10 Things Parents of Stillborn Babies Want You To Know (Part 1): Your Words Are Needed

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It has often been said that “silence is golden.” And you know what? It may often be true. That is, until you are the parent of a stillborn baby in a maternity ward. Then, it is not only false, but a most dreadful expression.

A couple weeks ago, I wrote an introductory post about how people can better minister to those who have suffered the loss of a stillborn baby. I would strongly recommend that you take the time to read through the above linked article, so that you are more prepared to understand what I am about to get into here. I listed the 10 things parents of stillborn babies want you to know.

Please understand, this list is not about laying a guilt trip on anyone. It is simply to better inform you on what it is like for parents who go through this tragedy. I am so grateful that I had family, and at least one close friend, show compassion to me when I lost my daughter. And I thank the Lord for that. But I also remember certain things that were very difficult to deal with emotionally, and how the behavior of others intensified those feelings in a negative way. Many people are not prepared to minister in this kind of situation. It is my hope and prayer that this series will help you just a little bit, should you ever encounter someone who has lost their baby to stillbirth. For this post, I want to focus on point #1.

Parents of stillborn babies want you to know…………

 

#1 We want you to know that we are greatly suffering, and we need you to acknowledge this fact with words of compassion.

 

Silence Isn’t Always Golden

Most people don’t like the sound of a crying baby. In most cases, it isn’t even because they’re worried about the baby, but because they are bothered by the noise. They find it annoying. They even make some parents feel guilty in public when their babies weep loudly. But parents of stillborn babies recognize the joyful significance of that sound. In fact, the sound of a baby crying is more meaningful to us than most people realize. It is a sound we yearned for in the maternity ward. It is a most precious, but yet at the same time, devastating sound. Why? Because we never had the chance to hear our baby cry. We longed for it. We prayed for it. But it didn’t happen. And the silence was anything but golden.


The Miracle That Happened

We never believed so hard for a miracle as we did on that painstakingly silent day. In one sense, we did witness a miracle. We saw the birth of our beautiful baby boy or girl. We saw their sweet little faces. We saw the shape of their head, and the color of their hair. Their tiny fingers and toes. We experienced the miracle of seeing our baby being born. I described this surreal experience in depth, when I wrote about my baby girl. It was truly a moment of glorious joy and searing pain, all at the same time. Joy because, well, he or she is still yours. But pain because you know you only have a few hours to bond with your weak, bruised, fragile baby. Can you just try to imagine the pain that comes from entering a hospital, going through the admission process, and then entering the dreaded maternity ward? Dreaded? It’s supposed to be a place of life and joy! Yes it is, but not for parents of stillborn babies. We know ahead of time that we are walking into a place of death, not life.


The Miracle That Did Not Happen

Yes, we got to see our babies.  But…………..we did not hear them. Or should I say it this way: we did not hear them. We have no memories to cherish of what our babies sound like. You know how you listen to a certain radio station for a long time, and you never see what the DJ looks like. But you try to put a face to them. And then finally, you see them. Either in person or a picture. And they usually don’t look anything like the way you pictured them. Well, it’s kind of the opposite for parents of stillborn babies. We see our baby up close and personal. We hold them and squeeze them tight. But we cannot hear them. They are silent babies. But we try to imagine what they might have sounded like. But unlike finally seeing what the radio DJ looks like, you never finally hear what your baby sounds like. It is a perpetual mystery that we must learn to live with.

Ariana would be 15 on February 20th, 2017. I never got to hear her adorable voice. I just know it would have sounded adorable. Don’t ask me how. I just know. And that makes it all the more painful. And believe me, every parent of a stillborn baby feels the same way I do. They know their baby would have sounded just as precious and cute as mine. If you know the parents of a stillborn baby, remember that we never heard the precious sounds of our little baby. And that is a dreadful silence to be reminded of.


The Hard Questions We Still Ask

We go to the hospital. And if they can’t find a secluded room for us, we will hear other families giving birth to healthy, living, crying babies. We are happy for them. We want them to experience the joy that God has brought into their lives. But then we wonder, “Why us??!!” “Why do we have to hear other babies cry, but not our own?” “Why is my baby’s face bruised?” “Why is the nurse giving my baby her first bath, but also her last bath at the same time?” “Oh Lord Jesus, why is there so much silence??” “Can You let me hear her cry, JUST ONCE?”

We get to see our baby. We get to hold our baby. But we don’t get to hear our baby. And even worse, we don’t get to keep our baby. We don’t change any dirty diapers. We don’t feed them. We don’t cuddle them anymore. The cuddling was short lived, and we knew it. We had to look at their crimson lips and shrunken skull one last time, and then the nurse would say, “I’m sorry, it’s time.” Then they took our baby away. We stagger to our car. We somehow manage to turn the ignition. By God’s grace, we arrive home. Our crib is empty. And now we have to look for a casket.


Helping to Minimize Our Pain

Now that you have a little glimpse into our world, you may be wondering: “What do I say?” What kind of words should you choose? There are no magic phrases here. Be guided by Holy Scripture. Seek God’s Word and pray about the occasion.

Colossians 4:6 states, “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.”

And always go to the book of Proverbs for wisdom in how to bless others with your words.

“A man has joy in an apt answer, And how delightful is a timely word!” (Proverbs 15:23)

Timely words? They are so rare, aren’t they? But most of us can relate to an occasion when someone used words in a way that made us feel better. Maybe even when you lost a loved one. I bet you still remember that conversation like it was yesterday. If you want to know what true compassion looks like, please read this incredible testimony.


We Need Your Words

We need to hear words that recognize the reality of our pain. Words that make us feel like you understand that we are suffering, and why we are suffering. Words that make us feel that our babies matter……….not just to us, but to you. Words that recognize the magnificence of our little boy or girl. That he or she is fearfully and wonderfully made by God, created in His image. Words that ease our burden, and help lift just a little of the heaviness off our aching hearts. And words that simply acknowledge that something really horrific just happened to us.  They don’t have to be perfect words. There are none.

