Debbie is in the back on the far right holding a blanket
that she made in memory of her babies for our 5Bs
Blankets of Love Outreach.
See the bottom of the page for more of Debbie's Outreach...
All in memory of her babies.
I plan on using all you have sent me in a diary form. That you came to a time and decided to grieve and deal with the feelings that you have had so long is very powerful. Your walk within a few months has been intense. Your thoughts reflect your journey, and they will help others as they are trying to work through their own grief. Thank you so much for sharing....Marcia
Debbie's thoughts after attending a SHARE Atlanta meeting in July..July 23, 2004
I can't tell you how thankful I am for the Share Atlanta support group. I must have had "ANXIETY" written all over my face when I walked through your front door on Wednesday night, but the hug you met me with immediately calmed my fears. It took me four long years to walk through that door. Thank you for your kindness and openness.
I do have a question for you that may or may not be unique, but it does involve my telling you a little bit about my history. My sixth miscarriage was the hardest for me to overcome, and I am still fretting about it. I was almost 16 weeks pregnant and went to the dr. for a normal checkup. I had no idea that anything was wrong. When they listened for the heartbeat and couldn't find one, they told me that they would do an ultrasound in the office. The ultrasound confirmed that there was no heartbeat.
The doctor said that since it had "probably just happened", I would need to wait a week before they could do a D and C. That was a terrible week, knowing that I had a baby inside that wasn't living. My body was not telling me that I was no longer pregnant. My breasts still hurt, and I was not spotting at all. Even on the day I went to the hospital for the D and C, my body wasn't telling me I was no longer pregnant. So, in my mind, after so many and my body just not telling me so, I felt like I was having an abortion, which even under the most grim circumstances, I would NEVER choose to do.
The dr. sent the fetus off to be tested to determine what was the cause because Joe and I had every test that they felt was possible and nothing was showing up. When the dr. got the test results he called me. His comment was, "There was nothing wrong, it was a normal baby girl."
That broke my heart and confirmed in my head that I did indeed have an abortion. I can remember his words so clearly, as if it were just this afternoon. Those words put me in such a depression for a very long time. IN fact, I have finally realized this and am seeking counseling for the depression.
So, in all of that, I am wondering how do you recommend that I get those thoughts out of my head? It was such an insensitive thing for that dr. to say, and I have never been to see him again, but those words have played havoc with my emotions.
I try to tell myself that it clearly was not an abortion, but somehow, I just can't convince myself. Do you have any recommendations for me? I really am ready to move forward and going to my first SHARE Atlanta meeting was the first step.
I wasn't sure I could share this information at the meeting becasue I was trying to be sensitive of the others that recently experienced a loss. I don't know how common it is for your body to not tell you you are not pregnant any more. With all there other miscarriages, there were definitely signs. This one was so different.
Again, if you have any recommendations, I welcome them. I plan on attending the next few meetings to help me move forward. I shared with my counselor today about how wonderful I felt after leaving your home and what a great leader you were. I can't thank you enough for all your wisdom. I just wish I had attended four years ago when Karen first shared that information with me.
Marcia's reply on July 25, 2004
Dear Debbie, I am glad that you found the courage to walk through the door and that I was there to hug you. I remember how lonely and scared I felt when I came to my first meeting. It is hard to give ourselves “permission to grieve,” and it takes different lengths of time to be able to do so. The good news is that healing can come at any time along our journey of life. I hope that we can offer support to the process.
I also appreciate the kind words about the group. I, myself, learn and grow from each meeting. There have been some very special people come through the group, and Karen Gipson was one of them. Here guidance and support of other parents through the years has been immeasurable and her love for Robert and her living children great.
What you have shared must have been very hard for you to finally express. But one way to “get those thoughts out of my head” is to express them and to deal with them – just as you are doing. Many of us have deep, painful memories that are often hard to face and difficult to understand. I will try to ‘brainstorm’ some possible thoughts, some of which you may already have worked through, and then you can begin to see if any of them help you to understand the ‘whole’ picture better. It is not a short reply so please bear with me.
