Testimony — Ryan’s Story

Friday, April 27, 2007, was the longest day of my life.  Kevin, Torrie and I had gone to our OB appointment to see an ultrasound of our baby. After a tense and quiet moment, I forced the news out of the tech, our baby boy had no heartbeat.  For me, time stopped.

I understood at that moment what the phrase, “My blood ran cold,” meant.  I felt a rush of cold flow from my head to my toes. I was in shock.  I went numb.

I’ve never been so numb in my whole life.

In fact, I built a mental bubble around me and stayed inside of 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—a Saturday. Several full-term pregnant women were being admitted as well.  “You don’t look like you’re big enough to have a baby!” The desk attendant happily exclaimed.” I just cried. She figured out what she had said a few seconds too late. It seemed like an eternity before I made it safely to my own room. For two days, I laid there, in my own little world, waiting for the medicine to start labor. Protecting and distancing myself in my bubble –in spite of the fact that family, friends and nurses were coming and going. Their life was still normal. While mine was shattered.

I’ve never been so distant in my whole life.

Monday evening came, my labor suddenly progressed. Things started happening. I mentally left my body. I couldn’t be there. I vividly imagined what Jesus had felt like, what his mother had felt like. I heard the voices mocking/cheering me on as if I was to be happy about being finished with labor. “One more push, and you’ll have a baby!” The nurse exclaimed. Sure, I had an 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. It was finished.

I have never felt so empty in my whole life.

I really thought the worst was over. I wanted to see my baby, but I was exhausted and willing to wait. I was on all kinds of medication, and I couldn’t feel anything, and I simply just couldn’t care anymore. So I slept.

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 red skin that was thin and moist with his blood.  He was 7 inches long, weighed 3 ounces–limp and lifeless.  The nurse handed him to us, and 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.

The details are lost to me as I had lost a great deal of blood. I had to have an emergency D and C to prevent me from bleeding to death. My body just couldn’t do any more, and as I said earlier, I just really didn’t care.

I never felt so weak and helpless in my whole life.

Many things happened to me while I was in the hospital. I was on enough medication to mentally return to my self-preservation bubble. I just wanted to 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 so alone 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! 

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, and I was so grief-stricken that I simply couldn’t care.

I’ve never felt such despair in my whole life.

As the days, weeks, then months passed, I did everything possible to simply 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 set unreasonable goals for myself–including that I was going to figure out what the problem was and fix it in time for me to be pregnant by Ryan’s due date in October. I couldn’t bear the thought of putting another baby into the ground. I was desperate for an answer.

I’ve never felt so desperate in my whole life.

October came and I had few answers. My mother and her friends were making the progress, so I decided that it was time I went to visit and sew with them on Ryan’s due date. They had made all kinds of beautiful things. These wonderful ladies had designed and cut out patterns for little baby gowns. Several were stitched and ready to go, but there was one major problem.  They were all too big.

It occurred to me that this was much easier said than done. I took our completed items and gave them to local hospitals, knowing that they were too big.  I felt like people thought I was just a crazy mom who wouldn’t go away.  I was even told by one bereavement nurse 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. It just can’t be done.

Anyone who knows me, knows that the best way to get me to get something done, is to tell me that it can’t be done. GAME ON.

I’ve never been so determined in my whole life.

I worked diligently to design the perfect baby gown, and every time I visited a hospital I would get feedback which was often candy-coated negativity.  This series of events and repeated disappointments made it clear to me that the current plan was not working. I had to get help. The tug in my soul was so intense that I couldn’t just let it go. I decided to find someone else to do it. 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 and fleece blanket was designed and created, a tiny teddy bear was found, a prayer card was designed and printed, 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 had to make it work.

I had some baby blue fabric at home, along with some lace trim. 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.  We were supposed to comfort each other, 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 badly hurting.  Someone very close to me told another 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.

I was still determined, and the betrayal intensified my desire to succeed.  In the evenings, I would sit quietly in my room. I would cut and sew, 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.  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.  We carefully placed them in boxes.  We took them to the church and carefully laid them out for a brief blessing ceremony.

I have never been so anxious and nervous in my whole life.

It was the day after Thanksgiving 2008. Most folks were Christmas shopping and I couldn’t care any less about Christmas or any other holiday for that matter. I was joined by my friend, Heather who had been my friend for years. She had experienced 4 pregnancy losses of her own, so she very well knew my pain. Our only plan was that we would go as far north in Arkansas as we could and work our way back to Fort Smith.

As we drove in the misty cold rain, we were busy talking and catching up as girlfriends do. Before we knew it we were past Fayetteville, Springdale. I said, “Hey! Where are we? Have you seen a sign?”  Almost immediately, we noticed an exit for a hospital. On a whim, we pulled in and soon realized that we were in Rogers, Arkansas at Mercy Health System. A Catholic hospital seems like a good place to start!

Our FIRST STOP, we were excited. We carefully selected boxes that represent the different types of layettes that we had. We headed to the labor and delivery unit. I specially picked my favorite blue set that I mentioned earlier. I told my friend, “I want to show this to all the hospitals today.” She agreed that this special layette would be the prototype, and we would show it to everyone me met.

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.  I handed her our letter to read. She read it, and responded, “Really?” I said yes. She responded, “We have a mother in labor at 20 weeks. The baby will not survive. I was going to find something for them to use.”

I cried.

Heather cried.

I thought, “Dear God, at this moment? REALLY? OUR FIRST STOP?!?!?”  The nurse didn’t yet know the sex of the baby. When she called, I looked at Heather and said, “If it’s a boy, they are getting the blue one.”

Indeed, the baby was a boy. It was easy to know that I was supposed to give the nurse my favorite blue set to give to this woman on her true darkest of Black Fridays. This was so powerful. I’ve referred to this moment as a lightning bolt from Heaven.

I’ve never felt such a feeling of liberation in my whole life.

The despair that had fallen over me from head to toe in a cold rush on April 27, 2007 was completely lifted from my body at that very moment.  It was a beautiful warmth, which started in my feet and moved upward to the heavens. Instant liberation. The weight on my shoulders was lifted to the heavens.

We cried. Tears of grief, tears of joy tears of realization. Every struggle, every failure, every tear that I had cried, was perfectly planned by a higher power to lead me to that hospital on that day, at that moment. I’m not sure why I was chosen, but with a sign that powerful, I’d be a fool to not listen.

Dear God, here I am, I am your servant. Let’s DO THIS!

I’ve never been so certain of anything in my whole life.