Tuesday, January 20, 2015

More Than Enough

by Bethany Conkel

I did not know what to expect or even what to hope for. All I knew is I wanted our time together to be perfect. I wanted to fit a lifetime of memories into one day, knowing that was probably all we would get.

I worried and wondered.

I planned and prayed.

I quietly questioned.

I had meetings and created documents to ensure everything would be just so. I did my best to fight for you! I wanted to make sure if you only felt one thing, that it would be my love.

What I didn’t know, sweetheart, was the fact that I did not have to try to create perfection. You were already perfect and nothing else would matter. The moment they placed you in my arms my heart was filled to overflowing. Everything but you seemed to fade into the distance. My plans, my worries, my questions… all of them were gone. 

It was just you. 

As I gazed at you, joy permeated my being. You were so much more than I could have ever imagined, hoped for, or expected.

I thought I would have to fight for the chance to let you feel my love. Looking back, I know you already HAD felt my love long before you were ever placed in my arms! And on that day, love is all you ever felt. Love enveloped us both, uniting us as mother and child.

I thought having the day mapped out and choreographed would ensure that I could have memories to cherish down the road. But, the fact is, each moment I held you in my arms is a memory that will forever be embedded on my heart. Feeling you on my chest, holding your hand in mine, and looking at your sweet face are things that I treasure far beyond anything that I could have planned or created. Taking snapshots in my mind of family and friends loving on you far exceeded the activities I thought were necessary to preserve the day.

Although my plans made some things simpler, and while I do love the physical items that were created to remember you by, the fact is those things were just extras. 

You, my love, were more than enough!

Dear Momma –

As you carry your baby, I encourage you, please plan and prepare. Doing so is both healthy and helpful. But as you do so, keep in mind, on that day, your baby will be more than enough! Enjoy the time leading up to your delivery; do not get caught up in the stress of trying to make things perfect. Once your little one is in your arms the rest will just be minor details. Plan to love your baby, plan to be smitten with his smile, plan to get caught up in each moment she is with you. Cherish your time together – whether that is minutes, hours, or days – soak in each moment. Looking back, you will realize you have some amazing moments to treasure the rest of your life.

With Care –
Amalya’s Momma
~ ~ ~

Bethany Conkel lives in Ohio and is married to her wonderful husband, Eric. She is the mommy to two amazing children – one who is in heaven, the other here on earth. Bethany carried her precious son, Amalya Nathaniel (meaning: “work of the Lord”, “given by God”) to term after receiving the diagnosis of anencephaly when she was 11 weeks pregnant. Amalya lived for 1 hour and 20 minutes before taking hold of the Lord’s hand. After he passed, his liver, pancreas, and whole body were donated to scientific research. Bethany has since created a website about neonatal organ, tissue, and whole body donation called Purposeful Gift to help other families explore the option of donation. She is also a certified Birth and Bereavement Doula through Stillbirthday.com and serves with Sufficient Grace Ministries.

Monday, January 5, 2015

I Labored Too

I've begun to notice something with stillbirth and fatal diagnoses; people tend to assume we don't labor. I'm not sure what it is or why people think that if your precious angel has died in the womb or has a small chance of survival, we as mamas don't have to go through labor. Many assume or forget and speak about labor as if you haven't experienced it or give advice for labor on a subsequent pregnancy.

Now I don't blame anyone whatsoever for this thought process because yes, it does seem cruel or horrific for a mother to go through the pains and hardships of labor when her precious baby has died or may die soon after birth. This is just a belief that would make sense and for someone who has never experienced the horror of losing a child or been close to someone who has, it's a comfortable thought. It makes things seem less messy. It makes things just a tiny bit 'easier' to believe. At one point, I read by another child-loss mama that people think it is a clean, surgical procedure. I'm here to tell you, it's anything but clean and easy. All of us who have experienced this can vouch for that and just like any other mom, we each had a very different birth, none of which were anywhere close to 'easy'.

My birth with Gianna lasted five days. Thankfully, the hospital staff was absolutely incredible and actually picked up shifts/worked doubles so the same ones could stay with us throughout our birth. Now THAT'S compassion! They honored my wishes to keep things as natural as possible through the whole process and let me labor in the shower, on the birthing ball, go take a walk, or keep the lights dimmed with relaxing music. Not to mention my wonderful doula teaching my eager husband how to apply counter pressure on my lower back during the worst of my contractions (I had dreadful back labor!). I could truly go on for hours about my birth experience with Gianna, but one thing is sure, once she was here, everything was ok in that moment.

She arrived quietly into the world, butt first, to the background piano music of Ave Maria, one of my favorite songs.

Even though I had an amazing support team (which not every mama is blessed with, unfortunately), it was the most grueling days of my life. Not because of the physical pains of labor, but the mental aspect. The first night, after the news of her passing, was the hardest emotionally. Even when we know our baby has a life-limiting condition, it doesn't make his or her passing any easier-not in the slightest.

I am birthing my dead baby.

That's the reality.

But you should remember that this is something you and your precious angel will conquer together. Another experience, a memory, you have as a mother and child. You can speak to your baby, even if he or she has already passed. Find comfort in knowing your angel can hear you from somewhere. I spoke with Gianna when I was alone laboring in the shower at the hospital after she already passed. It gave me so much peace to spend that quality time with my baby in my womb right before she was born.

And if you're blessed with precious time with your angel here on earth, cherish every moment. Even if it's just a few minutes.

Just know dear, sweet mama, that we understand the pains of labor you are about to endure when your child comes. We understand the agony of birthing your beautiful child who will pass shortly after birth, or a special angel who has passed warm in his or her mothers womb. I'm not here to tell you it'll be easy or clean or quick or simple. Unfortunately, it'll be anything but. Aside from all the hardship, we can embrace our birth journey. We can embrace every pain, every feeling. Above all else, we can embrace the time we get (which includes time that your darling baby is comfortable in your womb).

We gave birth, and it was grueling, painful, emotional, draining, and absolutely, positively, breathtakingly beautiful.

~ ~ ~

Christine Russo is a wife to an amazing, supportive husband, and a mommy to Angel Gianna Marie, her first child. She carried Gianna after receiving a fatal diagnosis halfway into her pregnancy. Through the love and spirit of their special daughter, who means the world to them, they wish to help support other families who have to say goodbye to a piece of their heart.
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