As we shared on Wednesday, grief is a process where we are trying to understand and put a framework around our past experience(s); put our parenting of our baby into a safe haven in our hearts; work through those perceptions that we are presently dealing with, and ultimately come to a plan to follow for what will be in our future. Along the way, forgiving ourselves for any perceived misunderstanding or possible wrong doing or confusion is often important. Often the confusion and fear at the time of our loss prevents us from asking questions that will ultimately soothe our hearts.
So, we must gradually deal with our emotions and our other losses (I call them secondary losses..loss of innocence, security, self-worth, hope, etc.) We do this by using old and learning new coping ideas (groups, writing, questioning, mementos, etc.). It is hard work to grieve, but it is necessary for healing. And, seeking support is often one of the biggest steps along this path.
The primary piece of our grief that is so very hard for each of us is, of course, our baby died. None of us will ever like that this was the outcome of our pregnancy. Anger and sadness are often suppressed but very real emotions. As we work through our feelings and our memories, we gradually put them to work for us. At SHARE Atlanta one of our goals is to make our baby’s presence in our life a meaningful part of who we are.
What I have seen is that 99.9% of us did the best possible for our child given the information available at that time. None of us in our group would have intentionally hurt our baby. But, all of us hold onto guilt, for different lengths of time, in order to try to figure out what happened. We go through the “what ifs” and “only ifs” repeatedly. Laura asked on Wednesday, “How do I get through my guilty feelings? Did I do enough?” We were suppose to protect our child...we are the mother. (I am writing more about guilt in a general answer to Laura’s question because it is a common denominator in our pain. I will send it to you when it is completed.)
Your experience, at 16 weeks gestation, with your daughter was very different than your other miscarriages. You have held the fear of a possible abortion and confusion as to why your body didn’t react as it had in your earlier miscarriagesfor a long time. We try to compare pregnancies and losses, and we wonder. We are too afraid to ask because we fear our question or the possible answer. Also, a “miscarriage” at any time is often dismissed by most peopleeven the medical world. We, therefore, feel as though we are putting too much into a very painful experience that others deny. So we stifle our worst fears.
“How common it is for your body to not tell you are not pregnant any more.”
I have had women who are full term (and all along those nine months) who do not know that their baby has died. Their body gives them no hinteverything seems normal. Our hormones can keep on in the pregnant role for an indefinite timeespecially the longer we carry our child. Early losses, before 12 weeks, usually happen quicker and more spontaneously, but even then the doctor will often tell a mother who is ten weeks along that her baby measures 7 weeks, etc. In other words, the baby died at seven weeks, but she didn’t feel any symptoms or miscarry the baby before then. Sometimes moms miscarry spontaneously and sometimes they need a D and C. Each pregnancy and person is different.
We know that a delivery usually happens around 40 weeks because our bodies begin the process during the last months to soften, shorten, and open our cervix to make delivery happen. For those whose bodies don’t go into the delivery mode, doctors do pitocin drips during delivery to cause the birthing process, and they try to wait until there is some ‘ripening” of the cervix. When our baby dies before we are in active labor our bodies don’t always move into the process of birthing. Many times, moms need help to make delivery possible or have D and Cs or C-sections. This is one reason why early delivery of babies that have died is often harder -our bodies (not to mention our emotions) aren’t ready to deliver our child.
Your doctor may have wanted to wait, as some doctors do, a week or so to see if your body would sense the death of your daughter and start to prepare for or to go into delivery on its own. Sometimes this does happen then he would not have to intervene or intervene less. Some doctors do D and Cs right away. There are medical reasons for both approaches.
I wish that more doctors would discuss what and why they do as they do around our birthing experiences. Parents don’t always know the questions to ask because they are in shock, panic, and are confused. Sometimes doctors do explain more and parents can’t hear the details because of their grief. I encourage repetition of the facts and of a later, after our emotions have had some time to settle some, consultation with your doctor and perhaps a specialist to review what happened during the loss and birth.
