Prairie Wife of the Week November 7, 2014
Posted November 7, 2014 by Prairie Wife - 12 comments
A word of caution to our readers: This week’s interview is an open and honest conversation with a mother whose son died a few days before delivery. Please read at your own discretion and know that the purpose of this interview is to provide support to families who have experienced their own loss. It is also intended to offer education and support to those of us that wish to help friends or family members who have experienced a similar loss.
I met this week’s Prairie Wife of the Week when we were both pregnant with our third child. As we waited to pick up our older children from preschool we would casually chat and compare pregnancy notes. We hit it off but never made it as far as making plans outside of school to get together. Bryonna was due a few months before me and when the end of March came around I wasn’t surprised that I wasn’t seeing her at pickup times anymore. After all, I knew that when my third child was born, getting Cowboy J to preschool was going to be on the bottom of my must do list. About a month or so later I saw her as she walked into the school and immediately asked “How’s the baby?!” As soon as the words were out of my mouth I knew something was wrong. She answered, “Oh, you didn’t hear?” and as calmly and quickly as she could told me that her son had passed away before delivery. I offered her a hug, told her she would be in my prayers and we exchanged phone numbers, along with my offers to help in any way I could. As I got into the car I promptly held my pregnant belly and sobbed, for her…and in fear for myself and my unborn child.
After doing this interview with her I am so glad that I waited a week or so and then began to call and text her to try and get together. At the time I felt like I was stalking her, but I now know that I did the right thing. We got together for coffee and openly talked about ALL of our children…we both shed a few tears. When Cowboy W was born I called her and honestly told her that I wanted to see her but understood if it was too hard. I was pleasantly surprised when she expressed not only a desire to come and hang out but, it seemed to be healing for her to hold Cowboy W. Bryonna’s strength in sharing her story with me, and our readers is astounding. I admire her for her honesty as she talks about the grief of losing a child. Her advice for families experiencing loss and those that want to help them is both heartfelt and wise. I am honored that she allowed me to share her story. If this week’s Prairie Wife interview has helped one mother to feel loved and supported during her time of grief, than it was well worth it.
Prairie Wife (PW): First tell us about your family.
Bryonna (B): I grew up in Rawlins, Wyoming. I met my husband in Casper, where I attended college. We both worked at the same store and at first we hated each other! They say opposites attract and here we are, 12 years later, happily married. We recently moved to Surprise, AZ because of a job change for my husband.
PW: We met when I was pregnant with Cowboy W and you were pregnant with your third child, can you tell me about your pregnancy?
B: I was pregnant with my second boy and, overall, it was an uneventful pregnancy. When it came time to do all the blood work at 18 weeks, as recommended by our doctor, it came back positive for Down’s Syndrome. We never considered terminating the pregnancy, but we did a level two ultra sound to determine what we would need to be prepared for when our son was born. During the ultra sound, the only thing found was a white spot on his heart, which can be an indicator of Down’s Syndrome but is pretty low on the list. So, we did an amniocenteses test. During this challenging time, I was depressed and concerned for, not only our baby, but my two other children as well. I had faith in God’s plan for our family, but I was a wreck when I thought about how life changing it would be to have a child with Down’s Syndrome. When everything came back fine from the test, it was a huge relief for us!
PW: When you went in to give birth to Kannon things didn’t go as planned, can you share what happened?
B: Kannon was born at 4:21pm on Sunday, March 21.
The Friday before Kannon was born, I didn’t feel very well and the baby wasn’t moving very much. On the advice of our doctor, we went into the hospital to be checked out. His heart rate was fine and he responded in all the ways they expected to their tests. The nurse called my OB and asked if he wanted me to be induced. At the time he was in surgery and couldn’t induce me. So, because everything checked out OK, they sent me home. We had a busy weekend and on Sunday I knew I was going into labor. When I felt like it was time to head to the hospital, we dropped the kids off at the sitter and headed on our way. We were filled with excitement and joy, like any parent getting ready to meet their child. The nurses prepped me, as they would normally, while our doctor headed to the hospital. I had the gown on and they placed the contraction and heart monitor on me…and they couldn’t find the baby’s heartbeat. Everything stopped for me…
When our Doctor came rushing in, he said “What happened?” I looked at him and shook my head, “Nothing” I said, “Everything has been normal!” I had no unusual pains, no bleeding, no indicators at all that there was something wrong. They pulled out the ultra sound machine and there was no heartbeat.
