Sunday, May 1, 2016

Tender Mercies

Tender mercies are the small gifts of love and friendship that come our way while traveling this path of heartache and grief. These are the moments that remind us that our little ones live on in our hearts and souls.

As an introduction, I am Heidi Files. I have served with Share Parents of Utah for many years. I currently serve as the Secretary and work closely with Melannie, Jaymie and Adam. I look forward to continuing to serve and support, with friendship and love, all those facing the heartache of loss. My hope is to help you all find your own tender mercies. 

In 2009 I was the mother to three handsome boys (who are now 14, 11, and 9) and the wife to a wonderful, loving man. With my previous experience, I loved being pregnant! I really appreciated all the good and bad things that came with pregnancy. When we learned we were going to have a fourth child we were excited and overwhelmed. Wow - four kids! Things seemed to be going smoothly just like my last three pregnancies. At our 20 week appointment, with all our boys present, we learned that they were getting a sister! A girl! After three boys, what in the world were we going to do with a girl? The excitement ran high with the daydreams of princesses and a sea of pink and purple.

As we neared those final weeks, having a baby shower and preparing and awaiting for the arrival of our princess, we learned she was still breach. She was very happy in her banana-seat position, as I called it. About a week before my due date we attempted to turn her. During that appointment we joked that we should just deliver her now since we were already there. I cannot tell you how many times I have returned back to this day and comment in my mind. After many attempts by the doctor to turn her, she did not budge. This forced us to consider different birth plan options. It got very complicated because I cannot have an epidural because I have metal rods in my back and scar tissue that blocks and has permanently damaged space for an epidural. We discussed how to go about doing a C-section and whether a "spinal block" would work or not. If it would not work then I would go under general anesthesia (which was worst case scenario for me at the time). My due date was Sunday, January 17.  The doctor did not want to schedule a C-section for Sunday and the OR was completely booked for that Monday, so my induction was set for the following Tuesday. I secretly hoped I would go into labor on my own before then. 

The days leading to her induction were filled with wishes and prayers that she would turn. I feared being put to sleep for her birth and miss her first cry. I sincerely did not want to miss her first coos and cries; Oh how I have enjoyed and treasured those first sounds from my boys.

Little did I know, not a sound would I ever hear from our sweet little princess.

I was very busy with three boys and all the last minute preparations to bring home our first daughter. I was not feeling well and by late afternoon on Friday, January 15th, I realized that her movement had lessened since lunchtime. I shared my concern with my husband and he offered to take me in to get checked. I declined and suggested we go home and get everyone settled into bed and then I would take a bath. Looking back on it, somewhere in my mind I knew she was gone, but denial is a very strong emotion. That evening, I finally made the phone-call in to labor and delivery and they advised me to come in. Because we were a one-car family at that time, I left my husband home to care for the boys and drove myself to the hospital. I kept telling myself, I am sure everything is fine. Even as I changed into a hospital gown, and spoke with the nurse, I would giggle and tell her I was probably overreacting. Deep down, I prayed that she would pick up our daughter's movement. The nurse pulled out the ultrasound machine and started to search for my baby's heartbeat; she was only picking up mine. She had another nurse come in and same thing. They reported that they had brought in an "old ultrasound machine" that just was not working properly and so went on to send orders for a "formal ultrasound machine". I was left alone with my thoughts, panic, and prayers that this was not happening that she really was just fine. Moments, but what seemed like forever later, my Knight in Shining Armor (my doctor) came in with the better ultrasound machine. I knew my doctor would make everything better. I trusted him. Just his presence put my mind at ease. As my baby's little body appeared on screen my Knight showed me where her heart was. It was no longer beating. Immediately, I sank deep into a place in my mind where all this was just a really, really, really bad dream, and soon I would awaken from this nightmare, in my own bed in my own home. Tragically, that did not happen - it was not a nightmare - it was real. I fell into the nurses arms in tears. I remember my doctor telling me he was sorry and expressing other un-recallable words of love and kindness. I asked my doctor to call my husband for me. I simply could not make the call.

On January 16th, 2010, at 10:10 AM, our sweet daughter Jocelyn was born still. 

My worst case scenario had become so much worse than I ever could imagine. I labored a natural birth and she was born breach. They placed this beautiful, perfect, 4.13 pounds, 18 1/2 inches of baby in my arms. How could this be? I prayed one last time for God to allow her to take a breath. She did not. 

We do not know why she passed. We only have speculations. Jocelyn's umbilical cord looked perfect and the only thing awry was her low, full-term birthweight. Because of this, we only sent her placenta off for testing and it came back with no definitive answers for her death.