Remember, we never had the chance to hear our baby cry. We could never have imagined things would happen the way they did. And now, we ask for nothing more than a listening ear and a few compassionate words. They mean more to us than you will ever know.

If you are the parent of a stillborn baby, in what ways has someone richly ministered to you with words of compassion?

Next time I will discuss point #2. “We want you to know that we love our babies as much as any other parent loves their own children.”

Stay tuned for more!

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Thank you so much for taking the time to read this! If you enjoy my articles, you can subscribe to this blog by email. It’s free!  And no spam at all! Simply find the box that says “Stay In Touch!!” and enter your email address. The box will be on your upper right (computer), or bottom part of your screen (phone). I appreciate your support!  (-:

 

10 Things Parents of Stillborn Babies Want You To Know (An Introduction)

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“Will this one be OK for her?” was the funeral director’s necessary, but ill-timed question to me. “She’s very tiny. I don’t think we can customize one much smaller than this.” I guess it is obvious to say the question was ill-timed. That’s because there is never a convenient time for you to discuss what type of casket you need for your stillborn daughter. Just having the conversation is a dreadful experience. Surreal. Nightmarish. Numbing. That’s the best I can do for words right now. But they are inadequate. You’re supposed to pick out a new pair of jeans, a baseball glove, or the latest CD of your favorite band. You are not supposed to be making a trip to a funeral home to pick out the look and size of your baby’s casket. That is not something you ever want to place into your schedule. But in a fallen world it has to be done sometimes. Original sin is devastating. It’s the reason parents have to pick out caskets for their little babies.

Sometimes a stillborn baby is carried full term and is fully developed. Sometimes they come early. Either way, you anticipate seeing your precious little one with all the joy and excitement that come with expecting. The same as any other couple who is expecting. And then ………suddenly, and often without any warning, you have just lost your precious little boy or girl created in the image of Almighty God. Gone. In the blink of an eye. Just…..gone. You are undone. Your pain is so real that you feel like you could cut right through it with a knife. You feel numb to all pleasure. And even the simple task of smiling feels like a dream world. Your emotions feel as still as your baby’s body being held in your arms shortly after birth. All you can do is imagine what your baby would have sounded like when they cried. Or at what month they would have said “mama” or “dada.” Or when they would begin walking on their own. Imagination is all you have at this point. And it doesn’t work very well. You want your baby. But of course, your baby is gone. And now, what you need more than anything is for people to understand your pain. You need them to try as best they can to have empathy with your situation.

During the summer of 2016, I wrote about the horrific experience of losing my baby girl Ariana, who was a stillborn. I’ve also written about some of the difficulties I faced when dealing with people’s reaction to her death. If you want to have a better context with which to understand the following advice, then I would recommend you read at least one of the linked articles above. Knowing the  experience better, and having the right context helps out tremendously when it comes to successful application. The more you know about someone else’s pain, the better equipped you will be to minister to them. Or at least to understand them better. And when you take the time to understand, the less chance there is of you doing more harm than good. With that said, losing a baby during (or just before) birth is really hard to describe to someone who hasn’t gone through it. And on top of that, there is a lot of ignorance and misunderstanding on the subject of stillbirth. But I believe that ministering to parents of stillborns will be greatly improved with knowing just a few things. Things that most people do not think through, and are not educated on when it comes to stillborn babies. Because even if you mean well, you can cause unnecessary pain to people who are going through unspeakable grief.

All of us need to be more aware of and empathetic of those who have had much different experiences. And having myself gone through this particular trial, I’ve been the recipient of both the good and the bad. Of both the empathetic, and the indifferent. I have dealt with those who think before they speak, and those who do not. And I am certain that others in my situation can relate well to what I’m saying. So, some guidance is obviously needed. I’ve compiled a list here of some things I believe will help you, if you are faced with the rare difficulty of ministering to a couple under these tragic circumstances. And since it is so close to my heart, I’ve decided to make an entire blog series out of this topic. I want to be thorough, and devote enough time to each point. So instead of writing one massive blog (which would end up like a mini book!), I will explain each point on a separate blog post. So, I have included the list below, just to give you some time to mull it over for a few days. Then………I’ll move on to deeper emphasis.

With that said, keep in mind that my words are flawed. They have no power to change anyone. Only God’s Holy Spirit can do that. All of us are imperfect, but Jesus Christ uses imperfect people to accomplish His will. My hope and prayer is that God would use something……anything……….I write to help you become more aware of this pressing need.
So, let’s get to it!

Parents of stillborn babies want you to know…………..

 

1. We want you to know that we are greatly suffering, and we need you to acknowledge this fact with words of compassion.

 
2. We want you to know that we love our babies as much as any other parent loves their own children.


3. We want you to use our baby’s name as much as possible. It is like beautiful music being played in our ears.


4. Just because we had only a very short time to bond with our baby (our lifeless baby), this does not make the grieving process easier. In some ways, it makes things harder.


5. 
We want you to know that we love talking about our babies as much as any other parent loves to talk about their own kids, and we want people to at least try to listen more when we do.


6. We want you to become more comfortable in conversation, and not change the subject so quickly whenever we talk about our precious babies. 


7. 
When we bring up in conversation that we had a stillborn, we want you to know that simply saying “I’m sorry” is a much better option than total, dismissive silence.


8. We want you to acknowledge the powerful bond that we have with our babies, and want you to refer to us as their parents.


9. We want you to ask questions about our baby (eye color, hair color, height, weight, did you get to hold the baby, did they look like mommy or daddy, do you have pics, etc.)

 

10. We want you to know that, even many years later, we still feel the loss and miss our babies very much.

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So there you have it. A little something to whet your appetite. Until next time, please be reflecting on these things. And as you do, remember that parents of stillborn babies do not expect you to be perfect in your dealings with them. We don’t expect you to “have it all together.” Death is hard, no matter who it involves. We know that you mean well, and you don’t want to hurt us. We know that sometimes all of us say the wrong thing. None of us are perfect. Only Christ is. And only by His strength can we put any of these principles into practice. I need His strength to minister to others as much as anyone. So above all things, do not neglect the Word of God. I’ll get more into that in the coming weeks.

