Saturday, April 9, 2011

Thoughts on stillbirth

About six months ago, I received an email from a good friend of mine. It was the type of email I didn't want to receive or read but there it was in my inbox. It was the type of email I imagine I am reading incorrectly as I'm reading it. No, I must have misunderstood. But there was no mistake. The email was there and I understood it.

Heather and I have been friends since junior high school. In fact, our immediate group of friends is still a group of friends. We all email and get together whenever possible. We may go months without seeing or hearing from each other but we are still a group of friends. And if something happens, we will be there to support each one.

When Abbey was born sleeping we were told that, statistically speaking, stillbirth occurs in one out of every 100 births. More recently, I have seen one in 115. Maybe the odds are lessening. Maybe no one really knows. What I really want to know is how is it possible that in my small group of friends, two of us would have sleeping babies. And to make the odds even more impossible, Heather also has identical (twin) girls.

Baby James was unexpectedly and tragically born sleeping. When I read Heather's email, I was sad. Sad for her and her family. Sad because I know the road ahead. Sad because no parent should have to go through this. I was angry because I was reminded that no one knows why it happens, which has been a source of frustration for me for the past four, almost five, years.

A few friends emailed me to ask, "How are you doing? Are you okay?" I was reminded that I have these wonderful friends. I was grateful that they emailed me to check in but in reality, I was okay. I was okay because I've been living with Abbey's birth and death, death and birth everyday now. It's not something that I want to forget. In fact, I struggle to retain the memories.

Their emails made me think because there are certain things that are triggers. Things that do upset me and I hadn't really thought about it from that perspective until their emails. You see, as a whole, Abbey is not someone that I want to forgot so I struggle to remember her death and birth because that's the only time that we had with her. It's not an event that I want to forgot, like a car accident or being robbed at gunpoint. But there are specific moments of her birth that are difficult to relive.

For example, take a woman who is pregnant with her second baby. She has a two year old daughter. Someone asks her if she is going to find out if she is having a boy or a girl and she responds with, "No, we are going to wait. Hearing it's a girl was such a great surprise. We want to experience that again."

That's a trigger. Rich and I wanted that same surprise that everyone else who waits to find out wants. We wanted to hear the doctor joyfully announce, "It's a girl!" Instead, we were greated with silence. I had to ask. There was no joyful answer.

And then there's the whole God thing. I really struggle with trying to understand God. Do you know how many birth stories have statements like "God listened to all of your prayers and the baby was born safe" or "The baby's heart rate suddenly dropped and we knew she was in trouble by the way the nurses started running around. We prayed and God answered our prayers. Her heart rate returned to normal and she was born a few minutes later."

That's a trigger for me. Did God not hear my prayers as I clutched my tummy, crying, waiting for Rich to pay the overtalkative landscaper so we could get to the hospital. I knew something was wrong. "Please God, let the baby be okay. Please."

I can't say for sure whether or not I believe that there is a Heaven. I like to believe that there is a place and so I call it Heaven because everyone understands what that means. Either way, there's a place and both Abbey and James are there. And in my heart, I know that they know each other.


Hope's Mama said...

I believe the babies are together, too. Maybe Hope is up there somewhere with Abbey and James and Curtis and all the other babies taken to soon.
I still have triggers. Many of them. First babies. Girl babies. First born girl babies, especially. People who say they had long and difficult labours (you know, something crazy like 12 hours) when my labour lasted about three days and I got no reward in the end. Most of the time I am "ok" now, but that's because I've got really good at putting on a front for people, as it is often just easier that way.
I'm not religious at all, but in my non-religious sort of way, I pray that I never get any email like this off one of my friends. Statistically speaking though, it is highly possible it will happen one day.
This is the sort of thing I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy, so I'd hate to see a friend go through it.
I'm sorry your friend has come to know this pain as well and I'm mostly sorry that baby James didn't get to stay. So sad. So unfair.

M.F. said...

I can't even imagine what that would be like. You worry so much during pregnancy that you just assume that by the time you reach labour/delivery you can finally 'relax'. I am so sorry you, or anyone, ever had to go or has to go through that. It makes me want to go wake up my almost two year old and just hold her tight all night long.
I feel the same about God. If he really listens and answers prayers, then how is it possible any child ever dies? Did the parents not pray enough. I hate that. It's crap. There is no reason for it, but I believe your daughter was reborn into your triplets. And wherever she is, she is looking down on them and protecting them so you won't have to go through anything so horrible again.

Mom of the Twinkies and Tot! said...

It is so hard understanding it all. I have a good group of friends as well, one of which, this past week gave birth to her second child. A daughter, who was not born sleeping, but only lived less than an hour. She had heart problems they knew of & had surgeries planned to correct it all, this however, was not in the plan. This past week has been one of the hardest of my life because I cannot even begin to imagine the pain my friend is suffering right now. It doesn't help that she & her hubs & son recently moved out of state. Being so far away & trying to figure out when my friends and I can be there for her has been awful. I believe in Heaven & God but at the same time, do not understand for one second why things like this have to happen. Grace, my friend's daughter is now with your Abbey & your friends little boy as well. Sweet precious babies.

Sarah said...

