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.

 

 

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!

 

Angel Dresses

Do you sew?  Are you wondering what to do with your old wedding or grad dress?  Is it just hanging in your closet waiting to be useful in some way?  Read how volunteers sew beautiful burial gowns for babies.

According to the Maple Ridge Pitt Meadows Times, this organization collects “donated old and new wedding dresses, bridesmaids attire, grad gowns, and any formal wear with fabric the seamstresses can use. Kowalski is also on the hunt for donated trim or notions to enhance the gowns”.  Read more about this “labour of love” and how this team of seamstresses are making a difference for bereaved families.

Visit their website:  bcangeldresses.ca

 

 

Volunteer Photographers – NILMDTS

So many times I have heard families say that they wish they had learned about the option of having photographs of their babies before it was too late to do so.  Here is a news story that features Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep (NILMDTS) and the wonderful work that volunteer photographers do to keep important memories alive.

If you hear of a family who has lost or will likely lose their infant, please consider letting them know about this volunteer organization.  Many blessings to the photographers who offer their heart and soul to serving our community with their empathy and expertise.

Owen’s Story – Infant Loss & Hope Amidst Heartache

I’ve known Owen’s mom for a couple of years now and we met because someone we both knew thought it could be a potentially healing experience for us to share our stories with one another.  I feel blessed to have people in my life who are willing to journey with me and who understand that our children are a gift from God to be loved and cherished, even after they have gone to heaven. 

There are many kinds of infant losses which are unexpected and sudden such as ectopic pregnancy, miscarriage and SIDS for example.  But what if you were told by a medical expert that the miracle baby growing inside of you would surely die? 

“I listened as a stranger told us that our baby would soon die.  Listened as a stranger told us that we would have, at most, a few minutes or hours to hold our baby alive. But that far more likely, we would lose our child long before birth. That our beloved son was likely never to grow, and not to survive the length of my pregnancy. That we could lose our precious baby any day”.  (Owen’s mom)

When I first read the story of this little boy’s short life, I was moved to tears and knew that it deserved to be shared.  I will let this babylost mom tell you in her own words about how her and her husband loved their son letting God decide when it was time for him to go.  Owen’s life matters and has meaning and his story begins like this…

By The Brightness After Rain

My life is not what I ever imagined it would be. It is true that there has been far more pain than I ever could have fathomed. But that pain, though always present, rests now in the shadow of something far greater. That pain now resides in a quiet place, surrounded by blessing and beauty far beyond anything I’ve ever dreamed of. My life has been transformed completely – not into the life I once hoped for, but into one so much fuller and richer and deeper. And that gift of transformation and beauty has been given to me and to my little family by just one tiny person. Our precious newborn son Owen.  God’s perfect, transforming gift.

To read Owen’s full story, please click here.

The Birth of Our Little Saint into Heaven

Featured

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.

Healthcare Professionals That Care

On the day we lost our son, we were very fortunate to be taken care of by a number of professionals such as our Doula, Doctors, Nurses and a Social Worker.  Our GP even drove to the hospital after a full day of seeing patients at the clinic to see us.  The Manager had assigned a Nurse to my husband and I which was a huge blessing because she exactly what we were going through.  This Nurse took care to answer all of our questions and eventually shared with us that she herself had lost a baby.  It struck me at that time, that infant death isn’t all that rare after all.

What can Nurses, Social Workers, Doctors, Doulas and Midwives do to help parents who have just lost an infant?  From our own experience and from speaking to other parents, there are are some key things that healthcare providers can do to help facilitating how the parents will eventually say “goodbye” and these rituals can make all the difference.  Even if the parents are somewhat in shock, the healing process can begin to happen soon after hearing that their baby has died.

There is an innate desire to love and take care of your baby.  Not everyone will react the same to the news that their child is gone, however, newly bereaved parents time and time again have expressed that they need some kind of guidance at the hospital.  Read about the bonding activities that parents can do with their child before it is too late in Tips for Healthcare Professionals.

Wish I Had Known

A couple of things I want to share with healthcare professionals at birthing and NICU units are the letter to parents and an accompanying letter to caregivers. These letters provide tips on how to guide grieving families through the difficult process of having to say “goodbye” to a child.

My goal is for the letter to parents to be given to families at the hospital after being told that their little one has died — before it is too late. This letter outlines what parents can do to bond with their baby within 12 hours of receiving the news. From my experience, and from what other parents have shared, some of these rituals may significantly impact their journey of grief and healing. Families may rely on caregivers such as nurses, doctors, midwives, doulas and social workers for clear direction.

After pouring over books and reading ways that parents could have spent more time with their children before saying their final “goodbyes”, I was prompted to write something that could be passed on to families right away. To be honest, there are things we wish we had done with our son that we never got a chance to.

After hearing that other parents also had regrets and cringing when I heard comments like “I didn’t know I could have had a volunteer photographer take pictures” or “I wish I had known that I could have bathed my baby myself…”, this prompted me to create the letters so that parents could become aware of ways they could spend time with their infants.

About nine months ago, a close friend of mine called and I sensed panic in her voice. Her friend **Nicole was in the hospital and just delivered her full-term daughter who was born still. “What should I do, what can I tell her?” my friend asked. I knew I still had time and rushed home to email the letter to parents before the family left the birthing unit.

Nicole contacted me a few weeks later thanking me for the information and suggestions. This newly bereaved mother wasn’t sure at the time if she wanted photos, but 8 months later she proudly showed me the scrapbook featuring her beautiful daughter’s pictures. “Thank you” she said with sincere gratitude, “I look at the photos of her often, and it helps a lot”.

I’m working on getting this letter out to birthing unit staff, doulas, midwives and social workers. If there is anyone you know who might wish to have this letter via email, feel free to have them contact me directly and I can send it out.

This is what Little Light of Heaven is all about, being able to share with grieving families and caregivers and to let the light of our babies shine through as we reach out to others with faith, hope and love. This is how the healing begins and may it continue…

** Name changed