A few years back a woman in my parish was pregnant with her sixth baby. When she was close to her due date the family moved away. It wasn’t long after that an announcement was made at church to pray for their infant during the prayer for the dead. As a mother I gasped thinking, “how is the mother surviving”? How does she even breathe? My mind couldn’t even process those feelings. As quickly as they would enter my mind during prayer at church, they would leave. My thought of them would end with thanking God that my children were alive and healthy. I was then one of the mothers that I am jealous of now, a mother living unknowingly a carefree life. No matter how many struggles life throws at you, no one knows hell until they have lost a child. We are not taught about stillbirth. Most of us do not even hear the word until we experience it. If we do, we only think of babies that are seriously ill inside the womb. That is not the case most of the time. That is not my story and it is not the story of most of my friends that are enduring the pain every second of everyday since they lost their babies.
My story begins with me, as a mother of three beautiful and healthy children, Nash 11, Krista 7, Grace 3, and my desire to have a fourth. I love children and the excitement they bring to a home. As usual, we quickly became pregnant with number four: our big finale. Pregnancy has always been a breeze for me with the exception of horrible morning sickness and the usual aches and pains that go with it. For me, if I decided on having a child I was blessed with one. I’ve always thanked God for this because so many women, including my mother, long to have children and struggle to get pregnant. After the first few months of morning sickness, we learned that we were having a girl. I was a little sad for Nash, my oldest, because he really wanted a brother. I quickly became happy to have another girl because I love watching them twirl around in their tutus and singing. Grace couldn’t wait to be a big sister and Krista, my “little mommy”, couldn’t wait to have a baby in the house. At night, both girls would dance around in my bed stopping occasionally to give my belly a kiss and say hello to Faith. We decided on the name Faith because my faith in God has always been strong. My husband the worrier was afraid financially to add a fourth. As always, I told him to have “Faith” and everything will be okay. The remainder of the pregnancy was the same as all of mine; everything was perfect. Those were the words I heard from my OB at every appointment. On August 18 I went in for my 33 ½ check-up not knowing this would be my last carefree easy visit. My next appointment was scheduled for September 2, 2008. The weekend before my appointment we were very busy getting the house prepared for our new bundle of joy. I was in “nesting” mode cleaning, my husband was putting in new flooring, and my kids were having a good time with their cousins that were visiting. Needless to say I wasn’t thinking about baby movements and had never even heard of kickcounts. On Labor Day, company left including my husband who had to fly that day. The chaos was gone so it was clean-up time before my shower and bed. Faith was always most active at bedtime. I guess because she was waiting for the show that her sisters would perform each night. That night she didn’t move. I thought she must be as exhausted as I am. All night I kept waking knowing that something wasn’t right. Part of my mind knew she was gone while the other protected me and lulled me back to sleep saving me from the pain a little longer. I know my daughter’s beautiful little soul was there comforting me. I believe she was giving me the information a little at a time to ease me into now what is my hell-my life with grief. After waking again, I thought of a section in the What to Expect… book about counting baby movements. It was around 2a.m. I got up and ate some doughnuts and sat in our quiet living room begging Faith to move. I could feel her elbow or knee so I pushed on it without a response. Because of the time I decided to get ready early the next morning and go in. My appointment was scheduled for 1:30 but I would call for a quick heartbeat check to calm my worries. She had to be O.K. After all, this was the perfect pregnancy with the perfect baby- right? Babies don’t die. There has to be a simple explanation. I called as soon as they opened and they told me to come right in. On the way I called my husband. As usual, he reassured me that everything would be okay. I wanted to believe him so bad, but knew that this time that I wasn’t just the exaggerating pregnant woman. As I sat waiting in the Dr.’s office, I took out my calendar (I write everything about my pregnancy appointments) and jotted down, “Faith not moving. I went to drs. office for heartbeat check”. I