Andee is a reader of my blog who found me and sent me a message via my contact form. I’m so glad she did! We have so much in common! I love connecting with readers, whether they’ve been through a similar loss or we have something else in common or we just click. It makes blogging worth it – and now, I get to share a piece of her with you! Be sure to connect with Andee on her blog All My Earthly Best, or on Facebook or LinkedIN.
Here’s her story…
- Many women have had more than one loss. Tell us about the loss that impacted you the most.
The ONE that impacted me the most?! Out of nine pregnancies, five of them were multiples. Out of sixteen conceived, six of them survived to adulthood. It’s really hard to say which ONE has the greatest impact, but I’d start with Katie-Sarah; my not quite 20-weeks, unstoppable delivery that no one wanted to be at. Prior to this pregnancy I’d lost a set of twins at 16 weeks and then had a singleton who died at 12 weeks but that I went on to carry to 22 weeks before having doctors take him. When it became obvious that Katie-Sarah was coming and nothing could stop the progress of labor my doctor cried! He left for awhile as I labored alone. My husband had dropped me off at the hospital and left for work. My family lived hours away. None of my friends, nor my husband’s family were able to come to me. A nurse checked on me every 20 minutes or so. When delivery was very close my doctor returned. Katie-Sarah slid out so easily. She seemed to wiggle a bit and it looked to me like she was trying to breathe. But, she was just 19 weeks, 6 days, 23 hours and 45 minutes along. By law, she’s not considered viable until officially 20 weeks gestation! The doctor left her there between my knees as he impatiently waited for the placenta. He gently pressed on my uterus from outside, but also began to tug at the cord. Before long I was hemorrhaging and losing consciousness. Things began moving quickly and as I was being wheeled out of my private room to surgery, I saw tiny 9-ounce Katie-Sarah in a clear plastic bag with all the towels and sponges and other things used to assist in her delivery. Mentally, I was fading fast, but as the lights in the ceiling above me passed in the rush to the surgery suite all I could think of was how sad I was for how she was being treated; or mistreated. It all seemed so disrespectful and wrong! That was on a Thursday night, just before midnight. I don’t remember much of Friday. Saturday brought many visitors – I don’t remember them either. What I remember is all the flowers! From single blooms in small pots to huge arrangements in large vases, most in lovely shades of pink. All of them with cards of congratulations and “Happy Mother’s Day!” Not a single arrival sharing in my sorrow and overwhelming grief at what had happened to Katie-Sarah because MY body couldn’t do what it was supposed to do and keep her safe for another 16 weeks! Mother’s Day that year was the Sunday after her birth/death. And on this particular day I was being discharged. However I was refusing to go until I could see and hold my Katie-Sarah! My doctor went to bat for me and someone eventually brought her up to me – wrapped in so many blankets that she would appear to be normal in size. The nurse was very empathetic – someone must have spent some time trying to find this one! She explained a lot of details to me, which I appreciated so much. Then we began unwrapping. Many would see this tiny being and turn away I’m sure. I was in awe, in love; her tiny features, wispy red hair, button nose, perfect lips, long fingers… all the way down to her ten little toes; she was perfect! So beautiful! Her eyes were closed but I imagine, even today, they were green, beautifully gorgeous Irish green! I wanted to take her home and keep her with me! There were no provisions for that – no precedent for that – no one knew how to even proceed about the usual stuff related to a death because she hadn’t really died, or been born. She was a miscarriage! And in the worst but legally & medically accurate representation; she was a fetal abortion! After some discussion with my doctor we decided to leave her there as a means to help others understand the reality of a fetus her age, with agreements that she would never be experimented on or dismembered or disfigured and so forth in any way, but always be fully who she was at that moment; a completely perfect but too small to survive on her own wonderful little baby girl!
- What did others do or say that helped and/or hurt you during or after your loss?