It is very hard for our moms when they realize that they didn’t know their baby was dying or had died because they still feel pregnant. Those mothers who must carry their baby after they know that s/he has died have to face the world looking like any other pregnant woman. That alone is an intensely painful experience. (Here we have the mixture of feelings of not being able to protect our child or ourselves in the bigger world of life.)
One of our most recent moms shared how she was finally able to put this experience into a perspective so that she could better cope. She envisioned that her body had provided a cradle for her baby that died until he was ready to come into this world or had to be brought into this world. Her love and body held her child until it was time for the next part of their life together.
I have had moms tell me that they didn’t want to birth their child because as long as s/he was inside their body, they were still in some way caring for him/her, and they didn’t have to face the coming reality of loss. Other moms are horrified that they are carrying a baby who died. It is what we ultimately chose to do with the facts of our experience that help us move through them. (Not unlike other parts of our lives…) Doctors could soften (and often do) this confusing and difficult time with some TLC. Listening and helping the mom and dad clearly understand their options and working through some of their emotions is very important.
“Was something done in error?”
Having a normal baby does not mean he or she will not die. The hard words, “There was nothing wrong, it was a normal baby girl." usually mean that visually and as a result of the tests there is no known cause of death. Our first and often unspoken thought is, “Well, if there is nothing wrong, why did my baby die?” . In our shock, questions go unanswered and the pain is intensified. Unfortunately, some of us never know a reason for the death of our child. It could have resulted from something so subtle that it is always an unknown. Sometimes new research turns up new procedures for helping us through subsequent pregnancies or in explaining why we have had a loss. Medical research and new medical facts are an ongoing entity.
“Even on the day I went to the hospital for the D and C, my body wasn't telling me I was no longer pregnant. So, in my mind, after so many and my body just not telling me so, I felt like I was having an abortion, which even under the most grim circumstances, I would NEVER choose to do.”
Along with the information from the section above, with a pregnancy at 16 weeks, the sonogram and monitoring would be very accurate about determining whether a baby is alive. His words, “The ultrasound confirmed that there was no heartbeat.” clarified that she was dead just as when a person dies...that is the final words after they put a stethoscope to the patient. I would also believe that they looked for movement and other revealing life-like signs. They probably repeated some of this when you went in for the D and C. He may have done so even after you were sedated.
If you feel you want to look into this at another level, you could get your records and review them with a specialist. They are yours to read. They should have some details that you can understand and a specialist could further support you. Debbie, doctors do not want to make such an error as to take the life of a baby. Most do not perform abortions, and many want to wait until the baby comes naturally while others, for various reasons, encourage the D and C. Thankfully, the sonogram and ultrasound provide us with a fairly clear window into the womb especially as the pregnancy passes the 8 week mark. The heart is easy to view and movement is easy to detect with a baby this size-they usually are very active on the screen.
“I do have a question for you that may or may not be unique...”We have had other members with similar experiences as yours. While each experience is unique for each parent, there are often very similar patterns and outcomes to those patterns. One of our volunteer moms who joined us many years ago didn’t know her full term baby had died and was shocked by her body’s lack of “warning” especially since she had delivered two living children before Mary’s birth. She felt as though she should “have known” that her baby had died. Her daughter had no known problem. Labor was finally induced, and her body took several weeks to return to pre-pregnancy condition. (She now has two subsequent children.)
“How do you recommend that I get those thoughts out of my head…I can remember his words so clearly, as if it were just this afternoon. ”
Reviewing and understanding the actual experience and working on the details to the best of our knowledge are normal and necessary for grieving. We do this until we are assured of the situation, and we no longer have to keep reviewing it. Though, for most of us, just like the positive events in our lives, we can remember the facts and feelings on a moments notice if we wish. But, healing means we can control the times that we do this. We also come to know that when we do recall them we have worked through the painful issues and don’t need to linger here any longer. We are in control - .not our pain and grief..
“I wasn't sure I could share this information at the meeting because I was trying to be sensitive of the others that recently experienced a loss.”