So follow along with me, as I begin to go deeper on each point. Next time we meet I’ll be discussing Point #1 in depth: “We want you to know that we are greatly suffering, and we need you to acknowledge this fact with words of compassion.”

Stay tuned for much more in the coming days and weeks!

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Thank you so much for taking the time to read this! If you enjoy my articles, you can subscribe to this blog by email. It’s free!  And no spam at all! Simply find the box that says “Stay In Touch!!” and enter your email address. The box will be on your upper right (computer), or bottom part of your screen (phone). I appreciate your support!  (-:

Baby Girl, You Were Taken Too Soon!

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My baby girl, Ariana, was taken too soon.  She came into the world on February 20th, 2002.  And she exited the world on the same day.  She did not take a single breath outside the womb.  Before you read this poem, you will need to read her story.  Her story is my story.  And it is gut-wrenching.  So………..to really understand the depth of these words you are about to read, you will need to know what happened on that fateful day back in 2002.

In the years following Ariana’s death, I submitted several poems about her to the local newspaper in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.  Every year on her birthday, for about 5 years in a row, I wrote a poem for Ariana to be printed in the obituaries.  At the time, these were some of the rawest, most transparent emotions I’ve ever expressed about my precious little one.  Unfortunately, I lost all the copies I had of these poems!!  And I assumed they were lost forever.  I was having a very difficult time even finding archived copies of them online.

But……..thank God for my parents!!  They save just about everything, and they were able to locate 4 of the poems!!  And who knows, the 5th one may turn up one day.  For practical reasons, I decided to condense the 4 poems into 2.  Most of the original content is preserved.  However, to help with the flow, I did have to make some structural changes with a few extra words added at times.  So here you go………this poem is quite simple: the love of a daddy for his baby girl.  A baby girl taken too soon.  A baby girl daddy misses very much.  I chose the violet colored font as a reminder of her beautiful eyes!

 

           TAKEN TOO SOON

  You are like a bright star, baby girl, to whom I wish to fly,
  The love I have for you is the source of all those tears I cry.
  Your home is with Jesus now, in the glorious Heaven above,
  That thought to me is joyful and calming, as peaceful as a dove.

   You were taken too soon, Ariana, without a minute to spare,
   I’ve often thought how all of this just seems so unfair.
   But my memories of you are real, they are just like brand new,
   My thoughts of you are heartfelt and many, this poem is a clue.

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It’s been 14 years since I lost you, my beautiful little flower,
Since that day when I first saw you, it was my finest but darkest hour,
Since the day I saw those eyes, those beautiful violet eyes,
It was a sight so dazzling, like the sun setting over the ocean skies.

Some days are harder than others, sometimes I barely get by,
Remembering how badly I wanted to hear my baby cry.
You were pretty like a rose, and as tiny as a bunny,
I wouldn’t trade the time I had with you, for no amount of money.

 

 

They told us there would be some problems, that you might not be alright,
But they were wrong, Ariana, Daddy thinks you’re outta sight!
You’re with the Lord now, and I’m not sure if He lets you look down,
But if He did, I know that your smile would be able to light an entire town.

Remembering the day I lost you, although very tragic,
When I held you in my arms, it was pure magic.
I have not forgotten you, nor will I ever,
And the time will someday come, when we will be together.

Someday I will see your adorable face, and there will finally be cause to celebrate,
For now, you’ll live in my heart’s affections, and that will forever be your fate.

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Thank you so much for taking the time to read this! If you enjoy my articles, you can subscribe to this blog by email. It’s free!  And no spam at all! Simply find the box that says “Stay In Touch!!” and enter your email address. The box will be on your upper right (computer), or bottom part of your screen (phone). I appreciate your support!  (-:

 

 

 

I Wanted To Lay My Baby Girl In A Crib, Not A Casket

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“Is she dead?” was the question my baby’s mother asked.  The doctor had entered the room not long after we had the ultrasound.  She was a middle-aged doctor of Indian descent I believe.  “Yes, your baby is gone” was her reply in an empathetic, yet stable tone.  I can still picture the doctor’s face clearly.  I remember her glassy eyes.  I remember the conversation…..the very brief conversation.  And just like that, after about 38 weeks in the womb, Ariana was gone.  My daughter died.  And it felt like a part of me died as well.  You could not have painted a smile on my face.  You could have told me the funniest joke in the world, and my face would not have shown a single crinkle.  Like me, you probably laugh when someone tickles you.  It’s instinct.  You can’t even control it.  But I would not have laughed on this day.  Even smiling was unthinkable to me.

I remember being in the room physically, but I wasn’t really there.  You know how that feels, don’t you?  When answering the simplest question takes all of your mental faculties.  When your mind cannot process anything else except that one huge thing you are dealing with.  I wanted to wake up and realize it was all just a really horrific nightmare.  Have you ever felt this way?  Like you’re still holding out hope, even for the most far-fetched possibility.  When the odds of anything good happening  are impossible, but the end result seems so disturbing that you still hold on for a miracle.  That was me.  That was unsaved, professing believer me.  I wanted a miracle from a God I was enemies with.

The shock had just enough time to settle in and shake me to the core.  And after the truth hit home that all my worst fears were now realized, the doctor said something like, “Your baby will need to be delivered as soon as possible.”  I thought, “What?!  What do you mean ‘be delivered’?  She’s dead!  Today?!  NO!  I can’t see her like that.  I’m not ready for that!”  In the midst of all the stress and shock, I completely forgot that Ariana would need to be delivered as soon as possible.  Otherwise, it can cause great harm to the mother.  The nightmare, or should I say the harsh reality, had just begun.

During the previous months, I bonded with my baby girl.  I had already felt her kick several times.  I was also with her during many ultrasound appointments.  And there were numerous appointments with specialists.  You see, Ariana was a Down Syndrome baby.  And when you are pregnant with a Down Syndrome baby, there are a whole slew of things that need to be monitored.  So I already knew this was going to be a difficult nine months.  What I did not know was how difficult it would become.  Life would never be the same after our ultrasound appointment on February 19th, 2002.  My dead baby girl had to be delivered.  I wanted to be there so bad…….more than anything, but yet I also wanted to avoid it like the plague.  Has there ever been an event in your life like this?  Where you were hating the very thought of it, and looking forward to it at the same time?  It’s impossible to explain, isn’t it?

