Originally published: 2013
On October 1st, 2009, our lives were changed forever when our first child, Jackson Thomas, was stillborn at 39 ½ weeks. Life isn’t supposed to work that way. A mother and a father should never have to bury their child before he takes his first breath.
I want to share our story with HVFH readers to honor Jackson, to help families who had suffered loss, but most importantly to share a resource that may help families from enduring such a loss.
Other than extreme morning (or all day) sickness, I had a completely “normal” pregnancy. My husband Anthony and I were excited to bring a baby into our family. We shopped for cribs, painted the nursery, and waited. I was admitted to the hospital after experiencing contractions on the night of September 30th. I remember the nurses having trouble with the heart rate monitor and having trouble finding the heartbeat. They told me they would have to wait for the doctor on call to arrive. It never crossed our minds that our baby had died. When the doctor arrived, he was the first to say, “I’m sorry, there isn’t a heartbeat.” The next few hours are a blur and we waited to call our families until it was confirmed by an ultra-sound.
They began the induction process and we began to wade through the unexpected decisions we would have to make such as do you want to take photographs, do you want to do genetic testing, will you bury or cremate your child? Unimaginable choices. Hard.
Our perfect little boy was born on October 1st at 7:21 p.m. He weighed 6 lbs 15 oz and was 21 inches long. He had his mommy’s lips and his daddy’s feet. We don’t know what color his eyes were; he opened them in Heaven. Our doctor and the nurses were amazing. We were able to hold him, take pictures with him and share him with our family. I would give anything to have those three hours back to touch his perfect little toes and examine every inch of his precious body. One. Last. Time.
After the funeral, we were overwhelmed by the support of friends and family. The results of all the tests and the autopsy called his death an unexplained stillbirth. On the downside, we didn’t have any answers, but on the upside, it was not genetic and will be less likely to affect subsequent pregnancies. There is a significant lack of research on stillbirths, but organizations such as the Star Legacy Foundation are working to change that.
Since our loss, people who have lost a child have told me you will always have a place in your heart for your child and the pain will lessen over time. I never believed that something that hurt so bad could ever feel any less painful. I was sad and angry with God and lost in a fog. Today, we celebrated Jackson’s fourth heavenly birthday and for those who have recently lost a child, I too will say, there are better days ahead. Yes, we miss Jackson every single day and telling the story today brings back the memories like it was yesterday. But today the pain is less and we are so thankful that God choose us to be Jackson’s mommy and daddy.
We have had people call and ask us for advice when a loss happens to their friends or family. I don’t have a good answer; I wish I did. The best thing I can suggest is to be there to listen when they are ready to share their experience. Just be there no matter how awkward it seems or even if you don’t know what to say. I love the following quote from the late Elizabeth Edwards, “If you know someone who has lost a child or lost anybody who’s important to them, and you’re afraid to mention them because you think you might make them sad by reminding them that they died, they didn’t forget they died. You’re not reminding them. What you’re reminding them of is that you remember that they lived, and that’s a great, great gift.”
Another organization that is working to prevent stillbirths and infant deaths through research, education and advocacy is the Healthy Birth Day organization. They began a grassroots effort called Count the Kicks campaign to help reduce the number of stillbirths. Counting and tracking your baby’s movements is a safe and very simple way to monitor the well-being of your baby every day during the third trimester of low- and high-risk pregnancies. There are even apps out there to make the process easy to do. It just might save your baby’s life. I used kick counting with our “rainbow baby”‘ who joined the world September 29, 2012.
More about Lisa:
Lisa lives in central Nebraska with her husband, son and two crazy dogs. She can be reached at [email protected]