Elizabeth Petrucelli

Author, Blogger, Educator

Category: bereavement doula (page 1 of 3)

On Birth and Death – A Doula’s Journey

I enter the small hospital room, adorned with white walls and white boards where his name is scribbled in black writing. Beneath his name is his care plan, followed by contact information for his family. Above the board is an old box TV, hanging from the wall. Fox News is on TV, one of the only shows I remember him watching. He is laying in a hospital bed with his upper body partially raised. He is still, but breathing. I exchange pleasantries with his son-in-law who offered to sit with him until I returned.

I was so glad he was able to stay and provide company to him. It was important to me that he not be alone right now. We hug and tell each other we love each other. Then he departs for the night. His shift has ended and we will see each other tomorrow morning when we will make the decision to move grandpa to home hospice. As much as I wanted to get him transferred earlier, it wasn’t possible to get hospice to the hospital any quicker.

I tell grandpa that I am moving the chairs around and setting things up. He doesn’t respond, he just continues to breath. His mouth is partially open. As he breathes, only his lower jaw moves as he takes in more air. It seems forced in that it doesn’t seem like he is purposely breathing.

The lights in the room are bright. Earlier that day, I made a comment about how bright the hospital lights are and that this place should consider soft lighting. To help fix this issue, I brought an orange lamp from home. I set it up on the stool across the room, plugged it in and turned it on. Then I turned off the brightest light in the room.

I find the larger, more comfortable chair and settle it near his bedside as close as I can. I take a seat on his left side. The side I was given at the dinner table when I became a member of this family. Grandpa is laying on his back and his eyes are partially open as if he was watching TV and dozing off. I don’t think he was really watching. He is partially covered in a soft, blue blanket.

As I sit, I hear alarms sounding in the hallway. They are not his alarms. Just a buzz of activity on the unit. In the hallway, nurses and doctors are going back and forth between the rooms, an employee is buffing the floor, and carts are being pushed back and forth. It’s noisy and I don’t like it. I imagined Grandpa wouldn’t either.

I get up and shut the door. As I do this, I explain to grandpa what I am doing. I return and sit by his side again. We watch TV together. I laugh at the news talking about Hilary Clinton and Obamacare imagining he would have alot to say about these two.

I hold his hand.

A nurse knocks on the door and opens it. As she enters, she asks, “Do you prefer to keep the door shut?” I explained that I did. It was too noisy. She smiles and explains she needs to turn Grandpa. I asked if everything was okay and she explained to me that they turn Grandpa often to help him be more comfortable. Another nurse came in to help and also changed his linens. Once the task was complete, they departed, closing the door quietly behind them.

I was given the Wi-Fi code while the nurses were there so I began to check emails while I sat next to Grandpa. I was also checking in with some friends who have done this before and was asking for their advice but soon, I didn’t feel comfortable checking emails. It felt wrong. I wasn’t present to him and I needed to be.

I decided to turn on some music and sit with him, in quiet. I turned off the TV and turned on Glenn Miller and Frank Sinatra. I used Pandora and had set up a bluetooth speaker in the room. It took some time to work it out but after a while, the music was softly playing in the background. I had the thought to turn it up a bit louder than I felt necessary. After all, Grandpa has hearing aids. I wanted to be sure he could hear the music. I imagined he would get up and dance if he could. That’s what he did when the music of his time would come one.

I sat in the chair and rubbed his arms softly as I talked about the music selection. I told him that if he didn’t like the music, he would have to let me know. I felt his arm move as if in agreement of the music. Every once-in-a-while, the music would stop playing and I would share my frustration with Grandpa. I looked at him and noticed his breathing seemed different since the nurses turned him on his side. I smiled, thinking they must have made it easier for him to breathe.

I put my feet up on the end of his bed and closed my eyes. I took in a deep breath and smelled the hospital. It’s not what I want him to remember and I didn’t either so I got up and took out my essential oils. I diffused peppermint with a hint of lavender. I chose peppermint specifically because Grandpa turned to peppermint mints to replace his cigarettes when he stopped smoking many years before. I thought it might be comforting.

I then turned out the other light by the door. It was getting late, after 9pm and I wanted him to settle into a sleep. As we listened to the music of the 20’s and 30’s, I would rub his arms or hold his hand often. Sometimes, I would lift the blankets and sheets and physically hold his hand that way, instead of through the blankets. I didn’t talk much, we just sat there…together.

I would turn to look at his breathing from time to time. With the orange glow of the room it was difficult to see much movement but I could always see the bottom of his mouth opening with each breath. During these back and forth exchanges of stillness listening to music and breathing checks, I began to doubt my presence. What if he didn’t want someone here? What if he wanted to pass alone? I texted my brother-in-law and mother-in-law these thoughts. They both felt he would want someone here. I suppose but I wasn’t sure.

I pondered this for a while, listening to the music and watching his breathing.

I was going to leave around midnight. Hubby would take the next shift and stay until morning but that meant the kids would be at home alone, in bed for almost two hours. I didn’t like the thought of that. My brother-in-law offered to come and wait until I got home and hubby returned. But he was going to come earlier than I wanted to leave. I just didn’t want to go before midnight. As we exchanged text messages, I watched Grandpa breathe.

I noticed his breathing seemed to be spaced out more than it was before and I told my brother-in-law. He told me he was probably falling asleep and I also just believed he was breathing better because of his new position. But there was a part of me that felt this was him dying, so I stopped texting and just watched his breath. For thirty minutes I sat with him and rubbed his arms. I told him all would be okay. We were all going to be okay.

As time progressed, I noticed his bottom jaw wasn’t moving that much anymore. I feared he was going but continued to sit with him. There was no monitor in the room for me to check, I would have to trust my instincts.

No life-saving measures were to be taken anyway. While his heart was being monitored in the hallway, I had no idea if anyone was going to share with me if his heart had stopped. I went out into the hallway but no one was there. I walked to the nurses station but no one was there. So I peeked over the desk at the heart rate monitors and found Grandpa’s. The rate displayed, 53. “Hmmm…maybe he IS sleeping,” I thought to myself. I looked for his respirations but I didn’t see any. Realizing that these things can be wrong, I just chalked it up to being an error.

I returned to the room and checked my messages. I saw one from my brother-in-law. It was approaching the time where he would be leaving but I wasn’t ready. I told him to just stay home. I couldn’t leave. My entire body was telling me to stay.

I returned to his bedside and sat in the chair. I could still see his lower jaw moving but it was much slower than before. Only a breath every 15 seconds or so. I reached my upper body over the side of his bed and laid there. My arms across his chest and I prayed. “Lord, please take him into your kingdom. Please take him quietly, softly,  and pain free.” I laid there, with more prayers and listened.

Smile,” by Nat King Cole was playing through the speaker. My eyes closed and my body draped across the bed, reaching out to a man I knew was likely leaving this earth. As much as I wanted him to stay, to have one more conversation with him, I knew he was going. When the song was over, I looked up and noticed his whole body was still. Even though he had been still before, this seemed different. I felt like he was gone.

