The Birth of Our Little Saint into Heaven

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My Faithful Search for a Doula

The Difference Sandy Made in Healing My Heart 

Excerpts published in “The Doula Spirit” Summer issue 2009 (printed with permission).

~ In Loving Memory of Baby Keaton, born into Eternal Life January, 2009 ~  

After being forced to wait for nine years, our miracle child was due January 19th 2009.  At first, I wasn’t sure about having a Doula at our birth; however, the more I thought about it, the more I warmed up to the idea.  We were scheduled to deliver at the hospital, and it made sense to have someone else there to consistently support me and my husband as we were both ‘hospital-phobic’. 

We only had a handful of pre-natal classes left, and the instructor talked about the benefits of having a Doula, and I also just purchased a fabulous book, “Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth.”  After watching a few more birthing videos in class, and seeing how much support a birthing coach can provide, I now knew that hiring a Doula was the right decision.  It was already December, and baby was due to arrive just over a month later.  We realized that we made up our minds a little late, and securing someone for January was going to be nothing short of a miracle. 

In my heart I knew that for me to be completely comfortable, I wanted our Doula to be Christian, and if possible, Catholic.  Why?  I knew that I would likely be praying between contractions, and wanted my birthing coach to pray along with me, just in case I forgot the words!  I planned to have my rosary close at hand…

I went to the Doula Services Association website, said a quick prayer, and started my research.  I was specifically looking for practitioners that had web sites so I could narrow my search efficiently.  A few Doulas had dedicated email addresses thereby indicating that a related web site existed, and one of them was Sandy Lopez.  I was pleased to find that her web site handmaidendoula.com featured the tagline “One of God’s greatest gifts is motherhood.”  It is truly a gift that I was blessed to be a mother after having to wait for so long.  It turns out, Sandy was of the same faith, and after meeting with her several times, and speaking to her references, I was able to put my mind at ease.  In more ways than one, I am so glad that we chose Sandy as our Birthing Coach.       

Four days before our due date, I went into labour.  After my water broke, and between the contractions which were now only 10 minutes apart, I felt concerned and tried to connect with our baby.  “Talk to mommy!” I urged our son or daughter while rubbing my tummy.  Throughout the pregnancy, I would often ask our little one to “talk” to me.  Usually without fail, I got an answer within minutes and “Doodle Monkey” would respond with many kicks and jabs, but not this time.  At 1am in the morning, we sped to the hospital as contractions were down to about 6 minutes apart.  I felt in the pit of my stomach that something was terribly wrong.  “Please let our baby be ok…” I kept whispering under my breath.

When we finally got into the assessment room, the Nurses tried to find the baby’s heartbeat.  They searched and searched, but still could not find it.  I had heard the sweet and familiar “whoosh-whoosh-whoosh” sound of our child’s heart at the doctor’s office just two days before.  Pointing to the lower left-side of my bulging belly, I tried to be calm, and explained “the baby’s heartbeat is always right here!” and asked that the Nurses please check again.  I didn’t like the grave looks that they had on their faces.  An ultrasound wand was then placed on my stomach, but they could not detect any movement either.  After hearing this, I told my husband to call my parents right away and asked them all to pray.  I also urged him to call Sandy our Doula for her to come to the hospital.  My husband took my hand, made his best attempt at a smile, and reassured me that they were on their way…

I was now motivated to deliver our baby quickly so that the medical staff could do whatever was needed to save our son or daughter.  After only 45 minutes of hard labour, with Sandy and my mom at our side, our baby boy was born, but it was too late.  Our precious son had gently passed away only hours before his birth.  It turns out, he had his fist wrapped around his umbilical cord, and cut off his own circulation.  There was nothing the medical staff or I could have done to save him.  We were all devastated and it was clear that everyone in the room was shaken.   

The doctor gently wrapped our son up in a towel, and carefully placed him in my arms.  He was absolutely beautiful, and just looked like he was sound asleep.  Our son was born with such a peaceful look on his face; his lips formed a cute little smile reassuring us that he was happy, and that he had already soared to heaven.  I cannot even begin to describe how I felt as I cradled my son’s lifeless body for many, many hours.  I wasn’t at all ready to let my newborn go…We named our little angel “Keaton Dominic” and miss him terribly. 

