Feb 28, 2010


Yes, really. We are super blessed. It occurred to me several times during those first days in the hospital. Yes, we lost our baby on this earth, but we are left with more than enough. Our grief is deep, and yet our life as a whole is a happy life. At times I do feel angry, and filled with sorrow, but today I feel comforted.

Having Brynn has been a transforming experience. I am amazed at the support we've received. A stranger from Cincinnati sent me a gift card this week to lift my spirits, after an old friend from high school shared our story in her small group. Things like this keep happening, and it all really helps. Friends far and near have been so effective at communicating their love, and I feel at times that I am physically upheld by this.

Other moms are spending time with their newborns changing diapers, nursing, pacing through hours of squawking. I am left with other responsabilities; such as researching umbilical cord anomalies and studying God's promises of heaven. I want to know what I can actually count on.

This life will pass by quickly, and there's plenty do to while we're here. And when I think of Brynn in heaven, even if she witnesses my tears, she's not worried. She's OK and is patiently awaiting our reunion. There is so much love between us, and that love still makes me happy, even though I miss her.

I am inspired to be prepared, to be a good steward of all that I've been given, and to bless others in the way that I've been blessed, although I feel it's a debt I could never fully repay. I pray that all of you reading this will be blessed for the kindness you show just in being here with us in this moment.

Feb 23, 2010


In the community of the bereaved, we speak of firsts. The first time doing such and such, or going somewhere without your loved one.

Yesterday was my first playgroup since having Brynn. My mother-in-law took Shane to the last one, and at my request gave everyone the news and fielded their questions.

As we arrived, I told myself it was just a door, and I walked through. Everything was fine at first, I was treated shyly and carefully. One mom had been out when my mother-in-law was there, and congratulated me as she could see I was no longer pregnant.

"No, the baby died." I don't say I lost her, or she passed, or stillbirth. She died. I don't see any value in mincing the words. I don't want to leave any room for confusion. The problem with my sentance of choice is that it's so shocking it seems like a really dark joke.

The mom was clearly taken aback. I started laughing at the absurdity of this moment, and to lighten the room. I was just trying to get through a 45 minute playgroup here. No one else laughed. Other moms came in to rescue me, saying they were so sad, asking about Shane.

That newly initiated mom did not seem to recover. She did not smile the entire time, nor did she speak to or look at me. Our children collided and her daughter's lip began to bleed. Fitting, I thought, now I can be the heartless, laughing mother of a stillborn and by offspring inflict bodily harm on your children as well.

Feb 19, 2010

Getting MAD about S.A.D.

Three weeks ago today was Brynn's birthday.

In the past weeks I have found (or they have been found for me) a few other stillborn/ lost infant moms to talk to at length, and to guide me in this lifelong process.

Something I notice in all of our stories is starting to make me angry. There seems to be a general lack of concern from the obstetric community as to why our babies died.

In the hospital, the response I got back was that babies are fragile, that more than half of the time an autopsy finds nothing, and chances are whatever it was won't effect the next pregnancy. As the weeks go by, this answer is less and less satisfactory.

1 in 115 births in the US are stillborn. That's 1 every 20 minutes. More than half of the 30,000 stillbirths each year in the United States have no known causes. Just because the medical report reads 'cause of death: undeterminable,' doesn't mean there wasn't a cause of death. Of course there was. Over 15,000 per year for this country alone is a lot of babies to lose and not ask why.

As far as I've found in my initial research, there seems to be only one medical professional interested in learning more about the causes of perinatal death, and in improving the statistic. His information is in the entry below.

Could Brynn's death have been prevented? I think maybe it could have been. The concerns I had during the last weeks of pregnancy, were quickly calmed when voiced to my caregiver. The strange left-side contractions I felt on Tuesday night were dismissed as indigestion over the phone on Wednesday morning. I never felt Brynn move after those contractions, and I'm now convinced that's when she died.

I didn't know at that time that there was any problem. I was confident in her health, and I didn't want to seem like a crazy worrier. I don't blame myself or my care provider for Brynn's death. Yet, I can't help but wish that somehow, we had kept her alive. I wish I had been more in tune, and had better advocated for myself and for my baby. I promise to seem as crazy as I need to be forevermore, to honor baby Brynn.

Here is some good information for pregnant moms I wish I'd had earlier:

statistics sources:

Feb 18, 2010


"Normal babies are dying needlessly during maternal sleep," says Jason H. Collins, M.D., "and I truly believe that half these babies don't have to die."

