t say anything, I’m sure my husband was hurt as well. I had had two miscarriages and carried the twins for six months when they were stillborn. Weren’t we parents? I felt very much like a mother.  And I know my husband felt very much like a father as well.

For the tenth anniversary of our twins’ death this past September, my husband wrote a beautiful tribute to them. I would like to share it with you here, and dedicate it to all the grieving fathers who have lost a baby. I will be thinking of you this Sunday…

Ten years ago marked one of the most painful events in our lives.

There is nothing like the loss of children… particularly first children.  The grief is unique… and deeply painful.  It steals hope and destroys dreams.  It challenges faith.  It raises the simple question, “why us?” 

But is also renews faith, as a reminder that there are some things only God knows… leaving us with only acceptance… letting go… but remembering.  Trusting God.

I can only surmise God’s plan for taking Joseph and Andrew.  It is not within my power to know it.

Perhaps it was to leave a loving mother behind… to always remember… and to be of service to others in similar pain.  Perhaps remembering renews love and commitment for the two beautiful blessings God has now provided for us… Andrew and Matthew. 

Perhaps God brings us emotional pain as an opportunity for true humility.  To help us to see what is really important.  To see where he wants us to serve others.  It is through seeing the truth of these things… if we allow ourselves to see… that He leads us to true joy in our lives… to gratitude in each moment.

But this is all supposition for now.  Maybe the real answers will be revealed when we meet Joseph and Andrew, again, in God’s eternal kingdom.  Until then, I thank Joseph and Andrew’s Mom for remembering… and taking me here from time to time… for a refresher in pain, humility…  joy and gratitude.

 

The Roller Coaster June 8, 2009

After having two miscarriages, giving birth to stillborn twin sons and experiencing lots of infertility in between,  I came to know the “pregnancy roller coaster” all too well. Here’s how a typical month in my life at that time went:

Two weeks into my fertility cycle I became excited that maybe, just maybe, this was the month I was going to get pregnant.  When my temperature, ovulation predictor test, or any body signs indicated I was about to ovulate, I called my husband. If the time was right, he knew he had to do what he had to do,  no matter what the circumstances. One time we rushed home between a wedding and a reception. Another time I got up at four o’clock in the morning before he had to leave on a business trip in order to try and conceive. Those days were rather humorous on occasion, weren’t very romantic, and were at times quite frantic, driven by our(my) intense desire to have a child.

The next two weeks after I ovulated were hopeful, anxious and tense (ten years ago when I was attempting to become pregnant there was no such thing as an early pregnancy test).  Each month I went out and bought two or three pregnancy tests in the hopes that maybe one would show a positive result (we should have taken out stock in the company that made those things!). 

Most of the time the result was negative. I was crushed, depressed and imagined I would never, ever become pregnant. And the three times I did have a positive result my pregnancies ended in disaster. I was beginning to think I would never conceive, carry a baby to full term and give birth to a live, healthy baby. 

And then the cycle would begin all over again. I stayed on that roller coaster for a little over five years. Infertility treatments weren’t for me. I figured if I was meant to get pregnant, it would happen. But lots of friends and family were becoming pregnant seemingly with ease, and I was left sad, jealous, angry, empty and broken hearted.

Then, one day I had a forth positive pregnancy test. I was cautiously hopeful.  Could this actually be the one? I made it through my first month (the length of time I miscarried for the second time), and then my second (the length of time I miscarried for the first time), and then though four more (the length of time I carried my twins). All the while I was pretty much a basket case, couch potato (I didn’t want to do anything physically to jeopardize this pregnancy) and nervous wreck. The months went by and I miraculously stayed pregnant. We were told the baby I was carrying had a one in seventy-two percent chance of having Down’s Syndrome (based on my age and  blood work). I didn’t care. A level two ultrasound determined that he (it was a boy) was most likely going to be fine (whatever that meant).

