Please enjoy the newest edition of Sharing Magazine which focuses on “Getting Away” after a loss. The edition is complete with a number of other Share family contributions, stories, and even a song. Please take a look and pass on.
Submitted by: Tiffany Gehman
(In memory of Baby G. & Jaxen Cole)
How do you find hope after any loss? I never thought I would be writing a story like this, especially after having a healthy baby girl in 2009. My husband and I were in no hurry to have more children; sometimes I wasn’t even sure I wanted more. So finally the time came in early 2013 that we started trying, by April I was pregnant. We were so excited to start this new journey, but I had no idea what was about to happen. Three weeks had passed since I found I was pregnant and it was just a normal day at work, when I went to the bathroom and started bleeding heavily. I called the doctor immediately and they had me come in for an appointment. The doctor wasn’t sure what was happening, but it was possible I was miscarrying. We went back later that day for an ultrasound. I saw the screen and right away could tell there was no baby in the sac. After waiting and waiting, we finally got the results; I was miscarrying due to a blighted ovum. The next day I went back to the doctor to schedule my D&E procedure. I was still feeling a bit of shock that this was really happening. I took the rest of the week off work and I wanted to go home and hide. The procedure went fine and I was discharged. It feels like the world did not stop and life just moved on after that. How could I tell my family and friends what happened? How would I explain to Alexa that there is no baby in mommy’s belly? Being that I was only 7 weeks pregnant, I didn’t feel much of an emotional attachment and since I did not see a baby, I felt very unsure of my feelings, so what else could I do, but move on. Moving on, but never forgetting May 24, 2013.
Jumping ahead to August 5th, I was a day late with my period, so I took a pregnancy test and it was positive. I remember slamming the test down on the counter to show my husband. He was happy, but I was scared. I guess they were right when they said you are more fertile after a miscarriage. I didn’t think I was ready to go down this path quite yet. I was scared, would this happen again, so many thoughts running through my mind. We were getting ready to leave for a weekend trip to the mountains with my husband’s family when I started bleeding. We could not get in for an ultrasound until later in the day, so I decided to wait until Monday when we got home. I figured whatever was going to happen, was going to happen, so we felt going to the mountains would help take my mind off things. I tried, but it didn’t work.
Monday came and I had my first ultrasound. Good news, there was a baby and a heartbeat. The doctors seemed unsure of why I was bleeding, but scheduled me to have another ultrasound in a few weeks. A few ultrasounds and a lot of doctor appointments later, there was still a baby, still a heartbeat, and lots of bleeding. They finally determined that I had blood clots on my placenta, but the baby seemed unaffected. We were trying to be excited about the pregnancy, but it was very difficult not knowing one day to the next what was going to happen. This pregnancy was so different than the pregnancy with my daughter, that I just knew it had to be a boy. The time finally came to have my baby sex ultrasound. I’d been bleeding for 19 weeks and was very nervous, but somewhat relieved that I was into my 2nd trimester and hoping everything would be fine. My husband came along with me that day and we found out we were having a boy! The ultrasound was going well, until they said they wanted the Radiologist to come in and take a look. Finally, after being there for 3 hours, we were told that I had numerous blood clots on my placenta and one huge clot the size of an orange. I had figured that since I had been bleeding this whole time anyway and the baby was okay, that maybe everything would be okay. The doctor recommended me going to Maternal Fetal Medicine each month to get a checkup to monitor the baby’s growth. They scheduled my first appointment for Friday of that week.
The night before my appointment, I passed the huge blood clot. We were hoping that maybe it was out and now the bleeding would stop. I woke up a few hours later around 1:30am and I knew I was in labor. In the back of my mind I knew something horrible was wrong, but I was in denial. Could this really be happening? We knew that at 19 weeks Jaxen could not survive. I woke up my husband a few hours later, as I could not sleep the rest of night. We talked about what to do, but never mentioned the “miscarriage” word. We decided to hold off and just go to my already scheduled appointment that morning. We got to the specialist; they took me back and started the ultrasound. Jaxen was doing well and his heart was still beating. I told them about my night and the blood clot, but the nurse did not show any signs that something was wrong. The doctor came in, checked the ultrasound, and then said the words I will never forget, “I’m sorry, but you are miscarrying. At this point we need to focus on you and I’m sorry, but there is nothing I can do for your baby”. I could not believe what he was saying, I zoned out into another world of heartbreak and agony. I lay there crying on the ultrasound table. My husband was sitting next to me and neither of us said a word.
