Wednesday, January 23, 2013

My Journey through Grief: Stillness

"We can imagine two men seated in different parts of a church or theater. Both, when they come out, may tell us their experiences, and both may use the first person. But the one was interested in his seat only because it was his…The other will tell us what could be seen from his seat, choosing to describe this because it is what he knows, and because every seat must give the best view of something.” 
      --C.S. Lewis, “Christianity and Literature” 
                      in Christian Reflections.

I love this quote from C.S. Lewis. My hope as I begin this story is that it will offer “the best view of something.”

It was Christmas night, 1985, when I noticed the stillness. I was two weeks from my due date with my fourth child. The day had been a bluster of ripped wrapping paper, remote control cars zipping through the trash,and our simplified turkey dinner. I had been off my feet much of the previous three months due to a strained muscle in my lower abdomen. The kids, Andrew, 9, Jennifer, 6, and Stephen, 4, had helped with clean up, found homes for all their Christmas treasures, and Cliff and I had finally gotten them and ourselves into bed.
I lay there rubbing my swollen belly and thought, “I haven’t felt much movement today.” That was all before I succumbed to sleep.
The next few days I monitored my body for motion. This was my fourth child, so I knew a baby could just decide to rest up a bit before birth. I tried not to let the growing anxiety burst into full-blown fear.
A friend took me to my scheduled doctor’s appointment on December 29. The doctor greeted me with her lovely smile, patted my arm, and asked how I was doing.
“I’m doing well, but this baby has been awfully still the last few days.”
She put the stethoscope into her ears and laid it on my belly. She listened. Then she moved to another spot, then another.
The room was cold. The stethoscope was cold. I could feel my heart pounding, forcing cold blood through my veins.
Finally, she looked up. “I can’t hear a heartbeat. I’m going to send you over to the hospital for an ultrasound. Can you call Cliff and ask him to come?”
A nod was all I could manage.
At the hospital, the nurse took me down for the ultrasound. She tried to be pleasant, but there weren’t many words that could be spoken, and fewer that I wanted to hear. The technician was quiet as she smeared the cold gel on my abdomen. The image on the screen confirmed what I already knew. My baby was dead.
As they wheeled me back up to labor and delivery, we passed the room where chemo and radiation was administered to cancer patients. There was a young man on a stretcher waiting for treatment. Even in my darkness, I realized that I was healthy, my husband was healthy, I had three healthy children. It helped some to remember those faces who loved me and needed me. I closed my eyes and prayed, God help me. We passed on down the corridor for what would come next. I had no idea what that would be. 


  1. It's not easy to move from this type of grief. I'm sorry for your loss.
    I lost a child in the early stages of pregnancy once. Later, I had a healthy boy. I'm proud of my son.

    1. I'll add a note about this tomorrow. You'd be amazed how many women I have come across who have lost children to miscarriage or stillbirth. And so many don't give themselves the right to grieve.

  2. No matter how far away, I know you still grieve, Dori. I'm sorry for this terrible loss, & glad that you are looking out instead of in.

    1. Thanks for reading along, Linda. When I look back, it is a sad memory, but there is little grieving. I learned to grieve well and come through with some deep peace. I think that's the only reason I can write it now. The grief that wells up now is the coming loss of my father. He could surprise us all and live a few more months, but it's still somewhere in the near future.

  3. Doraine:
    I never knew this. How very difficult for you and Cliff. And explaining it to young children is certainly a delicate conversation. I think traumas and tragedies in our lives sometimes help us build our compassion level and definitely should lead us to appreciation and gratitude for all the blessings we do have. It sounds like it did for you.

    1. You are right, Gail. Living through this kind of trauma gives you insight into the heart of others who grieve. It gives you the ability to extend compassion in a totally different way. You understand that words are not always necessary.