October 15th is recognized as Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Day. At 7:00pm, no matter what time zone, if everyone lights a candle in remembrance of a lost infant, and keeps it burning for one hour, an international wave of light will sweep across the globe.
Until my experience of infant loss due to stillbirth, I thought our time’s advanced technology and medical practices helped prevent these occurrences.
I still remember being in the hospital thinking “why did no one warn me of the possibility of stillbirth?” I hadn’t heard of anyone experiencing stillbirth except for in the old days, and it was most likely something I read in a book.
I had three healthy pregnancies and deliveries. I carried full term, to 4 days before my due date. If I was going to lose her wouldn’t that have happened in the early weeks? What could have been different this time?
We made sure we did everything right: seeking early prenatal care, taking prenatal vitamins daily, drinking plenty of water, getting rest. We waited until after our first trimester was over to even announce our pregnancy to family and friends, just to be sure we were in the clear. It was challenging to contain the excitement all that time. We had no idea the real challenge was still to come.
For 9 months, the anticipation of our new addition grew within me, literally and figuratively. We went back and forth through the process of selecting a name until we even had a loving nickname for her. We would talk to her, feel her kick, had our own idea of what personality she would have and how she would interact with her siblings.
We noticed a change one night as we lay for bed. She would usually move most at night and we would joke that she was preparing us for plenty of sleepless nights ahead. This particular night we didn’t feel the usual animated movement. As I prepared for work the next morning we agreed I would consciously pay attention and contact the doctor.
What happened the next few days seem to have gone by like a blur yet it all replays so vividly each time I think of it. To go for an ultrasound when I was just a few days shy of delivering, and not hear our daughter’s heartbeat was the most deafening silence I had ever heard.
As I mentioned previously, the challenge was not containing the excitement as we waited to share our good news with family. I was now answering to people who knew we were expecting but hadn’t learned of our loss. When I returned to work, some of my regular clients whom I hadn’t seen since before delivering, would unknowingly ask about the baby in excitement. I couldn’t be mad at them it wasn’t their fault. But I felt anger. I also felt sadness, pain and emptiness. Those sleepless nights we were expecting came not from exchanging diaper duty shifts as we cared for our child, but from all of these emotions and the process of grief.
It has been almost three years since losing our precious daughter. I think of her daily, and wonder what her milestones would have been like: sitting up, crawling, first steps, first words; which one of our looks she would favor and how unique her personality would have been.
Though I never considered myself one to take life for granted, our daughter brought new meaning and purpose to my life. I am learning to live one day at a time, appreciating all I have however small. I do my best to live each day with intention, as I have experienced personally, tomorrow is never promised. I hold on to the hope of holding her in my arms again, one sweet day.
For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 NIV)
Until then, I will keep her in my heart, her memory living on inside me, inspiring me to live one day at a time.