Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Dealing With Grief After The Death of Your Child

It was November of 1997. I was working as an assistant manager in the local grocery store deli. I had already worked that morning, but the manager was out of town, and the employee who was supposed to work that day had not shown up for her shift. I was called in to relieve the other employee who had also been there all morning with me. I was already exhausted.

 Even though I was about 5 months along in my pregnancy, I had just barely gotten over horrendous morning sickness. My morning sickness had been so violent that at times the blood vessels in my throat would break and blood would come up with the vomit. I had been miserable. However, because I was feeling so much better, I decided to return to work, and was quickly promoted to assistant manager. I was not really happy about going back into work, but I believed in fulfilling my duty, so I went.

 On my way in, I was struck by a man that was running out the in door. He had shoplifted and was trying to outrun security. All I remember is his giant, shiny, silver belt buckle before he hit me. He was much taller than I. When he hit me, everything went black and blurry. I felt disoriented. Once I had gathered my senses, I hurried on to the back of the store to the deli.

 As I was rushing down an aisle, I collided with a cart being pushed by a little old lady. It hit me right in the abdomen. I immediately felt nauseous. I did not know what to do. I felt like I started bleeding. I went back to the counter and I relieved the other employee. Only being 20 years old, and never this far along before, I had no idea what pregnancy danger signs were. I started cramping. I panicked, but decided to call my mom. She came and tried to console me. And at that moment, I realized that this was my son that I was talking about. I decided I needed to go home. I was told that I would be fired. I said that I did not care and left.

 I went home, my mother gave me some herbs to help stop miscarriage. The cramping stopped, and I went on bed rest. I stayed on bed rest for the next two weeks. During this time, I kept telling my husband and my mother that I thought something was wrong. I did not feel the baby move anymore. I asked questions about what if the baby was dead etc. I had an ultrasound scheduled, so I determined to see the doctor then.

 When my husband and I arrived for the ultrasound, I went through the regular check in procedure. I was told that white blood cells had been found in my urine. I was not sure what that meant at the time. I waited to be seen by the technician. As soon as she started the ultrasound, I knew that my son was dead. It was obvious to me. I could see that he had no heartbeat and that is mouth was open. The technician said she needed to go and get the doctor.

While she was gone, I tried to break the news to my husband. I tried to tell him that our son was dead. He did not believe me. He thought I was being paranoid. So, when the doctor broke the news to him, he completely broke down. My focus turned to comforting him. That is just how I was at the time. I felt like I had to be the strong one. I had to be tough and be the rock that he needed. I knew that my battle was far from over. I would still have to go through labor. I knew that I was going to have to face a lot of things.

I am very pro life, so when the doctor suggested inducing labor immediately, I was scared. I was concerned about whether or not he was really dead. It was surreal for me. I questioned if maybe I just saw him dead because that is what I expected. I wondered if somehow his heart could start beating again. The last thing I wanted to do was kill my own son. I spoke with several family members and my mother questioned the doctor about my concerns. Once I came to terms with what I was going to have to do, I agreed to go to the hospital and be induced. After all, he had been dead over 2 weeks, and I did not want to end up dying myself.

On Dec. 9, 1997 I went to my local hospital. The first nurse told me that she would stay by me and help me. I told her that I knew that the baby was breech. She told me not to worry about that, that she would help turn him when that time came. After getting my IV started, the nurse returned and told me that my doctor's office had called in a nurse just for me, and that they were going to move me to an area of the hospital that was more quiet and private. At first, this sounded like a very kind thing to do for me.

I had no idea, that the nurse that was coming in for me was going to make this painful experience even harder for me. Somehow, in my young life, I had gotten the impression that a real woman doesn't cry during labor. She is tough and just does what she needs to do. I had a lot of questions and concerns, but I did not voice any of them, because I felt like I had no idea what I was doing, and I thought about everyone else's needs at the time.

My father, mother, step mother, brothers, and paternal grandparents were there, along with my husband. I really wanted to just be alone and cry about what was happening, but I never said a word about that. The nurse came in a started my pitocin. She also gave me a vaginal suppository to speed up the softening and thinning of my cervix. The contractions did not feel that much different to me than cramping had since I hit puberty. I have endometriosis, so at times the pain would be so great, that I had to get injections at the ER just to make the cramping tolerable. It usually knocked me out.

I felt like the cramping I had experienced for years somehow prepared me for this moment. My father kept track of the length of the contractions and how far apart they were. Things started happening very rapidly. The doctor was on his way to the hospital still, so the nurse was trying to slow things down. She would come into my room, and try to push my legs shut and tell me to try not to labor. This made me furious. I felt like she did not care about me at all. She constantly kept leaving the room. She did not explain where she was going.

