baby loss, bereavement, Bereavement Support, grief journey, healing, healing grace, health, infant loss, miscarriage, peer support, perinatal loss, post partum, pregnancy loss, stronger together, Uncategorized

MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Sending you the warmest wishes this holiday season and thank you for supporting Healing Grace this past year. We have hit several goals and continue to create a home for the families that have face infant death and pregnancy loss. We have gone from a presence only in the virtual world to finding an office and making Healing Grace a physical reality. We have held in person events and cultivated relationships with our area providers and hospitals. All of this growth and development will provide the foundation for what is to come in 2022.

Starting in January, we will be having a gathering of mothers of loss every second Sunday of the month. This will be a group to come and connect and share our stories, our journey after loss, and so much more. We have coffee, tea and delicious pastries to share. Some months we will invite local holistic healers to share their gifts and offer new ways to find meaning and healing. Our next group is January 9th at 11am at our office in Plattsburgh.

We will also be starting, in the first quarter of the year a group for the sweet siblings of our angels. This will be a time for our children to come to Healing Grace to watch a movie or have a fun creative activity. We will also be weaving in guest facilitators to come in and create a fun relaxed program to help the kiddos on their journey.

We are also moving forward with the development of our Parent Advocacy Training program. We have created the outline of the program and the curriculum development committee is set to start meeting in January. We will share more as the details of our program and start date become clearer. Through the Parent Advocacy training program, we are using multiple ways to support our families through holistic methods and through traditional groups. We will begin the program looking inward and explore where we are in the grief journey and learn ways to process and ensure we have the tools that will aid us in the years to come. Grief is not linear, and it doesn’t matter if you think it’s “over,” something will eventually crop up. In the second phase of the program will prepare us to assist and support other families of infant and pregnancy loss in group settings and at community functions. Finally, we will process the importance of using our voices to reduce the stigma around infant death and pregnancy loss and sharing our story with the community and healthcare providers to improve understanding, care and how we as parents can advocate in the community at large and with healthcare providers to ensure that the care and support are at its highest degree. Parents of infant loss need a voice. Right now, that voice is often silenced due to the discomfort of the topic and busyness of our world. If a person opens their heart to love, then they will know grief. This is natural. This needs to be normalized. If you are interested in joining our program and would like to be on a list to participate in our first round, please email sarahw@healinggraceph.org.

These programs are just a small snippet of what 2022 has in store for Healing Grace and our community of families. Coming in January 2022, our executive director is launching a podcast to provide a platform to share our mission. Further details to be shared soon. You will be able to listen on all major podcast platforms.

This is all exciting and fuel for the soul. During this Christmas Season please remember our families that have lost a baby this year and the struggle to find joy in this season of renewal.

Sending you love and the warmest of wishes this Christmas season. May you find time to stop and breath and cherish the time with your families. Thank you for believing in Healing Grace and we hope you can continue to support our mission in the New Year and beyond.

With love and Christmas wishes,

Sarah and the Board of Directors

grief journey

My Deep Dark Secret



I know I am not the only mother that lost a baby either in pregnancy or after the baby was born to have this deep dark secret. At least for me it is something I have buried deep into the abyss of my soul. Life with a healthy baby was all I ever dreamed of and when I lost Grace my thoughts went from

“God thinks I am not fit to be a mother.”

“My family is in pain because I failed to bring a healthy baby into this world.”

“I am not worthy of being a mother, and the universe knows this and saved this baby from me.”

The shame, guilt and self-deprecation  I put myself was endless. It can still rear it’s ugly face from time to time. But this is not my deep dark secret. This is the shame of the loss. In December 2008, my husband and I went in for a post partum appointment and Dr. Petlin told us we could start trying for a baby in 6 months. There was this glimmer of hope. As soon as we got the green light, I was again pregnant and following all the recommendations, 4mg of Folic acid, ultrasounds every 2 weeks, and just keep pressing on. Pregnancy with my second daughter was filled with a constant worry that something would go wrong. Prior to Grace’s death I knew about miscarriages but was naïve to the million other things that could go wrong. Pregnancy with Anastazia I was completely aware of the fragility of life and the real miracle it is to have a healthy baby.

February 23, 2010, Anastazia Mae entered the world at 9lbs 15.9oz to the song by Queen “Fat Bottom Girls” and Sir Mix-a-Lot “Baby Got Back.” We still find it amusing given Annie’s size at birth and she loves it when she hears those songs. She had some jaundice and lost some weight in the early weeks but other than that she was a beautiful, glorious, healthy baby girl. Shortly after coming home with her Keith returned to work and he worked nights. The nights at home were not good. They in fact were some of the darkest times with my healthy baby girl. She was nursing every 10 to 15 minutes and it would go on for hours. All I wanted was some sleep and my baby just needed her mom. I was tired and overwhelmed. I cried through the night along with my little girl. I yelled out at night and got angry with this baby that did not know any better. I. Just. Wanted. To Sleep. I felt so alone. But I could not tell anyone the struggles I was having. How dare I a mother that lost her first daughter complain at all. This is everything I wanted in life and I can’t let people know the darkness I had in my heart. Sure I would joke about this ginormous baby and how I gave birth to a toddler. Inside though I was full of shame and completely lost.