I returned to the nurses station. A male nurse sat at the monitor and I said, “What’s his heart rate?” He didn’t answer.  I asked him again. He looked at me with sad eyes. I told him he seems very still now and I wanted to know if his heart was still beating. He said his heart rate was 24. I said, “So it’s time?”

He replied, “We can’t say for sure because there can be a rebound.” I didn’t care to hear him anymore. I turned towards the room. Another nurse said, “Are you going to call your mother?” I stopped, “Should I?” I asked. She said,  “Only you can know if it’s best to call her now or after.” I returned to the room.

A nurse came in behind me. I moved to his right side and sat in a small chair. I leaned over and rubbed his head and stroked his hair. I began to cry. The nurse was comforting as she listened for his heartbeat. She looked at me. I asked if it was still beating and she said yes, but every 3 seconds or so. She showed me where to watch for his heartbeat and I stared. I told him everything was going to be okay and that I loved him. His pulse, slipped away.

I heard a flatline sound in the hallway. The nurse who didn’t want to tell me his heart rate just a few moments ago, said it was now gone. He was gone. It was 10:20pm.

It seemed fast to me. Just an hour before, he was breathing and now, he was lifeless.

“I have to call the family,” I told the nurse. I took a deep breath and called mom first. I didn’t know how she would answer the phone. I had hoped that she would answer it thinking I was just asking more about if I should be here or not. “Hello?” she said. “Whew,” I thought. “She isn’t crying.”

“He passed,” I said. “Oh he did?” she replied. I could tell she was starting to cry. We talked for a few moments and then I hung up. I called hubby next.Grandpa

A few minutes later, a doctor came in. He assessed Grandpa and stood there, staring at me. I said, “So he has passed?” “Yes,” he said.

I tried calling the other siblings after but no one answered. I sat there, in the stillness of the room. Frank Sinatra playing in the background and I thought, “I hope I did this right.”

“I hope I did this right,” is something I would think often after leaving births. I hoped I provided a high level of service to my clients when they gave birth to their babies. And when I read this, there were so many similarities in the companioning of someone through birth and through death. We use all our senses in these situations. Oils to help relax, provide a memory imprint, to mask a smell; lighting to create a calming environment, releasing tension, submitting to the task at hand; and music to bring up memories or create them.

Birth is very similar to death. It’s a transition from one environment to another; a transition worthy of support and companionship. At birth, the transitioner (baby) is never alone. At death, many of us are alone. I couldn’t imagine leaving Grandpa alone to make this transition. He had a companion with him when he opened his eyes to his new life, he would have a companion when he closed his eyes for the last time.

It rained when we left the hospital. Something that doesn’t happen this time of year. It was a tiny sprinkle but noticeable. I found it significant that it drizzled, mid-winter. It was only for a moment, but it was happening.

I have never companioned someone through death in this way before. I have helped families companion their dying babies and children but I have never been the companion in this capacity. It was truly an honor to be there as Grandpa made this transition and I will never forget these moments we shared together.

In loving memory:
Dorsie J. Meads

12 Things I Needed to Hear from my Doctor After My Miscarriage

This article originally appeared at The Mighty on November 15, 2015.

I have miscarried two babies, Ruby in 2010 and Gus in 2015. I had two very different experiences with my miscarriage. In 2010, the doctor treated my experience as a medical event and was unemotional. It took months for me to be OK with how I was treated, and his treatment of me compounded my grief. In 2015 when Gus died, I was treated with compassion and given options. I was able to move forward more quickly because I wasn’t struggling with mistreatment from my healthcare provider.

Here’s what I wish I heard from that first doctor in 2010.

1. I’m sorry. Please tell me you are sorry or that you will be thinking of me during this difficult time. I know you see miscarriage happen often, but this is my first miscarriage. Even if I have had more than one miscarriage, I would still like to hear those words.

2. Offer a kind touch or a hug. I may be really sad, and it’s helpful to know you care. This is not a medical event for me — it is heartbreaking. Placing your hand on my shoulder helps me feel deeply cared for and will improve my experience.

3. Please tell me what to expect. I have never done this before, and I am scared. I don’t know what my body and mind will experience. It’s helpful to know if I will be in pain physically as well as emotionally, and I will need to know a little bit about how to handle that.

4. Please give me options. It may be hard for me to live with having a dead baby inside me. Please help me understand the best options for my body and help me understand why. If I am anxious, please help me through that with medications or resources. If I am in pain, please offer me pain medications or resources. I need to know you are there for me if I need help. I will also need some sort of timeline. If you don’t know how long this process will take, it’s OK to say that. Just help me understand what to do if the process is taking a long time.

5. Prepare me for what I might see. I have never seen a very tiny baby before, and my baby may be so tiny that they aren’t very visible. Please prepare me for what to look for such as gray tissue or what the placenta may look like.

6. Please tell me not to flush. I may feel guilty and shameful if I flush my baby, so please give me something to capture my baby in and tell me where to keep my baby or what to do with my baby.

7. Tell me it’s OK if I do flush. If I do flush my baby down the toilet, please tell me that does not mean I didn’t love my baby or didn’t care. I need to know that many women have done this and it’s OK.

8. Explain my situation to your staff. If I have to share my story with your staff, they may think I hung up because I have become silent. Sometimes I cannot form the words, or my tears swallow my voice. It’s helpful if your staff already knows and can be comforting to me on the phone.

9. Help me know that I can bury or cremate my baby. I may want to bring my baby home, bury my baby or have my baby cremated. If you don’t tell me this is an option, I may not feel at peace about where my baby went, and I may struggle later. Please share the options I have for my baby’s remains.

10. Share with me that I can take time off work. I need to know it’s OK for me to take some time off not only to complete the miscarriage but to recover emotionally. If you don’t tell me this is an option and that it’s OK, I may go back to work and regret it later — especially if I spend the days crying in front of coworkers and clients.

11. Please don’t minimize my experience. I know not all women will grieve miscarriage the way I am, but that doesn’t mean my grief isn’t worthy or valid. If I call my baby a baby, please reciprocate. I didn’t refer to my baby as “products of conception,” “embryo” or “fetus.”

12. Let me know I will survive and move forward. Right now, time seems to be standing still. I can’t imagine stepping outside and seeing how the world is still turning while my world has been crushed beneath me. I need to know I’m going to make it through this even though it will be hard.

Want this sent to your doctor? Download Miscarriage Handout for Care Providers and send yourself or complete the form below for us to mail one on your behalf.

Supporting Birth and Death

TreeMy blog has been quiet these last three weeks. I have been consumed with the death of my grandfather-in-law. Right before Christmas, grandpa became sick and was struggling. Grandma, has been in chemotherapy for ovarian cancer and we discovered that despite months of treatments, the chemotherapy did not work and she was given a short period of time to live. They had been married 66 years when Grandpa departed his earthly life on January 18th.  I want to take a few moments to share with you my calling.

