Soundwaves Perinatal Bereavement Support

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

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.

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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.

 

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.

 

Comfort and Peace January 10, 2009

Two things I think most of us strive for in our lives are comfort and peace. These two elements can be illusive in the best of times. When you lose a baby, they can be virtually impossible to attain for weeks, even months.

It’s cliche, but time did allow those life components to naturally, slowly creep back into my life after I lost the twins. After the initial  heart wrenching devastation, time gave way to small bits of normalcy each day/week/month that passed.

For me, talking about my sons to friends who would listen, over and over again, helped tremendously. Speaking their names and telling their story to someone who would listen validated them and all that I was going though, and helped me make it though those early days of grief.

Creating routines and memories that included my lost children in my daily life helped as well. I felt as if I was honoring them each time I did something to purposefully remember them. That in itself helped me to regain a sense of comfort and peace after the completely life altering experience of their death.

 

“Move On With Your Life” January 7, 2009

How many times did I hear those words in the first years after the twins died? Well meaning people, my parents in particular, didn’t want to see me in so much pain. I don’t blame them. But their words hurt. I knew I would never “move on” from the memory of my children, who I held inside of me and desperately loved and anticipated for six months. My attachment to them started far before that- my husband and I had been trying to conceive  for four years, and I had had one miscarriage prior to conceiving the twins. 

Ten years later my intense grief has subsided and my memories of them are now bittersweet. But moving on was never a possibility.

 

Hello world! December 31, 2008

Hello-
Welcome to my blog- Soundwaves. I am a housewife, mother and former elementary school teacher. I started this blog because I would like to reach out to people who have experienced the loss of a baby through miscarriage, stillbirth or death right after birth.  I suffered two miscarriages and gave birth to stillborn twin sons due to twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome.  I now happily have two live sons ages 8 and 6.

I have been RTS trained as a bereavement support person. Although I am not a professional counselor, I  hope my posts will help women and families  who have suffered the loss of a baby find solice and perhaps a sense of hope for the future. 

Take Care-
Claudia