It was then that we knew there was nothing that could be done. They told me that I needed to go ahead and deliver him like normal. They gave me a bunch of drugs, I am sure it was to keep me calm during the delivery. I gave birth to my son. He was 8lbs 15oz and 21in long. We named him Kannon Levi… and he was perfect! There were no obvious signs of anything, no cord wrapped around his neck, no bruising, no signs of trauma. They encouraged us to take pictures of him and allowed us to spend as much time alone with him as we needed. Later we did blood work on him, and to this day we have no answer at all for what happened.
PW: I know that most of us can’t even imagine the sorrow you and your family must have felt. What did you and your husband do to help both you and your children work through the loss of Kannon?
B: When I went home that night from the hospital, my mom was already there to help. Between my mother and my mother-in-law, I had support at my house for the next month. They also helped us plan the funeral. We didn’t put anything in the paper and just had family and close friends there to support us. Our oldest daughter went to the funeral home and held him and both she and my son put a teddy bear in his casket at the funeral. I felt that it was important that they could give him something to keep with him.
We talked about Kannon daily, which was very therapeutic. I read as much literature as I could to help myself and my kids. We went to therapy as a family and went to individual counseling. Frankly, my husband didn’t talk about it much. I think men deal with things differently; he just turned into himself and worked on things in his heart rather than talk about it. Over and over, I read that as the kids grow older, questions will continue and will change as they gain a better understanding of life and death. Now, when they ask questions about Kannon, they are different and new.
I just went with what came naturally and didn’t put any limitations or schedule on my sorrow. I think that putting limitations on my time to grieve would have caused even more stress and anxiety. I tried to keep the kids on a normal schedule as soon as possible but I was open to the times when we just needed to be together. As a past educator, I knew that routine and schedule would offer a sense of safety and security to my kids and would allowed them to cope in healthy ways.
PW: What were some things that your friends and family did that you found helpful?
B: Just being willing to talk with my family and I about it and acknowledging that it happened; not being afraid to cry in front of us and with us, bringing meals and offering child care, taking the kids to school or picking them up, helping with the little things like cleaning the house or grocery shopping. Knowing I had all these people to help with the little things in life allowed me to heal. I don’t think I left the house for at least a month…and that’s what I needed.
I knew that I had two beautiful children that needed me and that I needed to be strong for, but I still allowed myself to be human. I would caution anyone aware of a similar situation to be diligent about calling and stopping by, watch for signs of severe depression…and be aware that it’s not just for the first few weeks that help will be needed. If you have a way you can help, act on it, and just do the things that you think the mom needs. She won’t be in a position to delegate or ask for help…making those kinds of decisions is just too overwhelming in the beginning so help is really needed.
PW: What are some things that you wish people had not said or done (though I am sure you know they had the best intentions)?
B: We had, for the most part, “good” experiences. I struggled a little personally because I felt like people were looking at me thinking that it was something I had or had not done. No one actually said anything to make me feel that way but I always felt like it. Saying “This, too, shall pass.” is not helpful. The loss is always there and it will never “pass” or go away. Really, even if someone said the “wrong” thing, even though I was upset, I always knew they were trying to be helpful. People were sensitive to my children. I learned from this experience that people in general DO have the best of intentions and always strive to offer love and support to others when they see they are in pain.
PW: Can you share anything that you think might help someone who has had a similar experience?
B: I think that families need to know that it’s ok to grieve and let the world stop for a little. But you can’t let it consume you; you have to keep living! I did go through a stage where I was in limbo and the world kept moving but I was stuck. I was angry with the people around me that were moving on while I was still mourning and grieving. All this is a normal part of grieving. Eventually I was honest with myself and looked at what I was doing; I gathered the strength I had left and used it to continue living and growing. I think perhaps the best advice is to do what comes naturally to you. Though there is a pattern to grief, everyone grieves in different ways. Some people need to set limitations on their cry time, others (like me) need to just hide away for a while and then emerge ready to live. No matter who you are, find someone to talk to that will check in on you regularly (for months). I strongly feel a professional is best but a friend or family member will work, too.