After I miscarried Ruby in 2010, I was called. I felt a pull within me to stop working and be with my family. This was a difficult pull to understand as I had been working diligently for nearly 12 years to become a police officer. I had finally accomplished the task only to feel pulled away from it. I couldn’t describe the pull, I just knew I wasn’t where I was supposed to be. So I left. This also coincided with a new pregnancy. A pregnancy wrought with anxiety and fear that I too, would lose the new life within me.

Following his birth, I was called.

I felt deep within me that I needed to help women through their miscarriages and also through stillbirth. It was a strange feeling and one that I couldn’t understand. How could I possibly support women through such devastation? I needed to learn more so I could fully understand what that might look like so I did. I received training through Stillbirthday. I felt more prepared to support families through loss but never intended to actually use the training.

But I was called.

The phone rang and I was asked to respond to the hospital. Someone I knew had lost their baby and they needed support. I was surprisingly calm and experienced excitement. While there was great grief and despair that day, the family took great comfort in knowing they had a “person.” Their person, who could support them throughout the entire process. I left with great peace, knowing this is where I was supposed to be.

I am called.

I have been serving families for a few years now in this capacity and also publicly speak on the topic of miscarriage, specifically, first trimester miscarriage. I feel the most calm and most holy when I am doing this. It feels like God’s work. I was called.

Then grandpa got sick and I was called.

I sat next to his hospital bed on Monday, January 18th. It was about four in the afternoon. Calls to hospice revealed that they would not be able to assess him until tomorrow. I hurt. I felt a deep hurt inside. Something wasn’t right and I wanted him to go home. There was no forcing hospice and as I sat in my uncomfortableness, words came out of my mouth.

“I am going to stay with him.”

Shocked that I just made this statement, I began to cry. I do not like to cry in front of people but I did.

“He will not be alone,” came out next.

I was on autopilot. Something had overtaken me.

I was called.

Knowing where I needed to be, I departed for my home. Hubby settled in with the kids as I grabbed items I felt I would need and I returned to the hospital to sit by grandpa’s side. My attempts to focus on writing or reading were futile. They felt wrong and I stopped. I had turned on music for him and released some essential oils in the room. I dimmed the lights and shut off my computer. Then I did something I rarely do. I sat.

It’s hard to turn off my mind but in those moments, it came easy. I just sat.

Grandpa passed.

I knew the moment and I have the entire account written but that’s not what this post is about. I have been called. This feeling is indescribable but some parts of it I can describe. It’s an urge, a yearn, or a pull. The call. I might also describe it as a sense of something overtaking your normal responses and giving you a different response. It’s not a response of regret or fear but you just do it. It happens and you don’t know why. The “why” may be revealed and it may not be but it’s there.

It’s hard to listen to the pull. One might fight the pull. The first calling took me two years to stop fighting and succumb to it. When I finally did, I felt peace. I feared supporting families through loss but there was a call. It took me nine months to succumb to that call. When I was called to witness my grandfathers death, it took me one second to succumb to that call. It just happened.

I never imagined I would support death in such a way (the death of a baby or the death of a loved one). After my first son was born, I was called to support women through birth and did so for five years as my only occupation (other than being a mother). I do not know why I have been called to support birth and death but there are similarities. Both are rites of passage. Both are transitions. Both can be scary, full of anxiety, fear, love, trust, faith, hope, and both need support.

There is rarely a time in our lives when we are alone but we are not alone at birth, ever. The mother is there even if no one else is there, the mother is. No baby is born without their mother. Why then, when making the transition to death, should we die alone? Dorsie didn’t die alone. I wasn’t going to let him. I would have stayed all night and I contemplated that and how it might happen. There was I time I felt like I should leave. A panic of sorts where maybe he wanted to die alone but I stayed. There was a pull. My body was forced to stay in the chair even though my mind was racing on if I was the right person or the person he would want there.

I stayed though…because I was called.

An Open Letter – Worthiness Determined

Worthy

An Open Letter to an Undisclosed Person:

Thank you for meeting with me about my displeasure with your organization. I appreciated you taking the time out of your busy day to meet although your heart was not open and we left on the same terms with which we met. At the time, I was utterly exhausted from 36+ hours of work that I had completed and honestly had less than 5 hours of sleep when we met. As you know, my work is very emotionally draining and can be physically taxing but you weren’t concerned with that, just concerned about how you were going to defend yourself and organization.

Let me say that I was not trying to hurt you personally. My displeasure was because of many things. I addressed those with you but your heart was not open. You didn’t hear me, you were only there to defend. If I were a hospital representative who expressed those feelings, you would not have approached me in such a way. You would have been open to hearing my concerns. But I am not a hospital, I am just a person who you berated, threatened and attempted to rip apart her very core.

I wanted to keep the conversation on task by trying to explore the communication breakdown within your organization but you weren’t interested in fixing that organizational breakdown and only offered for me to call you personally when your organization failed to provide. If they failed to provide, you shared you would find a way to provide. You don’t see how that isn’t really feasible and ultimately, not sustainable for you, your family and of course, your organization.

Our conversation should have been about mending a damaged relationship, addressing communication failures, and coming together to provide for families but you did not see that. You came with discontent and hate towards a comment I made on my personal Facebook page. In addition, you felt assaulted because I did not involve your organization with one of my many clients. A client you should have never known I was serving and even though you did, you did not come to me. You expected me to come to you. And when I didn’t, you were offended.

I apologized to you but you did not accept it. You offered no humanity, you remained cold and heartless, ripping apart all I do and comparing my loss to yours. Discounting my children by stating I couldn’t possibly understand your loss and referring to them as blobs. I took it. It’s not like I haven’t heard it before but there was no need to compare our losses during this conversation.  It wasn’t about our deceased children or the grief we both carry for them. This was about your organizations failings and my businesses inability to utilize a service. Then the second piece was my sadness over something I lost from your organization as a bereaved mother.

You lumped them into one big issue and refused to see either side. You were grasping at every straw in an attempt to destroy me. It was wrong and inappropriate. You said I should have come straight to you with my displeasure instead of utilizing your organizations outlet for asking questions and submitting a complaint; instead of posting something on my personal page. But why should I have come to you directly?

You stated it was because we were “friends” on Facebook as if that gives me some entitlement. Maybe it does, but what about all those who had the same feelings and aren’t friends with you on Facebook? Where do they go when they feel disappointed? I suppose to your special VIP club that no one knows about. I wouldn’t come to you (the owner) no more than a Private would go to their General if they had a concern. I explained this, but you didn’t understand that concept.

You continued to “one-up” me. Any situation I discussed, you presented something worse that you were involved in. Your underlying message was that I couldn’t possibly have an understanding because I haven’t been where you have, seen what you have, experienced what you have and more. We are both unique. We both have stories to tell but you didn’t see that; only defensiveness and hate. That’s what you brought to this meeting.