Over the next days and weeks following Jocelyn's passing and birth, I felt lost and alone. I longed to reach out to others. My sweet family and friends were amazing and did what they could for support, but I longed for something else. I needed a place where I felt like I belonged because I no longer felt that with those around me. My world had ended and I was in this frozen state that I feared would never thaw or move forward. I was told by a friend of mine who also was my bereavement support nurse at the hospital about attending peer-to-peer support group meeting with Share Parents of Utah. Honestly, I was very reluctant to attend, but I agreed to go once and that was it. 

My husband and I attended our first meeting with Share Parents of Utah about month after Jocelyn was born. I was nervous and scared as the room filled up with other couples and mothers. At first I wanted to run out of there thinking, I do not need this. Needless to say, I stayed. I heard others share their experiences regarding their little ones. When it came to our time to share I felt this warmth and love wash over me. In that moment I knew we could get through this because we were not alone. I also learned that it would take time, support, and faith. During that first meeting, realizing we were not alone, I was able to find a place of belonging, it was the beginning of creating a "new normal". There were others who knew what I was feeling and were processing the heartache of their own loss and grief. My husband, John and I attended group support meetings throughout the rest of that year. We were able to spend time face-to-face with others, sharing, learning and working together. The tender mercies of love and friendship were being forged. This was a place where I knew I could talk about my angel and know that it was okay. In these meetings, I wasn't the crazy lady talking about her dead baby. I was a mom, with a beautiful daughter that had blessed my life and my family's life. I believe that my angel-daughter helped place these incredible people in our path for a reason. They truly are tender mercies of love and strength sent from heaven. I am honored to call them friends.

John and I have since been blessed with another little girl. Our rainbow is now three years old. Because of my healing and the volunteer opportunities that have presented themselves to me, I currently lead each support meeting held at the Jordan Valley Medical Center on the fourth Tuesday of each month. I am honored to be a part of that support to new families traveling on this heartbreaking journey, as were those who held me up in my darkest days. The pain of losing my daughter will never completely go away but the tender mercies of continued healing and new friendships can help us become stronger along the way. 

If you have not had the opportunity to attend one of our support meetings I strongly encourage you to attend. 
Each month we choose relevant topics to discuss that will help us on our personal journey of healing. 
May's meeting topics are Meaningful Rituals. 
Come ready to share or learn what others are doing to insure their baby's lives leave a lasting legacy. 

May Support Meetings

Meaningful Rituals W/Melannie
Wednesday May 11th, 2016
7:00 PM to 8:30 PM
South Jordan Public Library

Meaningful Rituals W/Heidi and Stacy
Tuesday May 24, 2016
7:30 PM to 9:00 PM
Jordan Valley Medical Center

Mark your calendars NOW for our June (Father's Feel Too) and July (Children's Grief) support meetings. We are honored and pleased to have special guest Dr. Jake Andreason presenting in these meetings. We encourage all father's to come to our June meetings. If you know any father who has lost a baby, please invite them to attend. This is very exciting too! In July, a limited number of children are invited to attend one of two meetings. Children 11-18 are invited to our meeting held at the library and children 2-10 are invited to the meeting held at the hospital. RSVP's will be required and we will have specialized activities for them to participate in to help them process their individual grief (in a group setting). 

Dr. Jake Andreason earned his Doctorate of Health Administration and currently works at the Early Life and Child Psychology and Education Center. He is from Utah and prior to earning his Doctorate, graduated with his Bachelor's of Science degree in Psychology and Master's degree in Mental Health Counseling. In addition, Dr. Andreason is a fellow bereaved parent and he understands, all too well, what we are experiencing. To learn more about him and his background click HERE

Other Upcoming Events

We invite you to join our team at the 2016 Running With Angels 5k at Thanksgiving Point on Saturday, May 21, 2016.  This event benefits Women's and Children's Services in Utah Valley (not sponsored by Share).  We will have a table set up so come visit us after you run/walk!  A few years ago, Pam Hansen spoke at our Walk for Remembrance and Hope and shared her inspirational story with us.  She created this wonderful event in memory of the children she lost and we have loved participating in this event for the last few years.  It is humbling and inspiring to see all the miles logged in memory of all the precious loved ones gone too soon.  Click here to register for the event - don't forget to join our "Share Parents of Utah" team!

For our families we support and serve up North, we'd love to see you at the Annual Race For Grief, this Memorial Day - May 30, 2016.  Register here for the 10K, 5K and 2 mile walk & Kids K (new in 2016).  The event begins at 8:00 AM at West Bountiful Park, Utah.