PW: It has been four years since Kannon’s death, what do you do as a family to keep his memory alive?
B: We visit his grave as often as we can. Now that we have moved, we have family that visit and leave little things for him. On March 21st every year, we celebrate his birthday and have a cake and release balloons. We aren’t afraid to talk about him, and we believe that he is with us in spirit. We have pictures of him around the house and talk about him with friends and family whenever we can.
PW: I know that you struggled with fertility issues after Kannon, can you talk to us about that?
B: I wanted to try immediately after Kannon was born. I felt like it would help me to heal, and I was consumed by it. We had a lot of trouble conceiving, which had never happened to us before. We had a miscarriage two years after Kannon was born, it was devastating for me. After the miscarriage, we began to look into adoption, I just felt like our family wasn’t done yet. Then my husband switched jobs and we moved to AZ. With all the stress and chaos of moving and getting the kids settled in new schools, trying to have a baby and adoption got put on the back burner.
PW: As we sit here chatting I am hearing the sweet little noises of a beautiful baby boy named Keegan can you tell us all about that little blessing?
B: After we moved to AZ and settled in, I went back to work full time for the first time since having kids. I got a job at a local elementary school working with students with special needs. I really enjoyed my job but of course the working mom gig is hard! My husband’s job forced him to be away from home for weeks at a time and it was becoming too challenging for me to work, shuttle kids around, help with homework, and take care of the billion other things we do as wives and mothers. We decided that it was best for me to work part time. It was clear that that wouldn’t work for the school, so I decided to quit and go back to staying home. A few weeks after I handed in my notice, I found out we were pregnant.
To say the pregnancy was stressful is a huge understatement. I thought if I talked about it, it would jinx everything so I really kept it close and told no one. I didn’t buy anything for the baby at all. One day my husband came home with a rocking chair for me and I just couldn’t touch it. It sat unopened in our living room for weeks. I was really actually pretty crazy…I felt that if I could take control of little details, I could control the big picture, which, of course, I know firsthand is wrong; in the end it’s all in God’s hands!
We had planned on waiting until 12 weeks to tell the kids but they had praying for years for a baby…and it just kind of came up naturally in conversation so we told them at about 6 weeks. They were excited and thrilled. We felt like honesty was the best policy. They were also old enough to notice a change in me if something had gone wrong. I spotted at week 10 and that was terrible, but everything turned out to be OK; we collectively held our breath for 9 months.
Thirty weeks came around and everything was going great. For my own mental health, I had purchased a home Doppler and one day as I was listening to the baby, I caught an arrhythmia in the heart beat. I called my doctor’s office and they told me to go to the hospital, so I did. The doctor on call looked at my chart and read my file and decided that with my history I need a full workup. We did a level 2 ultrasound and the ultra sound tech was doing her thing and then she called another tech in…I knew something was wrong. There was something that wasn’t looking right with the heart, so they sent me to a pediatric cardiac specialist. They discovered that the baby had an Arterial Ductus that was prematurely closing. If it did close before the baby was born, the right side of the heart would fail, resulting in the baby’s death.
They monitored the baby and I and watched twice a week to see how the blood flow looked. I also had stress tests weekly on top of my normal weekly doctor appointment. I went to the doctor every single day for the last 6 weeks of my pregnancy which was more than a little stressful, but worth it to keep an eye on everything! Sometimes I had to travel as much at 1.5 hours one way; it was stress on top of stress.
They decided that if they could get me to 37 weeks they would then induce. But at 36 weeks they noticed that the duct was constricting a little bit more and the blood flow was diminished. Added to that was my stress level and they felt that it was best to induce me then. My son was born June 18 at 9:54 am weighing 7lb 3oz and was 19 inches long. We named him Keegan Ladd and he is the best and the happiest baby ever!
PW: Any last Prairie Wife words of Wisdom?
B: If you know someone who has experienced the loss of a baby, don’t be afraid to talk about the baby and ask questions. We, as parents, don’t want to forget our children; we want to remember them. It helps us to keep that memory alive when people know that there is another child, and the more we can talk about our child, the easier it is to keep that memory alive.
For grieving moms, let people help you, allow yourself to grieve naturally, and keep hope in your heart.
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