When I shed tears in front of you because of the sheer exhaustion of my last 36+ hours, not a sign of humility appeared and you continued to thrash about, searching for oxygen to heal a wound you believe I created. No humanity; just defensiveness and continued berating of me and my profession.

“Anyone can do what you do,” you said. “I can do it without any training and slap a credential behind my name,” you blundered. No, “anyone” can’t do what I do just as much as “anyone” can’t do what you do. And this is where you became such a hypocrite and didn’t even see it. I chose for my client to have a personal service, untrained by your “standards” yet trained in her own way and definitely up to serving a special case, but she wasn’t “good enough” for you because she wasn’t trained by your organization.

You said your organization is “premier” with all the training and support that is received and that is wonderful. It does make your organization special. But my organization is special and premier too. It is also unique and came with an intense amount of training. You don’t see that and you won’t, even when I invited you in to share. “I have a friend that serves families the way you do and she doesn’t have training,” you muttered.

Oh, but it is very important that your friend receive training. I explained that it is frustrating that your friend doesn’t have any formal training because there is so much that can be offered. Maybe your friend is offering it but without the training, your friend may not even know. Training doesn’t make one superior but it does help families.

However, I see a bigger issue here beyond all that. It’s worthiness. You and your organization determine worthiness and that is not okay. It’s also discrimination at its finest. What makes someone more worthy than another? You have a manual complete with pictures and statements which determines worthiness. Your statements were sickening and heartless. I was in utter shock to hear you placing humans into worthiness categories, no different than all the scuttlebutt with Planned Parenthood who also determines worthiness.

“You see this? What can we do with that?” = UNWORTHY
“See this here? Now we can do something with this. We can create something great.” = WORTHY
“What do we do with a blob?” = UNWORTHY
“This one is so perfect.” = WORTHY

Looks determine worthiness. Age determines worthiness.

And you still question why I DIDN’T CHOOSE YOUR ORGANIZATION?  I was not going to allow you or your organization to determine the worthiness of my client or any of my clients for that matter. You continued on in an attempt to defend yourself but you really hurt yourself even more. The clarity I had after sleep was so unbelievable. You told me to call you and you would personally find the right person within your organization to help, but that isn’t helpful. It’s a special club; the club where those who were deemed unworthy, become worthy. It’s not enough that they are already in a “club” but now they are in a “sub-club” and can be treated as a VIP; if you determine them worthy.

But what about all those you never deem “unworthy?” Where are they left? What do they get? Oh, they can still get a box, which is much better than a bag, right? But that’s it. They aren’t offered the professionalism, just some random person with little training to fill in.

You stated that this can be too hard for some people in your organization; that they leave because its too difficult. So maybe the training isn’t correct? Maybe they need different training? More training? Have you explored that? Or maybe you tell them about the worthiness and they too feel that some are unworthy, because of your standards. This is not okay.

I asked where you wanted to go from here and you turned it back on me. I shared from my heart where I wanted to go with you and your organization, how much I believe in it, how much I support it but that didn’t matter. There was no thank you, just defensiveness and anger. Your heart never became soft. There was no reciprocation. You even went so far as to say that I performed a major disservice to a particular client. That if I had called upon your organization that you would have been able to provide something I couldn’t. You hit below the belt on this one although my client would not have been worthy by your organizations standards.

When I asked again where we should go from here, you said you asked that question and I didn’t answer which was not true and I again explained and asked what you wanted. “Respect,” is what you said. I had respect for you but how can one have respect for you after learning all these things? You asked for personal respect, which is admiration. But you do not have qualities with which I would want to admire nor emulate.

You didn’t ask for respect for your organization, you asked me to respect you. You didn’t ask me to support your organization, you asked me to support you. But after all that was revealed to me, in an attempt to show me what my clients may be missing, I cannot respect your organization. It is not all inclusive.

You are not the one that determines worthiness. I am worthy. My children are worthy. Everyone deserves VIP treatment no matter how hard it is. And finally, you had the opportunity to make things right, but you didn’t. So I just want you to know. I AM STRONG! I am here and I will provide VIP treatment to all my clients. They are all worthy! I operate with integrity. I do what’s best for my clients and if not using your organization is best, then that’s what I recommend.

What is a Bereavement Doula? Glad you asked!

What is a Bereavement Doula?

That isn’t even a common question. I have been a birth doula for over 11 years and when I started, most people had no clue what a doula was, nor could they repeat the word. It was usually repeated back as “adoula.” When I began my bereavement doula journey, the occupation became even more confusing followed by the question, “Is there really a need?”

First, there is ABSOLUTELY, beyond a shadow of a doubt, a need for this occupation. The biggest concern I have right now, is how do I, and others in my occupation, get the word out to families that this is something they need. They don’t know they need it until it’s too late and then we hear, “I wished we had known about you at the time.” Even so, would they have called? Most likely they would not have called because this is not something expecting parents plan for and they are quickly overwhelmed with all the choices they are suddenly presented with.

Second, what is a bereavement doula?

Bereavement DoulaA bereavement doula doesn’t have one single definition. She is, who she is and supports in many different ways. She is unique. But in a nutshell, a bereavement doula provides physical, emotional, and informational support to families experiencing pregnancy loss. Yes, this is a similar definition to a birth doula who provides physical, emotional, and informational support to families during pregnancy, birth, and immediate postpartum.

So what does that support look like?

This is where the support becomes very individualized. It depends on the gestation of the baby at the time of death and the needs of the family. For miscarriage, the support may simply be attending the doctors appointment to confirm the miscarriage, presence with her in the emergency room while she bleeds and births her baby, emotional support via text, phone, email, or instant messaging while she labors and births her baby at home, preparing her to greet her baby, bonding options for her tiny baby, explaining options and final disposition for her baby’s body, and walking with her through the grief journey after she has birthed her baby.

For stillbirth, the support may include much the same as above but may be more in-depth for ensuring memories and mementos are created with a more fully formed baby.

Recently, a hospital social worker stated that it was her job to support the family. There is no doubt that the hospital social worker has an important role in supporting families through loss and through the NICU experience but there are some major differences in the support that a bereavement doula provides.

A bereavement doula will:

  • Provide individualized support
  • Be present during appointments
  • Attend the clients birth
  • Be there beyond any “shift”
  • Be available after hours
  • Will create a sacred space (music, lights, ceremony, smell, memories)
  • Hold space for the family
  • Won’t treat this as “just another shift” or “just another loss”
  • Hold hands and walk the family through their journey
  • Provide follow-up support for weeks and months to come
  • Give individualized resources and support groups

Some of these a social worker or bereavement coordinator can provide but there isn’t a single hospital program that can give a patient one-on-one continuous support by the same care provider for the entire length of the labor and birth.  This, right here is the biggest difference between a bereavement doula and any other perinatal loss specialist. Bereavement doulas are there, no matter how long it takes. We don’t work on shifts. It’s hard work. We aren’t bound by the same laws and policies as a hospital employee is.

