Tag Archives: Stillbirth

A Life Deeply Mourned & Celebrated*

Stillbirths: How a New Openness Helps Parents Cope is an insightful article originally published in Newsweek Magazine January 30, 2009. Click on the link above to read the article. It reflects a much needed and long awaited trend toward ending the silence surrounding stillbirth. In fact, in recent years the term ‘stillborn’ has been replaced with ‘born still’. It’s a small but significant change as it demands acknowledgement of the existence and value of the deceased child.

The article is more than facts and statistics. It includes personal stories and introduces an organization dedicated to helping hurting families hold onto the children who have left their arms but not their hearts.

Never their hearts.

How I wish Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep existed in 1992. I’m so thankful it is available to families today. In 1992 David and I were encouraged to hold our newborn son and I’m glad I did. You just always wish for more. . . to know the color of their eyes, the sound of their voice, the feel of their tiny hand wrapped around your finger, wiggling toes . . . memories to hold onto.

Anticipation is making me wait for that moment promised in 1 Corinthians 13:12:

“For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.”

When Cole was born, by all accounts healthy, just weeks before his due date; there weren’t many support groups available specifically for bereaved parents of infants. Fortunately, that is no longer the case**. The books on the market focused on miscarriage, a worthy subject and a far more common form of child loss, barely gave a nod to the subject of stillbirth.

I was rocked by the fact that my son was healthy . . . but dead. Healthy and dead. The two are simply incompatible; yet it was true. It never dawned on me when I prayed for a healthy baby that I needed to pray for a living, breathing baby at the same time. I never made that mistake again; I assure you.

I felt very much alone.

Those who had previously experienced early miscarriage expected me to quickly move past my grief. Nobody wanted to talk about my son. It felt as if people wanted me to pretend the previous nine months had never happened. And of course the obligatory comments designed to offer hope and comfort were extended. “You can have another baby.”, “This was God’s way of taking care of an unhealthy child.” I wonder if those who offered that last bit of wisdom recognize the irony of it in light of the fact that I later gave birth to two children with a rare form of Muscular Dystrophy? I doubt it. They probably don’t remember saying those words, although I certainly recall hearing them. That’s not meant to be snarky. For some it’s better if they don’t remember; their intention was good. For others, remembering may help them recognize it is untrue and better left unspoken.

Stillborn The Invisible Death was the only resource I found dedicated solely to the topic of stillbirth. It was a painful and cathartic read for me. I’d pick it up and read until my heart hurt so badly I had to cast it aside. But it kept drawing me back. It was one of the few places I heard the barest whisper of, “Yes, that’s it. That’s how I feel!” It was heartrending. It was validating and affirming. My experiences with friends & family, emotions, and subsequent pregnancies were clear reflections of those portrayed in the book. I was not nearly as alone as I felt. I wasn’t crazy, paranoid, or ultra-sensitive. I was very, very normal.

The book is a compilation of survey responses by bereaved parents. But this editorial review found in Library Journal gives a far better description of the book than I can relate 24 years after the fact:

“According to the National Center for Health Statistics, 33,000 babies are stillborn each year. For the parents who experience this traumatic event, and for familes, friends, and professionals, this book offers understanding, hope, and comfort. Drawing on the moving and eloquent testimony of 350 parents of stillborn babies, it explores such topics as blame, shock, and guilt; seeing, holding, and remembering the baby; the autopsy and funeral; effects on family relationships, including moving and divorce; thoughts of suicide; increased substance abuse; surviving children and subsequent pregnancies; returning to normal; and reaching out to others. An empathic and compassionate book that would have been enhanced by a list of support groups and resource organizations.Nevertheless recommended. Jodith Janes, University Hospitals of Cleveland Lib.”

These many years later, I’d still recommend this book to bereaved parents who’ve experienced the birth of a stillborn child.

Seriously, follow the link above and read the Newsweek article. You never know when stillbirth might touch your life or that of someone you love. You never know when you might be called upon to minister to, or encourage, an individual or family living in the deepest, darkest grief following the ninth hour loss of the child they’ve dreamed of and prepared for. You never know . . . maybe you should.


