Innocent’s Story

Our son Innocent died at the age of 12 weeks, five days in the womb. He was our sixth child and our first miscarriage. I, unconventionally, left a window open into my grief and shared that with my blog readers. All of the posts about my pregnancy with him and then the ensuing miscarriage are collected here.

Innocent

Died: 12 weeks, 5 days
(unsure of date – commemorating on March 31st,
the feast of St. Innocent)
Born: April 10, 2011
Buried: April 13, 2011

(Update 7/12/2014 – I have added photos at the bottom of the page.)

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3/27/11

1…2…3…4…5…

6!
We’re so thrilled to announce the upcoming addition to our family!
I’m 13+ weeks now and we’re hoping baby comes not too long after the end of September.
Please keep us in your prayers!
3/28/11
I didn’t mention yesterday, but bucking our five-in-a-row trend, we’re going to do our level best to have this one at home with a midwife. I have to say that I’m really looking forward to this! Please pray that I don’t develop any complications that would rule this out as an option.
And thank you everyone for your prayers!

3/31/11

I found out today that I lost the baby about a week ago. They weren’t able to find a heartbeat at my appt on Tuesday, I had an ultrasound yesterday, and they told me today. I haven’t had any physical signs. I’m planning medical rather than surgical management so we will be able to have a funeral. Please keep us in your prayers.

******

Obviously, we are very upset. I hesitate to say devastated, because that implies that we have no hope. That’s not the case.

Our child will not ever draw breath, but will never suffer either. It occurs to me that at this point, he or she has grown beyond us. We are still here on Earth, suffering, sinning, muddling along, full of anxieties and cares. Our child has seen the face of God. For the last three months I prayed for this child, more intensely in the last few days. I will continue to do so, but now I can also ask for the prayers of my child.

It will be a long, hard road, but we’ll survive in the end, as have multitudes before us. I hope by the time I’m laying flowers on the grave I will have grown enough to sing:

Christ is risen from the dead
trampling down death by death;
and upon those in the tombs
bestowing life!
4/1/11
Physical pain is so much easier to bear. I wish I were in some.

There’s nothing to distract me. This may be the first time I’ve been unable to pick up a book.

I’m waiting. Waiting for this body to finish its job. Only God can sustain me.

When I woke up crying in the middle of the night Father comforted me. He gently pointed out that I shouldn’t think about something suddenly happening some days ago; I had been oh so much more sick with this pregnancy than any other; it was different from the beginning. I know that falls in the “meant to be” category of non-comforting things to say, and I suppose it would be coming from anyone else, but not from my husband and best friend.

We’re both trying to resist the intrusive thoughts of “what did I do wrong?”. I’m fighting the thoughts that I’m a failure. There’s definitely a spiritual war afoot.

My eyes ache, my head aches, my heart aches. I finally fed this betraying and betrayed body after 11 last night. I hadn’t eaten anything since Wednesday. After I nearly passed out I confessed to Father that I felt like I couldn’t “reward” a traitorous body by feeding it. I finally ate, telling myself with each bite, “this is for my husband and children.”
Keep praying for us. Even if I don’t answer back, I appreciate every comment and e-mail.
love,
Mat. Anna
Prayer After a Miscarriage
O Sovereign Master, Lord our God, Who was born of the all-pure Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary, and as an infant was laid in a manger: do You Yourself, according to Your great mercy, have regard for this Your servant who has miscarried that which was conceived in her. Heal her suffering, granting to her, O Loving Lord, health and strength of body and soul. Guard her with a shining Angel from every assault of sickness and weakness and all inward torment. You who accept the innocence of infancy in Your Kingdom, comfort the mind of Your servant and bring her peace. Amen.
******
This is a very cowardly thing, but I’m experiencing anxiety during this time of waiting over what to expect. Most of what I can read about people’s experiences of miscarrying (eventually) involve babies around 6 weeks gestation which is not completely helpful. The doctor was initially pushing for a D&C but I’m not going to do that unless it becomes an emergency. I’ve more or less lost all physical symptoms of pregnancy and am both worrying over how long this will take and what to expect when it finally does.

If you would, if you have any advice to offer (especially if you or someone you know lost a baby at around 12-13 weeks gestation), please e-mail me rather than leaving a comment. I’m not sensitive to graphic details and would prefer a more concrete description over a vague one, but I don’t think it would be appropriate publicly. My e-mail is linked in my profile.

Thank you.

And thank you everyone for your prayers and love.
4/3/11

I’m so lonely this morning. I just couldn’t face anyone yet so I’m home from Liturgy with Pickles. He’s having a fine time watching Bugs Bunny. I forced down some breakfast. Yesterday I worked my way up to two meals. Maybe I can do it again today. I’ve lost five or six pounds.

There’s no guide book on how to do this. I’m not pregnant, but I’m still carrying the baby. I’m no longer nauseated, no longer dizzy, but I still have to get up to the bathroom in the middle of the night. Sometimes I’m fine. Sometimes I can be brave. Sometimes I fall to pieces.

I think the one thing I haven’t asked is “why?” For one thing, I’m not going to know why. Not in this life, anyway. For another, it won’t bring anyone back. I’m not angry at God – I know this is not divine retribution for something or just malice. I know that the only thing I’m surviving on is his grace right now. I’m ashamed to admit though, that the afternoon we found out, after I was alone in the house (Father went to pick up the children), I clutched my belly and shouted, “How could you leave me!?” I felt bad immediately and whispered, “I’m sorry, Mommy didn’t mean it.”

Mommy would have done anything.

Anything.