They admitted me to the hospital right away and we sat waiting in Triage for my doctor to come. My husband was supposed to leave that morning for a weekend trip. I am so glad he decided to come to my appointment with me. He had to make the phone call to my mom and I could hear her scream when he told her the news, which was heartbreaking in itself. My doctor finally came and talked to us and told us our options. We opted to wait it out at the hospital and I would eventually have to deliver Jaxen. They got me all setup in my room, nurses coming in and out, lots of needles, IV’s, blood…ugh, why was this happening to me? The nurses that were assigned to my room were so great and made my stay as enjoyable as it could be… under the circumstances.
More hours had passed and I was still having contractions, but not dilating very fast. By now, my mom, sister, and husband were all in my room with me, just waiting. Finally, the contractions started to get worse, so I asked for the epidural. It helped with my contractions, but could not take away the pain in my heart. I didn’t know what to expect, was I going to have to push him out, would I be in a lot more pain, so many questions. At 6:30pm on November 22, 2013, Jaxen Cole Gehman came stillborn into this world. That was such an emotional moment for me; I couldn’t even open my eyes. I laid there crying in my hospital bed as the nurses came and swept him away. After 19 weeks of not feeling well, all the pains were gone, my body instantly felt better. How could I be happy that I finally felt better, when I just delivered my dead baby? I immediately started feeling guilty and betrayed by my body. All those days I had wished I could stop bleeding or didn’t feel so sick, I would have taken back in a second, if I could have still been pregnant with him!
Later in the night, I had asked the nurses if I could see Jaxen and hold him. They were very accommodating and did everything I asked without hesitation. They brought him in, in his little hat and blanket. At first, I was scared to look, but once I looked at him for the first time, I couldn’t look away. He was so perfect; eyes closed mouth open, perfect hands with 10 fingers, and perfect feet with 10 toes. I cried the entire time I was holding him. I told him how sorry I was that I could not save him and that we loved him and would never forget him. The nurse came back a few minutes later and that was it, he was gone, that was last time I would ever see him again. He would never know how much we loved him or how special he would be to us. Before the night was over, I got moved to a recovery room. The room was small, dark, and cold. I was still thinking back how that day felt like it lasted forever, but was over in 5 minutes. I slept about 5 hours over that night into the next morning. I remember lying in my bed crying and thinking to myself again, what just happened? Why was I cheated out of getting my baby? Why did God let this happen? I am so angry with him! When will I wake up from this nightmare?
I was discharged that morning and we went home. The hospital had given me a keepsake box, which was a very nice gesture. At least I had something to remember him by. I also knew they had a CD of pictures that I could get of Jaxen. We left the hospital, left my baby, left a piece of my heart and soul. Once we got home, I never wanted to leave again. I wanted to hide in our bedroom forever. My parents brought our daughter home later that afternoon. She was so innocent wanting to know where the baby was and why we didn’t bring him home. How do you answer a question like that? I answered by bursting out crying and saying, “baby Jaxen had to go to Heaven to be with Jesus”. The next few days that passed, I felt like a zombie, just going through the motions. My husband took some time off work and we spent the week together, but I knew that the holidays were approaching and eventually I would have to go back to work and face the world.
How could I go back to place where no one understands my grief and what I went through? I felt very anxious going back to work. I got a lot of hugs that day, which was better than people saying things I did not want to hear. The weeks came and went and people stopped asking how I’m doing. I guess that was okay because I didn’t really want to talk about it. I built some new friendships with people that knew exactly what I was going through. It’s one of those things no one really talks about until it happens to you. I would not have made it this far without my friends and family. I started going to the support group via Share of Lancaster. I never realized what a community there is out there for bereaved parents, it is comforting and amazing! I have focused a lot of my time on reading different stories and articles about grief and loss, and in a way that has helped me heal.
We had our Share burial on January 14, 2014. There were so many families there sharing in grief, it was absolutely heartbreaking! However, I am glad there is place we can go to honor Jaxen and remember him. I am so thankful for the organizations like Share of Lancaster and Sweet Pea Project. They devote so much time to remembering our angel babies.
It’s been almost 9 weeks since Jaxen was born, so how am I feeling now? I still don’t know. I have been trying to keep busy so that I don’t dwell on my grief. I think about him and miss him every second of every day. I have been reading a lot of quotes on faith and hope. Those are two things I lost that day, but I am trying to get them back. Do I have the strength to give this another try someday? I read in a book that, It’s not how many times can you go through this, it’s can you go through this one more time. I believe we will try again someday for another child, but never to replace Jaxen.
