By: Sabrina Ivey
October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month.
1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage. 1 in 160 pregnancies end in stillbirth.
Every day in the United States, approximately 70 babies are born still and silent. That’s 70 mothers and fathers who leave the hospital empty handed. 70 families making funeral arrangements instead of birth announcements. 70 families who will never again be the same.
One would think if you were so unfortunate to endure one, then you would certainly be spared from the other. Right? No. Death has no boundaries. Many women endure both. I am one of them. I am 1 in 4 and I am 1 in 160.
Chances are if you are reading this, you are part of the crappy club of child loss. That’s what the other mothers at my first Share meeting called it at the first meeting I went to after our daughter was stillborn. We were sitting around a table painting ceramic rainboots as a spring project for our babies. One by one each parents either shared their story, if they were comfortable enough to. If not, they didn’t have to share. They were so broken and brave all at the same time. I honestly cannot remember if I had the strength to share that time. So, here goes…this is our story.
One fall day in 2006 we discovered I was pregnant again. Emma was almost 2 years old. Just as quickly as the test read positive, our little one was gone. I miscarried our baby just halfway through the first trimester… without a reason why. I never knew if he was a boy or a girl. In my momma-heart, I just felt that he was a boy, so I named him Elijah. He deserved a name. I refused to talk about it much. I didn’t understand it, so I closed myself off to almost everyone I knew and tucked that pain away.
Others had already silenced my grief. If you’ve lost a baby, you’ve likely heard these awful platitudes that feel more like salt in your wound.
“At least you already have one…”
“At least you know you can get pregnant”
“At least it happened early”
“At least it happened before you got too attached”
At least….At least….At least….it was awful.
Not much time went by when our rainbow made his appearance on two pink lines. What a whirlwind of emotions I had. Still grieving Elijah yet so full of hope. There is something to be said about the healing that those little rainbow babies bring. They don’t erase the pain but they do bring that beautiful reminder that there is life after loss.
In 2013, life was busy and chaotic. My husband had accepted a new position 800 miles away and we would be moving. Then we got a wonderful surprise. Two pink lines. Chris went on to Virginia to start his new position and we decided to stay in Missouri until the baby was born and the kids were done with school. We took turns traveling and visiting.
My pregnancy was smooth and uneventful. Until it wasn’t…
When I was 36 weeks along something changed. I had this feeling that something wasn’t right. Alivia wasn’t moving like she had been. I called my OB’s office and they said to go to Labor and Delivery to get checked out. After a few hours of monitoring they sent me home. They said she was fine.
That was the last time I heard her heartbeat.
Friday was my scheduled ultrasound. The kids didn’t have school on Fridays, so they were happy to come along to see her on the ultrasound. They stood to my left as the tech guided the wand on my round belly. She quickly turned the screen away from me after a moment and she quietly excused herself from the room. She came back with my OB. Again, guiding the wand over my belly my doctor put her hand on mine and ever so softly spoke those words, “I’m so sorry, she has passed away.”
“No…no…no…no.. Try again! She’s just running out of room so she’s in a weird position, right? She can’t be dead!” I looked at the kids and saw fear sweep across their faces.
The next day along with my husband, I walked to the end of the hallway to the very last room. There was a little sign on the door with pretty little butterflies on it as a gentle way of letting people know what was happening beyond those doors. The nurses were so kind and gentle.
As they placed her cold, lifeless body in my arms, all I could do was pray for her to wake up. Hold her close and hope that my love would be enough to breathe life back into her. It wasn’t.
Family and friends came from all over to support us and to spend some time with our Alivia Rose. It was a whirlwind of beauty, a little chaos and every emotion humanly possible. Share came and helped us capture memories with her. They helped us give her a bath and make her handprints and footprints.
The day came for us to lay her to rest the final time. Her funeral. My last chance to hold her close. To kiss her soft cheeks, to memorize all of her perfect features that death was quickly stealing away. My last chance to mother her here on this earth. I gently placed her in her casket, covered her with the blanket her Grammy got for her, tucked her in with a stuffed toy from her auntie and kissed her goodbye.
I don’t know how I survived that day.
I don’t know how I survived any of this but for the grace of God. I thought for sure I was going to die…in fact I prayed for God to let me die. Every day I woke. Everyday a new round of grief was waiting for me. Breathing felt like it took so much effort. My teeth began to shift, my hair began to fall out. Sleep eluded me. Dark circles overshadowed me eyes until I looked in the mirror and saw nothing but despair. Death took more than Alivia from our lives. It took my peace, my joy, my hope.
Until one day I reached out, found a group close to me and began to accept this grief as a part of my life and learn how to navigate it. I grabbed ahold of everything I knew of who God is and clung to that as though my life depended on it…because it did.
Slowly, I began to understand something. Peace and pain can coexist in our lives. One can find hope in all the hopelessness. One can find joy in the sadness and one can find peace amongst the pain.
If you are one 1 in 4 or the 1 in 160 bereaved mothers today (or maybe even both), let me assure you that you too can find life after loss. It isn’t easy. Every day is a new battle to fight. Don’t do this alone, find a bereavement group you can connect with.
You don’t have to there are so many of us walking this journey of grief, let us walk with you.
Sabrina has been married to her wonderful husband, Chris, for 13 years. She is a mommy to four beautiful children; two that walk with them and two that live in Heaven. They are a homeschooling families and have found great comfort in being able to mourn and grieve in their own ways together. The Ivy’s daughter was stillborn at almost 37 weeks on March 22, 2014. This has been a journey of faith, grief and hope for their family.