There it is my secret. The dark early days and months of life with my baby. Annie is almost 12 and I don’t really think I have ever described what I felt that first year with her. The shame I have carried with me for not having the understanding and patience for this innocent baby. The shame for even struggling and not being grateful for those early months. HOW DARE I!! I know what it is to not have a baby in my arms leaving the hospital after giving birth. I have no right to feel anything other than love and gratitude. For I have heard those words, “your baby will not live.”

So I sit here and I share this with you now. Almost 13 years after the death of Grace and almost 12 years since having my Annie. Like a tree this is another ring in my life and it too has shaped my journey. I have revealed the secret and the shame attached to it knowing that I must share this in order to take the power back it has had over me these last 12 years. This deep dark secret has held me in place and fed the core wound of worthlessness that I am so desperate to destroy. As Brene Brown says, from my head, to my heart and to my hands.

Now, I know that just because Grace died and then having a healthy baby did not eliminate the fact that having a baby is REALLY HARD and I as much as anybody can be susceptible to post partum depression, anxiety and everything else that comes with it. I want every mother to know that you don’t have to carry this shame with you for years as I have done. You can share your struggles with life with a healthy baby. It is important and being open with someone that is safe and empathetic to your situation. I have soooo much more work to do around this and to heal this part of me and heal this relationship with my almost 12 year old daughter. She is this beautiful, bright young girl that deserves more. I have to say I hugged her a little more deeply in the hours since this awareness took shape. I can’t go back to those days alone with her and believe me I cried myself to sleep last night wanting to go back and give her the patient loving mother she needed during the early nights. I will likely cry a whole lot more now that I am completely taking the power away from my shame.

AND

I welcome those tears and I welcome the work I need to do in this part of my grief journey. Annie is worthy of all the love and deserving of everything I can give her. She deserves a mother can be open and honest and willing to embrace all the dark parts of herself as much as the light parts. If I show her and Julia what it means to accept all of ourselves, they can learn to love and accept all of themselves. That is not to say that when or if they have a baby they won’t have struggles but they will know that they can be open about those struggles. Heck, they will know that no matter what the struggles are, be it post partum or just with something life has thrown them. They WILL know that it does not need to be a deep dark secret. I want you all to know that it is not only okay to share your struggles in post partum with a healthy baby even after having a loss or many losses, it is imperative to share these struggles.

Do you have a similar story? Do you struggle with the idea that after you have a baby die or multiple miscarriages that you “should” not complain or tell anyone that you are having a hard time in a pregnancy after loss or post partum? I would love to hear from you. Reach out to Healing Grace either via email at sarahw@healinggraceph.org or 518-254-5505.

It is amazing this journey, even the deep ugly cleansing cries.


Past Posts




anacephaly, baby loss, bereavement, Bereavement Support, grief journey, healing, healing grace, health, infant loss, miscarriage, peer support, perinatal loss, pregnancy loss, stronger together, Uncategorized

A Way of Life.

I have not written is so long and so much has happened over the last several months. Heck, this last 2 weeks have been incredible! It is going to take a few posts to get all the wonderful stuff out to you!

In July we were blessed with an opportunity we could not have imagined. We found a office space in Plattsburgh. A space with a warm soul that when you enter you know there is peace. A space giving energy to an organization determined to reach and support all that they can.

Over the last week, working through the weekend and late into the night, we have been creating a space that has open arms and welcomes you with kindness and love. But all of the hours and work… this is not a job. It is an extension of home. When you visit our home you will be welcomed with love and that love carries into the space that holds Healing Grace. The walls are yellow and blue. Yellow a color for life, hope and golden healing energy. Blue a color of calm and peace.

The Sitting Room
The Back Office

This is not a job. It is a way of life. It is diligently creating a space to hold our community, programming to heal and educate, and connection on a level like no one who has not walked in our shoes can fully understand. Knowing that there is a dark side to this journey that needs our love and acceptance. Learning that this dark dank side of our lives is but a part of the journey that goes up and down. I carry the loss of my daughter with me every day and I also hold and connect with each of your losses. I breakdown and cry until the tears run dry. Knowing that the light and joy will return. How do I know this? Evidence. It does and I have seen it. I have experienced it.

Planning for those moments of sadness and knowing what I need to do in those times. Reach out to a fellow mom of loss. Sit quietly and embrace the tears. Love on them as much as I love the laughter and smiles in times of joy.

On September 9th, I was honored with a visit from State Senator Dan Stec of the 45th district and his Chief of Staff Deborah Capezzuti. I shared this message with them. I want the world to know this about the grief journey. I want us to feel free to talk about every part of this journey from the sadness to the joy. Say our babies names, don’t put a timeline on our grief, listen and just validate where we are at and be with us.