*Newsweek article paraphrase

**A multitude of support groups (both online and face to face) can be found via internet search. I’m partial to While We’re Waiting, an organization dedicated to ministering to bereaved parents. Please see to find out about the free services offered to grieving parents.


Posted by on September 26, 2016 in Grief, Muscular Dystrophy


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Thirty Minutes

hourglassI had a biopsy Tuesday. I was a bit surprised when the doctor told me that I had handled the news that the biopsy was necessary in an appropriate manner – in other words – he was glad I didn’t freak out. This is the fourth time I’ve had to have follow-up appointments when the initial tests revealed unexpected results ATA (after the accident).

I find that ATA I am no longer shocked or surprised by disconcerting news. I’ve just adopted a low-level of expectation mixed with a high-level of resignation.

The nurse told me prior to the procedure that they do a lot of these biopsies and that a cancer diagnosis is very rare. My tongue-in-cheek response was, “Please don’t use that word rare. I’ve found that if it’s rare it happens to me.” Stillbirth is rare. ARSACS is rare. Losing two children in a car accident, while not unusual, is also rather rare among the population.

The biopsy wasn’t as uncomfortable as I expected in spite of finding that the pre-procedure medication hadn’t quite done the job it was designed to do. An additional step was required, which the nurse assured me was NOT a rare occurrence. The three of us, the doctor, nurse and I actually found a host of things to laugh about throughout the process.

As I left the clinic Tuesday afternoon I found myself thinking, ‘This is the most normal I have felt ATA.’ It wasn’t that I escaped the awareness of Bethany and Katie’s deaths. Nor did I forget Gracen’s disease and her prognosis. Those things are simply deeply ingrained in my being. They are ever before me. They have shaped me in so many ways. They color my perception of everything I see, hear and experience.

I don’t really know what made the interaction with my doctor and nurse different than all the interaction I have had with others ATA. Maybe. . . hopefully. . .  it reflects that a measure of heart-healing has taken place. I am both hopeful and wary of finding out if that will prove to be true.

clocksIt was a period of time in which feeling good (in spite of the fact that I was having a biopsy and all that implies) didn’t feel bad – didn’t feel as if laughing or smiling or enjoying simple conversation diminished the inherent value of my daughters. There was no guilt – no shame – and believe me I found many a reason to feel both of those things!

It was thirty minutes, not of escape, but of the assurance that there could and maybe even would be more moments like this. Moments when each one of my children is a joyful part of me, not simply a bitter or wounded reminder that life is not what I hoped, expected or dreamed it would be.

I fear I’m not describing these moments well at all, but suffice it to say that it was the first time that I discovered that living another day might not be so bad. That I might eventually enjoy life again. Not the naive existence I walked before Cole was stillborn, before Gracen and Katie were diagnosed, before Bethany and Katie died, before Gracen survived even as her health continues to deteriorate. No, it was a glimpse of what might be possible in spite of all those other things.

For thirty minutes of my life Tuesday . . . I felt free.

I felt for the first time as if God just might have some good plan for me in the here and now; not just my eternal future. Believe me when I say that I have long known intellectually that God cares about my here and now as well as my eternity, but it’s the first time I actually felt as if that was true. Finding any single occurrence where my mind and my feelings agree is huge for me.


For two and a half long years I have struggled to find a way to make my mind and emotions agree . . . and I’ve failed miserably. I honestly don’t think it’s something I have any power over. I think that’s the Holy Spirit’s job, so I don’t believe I’m a failure. I do, however, think the Holy Spirit is meticulous and that takes time – more time than I have the patience for.

So for now . . . all I want to do is bask in the thirty minutes of freedom I experienced.

30-minutes-400x234-1_1Those thirty minutes were worth waking up Tuesday.

Worth getting showered and dressed.

Worth having a biopsy.

Those thirty minutes. . .

That feeling of freedom . . .

it’s priceless.


