The death of something or someone before we’re ready is a devastating loss for anyone. You have to ask if we’re ever really ready. Some people are, and most are not.
It was a rainy night as we drove to the hospital. The roads through downtown were unusually quiet. I remember staring out the window of the truck at the haze that held the city as we quietly drove.
We passed the arena where our professional basketball team was playing their playoff game for the first time in decades. Still, unusually quiet for the sports city we lived in. I don’t remember the time, just the wet haze hanging out under the street lights.
The week before that night, my husband had left on a boys annual fishing trip. I think I get this week confused with the year before, memory has such a funny way of tricking us. I just remember being alone and not knowing how to feel.
The baby would do these weird flutter movements, like a muscle spasm, only it wasn’t mine. I had a lot of those while he was gone. I got to the point where I would listen for the baby’s heartbeat on the little machine we had. It was the only thing that calmed me down outside of meditating and sending all of my heart to that little boy struggling to grow inside me.
When my husband came back, we went right back into our routine. We were in our birth classes at the time, our last night in attendance I felt those flutters again.
Then there was the morning.
It was too quiet.
My husband had already left for work. I sat down with my little machine and couldn’t hear anything. I didn’t panic. I told myself over and over again that it was ok.
Because that’s what everyone told me to do. I tend to freak out and overreact to life. “Stop doing that, and just be ok for once,” I told myself over and over.
I was driving to work. Katie Herzig was in the CD player. The dark skyscrapers around me block out the sun. I could see the hill up into the residential area that was where I parked to walk to work.
I stopped. Did I pull over? Did I send a text? It might have been the moment I knew I needed to call my midwife. Maybe she called me and the Bluetooth stopped the music…
Everything was quiet. Too quiet. My memory is full and brilliant. And way too quiet.
A flurry of action followed. I needed to act, to find out where my baby’s heartbeat went.
I needed to know if that stupid machine was broken or if what I felt to be true was becoming my reality.
I never made it to work that day. I found my way to my midwife’s office where she used her doppler to find silence in my belly. She was so calm–I didn’t have any emotional response.
Maybe I was frozen and out of myself so I wouldn’t feel.
That afternoon I ended up in the care of an OB I had never met. I stayed positive. Completely naive to what was coming. Naive to the confirmation that my baby was no longer with me.
Feeling started seeping back when they started walking me through the details of induction. The cold shiver moved down my spine as I realized they were going to make me give birth.
There was no other option.
I still had to go through the passage of motherhood only to not be a mother on the other side of it. Fear settled into my heart. Doubt that I could handle it. There was no running away from this. Death had settled into my body.
Death took hold and never really left.
The belief took root that day that I do not bring life to this world, that my role is that of death. I saw only the death of friendships, work, relationships, life in my memory from that point forward held the shadow of the Reaper.
Even in the birth of the following two pregnancies, my children were unable to breathe their own first breaths. Both needed support. My last needed resuscitation.
My marriage ended that night in the haze of the evening. My heart died with that infant, and all of it has haunted me since. The ghost that can’t move on because the living refuse to give it peace.
12 Years Later
I’ve learned that writing is my outlet. Every morning, I practice “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron to heal my creative side and write.
I’d been looking to sell my wedding gown for years now. It never happened. I knew there were groups that would repurpose wedding gowns and it hit me one morning to find such a group. It was time, my writing was telling me so.
I found on Facebook, “Heaven Sent Baby Gowns…and more!” just south of me and they were accepting wedding gowns as donations. They use the gowns to create baby gowns for those who have passed. Not only newborns, but others who may have survived a few months longer.
I reached out to the organizer, Brenda Sandoval, to meet and give her my gown. I wanted to know more about what she does, what moved her to do this, and the stories of her seamstresses who valiantly volunteer to do this beautiful work.
She agreed to meet for brunch and share her story.
Healing A Family
I’ve had a strained relationship with my mom for a long time now. I never shared my beliefs that I let take root that day. I’ve held much of it in all these years. I was hoping to heal that and share more with the woman who brought me into the world.