Some hospitals follow-up with their patients following loss. Some hospice programs offer regular phone calls to ensure the family is doing well and these are wonderful additions to the perinatal loss program but how many hospitals and hospice programs have the same care provider following up in-person, on the phone, via email or via text? 

These are some major differences and these are all aspects of support that a bereavement doula provides. It is continuous, one-on-one, support for the family through pregnancy, birth, and beyond. I didn’t touch on other services that bereavement doulas can provide such as funeral planning but that is also available too. We have so much to offer families and we have a huge network of resources and tools to help the family cope and move forward.

– Breaking the silence of First Trimester Miscarriage

The Bereavement Wars

The Bereavement WarsBereavement Wars? What are they?  This is going to be controversial and I imagine there will be backlash but this needs to be said.

This isn’t something new. I have talked about it before and have been experiencing issues off and on since I came into the bereavement field. I don’t know why we have to “fight” over who gets to help families through pregnancy loss. This is the worst time in a families life and behind the scenes people are fighting over it.

This normally would be something flattering. You know, similar to two guys fighting over a girl but this is not flattering at all. It’s downright horrible and disgusting. We already have too many pregnancy loss groups. All run by different individuals and organizations. It’s overwhelming to a newly bereaved family. Where will they find support? Is this the right group for me? Will it be a loving and comforting environment? Who governs this group?

But behind the scenes, much of it (bereavement wars) is all about the person who runs the group. Hate towards other organizations similar and not similar. Hate towards authors, bloggers, other loss mothers, etc. It seems to be about who can provide the best support but in reality, no support is being provided. It’s the hidden agenda in the persons group/organization. It’s about their personal gratification.

Don’t call that bereavement doula because we have an awesome program at our hospital. Don’t inform a family about that resource because we already have resources available. Don’t do _____ because _____.”

Why not provide women ALL their resources and options? Why hide resources? Isn’t the purpose of the group/organization to  provide support, provide healing, provide love, provide resources to further healing? It IS in my opinion. But who am I?

I am not talking about organizations and groups that have niches.

First Trimester Miscarriage

Second Trimester Loss

Stillbirth

Fatal Diagnosis and carrying to term support

Fatal Diagnosis with termination support

Sibling support

Partner Support

Grandparents support

Support for birth professionals

Support for hospital staff

Training for hospital staff

Stillbirth photography

Pregnancy After Loss Support

Abortion Support

Angel Gowns

Blankets

Memory bears/dolls

Memorials and Remembrance Walks

While I know we cannot ALL fall under one group/organization because each of us wants to bring a piece of our child’s legacy into what we are doing, why are we fighting with the other groups/organizations? Maybe your organization or group doesn’t fit that family’s needs? Ah, but then you wouldn’t have helped. That’s a sad way of looking at it.

You DID help! You provided a resource. Your group/organization may not have been the one the family utilized but your organization provided a resource the family could use and they will be forever thankful for it.

My list here is not all inclusive, but I don’t ban or not include any organization, even if I have disagreed with the owner. I may talk about how awesome one group or organization is, but there are so many out there for you to use. I wish there were less. I wish there was one place all the groups/organizations out there could be listed. We need a directory. I know The Miscarriage Association (US) has a “directory” but it’s not enough.

Loss families do not need to know we are fighting behind the scenes but some do know and when they find out, it’s destructive. It reduces their ability to heal and cope. It’s not flattering to them. It’s sickening to them. So why are we at war?

Most of these groups are run by women. Women in general are so hateful to each other. The age of the internet has compounded the ease in which hate is transmitted.

But I tell you, this has got to stop.

Are you willing to come together and put your personal feelings aside for the greater good of the loss community? Are you willing to ban together, not further separate so families can feel surrounded by love? If you are, let me know! Comment here. Share this! Help others to see it’s time to come together in ALL aspects of loss to help our families in need.

Our families should not suffer anymore hurt because you didn’t want to refer or call or pass on a resource. We can’t provide everything a family needs. Remember that it’s OKAY if you can’t provide everything they need. That’s why we have other organizations to refer to. You are amazing for all that you give to the loss community. You have such a huge heart to bear your soul with them and share in your own experiences. I hope you will help us stop these bereavement wars. We are failing the community we so desperately want to heal.

#bereavementwars

Miscarriage Series – The Banishment

WOW! I can’t even believe I am writing this post. It seems so surreal. During some of deepest, darkest days following the loss of Gus, I was banished from a group. Let me provide a bit of background before diving in.

I began my bereavement support journey after suffering a miscarriage in 2010. I have published several books in that time, speak at events and hospitals, and teach other birth professionals how to support families through pregnancy loss.

I never thought I would experience another pregnancy loss. Mostly because I didn’t think I would want another child, especially at my age. So needless to say, when I learned my baby no longer had a heartbeat, I needed a bereavement doula. I needed support from more than just my family.

I felt more prepared than ever to work through my loss. I knew ALL my options (after all, I wrote the book on that), and I knew how to advocate for myself but when my husband was unavailable for an important appointment, I didn’t want to experience that alone. I didn’t know who I could invite into that space with me. When I found the right person, I still struggled to let her in but she did amazing and was there as I needed her on that particular day.

Grief doesn’t last one day though. Even though I have a wonderful support network of bereavement doulas, fellow loss mothers, and friends, today, I wanted some anonymity. I turned to a support network I have been following for well over a year but never really posted in. Again, I never thought I would need to.

I became shocked when I turned to that support group and was quickly banned after revealing who I was. Maybe the admin was threatened by me? Maybe she felt I was advertising somehow? She has refused to respond to my private messages so I don’t know why she deleted my post and banned me when I needed support the most so here I am, revealing private messages in hopes someone will reach out and explain.

But before I reveal anything, please understand, I am a grieving mother. My baby has died and I miss that child. I miss all that we will never do together. I miss the child I never met. I held space for this child, prayed for this child, nurtured this child, loved this child, dreamed of this child, and I will never hold this child on Earth. That’s difficult to swallow.

The question I asked in the group was, “Let me know if there is anything I can do to help.” Did anyone TRULY find this statement helpful during your loss?”

Photo 1

I received a bunch of responses. Some said it was helpful, most said it was not. Some were in the same boat I was in, unable to let someone in and tell them what they could do. By mid-afternoon, I received a response from an admin of the group (Sheri Bright Timmers); most likely, the owner of the group. Her response was judgmental and berating. I was shocked to be talked to so negatively about what I was feeling.

Photo 2

With who I am and what I do for loss families, I had to provide some background information about me. I had hoped she would be a bit empathetic but instead, BANISHED!