Posted by on September 7, 2016 in Adversity, Faith, Grief, Muscular Dystrophy


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Birthday Reflections – Guilt & Shame

il_570xN.838650199_lubbToday is my one and only son’s birthday. If you read my Father’s Day post you know that he was, in the terminology of the latest trend, born still — a cord death. Cole did not die on the day of his birth. I always knew that. David and I were drawn to the hospital because I quit feeling him move. But even I didn’t initially know when he actually died.

I’m not sure how long it was after his death that I discovered exactly when it happened; but it was an innocent comment made by my mother that truly rocked my world.

She was in my home and all she said was, “I remember you telling me that the baby was moving really funny.” Those words triggered that movie-like effect, you know the one where past events scroll by the screen at warp speed and a replay begins of that exact moment in the character’s past. I was instantly transported back . . . There I stood in my parent’s living room in front of their green velvet love seat. It was about 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 18th. I can see it in my mind’s eye looking on as if I was standing mere feet away from my extremely pregnant self.

I’d driven to there home after work in order to bring my mom some fabric which she was going to sew into a balloon shade for the baby room David and I had set up in our home. It was a simple blue and white pinstripe and matched the Paddington Bear pattern of the bedding we’d chosen. And then I said it, “Mom, the baby’s moving really funny.” It echoes through my mind even 24 years later. My mother replied, “Why don’t you lay down and maybe it will stop in a moment.” Cringe worthy advice looking back, for indeed the strange movements I felt did stop shortly thereafter. And only in hindsight, only when my Mother spoke those innocent words after my child was long buried, did I realize their significance. “I remember you saying . . . ”

Unbeknownst to my Mother, she filled in the blanks and devastated me all with one simple sentence. For it was at that very moment, now standing in my own living room, that I realized that I not only knew exactly when my child died but that I did nothing — NOTHING! — NOT ONE THING! — to save him. It was also in that instant that I could finally find words to describe the strange way my son was moving within my womb. Thrashing. That is the only word that accurately describes those strange, previously indescribable movements.

FullSizeRender (15)I knew with certainty then that I felt my child dying. The cord that was wrapped once around his arm and twice around his throat tightened suffocating him as he thrashed, fighting for his life. That devastating moment began the completely irrational guilt and shame cycle I struggled to overcome for years in spite of knowing full-well that had I understood what was happening, I would not have been able to save him. There was no way to get to the hospital, to have my son delivered, before his death. No possible way.

Guilt and shame are all too common experiences in the parent loss community. Far too common. We kick ourselves for what we perceive as poor choices where logic firmly unravels that notion. Rarely is there an earthly way of knowing what is to come. The lack of foreknowledge renders us incapable of intervening in the unacceptable destiny about to play out in our children’s lives. Logic is trumped by emotion and mental anguish. So, we beat ourselves up and ask, “What kind of mother/father am I?” And the only possible answer is of course, “A bad one.”

We need someone to blame, someone to be held accountable, and for many broken believers, the heart simply cannot handle even the thought that our child’s death may have been part of God’s plan* – let alone His will. It is easier to blame ourselves than to rock the very foundations upon which our belief in a loving God resides. Not that we are any more capable of preventing that either. When a large part of your world is destroyed the impact is insidious as wave upon wave of grief batters the broken heart.

Just as few people knew that I felt my son strangle to death within the ironically protective environment of my womb, few people realize that we debated the trip to Kansas City for Christmas the year my oldest and youngest daughters died.

Bethany, my oldest daughter, had so much going on in the days prior to her death.  Tons of angst over school and changes in living arrangements she wanted to make, finances, and Alex, her boyfriend’s uncertain return to UCA.  Her life was in complete turmoil and I was helpless to make it better for her. It seemed what might be best for Bethany would be for us to stay home in Bentonville that Christmas. However, that was not what was best for the rest of the family nor for O’rane (the international student spending the holiday with us). Still, I took her aside a day or two before we left for Kansas City and asked her if she would prefer to stay home. I would have chosen to remain in NW Arkansas if that would have made her more comfortable. No one else would have been too keen on that plan, but I had every intention of honoring her wishes had she indicated that she would prefer to stay home.

