The longest day of my life that lasted about a week. April 27, 2007. Kevin, Torrie and I had gone to our OB appointment to see an ultrasound of our baby and after a tense and quiet moment, I forced the news out of the tech, our baby boy had no heartbeat. I understood at that moment what the phrase meant, My blood ran cold. I felt it all over my body. Then I went numb.
I’ve never been so numb in my whole life.
In fact, I built a bubble around me and I stayed in it. It was a self defense mechanism, a coping strategy, a desperate attempt to hold on to sanity. I was admitted to the hospital the next morning and for two days I laid there, in my own little world, waiting for the pitosin to do its job. Protecting and distancing me with my bubble –in spite of the fact that family, friends and nurses were coming and going as if nothing was wrong.
I’ve never been so distant in my whole life.
Finally after 2 days, my labor progressed and all of a sudden, things started happening. I had my epidural, but I could still feel the pain, emotionally and physically. It came time to deliver my precious Ryan, I wanted so badly to be numb, but I wasn’t. At shortly after 7:00 PM, I felt him leave my body.
I have never felt so empty in my whole life.
I really thought the worst was over, so I allowed myself to go to sleep, I was on all kinds of medication, and it was OK. I wanted to see my baby, but I was ok to wait. I don’t know how long it was before he was brought to me. He was naked and wrapped in a blanket. He was not the beautiful baby that I had seen by ultrasound, but I still very much loved him. He was a perfectly formed little creature, with opaque skin. He was 7 inches long, weighed 3 ounces, and he was limp and lifeless. When the nurse handed him to us, his tiny little head folded over, as there was nothing to support him. It was almost too much for me to take.
I had never felt so horrified in my whole life.
I lost a lot of blood and had to have an emergency D and C. My body just couldn’t do any more.
I never felt so weak and helpless in my whole life.
Many things happened to me while I was in the hospital that I am not as aware of since I was on so much medication, I slipped back into my bubble for self preservation and tried so hard to just get through the hell that I was living. Babies were being born in the next room. Shrieks of joy were coming from the walls and halls. My husband was with me, but I was there alone in my room.
I’ve never felt such despair in my whole life.
The last time I saw my baby, he was brought to me, dressed in a beautiful blue smocked gown. The only problem was that this gown would be the perfect size for a baby that was maybe 10 weeks further along than my Ryan. I truly appreciate the love and concern that went into preparing my baby for his last visit with his family, but I was so broken hearted and disappointed. All mommies want so much more for their babies–I was no exception. My mother was there and she mentioned in passing you know, maybe that’s something that the Extension Homemakers club can do! We can design and make clothes for little angels that are Ryan’s size.
Staying in my bubble, I thought to myself. Ok, yea, right. You just go ahead and do that. I really didn’t think she was serious.
All summer long, I did all that I could do to preserve my sanity, while at the same time trying to figure out exactly what happened to my baby what could have caused this horrible thing to happen to ME? What about the family that I’ve always wanted? I’ve got to get this figured out before I can go on. I sat unreasonable goals for myself including that I was going to figure out what the problem was and it was going to be fixed in time for me to be pregnant by Ryan’s due date in October.
I’ve never felt so desperate in my whole life.
October came and I had few answers, and my mother and her friends weren’t making the progress that I thought they ought to make. I decided that it was time I went to my parents home and organize the first official work day for sewing. We made all kinds of wonderful things, ladies had designed and cut out patterns for sweet little baby gowns and several were stitched and ready to go–except for one major problem. They were all too big.
It occurred to me that this was much easier said than done. So, I took our completed items and gave them to UAMS, knowing that they were too big. I kind of felt like people thought I was just a crazy mom that wouldn’t go away. I was even told by another nurse in another Little Rock Hospital that I was coming on too strong.
I had never been so discouraged in my whole life.
But during this time, something in me shifted. I felt an uncontrollable drive to get it right. Just so I could show that it could be done. I asked a lot of questions, and got a lot of vague answers, but I just couldn’t let myself give up, even though it seemed like the world was against me, and that I had almost no one interested in helping me. Someone even told me that those babies are too small to dress and alluded to the fact that I was just wasting my time.
I’ve never been so determined in my whole life.
Every month I worked diligently to design the perfect baby gown, and every month I would hear, it’s not right. This series of events and repeated disappointments made it clear to me that the current plan was not working, I had to get help and it seemed only logical that I change directions and ask for help at my church. This led me to a conference with the Parish Life Coordinator at Our Lady of the Holy Souls Catholic Church. She told me that If I really wanted to do this, the church would do all it can do to support me.
I was encouraged and hopeful again. We had our first brainstorming meeting in June of 2008. I was so scared and nervous. I really didn’t have a plan of any kind. I just knew that I wanted to dress these babies and that I needed help doing it.
