Monday, October 11, 2010

October- Awareness and Remembrance

I wrote this as a submission to Newsweek for their 'My Turn' column. I'm not surprised I never heard anything back. Not only am I not a professional writer, but who would want to publish an article or read an article on stillbirth? 
I also published this as a note on my Facebook page. Again, I'm not surprised to have received no feedback. Who wants to read or think about stillbirth? 

But October is our month too. The month where we try to raise awareness of the tragedy of loss during and right after pregnancy. Our month of remembrance.

A Life Not Measured

My son, Owen Christopher, died on November 5, 2007. He was born three days later. My husband and I had been married a little over two years when we found out I was pregnant. It wasn’t exactly the timeline we had in mind, but we were thrilled. During our anatomy scan in July, we got our first look at our tiny miracle. It was easy to see we weren’t having a little girl. Owen was so proud, so excited to show his daddy that he was a boy. We were ecstatic. The months passed quickly and soon we were just weeks away from bringing home our little boy.

Late one Monday night, four weeks before Owen’s due date, I noticed a change in movement. I was working full-time and there were so many things left to do before our little bundle arrived, but I distinctly remembered feeling him move that afternoon while at work. When I got home that evening, my husband and I went shopping for last minute baby items. I was less concerned with his movement as we busied ourselves around the apartment, having just put sheets decked out with cars and trains on his crib and finishing his laundry; little clothes, tiny onesies, blankets and hats.
Tuesday morning, I woke up in a full-blown panic. I knew something was wrong. Owen was always a big mover. He loved to push his tiny baby butt out and dig his heels into my ribs while I slept. Of course, Owen had scared me before this particular morning. I was told it was normal for babies to sleep for a period of time in the womb and that sometimes movement slows before labor. I figured he was doing what little boys did best: worrying mommy. I decided to do what all the books tell you. I drank cold water, ate blueberry oatmeal chased with cranberry juice and as soon as my doctor’s office opened, I made an appointment for that morning. After showering and dressing, I had calmed down. Not much, just a tiny flutter, but Owen had moved enough to quiet my fears. My husband, Chris, and I made our way to the doctor’s office. We talked excitedly about Owen and speculated that his change in activity might mean oncoming labor.

Fifteen minutes…fifteen heartbreaking minutes later, we knew he was gone.
There was no movement on the screen, no flutter of his heart beating. Silence and stillness, this is how I remember my son’s birth.

Owen was born November 8, 2007 at 11:08 in the morning. When the doctor laid him on my chest, a fragile little doll with pink skin and delicate fingers, I couldn’t help but smile. He was beautiful, perfect. We had been waiting eight long months for this day. The day we would finally meet our son, our firstborn, face to face.
It was supposed to be the happiest day of my life.

We left the hospital alone, while mothers all around us were nursing their new arrivals. Walking back into our apartment, the reality of his death hit me all over again. All of Owen’s things were gone; the crib we had spent hours putting together, his tiny baby clothes, books, and stuffed animals. Everything was gone. It was as if he never existed. The first few weeks after his death I woke up every morning with the devastating reality pounding me over and over again: my son was dead. Every time I instinctively reached down to touch my stomach, expecting to feel my child moving and living inside me, I was inundated with fresh waves of his absence. I wondered how I could go on living after my heart had been shattered into a million pieces.

It will be three years soon. Three years since Owen’s death and birth, but I can still feel the weight of him in my arms and smell his new baby smell. I remember the feel of his tiny fingers and toes, the soft skin of a newborn. His face, adorned with a tiny button nose and a dimple in his chin, is a carbon copy of my own.

His life is not something I can measure by birthday parties or growth charts. I have only a few pictures of him on the day he was born. His life, a mere 36 weeks in the womb, may not seem like much of a life to some, but I could not have loved him more if he had lived sixty years. To those of us who knew and loved him, he is special; an irreplaceable little boy whose life impacted and changed us. 

Grief is complex, unpredictable and ever changing. It is a different creature for each of us who have experienced the loss of someone we love. I cannot pretend to be an expert, even of my own personal grief. I pass landmarks and places that look familiar but I am ever moving forward, albeit slowly sometimes. 
Moving forward does not mean that the grief has lessened or that I have moved on. His life has changed me irrevocably and I can never forget him. I wouldn’t want to.


michelle hs said...

i think this is a beautiful story of your memories of owen! it is beautifully written and shows your love for your son. it made me tear up. hugs!

Meghan said...

what a beautiful writing! truly.

Ashley said...