left a space for later to write some funny explanation. That space was left blank for a few days until I wrote: “Faith gone”. They called me back for an ultrasound. The US tech was joking with me about already having problems from a girl. Then she was silent and the room was quiet- there wasn’t the sound of a heartbeat. There wasn’t any more joking or reassuring words that she is fine. She said, “Cynthia, I’m having trouble so I need to get the Doctor”. I began screaming, “You know already! You tell me NOW!!!.” I can remember the terrified look on her face as she told me that Faith was gone- there isn’t a heartbeat. My mind is racing- I’m alone. What do I do? The Dr. came in while I was calling my poor unexpecting husband to tell him that he wasn’t right. She’s not okay. He was stuck on a trip two hours away . I was alone. We were talking but couldn’t get to each other. My baby is gone! He said he would call Pete, my brother. Fortunately, he was only a few minutes away. I was blurting out random questions to the Doctor when he walked in. He held me and we cried. My usual doctor was not there so this one told me I could go home and my doctor would call to discuss my next move. On the drive home I kept looking at my pregnant belly that used to be so full of life wondering “how can a perfect pregnancy end this way?” Then my mind quickly turned to my kids at home. I had kept the oldest two home from school that morning because of the appointment. How would I tell them that Faith wouldn’t ever be coming home? When I got in I called them into the living room. They all sat around me concerned by my crying. I’ll never forget their faces as I told them. A child should never have that look of pain and shock on their faces. At that moment their innocent world crumbled. I could no longer protect my kids from this world’s pain. They didn’t understand and I couldn’t explain because I didn’t either. I was saved from dealing with it when my doctor called to tell me that I needed to go to the hospital. I would have to induced and go through labor. This sounded so barbaric to me. Making a women endure the pains of labor knowing she wouldn’t have the joy at the end. My brother drove me and Kevin would meet me there a few hours later. When I arrived at the hospital the nurses had already been alerted. They were very nice and somber as they walked me to the isolated room at the end of the Labor/Delivery hall. They didn’t want to expose the other women to the mother of the dead baby or subject me to the cries of the newborn babies arriving safely into this world. Before Kevin arrived, my priest came by for a visit and to anoint me and give communion. During our conversation he said, “Grieve, but do not grieve without hope”. How could he say that to me? To a mother with a lifeless child inside her. I didn’t know that those words alone would carry me through my darkest days. When Kevin arrived all we did was hold each other and cry. I sent my brother home. We began preparing for our baby to arrive but not go home with us. The nurses were spectacular. I remember thinking, “How do they know what to do because this never happens”? Babies don’t die. Our nurse Sherry arranged everything. She went and got an outfit made by a women’s charity group. It was beautiful with lace trim and cross embroidered on the front. It didn’t hit me that this was the outfit for my daughter to be buried in. Sherry talked about how Faith would look, that we could keep her as long as we wanted, she would take pictures, get hand and foot prints, and make keepsakes for us. My labor began around 2 on Tuesday. The next morning pitocin was started. It seemed like it would never be over. I wanted it over- I wanted to get her out. I was tired of looking at this pregnant belly that was still full but not of life. I wanted to see her and hold her and never let her go. I wanted to know why. At 1:17 p.m. on September 3, 2008 after 23 ½ hours of labor my sweet, beautiful baby girl Faith was born. She weighed 5 pounds and was 19 ½ inches long. She was beautiful. We were “lucky” to find out why. Faith was a perfectly healthy baby that was unfortunate to have a true knot form in her cord. She also had the cord wrapped around her neck twice. My baby’s “lifeline” killed her. Instead of nourishment it brought her death. My doctor told me it was the equivalent to being struck by lightning. He sees many babies born with knots that don’t die. There wasn’t a dry eye in the room as we held and talked to our baby girl. She was the most beautiful baby that I had ever seen. She had Nash’s eyes, Krista’s nose, and Grace’s sweet little lips. Every favorite part of my kids she had. I wrapped her fingers around mine the way a baby would automatically. She was lifeless, yet her fingers did not let go. I tried to kiss her nose enough to last a