I have been reading your blog for awhile now and always really enjoy your wonderful pics and your stories. We have 5 boys at our house, so the little girl cuteness is a great fix for me! Your entry today caught my eye especially because I literally just got news that a friend of mine's little girl was born still. You know that simple Sunday School song, "Jesus Loves Me"? It is so true, beyond our comprehension, and your little Abbey is not only in "a better place", she is in the presence of the One who created her, the One who allowed you the privilege of carrying her for those months and having her touch your life with hers even for such a short time. She is waiting for you. There is a verse in the Bible that says, "To all who believed in Him (Jesus), to those who believe in His name, He gives the right to become children of God." John 1:12. I believe that God wanted me to share this with you tonight, and I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that He wants you to experience His love more fully in a very real way. I always think it's a pretty neat demonstration of how much God loves us when He puts us on another's mind in order to pray for them. And tonight I'm praying for you, that you will seek Him and find Him and choose to accept His love with your whole heart. Your daughter is experiencing this wonderful love of her Creator in full today as she waits for you, hoping that you will know His love as well. Blessings to you and your family.

Hope's Mama said...

I really wish I could believe Hope (and Abbey) were in a better place, but I truly believe the very best place for them is here, in our arms. We are their mummies, after all.

Colleen said...

I don't know what it's like to have a baby born still. But I once had a friend tell me that if I just had more faith, Nate wouldn't have Spina Bifida anymore. The scar on his back would be gone, and he would get up and walk. If only I had more faith. Well, that's not really what the Bible says. The Bible tells us that bad things happen in this world, to good people, to bad people, to mediocre people, to everyone. God never promised us that life would be without heartaches or birth defects or death. I think the point of the whole thing (life) is relying on God to get us through it. So let's take my example of SB, and I know you relate to that as well. I could have terminated because of that, or I could spend my life feeling sorry for myself and Nate (I just realized this could sound like I'm referring to you, but it's not, and I don't think you're feeling sorry for yourself at all), or I could be bitter. Instead, I turned to God and just trusted He would help me through it (I think that takes more faith than what my friend was saying--that if you have enough faith it's all going to be perfect again), and amazing things have happened since then. So although I do not think God "causes" bad things to happen, I do think he can "use" the bad things that happen to us for good, if we let him. He can use them to bring us closer to him, and again, I think that's the whole point of life. And secondly, he can use this pain in our lives to show us how to help other people. Like when you blog about Abbey--that HELPS other people who are going through what you went through. It's comforting to know they're not alone and to hear your perspective on it and to see that you actually lived through it. Anyway, I've thought about this whole "why bad things happen" subject a lot the last few years, and that's my take on it, based on the Bible.

Becky said...

I am so sorry to hear about your dear friend and her little boy. I never knew much about stillbirth until it happened to my son and with the statistics, like you pointed out, that how could it happen to both you and your friend.
As far as praying and god goes, it took me a couple months to finally accept that God wasn't punishing me for something and that is why my Liam died. Me and my family prayed like crazy before me and him went into have fetal surgery to correct his spina bifida, but he never woke back up and I was furious with god. What did I do wrong? Didn't I pray hard enough? I completely understand your thoughts on that.
I hope all of our little ones are playing together in Heaven

loveid said...

I am so sorry Sarah. Truly sorry. There are tears streaming down my cheeks when I think about this. Having your child die has to be the most painful wound ever. So sorry that it happened to your dear friend as well. I wish I could reach out and give you and your friend a huge hug. I wish there was a way that I could help somehow. My thoughts are with you and Heather.

Amy said...

I can't stand the "god answered my prayers" or "somebody's looking out for us's" as well. Not just related to infants, to everything. It makes me think, "So is praying a contest? And I didn't have enough people in my corner, so Caitlin died before we got to say hello? Why should she have been punished because I don't have enough friends?"

I don't know that I believe in heaven or God, and I felt this way before we lost her. Now, I feel like the little kid who is scared to admit he doesn't believe in Santa, in the off chance that Santa *does* exist and then he won't get anymore presents. I *have* to believe that there's a heaven, because if there's not then it means I got pregnant and carried a baby and then she died and I had to deliver her. The idea that we had to go through all of that, and we have to carry the sadness with us for the rest of our lives, and have it mar every single one of her sister's major life events, because we will always think "there should be one more", is just too awful to bear.

And so I like to think that God doesn't cause things to happen - he is sad when bad things happen to people, but he chooses not to step in and fix it because you just have to let things progress.

Helene said...

I'm so sorry for your loss and your friend's loss. I understand how frustrating it is to not have answers. It's like there's never any closure for you because there is no clearcut explanation for why it happened.

And I'm a faithful person but I, too, cringe when people make those statements about God and their prayers being answered. Made me feel as if I was unimportant to God because He didn't answer my prayers just when I needed it.

Again, many condolences to your's so unfair.

Meg said...

Sarah, I wish I had the right thing to say to you. I'm so sorry that these memories are yours, and that your prayers weren't answered. I can't even imagine what life is like in your shoes... You & your friend are in my prayers.

Summer said...

I really appreciated this post. Our baby girl was born still about two and a half years ago. I could relate to a lot of your triggers...especially the part about God. None of it makes sense. There is no answer.

Eyes Wide Open said...

I am so, so sorry for your friend. I have never lost a child to stillbirth, but I am what they call a "habitual aborter;" I have had many, many miscarriages at varying stages in pregnancy, the cause of all of them is unknown (but not chromosomal). I lost my last pregnancy two weeks ago, and I remember rocking on the toilet asking the universe (or God?) to please, please just let me keep this one. I can never understand your pain, but I do understand many of your feelings. Now that I face the prospect of being childless, I have some serious triggers about the hopes I had for one day having my own family. And, wow, it's rough. I'm incredibly sorry for all the pain you have suffered and I truly admire your strength.