You DO write beautifully! I love that Hodges and Owen share their birthday!!!

Hugs sweet friend!

Sara said...

Oh Ebe, you are just precious and your love for Owen is just as beautful! I know, I can't believe we are already upon the boys birthdays... how can it go so fast and still feel like yesterday??? Praying for you Ebe... wish I could be there with you at the Concordia/Covenant game:)

Anna said...

I think you wrote it perfectly.

How can it be almost November already. :(


Stephanie said...

I remember reading this on facebook. I'm sorry I didn't comment. It's as beautiful now as it was then. Ebe, thanks for being willing and open to share your pain. Too bad I can't run over and hug you!

Happy birthday, Owen.

Kelly said...

Owen's mother's love shines through this post. We can feel your pain and your grief through your words. I admire you for posting on FB. I posted something too, although it wasn't about myself personally.

(((HUGS))) to you.

Mrs. MK said...

Ebe, this is wonderful and beautiful. Thank you for sharing it, and I'm sure it has touched those who read it, even if they don't know how to respond.

Our children are remembered and cherished by those who love them dearly.... and most importantly, by our God, who counts our tears, and who cares for the sparrows. Much love!

Rachel said...

A beautifully written article, Ebe. Thinking of you as you adjust continue to a new home and as Owen's bday approaches.

Laurie said...

I love this. Reading it, I had a soft peace...even as my heart felt the heaviness of your sadness and loss. But the sense of peace came in the way you so eloquently brought life to his story and meaning to his exhistence.

Freya said...

Thanks for writing this, Ebe. I'm continually encouraged by your commitment to share Owen's life with the world--especially strangers. You appear to be doing something that is crucial to grief: you're experiencing it, and bringing it with you where you go in life--not necessarily sharing it with everyone, but you seem to be letting the effects of grief refine your character and now you are a stronger person who has known the depths of this grief and come through it with our Savior. I don't know you well but I'm honored to, thanks for being an encouraging sister in our Lord.
I think of you & Owen often and I pray for you.
Take care,

jillian said...

maybe not surprising that Newsweek didn't reply.... but sad! They have missed out on a gem here- an important one that could open some ignorant eyes....

But you're telling your story, Owen's story, and the story of God's faithfulness even through the loss of Owen, so well here. So glad you're sharing as you are!

May Christ's grace continue to abound to you...

Sherri said...

I'm a first time commenter, but I have been reading your blog for quite a while. I'm actually a little embarassed to say how long I have been following... And now I'm going to ramble on about how I found your blog :)... I found your blog from Sara Hintz's, and I met her through my best friend from college named Amy. My friend Amy met Sara and her family at the seminary when their husbands were in school together there. Amy and her husband Mike will be in St. Louis at the sem for the next three years. Amy introduced Sara and I when I lost our only daughter, Amelia, who was stillborn at 36 weeks. Amelia was born on mother's day of 2009. We had two older sons at the time... (we have since had a third son this last August, Archer Samuel)Our firstborn, Owen, was 3 when Amelia died, and Everett was 2. I cried the first time I read your story about your precious Owen, because my heart broke knowing that I was the one who was carefree like you with my first pregnancy. We were blessed to deliver a living baby boy that we also named Owen. As much as I cherish those memories of his birth, I now cherish both his birth and that of our other sons, Everett and Archer ever more so because of our experience with Amelia.

I love your article - your story about Owen. My heart leaps with joy thinking of your reunion with him some day, in the presence of our Savior...

It warms my heart to see you with your sweet Hannah Mae. Thank you for sharing your heart - you have made my journey through grief, as on-going and as fresh as it still is, a little less difficult.

Thank you,
Sherri Heath

Ebe said...

You guys make me want to cry. Thank you for your words of love and support.

Denise said...

I AM a freelance writer and this article IS good, though it could perhaps benefit from a bit of editing/polishing. Did the Newsweek guidelines suggest a word count? Sometimes they can't use something if it is too long or too short. Or submitted the middle of September when the day for remembering infant loss is October 15 (magazines are months ahead of what's actually happening - probably about now they are accepting Easter articles!). There are many other magazines (I can't remember the name of it, but I used to subscribe to a parenting one that had a column where people sent in their personal experiences). Submit your story somewhere else. Don't be shy! Sometimes it takes a lot of rejections before one gets published! Perhaps even a local newspaper would be interested for a weekend feature story.
Good luck and thanks for sharing your story with us.

Blessings this October Sunday,

Denise in Saskatchewan, Canada