Longing for the Hyphen

By: Ashley Turk

Recently my husband and I went to the cemetery to pay our respects and plant some bulbs at our son’s gravesite. While my husband planted the bulbs, I walked around the cemetery looking at the other headstones admiring the many flowers, names, and quotes. I imagined what these people’s lives had been like. That is when it hit me, while they may share the same resting place as my son, they have been fortunate enough to have a hyphen.

Who would have known that one could long for a hyphen? You see when there is pregnancy loss or stillbirth there is only one date. The day of delivery is also the day you start your goodbyes. This just shows how closely joy and grief are linked together, one cannot exist without the other.

It probably sounds bizarre to someone who has never experienced a pregnancy loss that there is joy involved, nevertheless joy can exist. Even though there was total heartbreak and devastation. I still did it, I went through labor and delivered my baby. I experienced all the feelings a mom has when she holds her child for the first time, feeling the weight of her baby knowing it’s weight will increase over time, are still there. The biggest difference is that the weight of a stillborn baby will never increase, and your arms won’t stay full. The weight in your heart however will increase, and always be full. Sometimes I think that Gavin was given to me because God knew I could love him best.

Growing up my mom used to always warn me that I loved deeply and strongly and that with that could come pain. In Gavin’s case I loved him deeply and strongly, but I also like to think that is what kept him with us 4 weeks after we were told we would deliver our son silent and still within 2 weeks.

Today on my son’s 2nd birthday, I sit here pondering. I like to think about how much our little boy taught me. First, he made me a mom in every aspect of the word. We learned halfway through the pregnancy of Gavin’s initial CDH diagnosis and his father and I stayed strong while moving mountains and advocating for the best treatment and doctors for our son. Second, he taught me love at first sight, like only your child can. Seeing Gavin for the first time was difficult as his skin had already started to break down from the heat of my body in utero. Yet seeing his face and holding him was an experience far too great to describe. He was perfect to me because he was mine.

Finally, Gavin’s short life reminds me to use my hyphen well, to live my life to the fullest.

We are not promised our days on earth and while my faith teaches me, I will be reunited with my son I still have more to learn, enjoy, and experience before that time comes. I would like to end with this, although Gavin has one day. May 22, 2018. He is very much a part of my hyphen, very much a part of his father’s, his grandparents and all our friends and families who are not afraid to speak his name, remember his story and continue to let his story live on through good deeds, prayers and laughter. I thank you my sweet boy and promise to continue to live my life valuing my hyphen.

About Ashley: Ashley Turk is a Program Assistant for Our Lady of Lourdes Hospitality North American Volunteers. Ashley grew up in the suburbs outside of St. Louis, Missouri and upon graduating from college she trusted Christ and did a year of service in Syracuse, NY. While in Syracuse, a nun set her up with the man who would later become her husband Rob. Ashley lives in Pennellville, NY with Rob and their daughter Molly. Ashley’s heart aches the same as many other mother’s with empty arms, as she experienced stillbirth with her first child, Gavin. Ashley and Rob learned they were pregnant with Gavin in 2017 and were overjoyed. During their anatomy scan they learned that their son had CDH (Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia). While seeking treatment and expert opinions, Ashley and Rob learned their son had some other challenges and that they would be delivering Gavin still. Ashley delivered Gavin on May 22, 2018 just two days after their first wedding anniversary. Ashley and Rob are honored to be Gavin’s parents and live their lives in memory of him everyday.  

Leave a Comment