Champion nurse: Amelia Jayne

These days, it’s a rare occurrence for a family at Cooley Dickinson Hospital to not meet Amelia Jayne if they experience the loss of a baby, and anytime I’ve ever offered a training in that hospital she has been there to learn more. I sat down to talk to Amelia to find out what it’s meant to her, as a nurse, to have Empty Arms there to support her in the past five years since our companion program started.

Amelia has been a nurse at Cooley Dickinson for 8 years, and initially learned to care for bereaved families during her clinical rotations at nursing school due to good timing and a generous mentor. Amelia explains that in nursing school, during her coursework “absolutely nothing was taught about babies dying”. Though typically student nurses are not involved in clinical bereavement care out of respect for the family, Amelia was fortunate in that her preceptor in her clinical rotation in labor and delivery took the initiative to give her a crash course. One night, a baby was born so early it had no chance of survival-- yet it was still alive. The nurse she was mentoring explained to Amelia the importance of giving this family skin-to-skin with their baby until she died, and then set about organizing to make a memory box for the family with Amelia by her side. Being included in that care and having the nurse teach her all the important reasons why families need time and mementos set Amelia on a course to provide similar quality care to her patients. Further work with perinatal and pediatric hospice once she became a licensed RN care firmed up her commitment that while the work is hard, bereavement care is an enormously important aspect of nursing care and a way in which Amelia can have a great impact on a family in need.

As one of a small group of nurses at CDH who feel very comfortable offering bereavement care to families, it has offered Amelia reassurance to know that Empty Arms is there to support her work both when she is there, and when she’s not. “I know that not all nurses have that same level of comfort and confidence”, she shares, “and before Empty Arms I used to have the hospital call me when I wasn’t on shift to come back so that I could be sure that every family would get the same loving care”. Amelia is careful to explain that some nurses just “can’t get over the scariness of” taking care of a baby who has died, and simultaneously supporting and guiding their shocked and anguished parents. “Other nurses are saying to me, ‘how is it possible for you to just hold that mother and her baby… and I tell them, I’m sad, but I’m comfortable.’” It is nurses like Amelia that Empty Arms is most grateful for.

“I have faith in the companions’ ability to be loving towards the parents and baby no matter what the circumstances,” Amelia shares. In addition, she notes that working with Empty Arms has allowed her, as a professional, to become more knowledgeable about what the experience of baby loss is like, which further improves her ability to care for families. “The volunteer companions are a wonderful resource because they are further from their trauma and you can ask them for advice about things… You can ask them about their loss and get information that will help you take care of the family… and you can ask advice of how to work with the patient. You can bounce ideas off of the companions in the midst of taking care the family. And the best part is I just know that no matter who it is, anyone I call from Empty Arms will be completely ready to embrace any mom and any baby, no matter what”.

 The last piece that Amelia stresses is how helpful it is to have a second team of people available for emotional support for a family so that the nurses are able to have some time to focus on the mother’s physical health and also the paperwork involved in handling a birth and a death. “Depending on the circumstances, there can be a lot of overwhelming work-intensive medical and paperwork responsibilities that don’t even include dealing with the emotional well-being of the mom. For example, it’s not uncommon that the baby is dying because the mom has pre-eclampsia, so the mom is also at risk of dying. The pressure is on you, as the nurse, to make sure the mom’s physical well-being is prioritized. That is so much work and then you realize oh, did I even talk about what we’re going to do with the baby? When Empty Arms is there it allows me to have the time and space to focus on the mom because I’m fully confident that Empty Arms can take care of the baby. It gives me the ability to leave the room when I otherwise might not have the ability to do so. I never, ever want to abandon the patient in that incredibly difficult time”.

 Amelia may be grateful for Empty Arms, but we’re grateful for Amelia and all the other nurses out there who have made it a commitment and a priority to take care of families well when their babies die. Talking to a nurse like Amelia re-confirms our commitment to keep our companion programs flourishing in all our hospitals so that all nurses can feel as supported as Amelia does, and so that all families are receiving first rate care.

 Will you join us today and make a donation to support the Empty Arms companion program?

 https://emptyarms.z2systems.com/np/clients/emptyarms/donation.jsp?campaign=20&&test=true

 

Nurse Champion: Dawn Seymour

Dawn Seymour is a champion of bereavement care at Mercy Hospital’s Family Life Center, and she knows from the heart how important it is to care for families tenderly and with skill when a baby dies. “I found my own path because of my own personal loss, having lost twin boys in my first pregnancy in 2002. Something like Empty Arms didn’t exist back then, so we just had to figure everything out ourselves with the help of the staff that was there. Right after it happened to me the first thing I did was reach out to people in my own life who I remembered this had happened to-- I was burning the phone up, alone at home, not knowing what to do. All I wanted to do was talk to people who had been there. People love you and want to help you, but they don’t know what to say or what to do. I remember two specific people who had experienced a loss deep into their pregnancies and I reached out to them. I just knew they knew, and that’s all I needed to know. If we had had an organization like Empty Arms, I just can’t imagine how life changing that would have been.”

 Dawn describes herself as a person “happily addicted” to her work as a nurse, and though it’s hard to imagine how she managed, she returned to a labor and delivery floor as soon as she was physically able to after the loss of her twins. She explains that while she was relieved not to be housebound, there were some difficult moments as she adjusted to being around healthy newborns and happy new parents. But there was something else that Dawn soon realized was a new strength. “It didn’t take long for me to realize that these horrible things that had happened to me were a gift as well. When the first patient came in with a loss I realized that I knew exactly what she was thinking and feeling, and I remember sitting next to the patient and holding her hand and saying, I’ve been here myself.”   

In addition to clear and coherent emotional support, Dawn explains that a great part of how she supports families is knowing how to coordinate all the different family members who don’t know what to do. From grandparents to even the father of the baby, some people are able to find purpose in the midst of a crisis if they have a “job to do”. Dawn herself remembers, “I sent my mother in-law out to buy things for my sons when they died, I didn’t have anything for them to wear and she was so thrilled to have a job to do”.  From funeral arrangements to running errands, Dawn helps to make sure that all the support people who are present at a loss feel purposeful.

Dawn explains, “It’s my role as a nurse to do whatever I can for families in my shift, but it’s segmented. It’s not organized, and loss is only a tiny portion of what we do. A loss encompasses so much more than delivering the baby. You can’t duplicate what Empty Arms is doing, in terms of offering long-term and really focused emotional care. It is an absolutely needed program that you don’t know you need until you do. Most people don’t think about baby loss until someone very close to them goes through it, and then they are ever so grateful to have something like Empty Arms available to them.

“As a nurse, Empty Arms takes what’s in my heart and expands it 10-fold. You guys are doing all the things that I want to see done for patients and what I would have loved to have had done for me. Like the castings, and the photographs- I would have loved to have that. Your ability to model for a family what is socially acceptable when a baby dies is beyond value”.