I’m a little fuzzy about what happened once the meeting with the doctor was over.  If memory serves me, I believe they said it was best for us to leave and come back the next morning.  I can’t quite remember where I drove to afterwards, or how I was even able to drive.  But wherever it was, I had to stop and pull over to let out a pool of tears.  I couldn’t bear the thought of anyone seeing me in the state I was in.  My system was still shocked, and only a tiny hint of reality was beginning to sink in.  But the next day reality would rush in full force…….with no mercy.

The hospital staff scheduled us for delivery the day after the ultrasound.  It was February 20th, 2002.  I don’t think I got a wink of sleep the night before.  How do you sleep when they tell you your baby girl is dead at roughly 38 weeks?  How do you sleep when they tell you that you must return the next day so they can induce labor, in order to deliver your baby girl……..who I already know is dead?  You don’t sleep.  You don’t laugh.  You don’t feel.  And you can barely even think.  You wander around is some sort of stupor.  And you still keep wondering when you’re going to wake up from the nightmare.  When people talk to you, all you hear are jumbled words.  You are not in a state of mind where you can concentrate very well on complete sentences.  Heck, I was still trying to process the sentence “Your baby is gone.”  I still can’t quite process it even to this day.  And it’s been 14 years.

 

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When they know that your baby will be stillborn, they normally have to induce labor.  So we knew that Ariana’s delivery would be soon, but time would tell exactly when it would happen.  As hours went by, I kept wondering what my dead baby girl will look like.  Will I recoil at the sight?  Will I be able to contain myself enough to hold her?   Will the hospital staff let me hold her?  Will I faint?  Will there be a miracle?  Will God do this for me, just this once?!”  **  Will He make my baby live again?  Does God still bring dead people back to life?  My brain frantically tried to process all these questions at once.  Nothing mattered except her.  All other things didn’t just take a backseat, they were left on the highway 100 miles back.

As someone who’s always struggled with anxiety disorders, I was way beyond my tolerance threshold.  I wanted so much to hold my baby girl, and to see her very first smile.  To hear her first coo.  To change her first diaper.  I’m guessing that most new fathers try not to think about their first diaper.  But for some reason, when you know your baby is dead, you would give anything for the opportunity to change that first stinky mess.  Even the burden of knowing she had Down Syndrome seemed like such a minor issue compared to death!  And then the envy started.  Why are other daddies leaving with their baby girls to go home?  Why not me?   Why am I waiting for a dead baby?  Lord, Please Help!  Why Is My Baby’s Birthday Also Her Death-day?  This is not fair!!  This floor is called the birth wing, but for Ariana it’s a death wing?  Of course, I didn’t get any answers then, and I still don’t have any.

I couldn’t eat.  Food was detestable to me.  For the first time I can remember, I had no appetite…….period.  But somehow I managed to scarf down a quick meal.  I don’t know how.  Maybe because it had been nearly a day that I hadn’t eaten, and I was starting to feel weak.  I’m really not sure.  In fact, all the good things that I normally enjoy seemed so distant to me.  Just a blank stare on my face is all I could muster.  I looked like an empty stoic.  This was deceptive though, because I was anything but unfeeling.  My emotions were being ripped apart.  My heart was breaking.  There is no right or wrong way to feel devastated.  Grief takes many forms.  It goes through many changes.  Never judge someone’s grief by what you see on the outside.  Our bodies and minds are just too complex for that.

I wasn’t detached emotionally.  Perish the thought.  It’s just that sometimes your body doesn’t know what to do with your grief.  Your emotions are somehow so shocked, and yet so guarded all at once.  It is like being paralyzed on the inside.  You just sort of go numb.  Losing a baby can be sort of like a fight or flight syndrome for your emotions.  Instead of adrenaline pumping, muscle tensing, steadfast alertness to danger, your body seems to push everything to your emotional core.  I didn’t know what to do with it all.  I didn’t even want to be around anyone.  I just wanted to go home with my baby girl…….like all the other fathers on the birth wing were doing.  Instead, I went home with a lock of Ariana’s hair, a couple of her tiny footprints, and some pictures and memories of her severely bruised face and blood red lips.

But I don’t regret those moments.  I would show up at her birth again if I could go back in time.  She was hard to look at, but I couldn’t take my eyes away from her either.  And in the midst of all the redness and bruises, there was beauty.  And I mean true beauty!  It was her eyes!  I wish you all could’ve seen them.  I wish I could accurately describe them, but I’ll never do them complete justice if I try.  But I will brag though.  Aren’t daddies allowed to brag a little about their baby girl?  Even when they die?  Her eyes were violet.  Yes, violet!  And I mean Elizabeth Taylor violet.  And just like Elizabeth Taylor, no contacts were needed.  Ariana was beautiful!  Bragging?  Yes, absolutely.  Exaggerating?  No, absolutely not.

Now back to the painful stuff.  I didn’t get a birth certificate.  Pennsylvania did not even recognize stillborn births at that time.  Thankfully, that law has changed.  But the moment can never be redone.  And even if I had taken home a Birth Certificate, that slip of paper doesn’t quite fill your crib.  It doesn’t cry at 3am wanting a feeding.  It doesn’t poop.  And it doesn’t have Down Syndrome either.  But you know what…….. stinky diapers, insomnia and chromosomal disorders are precious gifts when seen from the right perspective.

After waiting for several agonizing hours, and trying not to get too excited about my baby’s birth, they finally said, “IT’S TIME!!”  It is strangely surreal, because you still get excited!  You think, “I am going to be a daddy!”  YES!!  But then, all of a sudden you feel like you shouldn’t be excited.  Why?  Because you know, soon after delivery, you will be burying your baby girl.  How can you be excited when such an appalling prospect looms?  I don’t know the answer.  But you still have this sort of joy because your child is about to be born.  She was still my child.  No matter what.  I cannot explain this.  And I hope none of you reading this ever experience the exact feeling I’m referring to.  No one should ever have to.  It’s a fallen world……a cursed earth……..babies should not be stillborn.  I digress.

