(Warning: Child loss/miscarriage trigger)
Every year on this day, I hold in my heart a memory that will never go away and tears that somehow will never be dried. When a mother loses her child, no matter at what time, it changes her for the rest of her life. You eventually find a new normal but have a different outlook. For each mother, the impact will be different but we are all affected in ways we can’t explain.
I wrote the following entry a year after we lost our second child at 3 months gestation period. I reread it each year. It’s my own personal story of child loss, and if even one mother is helped by it (as other blogs helped me) then I would be thrilled. But mostly, it is my earthly reminder to never forget my child and the experience of having him/her.
A Year After – September 2014
This was a story that was so personal and private, only a handful of people actually knew it for the longest time. But the more time that passes, the more I feel in my heart that “even the smallest of these” deserves to have their presence and existence recognized. I don’t know when I will post this, if I even do, but I want to put down in words what our family experienced and how the worst day of my life changed me in ways that I never thought possible. Through the pain of the following days, weeks, and months, it was reading other stories, blog entries, and personal accounts of women and families who had experienced just what my husband and I were going through. Reading their accounts helped me in so many ways that I could never explain, and if I could thank each and every woman out there who was brave enough to share her story, I would. Let this be my thank you; that maybe, in some way or form, our story would reach some unknown person out there who is/has been devastated by loss and is searching for any kind of understanding of what she is going through. So here is the story of Shiloh, our loved and very much wanted second child.
Shiloh’s Story: July – September 2013
It was my 29th birthday present. My husband was at a church concert and I was getting our son (1.5 years at the time) ready for his bath. We were leaving for vacation in a few days and I thought, “What the heck, it’s early, but I’ll just see.” My little guy was in the bathtub splashing around when I looked at that positive cross. I just started laughing and crying all at the same time, and he giggled along with me (not having a clue why!). “You’re going to be a big brother!” I kept telling him. My husband came home and when he came into the bathroom, I told him, “It’s a good thing I didn’t go with you.” “Why?” “Because I wouldn’t have found out that you’re going to be a Daddy again!” He, of course, was ecstatic. It was a great evening.
Fast forward three months. It was a few days before our 12 week ultrasound. I had had a polar opposite first trimester than I did with E (our firstborn). I was never sick and felt great! But the lack of illness made me so worried, and in the back of my brain I had, for some inexplicable reason, the feeling that I would never get to hold my baby in my arms. I couldn’t understand it.
It was a Wednesday night, and just as I was getting ready for bed, it started. A tinge of red on the toilet paper. And I instantly knew and started crying. I went to bed, and we both started praying hard, hoping that hope that every parent who knows is losing their child hopes for. The next morning, I went to work (teaching at our local community college). Thankfully, I had planned for a movie as I was on the verge of tears and was working to contain myself. After class, having called, I went in to the doctor’s. The sweet young nurse pulled out the machine to listen for the heartbeat…and while I stared at that ceiling, her silence confirmed everything. “Well, we can’t be sure until we do an ultrasound,” she nicely said, trying to foster any hope that I might still have had. But I had none and couldn’t keep the tears from flowing. She quickly left to get an older nurse (presumably one more experienced with this type of situation). They both came back and all I could say was, “I already know.” The older nurse nodded her head, not really being able to verbally agree with me and just said, “Mothers have instincts about this. We’ll see what the ultrasound says.” So I was sent up to the second floor of the clinic, to get official confirmation. And as I slipped into that bluish, open-backed shirt, I couldn’t help but think that this was supposed to be an exciting and joyous time, not one met with tears and anguish. Even in the room, I clung to the shreddest amount of hope that my baby was okay.
The ultrasound tech looked at the screen for a bit and got quiet. Through my tears, I said, “The baby’s gone, isn’t it?” She nodded. I asked how long ago and she said around 10.5 weeks. I was to go back downstairs and talk about my options. As I left the ultrasound suite, as cruel irony had it, I of course had to pass by the pregnant mother with her barely year old and toddler in tow. I remember stopping by the window to look out at the pretty little lake and water fall that was in the hospital’s outdoor court. I picked up my phone to call my husband and brokenly told him. Then had to head over to the lab for bloodwork (still not sure why to this day!) and then back to my midwife. Waiting in the office, I tried not to be bitter as pregnant patient after pregnant patient walked in.
I admit, I wanted everything to be done as quickly as possible. I could have a D & C, which I wanted to schedule immediately. But even in my heartbreak, God was watching over me. My midwife said that my body had already started the “process” and if I could give it a few days to see what happened, it would be better. So I agreed, and left to make the sad, lonely drive home. The whole thing had taken about 2 hours, and I honestly don’t remember ever crying so much. All I could do was wonder how long “it” would take. I had to teach a private lesson that afternoon (again, where was my head?), and afterwards we went to have dinner with a family member who knew what was going on. I mindlessly sat on the couch and as it got later, I started feeling the cramps set in. We left, came home, got our son into bed, and then both my husband and I fell into bed and fell asleep crying.
Shiloh’s “Birth” Day – September 5, 2013
(Warning: The next section might be graphic)
I woke up around 1am that Friday morning with some serious cramping. I got the heating pad out and laid on top of it. After about 15 minutes, I felt something drop in me (of course now I know – it was the baby dropping down into the birth canal). I ran into the bathroom and sat down on the toilet. In one push, the baby slid out. All I could do was cry. I got up and looked down at my baby, so small and helpless but perfectly formed, even at 10.5 weeks. She/he had fingers and toes, and I could see the closed eyes. My baby…so tiny…almost a year later and I still cry over our loss as I write this. I went back into our room and told my husband, who had woken up and was sitting on the edge of our bed. We both cried and he said a prayer for us. And then I went to say goodbye. Even though our baby had already been gone for some time to be with the Lord, I had to tell him/her how loved he/she was, and that I would never forget, not for one single day, how much she/he meant to me, to us. And I haven’t…each day I remember my baby in some form. I still cry over “what could have been”. I often find myself thinking who she/he would have become, what my baby would have looked like, what kind of personality she/he might have had.
So in a natural miscarriage, you really have no idea what to expect and question practically everything that is happening to your body. The next day in the afternoon, I ended up delivering the placenta. I had to do more research about that, as I didn’t know what had happened really. But again, turning to other women’s blogs helped me understand a bit more. It was so final, and while I was relieved that it was over, my sense of loss was so profound. I felt empty; my arms ached to hold my baby and my heart broke to know that I never would.
My husband and I chose to be very private about our loss. Only those family members and close friends that we had told knew, and I wanted it that way. I couldn’t handle the sympathy, the expected phrases, and the statements that people make when they are trying to be helpful but end up hurting you more than silence every could. Over the next few months, my husband and I turned to each other in our grief, and to God. I would just start crying out of nowhere, and my husband was so understanding to just hold me and never probe. It took quite awhile, but the pain began to lessen, and I had the desire to name our baby. Our baby was a life, a person, and she/he died just as any other child or human being died. And I wanted to give our baby an identity. We chose the name Shiloh, which means peaceful one. It was so appropriate, as our baby is at peace and we will one day see him/her again.
Shiloh’s “birth” date was September 5, 2013.
So…Happy “earth” Birthday, my dear Shiloh. You are missed. You are loved. You were and still are important.
Loving you every day,
Child Loss Is A Memory That Never Fades
So here I am, 4 years after that experience. I have been so blessed by additional children but will always miss my Shiloh. I have found that open dialogue keeps my baby’s memory alive, a memory that could be so easily forgotten by most people. Miscarriage shouldn’t be a discussion that takes place behind closed doors. We should celebrate our child’s short life, even when it’s painful because it was life!