Dr. Collins is an obstetrician of twenty years and has been researching Sudden Antenatal Death (S.A.D.) Syndrome for a decade. More than 39,000 babies are stillborn in the United States every year. Research by the Pregnancy Institute indicates that S.A.D. Syndrome, secondary to umbilical cord accidents, of full term infants accounts for more than 4,000 of these deaths. Yet the cause of another 50-60% of the 30,000 stillborn babies is unknown. "This is a devastating event because the babies are normal but died," says Collins. The autopsy findings on S.A.D. babies usually result in a diagnosis of undeterminable, leaving the family with many unanswered questions. "This results in unrelenting guilt and anxiety," says Joanne Cacciatore, Director of M.I.S.S. a group dedicated to providing counseling and support to the survivors of S.A.D. Syndrome.

Dr. Collins has interviewed more than 300 S.A.D. families in his research. The research has indicated a succinct pattern resulting in his working theory that S.A.D. Syndrome may be related to fetal-maternal sleep and its effects on a baby inutero. S.A.D. can also affect infants during childbirth and in the early postpartum period. Collins points out that his research is likely to reveal many enigmas associated with early stillbirth and S.A.D. Syndrome. For more information on S.A.D. Syndrome, contact the Pregnancy Institute at 504-847-0607 or visit M.I.S.S. at http://www.missfoundation.org/.

reprinted from: http://www.missfoundation.org/news/sads120199.html

You can download Dr. Collins book, The Silent Risk as well as other literature for free at The Pregnincy Institute website: www.preginst.com

Feb 13, 2010


We are left more grateful for eachother, our marriage of 10 years, and our precious little son who blesses us with reasons for joy hundreds of times a day.

We are grateful for the great support of friends and family. I am so blessed and inspired by the strong women I call my friends. One friend (that I know of) researched infant death every night to learn how to be a friend to me during this time. I would have never thought to do that! Far better friends have I than I am. I will strive to change that.

We are grateful for the kindness of acquaintances, and of strangers. The emails and cards from people we didn't expect. Matthew O'Neil of O'Neil Funeral Home in Middleboro MA took care of everything for our sweet baby's burial. He visited with me in the hospital, he came to our home to collect the things that would stay with her, he stayed to witness her burial when we couldn't bare to watch, and never charged a penny.

For those who may have unwittingly said or done the "wrong" thing for us, we forgive you. I am sure that I've fallen into this category many a time. Losing a baby is, gratefully, not something many of us are used to dealing with. By your prayers we have everything we need.

Feb 12, 2010

A Tender Essay on Helpfulness

I'm attempting to tread lightly here.

I've wanted to enter a little something about what's been helpful, and er, what hasn't been. It's a touchy subject, and I proceed humbly. The reason I'm doing this is for other people, for the future, so that we can all be more effective next time some unspeakably horrible thing happens to someone we know.

Some people just know what to do. Some don't. I promise I would have fallen into category number 2 had I not been fully initiated on the subject. Indeed, I probably did fall into that category many times before when people have needed my support.

And the other thing here is that what's helpful to me is not necessarily helpful to others in a similar situation. I know of some bereaved parents who wanted to talk to everyone who would listen. I've read more than one story where friends and family members were invited to the hospital to see the baby. That was the last thing I wanted. I felt the need to protect myself and my baby from well-meaning people and their good intentions. I process better alone. I wanted the freedom to be irreverent at times without feeling judged.

I didn't necessarily want hugs from every nurse that came to take my vitals. I scared the social worker, who was already shaking when she entered our room. She was tearful at a moment that we were not. "We're not being sad right now!" I scolded when she said how sorry she was for our loss. Even now it is hard for me to be around people that are sad for me, sighing, gazing pitifully at me. I can't stand it. I was afraid of strained friendships over a well-intentioned gesture that I would receive as hurtful or annoying, and I am as irritable as ever.

I like emails. I can read them when I want to, and respond when I want to. I still seldom answer the phone unless it's someone I've already talked to because I don't enjoy feeling everyone's fresh sadness for me. It makes me feel responsible for their pain, and sends me into comforting mode, or else I act more chipper than I feel so the other person will stop sighing or feeling sorry for me. It's exhausting. I need people to deal with their own grief over Brynn on their own time unless I initiate it. It's helpful when someone asks how I am. Then I can decide what to talk about. I have heard the phrase "sorry for your loss" exactly one zillion times. It's fine, but it's not my favorite. I like "I love you, we're thinking and praying for you. How are you?" Preferably in written form.