During the birthing process, there are brief moments when you forget the impending sorrow.  I probably felt the same adrenaline flow of any other father-to-be.  Remember how I told you earlier that I dreaded this very moment from happening.  And, at the same time, I wanted to be there more than anything in the world.  Well, you could not have pried me out of that room with a crowbar.  Perhaps I was still hoping that somehow God would bring her back to life.  Perhaps I just wanted to see my baby girl…….even though she would be dead.

I remember watching those all-too-real videos during the birth classes.  I remember hearing other parents of newborns describe how messy things can get.  Sometimes they say that new daddies even faint at the sight of all the grossness.  I have heard stories like this.  I don’t doubt they are true.  But I think sometimes they must be fainting because of joy they can’t contain.  That is my theory anyway.  Maybe it’s a combination of both.  But I do know this: when your dead baby is headed through the birth canal and you see her tiny little head, gross doesn’t bother you.  When you know that you will only be with her for a very short time, gross doesn’t bother you.  When you know you’ll be picking out a casket for her the next day, gross doesn’t bother you. 

Sure enough, Ariana was on her way.  I cried when I first saw the top of her head.  And I cried even more when she was all the way out.  Were my tears joy or were they pain?  Have you ever been unable to tell whether you were happy or sad, or both?!  I got to do some of the things other daddies do when their babies are born.  So much so that I almost forgot.  So much going on that I almost forgot……….forgot how sad I was supposed to feel.  Can you believe that?  Yes, for brief moments you forget that you are not taking her home with you.  Everything seems so natural, until you see the collapsed skull and black and blue face.  She didn’t cry.  I never wanted to hear someone cry so bad in all my life.  Seems like a strange thing to say, doesn’t it?  But……. she didn’t cry.  Everyone else did.  God performed no miracles.  No happy ending here.

I remember when I first held her.  She was so tiny.  18 inches, 5.8 pounds.  The nurse showed me how to hold her and protect her head.  And you know what, I followed her advice exactly as she told me.  I dotted every “I” and crossed every “T”.  I was so afraid of hurting her head.  I know, I know.  She was dead.  But in those moments after birth, you don’t act like your baby’s dead.  By instinct, you protect them as best you can.  Her body was so flimsy too.  I held her so tightly.  I didn’t want to let her go.  Ever.

There are many other things too painful to describe.  I’ll spare you most of them.  But one thing really stands out in my memory.  Her lips were crimson red.  They say this is due to depletion of oxygen, and also blood pooling after death.  It was really odd though.  It didn’t look messy.  It didn’t look weird.  It looked kind of cute.  You may think that’s weird.  Maybe it is weird.  But it’s my story.  And again, I can’t explain it.  I remember cradling her tightly in my arms and saying: “Now Ariana, I told you that you are not allowed to wear lipstick until you’re 14.”  The nurse smiled.

Then, they gave her a short bath.  I got to hold her, as did the mother.  I got to cut the cord too.  Yes….the cord.  That precious life-giving line of blood to my baby.  How ironic is that? How cruel it felt!  That same life-giving cord was the very instrument of her death.  It was wrapped twice around her tiny little ankle…… very tightly wrapped.  Baby Ariana was too strong.  She was too energetic.  I wanted to ask her why?  Little girl, why did you have to kick so much?!  Why would you put all of us through this?  I know, I know, ridiculous.  Not her fault.  She didn’t know.

It’s all a product of the fall of Adam.  And yes, God ordained my baby’s death.  He allowed it.  He decreed it.  It all had, and still has, a purpose.  God knows.  I do not.  But I do know this: human rebellion is devastating.  Babies die because of it.  Sometimes they die before you ever hear them cry.  And all of this stuff happens because Adam and Eve ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  God told them not to.  And He meant it.  At that moment, I wonder if they realized just how much pain they plunged the world into.  From that point on, there would be sickness, pain, grief, death, and of course, more sin.  Because of that one wicked act, parents have to sometimes bury little babies.  Yes, sin is that destructive.  God is that holy.

Just how destructive is sin?  Well, I’ll just say it like this.  The day after Ariana’s birth I had to walk into a funeral home and say, “Hello, I’m  here to pick out a casket for my baby girl.”  That is not the way things should be.  That is not the way things were originally created to be.  That’s what sin has done to us.  That’s how devastating it is.

I wanted to lay my little girl in a crib, not a casket.  I should have been playing with her. Instead I had to bury her.  No more could I look into her beautiful violet eyes.  But one day………yes……a day is coming!

Until we meet again, Ariana, I love you.  There will be no bruises the next time I see you.  And that is something daddy can smile about!

 

 

** (See above for this reference note. It is in the paragraph right below the picture of Ariana’s grave site.  Below is the explanation.)

I was not a Christian at the time. I named the Name of Christ, but I was not truly redeemed.  I didn’t go to the Scriptures for comfort.  I am pretty certain that I prayed……albeit briefly.  And even though I prayed, it was as a false convert indulging in a life of sin.  Even so, God is sovereign, and He could have shown mercy and let my baby live, if He had chosen to.  But it would not have been so much an answer to my prayer, as it would have been God simply being gracious and kind to me and the mother of my child.  In the end, it is all about what glorifies Him.  Even if He had chosen to preserve Ariana’s life, and given me such an amazing gift, I would have shamefully celebrated the gift over the Giver.  It would have been her over and above Him.  I am not even sure how much I would have thanked Him for saving her life……..had He chosen to do so.

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Thank you so much for taking the time to read this! If you enjoy my articles, you can subscribe to this blog by email. It’s free!  And no spam at all! Simply find the box that says “Stay In Touch!!” and enter your email address. The box will be on your upper right (computer), or bottom part of your screen (phone). I appreciate your support!  (-:

 

I Had a Stillborn Baby. Will You Ever Acknowledge Her?