Dawn may feel grateful for us, but we feel exceptionally grateful to have nurses like Dawn as part of our team. Her deep, ingrained understanding of how important quality bereavement care is means that not only is she giving it to the families who need it, but she’s modeling it for the nurses around her who may not yet share her passion of caring for the bereaved.

We hope that you will feel moved to contribute to Empty Arms this June so that we can continue to bolster and expand our companion program. Thank you!

 https://emptyarms.z2systems.com/np/clients/emptyarms/donation.jsp?campaign=20&&test=true

Meet Julia and beautiful baby Lila...

 Julia had done everything right. 

She had practiced safe sleep for Lila, but what the doctors hadn’t told her was this: even if you do everything right, sometimes babies still die. Julia kissed her baby goodnight, apparently healthy, and in the morning she was gone. How does one ever rebuild?

Will you donate this weekend and have your funds doubled to offer Julia the support she deserves and needs? Please help us meet our match!

If you met Julia, you would love her immediately: she has a twinkly smile and, despite the circumstances under which I met her, laughs easily. But the most beautiful thing about her is how enormous her love for Lila is. It is palpable in the room when Julia is there, this huge, beautiful love that cannot be extinguished. When she talks about Lila, Julia’s face lights up. She speaks enthusiastically and with passion, and the room gathers around to get to know this little baby through her mother’s words.

Living in the world as a bereaved mother, Julia feels like she is living a dishonest life.  “I want to be honest, but I feel like I’m making other people so uncomfortable if I tell them my story. I feel like I have to protect the people around me by not talking about her”.  Julia explains that when she does decide to tell someone that she had a baby who died, “ I have to be dishonest in my reply back and act to them as if I’m more okay than I actually am… Infant loss is almost stigmatized. It’s just such an awkward thing to talk about.”

   

This situation that Julia finds herself in is one that has been shared for the past 12 years over and over in the Empty Arms support group circle. To tell, or not to tell? And where does the line lie that falls between your own discomfort of lying to protect someone else, versus the struggle of living a lie just to make everyone’s life easier?

Will you donate this weekend to help Julia have a safe space to be herself? 

Fortunately, Julia has found a place where she can truly be herself-- and where she never has to lie about how she’s doing, what she’s feeling, or how hard it is to just “be” in the wake of such an enormous loss. Julia’s family found Empty Arms on the day that Lila died, and Julia came to her first meeting with her parents only two weeks after Lila’s death. As the three of them tearfully shared the unbelievable reality they were now facing, they felt support coming from around the circle. What had been too hard to say in public, was now able to be said. They have not missed a meeting since.

“I feel so much more genuine and real at the group. After a meeting is over, we always feel a sense of relief. Even though sometimes I find myself reluctant to go because I know I’m going to face difficult feelings, once I’m sitting in there it is incredibly healing and helpful. For those 2 hours of the month I can just let myself feel sad, and feel the feelings and show how I feel. Empty Arms is my two hours a month that I can unleash everything that I’ve been bottling up for the past month. Its a true relief because it’s like a weight lifted -- you are literally lighter, you’ve passed the weight of your grief on.”

We are so grateful to be able to offer Julia and others like her a space to be themselves. It has been our experience that with a place to truly feel, bereaved parents are able to weave their babies into their lives in positive, sustainable ways, allowing them to grow and thrive. Please help us to continue to offer this opportunity to people in the Pioneer Valley!

Please click here to donate to our June Giving Campaign.  We have a generous donor, grandparents Norman and Jeanne Reynolds, who have offered to match our next $1500 raised! This will bring us close to 3/4 of the way to our $10,000 goal! Please join us to make our dreams of helping all SIDS families come true. 



Empty Arms is Invaluable... the story of Emily

Emily Collins came into our office for the first time on a cold, gray November morning soon after her two-week-old son, Sebastian, died in the NICU. “Bash”, as he was lovingly called, died after a valiant struggle after being born at only 27 weeks gestation. At the time of his birth, Emily herself had been critically ill. Nevertheless, she spent nearly every waking hour at his bedside during his short life. Emily- who is a single parent- left the hospital on November 13 quite literally alone, with three bags full of Sebastian’s little clothes, blankets and other mementos. Sebastian lived for only two weeks, yet centuries of emotion and memory had been poured into little Bash before he died. Like most parents in her situation, Emily felt directionless and lost.

Emily recalls, “I think a social worker had mentioned Empty Arms or gave me a card when I was sitting with Bash… but I’m not sure I ever saw that card  again. I remember going on the website at some point and looking through and thinking I wanted to reach out, but honestly don’t remember … I was so nervous about it. Support groups in movies seem so odd. You wonder to yourself, is it going to be the most awkward situation?  When I reached out to [Carol] on the phone to ask about support groups she offered for me to come into the office on my own to chat, and we could have tea or coffee. Honestly, I’m not sure I would have come to a support group if I hadn’t come in and seen the comfy couches and felt the total lack of awkwardness.”

“When I went for that first time,” Emily continues,” I remember sharing a story about an unsupportive friend and Carol saying, Oh, how could she? And right then I knew that I wasn’t alone, that she got it.”

Emily shared that among her family and friends, she often felt as if she was constantly not meeting their expectations of “healing”. For example, only weeks after her son died, she was still having trouble getting out of bed in the morning. While this concerned some family members and friends, here at Empty Arms we immediately  normalized that difficulty as something that most parents struggle with in the early months. At Empty Arms, Emily’s totally disheveled life, which had been chaotically shattered with the death of her son, was suddenly some version of “normal”- normal for a grieving parent, that is.

Emily also shared that one of the most helpful guidelines at Empty Arms groups is that there is no advice offered. “Carol always says in the beginning that this is not a place for advice and to hear that before we even talk is always so helpful. You just know that nobody is going to go there, and if they do, [the facilitator] will step in. I think so many of us have gotten so much advice (unsolicited) that it’s a real relief to be in that environment.” Like many people, Emily finds safety in a circle where the way she is healing and moved forward is not judged by anyone.

In addition, Emily mentioned the relief to be somewhere where she knows nobody is going to try to “find the silver lining” of her son’s death. “It’s so helpful to be able to speak and tell the story of Bash,  and not feel like anyone will say things like, ‘It’s OK, everything happens for a reason’. At Empty Arms I can speak without advice, and not have anyone suggest that [Sebastian’s death] was what needed to happen in order for me to live a better life… I mean, I was a decent person before my baby died. I didn’t need my baby to die to become a better person or to feel like I had a purpose.”  Sadly, Emily is not alone in being “talked out” of her grief, something which most of our families face from time to time.


