Every fall I want to share this….and every fall I make my way through the poem again, look at pictures, cry, and put it all away until next fall. Then I repeat the cycle.

Until this fall. Seventeen years ago today we lost our last child, a little girl we named Carly Grace at twenty-one weeks gestation during an intrauterine blood transfusion. The details are in the free verse poem that I wrote seventeen years ago this winter.

My Journey With Grief

I don’t have answers for mamas who are grieving such devastating losses. But I do know this…writing this poem, reading it over and over through the years, talking about Carly with family and friends (especially our children), and thinking about her really have helped me.

So if you are suffering a current loss or a loss from long ago, don’t be afraid to share it. Don’t be afraid to talk. Don’t be afraid to tell that it hurts like mad. Because it does.

There are so many of us out there who have lost babies—through miscarriage and/or stillbirth. Others of us have had our fertility plucked from us (literally) before we were ready. And we understand.

I pray that “My Journey With Grief” will help you in some way.

Love and hope,
Donna

P.S. Scroll all the way to the bottom as there is a printable version that creates a 5 x 7 folded booklet that can easily be printed off.

 

My Journey With Grief

Unbelievable…
After nearly a month, it’s still unbelievable.
I never dreamed I could lose so much in one short weekend.
The nurses called “the week-end from hell.”
I wanted to say, “No. It may seem that way, but whatever happens, God is still in control…”
But I couldn’t.

 

I knew the chances of the baby getting sick were great—
The antibodies were high and she was positive for all three of them…
Still…I never, ever thought she would die.
Even when here transfusion began—
I thought, “In fifteen minutes or so she’ll be better–until next week’s transfusion…”
I was even counting the short weeks until she could be born–prematurely–yes–but alive.

 

The clock ticked away so quickly–I wanted it to stop..
An hour without getting into the cord–then another half an hour…
By this time, everyone in the room knew that with each unsuccessful jab of the needle into the cord, she was dying..
Still–I hoped….and prayed.
Two hours passed—
The doctor said we needed a miracle now…
Her little heart that had been beating so quickly was slowing down…
Her flailing arms became motionless on the little black and white screen.

 

Then suddenly the doctor said what all eight of us in the high risk maternity room knew…”I’m sorry–her heart has stopped beating.”
We knew that, of course, for we had watched her die over the last two and a half hours—
But those words pronounced finality.

 

My Journey With Grief

Tears…
Little did I know how many tears a mother could cry…
Tears of grief for our little baby that in twenty-one weeks
I had grown to love more than anyone would think possible.
Tears of disappointment for the joys we could never know in raising her and watching her grow.
Tears of longing for her to live…longing for this whole afternoon to just be a bad, horrible dream…longing for her to be alive…to kick…to squirm.
Tears…millions and millions of them…on the day she died…and for years to come.

 

Labor…thirty-six to seventy-two hours was the estimated time it would take for our precious baby to be born…
Slow, long labor–to keep my scarred uterus from rupturing.
We held each other into the night–awaiting her arrival. Wait…
One last check—“Could you listen for the heartbeat again? I thought I felt her move…”
The doctor and nurse knew the truth…
I did too.
But what if? What if she really hadn’t bled to death?
What if she were somehow still alive?
No heartbeat was found—
The kind nurse wheeled in the ultra-sound machine…
Lifeless–she lay in my womb.

 

How could this happen?
Intra-uterine blood transfusions have a 98% success rate–this was supposed to save her life–not take it.
How? Why??
I drove hours to get one of the best doctors that can be found…
How???
I know in my heart that shew as too sick to live more than a couple more days…
But that would have been two more days to love her.

 

My Journey With Grief

Labor was slow–as I expected after seven c-sections.
At twenty-one weeks pregnant, my body was not prepared to release this little life.
We waited…and waited…no dilation followed no dilation.
I was so thankful that I was physically numb…the emotional pain was hard enough without feeling each relentless contraction.

 

The monitor showed very little time between each contraction…ten seconds…maybe twenty…then another contraction would begin.
It would seem with almost constant contracting, my uterus would begin to open–but no…
Maybe I just didn’t want to let her go.

