I was referred to Amie Lands by my friend, Nicole, in 2015, following the death of our son, Josiah, at 21w3d. Amie is a Certified Grief Recovery Specialist®, and she had a new group session starting that I thought would help me to process my grief. It did, but it also gave me so much more through my growing friendship with Amie. Her strength and kindness have moved and lifted me in ways I could not have imagined. In addition to her work with The Grief Recovery Method, Amie is also a mom, teacher, author and founder of The Ruthie Lou Foundation, which was named after Amie’s daughter, Ruthie Lou, who she held for 33 days.
Amie’s first book, Navigating the Unknown: An Immediate Guide When Experiencing the Loss of Your Baby, is an incredible book for any parent finding themselves in the bewildering position of grieving a pregnancy or child loss. This is the book I wish we’d had following Josiah’s death, because “This book encompasses everything that you need to know about navigating the unfamiliar journey of grief. It covers all the unexpected decisions that need to be made when a parent faces such devastating news, and follows through the first year and after, including: informing others, experiencing grief, taking care of oneself, asking for help, how to re-enter into the world, having ‘grocery store conversations’, holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, and how to memorialize, honor and celebrate your precious baby.” Additionally, Tending to Your Heart is a free, downloadable e-book created by Amie to help others start their healing journey.
In March 2017, Amie sent me a message to ask if I would like to be a part of her newest project, a book for health professionals and birth workers that would give them insights as to how best assist the families that would go home without their precious child(ren). At that time, I was four and a half months pregnant with our second son, Lincoln. While our hospital experience (not just the loss, but how we were treated) when we lost Josiah was traumatic, and I wanted to share our story in order to help others, I was nervous about how reliving that time in the hospital would affect my current, anxious state and our baby. Despite my reservations, I agreed to write our story, in hopes that other families would not have to suffer in the same way.
Less than two weeks after agreeing to participate in Amie’s new project, I once again went into premature labor and delivered our son, Lincoln, at 19w4d. He lived for nearly 3 hours, gently held by those who loved him, before passing in his father’s hands. The compounding grief was shattering, and I told Amie there was no way I could contribute to her book now. Of course, she understood. Yet, as the days and weeks passed, I contemplated how different the two experiences were, thanks to the medical staff who shared Lincoln’s brief life with us. I didn’t have the weighted guilt and regret that anchored me after Josiah’s death, and I attribute that to the care and respect we were given during our hospital stay. More and more, I saw that I had something to share that had the potential to make a positive impact for other families.
Despite numerous attempts to write something clear and concise and helpful, I found that most of my drafts lacked the truth I was searching for. They instead were filled with hurt and anger and deep sadness. While those emotions were perfectly understandable, they didn’t allow the heart of what I wanted to share to shine through. When I took a step back, I realized it was because I was not allowing myself to drop into those moments in the hospital and really feel how those experiences had imprinted themselves onto me. I took a deep breath and willed myself to sink into those memories, and by doing so, “When Lightening Strikes Twice,” flowed through me. It is true and honest and real. It is part of the story of my boys, Josiah and Lincoln, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to share it with others.
My contribution has been included in Amie’s newest book, Our Only Time, which was released today. Amie’s website explains:
“Our Only Time was created to motivate, inspire and show appreciation for medical professionals through experiences told from a patient’s perspective. Through heartfelt stories, families share the sacred time spent with their baby — whether in utero or after birth — and offer insights into how medical professionals positively impacted their experience. Also included are recommendations on how best to be supportive of patients and what types of actions to avoid during this devastating experience.
Through these incredibly intimate stories of loss, medical professionals can better understand a grieving family’s experience, and become equipped to support bereaved parents when they leave the hospital without their baby. Medical professionals will come away with new insights on how to guide parents, empowering them to have the least amount of regret during this loss, and allowing for the greatest chance of healing in their grief as they re-enter the world.”
I’m proud of the incredible work that Amie has done, and I’m proud to be a part of it. I know this book will make an tremendous impact on families living through an unimaginable loss, and the professionals who are assisting them. If you or someone you know might benefit from reading this book, please do not hesitate to order it today.
When Lightning Strikes Twice
By Danielle Salinger
“I’m here for you. I’m not going anywhere.”
My memory of many of the moments while in the hospital is vague; too little sleep and too much adrenaline, heartbreak and fear. They blend the memories together like a painting by Monet, giving only vague impressions. But I remember the words that our nurse, Anna, said to me as she sat in the chair beside my bed and took my hand.
“You’re my only patient right now. We can wait until you’re ready.”