Left to right: Fr Christopher Looby, interim board president, Myself, NY Senator Dan Stec, District 45

Following up on this visit in a few weeks we will be hosting an open host with a ribbon cutting. On September 25th, at 1pm to 4pm, you are all invited to come and connect with myself and learn what we are doing and how we are doing it. If you have a gift to share that could help our families please come and connect with me or email me. I am always looking for new ways to support our community. This whole project is about the community and connection.

I don’t think I can express in words what Healing Grace means to me and what I want it to mean to our area. I am forever grateful for the community support. If you can consider becoming a sustaining member to ensure we can continue to this work for years to come. Donations can be made at www.healinggraceph.org.

Finding life from death. Coming from love and living your truth. Peace and Love.

Forget-me-nots, photo provided by Grace Studios by Kris Lee Photography. Grown from the seeds from Bereaved Mother’s Day remembrance.
anacephaly, baby loss, bereavement, Bereavement Support, grief journey, healing, healing grace, health, infant loss, miscarriage, peer support, perinatal loss, pregnancy loss, stronger together, Uncategorized

Out Of The Blue

Yesterday was my birthday. It was a pretty amazing day. I did some gardening. I got a workout in. I went to our camp on Chazy Lake and went out on the lake with our paddle board. We ate great food. My family sang to me and I felt all the love and I knew how special I am to them in those moments. Ended the night with a fire by the lake before heading home to bed.

Chazy Lake

It was fantastic.

AND

Out of the blue came the overwhelming sadness and yearning for one more moment with my sweet baby Grace. Remembering her tiny little toes and sweet button nose. Hearing her cry as they pulled her from me. Remembering how it was so important to me that our friends and family all had a chance to hold her and feel her reality.

I was driving home after dropping the girls off at dance camp and I was remembering June 2008 and on my birthday or at lease a day or two around that birthday. That day in June I bought my first baby necessities. I remembering being nervous as I purchased them and thinking that it might not be a good idea. I was leaving the first trimester and heading in full steam into trimester number 2.

I bought white onesies and a Winnie the Pooh baby blanket. I still have it. I did wrap her in it on that cold day in December 2008. I ran through the emotions and thoughts I had that late June 2008. As I drove, I felt all the sadness of losing her as if it was happening in real time.

Grace wrapped in the Winnie the Pooh blanket.

Simple little memories can bring you to your knees.

AND

I held the pain in my heart and let the tears wash over my face. These moments keep me close and connected to my Sweet Grace.

As time passes, I notice I can get numb. It scares me that I can get too comfortable with the idea that I lost her. Is that even possible to get “too comfortable” with the lost of a baby. I don’t want to be healed too much. The pain of her loss some how keeps her real in my soul.

I guess the point of this whole entry is to say that even though I was flooded with all this sadness on my birthday that was a fantastic day… I felt connected to my daughter and remembering those moments that define her short life. She came to me on my day and her reality was there in my heart to hold and cherish.

Birthday Sunset Sky June 29, 2021

After we left camp the sky last night was so gorgeous. I chased a view of it in to St. Bernard’s Cemetery. The girls and I jumped out at Grace’s grave for a quick hello. She is there in my Grandmother’s arms and less than a third of a mile away from me. It is so very comforting to know that she is there in her arms. She is likely with my other grandparents and listening to Grandmother May sing a little Irish ditty. I can see her in my Uncle Chris’ arms with a huge smile and giggling at his goof nature.

We pulled into the drive way and I asked the girls for a moment alone. Julia asked me why and instead of filtering the answer. I told her I was a little sad about Grace and wanted to gather myself. Julia started crying and she is so very mad that she didn’t get to meet her and it is not fair that I did. Then in the same breath she gathered her self and told me, “Grace is always with her because she is in her heart.”

What a way to end the day. My sweet eight year old reminding me that Grace is always with me, held close in my heart. It will not eliminate those moments of overwhelming sadness. It just helps to remember this and continue the healing journey to JOY.

Thank you to my wonderful parents, my sister, my nephew, and of course my beautiful girls Annie and Julia. AND my husband, Keith, that supports and love me without question.

Chazy Lake birthdays are the best birthdays. June 2021.

anacephaly, bereavement, healing, health, infant loss, miscarriage, perinatal loss, pregnancy loss, Uncategorized

The Truth

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Thirteen years ago I was celebrating the joy of a new life growing inside me. I was dreaming of our future as a family of 3 and the journey we were just about to begin. As many know that journey was not what I dreamed. I recently have been thinking about my sweet baby. I think of her every day. I have had this inner turmoil of yearning to hold her and just have one more moment with her. the days and years have passed and I don’t want to forget what her soft skin felt like, what her sweet baby smell, her tiny feet and her button nose. I want to have those sweet baby moments, the crazy toddler days, the busy day of childhood and now enter the often up and down teenage years. How would Grace be today? What would she love to do? What would be HER dreams of the future?

