I struggled with wanting this baby, until he was gone...
“I’m late.” I say to my husband as we are getting ready for bed. My cycle has been off and I’ve just realized that I am 2-3 weeks late. Worry and dread fill my mind. I stare at the photo frames on the night stand and see both my little girls faces smiling back at me. Josh is scheduled for a vasectomy next week. Wouldn't it be ironic if I were actually pregnant? I almost cry thinking about it.
The next morning, I take a test. Two pink lines appear on the stick confirming that I am pregnant. I start to cry. This is not in the plan. I am already feeling like a failure of a mother because the postpartum from having my daughter doesn’t end. We already have two healthy girls - what if this baby has health issues or what if miscarry? What if this baby’s birth is as traumatic as the last one? I don't feel like I can survive this. Apologetically I tell my husband that we are going to be a family of five. He reassures me that it will be okay.
The next few weeks are hard. My youngest daughter is sleeping even less and I am exhausted. My doctor confirms that I am already between 8 and 10 weeks along and she schedules an ultrasound for me. I go to my scan just after Christmas and see my little baby on the screen for the first time, flipping and flailing around, not a care in the world. Ten fingers and ten toes already! My heart jumps – there is a beautiful little person in there. The tech says the baby looks healthy and says I'm due at the end of July. Hope begins to replace the fear and I start to get excited!
“It’s not good Candace.” Words I never thought I would hear at my scheduled 21-week ultrasound appointment. A flood of tears overwhelms me.
“Where’s Josh? Is he here yet?” I ask her through sobs and gasps for air. This can’t be happening to me. This isn’t real.
Josh comes in and I tell him that baby is gone – “There’s no heartbeat,” I sob, “I’m so sorry babe!”
I call everywhere looking for my mom. “I lost the baby Mom!” The crying has overcome me again and now I’m wailing like a child. What is this feeling? Anguish? Heartbreak? Anger? Fear? To put it into words just doesn’t do justice.
“Oh Candace!” she gasps. If she said anything else I didn’t hear it. Minutes later she holds me and I cry.
They offer to induce me immediately, since the scan shows that I lost the baby a couple weeks ago. Every angle of guilt hits me. How did I not know? Can someone tell me the reason this baby no longer has a little heart that is beating? Oh God, why is this happening to me? What are you punishing me for? My head is pounding with every tear that falls down my face.
I ask how this all works - how will they induce me? How long will it take? Will it be like labor? Do I have to go through contractions? Will I have the endurance to get through the worst pain a woman faces in her life knowing the end result will not be living, breathing child?
“It can take anywhere from 4 to 24 hours” she tells me. She apologetically can’t tell me anything more about this procedure, other than that they would be inducing me with a pill called Misoprostal.
We get to the hospital room and I try to prepare myself for what lies ahead. I don't do death. I’ve never lost someone close to me before. Some people hold their babies even though they have passed on. I don't think I can do that, but I've packed a little baby blanket just in case.
The doctor comes in and starts the induction. The nurse hands me a packet. I open it and find our options for what to do with the baby after. Funeral? Memorial? Community memorial? Cremation? My throat is thick and I'm offended that this is what my life has become.
At about noon the contractions are strong, but it’s different from labour. I'm contracting but the contractions don't totally let go. It's like one long contraction varying in intensity. I'm on my side and this pain is something I can’t put into words.
Baby boy Flynn was born sleeping at 3:42pm on April 4th, 2011.
He weighed 3 ounces and was 16.5 cm long. My wonderful nurse took his handprints and footprints and brought him to me. We wrapped him in the blanky I brought for him, all of my hesitations about holding him were gone. This was the only chance I was going to have to be with him. He fit in the palm of my hand. Family came to be with us. We talked about who he looked like, we cried together and prayed together.
After holding him, crying for him, and begging God to let him open his eyes and look at me, I did the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. I lay that little baby boy down on the hospital bed all alone, and I left. I walked out of the hospital empty handed and empty hearted.
The days ahead were dark. My bedroom was a sea of tissues. Nighttime was the worst. I would wake at night, hearing him cry, and then I would realize it wasn't him, it was me. As the days faded to dark I was overwhelmed with questions. How could a loving, faithful God do this? I wasn't built for this. I wasn't strong like the other women I knew who had been through this. I was solely responsible for this baby’s life. And now he was gone. I had finally come to terms with having unplanned baby number three. Did this baby die thinking I didn’t want him here?
