Before You Were Formed…

There has been so much to fill up these past few weeks, so many blog posts written, but never written, endless streams of consciousness fading into a tired sigh…..There was family, and shopping, Christmas, Nativity Plays, presents, parties, birthdays, New Years and my heart feels so heavy with blessings, and yet….also at a loss. The stinging loss of my nephew, Zion.

How can we talk for days about pregnancy and birth, but when it comes to miscarriage and infant death, all of a sudden we become tongue tied and desperate to switch topics? I am accepting this experience as a blessing… meet little Zion, and see what a tremendous amount of love you can have for someone you have never met. He was plump and handsome, and we don’t know the reason why he left us so soon, but we treasured the moments we were able to hold his bitty fat hands, and count and recount his little tiny ten toes. It makes me want to take back so many things I’ve said, or haven’t said to friends and family who lost a child. I’m so sorry. How limited I was by my lack of experience…..

Mary, my husbands youngest sister, became very concerned when she didn’t feel many movements. But, after going in to the OB and hearing her little boys heartbeat, she put her mind at ease and slept well that night. She slept well into the next day, and when she awoke–still didn’t feel much movement, and again went into the OB to rehear the tell tale chugga chugga choo choo of his tiny heart racing down the track. But….there was no sound on the other end of the Doppler. The baby had died. Mary handled the news valiantly, and was an incredibly strong force of nature during a difficult birth.

It doesn’t make any sense, and we were all shocked. And sad. And amazed that this had happened again, when only a little less that four years ago, one of my husbands other sisters, Hilde,  had experienced a very similar outcome with her third pregnancy. It seemed wrong then, and it seems wrong now that a baby can die before he takes his first breath. And not only die a mysterious death, but leave a hole in our family that lasts for generations to come. Every holiday and family get together, with many children tooling around, there seems to be someone missing, and there is. Pippin and Zion, you are missed! Pray for us!!

What I learned: Never tell a mom in labor that she is almost done, when that may not be the fact. And also extremely important: the very instant you become pregnant, whether you know it or not, your heart becomes intertwined with your baby’s, and there is nothing that can separate the bond that is created there. Just like the famous Psalm says: “Before you were formed I knew you…..” It’s so true. That squirmy little fish, swimming inside the fish bowl of your womb, becomes a welcome guest that is the focus of pretty much everything you do, or don’t do until it’s time for the birth. Birth, ah, that special moment when you get to hold the tiny guy in your hands, and confront the truth of the waiting: oh, you are what has been tapping all my resources?! Hello there, tiny person! Mary’s story did not have this happy ending, but nonetheless her heart had been wrapped up in her belly baby, and despite many challenges and difficulties, had made herself ready and open to the life of motherhood.

There is so much we can do in this life, but it’s stunning…..when it comes to death……… our culture comes up dry. We used to have these little rites of passage for when a close-to-us-person passed away. There was the black clothing, the community visits, paying of  respects, church services/masses/memorials/burials, receptions, processions, luncheons…..the richness of holding on to one another, crying, allowing and making allowances for there to be time for any amount of wailing to happen as it needs to… and time for the members of the family to kind of hole up in solitude, or a communal embrace. Eating, singing, sleeping, resting, grieving. There were vehicles for folks to be together to process the loss. It WAS expected…… Now it’s just back to business as usual. It’s too hard.

You can’t skip over grief.

I wish now to go back, and to understand what I know now. I wish I could re-comfort all the terrible losses, babies gone, parents laid to rest, grandparents, children, brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles, and cousins that have gone before us. I wish I could revisit wakes, memorials, and funerals, and cry a little harder, and weep a little deeper, and be a little more present to those that suffered the loss….now that I have seen and tasted the pain for myself. It lingers, and the grief keeps popping back up at different unexpected moments. It is a hollow feeling. Every time I feel overwhelmed by my circumstances I remember Mary, Hilde, and all the others: Lord, help them to heal, moving into this unknown territory of living without the ones they love…..

“Have no fear of moving into the unknown. Simply step out fearlessly knowing that I am with you, therefore no harm can befall you; all is very, very well. Do this in complete faith and confidence.”-JPII the Great

Here is a wonderful article my friend Pat Schloss wrote about his experience with losing a child.