 

“So…..how many kids do you have?”  or the more common “Do you have kids?” are pretty straightforward questions for most people.  These questions do not normally cause us to struggle to provide a satisfying answer.  But for me and many others, it is a question loaded with all sorts of emotion and complexity.  When I am asked that question today, I want to answer with “My baby girl would be 14.”  But most of the time, I do not say this.  Instead, I feel constrained to simply say “none.”  And then right after this, I shamefully lament of what I feel is unmitigated cruelty toward my daughter.  Cruelty, how??  By pretending she doesn’t exist.  Why?  So that others won’t hurt me by what they say, or more often what they don’t say.

My daughter’s childbirth forever changed me.  And I never even got to see her smile, or to hear her laugh or cry.  But yet, I prepared for her birth the same as anyone else would when they are expecting a child.  I bought her presents, I painted her room pink, and I put together her crib.  We had a registry.  A baby shower was thrown.  And if Facebook had existed back then, I am quite certain I would have put my baby’s ultrasound pics up on my wall.  I was ecstatic to one day see my baby girl!  And I eventually did see her.  But I never saw her alive.

I know this is a difficult topic to read about, whether you have lost a child or not.  I chose the image of a headstone for this article for good reason.  I wanted the reality to sink in- even just a tiny bit– for what parents of dead babies have been through, and are currently going through.  Life is hard and tragic.  The fall of Adam caused a ripple effect too disturbing to believe sometimes.  And having a stillborn baby is one part of that ripple effect that I, and others, have experienced up close and personal.

For those of you who have had a stillborn child, you know this feeling of despair all too well.  And maybe even worse, you know how painful it is when people will not even acknowledge the pain and grief you go through.  You, like me, ask yourself a thousand times why they won’t even ask the baby’s name.  “Do they not realize that stillborn babies have names??!!” is what you repeat over and over in your mind.  You often think back to the very moments when people had golden opportunities to acknowledge your baby, and they did not.  “Why won’t they at least say ‘I’m so sorry for your loss.'”??   You feel very strongly that, if you told them your child lived to be a teenager and then died, that they would act very differently about it.  They would show empathy.  And rightly they should.  There are no words to describe the devastation of losing a child, whether the child is a baby, a teen, or a full grown adult.  This isn’t about having a “who’s grieved more?” competition.  It is simply to say that ALL parents who have lost children grieve.  No matter what the age of the child is.

If you don’t believe me, watch a mother sometime who has just had an abortion exiting the building when she’s finished.  Look at her face.  She is grieving.  Yes, even though she made a choice to end the baby’s life, watch her face closely as she walks to her car.  The grief and devastation are written all over her face, along with guilt of course.  I have seen this firsthand.  I am speaking from experience.  I have talked to some of these women on the sidewalks of abortion clinics.  Their grief is real.  They just lost a human baby.  And they know it.

For anyone reading this who has lost a child at any age, empathy and compassion is what you want most from people.  You want them to feel for you.  To imagine what it must be like, as best they can.  And when you don’t get it, my heart goes out to you.  I’ve been there.  I’m not comparing my grief to yours.  I’m just saying that I have experienced the feeling of holding a dead child in my arms.  And for all you parents of stillborn children, I know what it’s like to have to pick out a gravestone when others are picking out onesies.  I know the dread of going to the funeral home, and having to pick out the right sized casket. Then……….having to go home to an empty crib.

This certainly isn’t an indictment against everyone who’s ever interacted with a parent who has lost a child.  Trust me, I realize that it can be really hard to know what to say to people who are grieving.  And I thank the Lord that He has given us many compassionate members of the body of Christ, in order to bring hope and encouragement to others dealing with tragedy.  People who think before they speak.  People who try to walk in your shoes before they jump the gun.  People who don’t stay silent, when they know silence would be worse.  And I am quite sure that there are non-believers who have walked the road of suffering to the point that they care deeply for the tragic circumstances of others.  I admit that I am speaking quite a bit from my experiences here.  But if this is something I’ve experienced quite often over a period of 14 years, then it is reasonable for me to believe that many others in my situation have similar difficulties.

The angry side of me wants to confront every thoughtless or ill-timed word directed toward me.  But even more, I want to lash out against every painstaking silence I have suffered through, from those who decide not to say anything at all and instead just change the subject of conversation.  “She doesn’t deserve the coldness!!” is what I want to shout at everyone who ever failed to acknowledge her existence.  She is a person who existed fully alive for 9 months in the womb, and will continue to exist forevermore.  She is every bit my child as any other child is to their own parents.  But yet, the responses of most people are too insensitive and unpredictable for me to mention her every time I want to…….which is all the time.  Did you catch that?  I, and every other parent of a stillborn, want to mention our babies all the time.  

If you are a parent, think about how often you want to mention your kids in conversations with others.  I mean, really think on it.  Ok, now, that amount is just about the same for parents of stillborn babies.  But because our babies did not live outside of the womb, somewhere along the way it was determined to mean that we don’t really grieve that long, or that hard, over our loss.  This is a destructive mindset that will end compassion before it ever begins.  It is much easier to have compassion when you learn something about a person’s situation and really feel for them.  You listen to them.  You bear their burdens. And you don’t try to figure out how you think they should feel.

So………..let me tell you a little about my baby girl, Ariana.

It was February 19th, 2002.  The woman performing the ultrasound wouldn’t say anything.  Really, she wasn’t being rude or anything.  I really don’t think they’re allowed to say much at all.  I suppose they often don’t want to say anything. “You’ll have to wait to talk to the doctor,” she said, somewhat calm and detached but with a slight hint of sensitivity.  I never even asked her any questions.  I guess she just assumed that questions were coming.  I was looking at the ultrasound screen and saw Ariana, my baby girl at about 37 weeks.  She had stopped kicking for about a day, and we wanted to see what was going on.  As I continued to stare at that screen, I can still picture it in my mind as clear as if it were yesterday.  She was lying flat.  I didn’t know why this was.  “Do babies sleep in the womb?” was a thought that crossed my mind at the time.  “Do they get physically tired sometimes and just lie still?”  I was hoping either of these were the case.  But……I heard no heartbeat either.