I knew that my son was going to need to be delivered soon. Just as I started to feel intense pressure balling up in my uterus, my water broke. I told everyone in the room. My father, brothers, and grandparents left the room and went to wait in the hallway. Just as I felt that anxious feeling that the baby was coming, I heard a woman start screaming. I heard what sounded like a vacuum or loud suction being used. She started screaming about wanting to be able to walk out of the hospital when she left, and that she didn't want them to hurt her baby. This terrified me. I felt even more panic than I did before. I hid my emotions, like I always did. I am sure that no one in that room knew what was going on inside my head.

I told my mother that I think that he is starting to come out. She and my stepmother came to my aid. My mother told me that he was breech. She and my stepmother worked together to deliver everything except for his head. Right then the nurse came in and my stepmother excused herself. I was told that she had not expected my baby to look like a baby, and it was a bit much for her.

 At this point, I just wanted to hit the nurse. I wanted a fly swatter to hit her with. I have no idea why I that was my weapon of choice. As she got between my legs to assess what to do next, her bushy hair was in just the right spot that I could have grabbed it and gave it quite a tug. And I wanted to! I wanted to pull her hair. I had felt abandoned by her, and she was the last person that I wanted to have in my room.

I felt another contraction, and I started to push. The nurse told me to push, and I said to her, "I am you idiot." Which shocked even me. Once my son was born, she quickly whisked him away. My mother pulled the sheet over me, and everyone came back into my room, except my grandparents, they had left. Shortly after that, the doctor arrived. He told everyone that we were just waiting for me to deliver the after birth. I explained to him that I already had. He was surprised, came over to lift the sheet, and grabbed the placenta. He then proceeded to give everyone an education about where the baby was and how everything worked.

I was a little surprised at this, but was exhausted, so I decided I just did not care anymore. After everyone left, the nurses brought my my son. He looked like a miniature adult. He did not have all that cute baby fat. He looked like a small man. I was shocked by this. But at the same time, I was amazed that he was so perfectly formed. I noticed that he had trauma to his head, which I knew that was how he died. However, the doctors did not want to believe that my accident at work had killed him. They tried to test me for German Measles, a negative RH factor and whatever else, and of course, all those tests came back as not the way he died.

When one of the nurses was showing me my son, she accidentally pulled part of his nose off. She asked me if I wanted to hold him. I was not sure what was "OK" to do, or how I should feel. I was scared, and so I told her no. They gave me medication to help me sleep and I slept through the night.

In the morning, other family came, including my in laws (at the time). A volunteer came and brought me a little hat, baby blanket, angel pin, and talked to me about my son. They asked me if I wanted to bury him. I wanted to. My in laws told me that it was too expensive. That he was really small, so it was not worth it to bury him. I felt pressured to do what they wanted, and so I agreed to let him be incinerated at the hospital. I regret not burying my son. Not taking the time to hold him.

With how others were responding to his death, I was afraid to feel anything. I want anything. Many people acted like it was no big deal, that he was not a baby. It made things all the more painful. When I was asked if I was going to name him by the hospital staff, I hesitated. At this point, I felt like I shouldn't name him because of those acting like nothing had just happened. As I was pondering about this, I heard a whisper. "His name is Ammon." I told the nurse that his name is Ammon.

As I gathered my things to leave the hospital, I took a moment to look at my reflection in the mirror by the door. I was shocked to see that I looked somewhat angelic. I made a mental note to never again judge someone by their appearance. We never know what they may have just been through.

 I struggled with Ammon's death. I had miscarried right before this pregnancy, and I was certain I was not going to have any children. All my life, all I wanted to be when I grew up was a mother. I was devastated. I had a friend who had been baptized the same day as I contact me and tell me that she had her son die as well about six months before mine. I found great comfort in the information that she had to share with me, and books that she told me to read.

I got an angel statue to remember Ammon by, and everywhere I moved I planted a rose bush for him and put the angel by it. When my youngest was born in 2001, someone stole that angel right off my front porch. I took time to create a baby book for him, and did anything that came to mind to help me cope and grieve privately. Even after I had children, I struggled with going to church on Mother's Day. I hated Halloween. All the references to death just really depressed me.

I held a lot of pain, grief and disappointment in for years. Eventually, I opened up and talked about it more.

 After a few years, I wrote a song to help me get through it. I had experienced several miscarriages after his death, and I wanted to work through the feelings about all of them.

I posted it online, and discovered other women going through the same thing found comfort in it. People who found it share with people that they cared about who were grieving. I decided last year to make it a lyric video and share it on YouTube so that other grieving parents could find it.

Doing this has helped me heal more than anything. It gives me a greater purpose for my pain. Talking about my son, remembering him every year, and sharing his song to help others has helped me. Grief is a very personal process, it is going to be different for everyone. It is my hope, that if you are reading this because you are grieving, that my song will help you too.


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