AND!!! This is really cool. My sister  & brother in law Hilde & Charlie, who experienced a similar situation almost four years ago, and lost their little one, Pippin, allowed me to share this letter that Hilde wrote, it really speaks to “how you can help.”

Dear Friends and Family,
                Today is June 1st.  As the kids and I flipped the page on the calendar this morning I felt utter disbelief that we are starting another month without Pippin.  Every day is strange and full of feelings:  sadness, anger, confusion, profound disappointment.  I am also still experiencing quite a bit of disorientation:  my short-term memory is full of holes; I have a hard time concentrating and often forget what day it is.    I glanced at the newspaper the other day and was shocked to realize that high school graduations are happening…  Is it really June?  What happened to May?  Where is the baby I’ve been anticipating all year? 
We are struggling to wrap our minds and hearts around the reality that we are going to be without Pippin for the rest of our lives.  It is a terrible reality to wake to each day as we are so full of longing for him!  Our sweetest moments with Finn and Annie are also the hardest moments as we realize again and again that Pippin will never participate in our sweet times together.  He will never go frogging with us at the mudhole, he will never sit on the sofa nursing and reading “Peter Rabbit”, he will never snuggle in bed with us in the morning.  I can’t believe we have to live without him.  Often when I glance at his picture, something in me shrieks as if I am encountering his death for the first time.  How can that beautiful little boy be gone?  How can little babies BE without their mothers?
So we are learning how to live in this new country of grief.  Charlie is far more functional than I am at this point though I know he too feels exhausted and out of sorts.  We are trying to be gentle with ourselves and one another during this season.
                We recently met with the doctor at Gerber Hospital who cared for us while we were there.  Unfortunately there is no explanation as to why Pippin hemorrhaged most of his blood into my bloodstream.  My placenta was in perfect working order.  All we know is that something happened with the vessels between the placenta and the uterine wall that caused them to malfunction.  Ordinarily this can be linked to significant physical trauma like a car accident or a serious fall.  In my case, neither of these occurred.  It is an utter mystery why we lost our perfectly healthy baby at 38 weeks. 
                This being said, we have received wonderful care from our friends close by and a great deal of love from you all who live farther afield.  We have felt held and supported through all of this.  I’d like to make a request for extended support in this way:  Pippin’s birthday was April 17thWould you be able to send us a note around the 17th of each month for this first year?  Just a little something to let us know you are holding us and continuing to remember Pippin… Could you send it as real snail mail?  This would give us something to look forward to each month when we ought to be celebrating Pippin’s months of life. 
On May 17th I wrote Pippin a little note and set in on the altar we have for him—just beside his ashes.  I am going to do this each month on the 17th.  You could send Pippin a little note, a picture, or some small beautiful thing (a rock, a feather, a dried flower or leaf) and we would place it on the altar with him.   Or you could let us know how Pippin’s life and death has touched your life, and continues to touch your life.   Please do not worry if you can’t remember to send something every month—just remember when you can—it would be a sustaining gift for us in the coming year.  The kids love opening mail and Charlie and I appreciate beautiful cards and thoughtful words. 
                Thank you so much for being in our lives and for walking through this with us.   We love you all.  Please feel free to forward this on to others we may have missed, or to post if to Facebook.
Much love,
Hilde and Charlie
IMG_1725THANK YOU HILDE for allowing me  SHARE this. It breaks my heart, but also gives me hope that there is something I can do to help Mary.
It’s in the little things….

4 Comments on “Before You Were Formed…

    • Thanks Gary, for your friendship and support during this time, and always! I heard that you and Ellen had a special ring made to remember your little one who passed away. What a beautiful way to commemorate that daughters life. Nikky, Mary’s friend made her a similar ring, it’s very special.

  1. oh my love!!!! i feel your heart bleeding just as mine… this is why we cling to our faith – to the knowledge of eternal life, the resurrection the the grace of being part in God´s plan to create a new soul, who will live eternally in heaven, as our interessor, as our heavenly aid and true support system straight from the throne of God!!!! love you sister

    • Yes!!! Our faith is what helps us survive these trials. How blessed we are to have our CHRISTIAN Catholic faith that teaches the truth of eternal life. Love you too, hugs and kisses!!

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