KATY MAGAZINE l NOVEMBER 2019
By Natalie Cook Clark
The loss of a baby changes a family forever. In their own comforting way, these Katy families grieve, love and honor the child they will never know. They provide a voice for an important message that needs to be shared.
The Franklins always honor baby Maddison.
Shock and Loneliness
“I had no idea that something like this could happen,” says Jenifer Franklin, who delivered her baby girl Maddison stillborn at term December 7, 1997. “I had done everything right and then she was gone. We didn’t just lose our daughter that day, it was the loss of life as we knew it and I felt alone. It felt like someone put me in a boat out to sea by myself.”
A Statistic No One Wants
Statistics show that Jenifer and other families are not alone. According to the Centers for Disease Control one in four women will experience a miscarriage in their life. One in 100 pregnancies end with a stillbirth, that is described as the loss of a baby 20 weeks or later in the gestation stage. Each year roughly 4.1 million infants die between birth and one year. The reasons vary from preterm deliver, pregnancy complications, injury, and sudden infant death syndrome. Such loss is unimaginable to comprehend unless you’re one of the statistics that have experienced it.
“At the beginning, every day posed a new challenge," says April Carroll, who lost her son Grant at term last December. "I didn’t just lose a baby, I lost a one-day old, a two-day old, I lost his first dirty diaper, his first bath.” And the list of losses is never ending.
The Wave of Light
On October 15, families across the nation lit candles in a “Wave of Light” to honor those babies lost. Some families honored more than one loss.
“We’ve been through three losses,” says Dana Coleman. “The first two ended in early miscarriage. Our most recent loss was our son at 21 weeks. Although our baby boy was only at 21 weeks, I still had to go through the entire birthing process including the epidural.”
The Colemans honor their babies.
What Others Struggle to Understand
“I’ll never forget that sound - everything was silent,” says Franklin. “The silence was deafening. I was afraid to hold her and I remember my mom saying that she looked just like me."
Franklin held her daughter and gave her a bath. "We named her the name we always planned to - Maddison.”
Carrie Arthur had been expecting triplets when she went into preterm labor at 20 weeks.
“I had no idea I was in labor. The movies make labor and contractions look so different and dramatic but I guess that’s not always the case when your babies weigh under one pound,” says Arthur.
No medical interventions were offered, or successful, and Arthur delivered three babies in a peaceful setting with her husband and family nearby.
"We were able to hold them and love on them until they peacefully passed on their own about three hours later.”
Pain in the Family
The loss of a baby affects more than the parents. It impacts others in the family as well. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, and older siblings anxiously awaiting a baby that they will never know grieve too.
“Ultimately, the hardest part has been helping my other kids cope with the loss and not lose their faith,” says Carroll, who has two older sons. “Even when bad things happen, God is still good.”
“Our son Jeremy was three and a half years old when Maddison died,” says Franklin. “The loss had a profound effect on him, more than I realized at the time. Our daughter Hope was born later and even though she wasn’t here when Maddison died she misses having a sister.”
A Daily Effect
Franklin says the loss still has a daily effect on their lives.
“At the time we struggled figuring out where to go next. It truly was the loss of life as we knew it. We lost friends but found friends. Franklin joined Helping After Neonatal Death (HAND), a support group for families who have suffered such loss. "I’ve found some of my best friends from that group.”
Coleman also joined a support group, M.E.N.D. (Mommies Enduring Neonatal Death) and now volunteers with them delivering teddy bears to hospitals to give grieving mothers who go home without a baby.
“It may sound silly, but they are very comforting and I have slept with my bear since we lost our son six weeks ago,” says Coleman.
“My cousin was diagnosed with a very rare type of cancer in the ball of her hip when she was 14, she’s now 19,” says Carroll. “Her first reaction was, 'I can’t wait to see what God does with this.' That made a profound effect on my life. When Grant died, I kept thinking those words - 'I can’t wait to see what God does with this.'
Many Katy families have been moved by the grace and peace that the Carroll family has demonstrated during their journey.
Arthur admits it’s still so hard to understand.
"Why was I given the gift of being pregnant at all (and with three) just to have the joy taken away?”
Some families find comfort in new friends, and in the Arthur's case it was not who you would expect.
“The on-call, random doctor that delivered my trio was an angel,” says Arthur. “She became my OB/GYN due to her supportive, sensitivity to the issue and caring bedside nature. She is also the reason why I have two healthy children today!”
The Joy of Rainbow Babies
Many families are able to go on and deliver healthy “rainbow” babies. Rainbow babies are celebrated children who come after the storm of a loss. Yet for most, the joys of pregnancy are replaced with anxiety, and in some cases PTSD that can be triggered by something as routine as an ultrasound.
The Carrolls are expecting their rainbow baby girl in the spring.
April Carroll is currently pregnant with her rainbow baby daughter.
“I have to fight fear every day,” says Carroll. “I want to enjoy every day I have with this new life in me, but it’s hard not to have lingering expectations of bad news at every ultrasound now. I’ve had to fight panic attacks on my way to every one. But I appreciate every time I hear her heartbeat and every moment watching her move even more.”
Other families choose to keep subsequent pregnancies quiet.
“When I was pregnant with Hope, after we had lost Maddison, I didn’t tell anyone,” says Franklin. “We didn’t have a baby shower and the nursery wasn’t put together until we had her.”
Carrie Arthur went on to have two sons (pictured on the left) after losing her triplets. She owes it her the OB/GYN who was there for her when the triplets died.
Before Grant Carroll's death, the Carroll family like many growing families, talked a lot about future plans. "After we lost Grant, none of those things seemed worth working for anymore," says Carroll. "They weren’t important to us all of a sudden- at all. We started appreciating every moment with the living children we have more than ever. We starting planning “NOW” things- spending more time with aging grandparents, more time playing games, more time making relationships healthier."
Breaking the Silence
“Everyone grieves differently,” says Arthur. “Families need to do what feels natural to them. If talking about it helps, do it, even if others make you feel like you shouldn’t.”
Franklin agrees and believes the topic of baby loss needs more openness and conversation.
"We need to break the silence and let this topic, however upsetting it is, be heard for the sake of everyone who has become a part of this club that none of us chose.”
These are just four of the hundreds of Katy families who have suffered baby loss. Some say they have found peace, despite missing their babies on a daily basis. Every family's story is different but they all share in mourning what could have been.
"Our perspective on life completely changed," says Carroll. We’re more thankful for than ever for every kiss goodnight."
Have you suffered baby loss? Feel free to honor your baby by posting his or her name in the comments of this story.
NATALIE COOK CLARK is a proud, seasoned writer with Katy Magazine. She delivered a perfect little girl, Aliena in 2015. Sadly, she was stillborn in the third trimester. Clark loves living in Katy with her husband of 12 years, daughter, and rainbow baby boy. She still and always will say she's a mom to three.
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