9 weeks 2 days. The only baby picture I have…

4/4/11

I don’t feel up to posting anything very lengthy today. But to answer some inquiring e-mails in one go…

I saw the doctor this morning – was there over 2 hours. One of the hardest things was being surrounded by pregnant patients, baby and belly pictures and having to listen to the patient education channel turned to pregnancy care. Another hard thing was having two staff members (lab tech and the doctor’s nurse) not realize why I was there and I had to tell them.* One result of the lengthy wait was being assaulted by thoughts of “maybe the ultrasound was wrong…” I had to fight back. The Jesus prayer helped.

The doctor (as I was afraid of) assumed we’d be doing a D&C later this week. He was going to examine me, do an ultrasound (routine) and then schedule surgery. I said that I would prefer to do expectant management. He didn’t feel like this was the best idea but was willing to wait, do and ultrasound on Thursday instead and revisit it then. Apparently misoprostol is out of the question at this gestation at this hospital. He said that yes, they can get away with that sort of thing at UAB, but not out in the sticks. Lest I be giving you the wrong impression, he was very nice. I’m just summing up.

The exam showed a completely closed cervix. This was very discouraging because it’s got to start softening at some point before I can miscarry. How likely is it that something will happen before Thursday? (Not very likely) Father’s worried that I’m being strong-armed into a D&C against my wishes. I admit it is hard to have a calm, rational and objective conversation when you’re by yourself and have been subjected to almost two hours of baby, baby, baby, baby. I don’t know how to fix this for Thursday because I can’t imagine I’ll be in much better shape. Especially after seeing the baby on ultrasound. (By the way, I plan to ask for pictures from this ultrasound unless there has been significant physical change from last week. In that case I’ll try to get them from the hospital.) God knows.

If God wants me to birth this baby by myself then he’s fully capable of getting it started before Thursday. I’m going to pray, calm down and wait and see. Father is fully supportive of whatever I want to do, but he wants to make sure I’m ok with it first.

I want to thank everyone for their prayers and love. This has been terribly difficult and is not over yet. I’m eating better and getting some sleep so don’t worry about that. Thankfully I have a hilarious four-year-old who makes me laugh even when I don’t want to. While we were home from church Sunday, I lay in bed for the most part and Pickles played. I was more grateful than suspicious that he was so quiet. He came in very excited and wanted me to come see the crane he had made. (This was not long before everyone got home.) This is what I saw when I walked into his room:

I laughed, took pictures, and left it for Father to take down when he got home. I have no earthly idea how my little engineer managed to do this.

*I don’t know why on earth they don’t tag the charts with something that says “LOSS” so this won’t happen. There’s a special tag we put on the door of fetal demise patients in the hospital just for this reason.

4/5/11

I’ve started some Vitamin C and some black cohosh. I’d have gotten blue cohosh and red raspberry leaf too but they weren’t available. I’ll consider ordering them if this has no effect. I’m keeping a careful record of what I’m taking and when and a fluid record too. I know the possible negative side effects and am being watchful. Anyone who has had any experience with these is free to comment on it.
Father has arranged to be able to go with me on Thursday and this is a great weight off my mind. It will be so helpful to have some support. My thinking right now is to wait, even for a good while, and avoid a D&C. I’m also going to question the misoprostol policy a little further. That isn’t making much sense.

I thank you for your continued prayers.

4/6/11

I can’t get off the roller coaster.

Last evening I got an email from my midwife in which, among other things, she asked if I were having another u/s just to make sure. She said that unfortunately the first one was probably correct, but since the dates were so close (baby measured 12wks 5days – I was 13wks 5days) she wanted to make sure.
Needless to say, I couldn’t take any more herbs after that. Even though there’s not really any chance I was misdiagnosed. Doing something proactive had helped because I am a doer rather than a waiter. It kept me calm and also helped along the acceptance that the baby died. Now, not taking the herbs is reinforcing any random hopes that the baby may not be dead. There isn’t any hope. But intrusive thoughts, the kind you have to fight off, are going to keep coming until the ultrasound on Thursday. In a way, the ultrasound will be a relief because it will lay aside those baseless hopes once and for all. (In another way it will be hell on earth, but that I don’t have to explain…) I keep trying to remind myself that the ultrasound on Thursday has one purpose (for me anyway): to see the baby and get pictures. That’s it.

It’s so ridiculous that I keep wailing in my head that it’s not fair the demons are tormenting me with false hopes! Since when do they have my best interests at heart? Fair? Sigh. Hopefully after Thursday they’ll be easier to ignore. Father reminded me that I’ll certainly still be tormented, but I told him that I’m being tormented by other thoughts anyway, might as well get rid of these at least.

I wish I didn’t have to wait until Thursday…

4/7/11

On the feast of St. Innocent (March 31st) we found out our baby had departed this earthly life. There is a hole in my heart that in this life will not be filled.

We’re not sure what the actual date of death was, but it must have been about a week before (at 12 weeks). Given the early date, we are unable to find out for sure if the baby was a boy or girl. My feeling was that he was a boy, but of course, this is not certain.

St. Innocent has an alternate feast day of October 6th. Amazingly, this is about the time when we thought our child would most likely be born, since I’ve never yet delivered before the due date (which in this case was September 30th). It is also my birthday. Since Pickles and Father share a birthday, I was surprised and pleased that I and this child might share one too. This was not to be.

Given all of the above, it seems most appropriate to name our child Innocent. If we’re wrong and this is actually Innocence instead of Innocent, then I’ll just explain that Mommy always was a bad speller. In any event, St. Innocent will be his patron.

Here are the pictures of our little Innocent:

It was a joy to see him today. Thanks to friends who kept the children, Father and I were able to be together and share this time with our son. Father noted that he looked so peaceful and the tech noted that he looked like he was sleeping on his little back. I just smiled and called him sweetheart.

Thanks to everyone who prayed that this would be a peaceful experience for us. It was.