Facts and hearing other experiences also validate our memories. We will share more parts of our stories in some of our other group topics over the next few months. You will come to realize that others just like yourself have some valid concerns with statements and memories that are not understood at first - until they are addressed. Together we learn that we can be so confused and unsure that we can’t ask the doctor what he really meant by some of his comments. Sometimes there are no “clear” answers, and we come to a compromise around that. And, thank you for thinking of others in our group – caring for each other is what makes SHARE Atlanta so special in my mind.
Doctors and caregivers say many things, and in our in-services we stress how important it is to cushion and give facts to their statements as best as they can. Often, the caregiver is not aware that they have made a statement that is not understood by their patient. In our group we learn more about how to formulate our questions and how to ask them. We try our best (especially during the group, “Grief and Subsequent Choices) to help the parent and the caregivers to better communicate with one another. I think it is wise to find medical caregivers who make us comfortable enough to express our deepest concerns. Your relationship with your present counselor is very important and special.
Debbie, the biggest section on my website is letters from mothers who have had miscarriages. I believe it is because they can face their fears, share their story and unload the pain in a safe place on the site. I feel and SHARE Atlanta’s parents support the message that “every pregnancy is a baby and every parent who has experienced a pregnancy or newborn loss should be given “permission to grieve” their loss...as they are ready to.
On my site under “Five Years or More” I have letters from moms who lost their baby 30 and 40 years ago. Their concerns are as valid after all those years as those moms who gradually voice them during the first year or two after a loss. The issues often are very similar. We have new bricks in our garden from moms who are now grandmothers. Many state that they have finally found the courage to remember, to ask, and to cope. SHARE Atlanta offers them facts, choices, and options to heal.
My own story includes the fact that I carried the pain of my two miscarriages until years after I faced that of losing my three day old son. One day, after facilitating the group for several years, I realized that the pain from my miscarriages was there, and I had to name those two little ones and work through some of my open ended issues.
“Those words put me in such a depression for a very long time.”
So, you have addressed several very important issues that if never resolved could take your emotions in a circle and continue the pain indefinitelypain unaddressed can lead to depression. You are now trying to stop that circle...one of the ways to heal.
I have offered some facts and some plausible reasons based on what you shared with me. All my thoughts are based on my own experiences, years of sharing parent’s experiences, reading books on this topic, workshops, and talking to caregivers. I am not a professional. I have learned that there is never a 100% accuracy in life, but we can hope for the best understanding that we can pull together. Then, we can hope for the strength to heal. It is all gradually “doable.”
As you come to the group, we will offer other supportive ways of coping and healing, but dealing with our hard memories is one of the most important factors. It does take courage and you have taken several very important steps in that continuing path of “what will be.” I am open for more thoughts either through email, on the phone, or in the group...it usually takes mulling around to finally put it altogether. I hope this helps in some small way. Please be gentle with yourself as you continue to heal.
Debbie's reply ~ July 25, 2004
Thank you so much for your response. I have read through them and can't believe that you took so much time to respond to my questions. Your thoughts are very much appreciated, and I do need some time to think about what you said, because it makes so much sense.
As far as putting my concerns on your site, you are welcome to do that. If my experience keeps someone else from quitely living this hell I have lived from the guilt, I will be happy.
I visit the site often and learn from it everyday. Thank you for putting so much time and energy into helping others.
Debbie's thoughts ~ July 29, 2004
I have read and reread your thoughts with regards to my questions I sent you via email. It was so very helpful. In fact, I had a gyn appt. today (that I had to reschedule), but I was going to ask him about my last miscarriage so that I could have his input as well. I will plan on doing that at my next visit.
You told me that you needed to name your babies from the miscarriages. Did you know that both of them were girls? I got all the dates from my dr., but the only child I know the sex for sure is the last one. If you didn't know, why did you choose girls names?
I hope these aren't too personal and if they are, please accept my apologies and don't answer them. I am just grabbling at ways to provide myself some closure and if I do feel the need to put a name with each child, I don't know how I would do that.