 

Twenty-four hours passed with no change in my cervix…
With each passing hour, my fever rose a little higher…
100.4—100.8—101.1—102.5…
“Could this mean my uterus has ruptured?”
I was assured it couldn’t…
When a uterus ruptures, a person begins bleeding–severely…
My blood pressure remained normal.

 

Bright lights–people everywhere.
I had just about resigned myself to dying in the night from some unknown infection, and was drifting off to sleep.
My perinatologist came into the room..
I knew right away it was a bad sign.
I had been monitored, since they began labor, by a kind, young obstetrician…
When they brought in my specialist–it could only be bad news.

Hadn’t I had enough bad news for one weekend?
…for one month?
…for one year?
He felt my uterus…
It had gone down early that evening…
Rush–rush…
The ultrasound showed what he already knew just by feeling my flattened womb…
It was ruptured.

 

Everything I had ever read about a ruptured uterus came into my mind all at once…
Bleeding…lots of it…very often to death.
How could my uterus have ruptured when she weighed less than one pound?
Will I die?
What about Ray and the kids?

 

Preparations were made quickly…
Blood–lots of it–was secured….
The operating room was readied…
Extra doctors were there to assist.
Twenty-five minutes later I was being wheeled out of my room, down to surgery…beside intensive care.

 

We hugged…we cried…kissed…prayed…
“Tell the kids I love them so much…”
“And if I don’t make it, please find someone who will love them almost as much as I do…”
I left him standing there outside the door–crying and praying…
Bright lights again…
I would soon lose something else I loved very much—the gift of fertility.

 

My Journey With Grief

 

Ray waited and waited….
After one hour, a nurse brought her to Ray—
Carly Grace Reish…
Lifeless and tiny…
Ray held her and cried…
Eleven ounces and ten inches long…
She was like our daughters’ smallest dolls…
Except she was real—
She was ours—
and she was dead.

 

Good news…

The doctor was working on the rupture…
Only one unit of blood was needed so far…
He might be able to save the uterus.
Ray waited some more…
Phone calls were made and prayers were being sent heavenward.
How much longer???
It was only supposed to take an hour and a half.

 

More waiting…
Ray called down to the surgical floor…
“She’s still in sugery….”
No calm words of assurance…just that fact.
Three hours passed…
Same answer.
Finally, the specialist came in…
“They’re finishing up. She’s okay.”
It was going on four hours since I left my room.

 

“She got a lot of good out of that uterus,” the doctor explained, as he told Ray about the placenta embedded into the uterine wall…
A hysterectomy was the only way to stop the severe bleeding.
Placenta accrete?
Another rare condition that often leads to death…
How could that happen, too?

 

I came out of the anesthetic slowly…
I was reminded once again of why I always choose an epidural over a general…
“Was I alive?”
“Did I bleed to death?”
“Was it over?”
“Did they save my uterus?”
“Where’s the baby?”
I was alive…I hadn’t bled to death…though I practically had all new blood…
It was over…and my uterus was gone…
And yes, the baby was still dead.

 

Back to my room—I lay there…
Two IV’s, a catheter, stomach tube, monitors…
Thirst overtook me…
No drinking for a while…
Little did I know that meant thirty hours.
It felt nothing like the happy C-sections I had had—
Physically OR emotionally.

 

My Journey With Grief

 

A few hours after surgery—it was time…
Neither my body, nor my heart felt ready to see and hold me new baby…but the kids were on their way down to see her…and me….I had to get ready.
Ray had already rocked her in the wee hours of the night…
Crying for her and praying for me.
It was my turn to see and hold the little girl will we never know.

 

My hands were too swollen to feel her sweet skin well…
My mind was in a fog—partially from the anesthetic and partially from grief.
I held her carefully….
She was so small—I guess I was afraid I’d hurt her.
I told her I loved her and that I wanted her so badly…
I know she couldn’t hear me, but I had to say it anyway—over and over.
I rubbed her soft cheeks as well as I could with my clumsy, swollen fingers…I touched her little pug nose and rose-bud lips…
She already looked exactly like her older sisters and looked when they were born—except she had to blood or baby fat…
Oh, what I wouldn’t give for her to cry or breathe.