[Medically updating, I’m in fine health and we’ve set a date of April 19th (Poor Ribby – her birthday – but we’ll celebrate during Bright Week) for the D&C unless something has intervened before then. I will have recovered enough to attend the services for the rest of Holy Week and Pascha.]

4/8/11

You know, it’s funny. I’m still kind of amazed that my reaction to seeing Innocent on the ultrasound monitor wasn’t hideous grief, but happiness. I just took in his little form, smiling, reveling in my love for him. The only thing I can compare it to is this: I’ve heard/read accounts of women who gave birth to babies with major anomalies like anencephaly. Prior to delivery they had almost all been scared of seeing their children, worried at their reactions to what wouldn’t look so pretty (and which was also either immediately or ultimately fatal). Almost to a woman, they had all instantly loved and delighted in their babies, noting how beautiful they were. Just like this, seeing the all too still shape of my baby on the monitor was something I had worried would hurt me to the core, something that would be terrible and come back to haunt me later. As you read yesterday, I had the total opposite reaction. All I could think was of how beautiful he was, how much I loved him and how grateful I was for the chance to see him and that Father was there holding my hand, seeing him too.

Compared to the perfection of God, we too must look deformed, ugly, dead. But God loves us even more than I love Innocent. Comparing God’s love for us to a parent’s love for their child seems more appropriate to me than ever.

4/9/11

I am so sorry, but I’m going to have to stop blogging for a while. So many of you feel like family to me and it has been such a consolation to have you around during this terrible time. I’ve also been encouraged by the surprising number of people who have gained consolation themselves by reading what I had written.

However, although I am feeling some measure of peace over Innocent’s death, I am still “in the middle” of everything, still carrying his body within mine. Thus I am more vulnerable than usual.

Wednesday I received a very cruel letter, deliberately mean, about my reaction to Innocent’s death. The writer thought it was unacceptable that I had not “gotten over it” yet and thought it was inappropriate for me to be sharing of myself publicly. They even questioned my motives for being pregnant in the first place.

So as to protect myself for a while, I will not be blogging. I am still available by email and would love to hear from any of you. I am not saying goodbye forever, just until I am strong enough to stand up for myself again.
love,

Mat. Anna

4/10/11

Update:
Innocent (and he was indeed a boy) was born into my hands last night about 12:30. I’m recovering well. Thank you for all of your prayers.

4/11/11

Innocent’s Blankie:

About 4 x 8 inches. Just right.


4/12/11

Tomorrow…

4/13/11
Innocent’s Burial

With the saints give rest, O Christ,
to the soul of Thy servant
where sickness and sorrow are no more,
neither sighing, but life everlasting.
*Thank you, Amanda, for taking the pictures.
4/15/11
My Lazarus
Thank you to all the people who have offered prayers and love over the past few weeks. I don’t know what I would have done without it. I’m still taking comfort in reading (and sometimes rereading) e-mails and comments. Sometimes the pain seems unbearable and sometimes I find peace and take comfort in the knowledge that I did everything for Innocent that I could. Now all I can do is pray and ask for his prayers. Surely he would help his mother!
This has been the strangest, hardest and most meaningful Lent I will have ever gotten through. Tomorrow is Lazarus Saturday. I admit, although I know the story, most of the time I just think about how much I wish we were permitted pizza rather than caviar to celebrate the feast. A few days ago I was looking at pictures of Innocent and suddenly the words “four days in the tomb” floated through my head. I stopped. That’s Lazarus, I thought, and realized this Saturday is Lazarus Saturday. (Time hasn’t had much meaning lately so I keep forgetting what day it is.) Then it hit me: counting Wednesday as day one, by this Saturday Innocent will have been four days in the tomb. I have never so closely identified with Martha and Mary until that moment. Like Mary I want to cry, “Lord, if you had been here Innocent had not died.”
There are so many “coincidences” surrounding Innocent’s life and death. We found out he had died on the first feast of St. Innocent. He was due on the second feast of St. Innocent. We buried him on the old-calendar feast of St. Innocent. Like Lazarus, he will have been in the tomb four days tomorrow. I can’t help thinking, where is the Lord? When is my Pascha coming? Will it always be Holy Friday?
Pascha, the Pascha, came almost 2,000 years ago. Lazarus died before Pascha and so was in Hades during those four days. I believe Innocent, on the other hand, was translated from my bodily embrace to that of our Father’s without pause. It is always Pascha in Heaven.
Innocent’s soul is alive. His body will be restored to him in a perfected state on the day of the General Resurrection. “Lazarus, come forth from the tomb,” will be heard again. But then the Vanquisher of death will also cry “Innocent, come forth from the tomb.”
Troparion for Lazarus Saturday and Palm Sunday
By raising Lazarus from the dead before Thy passion,
Thou didst confirm the universal resurrection, O Christ God.
Like the children with the palms of victory,
We cry out to Thee, O Vanquisher of death,
Hosanna in the highest!
Blessed is He that comes in the Name of the Lord.
4/16/11
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” [John 11:25-26]
(from the Gospel for Lazarus Saturday)
4/18/11
This morning was not good. I had a bad night last night. Sleeplessness, a physiological relapse frighteningly reminiscent of the original miscarriage, pain and nightmares. I woke early despite all of this and decided to read until the house woke up. Sadly, the non-fiction book on the nightstand, the only one in the stack I hadn’t finished (I’ve been doing a book a night trying to fall asleep.), was rather depressing.
The last few days I’ve felt fairly “ok” due in large part to realizing the difference between despair and grief. Grief is ok, despair is not. Staying in the here and now and not going off into useless fantasies about “what will never be” or “what might have been” keeps me on the road of grief and out of the pit of despair. The intrusive thoughts that try to start one of those fantasies do not originate in my own head. The raging unseen warfare around here has been vicious. Turning from them immediately is the only way out. They are impossible to fight directly. Recognizing them for what they are, turning from them and refusing to feel guilt for doing so has been fairly successful and has resulted in those few “ok” days.
The Orthodox readers know what happens when the demons realize you’ve figured them out on one front: they switch tactics. Hence, the nightmares and the half-waking anguish in the middle of the night. This morning I descended into despair. How could I fight the war on so many fronts? The actual grief, the depression from the big hormone drop, the huge work of getting a large family through Holy Week, and now night-time battles with invisible foes.
Skip to a little later with Father putting me back to bed to cry it out. I clutched the washcloth (handkerchiefs are almost useless for crying that hard) and stared at the wall. I felt my empty wrist, the constant reminder of the loss of my prayer rope two weeks ago. I had been in such a fog that I had no idea where I might have put it. Its loss had been excruciating but I was holding out on getting a replacement. You do get attached to things like prayer ropes. Looking all over had yielded nothing. The despair was palpable. I wanted to pray, but there was nothing there. All I could get out was help me God. ‘Deliver me from my enemies for they are stronger than I.’ (Ps. 142:6)
Father came in and I said something about the missing rope. He asked if I’d looked by the nightstand. I had, in fact, and had turned up some surprising things, but no prayer rope. Then, it hit me out of nowhere: it’s on the opposite side where all of the sewing and crocheting things are kept. Father moved everything. It wasn’t there. He left the room momentarily. I felt it again. I knew it was there. Then the thought came: it’s in the red bag (a rather large one full of yarn). I sat up, pulled out of it three plastic bags with yarn…
and there it was.
Holding it, I felt immediately that I had not in fact been abandoned by God. That he could help me find a little, insignificant, dime-a-dozen prayer rope, right now, when I needed love and assurance the most, seemed incredible.
I think I will be ok this week.
 4/24/11
And upon those in the tombs…
…bestowing life.
We went out to Innocent’s grave this afternoon. I had an Easter lily I wanted to plant and also I just hadn’t been out there since the burial. Father had assured me as we had driven away that I could go back any time I wanted. It’s just been too soon. But, it being Pascha, we wanted to plant the lily and sing “Christ is Risen”.
It was easier this time. After we planted the lily (and boy, were there some big roots to get through) I watered it and we all sang “Christ is Risen”. I had trouble getting it out the third time. The children went off to look at the other graves. Father and I just stood there for a few minutes. I said how much I missed him. Father reminded me that he was much better now than we were. “Thy resurrection O Christ our Saviour, the angels in heaven sing…” he pointed out. I said I still thought he might like to hear his family sing to him too. Father’s right though. But so am I. (c: I think he would like to hear us singing.
Before we left, I put a flower on his grave that had been on the Lord’s tomb. It was fitting.