Emily says, “I think Empty Arms is just invaluable… it’s an invaluable resource. I can’t say where I’d be without the help that I had. I was so angry and so sad when he died, and I’m still angry and sad. To know that even 7 months later Empty Arms is still there… that I can call anytime to talk, or go to a support group, it’s so helpful. And I know I could go in 5 years and nobody would say “Why aren’t you over it?”  There’s no timeline. And the attitude at Empty Arms is that they don’t make me feel like I should be feeling any different than I do right now. It’s really hard to get that kind of support from family and friends. Even 7 months later support has really trickled off, there are people who literally seem to forget I even had him.”

Empty Arms will still be there for Emily-- this month, next month, next year-- and hopefully for many, many years to come. To be able to offer this refuge to people in the wake of such a substantial loss is a privilege, and we are so grateful that so many people in our community have pitched in to help to “raise our barn” and make this organization what it is today. Thank you so much for helping us, once again, keep Empty Arms thriving and growing for years to come.


Sweet baby bash!

Sweet baby bash!

12 Years and Counting...

It's hard to believe Empty Arms is celebrating 12 years, because it means I'm almost marking 12 years too. Twelve years ago, I couldn't imagine life 12 months later, never mind 12 years. I couldn't imagine the fullness and joy in my life now or what kind of place Henry would have in it. I couldn't imagine getting through the next 12 days or sometimes the next 12 hours. But I did and knowing other people who had done it, and who were doing it was so very helpful.

Empty Arms held its first meeting about a month after my son was born. I remember seeing notices in the hospital. My arms were empty at the time only because my son had been taken to the NICU... I had no idea by the end of the year they would be empty in a very different way and that the green flyer I had seen hanging would have a whole new meaning.

I showed up on a cold, dark January night, navigated the maze of the hospital to a conference room. It was about a month after Henry died and I needed to know other people who had lost babies. I listened to people introduce themselves and share their losses…  I needed to be with people who just "got it" or who cared, but weren't (like my mom) going to stay up all night worrying about me if I said how I was really feeling. Empty Arms filled that need for me. I wish this group wasn't so needed, but it is. I've been so excited to see the growth ... new support groups, expanded services in different hospitals, a cozy office (no more navigating the maze of hospital hallways or revisiting painful sites).

-Sara Barry, speaking of her son, Henry Edwin Barry,  May 29-December 19, 2007, and our faithful blogger here at Empty Arms

I remember that first meeting, too. We arranged to meet in the old chapel, which involved weaving through the hospital, up and down staircases, and through so many fire doors I couldn’t count. We brought cookies and lemonade, little packets of Kleenex and a small plastic tote of books we’d carefully curated, spending nearly all of the $430 we had made at our inaugural fundraising walk the month before. We sat around the table and we waited for it to begin, though we hardly knew what “it” was. That night seven people came. “It” had begun.

Twelve years have passed: and for twelve months of the year, on the fourth Wednesday of the month, people have come. One hundred and forty-four meetings of the bereavement support group later, and every single month, people have come. For nine years now we’ve been running Subsequent Pregnancy/Adoption after Loss support meetings, we’ve held Miscarriage Support for the past 7 years, and have had a Termination for Medical Reasons support group for over two years.


364 meetings so far. And counting.

We have held dozens of other meetings as we’ve seen the need: Infertility Support Circles, Parenting after Loss Circles, Twin Loss Circles, Postpartum Care Circles. Here at Empty Arms, we constantly seek to create the programs that we see our community needs. We’ve been able to do this because our community has pitched in and made it happen, every time.

Can you help us work towards a continuing future of providing support for families in the Pioneer Valley who need it?

June 27 marks the 12th anniversary of our first-ever support group, that one held at Cooley Dickinson in that hard-to-find room. To mark this anniversary, we begin today a two-week push to raise $10,000 to fund our support groups for the upcoming year. This campaign will replace Valley Gives Day, the community event hosted by the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts which brought in essential funds for us over the last four years, and which will no longer be held. Your donation today will help us maintain the circle of cozy couches in our Florence meeting space, furnish candles, tea and warm snacks for our participants, and keep this space open for individual meetings when a person just can’t wait until the next group to get support. Your donation will help us to further train our facilitators and make sure that we, as an organization, are well-informed as to the  newest and best methods of group peer facilitation.


Today, I encourage you to donate. It could be in honor of Henry, and of his mother, Sara, whose words have tended to our souls for the past few years, or, you could donate in memory of your own baby or honor someone else’s. Your donation, in any amount,  will enable us to meet our goal so that we can keep all of these essential programs running. Help us to know that our Valley (and beyond!) still gives. Thank you for your support.

Click here to make a donation to honor 12 years of Empty Arms 




Miss You Every Day

Do I miss you every day?

Good parents say they will, they do. They will think of their lost baby, missing son, dead child, each and every day. I don’t know if I do that. I think sometimes I forget. Does it count if you are still a warm spot in my heart, even if I don’t name it? Does it count?

I get busy with your sisters . . . packing lunches for school, making breakfast, socks, shoes, hair, teeth. After I wave them off on the bus I should have time for you, right? But I shift to work, checking email and Facebook. Getting organized. What do I need to do today. And then meeting the bus, library, Brownies, field hockey, . . . I try not to get too busy. I try to remember the lessons you taught me:

Right here is all we have. Right now is all that matters.

I never learned that lesson well. I chafed against it. What about the bills? (The ones I was barely working to pay?) What about saving? And sometimes the right here, right now bogged me down. The dinner and the laundry and the groceries and the messages that need a response …

We tapped into the small cushion we had. We watched it ebb away, knowing that we would not be rebuilding it any time soon.

So much got drained. The small savings Brian had. The savings account I had built for my maternity. Our emotional reserves. The currency between us. That space you filled in my body. The space you took hold of my heart.

I felt the emptiness after you left, but it wasn’t really empty. You’re here but not. You’re missing but always with me—even if I don’t think about you actively. You don’t need my thought. You don’t need me wondering if you need speech. You don’t need me to schedule a dentist appointment for you. You don’t need me to help you figure out your big hurt feelings or settle you when you have “bad thoughts” at night. You don’t need me, but for so long I needed you. I needed to find out how to hold on and let go. I’m still figuring it out. I’m not sure I ever will.

Every morning, I turn off the memory lamp—the last one still working of the three we received when you died. I light it each night as the darkness gathers. It lights our way through the house to the bathroom at night. It stays on a reminder that there was always light, even in the darkest days. I used to have one of the lights in the window. If we went out in the afternoon, I’d light it, even if it was early, because in the earliest days, I couldn’t stand to come back to a dark house. If I forgot, we’d turn the corner to home, and I’d deflate, drained again.

These days, the turning on and off of the lamp is sometimes reflexive. But some days, still, I stop and look at your picture next to it. “Hi, Bud,” I whisper.

I need people to know about late grief. It’s not dramatic like early grief. It’s not (usually) a torrent of tears, visiting the grave, a release of balloons. It isn’t staying in bed or calling in sick or bailing out. It isn’t the exhaustion of the early days or the constant triggers. I’ve gotten to this place where I can talk without crying, where “how many kids do you have?” or “how old are your kids?” don’t drain me. I welcome a chance to remember, a chance to be Henry’s mom. So much has changed. We get to this place we call OK, getting through it, moving on.