Some advice I can give; be honest about your feelings, say what you mean, share what you want, and don’t hide your tears. When something like this happens, you change and your life changes. Get to know the new you. And the mantra I’ve been living by, told to me by a fellow bereaved mother; you don’t have to get over it, you just have to get through it!
My future plans……continue to be a mother to a wonderful little girl, get more involved with Share of Lancaster and Sweet Pea Project to help other bereaved parents, and to protect Jaxen’s memory forever!
After my loss, waking up was the worst. I don’t mean that I didn’t want to ever wake up but the fact that every morning I went from having some peace while I slept to waking up and realizing that I didn’t have my baby was horrific. It is like a wave of sadness that hit me every single time I opened my eyes. I wanted so badly just to fall back to sleep but my mind had already started racing. It was too late. I remember that some friends from work had heard about my loss and sent me this beautiful flower arrangement that my husband had put in our room. I am sure in his mind it was a way to help brighten up the room a little but I remember they just made me so angry. I used to just open my eyes, not say a word, and stare at them. Looking back I am not sure why. Maybe it was because I felt like they all knew what happened and I was going to have to go back to work and face them. Everyone was going to ask me how I was doing and want to know what happened. How do you even answer that question? I would just stare at the flowers. And then, like clockwork, my morning sickness would hit. Yes, morning sickness after a loss. One of the cruelest tricks your body can play on you.
After a few days, my morning sickness subsided. My body finally knew it was over. There was a sort of finality to it. Of course, my pain continued but day by day, it was a little easier to wake up. A little less like ripping off a band-aid every single morning. I still felt angry, I still dreaded going back to work, I still didn’t want to tell my story but I know now that different aspects of healing take different amounts of time. You will not wake up one day and feel like everything is OK. It is slow. It is gradual and many times you don’t even really feel it happening. Until one day you can look back and you can say “remember when I felt angry”, “remember when I didn’t want to open my eyes. Be good to yourself and allow yourself time to heal.
After my loss, I remember one thing very clearly…I hated the grocery store. Ok, so my husband knows that I have never been a huge fan of grocery shopping but after my loss I felt like I was walking into a nightmare everytime. Over the years I have come to call this the “grocery store effect”. While I have no scientific proof of its existence I can tell you that it felt like a very real phenomenon and it went a little something like this: everytime I walked into the grocery store, I was surrounded by pregnant people and crying babies. Every single time! I remember walking up and down the aisles feeling so horrible and thinking “why did this happen to me”? “why is everyone else’s life so perfect”?
Looking back, I understand now that one of the main things I was feeling was isolation. And this is very common when you have a loss. Many people do not talk about loss and so you begin to think that you are the only one out there. The hope and mission of Share is that you understand that you are not alone. Statistically speaking, most women in the grocery store have either had a loss or know someone who has had a loss but it is hard to rationalize that when you are in the moment. If you are one of these women who is currently going feeling the grocery store effect, keep telling yourself that you are not alone.
As Share ventures into the world of blogging I thought it would be nice to spend some time talking about the roots of Share in Lancaster, PA. Share is a national organization that began in the late 70’s in Missouri. In the early 80’s our founder, Kathy Kuhn, had a still-born baby. Kathy and her husband were devastated and shocked, especially given that they had two other healthy children at home waiting for their new little sister to come through the door. As Kathy tells it, she was blessed to have a physician who was very “progressive” for his time. He had been reading literature on this new organization called Share and was learning that the bereavement process for a child should not simply be a matter of removing the child from the room after the birth and telling the parents to “move on”. This doctor was different and he knew that when Kathy had her loss, that this was a chance for him to put his reading into practice. So, he did what had not been done before…he allowed Kathy to hold her baby. He allowed Kathy and her husband Dave to spend five full minutes with their beautiful little girl. When Kathy asked if they could provide an outfit for the baby to be buried in the doctor responded “let’s not get out of hand”.
OK, so that was almost 40 years ago and much has changed. And, it has changed because of people like Kathy. Kathy started Share because she knew that while her experience was a step in the right direction, there was still much room for improvement. There was a need to help parents find support, there was need to allow parents to bury their children and say goodbye and most importantly there was a need to feel like these parents aren’t so alone. So, Kathy brought Share to Lancaster. A Share Burial plot was established in Millersville where these precious lives could be recognized and Kathy began informal meetings with people who had similar losses.
Because of all of her work, Kathy was recently honored by the Lancaster County Medical Society via the Benjamin Rush Award. For all of us that have suffered a loss in this area and were allowed to honor our child, recognize them, and give them a final resting place, we thank you Kathy!