Trigger -- this is about infant loss. I don't know that this needs prefacing. All I can say is -- Michelle, thank you for sharing your Amos with us. Mother's Day blessings to you, and to all who have a child they are thinking about and not able to hold on this day, and all other days. My heart is with you.
Have you ever thought that you could experience a loss? Or that someone you know could? I didn't. I was one who never thought loss would happen to me. I knew it happened, but not to me or anyone I knew.
My doula journey started in 2013 when a friend asked me to be her doula. I wanted to learn everything I could about being the best doula I could be for her. I took my training in July of that year and found my heart is birth. I love being with women during this time in their life...so much strength. I love witnessing the birth of a family.
Fast forward a few months and I found a training I had not heard of in my searching. This training promised certification in birth and bereavement. I thought about it and felt this would be a great extra tool for my doula bag. Remember, I never thought loss would happen to anyone I knew, including my clients. But I wanted it just in case.
July 2014 I started my birth and bereavement training through Stillbirthday. I also found out our family was expecting a new baby. I contemplated postponing my training as is it an 8-week intensive training, and for most of that time, I would be enjoying morning sickness. I decided to go forward, a decision I will never regret. This training is amazingly intense. There were nights of tears while working through my course work. So much pain is discussed. Our 4th baby was early and had to stay in the NICU -- and although things worked out, certainly it was one of the most painful experiences of my life. I did not expect that pain to be helped by this training, but when we covered the material about babies and NICU stays, some of my pain was smoothed over.
In February, we passed the gestational age of our NICU baby, and I finally let out that held breath. I celebrated and bought my little Amos his first Easter outfit. I was so excited to meet this little man. I had become certified with SBD in December and was looking for a way to provide a support group to our community. Not having much luck, I decided to table it until my little man was born and I was recovered.
Finally, we were 4 days from Amos' due date and labor started. We were so excited. Then things changed quickly. This is when you hear the words you never thought you could hear, you never believed you would hear: "Michelle, I'm not seeing any movement and we aren't hearing any heartbeat." In that moment, things changed forever.
I was sent to the hospital for an immediate induction. I was blessed with caring nurses I knew from doula work, my midwife, and even the doctor-on-call -- when I requested Chapstick and there was none to be found, she brought me a new stick right from her own purse. It may seem like a small thing, but tender mercies are all we have in moments like this -- and at the time, it meant everything.
Soon it was time to push. I will never ever forget this part. It's burned into my brain. He was born, and for a brief second, he looked alive. He looked a breath away from life. He didn't move or cry. A caring nurse had said previously one thing that bothers parents the most in situations like these is the silence. She was right -- the silence was deafening; for the first time in my life I understood that saying. In my heart I begged him to breathe. I was screaming for a miracle. I sobbed and cradled my little Amos. He was perfect. Lots of hair that was a shade of red between his sister's strawberry blonde and his brother's bright red. He never cried, breathed, or opened his eyes.
My son was born sleeping, and without my training, our hello/goodbye would have looked very different.
One thing I can say, if a situation like this ever comes into your life -- take pictures. You may not want to see them now, but the memories slowly fade. I am so grateful for the nurses who took pictures, let us borrow their cameras, and the photographer who came to take professional pictures for us. I would not remember his perfect toes, or the shape of his brow, if we had not taken pictures. We asked our other children if and how the wanted to meet Amos. They all wanted to hold him, to see him. Amos is their little brother, and like a shooting star, he was here for just a short time, but his spirit and love remain a bright light in our family.
I must stop and tell you about the founder of Stillbirthday, Heidi Faith. This woman -- there are no words to tell you the beauty of this woman's heart. This mama experienced her own loss and has brought beauty from those ashes. I will be planning a trip just to hug this woman as soon as I can. She is my sister. I gained so much more than just an organization. I gained a sisterhood. These women are so beautiful -- most experiencing their own losses and turning around to support others through loss. I can't tell you how much love I have received from these women, from gifts to words and prayers. I have so many to hug.
Today marks not only Mother's Day, but also the two-month birthday of Amos. How can one feel so full and so empty, at the same time? What now? I still have a lifelong journey as the mother of Amos and now protecting his memory. I have started. My hope is my son will be remembered, not for his short life, but for how he helped his mama help so many others. I miss my son and I always will, but he brought my doula journey to a whole new level. I love you, Amos!
Michelle is a doula and a certified StillBirthdayDoula serving the Northwest Iowa, Southeast South Dakota, and Northeast Nebraska areas. Her heart was pulled toward supporting families through loss before her experience with Amos -- and now she knows with a certainty, she has important work to do in this field. She and her husband and 4 other children talk of Amos often and honor his memory in their own ways. You can follow Michelle's poignant journey on her blog, and find her professional page on Facebook. Click here to learn more about the Amos Fletcher Fund.
♥ four young boys and a boy dog (offspring)