Moving on doesn’t mean forgetting. It doesn’t mean all better. It’s more nuanced than that. It’s quieter, more internal. And because we’re supposed to “get over it,” because we’re supposed to stop crying and talking about it, often we do. And because the intensity is less, we stop needing to talk about it every day, blog about it, write about it, just as we eventually stop crying every day. And yet, we’re not done.

What does late grief mean? It’s so much harder to explain. I’m better. I’m whole and always missing something. Henry’s not here and he never goes away. Even if he isn’t at the forefront of each and every minute, even if I don’t actively think about him every day.



Holding Joy & Sorrow Together

By Sara Barry

Light and dark.

Joy and sorrow.

December is a time for these extremes that are parts of the same whole.

Darkness sneaks in early and lingers in December. I don’t mind much these days. I cozy up to the fire, hand the kids headlamps to run outside. I admire the dusky purple colors of the settling twilight.

Eleven years ago the darkness fell heavy. With light already dimmed, these long winter nights were long and lonely. Grief settled harder with the dark and cozy eluded me.

I’d wrap myself in his blanket, the one my nana made with yellow yarn and love. I lit candles, turned on memory lamps. Sit in the blue glow of my computer seeking other stories of loss and love, missing and memories.

Eleven years has brought big change from my first holiday season without Henry. It’s brought two births. It’s brought a growing sense of light and a greater comfort in the darkness. It’s brought new traditions and new ways of experiencing this full time.

And still, this month challenges me, every year different, every year emotionally complex and extreme.

I have learned to sit with light and darkness together. I have learned to hold both joy and sorrow cupped in my hands. I’ve learned that they don’t have to pull me apart, but that both can have their place.

I look forward to the solstice, when we turn back toward light. I look forward to sitting in stillness and quiet as the dark peaks. Days before this my own darkness peaks as we mark another year from Henry’s passing.

I will shut down my computer and silence my phone. I won’t take calls for appointments or show up for basketball practice. I’ll set aside Christmas shopping and my to do lists.

On that day, I will make space for quiet and stillness. I will make space for breakfast with a friend who knows what this day means and that I won’t know what I need until we are in the moment, and perhaps not even then. I will make space for a walk in the woods and a visit to the cemetery. I will make space to sit by the fire. I will make space for tears, and memories and reflection.

I will make space to break open, once again, to the enormity of his life and my loss.

Our life has gotten busy. I get my girls off to school and settle in to work, deadlines to meet, client calls. I bring my girls to piano and Girl Scouts and basketball games in two different places each week. We go to the library and the winter farmers market and the bank. We go and we do and we come home and read and snuggle.

But on this one day, each year, I make space. Even 11 years later, I give this day to Henry. I give it to myself.

I give myself over to the light and dark of this day. I allow for the joy even in the sorrow. I held his life and now I hold his death. And I make space for all of it.

In this season of busy and bustling joy, may you find space and stillness.

In this season when darkness hangs low, may you find peace and light.

In this season of giving, may you give yourself what you need most in this moment.

In this season of tugging extremes may you find a way to sit with the light and dark, hold both sorrow and joy knowing they both need space and both are complete and full.

October Newsletter

October Meetings


To see the full list of meetings and events scheduled for the Fall, visit our calendar 

This Saturday, October 6th, our Parenting After Loss Playgroup will meet at our office from 10am to Noon.

Wednesday, October 10th, from 7-9pm our Miscarriage & Early Pregnancy Loss Support Group will meet. 

Thursday, October 11th, from 7-9pm our Termination for Medical Reasons Support Group will meet. 

Tuesday, October 16th, from 7-9pm our  
Subsequent Choices Support Group will meet. For our SC meeting, please RSVP to emptyarmsbereavement@gmail.com, so we can add you to the SC email list. 

Wednesday, October 24th, from 7-9pm our 
Bereavement Support Group will meet. 

All meetings are at our office: 140 Pine Street, Room 2B, Florence, MA

Fall Events

Tonight! October 3rd: Join us at Mi Tierra Restaurant Tonight (Oct. 3rd) from 4-8pm

Invite your friends and family for a night of tamales, tostadas, and enchiladas at Mi Tierra in Hadley! Delicious food, excellent company, and 25% of all proceeds benefit Empty Arms

Empty Arms Wave of Light Memorial October 14th  3-6pm
Please join us for the EABS Wave of Light Memorial starting at the Children’s Memorial in Easthampton. In honor of our children gone to soon, EABS invites you and your family to join us in lighting a personalized lantern for your baby or babies. This event is open to anyone mourning a miscarriage, stillbirth or infant loss, please feel free to share with family and friends. 

We will meet from 3:00 - 4:00pm at the Christmas Box Angel Children’s Memorial within John Bator Park 
(50 Payson Ave Easthampton, MA- Parking available behind City Hall).  
Reception to follow at Mill 180 Park, 4:00 - 6:00 pm. 180 Pleasant St. Easthampton, MA

In the event of inclement weather, the entirety of the event will take place at Mill 180.
Please RSVP to the Facebook Event here 

Fall Photo Shoot

Join us Saturday, October 13th from 9am - 4pm for our Fall Photo Shoot

Each year, the lovely Erin Long, mother of Birdie, generously donates a day of professional portrait sessions to raise money for Empty Arms. Come support Empty Arms and get your portrait professionally taken outdoors at the peak of fall in Western MA - our exact location for this year's shoot is TBA, but will either be in Westhampton or Easthampton. (Rain date Sunday, November 11th)

Each session is 15 minutes and includes digital files of 5 photos and the opportunity to purchase professional prints. You can sign up for one session for $99, or two back-to-back sessions for $198.  Photos will be available in Mid-November, approximately 5 weeks after the shoot. All proceeds from this incredible event will support Empty Arms. Hurry-- only 8 sessions left!

4th Annual Trivia Night 6:30-10:00pm November 3rd at the VFW in Florence!

This event is a rowdy, fun-filled evening of trivia, eating, and drinking and features an amazing raffle! 


1. The Evening Itself, How It Works: Tables bring whatever food they'd like, appetizers, full meal, etc. to make the evening festive and impress the judges (yes, you can win prizes for having great food!). This year at the VFW there are NO outside drinks allowed-- everything liquid must be purchased on site (prices are very reasonable). Then, after an hour or so of schmoozing, eating, and browsing the raffle, the real fun begins. Our emcee and organizer Greg Reynolds will begin firing off the most haphazard, random, mind-blowing questions for you and your team to answer! 

YOU DO NOT HAVE TO BE "GOOD" AT TRIVIA TO DO THIS! Let me assure you, this is the most random trivia in the world. It's amazing fun! 