4/26/11
I finally finished writing and posting Innocent’s birth stories on “Lost Innocents“. I posted the general story under “Your Stories” and the more graphic medical version under “Natural Miscarriage“. I’m glad I took the time to write them out. I feel like it would be rather distressing at some later date to only have vague memories.
4/28/11
How am I doing?
What can I say? I’m both ok and flattened. I don’t exactly have good days and bad days, I have good hours and bad hours. I’m eating normally now – for the first time – and gained back one pound (not that I needed it but it’s not surprising when you lose a lot very quickly). I’m sleeping mostly without nightmares. I can get through church services without crying. I can go to the store. I’ve developed a thick skin as concerns baby items in the stores; my eye slides over them and I deliberately look away and think of something else. I don’t think I would be able to be in the same room with a young baby however. It hasn’t happened yet, but I don’t think it will be good. I don’t want to look at pictures of newborns with rare exceptions. We were able to restart homeschooling yesterday after I spent several hours on Tuesday catching up with lesson plans.
Working on Lost Innocents has been both difficult and cathartic: difficult when I must read the story of someone else’s miscarriage in the course of researching material for it, cathartic when I think I may be helping someone. I’ve had huge doubts about the wisdom of continuing it. I hate the thought of reinventing the wheel. I’m trying to remember that the whole point was to gather important things together in one safe place that was Orthodox, not evangelical protestant, pagan, secular, new age, etc. It wasn’t going to include poetry or pictures of daisies and sunsets, but give more practical yet comforting help. I hope I’m managing (slowly) to accomplish this.
I’m trying to find my footing mentally. I have to remember to ward off intrusive thoughts – I try to keep my prayer rope with me all the time. The temptation to guilt is sometimes overwhelming. I have to keep reminding myself that Innocent didn’t ‘fall out’, he died – all on his own – and I even kept carrying him for at least three weeks afterward. I find myself berating myself for not having held onto him tight enough so that he ‘fell out’. It’s a constant battle. Prayer, prayer, prayer. At the same time, hearing someone say something like, “It was God’s will,” drives me up a wall. God didn’t make us for death! He made us for life – but all of created existence is fallen now and death and sickness is a part of that. The icon of the resurrection depicting Christ literally yanking Adam and Eve from their tombs while standing on the broken gates of hell is comforting to me.
There is the obvious unspoken thought on a lot of people’s minds: are we going to ‘try again’. Well, either God blesses us with another child or he doesn’t. I’ll be honest and say that I pray he does, but I’m trying to keep that from being the focus of my existence right now. That will horrify a lot of people, but there is one thing I’ve learned during this whole tragedy: I’ve learned not to care what other people think, but only what God wants.
Keep us in your prayers. I appreciate the people who have “checked in” over the past week or two, even in the midst of Holy Week and Pascha. This is a lonely place to be and it’s easy to feel forgotten after the first horrifying days. That, of course, would be my fault and not anyone else’s, but I told myself at some point that I would keep this blog honest while avoiding scandal, and admitting that is the truth.
Holy Father Innocent pray to God for us!
5/9/11
Dear Innocent,
Today is the fortieth day since we found out we lost you. It’s only been thirty days since you were born, but we’ve decided that March 31st, the feast of St. Innocent, will be the day we commemorate you. I can’t believe it’s already been this long.
Papa has your icon on the altar. You may have completed your forty days, but your icon hasn’t! As soon as it’s blessed we will bring it home and hang it in the icon corner with the icons of your brothers and sisters. Right now, your spot looks so empty.
I’m looking for a stone to put on your grave. Jonah made you a beautiful hand-carved cross out of cedar – it’s lovely – but I also want to have something with your name on it. Your name is important. I realized how much it was needed the last time we were at your grave site. We had planted a lily by your grave on Pascha and sang “Christ is risen” to you. I’m sure you were singing with us from Heaven.
I hope I will soon find some form of scrap book that will work for your memory book. I have everything saved. I wanted it to be more than photographs since we don’t have many of those. We do have your ultrasound pictures, even if they were taken after you died. I saved all of the cards and letters. I have the ribbon that was around the flowers I put on your grave the day we buried you. I have a piece of the pale blue fleece in which you were wrapped and some of the same ribbon that tied it. I have the same yarn from which I made your blanket; I’m going to crochet a tiny square to include. I am also going to include the service booklet Papa made for your burial.
I lit a candle for you yesterday by the icon of the Theotokos. It being Mother’s Day, I asked her to take care of you in Heaven since I couldn’t. I was happy to have your brothers and sisters around, but I wished you had been here with us too.
We miss you so much, sweetie. I go back every few days and look at all of your pictures and remember how beautiful you were. We will always pray for you as I hope you pray for us.
with love always,
Mommy
P. S. We just got back from your grave. We sang the prayers and “Memory Eternal” for you. I was so surprised that the lily we planted (and haven’t watered since Pascha) was still green and flourishing. The blossoms were gone, of course, but the weather has been dry and it is amazing that the lily was in such good shape.

