Everyone needs compassion.

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The staff gave us the option of going to recovery in either the “Mommy & Me” wing or down to a regular hospital room on the second floor. We chose the later option, imagining it would be difficult to hear the tiny cries of newborns. Looking back, both Nathan and I regret this decision a bit. We lost our feeling of security in the regular hospital wing. We were a bit lost in the shuffle of nurses caring for a variety of patients. The nurses were (rightfully) busy and many didn’t know that we had just lost our son. It was our initial introduction into the real world. The thing about functioning in the real world when you are broken is that no one knows you are broken. I have shared this sentiment with others and we all agree that wearing a shirt that says “I just went through stillbirth. Please treat me gently, and if you have them, cookies and hugs are appreciated.”would be helpful. I’ve yet to find that graphic tee in an Etsy shop.

A dear friend brought us breakfast. He asked if I had any requests, so I said “Bagel and Lox.” Sweet man had NO idea what lox was but drove around to SEVERAL different bagel shops until he found it. Just the beginning of the ridiculous love that was poured out on us in the weeks and months to come.

Wendy said goodbye while we were in this room. She had stood by our side for over 24 hours. The real world called. The need for rest called. It was the first of many small transitional steps into our “new normal”. We hugged. I don’t remember any profound words of love and thanks spilling from my lips, but it’s a comfort to have a friend who can read your heart.

It was now time to tell Mary. We had been mourning over this moment for many hours. Our neighbors brought her to the hospital and my parents went down the lobby to bring her up to our room. They gave us time alone as a family to explain everything that had happened to baby brother. I know Mary was only just 2, but she fully understood that her brother Keller was going to come out of mommy’s belly and come home and live with us. It was something we had been discussing with her for months. Not only did she understand, she was excited. She knew that when “Auntie” brought her to the hospital, she would get to meet and hold Keller. She came in the room and Nathan and I fought back every urge to breakdown in tears and frighten Mary.

“Hey baby! How are you? We missed you.”

“We have something we need to tell you ok honey?”

“You know how baby brother came out of mommy’s tummy in the hospital? Well, baby brother got hurt. Keller died and went to Heaven. Heaven is where God and Jesus live. So since he got hurt and died, he won’t be able to come and live with us. He’s going to stay with God and Jesus in Heaven. We are so sorry you don’t get to hold him. We know you were so excited.”

“….But I love him. I miss him. I want to see him… … … I want some nummies.”

I love toddlers. I love their moments of profound tenderness that are quickly followed by a loud reality check that your child is in fact only 2.

We had brought a few gifts for her to the hospital to open once Keller was born. She opened both her gifts, and the gifts she had picked out for Keller. Daddy, Mary, and I decided it would be ok if Mary opened them and kept them for him. One of the presents we got her was a Veggie Tales “God Loves You” DVD. The providence of this is not lost on me. We put it in and curled up on the bed and watched it as a family.

Our neighbors, their son, and my parents all came back in the room. My parents gave Mary a lollipop and the three of them drove back to grab some lunch and head to our apartment. We talked with our neighbors. We cried together. We thanked them.

At this point everyone had left. Nathan and I ate some lunch and took a nap in my hospital bed. I mention this because I just want to take a moment to praise the Lord for my husband and that nap I got to take in his arms. He is my champion.

My sister arrived around 2 that afternoon. She was immediately dropped off at the hospital. She crawled up in the bed beside me and we both sat and wept. For so many reasons, we wept. We shared pictures and moments we had with Keller. We laughed. We snacked. We held each other in silence.

A nurse technician came into our room not long after my sister had arrived. She came in, looked around at our somber faces, and said “Well you all are quiet! Did someone do something bad?” Bless her heart. I had no brain and or will power to say anything other than “Well. My son just died. It was a stillbirth.” Again. Bless her heart. (Here comes the bizarre/funny part.) “Well that’s sad… [looks down at the lollipop Mary had left on the table] That looks good! Whose is it?” “Our daughters. She’s 2.”  “Well you better watch out. I might steal it when you are sleeping.” And walks out the door. Bless that dear woman’s heart. We dropped quite a bomb on her. It’s hard to know just what to say when you are met with a shocking statement such as, “My son just died”. I’m certain she walked out of that room thinking “What in the WORLD did I just say? Did I just threaten to steal their daughter’s lollipop?!” I have all the sympathy. I have a terrible case of inappropriate word vomit as well. Bless your heart.