We had monthly meetings and things worked out one by one. We decided a name Holy Sews. Since we were a ministry of Holy Souls church, it seemed like a perfect fit. A logo was designed, created and trademarked, A blanket/wrap design was created, and fleece blanket was created, a tiny teddy bear was found, a prayer card was created, tiny golf-ball sized caps were crocheted and knitted. But, something was missing a gown or a tunic. We tried several different ideas but we still couldn’t find the perfect thing for these babies to wear. I had a vision in my head, but I couldn’t convey it accurately to anyone, I decided that it was time to make it work.
I had some baby blue fabric at home, along with some lace trim and I created and recreated over a few weeks.
While I was doing this, my husband and I were having difficulties that I couldn’t handle. We were on such different pages with our grief. I was tackling it head on and he chose to totally avoid it. This transferred into a lot of anger and resentment for both of us.
I’ve never been so angry in my whole life.
He was my husband. He was supposed to be comforting me, but instead he criticized me for going over my hurt so many times saying, I can’t stub my toe over and over, especially if I know it’s going to hurt every time I do it.
It also seemed that pretty much everyone else in the world had gone on with their lives and tried to ignore that I was hurting. Someone very close to me told a friend of mine that he thought I was mentally ill.
Another friend told me to just get over it.
I had never felt so betrayed in all my life.
But I was still determined. In the evenings, I would sit quietly in my room and cut and sew and design and redesign. I put my heart and soul into my work along with a lot of tears. I was determined to work through this, not just get over it. I eventually created a beautiful baby blue tunic trimmed with lace, and a matching quilted hooded wrap, complete with a pearl button to hold it all together. I decided that I had finally found it, the standard that I was looking for, and my group of Holy Sews volunteers whole heartedly agreed.
The holidays were approaching, and I was really not looking forward to it. On the spur of the moment, I made the decision that I needed to take this idea out to hospitals outside of Little Rock. I needed new, unbiased opinions. Â I knew this was my crossroads, am I in or am I out. Thanksgiving weekend (2008) was coming and I was already going out of town, it seemed like the perfect opportunity.
We gathered up all of the sets that we had, even though they all weren’t the exact standard that we had settled on. Â We carefully placed them in boxes. We took them to the Eucharistic chapel and carefully laid them out for a brief blessing ceremony.
I have never been so anxious and nervous in my whole life.
So, at 8:00 am, the day after Thanksgiving 2008, when most folks were Christmas shopping, I picked up my friend, Heather. Heather has been my friend for years and has had 4 pregnancy losses of her own. She lives in Fort Smith. Our only plan was that we would go as far north in Arkansas as we could and work our way back to Fort Smith. So we started our trip north on I-540.
We were busy talking and catching up as girlfriends do, and before we knew it we were past Fayetteville, Springdale and then, hey, where are we, have you seen a sign? Almost immediately, we noticed an exit for a hospital. On a whim, we pulled in. We soon realized that we were in Rogers at Mercy Health System. Oh good, we’re starting at a Catholic hospital! (We ARE sponsored by a Catholic Church…seems like a good place to start!) I bet they can tell us if we need to go farther north, too!
Our FIRST STOP, we were excited. We carefully selected boxes that represent the different types of layettes that we had and headed to the labor and delivery unit. I specially picked my favorite blue set that I mentioned earlier. I told Heather, This is my favorite one, I want to show this to all the hospitals today, OK She agreed, Oh yea, we want to show that one to everyone!
We found a nurse, wandering the hall. We introduced ourselves and asked if we could speak to someone about perinatal bereavement as we would like to provide our service to them, and I handed her our letter to read. She read it, and responded, Really I said yes. She said, We have a mother in labor right now with a 20 week baby that is about to pass away. I cried. Heather cried. I thought, Dear God, at this moment? REALLY? OUR FIRST STOP?!?!? I asked the nurse, Do you have anything to dress the baby in? Her response of course was, We have nothing for babies that small. She didn’t know the sex of the baby so she called to find out male. I gave her my favorite blue set, and I told her my story. I told her to tell that mother that she is not alone.
This was so powerful.
I’ve never felt such a feeling of liberation in my whole life.
We also sat in the parking lot and cried. Tears of grief, tears of joy tears of realization.
Heather and I visited a total of 6 hospitals that day.
There are no words to describe what this ministry gives to grieving parents. Having something to dress their small but perfect children in gives them a sense of, This is really a baby, and a valuable life has been lost. It acknowledges life in such a comforting way. So many people think that miscarriage is not a big deal, because you didn’t get to know the baby and he or she isn’t fully grown. I know differently, from firsthand experience. It is a life that you plan for, you have hopes and dreams for, and then suddenly, all of it is gone. It is not just a miscarriage. It is a labor, a silent delivery, and then a funeral.
Holy Sews has been such a positive, therapeutic outlet for me. I feel like I’m doing something for my baby while helping to heal someone else’s loss. There are several other mothers participating who have lost their babies, too, and it’s comforting to lean on each other and get to talk about our children together.
You don’t have to be a sewing expert to be a part of this ministry. There is something for every level of ability measuring and cutting fabric, pinning items for sewing, even just tying bows. It is all important.
I’ve never been so certain of anything in my whole life.