5/14/11

I took some things up to the attic today. Ho hum. Except that when I got up to the top of the ladder there were the three, clear-sided totes full of baby things. I had deliberately put them near the ladder because by the time I needed to get them I wouldn’t be in any shape to climb around in the attic.

I conquered that hill and started doing the stuff I went up there for in the first place. Except that when I was about 20 minutes into it, in the course of moving some things around I knocked the top tote off and it crashed down the ladder (no one was hurt).

When I finished what I was doing, I climbed down the ladder. Baby boy things were scattered from hither to yon. I started picking them up, shaking them off and folding them back into the tote. It was torture. All infant clothes, all for boys. Hats, sweaters, onesies, sleepers, pants, socks, bunny slippers, shirts, nightgowns, booties, bibs…

I carried the tote back up the ladder and rearranged things so the totes weren’t in front. All I could tell myself was,

“Maybe I’ll be going through those things again this time next year.”
5/17/11
This is so comforting on days when I miss Innocent so much it hurts…
For the people of God, there is no such thing as distance, even if they be thousands of miles apart. However far away our fellow human beings may be, we must stand by them . . . . When Christ unites us, distances don’t exist. When I leave this life it will be better. I’ll be closer to you.
– Elder Porphyrios (+1991). From Wounded by Love
(h/t Seeking the Kingdom, entire post here)

5/18/11
Halfway

Today is the midfeast of Pentecost.

Halfway to Pentecost.

There is another halfway…

I would have been 20 weeks pregnant now.

I would have felt him kick.
He could have heard my voice.
Halfway.
I wouldn’t have had to get the non-elastic waisted skirts back out to wear.
I wouldn’t be looking at pregnancy loss sites daily.
I wouldn’t be looking for a stone to put on his grave with his name on it.
I wouldn’t understand the pain so many people have experienced.
Halfway.
I wouldn’t even know if he were a boy or girl.
I would be looking at pictures my husband took of my belly.
Not pictures of myself crouching beside his grave.
“Where your treasure is, there your heart is also.”
Part of my heart is in heaven.
But the rest of me is only
Halfway.
6/8/11
Crosses
Crosses have been on my mind lately. The new cross I wear, wall crosses, crosses on baby ribbon for baptisms, crosses safety-pinned on baby’s clothes, crosses on graves, invisible crosses that we carry. We are surrounded by crosses and sometimes take them for granted.
Focusing on one specific cross, the cross that we wear, I would ask, why do we wear it? We’re given a cross at baptism and generally wear it for the rest of our lives (replacing as needed when baby yanks it off your neck). Is it a symbol of Christ? A sign to others that we’re Christians? A good-luck charm to keep accidents away? A pretty pendant?
When we were getting ready to bury Innocent, the morning of the burial I came across a small gold cross with a broken loop at the top. It occurred to me to put it in the casket with him to be buried with. I wavered back and forth – wanting to because he never was baptised and didn’t have a cross but hating that the broken loop reminded me that his body was broken. In the end I didn’t put it in. We buried him and there is a beautiful carved cross marking his grave. That cross is a symbol of the resurrection. One day Innocent’s body will be resurrected and joined with his soul.
So why didn’t I put the cross in the casket with him? Well, I looked again at why we give crosses at baptisms. These crosses remind us that we will carry the cross of Christ throughout our lives. “As many as have been baptised into Christ, have put on Christ, Alleluia.” We put on Christ when we wear the cross. We remember his suffering, death and resurrection, acknowledging that we too will suffer for and with Christ, will die and be resurrected with him. At baptism we are grafted onto the Church of Christ. We are given the tools to struggle to live an Orthodox life so that eventually we may enter the Kingdom of God.
So what of Innocent? He didn’t have to struggle. He didn’t have to fight the temptations and trials of this world. He received a card, “Go directly to Heaven. Do not pass birth. Do not collect troubles, fears and temptations.” He was born directly into the Heavenly Kingdom – he did not have to ‘put on Christ’, put on armour to fortify him for life in this fallen world. His path was not that of the cross.
This also helps me not to feel irrationally bad that he ‘didn’t get to be baptised’. Being baptised would not have put him into some higher level of Heaven when he died. For those who must live in this world, we need the church and its resources and tools (in the form of communion, confession, etc.) to help us. For those who will not live in this world, this is irrelevant. Their unblemished souls arrive in Heaven, no worse for the (lack of) wear and not stigmatized by the lack of baptism.
If you had a child who died before birth and thus was not baptised, do not despair. Your beautiful child is waiting for you in Heaven. And struggling to live on without them is now another golden cross around your neck. Be worthy of that cross!