2. How to register: Tables are for 8-10 people, and are priced at $200 per table. Typically a 
"table captain" buys the table and is reimbursed by teammates. If you want to participate but can't envision gathering together a full team, no problem! Let us know and we'll put you on the individual list. We will then match you with a table needing extra people, and everyone wins! (you can anticipate paying a table captain $20 for your ticket).

If you'd like to reserve a table or register as an individual, please email gregreynolds99@gmail.com. This is a first come, first serve event and we have sold out in the past. So contact Greg ASAP and take part in this super fun event!

3. Want to volunteer? We always need help with the raffle, set up, and clean up. Just email Greg if you're interested in lending a hand.
 
Finally, if you work anywhere that could donate an item for the raffle please let us know! 

Introducing our newest Peer Companion- Sadie Dybizbanski

Sadie has been a beloved member of the Empty Arms community since 2010, when her sweet first daughter Eva Margaret was born and died. (you can read Eva’s whole story here.) From the beginning of her time in support groups, Sadie was always a thoughtful listener, she was in touch with her own emotions, and she became a true friend to many Empty Arms members over the years. In 2013 she gave birth to her son David, and in 2017 their family welcomed a second daughter, Livy, through adoption. We were thrilled when Sadie made the decision last year to train to become on of our peer companions. Already she has provided a lifeline of support to several families, and we know this will continue over the years.

Here is Sadie holding her first daughter, Eva, in the NICU.

Here is Sadie holding her first daughter, Eva, in the NICU.

Meet our Board! Introducing our new board president, Monica Borgatti

Monica Borgatti, Empty Arms board president

Monica Borgatti, Empty Arms board president

My name is Monica Borgatti and I have no living children. Professionally, I am the Chief Operating Officer for the Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts where we work toward gender equity by empowering the lives of women and girls in Western Massachusetts and beyond. I earned a BA in liberal studies and an MS in nonprofit management from Bay Path University. I have over a decade of experience working in the nonprofit sector and am honored to put my experience to work on the board of Empty Arms.

Personally, I had struggled with infertility and recurrent miscarriage for years before learning the pain of infant loss. In April 2014, my life was changed dramatically. My daughter Josie Danielle was born prematurely. She lived in the NICU for 18 short hours and was brought to my hospital room where I said hello and goodbye to her as she took her last breaths in my arms.

My first experience with Empty Arms was several weeks after Josie’s death. I attended bereavement support group meetings where I found comfort in knowing that I was not alone in my journey of loss. At different points, I also attended the miscarriage and subsequent choices support groups. When I learned that Empty Arms had a peer companion program, I immediately knew that I needed to be a part of it. I remember how alone I felt at first and I knew that I was supposed to help other families feel less alone when they’ve experienced loss.

I am honored to be a part of the Empty Arms community and watching my daughter Josie’s life purpose unfold through this experience fills my heart in ways I never expected possible.


July and August Newsletter

cone.jpg

 

EVENT TODAY! Join us for an Ice Cream Social at Friendlys in Florence, Tuesday July 10th from 4pm-9pm!

Meeting Times for July and August (please note all meetings are held at 140 Pine st. Florence, MA from 7-9pm). 

Miscarriage Support Group will meet on July 11th and August 8th.

Bereavement Support will meet July 25th, and August 22nd.

Termination for Medical Reasons Support Group will meet Thursday, July 12, but will not meet in August.

Subsequent Choices will meet July 18th, and will also take a brief hiatus for the month of August.

Saturday, July 28th, 10am-Noon our Parenting After Loss Playdate will meet at a local pool-- bring your suit and towel! Please rsvp to Autumn at 413- 896-5981 for more details ❤️

What We're up to this Summer 

We have two wonderful interns this summer: Caia from Mount Holyoke and Lisa from Smith College. We are very excited to have their help! Here are just some of the projects we are tackling this summer:

  • Writing our next 3 year strategic plan!
  • Compiling information for hospitals and parents about parents' rights to take their baby home for burial. Here is one mom's story of home burial in North Carolina
  • Writing booklet for providers on best practices for supporting bereaved parents
  • Creating an online training for medical practitioners based off the 4 hour in-person hospital trainings we currently provide
  • Applying to five new grants for Baystate expansion, sibling support, photography equipment, bereavement comfort kits, etc!
  • Updating our therapist and doula referral lists
  • Printing and distributing Spanish language support literature translated by an Empty Arms parent!

The Body Knows: How Grief Shows Up

By Sara Barry

“How are you doing?” a friend asked, knowing that May is a charged month.

Mother’s Day is a complicated tangle of breakfast in bed and flowering plants, homemade cards, and immersion in what is with an undercurrent of what was supposed to be. What was and then wasn’t and always is.

The end of the month brings the birthday with nobody to blow out the candles. And while I have a tradition, one I fell into rather than creating deliberately, of tending my Henry’s garden since I can’t tend to him, it is another complicated tangle. Joy for his being. Sadness that he isn’t here. Edges softened over time, like a rock in running stream.

“I’m doing OK,” I say. “I’ve been so busy, I keep forgetting it’s May.”

And it’s true. I’m not deliberately avoiding facing this month, but I’ve been caught up in a swirl of Science Night planning and late evening ice cream, Teacher Appreciation and getting the garden ready.

My mind is busy. I forgot that Mother’s Day was coming, despite the signs by the flower store and the notification in my calendar. Henry’s birthday loomed and I hadn’t bought anything for his garden. I hadn’t looked to see if our neighbors would be home for cake.

My mind keeps forgetting that it is May, but my body knows.

I’ve felt it in the number of times I need to take a deep breath, in and out.

I’ve felt it in the tightness across my back and in the heaviness that settles in my limbs and then lifts a little.

I notice the sharp intake of breath when I see a cardinal dart across the yard. 

I tense at the unexpected mention of a 6 month old named Henry who died from a heart defect in a novel about the flu.

I come to tears easily, whether it’s a video about babyloss moms or talking to my neighbor about her own different, fresh grief.

I find myself on the verge at church for no explainable reason at all.

I don’t say, “I’m having a hard month.” I’m not, but there is an undercurrent. My body knows what month this is. It is gathering energy like a storm moving in. The sky may still be sunny, but you can feel a change in the air, an electrical build up.

Come the end of the month, I will exhale. The pent up energy will expend itself in a torrent of tears or day of hard labor in the garden or it will just fizzle out and fade away like a storm that is pending but passes.

Come the end of the month, my body will relax and move on to June, a simpler month, a safer month. It will relax until the calendar turns to December, and then, even if I forget the date, it will start it’s wind up to the day he died.

The mind may forget, but the body always knows.

Does your body respond to certain dates? How does grief show up in your body?