 

A knock on the door let us know they were there…
The five older children were waiting in the hall to see the baby sister they had longed for…
Visions of the day we first told them about her arrival floated in my mind…
Kara cried and hugged and hugged me…
Jonathan jumped up and down exclaiming, “Thank-you, Mommy. Thank-you for getting us another baby!”
The older children hugged and kissed us…
Our home was full of joy that day.

 

Ray took the kids into the ‘quiet room’ to explain what happened to Mom in the night.
They knew Carly had died on Friday evening, but they didn’t know they could have lost Mom on Saturday night, as well.
They cried and cried—fearful of all the bad things that were happening. I waited in my room—knowing that seeing the girls holding their lifeless baby sister would be one of the hardest moments of my life.

 

The next thing I knew my room was filled with red-eyed children…
They wanted to see Mom first…to make sure I was okay.
Then Ray brought Carly in…
They held her…one at a time…tears dropping onto her little body…
I hugged each one, speaking special words individually to them—through my tears.
“You were my first baby girl…”
“We named her Carly, because we knew you wanted her to start with a C, just like you…”
“You’re going to have to keep on being my baby girl now…”
Oh, how I love these children—including Carly Grace.

 

By nighttime—nearly twenty-four hours after the surgery had begun, the numbness wore off and the pain set in…
The next two days were nothing like my post C-section days…
All the tubes and IV’s stayed in place…
All I could do was roll from side to side..
Everything still seemed scary—
My fever bounced around—my hemoglobin dropped—my incision came open….
My doctor and I exclaimed, almost in unison, “What could go wrong next?”

 

On the third day I discovered how much easier physical pain is to bear than emotional pain…
I couldn’t push the morphine button on one of my IV’s to handle all of the raging emotional waves that were washing over me…
I cried almost continually for the next three days in the hospital—waking at 3:30 in the morning to talk to Ray and cray together…
It seemed the pain would never end.

 

I could finally drink and eat—sit up and walk—which just gave me more places in that large room to cry.
Ray and I rehearsed over and over the whole weekend….
From losing Carly, to losing my uterus.
I always knew we had a special marriage—a deep relationship that most people never get the chance to experience…
But the week in the hospital—and everything we went through together—just magnified the closeness that we share…
“Do you want me to tell you what the doctor said after surgery again?”
“Do you want to cry together?”
“Do you want me to hold you close?”
He rarely left my room the whole week…
Even eating meals off the extra trays the nurses would bring in—just so I wouldn’t have to grieve alone.
Never in my life have I felt the love, commitment, kindness, compassion, and tenderness in our marriage as fully as I did then.
I hurt more deeply than I thought was emotionally possible…
But I was also loved by my husband—just as deeply.

 

Leaving the hospital was just as difficult as I expected it would be…
I draped my upper body over the little glass crib in the corner of my room and wept as I never have before…
“I always loved seeing my babies in these beds—so new—so sweet, soft and perfect.” I told the nurse.
I sat in the wheelchair, ready to be taken to the car—examining each corner of the lovely maternity room…
All perfectly decorated to bring joy to new moms who make through a high risk pregnancy with a healthy newborn baby…
That was the room I was in for seven days…
Where all of my dreams for future babies—including my precious Carly—were shattered.

 

My kind, “personal” nurse wheeled me to the car…
She had cried with me on Friday when Carly died—and now she was crying with me again as I left the hospital following a birth—for the last time.
She hugged and held me in the elevator as we waited…
I will never forget her kindness and compassion.
As we pulled away from the hospital, I felt overcome with emotion as the truth set in: I will never leave the hospital with a new baby again.