6/16/11

I went out on a limb and posted Innocent’s story on “Faces of Loss, Faces of Hope“. (Note: it is a hybrid of the two stories I’ve written so it includes more graphic information than the one in the “Your Stories” section of Lost Innocents.) This is a good resource for those looking for similar stories to theirs as one can search by specific categories. His story is here.

7/15/11

I’ve seen posts written by other people for this project. I decided to join in.

Today is not an ‘anniversary’ of anything. It’s been three months, two weeks and one day since we found out Innocent died. He died sometime in the preceding week, but we don’t know exactly when. Part of me can’t believe it’s been that long. Sometimes it feels like yesterday and sometimes it feels like a lifetime ago. It’s like a very narrow but infinitely deep chasm separating March 30th and March 31st.

I’ll go hours without thinking about it and then something will trigger a memory. A memory of looking down at my swelling stomach. A memory of how much I disliked chocolate while I was pregnant with him. I’ll look at my hand and try to remember exactly how he felt in it. How much he weighed. I remember how warm he was right after he was born, and how cold he was later when I held him next. I wish so much that I had taken twice as many pictures. That I had kissed him. That I had, silly as it may have looked, wrapped him in sequentially larger blankets until I was able to rock him.

Life does go on, but I’m realizing that there is a part of me that will never change. Raw, gaping wounds heal, but they leave visible scars. If you lose one of your fingers, the tissue will eventually heal, but the finger will never grow back. The loss of Innocent is palpable. He is intertwined with everything. Looking at a calendar to plan a retreat and there I am left staring at September 30th, his official due date. Turn the page and (sickening jolt) there’s October 6th, both my birthday, and what I had hoped would be his – and the feast of St. Innocent. I will never forget, nor will I be able to separate the two.

I still haven’t put his scrapbook together. I have everything in a plain file folder in the filing cabinet. Such a cold place. Maybe I’ll make it a goal to have his scrapbook done by his due date.

When I talk about him to anyone, I talk about him as I would any of my children. He is my child. Should we ever have another child, that child would be number 7, not number 6. It’s such a relief when I am with someone with whom I can speak freely. That is rarely the case. People don’t want to hear about your dead baby. I look back and wonder if I was sensitive to that when confronted with it in the past. I hope so. I weep for the people I must have inadvertently wounded along the way. Lord have mercy.

To anyone who is new to grief, I don’t know what I would say. Probably, “I’m sorry. Tell me about your child. What is his name?” I wouldn’t hasten to try to “fix it” by pasting a clumsy verbal bandaid over the gaping wound. I wouldn’t ignore it. I wouldn’t walk away. It’s hard to be with someone in their grief. If you ever have that opportunity, don’t walk away. “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” [Rom. 12:5] Yes, it does get better, but that light at the end of the tunnel is mostly obscured by twists and turns. Travel with the person past those twists and turns until they can see the light for themselves.

I can see the light, but it’s faint and I’m still stumbling. Now I know that light is the Kingdom of Heaven and I will continue to stumble until I’ve stumbled right out of this life. May God grant that when I fall the last time, I fall into his arms.

(taken 2 1/2 months ago, Pascha)
7/30/11
As you may remember, I participated in the “Right Where I Am” project on Still Life With Circles. I’ve been going back daily and reading women’s posts on right where they are in their journey of grief.
This morning I happened to go to a post written by Melissa on her blog The Bufe Family. In the body of the post she mentioned something remarkable:
“Another blogger, Jack [go to the link to read more about this work], who lost his second child in March, also linked up with the project. He did something amazing from this. He read every single entry in that link up (160) and created this beautiful piece of artwork from it…”
I. Am. Floored.
Thank you, Jack, from the bottom of my heart.
(Innocent’s name and my words are outlined in red. Click to enlarge.)
7/31/11
Four Months
My sweet Innocent,
It’s been four months since they told us you had died. It’s hard to believe you’ve been in Heaven now longer than you were in me. A third of a year. Has it been that long? It feels like yesterday.
I was looking at some photographs this afternoon, a general mish-mash, and there were some photos of your oldest sister on the day she was born. She was a good size, eight pounds, but looked so little. All new babies look so little to me. She had that brand-new look, slightly red. Then I came on a photo I didn’t even remember being taken. It was of Papa and me and your sister, all three together that day. Your sister had her fingers around one of Papa’s fingers. I looked at it and cried because we were so innocent then. We didn’t know what could happen, what would happen. I wish I’d been able to hold you like that, just for a day.
I lit a candle for you today. Actually, a few people lit candles for you today. I’m sure you already know. I asked the Mother of God to hold you for me.
I suppose there will be a time when the 30th of the month doesn’t remind me of your due date, the 31st doesn’t remind me of the day we found out and the 10th doesn’t remind me of the day you were born, but I have a feeling it’s going to be a long time coming. I think about you all the time. You would be seven months along now. So big. How much and how fast babies grow. Except you didn’t. Thank goodness I can remember your soul has no size.
I don’t have any photographs of you out because I’m afraid they will make people uncomfortable. You were really such a beautiful baby but because you were so small it scares some people. I also don’t have one really good picture of you, fully in focus, all of you, etc. I unearthed some good drawing pencils yesterday and resolved to draw a picture of you, using the photos together so I can get all the details. I still can’t believe I saw fingernails and tooth buds! You were so remarkable! Your tiny little ears were delightful.
Mommy loves you very much. One day…

8/10/11
“Birth”day?