Yo Te Puedo Ver/ You are Seen

By Gloria Agosto

Yo Te Puedo Ver
Es casi como si el dolor te hace invisible. El momento más duro el cual no se puede entender,
nadie y nada parece brindar algún alivio y más bien todos parecen alejarse. La Soledad se
convierte en tu único sonido por que cuando alguien trata de decir alguna palabra la mayoría de
ellas vienen sin compasión causando más dolor, por que es que ellos no entienden, Ellos no
pueden verte. Hoy yo quiero cambiar eso dejándote saber que te puedo ver, puedo verte por
que al igual que tu he pasado por lo mismo, por que se como se siente el tener ese dolor tan
pesado que ni tú mismo puedes llevar. Yo estoy aquí para ti, para apoyarte, para escucharte y
si no hubieran palabras que decir que mi abrazo y compasión te de tranquilidad. Estoy aquí
para ayudarte

You are Seen

It's almost like the pain makes you invisible. The hard moment is not understandable, and no one
seems to be able to comfort and instead everyone seems to go away. The loneliness becomes
your only sound and when someone tries to say a word most of them hurt more than the silence
that has been around you from that day. Because, they don't understand, they can't see you.
Today I want to change that, letting you know that you're seen, I can see you because I went
through the same, because I know how it is and how it feels to have such a heavy weight that
you sometimes can't even carry on. I'm here for you, to support you, listen to you and if there is no
words to say may my hug and companion give you comfort. I'm here to help you and here to
understand you. I can see you.

 

Bevely's Story: Part Four

Many people who suffer unexpected tragedy turn to generosity and giving back as a way of making meaning in their experience. Though many years had passed, I was thrilled to see Bevely at Empty Arms’ 10 year anniversary celebration last May. With her, she had her two little boys and together they made a quilt square and decorated rocks for Jelyna. During that time, we started talking and she told me that she was really interested in giving back and helping other people. I was so glad –  a bilingual woman, Bevely had so much to offer, especially as we began to make our move towards expanding to Baystate. Here, Bev talks about what it’s been like for her to turn her grief into a mission of helping others.

For years, ever since Jelyna passed, I wanted to do something but I didn’t know how or what. So I started going to some of your Empty Arms events, and reconnecting with you – it felt like a calling. And then the opportunity just came up – it felt like it was meant to be. It was the right time, I felt ready. Years ago, I wouldn’t have been ready. Unless I had the support, maybe that would have made me ready. I just want to give back.

The first time I went to a mother’s house and spoke to her it felt weird, but I had to remember: we are women, I’m here to support her. I wanted her to feel what I would have wanted somebody to do for me when Jelyna passed. I let that weird feeling go away, I got up, and I hugged her. She just cried and cried. And I cried with her.

Yes, it brings up memories, but it feels good to be there for somebody and show them that they’re not alone. It brings memories back but it’s in exchange for feeling good while doing something for somebody else.  It’s being able to bring someone else something that you didn’t have.

I told her it’s okay to cry, breaking that silence and that barrier – it’s okay that you feel like this, and I was honest with her – this is how you’re going to feel for a while and it’s okay – I didn’t know what I was going to feel and what it was okay to feel. It seemed like everyone expected me to be over it and I needed her to know that you don’t just get over it. It’s rude to expect someone to get over it – that’s not how you comfort them. You have to accept that they’re going to feel it for years to come.

You’re never the same person after a traumatic event. There’s no such thing as your old self, you have to learn to live with what just happened to you. Even family members who mean well don’t understand – they go on with their lives. For us, we have to almost build a new path – we can’t go on the same path anymore. So helping people, it’ sad – but it’s so rewarding to me, it makes me feel good. Now it’s been 12 years, so of course I’m still sad and I’ll still cry, but it’s easier for me to be a better support. And to show other people that you will get through it with time. You heal.

When I supported the most recent mother, I said look: I know how you feel, it will get better but it will never go away. You’ll always have that little part of you –  it will never be filled. It’s OK – years from now, you keep her memory alive, and it’s OK if you cry. Just because it’s been 5, 10 years it’s still a loss, you’ll still remember that person. You’ll function, like you’re supposed to- but it doesn’t mean it’s not OK to mourn. Others will move on with their lives, but they don’t realize the impact this has on somebody. It’s true – you’ll always mourn your baby.

That mother was talking about the baby’s stuff, and how hard it was to think about getting rid of stuff – I was like DON’T. If you want to hold onto it, you can! Make a box and hold onto it! And her family expected her to get rid of everything, and I helped her to know she could keep things. I said, get a box, create something and hang it on the wall – you don’t have to hide her, you don’t have to hide her stuff. She really liked that, I think. She was explaining how she had the baby’s name up and her son had asked her to leave it – I said, then leave it! She’s a part of your family, she’ll always be your daughter, always be the sister. I was encouraging her to let people see the baby. And a lot of people need that encouragement because society teaches us to hide people after they die. When you have a child and you lose them, your feelings don’t go out the window. She’s always going to be part of your family so keep her part of your family. Keep her alive somehow. That’s what I try to do.

I understand how this works, because I didn’t know how to do this.  I needed advice and guidance – I would never have known what to do except for the things people told me I could do. That’s why I think Empty Arms is such an awesome and amazing group. The awareness is not there in the general public, there is no other support, Where are these women going to get the support and the OK and know what they can and can’t do? I wish I had the support at the time. And now I’m happy to help and support it in any way, and want to continue to be involved in as many ways as I can!

Bevely's Story: Part Three

Knowing Empty Arms is there is something that Pioneer Valley families can return to again and again. While there are many families who use Empty Arms daily or weekly in the beginning, some only cross paths with us briefly, and yet our impact can still be significant. I often share this story with the people who are training to become peer companions to remind them that we can never measure our impact by how often we see a family return:

Many years ago, I was called to Cooley Dickinson to visit a family who had delivered their baby girl at just shy of 18 weeks. They had requested my presence, but when I entered the room, which was filled with siblings, loving family members, grandparents and friends, I was met mostly with stares. When I offered the menu of what Empty Arms could offer in terms of support, the mother very politely thanked me for coming and let me know that she’d call me if she needed anything. I left, thinking that the visit had been a failure, and worrying that I’d invaded their privacy. The next day, I returned and took photos and did tiny hand and foot casts of their tiny baby. The mother sent me a lovely text thanking me for those mementos, and I never heard from her again… until about 14 months later. That’s when I received a lovely note sharing with me the news of their new baby girl, born healthy and robust, and thanking me for all that I had done. “You were there for us at such a hard time and you were such a source of support for us”, the mother wrote. Who, me? I couldn’t believe it. I felt like I hadn’t supported them at all. But what this mother pointed out is the power of knowing that the resource is there if you need it. She may not have called, but it brought her great comfort to know we were there. Our presence, even though it was brief, made a difference. I have always remembered this story.

In this blog post, Bevely will talk about the ways in which she returned to Empty Arms after years had passed. Many families have come back to us after years, and it’s a privilege for us to be there for their life journeys.

Carol: What do you think drew you back to get involved?