She was the only one who held that baby the day his body was born. I wanted so much to hold him. To clean him. To dress him.
I think I held him. I remember the words of another, “It’s over, there’s nothing there, just let him go.” And I couldn’t let him go, but the other “knows” better. So I did. I didn’t ask for the time. I didn’t advocate for what I knew in my heart I needed.
My mom got to hold him. To be with him. I have pictures of her holding him. I’m so grateful someone was with his body when I felt too much shame to do so myself.
By asking my mom to go with me to meet Brenda, I was starting the healing with her. I had hopes and ideas of how it would bridge the emotional gap I had created between us.
It didn’t really. There was still so much more of my own forgiveness to go through before we could start building. It was a start, nonetheless. She had no idea, and I was able to share it with her.
During the process of my divorce, I found snippets of how this belief wove its way between my husband and I. Another relationship deeply wounded by this loss. Eventually, I did share that with him and started the forgiveness work on my side. I’ve learned since then that forgiveness is rarely about anyone other than yourself, and sharing that with others.
Taking the dress to Brenda was another step for all of this. It opened me up to begin sharing with others the pain, shame, and judgement that I felt so deeply during that time. I simply didn’t know how to share it with those that were closest to me. I had so much fear of the rejection because somehow I was feeling it all wrong in their eyes.
Writing this reflection is yet another step in removing the shame. I continue to write and reflect on how the Reaper is in the shadows of my memories. Shining the light on the darkness and seeing it for what it really is.
A belief born out of fear and misunderstanding. A belief created to keep from living, because living had become too painful. A belief that silenced me more than all of the events that had come before.
It’s a belief that is no longer true. I see it now, 12 years later, in the lives of my children that are fully alive. I see life in the smiles of those around me. I’m starting to see life in me. Slowly, moment by moment, I have learned to remind myself that I am alive. I am breathing. I am a gift to this earth because of those things.
I don’t fear death. I also no longer welcome it. The journey through depression, through PTSD, through the death of the child growing inside of me, the death of my marriage, the death of the belief that I’m supposed to “be” someone that I’m not; this journey has brought me to the belief that while I’m here, I have something to give.
The Gift of A Gown
Brenda shared with me that she started her group because of the death of her own mother.. She drove around for weeks with her mother’s wedding gown in the back of her car wondering what to do with it. Her mother was an expert seamstress who had designed and created her own gown that was too beautiful to just throw away.
Brenda, who had lost a nephew too soon as well, learned about a nearby group who repurposed wedding gowns for newborns that had passed. She made the decision to donate her mother’s gown. She also started supporting the group and eventually took it over.
Since 2019 when Brenda rebranded the group, she’s expanded the purpose for the usage of the gowns. They’re no longer only for newborns or preemies who have passed. They create gowns for children up to 12 months in age.
Heaven Sent also uses decorations on the gowns to create memory bracelets for mothers, many of which have an angel charm attached. Dad’s/partners are not being forgotten in this group either. They are starting to make keychains with the same angel charm as a reminder that it’s not a loss that only the mother feels.
I recently saw the notification in the Facebook group that Heaven Sent Baby Gowns are no longer accepting gowns. BUT!! They are ALWAYS looking for seamstresses.
They use simple patterns to make the gowns, and specifications that allow for some creativity. If you know anyone who might be interested in donating their time to this cause, please send them to the group, Heaven Sent Baby Gowns.
While I’ll never get the chance for time with my son, I want to give another mother the chance to be with her child in her grief. And by doing so, she may be a little closer to healing her loss and believing in the possibilities of her future.
I wish for the families losing a child to know there are many of us out there who know their pain. These donations are given from love and sharing the grief they are feeling. I wish that they feel the comfort of others as they tenderly dress their child one last time, wrapping them in the warmth that each of us needed in that moment.
This post was written by Emily Kamala reflecting on her own personal experiences and story. If you’d like to know more about her work and healing, you can visit www.ConsciousLivingLLC.com for more blogs or www.EmilyKamala.com for breakthrough life coaching.