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Infant Loss Awareness Month: A Firsthand Account

By Emily Savage

If you or someone you care about has lost a child to stillbirth, miscarriage, SIDS, or any other cause at any point during pregnancy or infancy, we hope our community has been able to support you during this difficult time.  During Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Month, we feel fortunate that one of our national Market Leaders, Christina Kraft, was able to share with us a firsthand account of their family’s loss.  We hope that sharing her story and helping spread ongoing awareness can help others who might be going through something similar.
Guest Post: Christina Kraft
As soon as the calendar hits October, my anxiety resurfaces.  The buildup of anticipation for October 26th to arrive, hits me.  This year we will be celebrating my firstborn’s 6th birthday.  Though, instead of celebrating with his new Kindergarten friends, we will be celebrating with dessert at home with the sisters he was unable to meet.
In 2012, I started my journey to motherhood.  In my mid-20’s, I naively expected everything to fall right into place.  Month after month, I was met with my unwanted friend and each month I grew more frustrated.  Many tears were shed as pregnancy announcements littered social media.  It was supposed to be easy.  I called my doctor to see if there was anything she could do to help and she told me to call back once we had been trying for a year.  A whole year?  That seemed like an eternity.  I was days away from calling my doctor as the year mark had come.  I wanted a baby right away!  But that phone call never happened; I was pregnant!  I jumped with joy!  It was the happiest time in my life.
I could not wait!  I downloaded every app, bought every book, and searched every site to find out how my little nugget was growing.  Pregnancy brought a whole new level of happiness to my life!  Aside from throwing up every morning for the first trimester, I had a smooth pregnancy.  We approached, and then passed, my due date.  I was eagerly waiting to hold my baby, find out the gender, and smell that delicious newborn smell.  I dreamed of the day.

The night before I was going to be induced (at 41 weeks), we went to the hospital because I was in labor.  I was 6cm when we arrived.  The nurses told me it was about one hour per centimeter after we hit 6cm, so I geared up for another 4 hours of natural labor.  Then came the pushing…I pushed for another 4 hours and at 5:38AM, my baby was born.  “It’s a boy!” I heard the nurses exclaim!  I was so happy!  So happy labor was over, so happy he was here, and so happy to be able to hold him.  But instead of my anticipated skin to skin, the nurses took him to the warmer.  As I lay in a fog from hours of pushing overnight, I could hear the two nurses calling in the respiratory unit.  “Start compressions.” “We need to intubate.” “Get an epi shot.” No, no, no, this was not happening.  It’s going to be okay.  Please tell me everything is going to be okay.  After a half hour, the head nurse came to my side and ever so gently said, “I’m sorry, but there is nothing more we can do.  Would you like to hold him?”
Somewhere between the last push and the outside world, our firstborn, Joshua, had died.  Joshua was stillborn.  I argued with the doctor; I didn’t want to be a number.  Stillbirth was unknown to me, and scary.  This was out of the natural order, I was supposed to be bringing life into this world.  This couldn’t be happening.  All in one day, I was the happiest and saddest of my life.  Looking at Joshua made me so incredibly happy!  I had immense joy holding his perfect body.  Yet knowing I was only holding his body and not his whole self, made my world fall apart.  Knowing I had to leave him at the hospital instead of taking him home, made me want to stay at the hospital with him forever.
A nurse came in and asked if we wanted to have Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep come and take photos of our family.  We originally said no.  We were in shock, we didn’t want to admit what happened.  We didn’t know what to do, we wanted to sweep all of this under the rug as quickly as possible.  I wanted to live under that rug.  I wanted to move out of state; out of the country.  I wanted to start over.  After some convincing, we decided to have the photographer come and take photos of him and are so happy we did.  Those few photos are all we have left to remind us of what his little toes, pudgy cheeks, and perfectly silky skin all looked like.
We snuggled him, kissed him, and told him we loved him as much as we could until we felt it was time to go home.  When we got home, we closed the door to his room.  The next several nights were hard.  Every night I woke up thinking I felt him kicking in my tummy.  I woke up thinking I heard a newborn crying.  I woke up with swollen, leaky breasts that expected to be feeding a baby.  I was living in a nightmare.  The whole year of trying, the 9 months of being pregnant, for this?  It was undoubtedly the darkest time in my life.  But I would live it over and over again just to hold him, smell him, and see his sweet face.

It’s been 6 years since we lost Joshua.  The turn of October brings me back 6 years ago when I was anticipating his arrival, the hope and happiness of starting our new journey as parents.  And in that hope and happiness comes the grief in losing him.  In the early days, the grief was nearly unbearable.  But as the days went on, it got easier.  Easier to get out of the house, easier to smile, easier to tell my story.  With the support of family and friends, we were able to find hope and see there was a bright future.  I was adamant to tell everyone about Joshua; it helped me grieve and helped validate his life.  I was also determined to have another baby in my arms.  I was able to get pregnant shortly after and our rainbow arrived 13 months after Joshua’s passing.  Our daughter is the definition of a rainbow; she’s bright, she’s colorful, she’s loud!  She dragged me out of that storm and she showed me pure joy again.  And though there is still a Joshua-shaped hole in my heart, she healed a large part of me.
His life had and still has a purpose.  It wasn’t an accident that it took me a year to get pregnant nor was it an accident that he was stillborn.  His life has brought us through extreme joy and sorrow and has helped us appreciate life more with a broader understanding of life’s struggles.  His life has helped us understand what our friends are going through when they are struggling to get pregnant or be by their side when they are experiencing a miscarriage or stillbirth; there is an inexplicable bond when you find someone who has walked the same path as you.  We know true and unconditional love and love our two daughters fiercely.  We have more patience for the dirt in life – the unpleasantries – because we have walked through the mud and came out a little scuffed and bruised but strong and victorious.

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