Bev: I should have never left, first of all! I was trying to figure things out on my own, but when I got pregnant with my first son, Jon Carlos (2009), I thought about going back, but I felt better about it and my husband was very supportive. When I got pregnant with the second one, Jovani, (2012), I was so scared and worried. I don’t know what happened – I was scared and worried, I started having memories, I felt the emptiness again. I remembered looking up Empty Arms and realizing you guys had classes for somebody like me –  I was like OMG – it was meant to be!

I remember reaching out. I only went to 2-3 but then I went into birth a month early. It helped me tremendously –  it made me feel like I had people supporting me through the pregnancy. Nobody understood me! My family was like, you already had a kid and you were fine, so what are you so worried about? It made me feel like I’m not crazy, it’s normal for me to be feeling like this, and it’s OK. I went into labor early,  because I was having complications, everything was fine. He was just really colicky! It was the hardest thing ever.

Even after him it was hard –  because at a certain age, newborn age, with the hat on, both boys looked like Jelyna. So for both of them I went through a period where I was down, I’d cry and let it out. Especially the last one looked so much like her, it was so hard. For the first time ever, it was hard for family members. My sister saw what I saw and it was hard for her, too.

Honestly, when he was born, the pediatrician came in and told me that if it wasn’t for my doctor and her call, he wouldn’t be here today. I’m very intuitive, I think there was a reason I was so anxious. I didn’t feel like the doctors took me seriously – they thought I was anxious, but I was in labor. They had to give me a shot and stop my labor. The doctor had me come every single week. Every friday at my lunch break I had an ultrasound and a non-stress test.

That Friday, the ultrasound the lady did not like what she was seeing. When she got concerned, because he would not move, when she said we need to see the doctor, I can’t even describe how I felt. Then they said you’re having this baby today. I was crying and crying, I was so afraid. It’s funny because the doctor I avoided the whole pregnancy –  the one who told me about Jelyna – she was there to deliver my baby. She was scared, and I was scared. When he was born he had something wrapped around his leg (an amniotic band). The doctor at delivery said you have to commend your doctor for knowing he needed to come out. Imagine all that! I was a mess! But I knew something wasn’t right. People should listen to us women!

I’m so happy that new doctor came in and listened to me and took me seriously. If I hadn’t been getting checked every week, how would we have known? It helped going to those meetings because I was a mess to begin with! It made me not feel crazy. People, even the doctor, were like, you already had a healthy baby – what’s the problem? Why don’t people understand this?  I’m scared! I didn’t think there was a right or wrong to the situation. How dare people say that to people like us! That fear is always deep down in your mind whether you like it or not – it’s reality to us. It’s not a fear in our mind, it’s reality. This could happen.

Bevely's Story: Part Two

Coping with the early days and months can be the hardest part of loss. Often parents feel as if nobody understands, and that feeling of being misunderstood can prevent them from being present in their normal, daily routines even many months down the road. At Empty Arms, we’re able to structure for each family a network of support that feels right to them: whether that’s support groups, therapists, working with their family members, communicating with medical professionals, or setting up individual peer support. We have seen, over and over again, that when we offer families safe spaces to be present with their story, to honor their grief and move forward with healing at their own pace, they are much better off in other areas of their lives. It’s an honor to provide this space.

Carol:  What were the hardest parts in the beginning? What memories still stick with you?

Bev: Giving her back that second day – my family left and I had her all day with me. I didn’t know how to say – take her. How can you determine how you are ready? I should have just stayed with her until I left the hospital, but I felt like I was on a time limit. I felt rushed, like I had to give her back. So saying my goodbye, and letting them take her, that was the hardest thing. Then, going home to a house with all her stuff there, and still with a belly and no baby when I went home, reality struck. I don’t have a baby and I’m supposed to have a baby. I think it hit even harder when I got home. You go home empty, and you feel so empty and lost.

Carol: Did the people in your life understand?

Bev: Honestly I did not feel like anyone understood. I wanted to be alone, but I did not want to be alone at the same time. I remember talking on the phone every day, all day with my mother in Florida and occasionally my sisters. They were the only ones who comforted me, and all they did was listen! I needed them to listen. They did not know how I felt, so all I needed was for people to listen. Everyone else was saying, oh I’m sorry, oh I understand, but they did not know how I felt. But the nurses in the hospital, they referred me to a therapist, who used to work for Cooley, I contacted her. And I got the information about the meetings at Cooley Dickinson  (referring to Empty Arms).

I waited, and that’s my regret. I waited to get help, and when I finally went, I realized wow – now I feel I belong. Because I felt like these people truly understand how I feel. So if they say, I know how you feel  – it’s comforting because I know they truly feel that.

But I knew where to go when I needed help. It’s my culture – it’s how I grew up. It’s hard for me to express my feelings. Now I know it’s OK to seek help. I’m so glad Empty Arms was always there and never said no. I could come back every single time I needed Empty Arms. I’m grateful  – you guys helped me tremendously. You’ve made an indent in my life, just being there.

Carol: Do you think it would have made a difference if you had a companion?

Bev: I honestly truly believe that if Empty Arms had been there when I lost my baby and explained to me what was going on it would have made a huge difference with everything. I didn’t know anything  – I had never heard of a stillborn! I didn’t know anything about what I was supposed to do. If I had support with me it would have helped me to understand what I was going through. It took me such a long time to heal, and it was basically on my own. And then with the groups that I did go to, and the therapist, it made it okay to feel the way I felt. If I had support to say it was okay to feel those things, to guide me to recuperate, it would have made a big difference. You have this blow, and your sitting there broken and alone, and if I had the support that we give to everybody now –  it would have made a huge difference. I got depressed, I broke up with the baby’s father, I started drinking – I never drink – for almost a year, I drank every single day. With support I would have been completely different. I lived in Greenfield all by myself. After the funeral they were back to their lives, but I wasn’t. People go right back to their normal lives and don’t realize that I’m still not OK. And, my partner wasn’t supportive. He left me home and went back to work. That’s why I was calling my mom all day every day. I was alone. If I had somebody there to help me and support me, lives would have been different. I would have been able to heal quickly. It took many years, many years.

The way I started coping was telling my story again and again. It has helped me heal. I’m pretty good talking without crying now!

Bevely's Story: Part One

This is the first in a series of four pieces about Bevely Gonzalez. I met Bevely for the first time several years after the loss of her second daughter, Jelyna, who was stillborn in 2006. Over the years, Bevely kept disappearing, and then showing up. In 2012, at a Subsequent Choices meeting, there she was. Then again in 2017 at our 10 year anniversary party, we reconnected.

When we spoke at the party, Bevely was effusive about how important Empty Arms had been to her in her journey of healing. As she stood there, in the bright light of the party, her two young sons running around at her feet, I remembered the woman who had sat in the chair in the meetings years before. Here before me was a new version, one who remained deeply connected to her past, but who flourished in the present. Bev was a beautiful example of a person who had not just survived, but flourished after her loss.