Photo 3

I was blown-away. I was seeking support from a large group of loss families during my time of need and I was banished for unknown reasons. I couldn’t even fathom why I had been banished. I asked friends for help on this situation and received a multitude of reasons including, “some groups don’t let doulas, midwives in,” and that one hurt the most.

Where does a doula go then, if she needs support during her pregnancy loss? Why must she be looked at like an enemy or having a secondary agenda than any other loss mother? I didn’t want to turn to my regular doula groups for help. I just wanted to be like any other loss mother seeking help from other loss mothers.

I heard other complaints about this group, the admin, and how the bereavement wars is still alive and hurting women and families. It physically pains my heart to think that women can be so evil to each other during loss. Vying for attention, to be number one, to be the ONLY one out there that can provide the support. It’s sad, disgusting and will be our demise.

I have seen these “fights” between other groups. One group posts, “don’t support ______ group.” And the other group posts, “don’t link to ______ group.” Then another, “don’t trust _____ group/organization.” And it just goes on and on. Do we really think we are helping those who need us the most? And now, when I need someone outside my normal groups, I can’t ask, because of my profession?

THIS WAR HAS TO STOP!

I sent a private message to thirteen admins in that group. Only one responded, the others left the conversation. It wasn’t until the next morning after I received screen shots about my banishment did I begin to receive a private answer. It all boiled down to…ADVERTISEMENT.

Seriously? In 2012, after my book All That is Seen and Unseen was published, I posted it in the group. I always check group rules before posting about my book so I wouldn’t been seen as a spammer. I never was never banned from the group for those two posts and they were still there as of May 17, 2015 at 11:30am. Then there were no other posts in the group from me. Why?

Because I became pregnant. I stopped following the group because I couldn’t bear to see all the pain from miscarriage and stillbirth during my own pregnancy. I stopped following a bunch of groups because I needed to focus on positive energy during my pregnancy and reduce the anxiety I was already feeling. 2012 passes to 2013 and my son is born.

In 2014, I slowly began to re-follow boards to offer support, it wasn’t until my loss this year that I began searching for other groups where I could express my grief and look for support. The Miscarriage & Pregnancy Loss group had over 5,000 members. I knew I could find support there, so I reached out.

Then the admin responded so negatively during my hurt that I revealed who I was and that was taken as advertising. So Sheri, you really think that I just hung out in your group for three years just to advertise without posting links or anything? Seriously? I am just a little over a week into my grief and I go post in your group to make money? I make no money. I give away more books than I sell. I am here to help women, not berate them and destroy them in their grief.

Two admins said they “knew I was there to advertise.” They felt my post was merely a ploy. I am sorry, I don’t do this but if it helps you sleep at night to feel that I was advertising and not a grieving mother looking for support, so be it. I will take my grief elsewhere.

#bereavementwars

When the Bereavement Doula Needs a Bereavement Doula

What is it like when a bereavement doula needs a bereavement doula?

The night before my scheduled ultrasound, I began to panic. Over the last few days, I had become overly concerned with going to this appointment alone. All of my other appointments, up until then, I had the support of my husband and children with me. This appointment; however, was an extra appointment and my husband was unable to attend due to a training class he was attending. His employer had paid for his attendance at this training so there was no way he could get out of it unless it was an emergency. I had no idea my appointment would turn into a psychological emergency.

Due to the anxiety I had been feeling, my husband felt I should have someone attend. I have talked a bit about that in previous posts. For me however, I am so closed and it is difficult for me to let anyone into my life on such an intimate level. Finding the right person was imperative. I had a few select people I considered.

The first, was unavailable. I was disappointed because I had had her with me in previous pregnancies at appointments but she has some business in her life now that prevented me from feeling like I would have an open space to find relief or experience grief if the appointment went sour. She is one of a few people I have been vulnerable with and allowed to see me cry.

The second, wasn’t sure if I would let her in the way she knew I needed to. She was so perceptive and with her new family, I didn’t want to intrude. As much as I wanted her there, we both would have been a sobbing mess if things didn’t go well. Which we all now know, they didn’t. Looking back, it wouldn’t have mattered if we were sobbing.

Then there was my third choice who in reality, should have been my first choice but we have such an interesting relationship that I didn’t even think to ask her until I did. When I asked her, I also felt like I was intruding but when I explained the nature of what I needed, she didn’t hesitate to be there for me. And let me tell you, with her profession, this was no easy thing for her to do.

I am so glad she was able to be there for me but I am writing to share with you about what I actually did to her that I didn’t even realize. I made her feel inadequate, anxious, and concerned that she didn’t help me at all and I did this without even knowing it. She is not a bereavement doula and I thrust her into that role unprepared and with no training.

It is true that I didn’t know that this appointment would bring on the need for her to be my bereavement doula. Even though I was nervous, I really felt like I was overly prepared for a positive appointment. I was almost certain we would hear our son’s heartbeat. Almost…

When my friend met me in the foyer of the medical office building, she greeted me with open arms but her energy was one of nervousness. I brought Timmy with me and she immediately took on the care taker role which was very helpful. I think both of us didn’t really know what to do in those moments. She also felt like we would hear his heartbeat and she would be returning to work after a small scare but that was not the case at all.

Then there was the ultrasound where I knew almost instantly that things were not good. I went into my own bereavement doula mode of INFORMATION. I needed information, even though I knew it. I was on autopilot. I was looking to my friend for a reaction that would tell me how to react. My friend though, instantly thrust into a role she has never filled nor was prepared for, also didn’t know what kind of reaction to give.

In talking with her after, she told me she didn’t want to break down. She didn’t want to start crying because she didn’t want me to feel like I needed to console her. She wanted to be stoic so I could break down, yet in those first moments, I was being stoic.

Bereavement DoulaAfter moments of silence and a warm touch and expression of condolences from my midwife, I began to shed some tears. Some. Not much. As my eyes began to burn, my friend came over and hugged me. My feet still in the stirrups with my birthing organs exposed. Very few people would I invite into such a private moment.

She held me as I cried but I still held back. Little did I know, she was holding back. She was confused on how to support me. She was confused on how to react, be, provide, and do. I put someone in a horrible position. I brought someone into a sacred space of death. The sacred space of learning about a death. Those early moments that people only imagine what a family would experience, she was experiencing it with me.

This wasn’t what we planned. It wasn’t what I had first asked her to do and even though she was doing it, I was actually wrong in putting her in that role. As a bereavement doula, I had no idea that I needed a bereavement doula and that changes everything.

For all the women who ask their friends to be there for support or go to these appointments alone, they are missing out on support that they deserve. My friend did an amazing job for what she was thrown into. I couldn’t have done that alone. I couldn’t have gone through all that by myself. I needed support but I should have thought enough to ask another bereavement professional to be there for me. I do feel “bad” for putting my friend in that position.

