Before losing our son, Mark and I had little to no clue about stillbirth. It was the part in pregnancy books that I skipped over for fear of even imagining such a thing. So if you're like us, and have no understanding of or experience with stillbirth, here's a quick catch up...
Stillbirth (according to Webster's Learner's Dictionary) is simply "the birth of a dead baby."
A book the hospital gave us immediately after Jairus' birth entitled Empty Arms: Coping after Miscarriage, Stillbirth and Infant Death Surviving the First Hours and Beyond by Sherokee Ilse adds that "in most states a stillbirth is the death of a baby anytime after 20 weeks gestation...Each year in the U.S. approximately 29,000 babies are stillborn."
Medically, still birth is the death of an unborn child after at least 20 weeks in the womb. Death might happen before or during labor. Reasons for stillbirth include umbilical chord problems, blood clotting disorders, infections, trauma and placental abruption among many others But around 60% of stillbirths have no medical reason for occurring (much like SIDS but before birth).
All the medical articles, dictionaries and books miss the mark though. This is what stillbirth has been for us...
The death of our third child, our second son. It is the end of our hopes and dreams for him which were so real we have trouble swallowing the fact that those dreams were not reality. Still birth is tears and screams and unanswered questions. It is the feeling of panic when the weather turns cold. Stillbirth is the literal ache of empty arms that expected a newborn to fill them. It is my milk coming in with no baby to nurse, and then drying up as my body moves on but my heart is stuck. Still birth is having to go through labor and delivery for a child who will never take their first breath. It is holding your baby in your arms as gently as you can while your soul is screaming for him to wake up, open his eyes and to be ok. Stillbirth is sleepless nights and nightmares and exhaustion. It is feeling "phantom kicks" and hearing cries that are not ringing out. Stillbirth is the inability to focus or plan or remember even simple things.
Stillbirth is the loss of seeing our children grow up with their brother as part of their life...
For Emma, it is the loss of being the 'little mother' to her new baby brother, of building memories with him and dressing him up like a living doll. She'll never show him off to our friends as being specifically hers. She'll never hold him, or give him a bottle. Never help him learn to walk to kiss him goodnight after bedtime prayers. Emma won't get to teach Jairus the difference between being a 'prince' and a 'princess' or how to blow bubbles or pop a balloon. Jairus won't help Hazen fight off the boys chasing her during the teen years, and won't stand up in her wedding one day when the right man does come along.
For Hazen it is the loss of a best friend. Growing up with another boy to wrestle, to tackle, to be sneaky with. He will never see his baby brother, never hold him, never shove the pacifier back into his mouth when he cries. He will never share a bunk bed with Jairus or teach him to jump from the back of the couch (just to give Mom a fright!). He'll never play Cars with him. Hazen will have none of his own memories of Jairus and will only know him at all through Emma and through us.
It is where we find out what we really believe in. We learn who we really are and who our friends really are. We learn what it means to truly depend on God to get us through each day, to carry us when we cannot even stand on our own. Stillbirth makes heaven more real and this world less real. It makes Jesus more than just a bonus to a comfortable life, but the very lifeline of our existence.
THAT is stillbirth.