Not two days later, I was buried in my office, deep in a search for the best way to develop meaningful services for Spanish speaking women who needed our services. Hospital interpreters would not even come close—if our goal was to offer a peer, the support needed to be offered by a peer. Suddenly, I thought of Bev. Could she help us out?

I emailed her the next day, cautiously suggesting that we might be looking for people to help to support others in Hampden county, and that we were specifically searching for bilingual support. Within minutes, an effusive, enthusiastic reply was in my inbox. Bev was in!

It has been beyond a pleasure to have  Bev join our team. She carries with her years of experience, a bright sense of humor, and a frank realism about the challenges that life can bring. This winter, I sat down with Bev and interviewed her, in the hopes of bringing her story to our community. It is a story of a mother who, determined not to be alone in her isolating journey of grief, sought out help again and again. And it is the story of that same mother who has been able to transform her own sadness into an energy that can help to hold others afloat in their darkest moments.

Thank you, Bevely, for offering yourself so unconditionally to the woman and families who have benefitted so deeply from your support. Empty Arms is grateful to have you as part of our team, and it’s my hope that your words, which will be shared in four parts over the next few weeks, will touch lives as you personally demonstrate the power of friendship and community in the face of a very difficult experience. - Carol

Post #1: Bevely’s story.

It was 2006, and my daughter Elyssa was only five years old, just shy of six. I just remember, we were very excited, we had planned for our new baby and we were looking forward to her. Then, I got into a minor fender bender – someone hit us from behind. I didn’t pay any mind to it, we went to the hospital and checked her and she was fine. Then, two weeks later, I noticed that she wasn’t moving anymore, and it felt like my stomach had gone down. I remember calling the doctor and asking about it, telling them that things looked smaller and that I hadn’t felt her move. They told me the normal things, she’s probably growing, and it’s up to you if you want to come in or not. So I waited until my appointment.

It was a nice, energetic Northampton doctor, she didn’t have any concerns. And I was there like so concerned, so concerned, so concerned! She almost let me go without checking the heartbeat. But I asked her, and she got the doppler, and she was looking, and looking, and looking. She got nothing, so she put me in the other room to check with ultrasound. I just started crying, because deep down inside I knew something was wrong. I didn’t want to look at the ultrasound, because when I did glance at it nothing was moving, and I knew it was bad. I looked at her face, and I knew something was terribly wrong. She went from being so happy and energetic to being flushed and her eyes were watery, she couldn’t even talk. There was silence –  which felt like for a long time. It was very silent, nobody spoke.

Finally, she cleared her throat and with a voice where you could tell she wanted to cry, her voice was cracky, she said, “I’m terribly concerned, is there any way you call  someone to come be with you? I don’t want you driving. I need a doctor to come and look at this, and I need the ultrasound technician to come in.”

I had to wait an hour. She closed everything up and said to call someone to be with me. I tried to call the father, but my aunt and my sister were nearby, so they came and picked me up. It was horrible because I was crying, but they were saying “Everything is going to be okay.” They didn’t understand how I felt, and how I knew something was wrong. They were so ignorant to the situation – they didn’t know what was going on and they wanted to think I was overreacting. And that made me cry more, and I remember yelling at them, saying, “You’re not understanding, there’s something wrong!” I made them bring me back to the office.

I was on the phone, trying to call the father. I got ahold of a different aunt, who had to drive to my house to pick the father up to bring him to Northampton. I called my mom, I was crying, I called my best friend. I was non-stop crying, I knew deep down inside something was wrong. That hour seemed forever. So I waited, and when the baby’s father came, they brought us into the room. The ultrasound tech was there and she did another ultrasound. She didn’t say anything, and told me the doctor would talk to me. They took me into another room, then the doctor came in and told me there was no longer a heartbeat.

It was a long wait to find out something that I already knew.

I was shocked, confused. I’d’ never heard of a stillborn before, I didn’t know that was possible. I wondered, how would they would get her out of me? The doctor told me I’d go to the hospital and they’d induce me, and I was like what!! I’m going to do what? She told me I could go home to take it all in, or go straight to the hospital. I felt like she was crazy – why would I want to go home? I was so scared!

So we went straight to the hospital, and I sat around for hours crying. I’ve never cried so much in my life. Nurse after nurse was coming in trying to speak to me, trying to make me feel better, trying to relate to me. At this point, I just didn’t care. I wanted to be alone.

When the doctor came in and started prepping me, I realized I had already started going into labor. I had my grandmother and another aunt and my uncle come and visit me. They were supporting me, and talking to me. My mom was in Florida so she couldn’t support me. The baby’s father didn’t say nothing – he was in shock, too, so we didn’t say much. I felt pressure  while we were talking, so I said go get the doctor – and she was coming out.

So she just came out – and it was so shocking at first, they put her on top of me, and I was so scared. You don’t know what to expect. I realized she looked so much like a perfect little baby – I wondered what could have gone wrong? I held her for a while, and then I called my sister and told my sister to bring my daughter Elyssa in so she could meet her. She came, I let her hold her. It was very emotional. We just cried a lot. My grandma held her, she cried so much I thought she was going to have a heart attack. My aunt held her, I had support there with me. It was just hard. I remember holding her for hours, and looking at her, at her hands and her feet, trying to figure out who she looked like. I remember I was exhausted. I was so drained. I just told the nurse to take her – I didn’t want them to take her, but I was so physically and mentally exhausted that I told them to take her.

I passed out for a while. And then the next day, I remember getting up and I had family come visit –  another uncle, and the baby’s other grandmother. I still felt the same. I was crying and crying all day, and one of the nurses realized I had more family from afar coming to visit. She asked me if I wanted to see the baby again. I was so shocked – I didn’t realize I could see her again. So I said yes, and they brought her back. She looked different to me, though. She looked even more like a normal baby. It was weird. She was wrapped in a blanket, with a hat on. My daughter came again. Even my nieces came.

I remember the priest coming and I remember asking, what do I do? Do I baptize her? He said no, we don’t have to –  she wasn’t born into sin – she is a pure angel. He said the church would pay for the funeral costs, which made me cry, I was so grateful for their help. I was so naive – I didn’t know I would be planning a funeral. I was in so much shock. Shock is the only word to describe it.

Every March comes by and you feel the sadness – but you just keep trooping through it. It’s been 12 years, but it’s still there. I tell people all the time – my oldest is going to be 18 – I would’ve had a little 12 year old as well. I work with kids now, there are a lot of girls who are like 11, they randomly give me hugs and I can’t help but think, wow, I would’ve had somebody around this age doing that. I’ve been fine all month, then some old friends brought it up. My friend was crying, and I was OK. She just kept wanting to talk about it, so then we all got emotional! She told me that she had a miscarriage, and how hard it was. So it was therapeutic for her, and for me to support her...


Bev’s story will continue in the next post.