By: Amy Ray
Amy is a bereaved mom and member of the Baylor Grapevine Share support group in Grapevine, Texas. She shared these words with fellow Share families at the group’s walk and memorial service in November, 2015. We are so grateful that Amy has generously offered to share her reflection on grief and message of encouragement with our larger Share community.
My name is Amy, and I want to tell you about our son, Owen Matthew. I am not any sort of expert, or someone who knows any answers….I am one of you, a parent who has lost a child.
After several years of trying to conceive, my husband and I were thrilled to learn that we were expecting twin boys. From the beginning, our son Owen was always sweetly curled up, often had his hands up by his face, and was always the smaller of the two. I bonded with him right away in a special way, as the “cuddly” one.
At 24 weeks, I went in for a routine appointment and was shocked to learn I had been in preterm labor, and needed to be put on hospital bedrest immediately. What I thought had been normal growing pains were really contractions which left my cervix dangerously shortened. I was admitted to the hospital and laid in the same bed for the next 11 weeks. Each day was a huge milestone, and week by week, we watched both boys continue to grow and do well. Once I reached 35 weeks, they felt it was safe for me to go home to continue bed rest.
Throughout the entire pregnancy, I had felt Owen move less than his brother, Patrick, so I didn’t find it too strange that I wasn’t feeling him move much when we returned home. When I went in for my follow up appointment, the doctor said everything looked okay for both boys and we were sent back home; but over the weekend, I began to question Owen’s movement more and more. I distinctly remember watching an old rerun of Saved by the Bell, lying on the couch waiting for Owen to move. It was a huge relief when I did finally feel that little kick. However, when I went back the following Monday, I heard the doctor say those awful words we all wish we never heard: “I’m so sorry, but there’s no heartbeat.”
The next few hours were full of so many emotions, with frantic phone calls to family members, being rushed to surgery for a C-section, delivering a healthy baby, Patrick, and then finally delivering Owen…and hearing that overwhelming silence. I longed for the doctor to be wrong, and to hear Owen cry, but the only sounds I heard were the routine noises of the operating room.
Eventually, finally, I had Owen in my arms…my sweet, cuddly son. Our families met him, we all held him, loved on him, and took pictures of him that I will cherish forever. Planning and attending his funeral was something I never imagined I would go through as a mother. But Owen’s burial site is now a special and peaceful place for us to visit. We have found ways to remember him throughout the year, have started new traditions in his honor and have pledged to continue his legacy the rest of our lives.
I read an article recently by Angela Miller, titled “7 Things I’ve Learned Since the Loss of My Child,” and I feel like I could relate to all of them in the year and a half since Owen died. I’d like to share with you the one part I remember the most, which is about grief. But before I get to that, I want to share the actual definition of grief: Grief is a multifaceted response to loss, particularly to the loss of someone or something that has died, to which a bond or affection has been formed.
I love this definition because it states so clearly why we grieve our babies so much, no matter how long we had with them. To which a bond or affection has formed…I think for both mothers and fathers, but particularly mothers early on in pregnancy, there is an instant bond with your baby. The first positive pregnancy test you take, or the first time you hear the tiny heartbeat, it stirs your maternal instinct to protect the life inside of you. A love so deep is formed, and hopes and dreams begin to develop. This bond and affection give you every right in the world to grieve an early pregnancy loss.
I particularly wanted to share that because my husband and I also suffered an early miscarriage this past April, exactly one year after Owen’s funeral. Some of you have been through this as well, and I am here to say that your grief is no less than anybody else’s. Each grief experience is unique and different, and these are precious lives that changed us and will always be remembered.
Going back to what I appreciated most in the article on grief: it simply said that grief has no timeline. I’ve been coming to understand this over the past year and half. You may have heard about the stages of grief, or seen a picture of the typical bell curve that grief should follow. I do think we all feel the stages of grief at one point or another, but not in a predictable way. Maybe you go from anger to acceptance and you think you’re doing great, and then all of a sudden you’re angry again. You might feel as though you’ve taken a step backwards or you’re feeling things that you shouldn’t be feeling anymore. What I liked about the article was that it told me that I didn’t have to feel that way. It reminded me that grief truly has no set stages, and there is no set timeline I can expect my grief to follow. It reminded me that it’s okay for me to forever have good days and bad days and to not put any pressure on myself to be doing better in a certain timeframe. It said that because our love for our child is so strong, our grief is going to be strong, too. I once read that grief is love’s unwillingness to let go. Our love for these babies will last a lifetime, and therefore, so will our grief.
It may sound disheartening to think that we will be grieving for a lifetime, but remember that, by the definition noted above, grief is a multifaceted response. Grieving doesn’t always mean feeling the sadness, tears, anger, or guilt. It’s my hope that our grief can somehow enrich our lives. We have been given the opportunity to parent these babies in a way no one else can experience. We can carry on their legacies here on earth and their lives can still impact the lives of so many others. We’ve already seen this happen so many times because of Owen, and as his parents, it is truly a special and unique blessing.
This quote from an unknown author seems to truly sum up what have come to understand:
“Grief never ends, but it changes. It’s a passage, not a place to stay. Grief is not a sign of weakness, nor a lack of faith. It is the price of love.”