lifetime. I smelled her hoping to remember it forever. I said “I love you-I love you “over and over hoping to make up for the times I wouldn’t get the chance to say it to her again. Kevin held his little girl the way he always held our babies. If it wasn’t for his sad tears, I could have pretended that he was walking around with our newborn that we would take home in a few days. I eventually said to Sherry that Faith was getting cold and that I didn’t want to remember her not being warm. She took my baby away. This is when my real nightmare began. My arms were empty and would never be filled again by her. In the first few days of grief we cried freely. We moved in and out of reality. We are comforted by friends and family that cry and share in our grief. You think that it will not or cannot get any worse until people want you to forget so they can. They can’t imagine our pain so, like me, when I heard about the church friend I wanted to quickly push it out of my mind, so did they. What I didn’t know and what they didn’t know is that it never leaves a mother’s mind. Time does not heal a mother’s heart and empty arms. It only takes her away from the only day she spent with her child. As time goes on we learn to cope and to move through life doing what is expected, but never does our baby leave our every thought. We move through life because life keeps moving. The words my priest said to me, “grieve but do not grieve without hope” help me keep going because I have to have hope. Hope that life can have joy again and that I can give my living children a happy life. As bad as the grief is I live for them. I named her Faith because I know that God is always with me, walking with me, and guiding me. I believe He did not take her but welcomed her. I don’t know why He didn’t prevent her death the same as I don’t know why He doesn’t prevent natural disasters. The knot in her cord was my own natural disaster. I do know that He is always there to pick up the pieces in the aftermath of a tragedy. I promised Faith and God that I would stand by the reasons I named her Faith. “Faith is the daring of the soul to go farther than it can see” author unknown. It is believing in the unseen that we will be okay even in our darkest moments. True Faith is blind faith. I made a promise that my faith would not be destroyed even after being tested beyond my ability to understand. I also promised Faith that I would give her brother and sisters a good life and make her proud. I promised that I would show them that there is hope that it will sustain us. I would live by the words, “grieve, but do not grieve without hope”. Kevin and I knew that we wanted another child. We were told to wait 6 months. For us, that was impossible. I had to feel life inside of me again to know that there is hope for us to have new joy in our life. As blessed as we were with three living children and a beautiful angel, we felt like we were standing still in our grief. We knew we had to live with it but we wanted it to follow us, not consume us. It’s always lurking, waiting for the moment to take over and it does. It’s always there; sometimes mute and sometimes loud. We let the feelings whatever they might be take over and ride it out. Then we re-enter the living and live. We decided to get pregnant as soon as possible and once again when I think of having another child we are blessed. On November 9, 2008, we found out that we are expecting. This time is different, there aren’t any carefree moments and all joy is tainted by the “what if’s”. However, holding it all together is the hope and the possibility that there can be joy in life after stillbirth. We are pregnant with another girl that we are naming Hope. Every movement she makes is analyzed. Every heartbeat heard is adored. Every moment is full of fear and hope. My children know that children can die. My four year old says that if Hope dies she will ask baby Faith and God to pick out another baby for us. She repeatedly asks if she will get to hold baby Hope. She says this because towards the end of my pregnancy with Faith I told her that when I go to the hospital she will come and get to hold baby Faith. She never got to do that so now that’s her fear. My family has been touched by fear that I can’t protect them from; that I cannot calm because it is also my fear. But, I can speak of Faith and Hope. I can teach them that while we have fear we can overcome it with hope. That joy will come home with us in July. My baby Faith is not replaced. She is cherished and remembered. She will live in my every thought. She is a part of me and I am a part of her. Her death is the reason I hurt but her life is the reason I live.
Thanks be to God and my sweet angel Faith- Her baby sister Hope was born screaming July 8,2009 weighing 7 lbs 6 oz. Grace proudly holds her baby sister everyday.