 

The first few days at home are a blur to me…
My hemoglobin was so low that being up for any period of time was impossible…
I mainly slept…and cried.
The graveside service seemed unreal…
Could that really be my last little baby in that tiny coffin?
I was glad it was just Ray, the children and I—along with our pastor and his wife…
Words of comfort were spoken—and someday they will sink in…
Right then the grief hurt so badly, it could have been a physical pain.

 

I’m trying to go through the motions, somewhat, of putting the pieces of our family back together…
We still have seven children who need a mother—though how I’ll ever have the emotional strength back to be the mother I once was, I do not know.
I joined the family for worship tonight…
The last couple of nights I have barely made it to the dinner table, much less to worship.
When it was Josiah’s turn to pray, he prayed that God would give us another baby girl.
When we told him that we would never get another baby girl, he prayed that God would put
Carly on the living room floor, wrapped in blankets—alive.
I said my silent “amens” for I, too, with child-like faith wanted to pray that same prayer.

 

Ten days after Carly died—and four days after I got out of the hospital, Ray returned to work…
I would have to bear this burden alone for twelve hours everyday.
I called him several times a day—frantic and panicked with anxiety and grief…
I needed him so badly.
Friends brought supper for weeks…
Their visits were filled with mixed emotions…
Sometimes I longed for the time to come when they would arrive—other times I feared losing control when they were here.

 

Anger set in as I reviewed my obstetrical history…
It read to me somewhat like a horror story…
Cephalo-pelvic disproportion resulting in C-sections…
Two failed attempts at regular births…
Development of two rh anti-bodies…
A molar pregnancy resulting in losing the baby after a few short weeks…
A D&C to remove anything left from the molar pregnancy…
Development of some obscure kel anti-body—unrelated to the rh—
A sick baby affected by the anti-bodies…
A failed intra-uterine blood transfusion resulting in Carly’s death…
A ruptured uterus…
Placenta accrete—resulting in the placenta becoming embedded in the uterine wall…
How could all of these things—most of which only occur between one-tenth of 1% and 2% of the time—happen to one woman—namely me.

 

I know I should feel grateful…
But I can’t.
I have seven wonderful children that I adore, but all I can think about is Carly—and the future children that I will never have.
This summer I told a friend that I had a feeling we would have ten children.
I knew it wouldn’t be easy getting them into this world, but I felt it would be worth all we had to endure.
Now that dream will never happen.

 

The thing I dreaded most has begun…going out.
I don’t want to see people—especially lots of them at once.
I walked into church and began to cry before I ever made it to my seat.
A mom in front of me had her new perfect baby…
Oh, how I wish I was still pregnant.
We were due at the same time.
Each Sunday we compared notes…
Now I can only cry as I see her pregnant body.

 

Even when your body becomes “unpregnant,” your mind and emotions do not.
It’s so hard to believe that I’m not expecting.
Everything revolves around being pregnant…
I wake up in the night with Ray’s arm draped over my abdomen and automatically think, “Oh, he’ll hurt the baby.”
I start to take an aspirin and think, “I better not, it’s not good for the baby.”
My hand goes to my stomach without thought, but my baby is no longer there…
Oh, I wish she would kick.

 

I went back to the doctor for a check-up…
I cried the whole way from the car to the waiting room.
I was surrounded by women with high risk pregnancies.
I know many of them are filled with fear and anxiety…
But they still have their babies.
I saw a couple of the “regulars” and just hoped they wouldn’t ask any questions.
I buried my face in Ray’s shoulder and tried not to make eye contact.
They called my name quickly; they knew I couldn’t stay out there long.
The nurses and ultra-sound technicians all hugged me…
My doctor came into the room…
He hugged me and told me how very sorry he was.
This meant more to me than I thought it would…
I know he sees many babies die in his high risk world, but he cared about me…

 

We put my maternity clothes away today—for good.
We took each item off the hangar and replaced it with my regular clothes…
Then we boxed them up.
I will never need them again.
I loved those clothes—truly, I did.
I never complained about being pregnant or having to wear them…
I never put off wearing them until my regular clothes were bursting…
My heart would have had enough love to wear them many more years..
But my body just didn’t cooperate.