What I wouldn’t give to have stayed home for Christmas!

I’m considerably older and a bit wiser than I was 24 years ago, but those old demons of guilt and shame have still plagued my days in the aftermath of Bethany & Katie’s deaths. Despite that fact that I had no power whatsoever to prevent any of the tragic circumstances of my life, the broken heart is laid bare and vulnerable to the fiery arrows Satan takes such delight in unloading upon the weak.

Maybe just revealing that truth will help another broken-hearted parent caught in the guilt and shame cycle put to rest the irrational personal judgments they have leveled against themselves or a spouse. Maybe it will enable them to see that what the scriptures say is true – that Satan is a thief and a liar bent on our destruction and there is no limit to the devices he will employ to do just that.

Maybe the disclosure of my illogical feelings will enable another parent to make peace with the equally truthful scriptural revelation that our days are numbered prior to our birth; it was never in our power to extend the lives of our children, regardless of the circumstances of their death. There are simply things in this life that, as a result of God’s foreknowledge, are pre-ordained and while that can be a devastating truth it can also be a great comfort, because the vast majority of parents have consistently acted in their children’s best interest. And with grace for those whose actions bring godly conviction (i.e., guilt) there is repentance, forgiveness, restoration and reconciliation through faith in Christ Jesus.

The road is long and dark — but grief embraced and worked through — can result in health and healing.

Oh, you never forget. And there never comes a day when the death of your child is justified by spiritual growth or ministry. Those things are just the result of God taking bad things and performing a work of redemption. He doesn’t ever transform bad events by simply redefining them and calling them good. No, God brings good from Satan’s evil actions and intentions. And He doesn’t justify Satan’s evil actions and intentions either. That’s a fine distinction, but an extremely important one nonetheless. All things work together for good, not all things are made good.

So while this day is filled with bitter longing and remembrance it is also a day in which I know I can trust that this is not the end of the story. This Kenny Chesney song, “Who You’d Be Today” is reflective of that intense longing and bitter disappointment I feel. (Click on the red text to link to the song). But it also reminds me that one day I will know who each of my children really are because I will see them again. I will know them and they will know me in perfection, the way we were created to be before the fall of man. We will be like Him — the one who sacrificed His life and endured for the joy set before Him.

“Who You’d Be Today” by Kenny Chesney

Also included below are the lyrics to “Held” by Natalie Grant which serve to remind me that there are things God did not promise me — but that He has promised to hold me through all the bitterness this life brings. Can I not wait, for one hour (albeit a very long hour), watching for my Savior? Partial lyrics can be found beneath the youtube link.

“Held” by Natalie Grant

Partial lyrics, “Held” by Natalie Grant:

IMG_1111“This hand is bitterness
We want to taste it and
Let the hatred numb our sorrows
The wise hand opens slowly
To lilies of the valley and tomorrow

This is what it means to be held
How it feels, when the sacred is torn from your life
And you survive
This is what it is to be loved and to know
That the promise was that when everything fell
We’d be held

If hope if born of suffering
If this is only the beginning
Can we not wait, for one hour
Watching for our savior”

*Please allow me back up a bit here. God’s plans and His will are sensitive subjects. I’m not confident that I completely understand them but I am confident of a few things. God’s plans for us are redemptive and good. His will for us is that we be saved and conformed into the image of Christ. There is a huge difference between God’s will & plans for us and foreknowledge. God cannot intervene and prevent every negative circumstance in our lives and maintain His commitment to granting us free will. As believers we need to be aware that God’s plans for us include a strategy for redemption based upon His foreknowledge of the events that will impact our lives. We also need to recognize that God is not the author of all the negative circumstances in our lives. We have an enemy. His name is Satan; and he’s more than happy to allow God to be blamed for his actions.


Posted by on June 21, 2016 in Grief, Music


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An Unconventional Father’s Day


I awoke alone in a hospital bed to a bright morning after a flurry of activity the night before.

smallfeetMy husband’s first Father’s Day.

A nurse stopped by and then a doctor both of whom introduced themselves — shift change had occurred and I had a whole new team of medical care providers.

