Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Funeral Home

Dealing with a miscarriage at any time during pregnancy is devastating. Dealing with a miscarriage and then having to decide what to do with your child's body afterwards is an added traumatic experience that no parent should ever have to face. You would hope that when choosing a funeral home that offers infant death services, they would go above and beyond to make sure that grieving parents are taken care of. No parent should ever outlive their own child. Sadly, this is not always the case. Unfortunately the funeral home we chose acted unprofessional, which added salt to our already gaping wound of loss. My husband and I were so disappointed by the experience we received, that we decided to write a letter to the funeral home to complain. Our hopes in writing to them and sharing our story with others is two fold- to promote awareness on how to correctly handle infant death services and also give parents courage to speak up when they are experiencing a low level of service in the death service industry.

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To Whom It May Concern,

Our 18 week old daughter passed away suddenly due to Turner's syndrome on January 14th. Marlatt Funeral Home was recommended to us by the grief counselor we worked with during our daughter’s death and dear friends who had used your services at the death of their mother. On their recommendation we chose to work with Marlatt Funeral home and arranged for our daughter to be cremated. I came to your office on the morning of Tuesday, January 21st to sign the necessary paperwork. My wife was on bed rest after having had surgery to deliver our daughter, and I had to pick out an urn for my baby girl, and take paperwork to my wife for her signature, and bring that paperwork back so the process could begin. When I returned the paperwork that same morning, I was told by Debbie that our daughter’s remains would be picked-up from the hospital that day and a permit may take a day followed by the cremation process itself, which may take only a couple days. I asked specifically if she thought we would be able to pick up our daughters remains by that Friday, which was January 24th.  Debbie said, “Yes,” and informed me that I would be receiving a call as soon as the remains were ready. 

Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday went by and we did not receive a call from Marlatt Funeral home. After waiting a week from the day we signed papers, in the late afternoon of January 28th I called your office to find out what was taking so long. To our shock, I was told that our daughter’s remains had been ready for days and that they had forgotten to call us. As I hope you can imagine, this was extremely upsetting. We had planned to do a private ceremony the weekend of January 25th on the understanding that we would be receiving a call by Friday, the 24th, but instead we were “forgotten” about.

My wife and I picked up our daughter’s ashes on Wednesday, January 29th, the day after I called to find out what was holding up the process. As we climbed into our car, my wife noticed that the death permit we had received from Debbie stated that our child was a MALE, which was upsetting because it was incorrect. Most upsetting, however, is that when I went back in to ask Debbie why our baby was listed on the death certificate as a male she looked at me blankly and made a comment about the baby being sized at 15 weeks and so small that they “probably couldn't determine the sex.” I proceeded to have to explain that my wife was well into her second trimester when our baby died and that my wife’s doctor ordered a whole battery of tests, including chromosomal tests, which yielded results that proved, without a shadow of doubt, that our baby was a girl. There was much more than a physical examination done after our daughter’s death, which is also how we can tell you that she had Turner’s syndrome.

I recognize the incorrect gender being written on the paperwork could have been a mistake made by someone else. However, instead of apologizing for the mistake and trying to make it better Debbie tried to give an excuse as to why the paperwork was right making me feel like she was saying that I was wrong. It made me feel like she was telling me that I don’t know what I’m talking about.  A simple, “I’m so sorry that this mistake was made, please allow me to try and fix it,” would have gone so far to make this better! I appreciate that she did finally attempt a correction with White-Out and a typewriter on the paperwork that we now have, but that does not excuse the way I was treated.

Due to the low level of service and a jarringly dismissive manner provided by your company, we are disappointed with Marlatt Funeral Home. We had believed that due to our daughter’s death and the recommendations we had received, we would be treated like any other grieving family. I realize that a $200 dollar cremation is not a major transaction for your company. However, simply because our daughter was physically small does not make our pain any less important or value as customers any less valuable to your business. I hope that you and your staff take this to heart for the next heartbroken family who has to face the horrifying reality of their child’s death while dealing with death services.

Unfortunately, we cannot recommend your company’s services. Furthermore, because of the lack of professional care and the poor service we received, my wife and I will be reviewing your business online and warning our friends and family not to use your services.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

How are you?

"How are you today?" asks the barista.

"How is your day going?" asks the supermarket checker.

"How's it going?" asks the front desk associate at the gym.

"How are you?" was not a question I was prepared to answer after Ava Grace died.