It's also not particularly helpful to me to know that you are crying. Several people (please don't take offense if you did this. please.) left me messages I couldn't understand through their sobbing. I couldn't even recognize who some of them were. I ended up just having Jimmy screen my messages.

It's not helpful to tell me that Brynn is in a better place, or that everything happens for a reason, or anything to the conclusion that this may have been a good thing. This just plain is a very bad thing.

Anyway. Most every gesture of love that anyone has made has helped. I thought it was very thoughtful when friends researched the topic of stillbirth and how to support the parents. I liked it when people shared our story with their prayer groups. One mom at Shane's playgroup told me she had done that, and it made me glad.

So many people did for us so many different things. I was put in touch with support professionals from counselors to high-risk OB's to, to a top pathologist who agreed to go over Brynn's placenta without charge as a favor to her colleague, who happens to be my good friend.

One friend is doing a portrait of Brynn from one of the few photographs we have. Some cooked meals, made jewelry, bought groceries, sent books, sent really cute cards, restaurant cards, Macy's cards, sent money. I'm embarrassed to say that all that tangible stuff really helped lift our spirits. Again, that's just what worked for us.

Again I want to say, this is just to help anyone in the future. We are so grateful for you just being here with us right now, caring about what I have to say. Honestly, that's the most helpful thing.

Feb 11, 2010


What do people mean when they say, 'I'm not afraid of God because I know He is good'? Have they never even been to a dentist? - C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

There is a term I've read in different books on the subject of miscarriage, stillbirth and infant death. Parents who have experienced one are "initiated." Everyone else is "uninitiated." I know in some way, just like with all babies, we were all awaiting Brynn's birth. And from what I've seen from even the nurses in the hospital, a baby's death is everyone's sadness. I know that Jimmy and I aren't the only ones that Brynn has "initiated."

I don't know if my faith has changed, but my perspective has. I am fully initiated into the reality that horrible things happen. It's fresh and raw and in my face. I believe that Brynn was meant to live. Her death isn't for the best, not meant to be, nor is it any consolation that she may be in a "better" place. I'd do anything to take her from that "better" place and put her back in my arms, in the clothes I had waiting for her, in my house, at my breast. There is disease, there are accidents, there is death, and no one has immunity.

I don't worry anymore about whether God did this, allowed it, or has a hand's off policy where some acts of nature are concerned. I believe He grieves with me. I believe there will be happier times for us.

And although I don't know how heaven works, if Brynn gets my messages, or even knows of me. I believe in sending them anyway. I love you, mommy loves you, mommy loves you, mommy loves you.

Feb 8, 2010

Our Birth Story

On Thursday, January 28, 2010 I was very tired, as is typical of the last weeks of pregnancy, and so ready to have this baby. Shane and I headed to my routine midwife appt. When she couldn't find the heartbeat initially, we headed down the street to the hospital to get an ultrasound.

I asked my midwife how often this happened, that she couldn't find a heartbeat. She said not very often. I asked, before I really started to panic, what would happen if there was no heartbeat on the ultrasound. She said we'd induce labor. I looked sternly at my belly, holding it with a little shake and commanded "move!"

I looked at the ceiling while the Dr. looked at the machine, and I prayed. I could tell by the silence in the room that my baby was dead, and that it was too late to pray to save her. I told God that this news would not cause me to turn from Him, but that He better not think of leaving me for one second during this ordeal.

There was nothing. Thank God I had Shane with me, to keep me calm and strong. To remind me of all that I had to be grateful for in that moment.

Jimmy came and Shane went with Grammy.

We focussed on getting through labor and tried to put all other thoughts out of our minds for the moment. I slept in a pitocin drip, and in the early morning I called in the midwife to get things going. She broke my water, my labor progressed furiously and I gave birth within the hour, at 7:30 am on January 29, 2010.

Jimmy held our baby girl and named her Brynn. I said her middle name would be Tessa, a nickname for Teresa that I always liked. She was utterly beautiful to us, perfect and heavy, weighing 6:14 almost 3 weeks early, and measuring 20 1/2 inches, taller than her brother had been. According to what we could see, and what we were told, there was no evidence of the cause of death. I couldn't help but ask her what happened, one of the few sentances I would utter to her little body. What happened to you?