But I started feeling my heartrate thump.  Fidgeting like crazy.  Eyes darting around the room.  Breathing faster and faster.  I didn’t know what to say, so I didn’t say anything.  “Move baby girl!!”  “Move, please!!!!”  “Just kick, kick, PLEASE kick, PLEASE GOD MAKE HER KICK!!!”  Somehow I stayed composed enough to only shout inside my own head.  No one heard but me.  And God of course.  I was a professing Christian, but I wasn’t saved.  So I don’t know really.  All I know is that Ariana would not listen to the first command I ever gave her.  “Kick, little baby, kick!!!!”  “You have to move!!!”  “You just have to!!”  “I want to play with you.”  “I am terrible at putting things together, but I finished your crib.”  “I painted your room pink, really bright pink.”  I don’t like pink, but it was for her- not me.  She didn’t listen to her daddy.  She would not move.  Her heart would not beat.  I didn’t want to look at the screen any longer.  I couldn’t look my baby’s mother in the eye.  I wanted the nightmare to end.  At any moment, I was waiting for the soothing words of the technician to say, “Oh, and by the way, it’s quite normal for the baby to lie still with no sign of movement.  And the heartbeat, don’t worry about that either.  Sometimes our equipment barely picks up even the faintest sound of the baby’s heart.”  But the technician was eerily silent.  And it was deafening.

Then the technician left.  She left.  Walked out.  She said, “Be right back.”  I don’t know how long she was gone.  My posture became tense and my mind was pacing rapidly.  It was like tunnel vision or something.  Everything else in the world just shut off.  Paralyzing thoughts entered my mind.  She finally came back in, after what seemed to be an eternity.  Ironically, I was hoping she wouldn’t come back in………..ever.  Have you ever purposely stalled when you knew someone was soon going to give you really horrific news?  You can only delay so long before you have to face reality.  You know that the truth is going to be scary.  “The doctor is ready for you,” she said matter-of-factly, almost in the same way she would tell any other couple.  But as far as I can remember, we weren’t even supposed to see the doctor.  I don’t think we were even scheduled for it.  But then, all of a sudden, we had to walk to the doctor’s office to see what this was all about.  I was like Sean Penn on his way to lethal injection in the movie Dead Man Walking, as I gingerly staggered my way to her office………hesitation with every step.  Inside I felt something unlike anything I had ever felt before.  Just moments away……my heart thumping, louder and louder.  My eyes dart around the hallways of the hospital, but yet I see nothing.  I am unable to focus my attention for a single solitary second.

Then, my baby’s mother asks, “Is she dead?”  The doctor nodded up and down, “Yes, she’s gone.”  Joy and tranquility were sucked out of me like a vacuum.  Little did I know that it would get worse.  It would get worse, because many people would not acknowledge my stillborn.  And to a lesser degree, the problem still exists today.  And by lesser degree I simply mean that time has helped me to cope a little better.  God saved me in 2007, and He has graciously given me comfort from His Word.  And in 2008, He graciously gave me my wife Leah, who has been an amazing source of compassion to me.  She even suggested visiting Ariana’s gravesite together when we visited my family.  And she went with me and held my hand.  My immediate family back in Pennsylvania has also been a great source of love.  They always remember my baby girl.  They know how special she is.

All of this matters.  It really matters.  Every time someone acknowledges Ariana’s value as a person created in the image of God, it matters.  Every time someone imagines what it would be like to never get the chance to see your baby girl smile……..not even once, it matters.  It matters to me, and to many thousands of parents who suffer from the way others respond to the loss of our baby boy or girl.

My daughter’s birth really mattered to me.  It was the only day I would ever hold her.

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Thank you so much for taking the time to read this! If you enjoy my articles, you can subscribe to this blog by email. It’s free!  And no spam at all! Simply find the box that says “Stay In Touch!!” and enter your email address. The box will be on your upper right (computer), or bottom part of your screen (phone). I appreciate your support!  (-:

 


 

 

 

On Our Knees: Nice Needs Our Prayers

 

Oh Kind and Sovereign Lord………..

Please comfort and assist the people of France, for they have been through terror after terror,
And we cannot speculate as to why You have allowed another massacre, for we would only come to error.
My Lord, what makes it even worse is that these people were still reeling from the vicious assault in November,
When many were gunned down in cold blood, a night their citizens will always remember.

What a tragic and disturbing reality when any of Your creation defies You, by shedding innocent blood,
When thinking of those precious children who died in the streets, our tears could produce a flood.
My God, may You have mercy on the nation of France, bringing them love, hope, safety and peace,
And may You cause all nations to pray for them, that You would give strength and stability to the beautiful city of Nice.

Oh how ironic Lord, that as they were celebrating their freedom from tyranny on Bastille Day,
That now, a worse tyrant — called fear — will try to mock that very freedom, while taking their joy away.
But Lord, we know that You can do all things, and we ask that You would cause your servants in that land to bring the hope of the Good News,
To all of the confused and hurting souls, that they would cling to the One who knew the tyranny of the cross……. and yet that was the end He would choose.

Dear Heavenly Father, we saw the surreal horror of an evil man running people over, killing them, and hurting many others,
But we know that You saw it too, and that You abhor murder to a degree that we cannot even fathom; it is You who commands mankind to love one another.
So my prayer, with all of the saints, is that You would demonstrate your great compassion on France, and shine Your glorious face upon the land and citizens of Nice,
Saving those who are lost, healing the wounded, comforting the victim’s families, and causing sacrificial love to be on the increase.

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Thank you for taking the time to read this!  (-:  If you enjoy my articles, you can subscribe to this blog by email.  It’s free!  And no spam at all!  Please see the box on the upper right part of the page.  I appreciate your support.

 

 

To Try On Another’s Shoe: Learning To Empathize With The Suffering

shoes-1917927_1280

 

I don’t know what it’s like……………..

To be in a nightclub dancing and talking with my friends, while hearing loud gunfire go Boom Boom Boom,
To know at any moment I will meet a brutal end, while taking my final, desperate refuge inside of a bathroom.
To receive a text message from my loved one, saying that a terrorist is nearby and on a killing spree,
To know I’ll never see my boy again, or text him my love; that terrorist Omar Mateen would let no one go free.

