Photo unrelated to post, but thought it was timely since the Seahawks are playing in the Super Bowl. Adam took this photo right after we lost Thomas.
As national sanctity of human life month comes to a close, my heart focuses on my two sons in heaven. What precious lives we were entrusted. Both Simon and Thomas are reminders that every life matters, every life counts, and every life should be given an opportunity. I am learning from speaking to many women who have experienced perinatal loss that we all have a few things in common: it seems that mourning and grief come and go but never really leave us; that there is someone missing in our family; that our baby’s life is worthy of discussion and the question “how many children do you have?” can be a hard one to answer.
I am passionate about all life and am convicted that life begins at conception. The anthem of Simon’s life seems to be one that speaks for the unborn – for the child in utero who is wanted but terminally sick and for the child who is unwanted and considered for abortion. The song of Thomas’ life seems to be one that speaks for the soul lost in utero – for the child who was very much planned and wanted but called home before his or her first breath. Great solace is found in defining and giving purpose to my boys’ lives.
After feeling challenged to surround families with as much support as possible, during anticipated loss and after their loss, I decided to begin a support group called, You Made Me Mom. The word “you” has dual meaning – God and our children. Our first group meeting was two weeks ago. For me, it resulted in support, understanding, and - as strange as it might sound - it made me happy. I was happy that there were women willing to join me and that I was able to talk openly and boldly about my thoughts. The invitation is always open for any mom who has lost a baby to miscarriage, stillbirth or infant loss. Please know I am also willing to meet with moms in the baby loss community who would prefer to talk one-on-one over a cup of coffee or glass of wine. More information can be found here: www.youmadememom.com.
Simon’s life prepared us as best as it could for the loss of Thomas. We knew our funeral director, we knew we wanted to bring our own resting box for Thomas’ body, and we knew we would want Simon’s lotion rubbed on Thomas (scent is a powerful memory trigger). I am realizing many families lack support and have no idea what to do in this situation of loss - both during the loss and after the loss. They felt unsupported at the doctor’s office when they found out their baby’s heart had stopped beating. They felt unsupported in the hospital when delivering their 18 week gestation baby. They felt unsupported after they lost their baby and returned to normal life and no one asked them about their baby – or maybe they even chose to stay silent about the loss of their baby. My heart yearns to support families during and after the crisis of their child’s death and to encourage others to support these families as well. One website that helped me before Simon was born and after Thomas died was Stillbirthday. This organization's motto is "a pregnancy loss is still a birthday." I encourage all loss families to take a look at this compassionate and informative site.
If you are a doctor, midwife or nurse practicing in obstetrics, labor and delivery, or have connections to either of these fields, I would be honored to speak to your team and share our story. My hope for speaking to these groups would be to simply tell a parent’s perspective and experience to potentially help care for other babies and families. My desire is to specifically share what was helpful for our family and what was not helpful. In addition to speaking to medical teams, I am compiling a basic list that I will be handing out to local hospitals in Kansas City. The list would be given to mothers who have learned they will be delivering a still baby. The purpose of this list is to affirm and encourage the mother to care for her child even though the baby has already passed away. The list would consist of suggestions of things to do with your baby. Such as: hold your baby, name your baby, read to your baby, and sing to your baby.
If you are reading this and have a family member or friend who has suffered from losing a child whether it be a miscarriage at 7 weeks gestation, a stillbirth at 39 weeks gestation or a child who lived a few hours, may I make a suggestion to you? Would you be willing to ask your friend about their baby and their experience? Maybe simply begin by saying, I am here for you. I would love to listen to your story.
A few other things you might consider saying:
-What was it like when you realized your baby died?-What was it like to hold your child?-I would like to call your child by name if you have chosen to give your child a name.-Would like me to include your child when sharing how many children you have?-Do you feel supported?
Keep in mind that your friend often times has the loss of her child on her mind many minutes of the day, so you likely aren't bringing up pain she isn't already thinking about. I find that when a friend has asked me about Simon and/or Thomas, I feel like some of the burden has been shared and a weight lifted.
My prayer: Lord you know what is on my heart this week. Monday marked 250 days without Simon – exactly how many days we had with him. And the best part of this reality is that I am okay. You chose this life for me and go before me. You say yes before I get to say yes. In the last couple months I am reminded of Genesis 50:20. The evil one has messed with the wrong family. We will not be crushed. All will be used for Your glory.
I hear all the time, God, that miscarriage is common. If it is so common, please help open the discussion and make it a topic that can be comfortably discussed. Allow women to feel healing by being able to talk about their experience. And while I realize that our society thinks that talking about miscarriage and death isn’t "cocktail party talk," I beg that You help normalize talking about the loss of a child and death that surrounds it. To really live life well and close to one another, we must be honest, raw and vulnerable with one another. Social niceties are well, nice, but lack depth. Draw support systems close to those in need of support. Remind parents in the loss community to give others grace when their family member or friend doesn't know what to say so says nothing at all. Cover these parent’s broken hearts keeping their eyes fixed on you and bitterness at bay.
Don't let what appears to be my own strength to the world ever become confused with the Truth. I am weak, sad, and confused. And without you I would without question be crushed. With You, I find joy. Lord I trust each day to you. Use me. Continue to make me something new that will shine for You.
Simon Adam - first night at home from Adam and Amy Balentine on Vimeo.