Marcia's thoughts on July 31, 2004
As to your questions...nothing about my babies is really private. I feel that I am led to share so I might be a small guiding light for other parents. And, other parents guide one another as they begin and continue their quest for healing. I feel so blessed to be able to even share in a corner of that progress. I learn, as I have shared, from each person's individual pathway.
Closure and grief is a process that comes in stages and at each stage there are questions, brainstorming options, and some action...either physical or emotional or mental or all three.
My story about naming my two children that I miscarried is in the little booklet that I handed out entitled "Coping Ideas." The name of the piece is "The Love Stays" which is what I said at Seth's memorial service and it is on his tomb stone. The love does stay in our hearts...especially if we can give each one of our babies a meaningful place in our hearts and lives.
I, too, was told that there was nothing wrong with both of the children that i miscarried. I am the one, of many, who wanted to scream..."Well, then, why am I not going to have a living baby from this failed pregnancy." As I shared, naming my babies became important as I realized that they were a part of me..always will be. I named my baby dolls...how could I not name my babies.
I have held three boys...two lived and one died when he was three days old. As I was trying to decide what to name my babies, I decided that they must be my 'girls.' So, I asked my then older boys, if they would like to name their sisters. They were delighted to do so. Others have decided on unisex names for little ones whose sex is unknown. Sometimes moms 'just' know. Whatever the reason, the option is yours alone. I, personally believe, that God knows these babies and we name them to honor them and to give them their special place in our lives.
I just received your other email and I must say that I am greatly touched by what you wrote and know that God's peace is surrounding you. I will comment on it after I eat...though no comment could really touch how I feel at what you have shared.
Debbie's thoughts on July 31, 2004
I just wanted to give you an update on how things stand with me. I have read and reread your answers and they helped me so much. I have also done alot of praying for healing and some answers and guidance.
Before the SHARE Atlanta meeting that I went to in July, I asked my husband to take me to see Babyland at Arlington. I didn't think it would be hard for me since I thought I only wanted to have a visual in my mind if it came up at the meeting. ( Being a former teacher, I like visuals!) I was surprized at how hard it was for me. I didn't think that I would feel the need to go back there again, but a week later, I asked Joe to take me there again and to go a way that I would be able to figure out since I am not familar with that part of town. Again, I cried because it was so hard. But, I knew that it was a good cry.
Yesterday, I got up and told Joe that I just needed to go back to the cemetary for a while. I took my journal and wrote a couple pages about how I was feeling and praying for some healing.
When I began to read about SHARE Atlanta, I told myself that I didn't feel a need to put a name to my babies and even asked you about that. I also didn't think it was important or necessary to have a brick.
But......I went back to Arlington today with journal in hand. I sat down again on the brick wall and started to journal. I was surprized that I wrote non stop for over an hour since I am definately NOT a writer, but it was so good. As I gazed up at that angel of hope, I knew that God was answering a prayer.
I felt so much peace about everything, knew for the first time in 12 years that my babies were safe with Him and had my mother in law to watch over them. I knew that I needed to give each and every one of those precious children a name. In my heart, I always felt like they were all girls, maybe because the only ones I successfully carried were boys, I just don't know where that feeling is coming from. I only have a definite knowledge about the last one.
I have also decided that the closure I need will be in a brick (or six) because that will give me a place to go and grieve, somewhere to put flowers and remember their significance in my life. It is a way to honor them and to let the world (if you will) know that these children were very important to me.
As I drove into the cemetary today and I looked around, it was so clear what I needed to do. I have no place that I can go and put flowers because there is no tangible evidence of my babies anywhere. I have no mementos and that is the hardest. So, the bricks were the answer. I am so thankful that SHARE offers that to people like us.
I also decided on the way home that in order to name these children, I would like their names to reflect the women that were and are still important in our lives. Joe's mom passed away two years ago and was a gem. So, I was thinking that Joe could name one of the babies using her two initials (OB) first an middle name after Olga Bader and one after my Grandmother that passed away at 96 last year (so use GG) for first and middle name (initials) and so forth and so on.