When I go into this space in my mind I immediately go to shame and guilt for not just being grateful for what I do have. I should be over this and I should know that this is not worth the time I am giving it. I hear my inner voice tell me, “You should be over it.” You should be past this point…” “Just let it go already.” These voices argue with the forever grieving momma that I am. “There is no time line for grief.” “It takes as long as it takes.” “Yearn for her when ever you need to and dream.” I figurative tug of war in my brain.

These thoughts of yearning and anger for missing out on the life that could have been are not wrong. There is no right or wrong in these moments. I am journeying to find love and acceptance in all my dark shadows as there is always a dark to the light. It is horribly uncomfortable to sit in this sadness. It is is an ache in the pit of my stomach. A heaviness like no other hanging all over my body pulling my shoulders down. A sharp stabbing pain to my heart. A hunger to just scream at the sky in anger. And yet…

This is all OK. This all needs the love and acceptance to carry on with the next moment. I am allowed to feel and experience all of this and there is no one that can tell me that I “should” be somewhere else in this journey. This is my journey and I am here to say that even in these dark moments I am able to see the light. These moments won’t break me and only feed my desire to carry on.

I want all of the mommas of infant and pregnancy loss to know that your experience and grief is yours and should not be compared to anyone. I am here to say I love you and know your pain and I know that together we can hold each other and honor one and another. It is in this “special club” that none of us wanted membership that we can find the strength to move forward to find the light again.

Tomorrow is Bereaved Mother’s Day and I will remember each of you and your dreams and your babies. I love you.

anacephaly, bereavement, healing, health, infant loss, miscarriage, perinatal loss, pregnancy loss

Worthiness

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I haven’t written in a while and that is mainly due to my work and my continued goal to reach and create this wonderful community. I recently found myself examining my grieving journey and while I have always had moments of deep sadness and tearful periods. I always thought I was been there done that on this journey. Although, with some peaceful introspection I find that there are some areas that still bother me and that I may not be “okay” with. I continue to live with this overwhelming feeling of guilt. Guilt that Grace’s pregnancy was flawed and a moment of failure. I brought this unimaginable sadness to my family and friends that they did not deserve nor did I want to see them in so much pain. In my brain I know it was not “my fault” but in my heart I hold the responsibility of this sorrow. The grief that my husband and parents and his parents have felt and had to process. I also have never had that moment of pure anger at what had happened. “It is not fair.” “Why did this have to happen to me?” Recently in a group that I work with I was able to examine these feelings and realized that over my life my self worth is defined by certain moments. Over my life I can look back and see where these moments continue to influence my worthiness. Grace’s birth and death is one of these moments.

I am not worthy of motherhood because I did not take the appropriate supplements when trying to get pregnant. I am not worthy because my pregnancy was a failure. I am not worthy because this horrible loss has created so much pain and sorrow. And today these worthiness questions influence my daily work and internalization of all that I do and strive for. I don’t want to hear that Grace’s tiny life was on purpose and meant to be to bring me to this point because damn it I want her here with me now. I want us to be a happy and joyful family of 5.

The reality is her life now 12 years later is now impacting everything. It is the heart of what I do daily. Again, my brain knows that my worthiness is not dependent on the success or failure of my pregnancy but man the messages my soul tell me are hard to get rid of and adjust to the positive messages I so long to hear from myself. So, what do I do now? How do I change my internal messages? How do I create the feeling of radical self love that I so need and deserve?

I wake up each day and I start anew. I create a new routine of setting a morning intention for the day. I continue to work at this work I know I am called to do and look for the messages and evidence that I am living my souls purpose. I surround myself with friends and supports that remind me when I am in a rut of self doubt to continue to trudge forward. I listen to them and take time out of my day to be okay with the feelings I am having and accept them and love them for it is these feelings that allow me to see the sun after the rain. I don’t have to have this all worked out and I am a work in progress. I am connecting with families and women that know what a loss such as this is like but we continue to face each day and take care of our families the best way we know how… just show up. Be present and know that this too shall pass.

I am grateful that at almost 45 I am having even if ever so slight a self acceptance that I have never known before. I am glad I took this moment to share where I am. It is okay not to be okay all the time. It is perfectly acceptable to take the time you need to process whatever it is you need to get through and feel it and love it.