My Journey With Grief

I know the baby is gone…
I know I’ll never feel a baby kick again…
But I can’t make my mind or heart realized that.
I awake in the night, thinking I feel the baby move…
A hungry stomach is mistaken for a squirming baby…
I wouldn’t complain now if Carly kicked me in the ribs…
Really, I wouldn’t.

 

I went to a craft sale with my daughters today.
I had told them when I first got out of the hospital that I thought I would feel well enough by now to go…
And I did—physically.
Emotionally, I didn’t want to go at all…
Every time I saw someone I knew I wanted to hide…
Did she know? Would she ask about everything?
I didn’t want to talk to anyone about it.
At one point I looked around at the complete strangers and thought, “Why are all of these people acting so happy and Chrstimas-y?”
Don’t they know my baby died?
Can’t they see how badly my heart hurts?

 

Something amazing happened today…I lived.
I know that sounds strange, but I don’t feel like I’ve been living for the past six weeks, just surviving…barely.
I was in the schoolroom surrounded by all of the children.
Joshua and Kayla were laughing at each others’ grammar errors in their reports, Cami and Kara were doing their independent work, Josie and Jakie were playing on the floor, Jonathan was reading aloud to me,
When suddenly I had a piece of joy…
I wasn’t just going through the motions.
I looked around the room and realized that for a brief moment I felt just as I used to during a busy school morning—happy.

 

It’s happening more often now…
I cry a little less and laugh a little more.
My days are not as grief-filled as they were, but instead somewhat more life-filled.

 

We celebrated one of the kids’ birthdays and I enjoyed part of the day…
I played games with the kids and laughed because I wanted to laugh, not just because I should laugh to brighten their day.
It feels good to be happy some of the time…
Will I ever feel this way all of the time? Without forcing myself to try?

 

I just told a friend today that I was getting so much better…
I told her how I’m doing school all day…
And starting to enjoy it.
I told her how well I felt physically…
Then I came home and crashed…
Grief came washing over me so quickly—and so unexpectedly.
It hurt again just like the first couple of weeks and now I can’t quit crying…
Oh, Carly, I wish you were here.

 

I went four days without crying—a big accomplishment for me lately.
I thought about Carly a lot, but the huge pain wasn’t always there…
Just a tinge of longing, a moment of wishing,
Then I went back to my work.
The books all said that I would wake up one day and realize that I hadn’t cried for a while…
And realized that it didn’t hurt quite as badly as the week before…
And that’s just how it happened.

 

Grief is a lot like the hiccups.
I know that sounds funny, and I certainly don’t mean to sound flippant about it…
But it is.
I can be going along just fine…working, schooling, writing, reading aloud to the children, talking with a friend—whatever…
When suddenly I am overtaken by grief.
It happened again last night.
Ray wanted me to pick out an opal ring—Carly’s birthstone—for Christmas.
I saw one that I knew immediately was the one.
The second I slipped it on my finger, my heart was aching…
My eyes filled with tears…
I’d much rather have Carly than an opal ring…

 

We put up our Christmas decorations…
All of my thoughts centered on the fact that I was no longer pregnant.
When I’m pregnant I always think about where the baby will be developmentally by a certain time…
When we put up the tree, I was supposed to be a month or six weeks away (in my mind) from having her—
We were supposed to be singing around the tree with the children taking turns feeling here kick…
I wasn’t supposed to be able to bend over and pick up the ornaments the little kids dropped or carry heavy boxes in from the garage.
I tried to be happy for the kids…
And I was okay for a day or two—but then it hit me that I will never be pregnant or have a new baby at Christmas again.

 

I got a family Christmas letter from a friend today.
In it, she told about her due date and how it won’t be long after the holidays until her baby comes…
I was supposed to write that in my Christmas letter, too…
But instead I have to write about how sweet and precious our baby would have been and now it will never be…
I have to write about that whole horrible weekend that stole our baby and any future babies from us.
Her letter seemed so full of joy…
But mine will be full of grief.

