Caitlin and I went to the same jr. high and high school. Last week she posted about the 5 year anniversary of the stillbirth of her son and was willing to share her experience with it.
Caitlin Bowen is a stay-at-home mom of five. Leo (7), Thomas (6), Nola (3), Rudy (almost 2), and baby Isaac who is watching over from Heaven. She and her husband Tyler have lived in Virginia for 6 years and are now happy to be back in Utah by family.
That night I was so restless. I woke up around 4 am in a complete panic and I knew something was wrong, I could feel it in my heart. I couldn’t remember if I had felt kicking the day before or not. I woke my husband Tyler up and he tried to comfort me, but I could see the worry in his eyes too.
My appointment was at 8 am that morning. We didn’t have time to get a babysitter, so I went alone while Ty watched our two boys. I have never felt more nervous or uneasy in my life than I did driving to that appointment. Looking back, I realize the Holy Ghost was warning me, telling me something wasn’t right so that I wasn’t completely blindsided. As soon as I was called back I looked at my doctor with tears in my eyes, trying so hard to compose myself, and I asked her if we could do an ultrasound even though I didn’t have one scheduled because I was worried something was wrong. She was so kind and told me not to worry, that I had a perfectly healthy baby and we would do an ultrasound to put my mind at ease.
As soon as she began the ultrasound I knew he was gone. Her face dropped and tears rolled silently down her cheeks before she even said a word. There was no heartbeat. I was staring through watery eyes at a lifeless little body up on the screen. She turned off the machine, took my hand, looked at my face and said, “I’m so sorry”. Before she could get the words out I said it for her. And she said “yes. I don’t know why, but your baby has died.” She held me and cried with me. Our baby was too big for a D&C and I would have to go to labor and delivery to be induced like I was with my two little boys.
I didn’t want to tell Ty over the phone, so I texted him and told him to put a movie on for the boys. The moment I walked in the door I knew he already knew too. He cried and we held each other. To me that was much worse than finding out, I couldn’t stand to see him so crushed and heartbroken. That night neither of us slept. Not for even a minute. He rubbed my back and tickled my hair all night long, telling me it would be okay and telling me how much he loved me. I would not have made it without him.
Friday, June 21st at 11:10 Isaac Bowen came into this world. Weighing an ounce under 1 pound. I did not know how painful silence could be. I was handed his tiny body and I cried. I stared at him in shock. Mostly because I didn’t expect him to be quite so cute. Tyler and I laughed through our tears when we realized he already had my husbands’ eyebrows just like my other little boys, and the sweetest dark fuzz coming in on the top of his head. His nose was perfect and he had the tiniest little round cheeks. We held him and admired him for most of the day. That night we left the hospital, holding each other tightly, empty-handed. As we walked down the hall we could hear the cry of a newborn and my heart absolutely ached.
The weeks and months that followed were so much harder than I could have ever anticipated. The worst part was healing from childbirth with no baby to love and take care of. When my milk came in I had to bind myself to try and get it to go away. It was such a painful time physically and emotionally. I kept thinking that if he had only survived one more week he would have been 23 weeks and been born alive he could have made it. I wondered if I had done something wrong. I questioned myself constantly and doubted my abilities to take care of these tiny human beings that God had entrusted me with. I had never struggled with anxiety before, but as time went on I stopped sleeping. My heart would pound so hard at night I thought it was going to burst out of my chest. I was so scared of something else happening to one of my boys or to Tyler it began to paralyze me. Suddenly, scary things that had only crossed my mind from time to time now consumed me.
As my anxiety grew, so did my feeling of negativity. For a very long time, only close friends and family knew about Isaac. I have wrestled for quite a while with thoughts that my feelings aren’t justified because I knew many others who have gone through so much worse. I wondered what people would think when comparing me to a mother who had lost a baby at full term? Was my grief validated or was I weak for feeling so much pain and heartache? In my mind, I have lost my child. But what would others think? One day that changed. I don’t know why, but I finally decided that regardless of what others thought, I knew and I knew the Lord knew that Isaac is my son and I had lost him and it was okay to grieve. I finally felt like it was okay to mourn him in front of others, to love him and to talk about him. As I did this and really started to rely on my Father in Heaven, my heart started to heal.
I think about Isaac every single day. There are still days I miss him so much it makes my heart physically hurt. I think the hardest part of losing a baby is to constantly know somebody is missing. Missing from pictures and birthday parties and missing from so many “firsts”. But I take so much comfort and peace knowing exactly where he is. I look forward to the day when we will embrace and I won’t have to miss him anymore.
So for now, we will love him, talk about him, honor him and learn from him. He has taught me compassion, patience, love, understanding, and so much more. We are here to be tried and tested, and I know for a fact that we can use our trials to strengthen our families and ourselves. We can use what we have learned and felt to lift others around us and hopefully make this world a better more wonderful place. I have been taught that even after something so painful, life is still so full of joy! And even though we are missing someone, I know he’s always close by. What a privilege and honor it is to be his mom. I feel so blessed to have an angel watching over us.