By Guest Blogger Elizabeth Severson
Mom, Mummy, Mae, Madre; a title that is proudly used by many, longed by many, and sadly, unrealized by many.
On November 16th of 2016 I gazed at a pregnancy test that confirmed I would soon take on the new title of “mommy.” I had longed to be a mother since I can remember, all the way back to my childhood, parading around the house with a pillow under my shirt telling the world I was going to have a “pillow baby.” Naturally, when I found out we were expecting, I was over the moon.
On June 16, 2017 I met our precious baby girl. She was 6lbs 12oz of perfection with the biggest cheeks I had ever seen on a newborn; we named her Sienna. Like many mothers meeting their babies for the first time, there were lots of tears, kisses, cuddles, and pictures taken. However, unlike most moms meeting their precious new baby, I was also preparing to say goodbye; my sweet Sienna was stillborn.
To better understand my story, let me back track a few years. In 2002 I was diagnosed with Endometriosis. For most of my adult life I had been told by doctors and women’s health specialists, that I would most likely not be able to have children due to the advanced stage of my condition. I faced many hospital visits due to excruciating pain, two surgeries, and endless amounts of hours connected to my heat pad in hopes of some pain relief. Endometriosis is real. It’s painful, debilitating, life altering and affects 5.5 million women in the U.S. Being told that I would possibly not have children was earth shattering! However, I didn’t give up hope. My husband and I went into our marriage with a positive mindset, and hearts filled with hope, that we would one day have our own children. The answer to our prayers came that November 16th night; our dream would soon be realized.
My pregnancy was fairly smooth. I had some morning sickness during my first trimester, a fair share of pee breaks, gnarly heartburn that could burn hair off a monkey, and swelling that made my toes look like snack size sausages! All symptoms of a normal pregnancy, which I was happy to experience being that it was a sure sign of a healthy, growing baby!
On June 8th at 36 weeks, I went into labor. I was several weeks early, according to my original due date, but baby girl Sienna wanted out and she made it known. I went into the Labor and Delivery unit twice. Both visits I was showing significant and active contractions. I was admitted during the second visit where I was kept for further monitoring. I progressed from 0 to 4cm dilated in 2 hours. My husband and I were sure this was it! Though I was contracting, and much to our surprise, we were sent home the next morning and were told we did not need to come back until my water broke, I couldn’t speak through contractions, or I began to bleed. Reluctantly, we went home.
The morning of June 15th, something felt off. I hadn’t felt Sienna move her normal wild ways. I chalked it up to my constant contracting and possible lack of room for her to move around. Once we arrived at hospital, it took approximately 30 min, two nurses, and three doctors to confirm the fateful words, “There is no heartbeat.”
Receiving the news was absolutely a shock. I remember wanting to scream but I was unable to speak, move, or even cry. I was paralyzed. My husband, who had rushed to meet us from work, had arrived with an excited expression believing that this would be the moment we’d meet our baby. I watched as his joyous expression faded into a look of terror. Not only had my body failed my beautiful baby girl, but I felt I had also let down my sweet husband and our families.
We spent 11 hours with our beauty. We changed her into a beautiful dress, took pictures, held and kissed on her as much as possible. We just couldn’t believe our perfect baby, was lifeless. The dreaded time had approached, leaving my Sienna at the hospital. It was perhaps one of the hardest moments I believe I will ever face. I felt guilty leaving her when I should be holding, nurturing and loving her.
In the subsequent days, I struggled to find purpose again. What was my life going to consist of now that I was no longer a mother?
It took several sleepless nights, lots of tears, faith, and a lack of resources online for me to realize that I WAS still a mother and perhaps my mission as Sienna’s mother was to preserve her memory and create a community support system for other families experiencing the same loss. That’s when I came up with #1in4stillbornstilloved and “Siennaswings.com.” I reached out to my friend, Liz Evans, who was a photographer, and we worked on creating beautiful images that would be the face of our awareness campaign as well as bringing actual faces to the 1 in 4 statistic. Since starting the campaign we have had such a huge response from our community as well as families who also have angel babies.
My ultimate hope is to break the taboo label that lies on miscarriage and stillbirth. Losing a baby is very real and very hard. It should not also be cause for isolation. My goal is to break the silence, break the taboo, create awareness, promote self-advocacy, and create an “Angel Baby” support system. Though angel families may be separated by miles of land or water, we are all connected by our very special angels. Join us on our mission and visit www.siennaswings.com and on Facebook at 1in4stillbornstilloved. I look forward to connecting with you!