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Kate’s Story

I like stories with a beginning, middle and end.  I like to wrap stories up into cute little boxes with a bow.  That’s what I did with my first draft story here. But some stories, if I’m honest with myself, do not have an ending and cannot be summed up with a positive affirmation.  And since I am in service to truth, here is my story as I tell it today. 
I’ve experienced 5 miscarriages. The last miscarriage which happened approximately 5 years ago was the hardest.  It was the hardest for a few reasons. I decided based on my age of 39 and past miscarriages that this was the last attempt.  I grappled with even trying again and prayed many times for a sign to tell me what I should do.  I was 5 months into this pregnancy when we found out. My husband and our two girls, who were 6 and 9 at the time, were huddled together in the ultrasound room waiting.  I was nervous.  I had been nervous not convinced I’d carry to term and not allowing myself to get too attached to the idea of having another child.  I can still see the sonographer as he quickly removed the ultrasound head from my belly after just a second there.  He hung his head, softly sighed and said, “I’m so sorry”.  My husband wept and our girls looked scared for us.  I sat up and said, “what do we do now”?  I wanted to get on with it being over, to move on.  “It is what it is” I kept saying.   
Two days later I woke up from my D&C procedure to a lot of medical staff around me. I was losing blood fast and it couldn’t be stopped.  My ability to clot blood had literally gone away.  I was bleeding out, I was dying.  I was told I had disseminating intravascular coagulopathy (DIC). My body had gone into shock, I would later learn, from prolonged exposure to fetal demise.  The autopsy documented two surprises to us: male genitalia (blood work at 8 weeks foretold another girl) and fetal death 4 weeks prior.  After 5 days in the hospital, receiving many transfusions and undergoing artery embolisation to stop the bleeding, I went home.  I just went home….I didn’t know what I was supposed to do.  My health overshadowed my grief but as my body inevitably healed and grew stronger I felt numb to life.  How do I just go to work, have normal conversations, live life after this all? My husband as well was clearly experiencing PTSD from witnessing his wife close to death and after losing another child.  He couldn’t protect me.   He was helpless and furthermore, all of the focus was on me.  People talk even less about the father after miscarriages.  
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com
Up to this time I had the running belief that it was the most important to be strong and resilient.  My mother softly remind me that what I needed was to grieve.  I promised myself and my family that I would take the time and grieve and I did, very reluctantly.  I know why some people do everything in their power to avoid grieving.  Grieving means allowing yourself to feel all of the emotions that are so painful like despair, anger and rage, deep disappointment, embarrassment, shame.  Shame….this was the toughest for me to feel. I had this painful belief that my body wasn’t strong enough, not good enough to carry these lives to their potential.  I felt that there was something inherently wrong with me/my body and so I blamed myself for their deaths.  I spent many hours crying on my floor profusely apologizing to these precious lives to which I couldn’t give life.   That’s a heavy burden to bear.  It’s so painful when I look back on me at that that time.  And if I’m being honest this feels like the biggest loss.  Above all, I grieve the loss of what I didn’t give myself-  acceptance, support, love, forgiveness.   This is what I longed for the most and I betrayed myself again and again.  That hurts the most.  
Through conscious healing practices over a lot of time I have found some peace with my loss.  I can, at times, hold the loss and the blessings.  This feels like such a gift.And I know now that for me, It’s the conscious act of grieving that heals. 
Part of this grieving for me is sharing.   Because really, none of this makes sense.  There is nothing to be fixed, nothing to be figured out and no one to blame.  That is so hard for me to accept.   So now, I still grieve in moments that rise up in me, out of nowhere, so it seems.  I grieve what I lost and remind myself to let myself feel All of it because that’s what I deeply need – a safe place to weep and release the deep sadness that comes from great loss.  That is where my strength is now… allowing the feelings and trusting myself that I can hold all of the feelings and then let them go.  And I can share my story with others. 
It has always struck me how often when I share my story that others have a story of their own.  Miscarriages happen more often than not I’ve come to find out.  I see myself in other’s stories, no matter the details, and it reminds me of how we are so intricately connected.  Sharing difficult things in witness by others in love and support is so freeing and powerful for me.  It also reminds me that all loss is loss.  It hurts no matter the details. 
I had 5 miscarriages.  I had 5 life forces in my womb.  I grieve my loss and I am blessed again and again.  I want to hold all of that and feel it all. And so my story of healing continues and I continue to wake up to my life.  
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A Story of Grace…

When I was asked to tell my story, I hesitated.  It has been 21 years since I had been through losing my first child.  I survived a two-year long state of deep depression, I wasn’t sure I wanted to revisit the emotions and the full memory of what I went through.  My story is not like yours.  Your story is not like mine.  They are so different in every way, but the heartache is the same.  

I shared my story, mostly when I was able to first stop crying about it.  They say you have healed when you can pull that off.  I say losing a child is not something you will ever heal from.  You just learn to breathe differently to get through life.  I was not the girl who grew up wanting the husband, the 2 ½ kids and the picket fence.  I never thought about the day I would become a Mom like most little girls. My health was always sketchy when it came to my period and I always felt having kids was probably not in the cards.   

When I was 22 years old,  I moved from my little town in Upstate NY, to a larger military town in North Carolina.  Shortly after, I met my husband, a US Marine. Although we were not trying, we were not necessarily preventing a pregnancy. About 6 months into our relationship, I woke up feeling different. I kept it to myself, not sure how he would react. I bought a test and sure enough, I was pregnant.  When he came home, I told him the news. His reaction was anything but excited.  He was also 22.  He was scared, nervous, not ready.  But neither was I.  