I don’t know what it’s like……………..

To be in the car seated next to my loved one, then all of a sudden………….. I’m watching him bleed,
To see his arm slowly dangle and body language slow down; his movements all steadily losing speed.
To believe that he was justified in all of his actions, and knowing that his telling of the story will never be heard,
While agonizing over and over again, that my loved one Philando will never utter another word.

I don’t know what it’s like……………..

To leave my home and go to work every day, thinking of the possibility I might not return,
To put on a uniform and badge of honor, knowing that I want to honor God at every turn.
To do my best to uphold the law and honor my calling, and yet have people still call me the most vile of names…………
To have them want me dead, because of the perceived wrongs of some others in my profession; yet we’re here to protect you, we have no time for hateful games.

SO………

Before we Facebook, before we Tweet, before we speak, and before we decide what we think is the best thing to do,
Remember that empathy is key, patience and kindness a necessity, and love is everything……. when we imagine what it would be like to try on another’s shoe.

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Thank you for taking the time to read this!  (-:  If you enjoy my articles, you can subscribe to this blog by email.  It’s free!  And no spam at all!  Please see the box on the upper right part of the page.  I appreciate your support.

 

 

 

 

 

Christians, Let Us Never Forget the 49

 

For several reasons, I took a little break from writing over the last few weeks.  Mainly because I was trying to see exactly what direction to go in for my next post.  And yes, I was lazy with mind and keyboard also.  I had to be honest with that.  But I also have been in the midst of a brief series on the topic of fear, and I wanted to wait to see how I might approach the topic this time around.  However, I am moved to write on something that is long overdue, and that much ink has been spilled on.  This particular tragedy in Orlando has been on my heart a lot lately.  It has taken me a few weeks to write on it, because it has been hard to process the proper way to respond.  It has been difficult not to be influenced by much of what I have read.  Not that every influence was bad or anything, just that I wanted to be honest in sharing my own perspective.  I wanted my mind to be as clear as possible, so as not to be insensitive or to comment on things that are secondary to the matter of grieving families and community.

Of course, this tragedy is on many people’s hearts all over the country.  And rightly so.  Every tragedy should be remembered and grieved over.  Grief is universal.  It affects everyone……male or female, gay or straight, young or old, Christian, Hindu, Muslim, or atheist.  Everyone, at some level, grieves.  Sometimes for the right things, sometimes for the wrong things.  This one should break our hearts.  After all, the Orlando shooting was the worst massacre in US history, committed by a man named Omar Mateen. 

What happened at the Pulse Nightclub around 2am on Sunday June 12th should bring us to tears, and to our knees.  That should be our immediate reaction when we think of Orlando.  For Christians who are reading this, didn’t we all grieve last year on June 26th when the Supreme Court made their Landmark Decision on gay marriage being a Constitutional right?  And yes, we believe in the sanctity of marriage between one man and one woman, and so we should.  The Bible clearly teaches it.  But should we not also grieve even more for real people created in the image of the Holy One?  None of us have forgotten about the Supreme Court Decision.  And so we shouldn’t.  But brothers and sisters, let us not forgot Orlando.  Let us not forget the LGBTQ community.  Yes, the sanctity of marriage is an important issue for discussion.  It is important for our children and society at large.  But while realizing this, we must also remember that gay people are living, breathing individuals whose families and communities are suffering great loss right now.

This is not a universal rebuke against Christians, as though believers are not mourning over this horrific event.  Many believers are grieving.  This is simply a warning to us all, Christians and others who oppose gay marriage.  The warning is this: let us be careful that important issues do not take such preference in our lives that we end up forgetting to love human beings in the process.  The throne of God must be approached for these victim’s loved ones.  And I believe that, in doing so, our hearts will be more ready to reach out to them in acts of love.  And we’ll be more prepared to offer them the hope of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  For more perspective on how we should respond to the LGBT community, please listen to RC Sproul in this interview.  His church is about a half hour away from the Pulse Nightclub.

Christians, we need to grieve wholeheartedly for the LGBTQ community.  And I mean really, really grieve.  How?  By praying, giving, and being careful with our rhetoric by speaking the truth in love (see Ephesians 4:15).  What I fear is that somehow, in the midst of arguments on gun control, immigration, and even marriage rights, that we are forgetting to grieve.  49 people created in the image of God have died.  They have died in a very violent manner.  They were scared.  Really, really scared.  Their families know this, and they have to live with that knowledge.  Their children are not coming home anymore.  Let this sink in.  Pray for their loved ones……….brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, friends, and their gay partners.  They all have lost someone they love and care about.  I know that I have failed to soak them in prayer the way that God calls us to.  Let us try to imagine what these victims, pictured here, were truly going through.  Please, click on the link to see pictures of the victims.  It will be a heartfelt, sobering reminder of the preciousness of human life.  They were like me and you in so many ways.  They worked hard, they had hobbies, they had cares and concerns, and like us, wanted to be able to visit a public place without fear of being murdered.  A brutal terrorist named Omar Mateen ended all of their future hopes, plans and joys.

Beloved Christians, let us not forget June 26th 2015, as we know that God was grieved because of that Supreme Court decision.  But brothers and sisters, let us be careful not to let Obergefell choke out our love for Orlando.  Yes, we must speak the truth on marriage.  We must call sin what it is.  At the same time, we must choose our words carefully and make sure our timing is right.  We must have a tenderness about us as Christians that is easy to notice.  Jesus addressed many broken people in the gospels, especially women who were sexually broken.  And He always did it with love.  He had a soft heart for broken sinners.  Let us follow His example.  Beloved, I hope and pray that June 12th, 2016 is etched in our memories for the rest of our lives, so that we never forget the 49.

If you are gay and are reading this post, thank you for taking the time.  I appreciate you and your comments, even if you don’t agree with everything I believe.

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Thank you for taking the time to read this!  (-:  If you enjoy my articles, you can subscribe to this blog by email.  It’s free!  And no spam at all!  Please see the box on the upper right part of the page.  I appreciate your support.