Following on from my post on miscarriage today I am posting an interview with Amanda Axelby Author of Grief and Grace: A Journey through Pregnancy Loss. She is also one of the many wonderful women who I go to church with and also a women who I look up to as a model of godly wife and mother.
Amanda, thanks for agreeing to be interviewed on Mummy’s Undeserved Blessings. I have recently shared my experiences of miscarriage on my blog and wanted to have you share a little of your story. Our society really struggles with talking about loss and death and I think it is so important we share our stories and the things we have learned along the way. Sharing our stories can help others feel they are not alone and also help those who have not experienced loss be able to better understand those of us who have.
I have just recently finished reading you book Grief and Grace and while it was definitely not an easy read it was one of those books that changes you after reading it. From the very beginning of the book I was moved by you honest descriptions of the events that occurred in losing Grace. While I will never fully understand what you went through, you allowed me into your world to gain a deeper understanding of what you felt.
Can you firstly tell us a little about yourself and your family?
I originally come from the Gold Coast, but have lived in the Canberra region now for 24 years. I am married to, John, and am a stay-at-home mum of eleven living children.
Can you share with us a little about the loss of your baby, Grace?
After a pretty traumatic birth, Grace was born still at 38 weeks. I remember the silence was almost suffocating. I wanted to hear her cry. I wanted to feel her breathe. I held her warm, limp body close to mine. She looked as though she were only sleeping and if I just closed my eyes I could pretend it was a bad dream. When I awoke she would be alive.
The hospital staff encouraged us to spend time with her as we would a living baby. John bathed her and we dressed her together, placing her singlet on first, then the dress; we carefully positioned her still feet into the booties, and finally a bonnet to cover her fuzzy, ginger hair. I held her tiny hand in mine and felt how soft she was, and how cold. My instinct was to cover her to keep her warm, but for her that didn’t matter. Newborns should be warm. How can a mother leave her baby cold? I wasn’t prepared for her body to change so quickly. I just wanted her to stay in my arms forever.
The day we left the hospital I passed other mothers still pregnant as they came in to have their babies. I too came through those doors with a babe inside—I left, empty and without her. Her absence changed everything. I could see her in the empty baby seat as we travelled—she should have been in that seat. At home I felt her presence everywhere; in the bassinette, her little clothes in the drawers, or the absence of them in the wash. Sometimes I thought I heard a baby cry and felt the need to rush out to her.
After carrying Grace for nine months my body cried out for her. Those natural feelings of wanting to nurture and care for my baby were overpowering. When the milk flowed I could almost hear her snuffle and nuzzle as she fed. Leaking breasts were a constant reminder of my empty arms. When I stopped feeling any letdown reflexes almost two weeks after the birth, I cried. It was my last connection with the baby. My body began to forget what my mind could not.
Though surrounded by people, I felt incredibly alone.
We share a faith in God and in his salvation through Jesus Christ. Can you tell me how having this faith helped you to cope with your loss?
Although I felt alone, I had Someone who was always there. Jesus never said the wrong thing or tried to rush me through the grieving process. He didn’t make light of my pain. Knowing He, too, suffered and was acquainted with grief, helped me to trust Him more. I felt that I knew Him a little better. I remember a particularly dark time for me when I felt depressed, not wanting to get out of bed. I prayed that I had no more strength left in me, if things were to change; only He could do it. For the first time in months a feeling of joy washed over me. He gave me the will to keep going.
One of the biggest things I got out of reading your book was an insight into what someone who is grieving feels. I mentioned in my post on miscarriage some of the unhelpful things people said that were intended as comfort. Can you share with us what things are not helpful to say/do when helping people who are grieving and also some things that you found to be comforting?
When someone is grieving there is not much anyone can say to make them feel better. However, in saying that, there are some things that may help:
I am sorry for your loss. You must be in so much pain.
I know what an important member of your family she is, and she will be missed terribly.
I don’t know what to say. I’m sorry.
Tell me about your baby. What was she like? Who do you think the baby looked like?
The following words will most definitely cause pain to a grieving parent: You have other children
You can always have more children (though not many people said that to us)
You shouldn’t have more children
There was probably something wrong with the baby, so it was for the best
At least you have children; some women have none
Is there anything else that you would want people to know about loss and grief?
Grief comes to all people at some stage in their lives. If not directly maybe you know someone who has been bereaved. It may not be a baby; it could be you know someone who has lost an older child, a husband or wife, a brother or sister. No matter what the age of the person who has died, the grieving will need sensitivity and compassion. It is always worthwhile to learn how to relate in a compassionate way with someone in pain.
For those who are interested in finding out more about Amanda’s story her book Grief and Grace: A Journey through Pregnancy Loss is available through Koorong Christian bookstores for $21.95 +P&H. Chapters in this book include: Our Story, Other Families' Stories, Home schooling in the Midst of Grief, Scriptural Comfort, Help for Grieving Families, How Family and Friends Can Help and Funeral Help. You can also like her facebook page Grief and Grace.