I had gone to the doctor for the typical visits you need when you find out you are pregnant.  The verification appointment.  The check ups. Learning what the next 9 months will entail for us.  About a month into finding out I was pregnant (I was 2 months along), I started gaining weight at a rapid pace.  Thirty pounds in a month was far from normal.  I was feeling tired and lethargic for days at a time.  I would talk to my doctor about how I felt at my next appointment.  I was told this was normal. That my body is changing with the pregnancy.  I had accepted what I was told and continued on.  On October 28th of 1999, I woke up bleeding.  My heart sank.  My husband was already at work, so I called a friend to bring me to the ER.  I sat in the emergency room at this military hospital, scared to death, but hoping it was just one of those things and all would be fine.  What followed unfortunately, was probably the most heart wrenching thing I could have been through, up to that point anyway.  I have thought many times how different this would have been for me had I been assigned to any other doctor that day. I wonder if it would have hurt less.  If I would have handled it better.  There were so many factors about what I went through that made an already devastating situation, even more so.  

We were military.  It was not unheard of to have civilian doctors contracted to work in military hospitals. The doctor I was assigned to fell in that category.  He was well past his prime and his bedside manner was non existent.  I was called to the room and waited, unsure of everything, answering questions the nurse had for me. Scared.  When the doctor came in, he had very little to say to me.  Examined me.  And left the room.  I got dressed and waited in the waiting room, sitting with my friend.  A short time later, I was called back into a room.  The doctor proceeded to give me his diagnosis.  His words to me were this…

“Your body is naturally aborting your baby.  But you are too young to have a baby anyway. You will need to have a D&C to remove what is left. The OBGYN office will call you tomorrow morning to tell you when they can get you in.”

He left the room.  

And that was that. 

I went home.  I don’t remember anything from the rest of that day.  I only remember that I spent the rest of it in bed, devastated.  My husband finally did show up. He wasn’t the outward emotion type of person. I cried enough for the both of us though.  At some point in the middle of the night, the pain started kicking in.  The bleeding got worse.  I was in the fetal position, barely able to breathe from the pain.  Knowing every burst of pain, was my baby leaving me. 

The next morning, my husband went to work.  He was going to wait until I heard from the hospital and come get me. I waited all morning, in so much pain on every level. The OBGYN never called me.  I called them and they told me I was supposed to have been there for 8am.  I tried to reach my husband and was not successful.  So I drove myself to the hospital.  

I checked into the OBGYN.  They all knew why I was there. I was taken back into a room to prepare me for what I was facing. If you can ever be prepared for this. I don’t remember hearing anything though.  I was numb.  And alone.  Losing my baby.  Crying my heart out.  The doctor that came in was different.  He approached the entire situation with more care and concern than the doctor in the ER the day before.  And as much as that made a difference to me, it was too late.  I needed that the day before.  I needed that when I was not 100% sure I was losing my baby.  He tried to reach my husband for me, but time was running out and I was being sent up to have the D&C.  I remember forcing myself to wake up as soon as I was out of surgery.  I remember wanting to get the hell out of that room, out of that hospital, out of the State of NC.  I wanted to leave the planet.  My husband showed up as I was getting dressed.  I didn’t have anything to say to him.  I just wanted to go.  I left my car at the hospital for almost 2 weeks.  I had no desire to return to that building.  My birthday was 2 days later. 

I spent every day crying, barely able to get out of bed.  Before I knew it the days added up to weeks.  Weeks added up to months and I was barely able to function.  I could not hold a job, I became a recluse.  Only going out if I absolutely had to.  The life of being a Mom to this child was taken away from me.  I was angry.  Confused.  Mad at the world and how unfair it was.  Wondering why my husband was not hit as hard with the emotions and the heartache of losing a child.  Why it felt like I was going through this all by myself.  His reaction when I told him I was pregnant answered that for me…whether it was the truth or not, it was all I had.  I came to realize later in life, he just dealt with the loss differently.  Only he lost two people that day.  

Having to tell my family and friends was very difficult.  I was miles away from them all.  I was given a Precious Moments figurine of a baby on a cloud.  This would become my “urn” for the baby I lost.  I was also given an angel necklace to represent my baby. When you lose a baby from miscarriage, you don’t have any proof that baby existed.  No where you can visit to pay a visit and talk into the wind. You have a medical record you have to somehow tell without losing your shit.  That day comes for some.  I reached that day a while ago, but that is not to say there is not a lump in my throat when I talk about it.  I lost my baby too early to know what I would have had.  But I had two names picked out.  In my heart, I have always felt the baby I lost was a girl.  And if that were true, her name would have been Eimilee Grace.  At the time I was pregnant, my sister also was.  And my cousin.  When I arrived back home for a visit, the first time I saw my mother hold one of their babies, I broke down and left the room.  That would have been my baby.  I began to resent anyone who could have a successful pregnancy.  What made them so special?  The “what about me?” mentality kicked in and I wanted nothing to do with babies, ever again.  I realize now, that was me in survival mode. 