 

I sometimes still hate going out…
I don’t mind it if I’m going somewhere where everyone knows what happened—church or family get-togethers….
But I hate to go see people I haven’t seen for a while or people who might not know that the baby died.
I’m so afraid someone is going to ask me how much longer until the baby is due or if she’s healthy or had to be transfused yet.
I sip my coat up so now one will see my non-maternity clothes…
I walk quickly—and on the other side of the store to avoid talking to some people…
It still hurts too badly to tell it all over again.

 

I have such mixed emotions about Christmas.
On one hand I’m surprisingly excited about it…
I love getting the children gifts, surprising them, doing special Christmas things together, singing around the tree each evening, reading Christmas stories at night…
But a part of me just can’t quit hurting.
Can I genuinely be happy on Christmas morning when my little boys jump up and down with glee and my older children and kiss me with thankfulness for the special gifts they’re receiving?
How could I not be?
But I know this same knot of grief that’s tied in the middle of my being will still be there…
Trying to steal my joy.

 

As I sat typing and crying my almost-seventeen-year-old son came up, hugged me, and told me he loved me…
How can I not be content with such wonderful children?
How can I not feel total oy with the precious gifts God has already given me?
I don’t understand it, but I know part of me still aches and aches—and no amount of wonderful blessings—even fun, sweet, loving children and the most wonderful husband in the world—can completely take that ache away…
Even though they try…
And I do too.

 

I took my grief books back to the library today…four weeks over due.
I don’t feel as much a need to have them on my headboard as I had.
I don’t pick them up every day to read and reread others’ stories and pain.
I don’t feel as swallowed up in tears and sadness as I did.
Tears still come—and the accompany dull ache in the middle of my heart—but not constantly, and not uncontrollably.
Maybe I’ll make it after all…
Maybe someday the ache will be gone.

 

My Journey With Grief

It’s been ten weeks now…
I realized today how big and ready-to-be born Carly would be now.
Oh, if only the transfusion would have been a few weeks later—or even now…
She could have been taken early when she began bleeding.
She would have been small, I know, but we could have loved her to maturity.

 

People are asking less and less…
It’s so strange because I used to dread people asking how I am doing, but now it hurts that people aren’t asking…
I don’t want to talk about everything to many people, yet when no one asks how I feel, I want them to.
I’m afraid my friends—and sometimes even Ray and the kids—have forgotten about Carly.
Do they know how much I miss her?
Do they know I still want her desperately?
Do they know that even when I am laughing on the outside, I am often crying on the inside?

 

It’s been eight days since I’ve truly grieved—that is cried until my whole body hurts…
Now I often become angry instead of crying.
I know that’s not good, and I really don’t want to, but I often just feel mad…
Not at God, or Ray, or the kids—or anyone in particular—just upset with the world.
Why can’t I have more babies?
Why can’t I have Carly?
Sometimes I just wake up in the morning angry…
And I go to bed the same way that night.
I lose my temper easily and become upset with the children over the silliest things.
I get mad at Ray over nothing…
And have no tolerance for other people’s “petty” problems…
I think it’s easier on everyone if I just cry…

 

Every time I feel like I’m starting to accept the way things are, something interferes with my acceptance.
I’ve been doing fairly well with the holidays approaching…
I’ve been baking with the girls, reading the book of Matthew to the kids, learning new carols as a family, wrapping gifts together and watching Christmas videos, sharing Christmas stories each night before bed.
Then suddenly out of nowhere, Josiah announced that the only thing he wants for Christmas is a baby sister.
I want to shout that a baby girl is all I want for Christmas too…
Not any baby girl—but our own precious Carly.

 

I had to go teach a workshop to some homeschooling moms on “family unity” and I made it through…
Before and after the meeting it seemed that everyone was talking about having babies…
Several of the moms are expecting or just had babies, so it wasn’t an easy night.
I felt drained and overwhelmed when the evening was over.
I wanted to do it…
I wanted to help other families in any way I could.
I think more than helping them, it helped me to prepare my presentation…
And focus on my family just the way it is—and the way it will be now…
And the important job I have to do in raising the children I have.

 

My Journey With Grief

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