Happy four-month birthday, dear Innocent.
What do you call the day someone is born, if they’ve already died?
I’m voting for birthday.
The day you were born was not the worst day of my life.
There was the happiness of finally getting to meet and hold you.
Photo of me holding my sweet boy on his birthday:

I love you sweetheart.

9/6/11

Innocent’s Memory Box

I got an unfinished memory box from Walmart and painted and sanded it.


Most of it is antique white and I mixed a light blue for accent.




A little rick-rack around the perimeter…



I lined it with baby blue fleece and finished it with a little ribbon.

9/23/11


I crocheted the square out of the same yarn I had made his blanket. The ribbon
and fleece are the same I used for his shroud.

Inside are the cards we received and the burial service. I have yet to print
out the online notes we received and his birth story.


There are two small photo albums containing all of his pictures including
his ultrasound pictures. I had the photos processed yesterday.


Some grass from the field where he is buried.


A honeysuckle blossom from the bouquet I put on his grave the day he
was buried.


The ribbon is from the bouquet. I retrieved it on Pascha when we took an
Easter lily out to plant behind the cross over his grave.


At the moment it’s on the mantel.
9/15/11
“Nothing loved is ever lost…”
The earth will never be the same again.
Rock, water, tree, iron, share this grief
As distant stars participate in pain.
A candle snuffed, a falling star or leaf,
A dolphin death, O this particular loss
Is Heaven-mourned; for if no angel cried,
If this small one was tossed away as dross,
The very galaxies then would have lied.
How shall we sing our love’s song now
In this strange land where all are born to die?
Each tree and leaf and star show how
The universe is part of this one cry
That every life is noted and is cherished
And nothing loved is ever lost or perished.

–Madeleine L’Engle A Ring of Endless Light


Finishing the Race
About nine months ago I started running a marathon. I’ve run several marathons and never had any problems. There was no indication that there would be any problems this time either. I was looking forward to it because it had been a few years since my last one. I was also planning to enjoy it because it was probably going to be my last one.
A few months into it I fell. I must have hit a loose stone but when I looked back I couldn’t see one. All I knew was that my ankle was sprained. The other runners were passing me by. I knew I had lost the race.
The problem was that this was a one-way marathon. I couldn’t go back to the starting line. I could only go forward, limping and in pain. I still had a little under six months to go.
There were times I sat down by the side of the road, watching a few runners confidently go past. Some of them bore scars from past marathons and gave some kind words of encouragement. Some of them were on their first race and didn’t want to look at me too closely unless they too fell. Eventually I would get up and keep moving toward the finish line.
I wished I didn’t have to finish the race. I wished I could just stop, but that was impossible. The road stretched out in front of me. The months and miles slid past. My ankle would hurt sometimes so badly I had to sit down and rest. Now I only wanted to get to the end.
I can almost see the line now. It’s only a week away. The other runners in front of me won, but I’m realizing there is a certain dignity in reaching the end, even without the prize. My ankle still hurts, but after the race I can rest it and it will get better. There will always be a scar, but the pain won’t be so bad.
This marathon will always exist in time, but there will be a relief in not having to be running it anymore. Only God knows if there are any more marathons in my future. We never know until we hear the starting gun.
Only one more week…
9/30/11
Letter to my son on his due date
My sweet Innocent,
What can I say today? You were officially due today, but your birthday was a long time ago. There was a time, not so very long ago, that I thought this day would be hell. I thought I’d be thinking of all the minute things I would be doing to get ready for your long-awaited appearance. Today hasn’t been like that (so far).
I realized the trap of living in a fantasy world, of always knowing “how far along I would be”, of keeping up with your projected development on charts. The reality was very different. I had to throw away a calendar on which I had marked the dates. You wouldn’t have been a decent 7 1/2 pounds, because that never existed. Your reality was smaller. I had to learn to completely embrace your reality instead of mourning over what wasn’t and what wasn’t to be.
Over the past weekend I came to some peace. I started feeling some gratitude as well as sorrow. I am grateful that God allowed you to be with me for as long as he did. I’m grateful for so many of my prayers being answered. For instance:
I wanted to deliver you at home, in water.
I did.
I didn’t want you taken away from me after birth.
You weren’t.
I wanted to deliver you on my own, not have a surgeon take you out.
I did.
I hoped you would be delivered at night so the other children would be shielded from the worst of it.
You were.
I hoped and prayed your body would still be intact.
It was, and you were beautiful.
Yes, there were things I never got to experience with you. I can’t focus on that. The reality is that your body was born April 10th and your soul was born into Heaven sometime during the week before March 31st. You are my perfect child, a pure soul. Continue to pray for us, your parents, and your brothers and sisters. We love you so very much.
Mommy
10/4/11
Notes from Heaven…
(via my sweet son Ginger, who swore he knew nothing about it…)
10/7/11
We were unable to do a panikhida (memorial service) yesterday because it was simply too busy, but we did one today. The feast of the glorification of St. Innocent was yesterday and it was also in honor of his due date. It was a beautiful day…
The wildflowers provided a beautiful bouquet.

I wanted to save something tangible for today so I’m pressing some of the flowers.
There was a yellow butterfly wandering around in these flowers when we got there, but it left before I could get a photo.
The entrance to the cemetery (only five people are there).
As I was shutting the gate, a bald eagle flew overhead.