Our relationship has grown and we are closer because of this experience. When she left, she took my book “It’s Not ‘Just’ a Heavy Period; The Miscarriage Handbook,” and instantly began utilizing the information from the book. She was there every step of the way and I believe that book can be so helpful for the care givers who will support families through loss.

So this is what it’s like when a bereavement doula needs a bereavement doula. A trained friend or doula is probably best just so no one feels inadequate but in the absence of a bereavement doula, anyone is better than having no support. I wouldn’t change a thing about how she supported me. I couldn’t have asked her to support me any better. She even came home with me following the appointment and just sat with me which is exactly what I needed and didn’t even know it. Behind the scenes we were both confused about how we should react with each other but up front, while it was all happening, everything fell into place perfectly.

– Breaking the silence of First Trimester Miscarriage

Why I said “Yes” to the media

They’re out there. My statements from a “secret” Facebook group. The statements that haunt me about the Dynel Lane Case. At the time, I had no idea the member asking for advice was referring to the now suspect (Dynel Lane) in this horrible case. In fact, after I wrote my response (the statements now all over the news), I didn’t think much else about it. I warned the member to stay away from the suspect and warned her to get her fiancé to tell the suspect’s husband to get Dynel Lane to a therapist. I assumed she did and went on with my life.

I don’t watch the news. I had no idea there was a stabbing in Longmont. Even if I had heard about it, I don’t think I would have put two and two together. In fact, when people began tagging me over and over, it took me a while to realize that everything was connected. There were several posts and I had to read each one and then go back to look at the original to even realize that my warning, had in fact taken place.

The secret group went nuts. “Who leaked the info?” Members began speculating. Some left the group. It got nasty. I get that people are upset about information being shared but let’s be real, this was a criminal case. It wasn’t some “personal” stuff but something horrible and against the law. If members are required to keep everything quiet, regardless of the criminality, it’s not a group I would want to be a part of.

I watched as members bashed me and dragged me through the mud and also as others stood up for me; people I didn’t even know. I returned later that night to the group so I could privately thank some people for standing up for me. I had purposely not responded to any posts because I didn’t want to draw more fire but when I returned, I was unable to access the page. Banished.

I was the “last man standing” so to speak. Because I allowed the media to use my name, I had to be the “whistleblower.” It couldn’t possibly be someone else? Someone so blown away she shared it with someone else?

I contacted the group’s admin. She had reached out to me earlier that morning asking if I had shared. I explained what I knew. She didn’t trust me. She kept telling me that I wanted attention. That I was trying to “capitalize on a tragedy to get attention.” Honestly people, I dislike attention. I am a closet introvert who prefers the privacy of her home. What could I possible gain or “capitalize” on from this senseless crime? Because of her “intuition” she chose to remove me from the group [for the safety of others].

My life is very full. I have done more than the average woman has and have many accomplisments. I do not need nor seek attention. Those that know me personally, understand this about me. So, if I am an introvert who does not seek attention, why did I say “yes” to the media and allow them to use my name.

#1. Awareness

#2. Credibility for the story.

What story?

Each journalist had a different angle for their story. They needed proof of the conversation. If all involved were anonymous, this never would have been told.

1. It’s about awareness. Maybe someone who also has a friend going through the same experience will say something?  Maybe we can save another mother from going through this horrible and tragic experience. In addition, now that this conversation has come to light, the police have more information to go on with their case. I wasn’t expecting to be contacted about releasing the conversations to law enforcement, but it happened. So while some may see this as trying to get into the “limelight” and “capitalize” on a tragedy, it is not. It’s definitely not about selling books (as some have accused me of), it’s about awareness. Some people just can’t see beyond their own issues. It’s hard to believe that just the night before I was celebrating my new books release and then this happened so people think that’s my platform. How sick!.

2. Initially, I had hoped to bring to light that the husband did have suspicions months before. News reporters had previously reported that the husband wasn’t a suspect and had no knowledge. I begged to differ. He DID have knowledge.

3. Then there was the eerie warning. My words: “My concern would be for any pregnant woman being around her because if she is desperate, she may do the unmentionable and harm the mother and take the baby.” Those bone chilling words. They haunt my thoughts. No, I am not responsible but they still haunt.

4. Then the plea: “Please be careful. And at this point, I would recommend her husband take her (Dynel Lane) to a psychologist/therapist. Doesn’t matter if she is really pregnant. It’s too sketchy and he is concerned.”

I have been told that I didn’t think about the victim. This is FALSE. I think about her and her family every minute. I was concerned about how my words might make them feel. I was concerned that if these words came out, would blame be placed on me or the member in question. I WAS concerned. But, this information IS relevant to her case and I think it can be used.

I will close with some final thoughts. I told the first news reporter that I wanted to reach out to the victim (Michelle Wilkins). I lit a candle which burned for Baby Wilkins. It was all on film but never made it to the newscast. That’s the price of editing. Some comments haven’t made it in the news. Shocking, I know! (insert sarcasm). The nation has surrounded her family with love. I have my white heart and I will mail in a white heart.  #whiteheartproject I hope you will mail in your heart.

White Heart for Wilkins Baby

I cannot express enough condolences to the Wilkins family. I assure the world I did not say yes to “capitalize” on their tragedy. I am a Stillbirthday Bereavement Doula surrounded by loss on a daily basis. Their suffering is real and my heart weeps for their loss and all she will endure. I am a praying woman and she is in my prayers.

#DynelLane #whiteheartproject #longmontstabbing #michellewilkins #babywilkins

EDITED TO ADD: Longmont Police contacted me regarding this information. If I hadn’t spoke to the media, I am not sure this information would have ever been revealed. Because of this, the group in question should really reconsider what they believe should be kept as private. When someone is in danger or laws are being broken, people should be able to share this information without being ridiculed or banned. In addition, I never did mail my white heart. At the time, I felt it would be too awkward and I was worried about how the heart would be received. Now I regret it.

I imagined.

I was starting to get excited about you. I had been thinking about you for over eight months now but I have been scared to even think about bringing you to life. There are so many risks, after all, at our age. When I think back about how I envisioned parenthood, this is not what I had hoped for. My reality is so much different.

When we got married, three kids was our number. Did that mean three living children or just three children? I have three children but only two are living. But then I think about it more and I know that I envisioned little ones playing with each other, fighting in the back seat of the car, squatting down in the yard playing in the dirt together, and growing up close in age.

My reality is that I was stricken with infertility for over 22 years. We struggled to get pregnant with our first, trying to remain within the boundaries of our Catholic faith and teachings. After three and a half years, we welcomed our first son. We knew we wanted more. He was perfect in every way.

The fear was there that we would have a nightmare of a child but two years apart is what we had hoped for. So we began that journey. We wanted to try a more natural route this time. I knew my body well and I began trying Eastern medicinal techniques. Two years came and went.

By year four, I began combining Eastern and Western Medicine but our efforts weren’t fruitful. As year six approached, we gave up that dream and began focusing on our careers; at least, I did. My husband had his career and it was going well. I just wanted to start mine.