 
 

Our baby boy at peace

 

We will always love and miss Keaton; however, we have not lost faith.  We were sent many caring people like Sandy to help us get through such a shocking, and difficult time.  It may be hard to believe, but I am at peace with Keaton’s death.  I know my son is in heaven which means he is being taken care of, and is very happy. 

I experienced firsthand the positive way in which birthing attendants can impact the healing process.  There are many things that Sandy did which helped us bond with, and take care of our newborn.  It was Sandy who prompted to us create meaningful memories by taking pictures of Keaton, suggesting that we unwrap, and take a good look at our son, and to dress him.  I have now come to realize how significant these gestures of love are in the grieving, and healing process.  The following letter I wrote to Sandy provides a clearer picture of what I mean: 

March 9, 2009

Dear Sandy,

It was great speaking with you today, thank you for all your encouragement, and support as well as your prayers.  As I mentioned, you were an important part of our pregnancy, and an integral part of the memories of Keaton that we now have to cherish.  As you know, we were in complete shock when I delivered our precious son; we likely would not have done some important things that I am so grateful to have done because of you.   Much of this precious time was a blur, but the suggestions that you made to us at the time have made all the difference in our healing. 

For example, I was afraid to even fully take a look at Keaton at first, but I am now glad you mentioned this, and encouraged me to do so.  We also weren’t sure if we wanted photos, and my hands were too weak to dress him myself…Looking back, I would have been heartbroken if I did not have those initial photos to remember Keaton by, cry over, and smile at.  I yearn for the chance to see, and hold my baby boy again which I cannot do until we meet him again in heaven.  The pictures you took are the only ones we have where I was cradling him.  I am afraid that had you not been there, I would have kept Keaton all wrapped up.  Thank you for suggesting that it was alright to take a look, and to dress him.  I have read other parents’ stories of how they were not given the opportunity to bond with their baby.  It is now tragically too late for them to do these important things that I was able to do.  

We are also very thankful for the care that we received from the Doctors, Nurses and Social Workers and we wish to help support them when they care for parents like us.  As a result of our experience, I am planning to create a short resource sheet meant for hospital staff to provide to patients.  This letter is specifically meant for future parents who have lost a baby due to miscarriage, stillbirth or shortly after birth.  If you have any suggestions that might help, I welcome your thoughts, and value your professional opinion.   I am working on this as I strongly feel a calling to do so in memory of Keaton’s beautiful life.    

I look forward to meeting with you again, to share our experiences and to hear in detail how you helped us deliver our blessed little angel into God’s hands.  I appreciate your offer to write down our birth story.  I hope this is not too much to ask…

If you have any thoughts or suggestions for us please let us know.  We will try to conceive another miracle child, and will be certain to give you a call as soon as we find out we are pregnant, but will give ourselves time to grieve our first born in a healthy manner before doing so.  We greatly respect you, and your experience, and we are so fortunate that God lead us to a Catholic Doula who shares our faith.  We will ask little Keaton to pray for you, and your family, and to also look over all the other mothers, fathers, and the babies that you help deliver.  Thank you again Sandy!

Peace & hugs

Keaton’s Mommy & Daddy

~~

Additional Note:  To find a Certified Doula, visit Doula International and you can do a search by location and area of specialty.  In BC Canada, visit the Doula Services Association of BC where you can also do an online search.

Finding Joy In Sorrow

I found this post of finding joy in sorrow and the struggle with infertility and thought it was appropriate as we celebrate this Lenten season.  It is important to acknowledge how painful it might be for some families grieving the loss of their child during Easter time.  I’m brought back to memories of my first post on Ash Wednesday six years ago and how far I’ve come in my journey towards healing.

Easter is our most precious gift and miracle, pain and sorrow turned into eternal joy.  In my darkest days I clung onto the hope of being able to spend eternity with my all my children in heaven.  When I felt like I could barely get through the day, I dared to dream what it would be like to hold them in my arms knowing I wouldn’t ever have to let them go…

Many blessings

Miscarriage and Rights

What are your rights during a miscarriage?  Some find out after the fact, when it is too late.  This is an informative article called Your Rights During Miscarriage published by Elizabeth Ministry International.  Although it is in the context of having a miscarriage in the US, many of the points still apply.