12/15/11

Another farewell…

I
need to take a break from blogging for a while. This has been a
terribly hard year, many ups and downs. It’s not going to be good for me
to look at everyone else’s pregnancy and baby news on their blogs
either. This hurt is running too deep for words.
I
appreciate all of your messages of support. They were and are needed and
I am very grateful. I hope you all understand my need for a time of
silence. This blog will not go away. At some point I’ll compile all of
Andrew’s posts into a page called “Andrew’s Story” to complement the one
about his brother.
Hug your children tonight. Call people you love. Thank God for your blessings.
I hope each and every one of you has a blessed Advent and Christmas.
with love,

Mat. Anna

Ornaments from my friend Michelle
Ornaments from my sister Rebecca

3/28/12

One Year…

Oh, my sweet son. One year ago I was so happy. I had just announced to everyone that you were on the way. We had just cleared the first trimester. I just didn’t know you were already in Heaven at that point.

I miss you so much. You would have been such a big boy now had you lived. I try not to think about that too much.


We are going to have a memorial service at your grave this Saturday on your feastday. I hope the weather is nice. I’m going to have a nice bouquet ready for your cross. We’re going to take things to pull weeds and things to clean it up. Your little brother Andrew’s grave will need attention too.


I hope to see you one day. You and Andrew both, my youngest sons who are suddenly so far ahead of all of us in wisdom. We love you so very much. Please pray for all of us.

3/31/12

 One year ago today we heard the fateful words, “I’m sorry, there was
no movement.” For me, the memory of this day holds not much more than
horror, disbelief, pain and grief. It is understandable. I’m looking
forward to Innocent’s first birthday on April 10th because the memory of
that day, while still holding a lot of grief, is nevertheless full of
blessings as well.

We sang the memorial service for
Innocent at his grave today. Jonah, who carved both cross markers for
the boys, returned and carved Innocent’s name on his. At the time he
originally carved it we didn’t realize we’d have another identical
marker next to it and so soon, and that it would be necessary to
differentiate between the two (Andrew’s name was carved on his at the
time it was made). We also planted some more Easter lilies. Happily, the
lily we planted last year behind his grave is already growing and has
multiplied. For many, many years, these lilies will bloom every spring
as a reminder of Christ’s resurrection.

Some
housekeeping was needed. We trimmed the grass, cut a few briers and
removed a large ant colony which had formed completely around the
perimeter of Innocent’s grave stone. I sprinkled cayenne pepper all
around his grave and Andrew’s for good measure. I didn’t take photos of
that because it looks now as if we had used red-orange spray paint. It
will wear. We also washed off the wooden markers and the stones.

I
miss my little boy so much. I know he is well and happy in Heaven, but I
mourn the fact that I had so little time with him. One day, God
willing, we will meet again.

 

May the memory of the blessed Infant Innocent be eternal!

4/10/12



My dear Innocent,
Happy birthday! Your birthday into heaven has already happened and I
guess for you this day last year was rather anticlimactic, to say the
least. It was a little different for me, of course.
When
you departed this life, the only witnesses were the angels. I still
wonder what I was doing at that moment. It’s not profitable to
speculate. It would be nice to think I was thinking about you, but the
truth is I thought of you often. I prayed for you and loved you. You
were always safe and loved.
When we were told you were
already gone, there were witnesses: your father, two grim-faced nurses
and a pregnant doctor. There had already been dozens of witnesses in the
clinic to my pain, because I knew what was coming and couldn’t pretend I
didn’t. You were far from there, not sharing in our pain, which is a
comfort to me. That moment is one I would completely erase from my
memory if I could.
The night you were born, however,
the only witness was your mother. Your brothers and sisters were asleep,
Papa was in the next room listening out in case I needed help, the rest
of the world was unaware. But I was there, the only witness to your
birth. I can understand why someone who has not experienced the birth of
a child already departed would think this is crazy, but the truth that
the moment you first meet your baby is a magical one still holds, even
when the soul is gone. I was so relieved that your body was well
preserved, that you were so beautiful. You would have been beautiful to
me anyway, but at least it didn’t look like you had suffered.
The
moment when I laid eyes on you, time stood still. It was as if even the
angels held their breaths. I can’t even describe it. When your older
brothers and sisters were born there was always a commotion, always a
flurry of activity. They cried and kicked and I was in a haze of pain.
When you were born there was perfect silence. No movement. No bright
lights, shining instruments, no presence of strangers.
Just you and me and the angels.
Happy birthday, my love.

~Photos~

3 thoughts on “Innocent’s Story

  1. I am sorry for your loss. I understand. I, too, have lost a baby. She was 7 weeks old, it was an auto/semi truck accident. You did very well as I read thru your notes. Please know that you have reminded me of the greatness of a loving Heaven Father and his Son, Jesus Christ. Please don't be hurt by the misgivings a of someone saying something mean. They can not understand your shoes. You can only forgive others for their misunderstandings. I want to tell you of my love for you. I am thankful you shared your story. My little Daughter's name is Kelli Linn. I am also grateful for the precious time I was given with her, too. Thank you.

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  2. I'm so sorry for your loss, for both of them. Thank you so much for grappling with your pain and putting your story into words. It helps so much to feel I'm not alone. I also had a missed miscarriage at 16 weeks, just a few weeks before Pascha this year. Our little Anastasia is in heaven now but oh, how I miss her.

    Innocent is incredibly beautiful, and you took such gorgeous photos. I love the one of his hand on your finger. It's just perfect. I wish we'd cleaned our daughter up a little better but there was so much uncertainty about what we ought and ought not to do. We did the best we could and we do have pictures, and I'm tremendously grateful for that.

    Presvytera Elisabeth

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