It seemed that as soon as that decision was made, we discovered we were pregnant. Losing her to miscarriage in the first trimester was devastating and changed me in so many ways. I have done so much research and now dedicate my life to serving families during loss in any trimester. Knowing what I know, makes the thought of you even scarier.

Then, just two years after that loss, we discovered we were pregnant again. Yes, we had been trying and we sought some help but the help didn’t work and we were blessed with a “natural” conception. He was born and I told myself I would never have another. The baby blues were horrendous and the loss of personal time was taking its toll. The feeding struggles and my inability to read his cues were even more troubling for me that I vowed that you would never happen.

And then, as Timmy approached his first birthday, you began to sneak into my life. I began to be consumed with thoughts of you, mostly as I approached the newfound ovulation that my body had begun. It became overwhelming for three to four days out of the month but there was so much fear in letting you in. So much fear in imagining you here. So much fear in me as a mother and in all that could go wrong getting you here. And then it happened. I couldn’t shake you. You wouldn’t leave.

Two weeks ago I made an appointment to see a genetic counselor. I wanted to explore the options for you and make a decision.

Then last week a butterfly appeared in our home. It was the dead of winter, where did this little butterfly come from? I questioned if I had an infestation somewhere but so many of my friends believed this butterfly was a sign. “What bigger sign do you need Elizabeth?” is what some people shared. I was hesitant to believe the butterfly was a sign.

I learned that it was a female butterfly. Her species was White Cabbage Butterfly. She was yellow with 2 perfect, black spots on her wings. As I was doing the dishes, I noticed the light flickering above me and I looked up to my left to see her swoop over my shoulder and land on the cupboard. She walked up the door and opened her wings a few times. As I watched her, I finished the dishes.

I thought to myself, if she is still there when I am done, I will snap a picture of her.

White Cabbage Butterfly

She was still there.

I posted the picture to a group on Facebook. This is where I heard she was a sign. I shared the picture with my husband who was at work. He too, believed she was a sign. The sign was, “Have another baby.” Was this our angel in Heaven sharing the best way she could?

Later that night, the butterfly had moved to above the sink near the ceiling. I wondered how long she would stay. I retreated to my bedroom that night and began to pray. I pulled out my Rosary. Something I hadn’t prayed since I lost Ruby. It was surreal, sitting in the same room, saying the same prayers. The Rosary called for “the sorrowful mysteries.” Three of which had specific meaning to what I was going through. I completed my meditations and prayers within 45 minutes and drifted off to sleep.

The next morning, I felt refreshed. I had prayed for direction and peace in my heart. I didn’t want to struggle with the decision to have you. I just wanted to leave it in His hands and go with that. But things changed today and here I am, trying to grasp the decision I placed on Him. But I digress.

I DID experience peace and I felt the struggle leave my heart. I felt renewed and began to get excited about your impending presence. When I came home from work that Saturday, my husband and I spent some time in the bedroom and were excited that you might be coming as well.

I felt so blessed to have a husband who wanted you and who was supportive of you. I know many women who don’t have that kind of support. I imagined my growing belly and feeling you move inside me. I imagined my husband rubbing my belly and Timmy kissing my belly. I could see him slapping my belly too and I could see Joey trying to wrap his arms around me again for as long as he can while both hands still touched.

I imagined us in church together, with my swollen belly. I imagined driving with my belly and wondered if my new car would accommodate such changes to my body. I imagined the car seats and where Timmy would sit and where your car seat would be placed. I imagined where you would sleep once you were born. We talked about it that Saturday afternoon. We decided your crib would be placed in our room and Joey would move to the basement in a few years. Or if you were a boy, Timmy and you could share a room.

I imagined me feeling as amazing about my body as I did with Timmy’s pregnancy. I imagined finding time for exercise and how I would manage to keep my weight healthy during your pregnancy. I planned who I would call to have my blood tests taken to ensure I was making enough progesterone and I planned who I would talk with to get supplementation if I needed it.

I imagined you and Timmy growing up together. Secretly hoping you were a girl for many reasons, mainly because your father has such a strong desire to raise a girl. I would love another boy but I imagined you a girl. I imagined breastfeeding you. We discussed what we would do if you were tongue-tied like the rest of the family and if we would choose not to circumcise you if you were a boy.

I imagined rocking you to sleep and wearing you everywhere. I researched baby carriers for newborns. I began preparing for you and packed up some of Timmy’s old things so that they can be used for you. I wondered if I needed to keep all his boy clothes or hold off until we found out if you were a girl. I imagined how long your hair would be when you were Timmy’s age. Should I let it grow or keep it short? I wondered if you would wear dresses all the time or pants?

I imagined how I differently I would do things this time. I imagined myself a supermom, carrying two babies and making it look easy. I saw a woman struggling in the grocery story with her two young children and imagined myself doing the same. I knew it wouldn’t be easy and there would be rough days. I wondered how I would handle it.

I imagined you in school. I imagined you would love it as much as I did. My brother came to visit the next day. It was a surprise trip and he brought his children with him. As I admired them and his daughter, I couldn’t help but imagine you, again, as a girl. I imagined you would play with my hair the same way my niece did. I imagined you would have some of the same desires as she did.

I know my husband imagined you a girl, hoping you had green eyes like mine. I imagined him twirling and dancing with you. I imagined him loving you in a way I have never seen him love someone before. I imagined him giving in to your heart’s desire.

I imagined you becoming a teenager and even imagined the yelling and disagreements that might take place between us. I imagined me sharing my life with you. I imagined me teaching you about being a woman, about your fertility, and even thought about your wedding.

I wondered if having you so late in my life meant I wouldn’t get to see those things. I wondered if we would do a disservice to you being so aged as you were in high school. I wondered if I could be all you needed and wanted in a mother. I imagined you with your brothers, and of course, being there for us when we got too old to take care of ourselves.

There is so much I imagined but most of all, I imagined our dreams from 18 years ago coming true. Even though I have two children with years that separate them, I imagined the possibility of also having two children close in age. A dream I gave up on many years ago.

Today we visited with a genetics counselor to determine risks. Some of them are high and include an early induction. It’s not the induction that scares me the most, but the thought that you could die before you make it outside that kills me inside. These are the scary parts about me preventing you from coming. This fear has had me in grips for the last eight months. I have been trying to convince myself that I didn’t want you. I find myself doing this even now, even though I bawled while I was singing and rocking Timmy to sleep during his nap today over the thought of you not coming.

I contemplated what that might look like because over the last five days, I have only thought of you. I fell in love with the idea of you. And I imagined, even if we had you, that none of what I had imagined might come true. I imagined saying goodbye to you at some point.

I don’t want to say goodbye. I want to say hello and I want to say that I love you. I didn’t know just how much I wanted you until now. I fought it for so long. But alas, I can only imagine.

– Breaking the silence of First Trimester Miscarriage 

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