Barhite: Talking helps cope with a stillbirthWritten by Brandi Barhite | Community Ombudsman | firstname.lastname@example.org
A very pregnant Casey Gravelle woke up April 17, 2012, and didn’t remember feeling her baby moving the day before.
But she has three kids and one was getting ready for a ballet recital.
There were a lot of things going on. Perhaps she missed a kick.
“Who wants to think that something bad is going on, especially when you already had three healthy children?” my friend said.
Casey hurried to get an appointment for that afternoon. The nurse kept trying to find his heartbeat. She couldn’t find it. She and her husband, Emil, were moved to an exam room to try with the fetal Doppler. Still no heartbeat.
They were sent to a hospital for an ultrasound. Nothing.
When she delivered Henry Lyle Gravelle on April 19, it appeared he had outgrown the placenta, which led to a series of problems. An autopsy would confirm that. He was otherwise a perfectly healthy boy at 35 weeks old.
Casey said everyone copes with a stillbirth differently.
“One of the best things was having caregivers who cared. Other mothers who experienced this didn’t have as good as care as we did.”
At first, Casey focused on doing everything she could for Henry’s funeral. She made him a quilt, just as she had for her other babies. She and her husband bought him an outfit.
“We were trying to save money, but I was like, ‘This is the only outfit we are going to buy him.’”
Casey kept herself busy. She poured herself into her daughter’s recital. Then she focused on Henry’s funeral. Some comments did not help.
“Do not tell me that God can only give us what we can handle. That is the stupidest saying ever!” Casey said.
She also heard: “Maybe it is for the best.” Some people also told her: “At least you have other kids.”
Casey struggled when friends who were pregnant at the same time gave birth, especially if they delivered boys. Fellow moms wanted play dates, but she wasn’t sure she wanted to be around other babies. She was thankful they understood and did not pressure her. She loved when people wanted to talk about Henry.
“A lot of us like to talk about our angel children. If you want more than ‘OK,’ let us know that you are comfortable talking about our babies.”
She also appreciated when people called Henry by his name. It acknowledged his existence. Casey said it is important that couples talk as well.
“Communication between the two of you is incredibly important. You need to tell the other person what you need from them. Dads don’t want to talk about it because they don’t want to upset moms. I am not the only one who lost a child. The dad lost a child, too.”
When the Gravelles welcomed another child this past April, the couple wanted to make sure people knew the girl, Ellenah, wasn’t replacing Henry.
“There is a hole in this family where that person is not with us. He is still part of our family. It is not like a toy that you go and replace,” Casey said.
Casey said one of the hardest parts of coping with a stillbirth is that people avoid the subject.
“Nobody wants to talk about it. You are talking about loss during a time of hope. You are losing a child; you are losing everything you had hoped for the child. No one wants to talk about that.”