Related to this topic is the Letter to Parents before leaving the hospital and Tips for Healthcare Professionals that I wrote when I suffered the loss of my firstborn son.

 

 

Post Partum Depression Seminar

You are not Alone!  Coping Strategies for Baby Blues/Post Partum Depression & Anxiety

April 4th, 2017 from 7 PM – 9:00 PM 

Post-Partum-Depression-photo

Presented ByDiana Ayres, M.A., Registered Clinical Counsellor and Donna L. Crombie, Elizabeth Minister

Location:  St. Nicholas Church, 20675 87 Ave., Langley, BC

Will you be giving birth in the next few months?

Have you given birth recently?

Do you sometimes feel anxious or think you might be depressed or worry your spouse might be?

Have you suffered through infant loss and are pregnant again or recently had a baby?

Feeling lonely and need of support?

Post partum depression can greatly affect couples and their families.  Feelings being of worried, anxious or depressed are more common than we think.  Diana and Donna are new moms and would like to create more awareness about this important topic.

This seminar will go over signs and symptoms of perinatal and post partum anxiety and depression.  Diana will discuss ways to cope, gain support and thrive and Donna will share her story about infant loss and having subsequent children.

Pregnant couples, new parents, supporters and family members are encouraged to attend.  All are welcome!

Cost:  By donation

To register or for more info: 604.931.7211 - denisboyd.com

Jesus Blessed Them

How wonderful it is to know that Jesus blesses our children…

Happy 8th Birthday Keaton!  We love you to the moon and back, and around n’ round again….we miss you dearly.

Mark 10:13-16New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Jesus Blesses Little Children

People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.

 

 

Am I doing ok? The short answer is yes.

A family member recently sent me an email message.  She remembered Keaton’s birthday was coming up.  I’m touched that she did…

“Are you doing ok with Keaton’s birthday coming up?  Must be hard….”

My answer:

This is a good question.  It is really nice of you to ask, not many people do other than moms who have also lost babies.  I’ve come a long way, the grief is no longer right in front of my face all the time – just for brief manageable moments.  Counselling is a great outlet and I find that it is often some of the only times I can really let my emotions out.  The other babyloss moms I’ve met through the ministry have been a wonderful support too.

I missed Keaton when we went to the elementary school to watch the school Christmas play.  (Our 2nd will be attending the school soon and I thought it would be a good way to introduce him to it).  When the primary kids sang/danced, it suddenly hit me that Keaton would/should have been up there.  We should have been enjoying watching Keaton on the stage; his little brother should have been in the wings adoring his big brother, copying and wanting to be just like him; his baby sister should have been brought to Keaton’s classroom after the performance and showed off to all of Keaton’s friends and [my husband] and I would have had proud tears of joy watching our big boy dressed up as a lamb or angel.

Instead I fought off tears of sorrow wondering what our son would have been doing – and lost.  I’m glad it was dark in the gym, people would have looked at me in a strange way.  In many ways, I wouldn’t have cared.  It would have been a relief to let someone know that I was missing my first born child.

When my nephew stood in our living room and sang ‘Away in a Manger’ on Christmas eve the family was so proud as he remembered all the words, I thought of Keaton then too.

It has been too long since we visited the cemetery.  I feel guilty, yet I know Keaton understands.  We were planning on visiting his gravesite Christmas day, something we’ve done every single year since he was born, but the children and I were too sick to go out.  Rachel’s garden would have been decorated again this year, all decked out with poinsettias on the children’s plaques, candy canes lined up near the flower beds and bows in the trees.  I hope the decorations are still up, we’ll go this weekend to visit him.

Am I doing ok?  The short answer is yes.

Is it hard?  With two other children to run after, it is easy to become distracted.  When I get the rare moment and allow myself to express my love/grief, it becomes easier.  It is hard to parent a child in heaven, there is a constant longing to know what Keaton is doing, what he looks like and what kind of beautiful soul he is.

