Thursday, October 20, 2011

As long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be

Larissa at the Oct. 15 ceremony
October is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. Mom-to-be Larissa bravely shared her story at Texas Health Arlington Memorial Hospital's candle lighting ceremony on October 15 for National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day, a special time for bereaved parents to honor their losses:

When my husband and I first decided to add to our family in June 2008, I thought that within a year I would be taking a sweet little baby home from the hospital. Well, I was wrong.

In February 2009 we found out we were pregnant.  I couldn’t fight back the anxious feeling that I had.  I knew in my heart that something was wrong, but I just didn’t believe that I would have a miscarriage.  That was something that happened to other women.  It just couldn’t happen to me.

On March 20, 2009 my husband and I went to the doctor for what was supposed to be my 8 week check up. We were supposed to hear our baby’s heartbeat for the first time.  During the sonogram we were told that things didn’t look the way they were supposed to.  We were sent to the doctor's office and the doctor came in and told us it looked like we had a miscarriage.  I was told that this happens a lot and most women have at least one miscarriage.  I just couldn’t believe it.  I thought that I only knew a few women that had a miscarriage.  I wasn’t sure how to feel about the miscarriage.  Was I a mother?  Was it a real baby that I lost?  Was it okay to be sad?  I felt so alone.  I felt like I had the scarlet letter M stamped on my forehead and that everyone could tell by looking at me that I had a miscarriage.  I wasn’t even sure if I should talk about my miscarriage.  Was it supposed to be a secret?  Should I feel ashamed?  I just didn’t know how to place that little baby I lost in my life and I didn’t know if I should even place that baby in my life.  I felt like I had joined a club that I really didn’t want to join.

In September 2009 I found out I was pregnant again.  When we heard our son’s heartbeat for the first time, we cried tears of joy.  Everything was going to be okay!  We made it past the 8 week mark!  At each appointment I felt more and more hope.  Sometimes, I would worry that something was wrong.  On the way to my 24 week appointment in January 2010, I convinced myself that I would NOT have a stillbirth.  That would never happen to me! In fact, I didn’t even know anyone who had a stillbirth.  Well, once again I was wrong.  That day we were told that there was no heartbeat.  I was in shock and totally devastated.  I just couldn’t believe this could happen to me again.  Two losses in 10 months.  How is that even possible? I felt so alone.  I couldn’t believe all my hopes and dreams had been destroyed.  We were planning to buy a crib and start decorating his nursery that weekend.  Instead we had to buy an urn and plan his funeral.  When I pictured my husband and I holding our baby for the first time I thought we would be crying tears of joy, not tears of sorrow.   I never thought I would leave the hospital with empty arms and a broken heart.  I had no idea how to get through this.  I felt like my heart was broken in a million pieces and would never be put back together.  I felt like I was no longer normal.  I couldn’t believe that this little promise of new life growing inside of me was taken away.    We had testing done on our son and the cause was never found.  I was upset because there were no answers and I wanted a reason why he died.  I blamed myself for a while.  I kept thinking: what did I do wrong?  I thought I was a bad mother because I couldn’t even protect my baby when he was in my womb.  I wondered if I was being punished for being a horrible person.  I wanted to be my old self.  The person who was excited about the birth of her son and who was so innocent.  I wondered when I would feel better.  Do you ever get over the death of your baby?  I was also angry.  Why me?  Why my baby?  It was so hard to see other pregnant women.  I was so jealous of their tummies and hearing about their baby showers.

Losing our son helped me to answer some questions that I had after losing our first baby.  No, I wasn’t alone.  Two thousand women suffer the loss of a baby each and everyday in our country.  Yes, it is okay to be sad.  It doesn’t matter our long our babies spend with us.  My first baby spent 8 weeks with us and my second one spent 24 weeks but I still love my children as much as any mother loves her children.  My love for my children didn’t end when their heartbeat stopped.  I miss my babies each and everyday and I will always wish that they were here with us.  My heart aches for them and my arms long to hold them.  I like to talk about my children as much as any mother does.  We shouldn’t have to keep our loss a secret.  We did nothing wrong.  We should be able to talk about our losses without worrying about what other people think.  When people ask us how many children we have we should be able to include those that we lost.

When I think back to the person I was that horrible day in the doctor’s office when I heard, “I’m sorry but there’s no heartbeat” to the person I am today I am amazed at how much I have grown and changed. I no longer have the anger I did.  I somehow slowly let that go.  I am finally able to take comfort in the fact that my 2 boys live in Heaven with Jesus and they will never know pain or heartache.  They play on streets made of gold and they have seen wonders that I can never imagine.  On that horrible day I never ever imagined that I would be grateful for my babies in Heaven.  At that point, I didn’t understand how you could be thankful for something that you lost. I even told myself I would never be thankful for what I have been through. But I am so thankful for the (too short) time I had with my boys and am thankful that thanks to them Heaven doesn’t seem so scary.  I know that one day I will be reunited with my boys forever.  Thanks to my Heavenly babies, I am able to see the beauty in small things.  I love to see butterflies flittering by and I now excitedly notice each one.  I think there is nothing more wonderful than going on a walk and feeling the sun on your shoulders and smelling the honeysuckle in the breeze.  I never noticed these things before I lost my babies.  I was too busy living life.  They taught me to slow down and appreciate the small things because in the end it is the small things that matter.

My husband and I are currently expecting what we pray will be our rainbow baby.  This has opened a new chapter in our lives.  It has been a roller coaster of emotions.  One minute I am excitedly planning the arrival of my baby and the next minute I am gripped by fear and the what ifs.  I no longer have the innnocence that most pregnant women have.  I feel different when I hear other pregnant women complaining about not getting the gender of the baby they wanted or just assuming that since they are past 12 weeks they are safe.  I almost feel like I am part of a different pregnancy club than they are.  I feel like I won’t be safe until the baby is in my arms and all I want to hear during  a sonogram is the sound of her heartbeat. Sitting in a waiting room for me brings feelings of anxiety mixed with excitement. Doing simple things like sitting up a nursery and washing her clothes and registering and deciding to have a shower took some courage. But I also feel that I am thankful for things that most pregnant women dread.  I actually prayed for lots of morning sickness and God definitely answered my prayers!  I prayed that after my morning sickness went away He would bless me with an active baby.  I didn’t care if the baby kept me awake at night I just wanted the reassurance that it was alive.  I can also say that so far He has blessed me with a baby who likes to move and kick and hit.  I realize that this little girl we are expecting will never completely heal the pain of losing my boys.  I also realize that she will never take the place of what we lost.  Sometimes I get sad thinking that when we hold her for the first time and listen to the beautiful sound of that first cry, when we look at our little girl and decide who she looks like and all the other milestones like first Christmas and birthday and first steps will all be bittersweet. We will be so happy for her and sad thinking about how we never got to experience that with Michael.  I know that a year from now when we look at our daughter playing in the living room there will be a tug of sadness thinking that her brother should be playing beside her. I try to take comfort in the fact that this little girl is a very special little girl.  I really do believe that when Jesus picked her out to join our family, he had her big brothers help him.  I believe that her brothers have already given her a hug and kiss and they will be watching over her from Heaven.

There is a children’s book by Robert Munsch called "I’ll Love You Forever."  After losing Michael, I realized that the song that the mother sings for her son is true for all mothers, but it is especially true for those of us that have lost our babies. I recently found out that Robert Munsch wrote the song for his 2 babies that were stillborn.  The song goes: "I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, as long as I’m living my baby you’ll be."  I hope that my babies know I will always love them, I will always miss them, and as long as I’m living, my babies they’ll be.

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