Then David entered my room looking tired having left late the night before to catch what sleep he could find.

I was checked to determine if the medication I’d been given the night before had resulted in sufficient effacement in preparation for delivery before a Pitocin drip was started to induce labor. David sat silently at my side holding my hand after a monitor was strapped around my burgeoning waistline to measure contractions. We were then left alone to stilted and quiet communication as we watched the monitor record the Pitocin-induced contractions.

David developed a quick rapport with Mary, my daytime nurse, as she popped in and out of my room at regular intervals. Pitocin generates stronger contractions than a woman experiences when she goes into labor on her own, so I was given a medication to dull the pain which left me nauseous. I curled in upon myself and closed my eyes to get what rest I could.

Shortly after noon, David’s Mom arrived at the hospital. I don’t know how long she stayed as she sat quietly with David while I simply tried to shut out the world and ignore my nausea. Then a group of ladies from my church appeared. While appreciating their presence, not being at my best I really didn’t want to see anyone but neither David, nor I was equipped to send them away. They waited a considerable amount of time before I agreed to see them.

Finally, I progressed to the point of delivery. The doctor prepped us for unexpected things we might see after our child entered the world that we’re not covered in typical childbirth classes. In surreal fascination, I watched as the doctor and my husband settled in to watch the Olympic Track and field trials between contractions as I lay on my back, feet mounted in stirrups at the end of my bed.

And then it was time to begin pushing and with a little help from a vacuum device, the doctor announced that we had a son as Bradley Cole Boxx slid silently into the world at 4:11 in the afternoon, June 21, 1992.

Mary quickly cleaned him up, placed a stocking cap on his head, tagged his body and wrapped him in a warm blanket before handing him to me. I cautiously unwrapped Cole to count fingers and toes as I held my breath remembering the words of preparation the doctor had spoken prior to delivery. In the relative quiet of the delivery room, I looked up at David and asked him if he wanted to hold his son. And on my husband’s first ever Father’s Day, I swallowed thickly when he declined.

Following the normal post-delivery care, the doctor quietly talked David and I through the reasons why we may or may not wish to have an autopsy performed. Since the cause of death was evident (the umbilical cord wrapped around one arm and multiple times around his small throat) we found no reason to authorize a search for any other cause of death. And then my room was cleared of sympathetic medical personnel and David and I were left to spend as much time as we liked with our all too silent son.

imprint3David’s first Father’s Day began in the dark of night. He later told me as he drove home from the hospital the night before Cole was born that he realized he now shared the loss of a son with his Heavenly Father.

A year after I wrote this article David commented on it telling anyone who read his reply of his thoughts on the drive home that night. Here’s what he said,

“I remember thinking about all the great attributes about God, like [the fact that] he is all knowing, omnipresent, omnipotent, loving, righteous, just, [and] kind etc. . . . At that time I thought, “How is He being kind and just with me and my wife?” Then I thought [that] His restraint and patience seemed to be His greatest attributes. I knew if I had the power to send ten’s of thousands of angels to save my child from the clutches of death I would have acted without hesitation. Then I remembered John 10:29,”

“My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.”

“My children are His children and they could not be in any greater place than in the grip of God.”

David’s first official act of fatherhood was to disassemble the crib he had assembled earlier with such anticipation and joy. This he did after that solitary drive home alone the night before, in the early hours of Father’s Day.

David never held his son. All these years later, he doesn’t recall why he made that choice. Truthfully, he may not have known himself what motivated him to make that decision. I have to wonder if it was a simple form of denial. The horror, the devastating loss, was somehow less real or less personal if he didn’t reach out and touch the flesh of his flesh. Not holding his son is the one regret of David’s initial foray into fatherhood.

But David did what had to be done and he did it independently — it’s what he needed for himself. The day after I came home from the hospital he left to plan Cole’s funeral. I had no idea he’d even made the appointment. He just went and did what needed to be done — because he was a father and it was one of the final acts of service he could perform for the child he loved.