What can be hard is going over in my mind the questions and events of what “could” and “should” have been done the the days, hours and minutes leading up to Keaton’s birth.  Was there something I could have done to save him?  Why was he taken from us?  What would Keaton be like, what would our lives be like if our sweetie was here?  There are no real answers, this is what can be difficult to reconcile.

Thank you L for asking, I feel very blessed to have you in my life!

What not to say…

When a baby dies during pregnancy, I’m not sure what might be more hurtful, for a friend to not say anything at all or to utter a platitude such as “it was meant to be“ or miscarriages are common“, or ”be glad it happened early – you didn’t get a chance to get too attached”.

I’ve spoken to bereaved moms and dads and there are mixed feelings.  A couple I know felt angry when close friends didn’t even acknowledge that their son died and stayed silent.  Even a platitude would have been better than nothing.  Others have said that they would rather someone not say anything.  A safer response might be to acknowledge the death with “I’m sorry to hear you have lost your baby, there are no words…”

Personally, I now try to look behind the words at people’s intentions.  For the most part, others just want to make things better somehow.  In some cases, that person wants to reassure themselves that you are going to be ok because they are unaware of how to console you.  If someone you love says something hurtful, you could let the person know and try to gently make them aware about why the specific comment isn’t helpful.

It’s hard to know what to say to someone who has endured the death of an infant.  Before the loss of my children, I likely made such comments myself.  If you are supporting a friend or colleague who has had a miscarriage, this article does a great job of explaining What Not to Say When Your Friend has a Miscarriage.

Are there specific phrases that you’ve heard and want to share?  If so, also note what you would have liked to hear instead.

 

Elizabeth Ministry Launch – Vancouver, BC

Pregnancy & Infant Loss Day

Please join us at these two events, we’d love to meet you!  More info. can be found on the events page.

Read Archbishop J. Michael Miller’s message for Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day.  It is wonderful to have support from the Archdiocese of Vancouver and Catholic Cemeteries for Elizabeth Ministry, thank you!

Watch the promo video

Let’s Make Lemonade

I’ll admit, I hardly watch TV and stopped watching the news and reading newspapers a long time ago.  A bereaved mom shared a TV clip on social media recently and I thought it was worth sharing here.

I warn that it is apparently a “spoiler” if you happen to watch the show “This is Us”.  Even if you don’t watch TV, forget that this is part of a show.  This short clip stands alone  and speaks volumes.  Note that I in no way endorse this TV show or know anything about it so I cannot comment beyond what is in this actual 4 1/2 minute snippet:  This is Us - The Art of Making Lemonade

This clip captured some of the feelings we had when we were told that our baby had died.  We were in shock.  It was difficult to process information and I remember having to ask the same questions more than once before I was able to begin to understand what was happening.

I think about the importance of health care professionals and how sharing personal experiences with patients can help them connect with patients.  After I gave birth to our stillborn son, I was frustrated with all the people that were constantly in and out of our hospital room; upset with all the blood tests, blood pressure taking, questions and decision-making that I was asked to do.  When the shift changed, I held my breath knowing I would have to do it all again with different medical staff and practitioners.

My anxiety eased a bit when I was assigned a nurse who shared that she had also suffered the death of her stillborn baby a number of years ago.  After hours of frustration, I felt safe in telling her that we just wanted to be left alone and only wanted people in the room if it was absolutely necessary.  I felt I could trust her when she explained what medical procedures and paperwork needed to be done and why.

Before her shift ended, she made a point to let me know that even though her first child was gone, she now had a family and that there was hope.  This nurse also seemed to choke back tears when she told me that she was asked specifically to look after me knowing that she had a similar experience.  As well, it turns out my mom who is a retired maternity nurse, trained her a number of years ago and indicated that mom was a great mentor.  When she heard who I was, she wanted to be assigned to me.

I’m grateful for the care we received at the hospital and I applaud the doctors, nurses, social workers and other support staff who go that extra mile  to  relate to their patients on a deeper level.

These brief, yet meaningful interactions where we share our stories of love and loss offering comfort to one another is the reason I’m involved with Elizabeth Ministry.  From one bereaved mom to another, thank you…it is time for me to share this kindness and continue to make lemonade.

Do you want to join me?  Feel free to contact me if you want to start up an Elizabeth Ministry chapter at your parish.  I’d love to hear from you!