It was then time to go. My body was returning to “normalcy” rather quickly and we worked to be able to leave within the hour. We got a call on our hospital phone. “Congratulations on the birth of your child. Would you like to pay by credit card now or be billed later?” The employee on the other end of the line was doing her job and doing it well. She had no idea. That was ok, there is no way she could have known. It was just a bleak reminder that we were about the step out in the world. We were about to step into a world that couldn’t see our bruises.

It was such a still feeling packing up to leave. I imagine it was similar to what it must be like sorting through the wreckage after a disastrous tornado. What was once chaos and swirling and howling all around you, was now quiet, as if nothing had ever happen, save the rubble you are left sort through. Quite surreal.

We didn’t need to make sure to pack up all the diapers, bottles, wipes, and blankets the hospital provided. There was no need for a “going home” outfit. It was such a contrast from going home after Mary was born. When you leave a hospital after being pregnant for nine months, it is assumed you will go home with a baby. 36 hours prior we were eagerly awaiting our boys arrival. We had given birth to Keller, but he would not be coming home with us. Nathan and I both liken it to the rewind button being pressed on our life. Things would be “just as they were” nine months prior. Nathan, myself, and Mary – no Keller. It was almost as if those nine months had never happened. There was no baby to prove that he was real. There was nothing that showed those outside of our network that we had two children. Nothing to indicate that I had carried a second child inside my womb for nine months. It was and is difficult for our minds to process. Stepping back into life, a life completely new yet completely the same, was a daunting and scary process.

Nathan and my sister went to get our car and I was wheeled down to the front doors.

Seeing a world that is functioning the exact same capacity as it did two days before was overwhelming. I remember that even the way the volunteer wheeled me to the lobby felt trite considering everything that leaving that hospital meant.

We didn’t want to listen to the radio. It was another reminder that life was marching on without us. We needed everything to keep still for a while longer. The carseat sat empty. The backseat mirror was installed, but there was no squishy baby to glance at. The car was silent, yet every little thing around us screamed out loud that Keller would never be with us.

I remember the car ride home. Both Nathan and I were struck to the core with the truth -“Everyone needs compassion”.

We were battered and broken and no one around us knew. There are so many around us bruised and crumbling under the weight of sorrow and trial – our cashier, the driver who just laid on their horn, the colleague with the snide comment, the teacher lacking patience, the quiet mother at the park who can’t bring herself to smile – and we all so desperately need compassion. We don’t need details. We need love. We needed love. We needed everyone around us to assume that what we needed right at that moment was overflowing compassion.

This lesson has been both a gift and test. It is a difficult lesson to engrain. I constantly have to remind myself that EVERYONE needs that same tender compassion we needed so badly. Compassion looks different for different people and different circumstances, but it is always begins with love.

Mighty to Save

Everyone needs compassion
A love that’s never ending
Let mercy fall on me
Everyone needs forgiveness
The kindness of a savior
The hope of nations
Saviour he can move the mountains
My God is mighty to save
He is mighty to save
Forever author of salvation
He rose and conquered the grave
Jesus conquered the grave
So take me as you find me
All my fears and failures
Fill my life again
I give my life to follow
Everything I believe in
Now I surrender
Saviour he can move the mountains
My God is mighty to save
He is mighty to save
Forever author of salvation
He rose and conquered the grave
Jesus conquered the grave
Saviour he can move the mountains
My God is mighty to save
He is mighty to save
Forever author of salvation
He rose and conquered the grave
Jesus conquered the grave
Shine your light and let the whole world see
Were singing for the glory of the risen king Jesus
Were singing for the glory of the risen king Jesus
Saviour he can move the mountains
My God is mighty to save
He is mighty to save
Forever author of salvation
He rose and conquered the grave
Jesus conquered the grave
Saviour he can move the mountains
My God is mighty to save
He is mighty to save
Forever author of salvation
He rose and conquered the grave
Jesus conquered the grave
Shine you light and let the whole world see
Were singing for the glory of the risen king Jesus
(by Hillsong United)