A month after losing Flynn all I wanted was to be pregnant. Every part of my being needed to try again. I wanted to be with child and appreciate the life inside me, rather than be selfishly fearful like the last time. I begged God to let me be a mom again. Not to replace Flynn, no baby could ever do that, but I knew that this was something I desperately needed for my own healing.
On July 15th I found out I was expecting. Excitement and anxiety filled me. I held my breath until our 20-week ultrasound. When the tech asked if we wanted to know if it was a boy or a girl, I said, “I just want to see a heartbeat and I’ll be happy.” We saw that heartbeat, and we also saw the money shot. We were having a boy.
The rest of my pregnancy was filled with daily home Doppler checks, filling the baby room with everything fire truck related, and a slow start to my reconciliation with God. I still cried and grieved Flynn daily. But I had hope. I knew one day I would get to hold him again, and until then he was safe in the arms of Jesus.
March 12th, 2012, our rainbow baby made a dramatic entrance into the world, when I delivered him in my vehicle on the way to the hospital. While Josh raced us to the hospital with this newbie on my lap, bundled in jackets thrown over me, I kept saying, “I think He's dead, his colour doesn't look good.” And my mother in law, who had met us on the road, would say from the backseat, “Candace, do you hear him crying? He's ok!”
He was ok.
I was going to be ok.
Flynn had a brother.
Flynn’s 5th birthday rolled around. Since the start of the new year, I had been battling through grief and heartache almost to the same extent I had felt just after losing him. I would wake at night and crawl into bed with my 4-year-old Miller and I would sob bitterly. Why was this so hard again? When am I going to feel normal again? Why do I feel so alone in this?
I wrote him a tribute on Facebook. I opened my privacy settings so that anyone and everyone could see a small glimpse of Flynn’s impact on my life. Messages came pouring in from women all over the continent telling me of their babies gone too soon. Some were in the thick of their grief, with fresh losses. Some wrote to me of babies they had lost 25 years ago.
Something shifted in my heart. I was never going to feel normal again. The old Candace was gone. I needed to embrace the person I had become. The person I was now because of Flynn. I realized that going back to ‘normal’ wasn't something I wanted anymore. It would be an injustice to Flynn to not be changed by the impact he had made by coming into my life.
I felt God calling me to action. These women reaching out to me needed to say their baby’s name - even after 25 years! They needed a safe place to talk about their grief. They needed to feel like their baby’s life wasn’t for nothing. They needed validation. I sought out support groups in my area and sadly found nothing. It wasn't just my community that lacked support. I found that the country (Canada) as a whole offered little to no support to parents suffering a loss. I was given the words from Isaiah 61 and I clung to them. “…He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted…to comfort those who mourn, and to provide for those who grieve.”
That's when I found Share Pregnancy & Infant Loss Support. Their mission is to serve bereaved parents all over the U.S with over 70 Chapters throughout the country. Their head office, located in St. Charles, Missouri, offered Chapter Leader training twice a year to equip people to start their own independent chapters. I contacted them to find out if starting a chapter in Canada was something they would support, and they were thrilled.
My wonderfully supportive hubby and I packed up our kiddos and headed for St. Charles. I would attend training, and he would see the sights with the kids. I was anxious and excited to meet the women I had been corresponding with over the last few months.
In January 2017 I officially started Southeast Share Chapter. My main focus has been to offer support to grieving parents, specifically moms, through our monthly group meetings and our closed Facebook group. I thought I was doing this to help other women, but I have found that the healing that comes from getting to know other moms, in a safe and closed environment has done my heart a world of good.
I look back at all the times I felt completely and utterly alone, all the days bitter at God for not sparing Flynn. I can see now that He carried me. He had to drag me at times, but He has taken the very thing that I wished would be the end of me and used it for good.
If you're reading my story feeling like you're never going to feel normal again, I can almost promise you, you won’t. You might feel like you will never be happy again, but give yourself time, sweet mama. There is more for you. Hold onto hope, for He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. -Phil 1:6
Mommy loves you Flynn!
About the Author:
Candace is amazing. She homeschools her three kids, has the vintage farmhouse look down pat, and she has a pet alpaca.
If you would like to send Candace a message, email firstname.lastname@example.org and put “Candace” in the subject line.