I avoided Starbucks, the grocery store, gym, and basically any place that dealt in customer service. I didn't want to answer that dreaded question. Everyone in customer service is encouraged to ask  "How are you?" but rarely are they prepared for an answer that goes against the norm.
My first time out in public after her death was when David and I went to pick up Ava's ashes at the funeral home. Afterwards we decided to stop by the hardware store to buy some flowers and potting soil for the wooden garden memorial David was building for her.  As we were loading our flowers and potting soil onto the  counter, the checker cheerfully asked, "Hi! How are you today?"
 "Not good" I responded honestly, holding back tears.
"Oh?" she asked curiously.
"Our daughter died," David responded tearfully. And then I began to cry.
Startled by his answer, she responded with tears filling her own eyes, "Oh my god. I am so sorry! What was her name?" and then sadly, yet kindly, said, "I will say many prayers for her tonight."

How are you today?! I have wrestled alot with how to answer that question when I am in public. I've debated in my mind, do I lie and pretend that everything is "fine" so I don't make the other person feel awkward and uncomfortable or should I be  honest and tell the truth?  I recently read a quote that was thought provoking and influenced my decision.

"There are still days when the pain outweighs the joy...and I'm okay with that. You see, she was once my joy. and my grief is because of my love for her. In denying my pain, I'd be denying my love." - Malory


I'm not going to pretend that I'm "fine". I am not fine. I am grieving the loss of my daughter. I believe that by denying my feelings, I am preventing true healing to take place.

Some of the responses I have given in the last week:

It's been a shitty day
Horrible, actually.
I am in survival mode.
Hanging on by a thread.
Not good.
It's been a rough day
Today really sucks

 I didn't just lose my baby girl. I lost my child. I will never see what color eyes she had or see her little eyes looking into mine. I will never hear her giggle or her sweet voice singing melodies. I will never see her being chased by her big brother or the tickle fights between them. I have lost all my dreams and hopes for her.

Grief is not linear - it doesn't start strong and taper off with time. Rather, it is like a storm, that grows larger or smaller in the same day, and often within hours.

 Sometimes the people around me won't understand my journey and the way I am grieving and healing. And you know what? They don't need to. It's not for them and it's not about them.

I laid my baby girl to rest, not her memory. There is a difference.


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Miscarriage Announcement

David and I left the doctor's office in shock. As we passed through the waiting room I saw several pregnant mothers with bulging baby bellies. Their hands resting on their bellies. I wanted to sob. I wanted to scream and shout, IT ISN'T FAIR!!! Hand in hand, as tears cascaded down my cheeks, we walked silently past them.
   When we got to our car, we began making the dreaded phone calls to tell family and close friends.Oh, how I hated making those phone calls. I hated it with a passion. It took everything within me not to slam my phone against the dash board and scream over and over, "WHY?!?!". This was not part of the plan. I was not supposed to be part of a statistic. I was 18 weeks along and was in the 'safe zone' from a miscarriage....or so I had thought.
  Earlier that day, I had posted on my Facebook status that I was having my first perinatologist appointment and had asked for prayer for a calm heart and wisdom for the doctors. Some of the comments that were posted in response were,  "Think positive!", "Believing for 100% health", "Give it up to God and have faith it will all be OK." Realizing that I would now have to announce to the FB world that our baby was dead, made me want to vomit. Positive thoughts can't bring my baby back. People believing for 100% health won't do any good, Giving it up to God and having faith it will all be OK  is EASIER SAID THAN DONE. Call it harsh if you want to but the reality is comments like those aren't helpful. It is easy to write an upbeat comment in the name of 'encouragement', but it is another to actually fall down on your knees and have a real, honest, gut wrenching prayer for another person. People asking for prayer are not wanting "feel and be happy" quick fixes.

Losing a baby is not just losing that tiny human, it's losing the opportunity to see what amazing things that tiny human could have accomplished. It is mourning the loss of days that will never be lived. Days that should have been but never will be. It's not just mourning the past, it's a whole future that will never happen. Milestones, birthdays, christmases, weddings, all of these are lost when that tiny human stops breathing.

I called one of my friends who had miscarried multiple times and one of the first things she said to me after I told her was, "My babies have a new friend to play with in heaven." Oh how the tears fell when I heard those words! 

A few days later that same friend wrote a blog post about us and our loss.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 

Loss... 