At my follow up after the D&C, I found out that my bloodwork was not normal.  That even though I had written on my medical history that Thyroid disease ran rampant in my family, I was never tested.  My thyroid levels were through the roof.  I was told my thyroid was triggered by the pregnancy, which led to the miscarriage. No one was sure if testing me earlier would have made a difference in the outcome. What I would come to learn was that the thyroid disease, coupled with PCOS, would make it near impossible for me to have a child.  

After two years had passed since losing my child, trying for another and the numerous negative pregnancy tests,my husband and I visited a fertility specialist.  I was heartbroken when I was told my chances of having a child on my own were slim to none.I was already trying to learn how to deal with my depression and anxiety. That it would take tens of thousands of dollars we did not have, to go through infertility treatments. To be told that NOT being able to have a child is actually considered an elective by our insurance company and not covered.  An ELECTIVE.  We were given an option to try an infertility medicine that was covered, however we were given no guarantees. Everyone we spoke to suggested adoption.  At that point in my life, I did not think I would be capable of loving someone else’s child as my own.  I would not want to gamble on that, this would be a human life I would pass my bullshit onto.  So I never gave it a second thought.  After 2 months of being on the fertility medication, taking my temperature religiously every morning, taking what felt like a pregnancy test every other day, going through the ups and downs of the emotional rollercoaster, we found out we were pregnant.  And we told NO ONE.  If I had my way, I wouldn’t have told anyone until my child graduated from kindergarten.  I was so scared to tell anyone for fear it would be with a follow up phone call like our first.  The pregnancy was going without any issues and we made it past the 3 month mark before we told our parents.  We told everyone else around the 5 month mark.  Our son told everyone around the 7 month mark when he made his early entrance into this world. He comes with his own amazing story of survival. He is my rainbow baby. My angel on earth.

When I was 33, and my son was 8, I was told I had a 40% chance I had uterine cancer. I was given 2 options.  I could go see an infertility specialist, the doctor knew I had never given up on having a third child. He recommended I go through hormone treatment for this tumor for a year and then try to get pregnant. We were still married at that time.  Rocky but not horrible.  Unsure we would be married in a year, let’s put it that way. OR my only other option…a hysterectomy.  I decided to leave his office with the plan of hormone treatments.  I had fought for 10 years to have another child, my fight was not over.  But over the course of the following two weeks, looking at my son, knowing he could lose his mother if I chose another baby over my own health, I changed course.  I called the doctor’s office and scheduled another appointment.  He refused to do the hysterectomy, stating I was too young.  Stating I could ruin any future relationship by not being able to have children.  I had learned a lot since the military doctor in the ER, and demanded he respect my choice.  I would later find out, the results of my hysterectomy was 100% cancer.  

Fast forward to now and I still have the lump in my throat, even as I type this. I would be lying if I said I was able to get through this without crying.  It touches on emotions I have trained myself are ok to have, to keep, but put them in a shoebox and place them on a shelf in my closet.  Losing a child comes with absolutely zero understanding…but always serves a purpose. My “battle” to become a mother, and stay one, showed me the true meaning of “this too shall pass”.   I often wonder if I had not lost my first child, would I have been the same Mom I am today?  Would I have appreciated and cherished each day with my child the same as I did over the last 18 years. 

Through the years, I have had to learn how to forgive.  To forgive the doctor that didn’t see the pain I was in, a young woman who was losing her baby, and only saw me as a lab result. Forgive the hospital for not running tests based on my medical history, and possibly changing the outcome.  I have had to forgive my ex husband for his reaction when I told him I was pregnant, and hope he forgives me someday for thinking the way he mourned in silence was the same as not at all. 

A friend and coworker of mine lost their second baby.  To lose one is an immeasurable amount of pain, let alone two.  I passed on the Precious Moments figurine I was given.  It was time. It would hopefully serve a purpose for her, and for them.  

I will forever hold on to the necklace. This is a photo of my 2 pound 10 oz baby boy in the NICU, kangarooing for the first time, reaching up for the necklace. If only in a photo, my children were connected in that moment.

I will see my Eimilee Grace someday.  I can feel it in my soul.  But for now, I am choosing to learn from all of life’s lessons. Learn their purposes. That alone will lead me to GRACE.    

Kris Lee

Owner and Photographer @ Grace Studios

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How do you find your healing?

Grace

It is interesting to me that through out my 20s I was so mentally unhealthy. Then I hit my 30s I found a healing and I pulled it together. Face a fatal diagnosis with Grace at the 20 week ultrasound should have broke me for good. God had a different story planned. A different journey. I am so ever grateful this journey. I have since had 2 healthy girls. I have found a calling that I feel deep in my soul I was meant to do. I talk and talk and talk about Grace every day. I tell her story on repeat. My girls are very aware of their big sister in heaven watching over them. We are not silent.

