September 5, 2002, my life changed forever. That was the day I found out my baby died. I had no idea the journey that was ahead of me...
My husband, Robert and I found out we were expecting a baby in early July 2002 and excitedly told our 4 other children over breakfast at Denny’s. There were mixed responses from our oldest 20-year-old, engaged daughter to our youngest 7-year-old little girl who was afraid of being “dethroned”. We are a blended family with the “his”, “hers”, and “ours” complications that go along with creating a new family unit and then adding to it. But after the initial surprise, everyone was happy and looking forward to the new addition to our family.
Around 8 weeks along, I began spotting but never really thought much of it – I just never ever thought it could happen to me. I had an ultrasound to make sure everything was fine. And they assured me it was. I heard the baby’s heartbeat and had pictures. So, when I went in again at 11 weeks after more spotting, I was stunned by the nurse’s words, “Well, we’re not seeing what we would normally see….” It hit me like a ton of bricks. I’ll never forget the image of the black hole on the monitor as she moved the wand over my belly.
I was shaking and crying as I tried to get dressed. I called my husband who immediately came to the doctor’s office to be with me. We decided to schedule a D&C for the next morning. I was handed a very clinical brochure the morning of the surgery which briefly described the medical procedure. Afterward, I felt so empty – figuratively and literally. I was surprised at the intensity of my emotions and the deep sense of loss I felt. For weeks I alternated between crying and numbness and even with loving and supportive family & friends, I still felt very alone in my grief. I spent many tear-filled hours reading others’ stories on the internet and voraciously read everything I could on miscarriages and infant death. All the while, I felt compelled to do something about the emptiness of it all.
The idea of Heaven Born emerged in my mind and as an artist, I began to visualize the logo and found the perfect poem to combine with it. I began compiling information and writing down points that I had found the most helpful. I discussed this with no one and kept these thoughts to myself for fear of people thinking I was obsessing about it. My son David, who was 11 at the time, unknowingly lit the spark that started this whole project. I was having a rough time one evening and as I was quietly crying, David said to me, “Mom, I think this happened to you so that you could help others.” It was a goose-bump moment for me as I felt like God had spoken directly to me through my son. That night I stayed up late designing the logo and incorporating the poem. I set it up as two cards on a layout and brought the file with me to work the next day. That morning at work, a co-worker hesitantly approached me and asked if I would mind helping her. The night before, her sister-in-law who was expecting twins, found out that at 19 weeks her babies had died. I printed out the cards I had made and on one I wrote a note expressing my deepest sympathy as well as noting some websites to visit that had helped me. And the second card I took with me to my six-week follow-up appointment with my doctor that just so happened to be the same day. I didn’t know exactly what to propose, but I felt like I needed to do something.
My wonderful doctor, Kent Snowden of St. John’s Hospital, listened to my thoughts and then, much to my surprise, said he would support me in this endeavor. I spent the next several months writing the booklet and then a printer friend of mine, Chris Kuhl of Trio Printing, produced it for me. The idea of the pillows emerged thereafter as a way to present the booklet as a gift and offer something real that could be held. Every time I carry a box of pillows into the hospital, I feel I am carrying the precious souls of those sweet little angels. There is a sense of purpose and peace that transcends any words I can use to describe it. We named our baby Katie (Kathleen after my mom and Therese is my middle name). I thank God every day for the gift of this child that I have yet to meet. And I dream of spending an eternity getting to see her, know her, hold her and love her. Her sweet little life, so brief, has already made such a difference in this world. And that is what truly matters.