StillBirth: A Bereavement Doula’s Story of Love

*trigger warning: Grief, pregnancy loss, stillbirth, and death through a bereavement doula’s story of love

I cannot tell the story of a mother experiencing a stillbirth, but i can tell my story, It is not meant to replace the story of those going through loss but share about one who walks alongside those that dow.

Photography Credit: Abbey Barnosky, Voices of Eve LLC

Everything is a blur up until the moment I was standing on the other side of the curtain, that’s when everything becomes more vivid. The painting on the wall, smell of peppermint, the blue paper covering triggering images and words on the nurses board. Everything was so clear… except my thoughts which danced and blurred about quicker than I could grasp them.

She was pushing already. I whispered a prayer of thanks that the labor had been a quick one. I waited patiently to be welcomed into the space. This sweet family had never met me before so I wanted to be delicate as I entered into her sacred space.

Holy Ground

When I serve at a birth I often think of Moses as he approaching the burning bush and being warned by God that the place he was standing was Holy ground. And what could be more Holy and God filled than the birth of one of His children? I do some of my best praying and soul searching in that Holy space. And today was not different, if anything it was stronger.

As I stood behind the curtain waiting for this sleeping baby to be born I prayed for the family, and then I prayed for myself. I begged God to help me be more than I am. I wanted to be supernatural in that moment. I wanted to have the perfect words and take perfect steps through every task. That prayer was interrupted when the midwife encouraged me to enter the space.

Model Credit: Hannah Troyer, doula, Mothering Memories, motheringmemories.com
Photography Credit: Abbey Barnosky, Voices of Eve LLC

When my hands were moving I felt calm

I started working, which was the easiest part of the process for me. When my hands were moving I felt calm and assured. But, when there was need to wait or pause I felt my stomach turn and anxiety rise. “What if I am doing this all wrong!?”, “How can I be everything this family needs from me?”, “I feel so unsure and lost.”

And then I would pray again for supernatural actions and words.

“Normal”

I sought out the “normal” things. The strength of mama as she brought her baby closer and closer to her arms. Dad holding her hand, his gaze of wonder on her as she did the impossible. The love. The love was so strong and yet tender in that room. It wrapped around us all like a blanket. As I looked into the eyes of the doctor, midwife, doula, nurses, the father and the mother, I knew that there was this invisible thread that connected us all. We hadn’t had the same exact experiences, no. But yet human suffering and human frailty joined us all together, and we saw each other, really saw each other.

As baby came earth side I couldn’t help but pray for a cry, a breath, anything. silence.

Stillbirth is Still Birth

Then came love all over again, “Look how beautiful your baby is!” “Those little toes are so cute.” And once again I felt at comfort in the “normalcy”. And we all got to encourage mama that she did so good, that her baby is so perfect. Because her baby, like all babies, was perfect. And she, like all mamas, was so strong and so beautiful.

I never got to see my son’s face, he was born at 11 weeks. And truthfully, I don’t know for sure that he was a boy. My doctor never told me I could have testing done to know that for sure. But I peacefully believe that he is a boy. And if I am wrong and walk into heaven into the arms of a little girl I know she won’t fault me. I don’t love my son because he is a boy, I love him because he is mine. Because every baby is perfect, and Noah, my son, is no different.

The Love

Hours slipped by as I watched this family love on each other, ask questions, eat, rest, and dwell with their baby. I spent the hours feeling the love in the room and also feeling the intense gravity of the honor of being allowed in the room. What could be more Holy than a child of God coming into the world? A child of God going home to be with their Savior… forever.

As my time with the family came to a close I slipped back into the prayer once again that I prayed when I first came to the room. “God, help me be supernatural, I don’t want to rely on my own strength, I want a miracle of words and actions to come from me.” As I was praying this prayer I found myself semi-kneeling at the foot of moms bed, looking into the bassinet at their sweet baby. “What was it like for you, grieving for your son?” I looked up at the mom and saw she was asking that question of me. And again that thread stretching from her heart to mine glistened. And all desires to be supernatural melted away… And all I wanted to be in the world at that moment was a mom, sitting at the feet of another mom, sharing stories of our babies, and that’s what I did. I talked about how the journey catches me by surprise and changes day to day.

“Why did you take my son!?”

Photography Credit: Abbey Barnosky, Voices of Eve LLC

A couple of weeks before this baby’s birth I had a friend who’s son was in the NICU and struggling. I went to church and during worship I got down on my knees and prayed fervently for this baby’s life. I begged God to save him from all that would take his life. And it felt so healing to pray that prayer. And I had a moment of anger where I told God, “God, why did you take my son with no warning!? Why was there no sign that he was in danger, if I had known he was in danger I would have interceded for him in this way… I would have prayed on my knees until they bled for him!” And I know that is true. My anger melted away as quickly as it came when I felt that god knew how much i loved my son, and so did my son. Noah didn’t need interceding because he wasn’t in danger. He was safe and still is safely wrapped in his saviors arms. I told this story to this family because their loss had also happened with no warning.

“I knew.”

I cried for the second time that day on the way home in my car. I felt at peace to be done with my part but also I felt emotions pouring out of me from all sides, it felt overwhelming and bigger than I could contain. I thanked God for probably the 5th time that week that He had miraculously held open two days of my schedule so that I could attend to this family and experience this with them. Then He spoke to me for the first time since I got the call that this family needed a bereavement photographer. He said, “I knew her labor would be fast, I didn’t leave two days open just in case the labor went long, I left them open for you.”

It is because of the Lord’s loving kindnesses that we are not consumed,
Because His [tender] compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
Great and beyond measure is Your faithfulness.

Lamentations 3:22-23

Supernatural perfect words

And there was the answer to my prayer, behind the curtain, supernatural perfect words, only not from me but from God. How much I didn’t know that I needed those days. But God knew. I now have a deeper understanding of what God said to Paul:

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 

2 Corinthians 12:9

And there are those supernatural words again, “For you“. God’s Grace is for us all but also it is for us intimately.

I still pray for this family, as I do all of my bereavement families. I think of them during worship, washing the dishes, taking a walk, and a million other random moments. That thread is still there, it is unbreakable, and it is beautiful.

If you are experiencing or expecting to experience a stillbirth please reach out to Abel Speaks

they are an amazing ministry who help support families going through this hard journey. They helped connect me with the family from this story.

Thank you for reading this Blog post. My name is Abbey Barnosky, I am a doula, photographer, educator, and artisan. I serve in person in the Fort Worth area and virtually around the world. My ministry’s mantra is Empowering Services for Everyone. Bereavement work is one area of my ministry that I am most passionate about. You can help support my ministry and help me support families experiencing loss in pregnancy, labor and birth, and beyond.

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