Finally, after a knuckle biting forty one weeks (he decided to stay inside of me an extra week just to give me a bit more anxiety and distress), my son Andrew was born. It was a joyous day. Nineteen months later (I didn’t want to wait another six years to have another baby so my husband and I started trying quite soon after my first son was born) my son Matthew was born.

So, I’d love to say it all ends happily there, but of course nothing in life is easy. Both of my sons suffered from extreme colic as babies (that about sent me over the edge- fodder for another blog someday) and both have allergies and asthma (we rushed my younger son to the emergency room seven times when he was a baby because of breathing difficulties due to asthma and dehydration from stomach bugs- yet more information for another blog in my future). He ended up in intensive care on one occasion.

My children have not always been the easiest kids to raise- both are very active and defiant. But as I always say, survival of the fittest! I worry about them a lot- probably much more than the average parent.

There are of course many moments of pure bliss, like when my younger son cuddled up with me in bed this morning, showering me with kisses and saying, “I love you, mommy.”  I treasure my children for who they are, and for those those many times in our lives that now make the whole “roller coaster” of my life worthwhile.

 

The Mourner’s Bill of Rights May 27, 2009

My dear friend Jennifer whose baby Zach was stillborn sent me the following “Mourner’s Bill of Rights.” It was written by Alan D. Wolfelt Ph.D. author, educator, grief counselor and director of the Center For Loss and Transition (http://centerforloss.com).

He writes, “The following list is intended both to empower you to heal and to decide how others can and cannot help. This is not to discourage you from reaching out to others for help, but rather to assist you in distinguishing useful responses from hurtful ones.

1. You have the right to experience your own unique grief.

No one else will grieve in exactly the same way you do. So, when you turn to others for help, don’t allow them to tell what you should or should not be feeling.

2. You have the right to talk about your grief.

Talking about your grief will help you heal. Seek out others who will allow you to talk as much as you want, as often as you want, about your grief. If at times you don’t feel like talking, you also have the right to be silent.

3. You have the right to feel a multitude of emotions.

Confusion, disorientation, fear, guilt and relief are just a few of the emotions you might feel as part of your grief journey. Others may try to tell you that feeling angry, for example, is wrong. Don’t take these judgmental responses to heart. Instead, find listeners who will accept your feelings without condition.

4. You have the right to be tolerant of your physical and emotional limits.

Your feelings of loss and sadness will probably leave you feeling fatigued. Respect what your body and mind are telling you. Get daily rest. Eat balanced meals. And don’t allow others to push you into doing things you don’t feel ready to do.

5. You have the right to experience “griefbursts.”

Sometimes, out of nowhere, a powerful surge of grief may overcome you. This can be frightening, but is normal and natural. Find someone who understands and will let you talk it out.

6. You have the right to make use of ritual.

The funeral ritual does more than acknowledge the death of someone loved. It helps provide you with the support of caring people. More importantly, the funeral is a way for you to mourn. If others tell you the funeral or other healing rituals such as these are silly or unnecessary, don’t listen.

7. You have the right to embrace your spirituality.

If faith is a part of your life, express it in ways that seem appropriate to you. Allow yourself to be around people who understand and support your religious beliefs. If you feel angry at God, find someone to talk with who won’t be critical of your feelings of hurt and abandonment.

8. You have the right to search for meaning.

You may find yourself asking, “Why did he or she die? Why this way? Why now?” Some of your questions may have answers, but some may not. And watch out for the clichéd responses some people may give you. Comments like, “It was God’s will” or “Think of what you have to be thankful for” are not helpful and you do not have to accept them.

9. You have the right to right to treasure your memories.

Memories are one of the best legacies that exist after the death of someone loved. You will always remember. Instead of ignoring your memories, find others with whom you can share them.

10. You have the right to move toward your grief and heal.

Reconciling your grief will not happen quickly. Remember, grief is a process, not an event. Be patient and tolerant with yourself and avoid people who are impatient and intolerant with you. Neither you nor those around you must forget that the death of someone loved changes your life forever.”