In the intervening years, David embraced fatherhood three more times. Bethany, Gracen, and Katie completed our family. Sadly, two and a half years ago our oldest and youngest daughters were killed by a careless driver.

Father’s Day is a bittersweet day — those most memorable are the ones that were more painful than pleasant. The day is one in which David is ever aware of the absence of the children he’s lost and profoundly grateful that Gracen remains. He acknowledges his sorrow but refuses to dwell on it.

Sunny the grill masterFor David, Father’s Day has never about being appreciated by his wife and children. Instead, Father’s Day is all about David’s appreciation for his Dad. For the example of love demonstrated through acts of service more than words. For learning about humor, character and integrity, hard work, and protecting those you love. For David, Father’s Day is about honoring the effort and commitment of the generation before, not reveling davidwithfrostyhatin his own fatherhood. And David’s father has loved our family with words and hugs, and by meeting needs through the work of His hands that have touched me in ways I can’t begin to describe. He is not so much my father-in-law as he is the father of my heart.

Since becoming a father himself, David has never experienced a Father’s Day untouched by sorrow. But every single Father’s Day since the day his only son came into the world has been marked not only by memories of that first unconventional holiday but also with an uncommon depth of appreciation for the man who raised him.

“He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers. . . ” ~ Malachi 4:6b

For bereaved fathers,

“I pray that from His gloriously, unlimited resources, He will empower you with inner strength through His Spirit. Then Christ will make His home in your hearts as you trust in Him. Your roots will grow down into His love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.” ~ Ephesians 3:16-19


Posted by on June 19, 2016 in Grief


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Reader Stories on Stillbirth

The New York Times printed a story about Stillbirth on Father’s Day this year. I saw the article on Facebook and responded, as did a great number of others, when they asked what advice you’d give to a family devastated by stillbirth. The Times published a compilation of reader responses on July 28th. This is a link (in red below) to that publication. Reading it may equip you to support and encourage someone you love one day.

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Posted by on October 22, 2015 in Grief, Links


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A Letter to the Friend of a ‘New Normal’ Grieving Mother


This article (Click on link in red above) is well worth the read for those who wish to understand the heart and mind of a grieving mother. It is definitely a struggle to merge the pre-loss woman I was with the post-loss woman I am and will always be, in spite of the fact that I’ve been down this road before.

I could have written most of this article myself. The one unmentioned battle is that of your faith and your reality. I fear my last post offended some of my Christian friends – the “choose joy” comment and “it’s ok, God’s in control” reference in particular.

I want people to understand there is a difference between joy and happiness and that the Bible tells me there is a season for everything, even grief. I’m not choosing to be unhappy, I am, however, grieving and that process may take longer than even I would like it to. And I too fully believe that God is in control but during this time of grieving it’s not particularly comforting because He was and always has been in control even when my son died within my womb and my daughters died at the side of the road and when two of my children were diagnosed with a progressive neuromuscular disease. None of those things have been or will ever be OK with me in this present world even if they are OK from an eternal perspective.

I am by far my own worst critic expecting some supernatural ability to cope with my changing reality as the perfect Christian would but I am also far more human than holy so forgive me if in my grief I have disappointed or hurt anyone as I struggle my way through all of this.

At this point in time I relate far better to Job’s lamenting his very birth than I do to the proverbs 31 woman who has no fear of the future and while I make recognize that I can count it all joy during this struggle because of the rewards that will later spring forth, I’m too tired to make the effort right now.

(Facebook Post 7/1/15)


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Father’s Day

(Facebook Post 6/21/15)

For David on yet another Father’s Day filled with joy and longing. You are an awesome Dad! Happy Birthday to Cole who has never been and will never be forgotten – you are loved and missed. We are looking forward with great anticipation to the day the Lord and your sisters will introduce us to our son. And for the many fathers out there who experience the repeated and painful losses of anticipated moments of fatherhood – who often stand on the sidelines celebrating lost moments with joy, a touch of sorrow and a surprising lack of bitterness as friends, family and strangers enjoy them firsthand. You are all a unique kind of brave.

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Posted by on October 22, 2015 in Grief, Links


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