Her words struck me most because they were in such stark contrast to how things were handled two years ago, when we found ourselves in quite literally the same position. At that time, things happened so quickly it was hard to understand. To come to grips. To accept. To breathe. I was 21w3d pregnant with our son, Josiah. We were so excited to be having a boy after 3 ½ years of trying to get pregnant, following the harrowing birth of our daughter 6 years prior, a birth I nearly didn’t survive due to severe hemorrhaging and a cervical tear. We were so concerned with my own survival through another birth that we never thought about the possibility of something happening to our son after we crossed that first trimester threshold. Then my water broke in the middle of the night. We rushed to the hospital and were taken immediately to Labor & Delivery, or L&D. I was examined and, once the situation was explained to us, we were given options. I could stay in the hospital on bed rest, hoping to hold onto Josiah until he had a better chance of surviving, or we could give birth to him and have an opportunity to say goodbye, or we could terminate the pregnancy. Those choices dwindled in less than an hour when I began to heavily bleed. After the trauma of my first birth, the doctor became concerned about hemorrhaging. We were told that the best way to ensure the chance of my own survival, since there was no hope of saving our son, was to terminate the pregnancy immediately. There wasn’t time to ask questions, or consult our regular doctor. We were terrified and devastated, and made the decision we thought would be best for our family, although we didn’t fully understand the choice we were making. The doctors and nurses and staff grieved with us. They were caring and kind, and took wonderful care of me as I was prepped for surgery. However, the prep was only for surgery, and not for the shattered pieces of me that would remain. Looking back, I could see that the care was only for me, and not my son. He was not viewed as a patient, as a person. The only tangible evidence I had that he existed were the ultrasound photos and the prints of his hands and feet that a nurse was thoughtful enough to make sure we had before we left. That wrecked me, because I needed to grieve a person that wasn’t even truly recognized by those that were helping me. A little over six hours after we had arrived at the hospital, we were discharged home and I left empty and ill-equipped to handle the way that my life had been cleaved apart.
They say that lightning doesn’t strike twice, but in tragedy this isn’t true. This is how we found ourselves back in L&D, two years later, facing the loss of another son. I was 19w4d on the day Lincoln died. While so many things were different, it was all very much the same. We would still be leaving the hospital without our son. This time, it was my cervix that gave out, instead of the amniotic sac. I had arrived at the hospital the previous day, and we tried all night to save him. By the next morning, it was obvious that there was nothing else that could be done and I was going to have to give birth that day.
“What’s going to happen now?” I asked Anna, as she turned in her seat to face me and clasped my hand between hers.
“Whatever you need,” she replied.
“Would you like to meet with a social worker?”
We never met with anyone other than nurses and doctors when Josiah died, but this time we were able to speak with a professional who guided other families through moments like these. Sitting in our dark room, we discussed resources and support. We reviewed mortuaries and end-of-life tasks that are often forgotten. We talked about counseling and bereavement groups. We were given these tools in order to reach out to our community and find what we needed to survive well. We were also given a folder with the same information, since we certainly wouldn’t remember later. But she knew we would need it eventually. We did.
“Would you like to meet with a minister or priest?” Anna asked.
We lost Josiah without any spiritual guidance, but Lincoln was blessed before he was born, which was of comfort to me because it was another acknowledgement of my son’s spirit, which I had come to cherish and love during my pregnancy. The minister came to our room and also sat beside me to talk more about our sons and our losses. We shared with him the circumstances of how we lost Josiah, and the wracking guilt choosing to terminate a fiercely wanted pregnancy left us with. We also discussed our too-soon-to-be loss of Lincoln, and our fears for what would come after. Fears of having to tell our daughter, and other family and friends, that we had once again lost a son, as well as fears of navigating the compounded grief we were facing. He listened and his commiserated. He offered guidance, thoughts and a bit of faith for what was to come; faith that we needed, but had been missing for some time.
“Would you like something for the pain? I know you’re hurting right now, but there’s no need for you to suffer physically,” Anna assured me.
Once the epidural was in place, I told her we were ready to meet Lincoln. We didn’t want to prolong the inevitable, and wanted to allow him to go peacefully as we held him.
“How is this going to go?” I asked.
She could have glossed over what we were about to experience. She could have used terms we didn’t understand. Instead, she was blunt and she was thorough. And she prepared us as best she could, both physically and emotionally for what was about to occur.
“Would you like me to bathe him?” she asked. “I could also place one of the gowns we have on him.”
She honored him. Not only did Anna honor us, our family, our experience, our past, our birth… she honored our son. She saw him, and she saw us. She saw our love, and she made sure to mirror that back to us. She knew that we were going to leave the hospital in pieces and knew we would have to be put back together. Through every step of the way, as slowly as we needed to go, she made sure that some of those pieces would be imprinted with Lincoln, to carry with us always. She gave us memories of love, thoughts of future healing, and a small piece of her to carry with us as well. She taught us that when lightning strikes twice, it’s time and care that can make all the difference.