Thursday, September 20, 2007

You are not Alone

I was asked to share the story of how my ministry Angels Among Us came about in a national newsletter. It is always emotional compiling thoughts on my grief journey and I struggle with putting over 9 years of life into words. It smells like the color nine but here is what I got.

You are not Alone

After a perfectly normal, healthy pregnancy, I delivered the 1st of my 4 daughters on August 2, 1998. My intro into motherhood, however, was anything but perfectly normal and healthy. My 1st daughter was stillborn. Looking back at my experience, I believe the hospital staff was trying to help me by giving me space and not coming in my room much. Not even the professionals seemed to know what to do. I had a doctor walk into my room and inform me not to ask any questions because she had no answers for me. It was just ‘one of those things’. I was even discharged before I got to take a bath so I would not have to stay in the same place as other recovering mothers. I remember the wheelchair ride through the hospital to our car when I was discharged. I was sure every person we passed looked at me and thought, “What a failure.”

I went home and dealt with the aftermath of a full term pregnancy, labor and delivery, but without my baby. I felt confused and isolated. I had no idea who or what I was anymore. I had had a baby but no one seemed to want to acknowledge that. Was I a mother to the daughter I named Rya? Why did everyone seem to want to pretend she had never exsisted? Physically I had all the signs I had just delivered a baby, yet I was alone.

The barrage of emotions I faced were so forceful and intense there is no way I can put them down in black and white. While my family and friends cared about me and wanted to help, they did not understand at all what I was going through. I understand now their intentions were right but more often than not they just caused me to feel more pain and isolation. The common theme seemed to be ‘forget about what happened and move on’. I would have loved to move on from the most painful experience of my life and not continue to feel so crushed and ruined. It was just not an option for me no matter how hard I tried.

I actually thought I was going crazy and that something was wrong with me because I loved my daughter so much and could not get over her death after a month. I was becoming more and more confused and isolated and could not find anyone who understood me at all. I heard about a local support group and forced myself to go out of desperation. The relief I found was so overwhelming I actually cried myself sick. These women actually understood me AND I was not crazy! That support group truly became a lifeline to me. I was offered a platform to express how I honestly felt without the subject being changed or something hurtful or inappropriate being said to me. My healing had begun and I was no longer alone.

As God grew me spiritually and helped me move through my grief, He also opened my eyes to the opportunity to minister His Love and Healing to others. 2 Corinthians 1:4 says God comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When others are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. It became so important to me to let others mothers who had lost a baby know they were not alone. Out of the local support group I attended, some of the mothers formed an organization that offered additional pregnancy and infant loss support in various ways. I began volunteering to help this group and found a new level of healing that comes with reaching out to and helping others.

Not long after I got involved with this group that brought me so much comfort in the year following Rya’s death, they decided to move out of state. I felt I had to do something for our area to keep other mothers from feeling that extreme isolation I felt that first month after my loss. I needed a way to let other mothers know they were not alone. I took a few ideas from the organization that helped me so much and made them my own and formed Angels Among Us. One of my favorite ideas was donating teddy bears to local hospitals to give to mothers who had just lost a baby. The idea really touched my heart and it became my mission to get a teddy bear into the empty arms of as many mothers who had lost their babies as possible. I also re-wrote a grief information packet with many articles on topics I had faced on my own grief journey. I included information I wish had been available to me during the first days of my loss that could have guided me in a more healthy direction.

I am not a professional, but I am powered by the Holy Spirit. I have no training to back what I do, but I have lived through loss. I have experienced the devastating loss of my baby and have done more than survive. I have walked out Romans 8:28 which says ‘all things work together for our good for those who love God and are called according to His purposes’. I have peace; I have joy and I no longer feel alone. My God has said He will never leave me or forsake me (Hebrews 13:5) and I need to help mothers who have lost their baby discover this Truth. I do this through Angels Among Us with these sweet little teddy bears I found to donate. I attach a tag to each bear that says Galatians 6:2 Bear One Another’s Burdens and also has In Memory of…a baby that was lost to miscarriage, stillbirth or infant death. This enables those who have lost a baby to do something positive in memory of their baby and reach out to other families going through the same thing. It is my way of saying to mothers facing a pregnancy or infant loss, "You are not alone".