With Katie-Sarah many people did things that hurt and things that helped. Aside from what I mentioned above; it hurt deeply that my husband, her father, could not be there. He did show up as I was being wheeled into surgery, so I was told; but I don’t remember that. He spent very little time at the hospital with me and would not come to pick me up Sunday until after he knew I’d held little Katie-Sarah. He avoided talking about her. A very dear friend called me while I was in the hospital and it was with her encouragement that I was able to ask for and hold out for seeing & holding my baby even days after she died. I will forever be indebted to her for that! Another friend, who lived near us, brought me a small stuffed animal – not so much as a replacement but as something to hold and hug when I got to really missing my baby. I hugged the stuffing out of that little thing more than once! But so many kept saying I ‘could have another’ and ‘these things happen’ and on and on with the platitudes. Very few understood my feelings and those who did I still cherish decades later!
- How does God, religion, or faith play into your loss and how you cope?
God, religion & faith factor in a great deal in my life and I know this was my best way of coping with all the losses. My beliefs gave/give me great peace in knowing that there will be day when this pain is gone; a day when I can hold my babies in my arms again; a day when such things will no longer happen to any of us! Without that, for me at least, I know there is no way I would have survived losing ten children!
- Have you done anything special to remember your loss or to help you move forward after your loss?
With each loss I held on to something tangible that reminded me of them. At first it was a little something that I could see & touch & hug when I was missing them. After I was able to bring my first survivor home I didn’t want to have her holding them and I wanted a way to help her understand what they represented to me so I began collecting small blown-glass figurines. Each was different and in some small way reminded me of the baby that was now gone; but being glass, they were fragile & something to handle with care & respect. My young survivor was able to grasp that meaning and as she grew, and our losses grew, she was able teach the same ideas to her younger siblings. When the three surviving quads came, and in the course of several moves, it became harder to keep all the glass figurines safe and all were broken. Someday, I may begin replacing them again; but the need for them is not as strong as it once was. After each loss I went on autopilot for a time, just doing what had to be done and suffering with my grief behind closed doors. As the quadtriplets grew I began speaking out more and writing more about our losses. You begin just putting one foot in front of another and one day you realize that little one is always there in the background but not interfering with daily life anymore.
- If you could go back and not have had the loss you mentioned in number 1, would you? Why or why not?
Sometimes I think I would love to have never lost even my first babies but then I realize that were they still here with me then I probably would not have gone on to have all the others. Now that the survivors are here there is not a single one I would want to be without. So, NO! No, I would not go back and change anything. With each experience in life we are molded into who we are today.
- What advice would you give to women that are dealing with the loss of a child?Be kind to yourself! This is much easier said than done. Allow yourself time to deal with whatever emotions you are feeling. Don’t worry about what anyone else thinks of what you are saying or doing. Grief is a personal thing, a unique experience. While it’s a common happening, how an individual lives on after any loss is completely unique, just as that person is unique. Grieving is a process not an event. Feel free to go along with whatever customs are expected in your culture; BUT, if you do not wish to do so, then DON’T! There are laws regarding death & burial but make sure of what they are and aren’t in your area before making decisions about it. We, the living, must be able to feel right about our grieving. It cannot be something that someone else tells us to do.
- What are your plans for the future?At this point in my life the time of child-bearing is done. The experiences in our lives have left my children with the clear impression that life is uncertain at best. We all must do all we can to live the life we have today to the fullest because we are not promised any tomorrows. So far none of my children, the oldest now being 31 years old, have had any children. Some have made the decision not to procreate but rather be open to adopting. Eventually I’d love to be a grandmother but I’m fine with how it is right now. I’m writing a book, or maybe it will be several. I’m working on building up a business that I plan on using to fund many travels around the world or at least around this country/continent. When the loss is new we often wish it had never happened but when the point comes to us that we realize we can’t change what’s already happened and we are ready to move ahead to whatever is next in our life then we are ready to embrace and enjoy each day for what it is!
Readers, be supportive by leaving your comments below. After each interview, the mom who was interviewed will be available for questions, and we welcome you to connect with these moms further. Remember, if you would like to be interviewed, just contact me.