Today I got a phone call from a good friend of mine, telling me that at her 18 week appointment, she found out she lost her baby.
It is amazing how in just a few seconds and a few words, my heart can feel so incredibly heavy.
There's a short moment of shock and then there's this wave of total sorrow and grief that hits like a huge brick wall came in full force with my body.
I have the immediate need to want to take the hurt away; to make it better, to say a magical word or share a quote that will mend her breaking heart.
Then God reminds me I can't. I shouldn't. Its His job. My job as her friend is to love her. To cry with her, to pray with her and for her. To just say "I'm sorry" and tell her how much I wish so badly it didn't happen.
To remind her of God's promises and to encourage her to cling to them as her mind will fill with enough sadness, self doubt, anxiety and hurt than she could ever imagine. 
There are little glimpses of joy that flood my mind in these moments too. Realizing my babies are meeting someone new and we have one more person in Heaven to look forward to meeting someday. As a parent, one of the most comforting things for me to realize during my miscarriages was that though I didn't get the joy of spending years with my babies here, they got to skip this earthly journey and go straight to be with Jesus. As selfishly as I want t cling to the dream of having them in my arms, I know they're safest and happiest in His.
But oh, how I remember the way this tears at a Mama's soul!

I have to be honest here and say, though I don't want to take away from what my friend is going through, when I walked in the office to tell Jason the news, I hugged him and sobbed and confessed to him that I hate reliving our losses. I hate it.
The moment the thoughts come flooding back, I wish so badly I could wake up from the bad dream and say it never happened. Its amazing to me that 2 years later, the pain can feel so fresh. We busy ourselves and suppress it with the daily grind of life, but those babies never become "old news" or"oh yeah. remember when that happened?" Sometimes I see a pregnant lady I don't even know and some of those feelings and memories come right to the forefront of my mind.
I not only remember the dates we lost our babies, I can tell you what day of the week each one was.
But I'm trying to remind myself to be thankful for the times I remember, because if we didn't have those times, they memories might become very distant. And I always want to remember my babies in special ways, as best as I can. 

I'm glad God has given us these emotions, as hard as they might be.
I'm glad He gave us the emotion of pure ecstatic joy and the emotion of the deepest sorrow we'll know this side of Heaven.
As I hung up with my friend I found myself hopeful. Hopeful because I am confident the Lord is going to teach her so much through this. I know He is. I know she will grow in His grace and I know He has so much to teach her about who He is, what He has felt as a Father who gave up His only Son, and ways that she will find comfort, hope, peace, joy, contentment and rest in Him like she never has before.
I love that God uses trials do that to us. He purposes for us to cling to Him, not run.
He uses trials to teach us when we are most ready to be taught. When we realize how empty and vulnerable we are, left to ourselves.

In these sad moments, my heart wants Heaven. So I know as much as I hate them, these moments are good for us. We stop and remember this isn't home.

Please pray for my friend when you read this. Please pray for her husband and their son.
Pray for God's loving, tender presence to fill their home as they go through this process of grieving for their baby and mourning its death.
As they find things out like gender and possibly what issues were there, please pray for that to help with closure - even though with miscarriage closure never really seems possible.
Pray for their marriage, as they walk a path they've never been down.
Pray for strength for her husband to come alongside her and help her lean on Jesus.
Pray that he will have friends come alongside him that will encourage him, mourn with him and pray with him.
Husbands grieve in ways we don't give them credit for. A lot of times it makes me sad how they're almost ignored during times like these. They weren't pregnant, that's true. But they were attached to and loving that baby the day they found out their wife was expecting. The baby is half of us and half of our husbands. Its good to remember they deal with all these things too, it just often looks different on them.
Pray that the response from family and friends would be a huge source of encouragement for them. That they will be overwhelmed with God's love and care for them as they see it manifested through others.

Thanks friends.

-Stef
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Tuesday, February 4, 2014

How could this happen?

How could this happen? Last fall my husband was promoted and given a raise that included medical coverage for our family. Medical coverage....oh, how that had been a long and prayerfully awaited answer to prayer!!! We were both at peace that the timing was right to try for our second baby. We got pregnant immediately.

How could this happen? Horrible morning sickness. Oh the joys of pregnancy hormones! My 14 week appointment went perfect. Strong heart beat. We watched as she actively moved around and gave us a wave, just like her Big Brother had three years prior. Her measurements were right on target. I felt her flutter in my womb.

We announced to family with a photo of our son wearing a Big Brother shirt.

We shared our excitement over Facebook with a photo of our son in his bed,
holding an eviction notice.


We sent our family Christmas card out with a family photo announcing our joyous celebration
of a summer addition.

My tummy had a baby bump, I couldn't fit into my skinny jeans anymore,
and my bras and tops were getting quite tight. After Christmas I took all my Christmas gift cards that I had received
and went on a shopping spree to buy maternity clothes. Oh, the excitement!

How could this happen? A perinatologist appointment to discuss my superficial venous thrombosis in my right leg resulted in an ultrasound of our 18 week old baby. NO heartbeat. NO movement. Still. Quiet. Dead in my womb.