 

 

 

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5 comments

  1. Hannah Westphal · September 10, 2016

    Our situations are very different, but the hardest part about watching Andrew die (and right after he died) was that everything else kept going. No one knew what we were seeing. No one knew how much our lives had been changed. It has to be that way or the entire world would be miserable but it’s the loneliest feeling. You aren’t alone. These posts have meant to much to me. I love you!

    Like

  2. Merry Hearts Medicine · September 11, 2016

    Yes, we all need love. Your story makes me think back to the time we almost lost my father three years ago when he got a mysterious case of encephalitis and meningitis. After six weeks in the hospital, he recovered, though the doctors never did figure out the cause. People were praying for him from coast to coast. We praise God for the strength and support we received during that time.

    It was so surreal when my mother and I would leave the hospital to eat lunch. There everyone was just going about their normal day. It didn’t seem right. But, I was touched by the way people would notice our faces and take the time to stop and talk to us with empathy. One waitress paid for our lunch on a particularly difficult day and shared with us a similar story of her experience with a loved one.

    I was also amazed at how many people would open up to us with their personal stories. You never know what loads the people around you are carrying! A cashier at McDonalds told me about her experiences over the previous year (involving several near-death experiences, loss, family- and health-problems, etc.) that actually made me feel like my father possibly lying on his death bed was no big deal. I was humbled that day.

    I love your idea of the t-shirt. That could be useful for so many things!

    God bless.

    Like

  3. Mary Elizabeth · September 11, 2016

    Your story although incredibly heartbreaking and sad is so full of strength and love I wish your family well and lots of hearing and comfort

    Like

  4. Jacki Romey · September 11, 2016

    All of your posts are wonderfully written. (Why would I expect anything else from my former student reporter?) But this one really spoke to me in my life. No, I cannot pretend to understand your pain and loss, but I do know the compassion part. And the part of wanting people to know what you are feeling is oh, so familiar to me. You see, when Noel was 4 months old, he was diagnosed with a devastating genetic disease called osteopetrosis. He was blind and the doctors told us he would not survive infancy. There was no treatment. He would have infections, broken bones, be anemic and the blindness too. Wow! It slammed us up against the wall. I remember coming home and talking to our 7-year-old son and his first question was, “Can’t they fix his eyes?” How do you respond to that? We were devastated for a long, long time. I would see people yelling at their kids and think to myself, “How dare you do that to a beautiful child who is so perfect?” I was angry that my child was not and these people were taking the perfection for granted. It took a long time to get over that sadness.

    Well, as you probably know, he overcame the death in infancy part, but life for him and for us has never been easy. The blindness was not fixable and he has continued to have devastating broken bone episodes. Though all of it though, God has been our guide and a very presence in all of our lives. Such peace, just knowing that this world is not our home! Your life will never be the same, as my life was forever changed that day Noel was diagnosed. But God has used us to help others and love on others in similar situations. Please know that the same will be for you. There is something about reaching out to others…for me, it helped me to heal. I cannot tell you how many parents of blind children I have spoken to throughout the years. I have a friend in England who had two sons with the same disease as Noel, who have since passed on.These people I would never cross paths with if not for Noel. And I am certain I was a better teacher because of the compassion I learned through all this hardness of life. Keller’s short beautiful life was one of true love that will touch others in ways you don’t know right now. I love you Bella. Thank you for sharing your incredibly beautiful story. I pray for you, Nathan and Mary to feel continued peace.

    Like

    • Bella Bartlett · September 11, 2016

      This hugged my soul. You are an incredible woman. I love you. Keep shining your light.

      Like

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