Shame and guilt grow in the silence. These loses happen and are very real. It is not something that can just be stuffed into the dark crevasses of our past. Why? Why must we hold our tongues and keep our grief quiet. From the moment I knew I was carrying each baby I loved them more than I could ever imagine. When that baby dies am I just supposed to say, “Oh well, that is too bad.”? No, that love of that life encompasses you and then when it is taken from you it leaves a hole that nothing will every fill it.

I know that my healing is due to many factors. But the most important was not keeping silent. I told anyone and everyone about Grace and about our journey. Years have passed and I still tell and I still get extremely emotional. I cry. I sob. I feel all those feelings I felt in 2008. Then I feel freed and cathartic. As Glennon Doyle wrote, “we can do hard things.” It is painful to go through this loss and it is painful to talk about it but there is healing in it. I want those I help to know that no matter your journey to this point or beyond this point. Open your voice and talk about your baby. There were real and are real. I would not love her anymore if she lived 60 years and not the 5 hours I had her.

From our voice we can help others and we can support others in their process. Now I know that there are many other things that went into my finding hope. There continues to be many different mediums I use to help myself but if I pinpoint something talking about Grace was key.

Many years ago I would write to get my feelings out of my brain. I recently started doing this again. This is my attempt:

Getting to Grace

A punch to the stomach
No breath
No light
A dagger to the heart

This cannot be true
It will be okay; it has to be okay
Grave; No hope
No chance for survival

Prayers for an answer
Prayers for a healing
Prayers for solace
Can you hear me?

We will survive
We will continue
We will have no regrets
We will love her

Days go by
We count down to our hello
We count down to our goodbye
Trying to be normal in an abnormal situation

5am; 27degrees
7:56am
A gasp and a cry
A birth
1:00pm
A gasp and a cry
A death

A punch to the stomach
No breath
No light
A dagger to the heart

The sun came up
I took a breath; I saw a sliver of light
I am a survivor; I am a beacon of hope
There is a rainbow after this storm

Photo by Jessica Lewis on Pexels.com
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Cultivating Hope

After Grace passed and I was discharged home there was no hope. There was no joy. There was really nothing. I was lost and definitely drank heavily, slept a lot, did not clean, did not really do much of anything. Keith returned to work. I had 6 weeks of post c-section recovery. I should have been having sleepless nights due to feedings and changing baby but it was sleepless because I didn’t have any of that but I did have a group of friends that did not allow me to be alone. Even when I was drunk and passed out in bed they were there just being together in my space. That was comforting. Weeks went by and I had to follow up with my OBGYN and I was determined not to give up my dream of having a baby. We planned it out and 6 months post c-section I would have the green light to try for baby number 2. That appointment I believe was my turning point. I had a dream again and a slight glimmer of hope.

Being held

In the smallest moment is where I find the optimism to push to the next day. Music has always been a large part of my life. I am emotionally attached to many different songs. Post pregnancy with Grace was no different. Songs were integral through out her pregnancy and birth. In the OR, Dr Petelin asked if it was okay to keep the Christmas music playing. Christmas is my favorite time of year and honestly I listen to Christmas music year round when I need a boost of joy. When Grace was born on 12/2/2008 Bing Crosby was singing “White Christmas.” Interestingly, Irving Berlin who wrote this song had lost an infant son before writing it. It is thought that is was written after losing his son in a tribute. At her memorial, We had beautiful voices of the group Joyful Noise sing all the hymns that comforted us. Ava Maria, On Eagles Wings, and others.

It is in music that I am carried away and set into a world of dreaming and deep memory. In the year after her passing there were songs by Mercy Me, specifically “Homesick” and their song “I Can Only Imagine.” These songs moved me and allowed me to release deep emotions. The words were so powerful and after a good cry and a good song, I was brought to life again. One song in particular has been extremely important to me. Written by Christa Wells, called “Held” and it is about infant/child loss. It hit all the contradictory feelings of anger, and the despair but then you are reminded that you are not alone and something bigger is there carrying you. For me it was my God and He was found in the faces of my family and friends. It can be anything really. Just knowing that my friends and family were here carrying me was the ultimate comfort.

Healing Grace wants to be there to help as many people as possible find that greater than themselves being that can get them through the thick of the horribleness that is this type of loss. I do want to stress that it can be anything that you can depend on and trust it will carry you in your most trying darkest times. It takes a village to raise a family and it is that same village to help us heal when we lose part of that family.

Below I have included the official music video for Held as sung by Natalie Grant.

“…This is what it means to be held
How it feels when the sacred is torn from your life
And you survive
This is what it is to be loved
And to know that the promise was
When everything fell we’d be held…”-Christa Wells