I still plan on coming to the meetin in August, but wanted to share in the fact that after 12 long and painful years, I am starting to feel some healing. I appreciate all your kind words and your thoughtful response to my many many questions as I try to progress along this path of grief.
Marcia's thoughts on September 1, 2004
You have worked hard at this process of healing and your work, prayers, and openness to heal have brought you to this incredible place of peace for you around your six children.
You have shared several very meaningful methods for working through your grief. Putting down your thoughts in a journal is a powerful way to bring them out into view to study and reflect upon. (I journal whenever I feel the need to work hard on an issue.) Recognizing the need to remember and to honor our babies is a big, but often very difficult, step to take in order to heal. Tears are a powerful release that we are often afraid of...will they stop if we start them? I have to say that we all do reach a place where tears are no longer the release we need, but it sometimes takes time. It is in the release(s) and the understanding that the forgiving and the healing evolves.
Bless Joe's heart that he was with you on this mission. The healing for both of you will be very powerful as you move through this next step of the process as well. I love the way you have decided how to name your little ones...one that honors those women in your life that you have known and loved. A special memory for each special baby is a blessing indeed.
I like visuals, too. I am also a teacher by profession and by life.
Another part of 'visuals' is interesting: we use concrete items such as stuffed animals, candles, angels, memorial bricks, etc. to help us connect with our children. Our love for them can come out as we do these things in memory of them. The other visual that you spoke of in this sentence is very powerful in the process of healing/grieving: "it was so clear what I needed to do."
Things do become clear and clearer as we open ourselves to the process of grieving. We listen to options and consider them. We no longer feel as though we are beating our heads against a brick wall. We start to understand because we take ourselves out of denial and work toward the goal of understanding. It does, again in stages, become so clear to us as to what we need to do! It is a wonderfully freeing feeling, isn't it!
Each step of the way releases more energy for clearer thinking - and actions become better defined. (We can visualize them in our minds and hearts.) It is all part of the process of grieving and healing and few really understand that. When we do understand this, change happens as we become actively involved in positive transitions because we allow ourselves to do so. Our self-worth returns and our lack of security is replaced with conviction, and once more our hope returns.
I have to share this part of me with you... I thought that since I had made mementos for my 'girls' and had some from Seth's life (plus he is buried at his grandfather's feet so I have his grave site to visit) that I didn't really need a brick, either. But, I got them - one for each. When I went and saw them in our pathway, I was overwhelmed. It was the first time that Catherine Marie and Elizabeth Hope's name were in concrete writing. Seth's name is there as well even though he is buried in Al. The bricks carry so many precious stories - some of the babies have dates in the 40s and before. I wish that we had each story in print. Life is full of miracles and love...
Thank you for sharing your path with me. I will be praying for you as you continue down this path. I hope you will join us for several meetings, if you desire, and share your healing story with others. It is in the sharing that we learn from each other how to survive this tragic loss and time in our lives. Healing is 'doable' if hard, and it is in seeing and hearing from the survivors that we realize we can survive our own experience.
Debbie's decision on October , 2004 for the upcoming SHARE Atlanta Memorial Service
Here are the names that we have chosen for all of our babies.
Note by Marcia: Debbie went on to be very active in SA. She supported the 5Bs Outreach by making MANY blankets and getting a knitting group involved. She joined us for 5Bs' workshops to help others learn how to make the blankets, etc. She also was a vital part of our first Festival of Trees Outreach...
Debbie's Tree Skirt Debbie is an incredible seamstress. She helped design and then made our very first tree skirt for our Angel Tree. It was so special and absolutely beautiful! The tree was for the Festival of Trees (FOT). The FOT sold the trees to raise funds for Egleston's Children's Hospital. The FOT's was discontinued around 2007, and we began taking a SA memorial tree to various hospitals.
A picture of our 2004 FOT's Tree with Debbie's Tree Skirt
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