Updated: Oct 1, 2019
by Marissa N.
A thousand hugs to Marissa for sharing her story of grief, compassion, and finding the way back to hope and healing. Our team learned of Marissa after she held a Facebook birthday fundraiser which raised enough funds to bring more Comfort Cubs to other parents in their time of grief. Below is her story.
My husband Ken and I were married August of 2014. We had been high-school sweethearts and been long distance for just over two years while I finished school and Ken joined the Marine Corp. Just two months after moving out to Camp Pendleton California, we had an unexpected pregnancy. I was only eighteen, I hadn’t started college, and we were nowhere near financially stable. However, we couldn’t help but be absolutely thrilled to welcome a sweet baby into our new little family. When we were 17 weeks along we found out it was a boy and named him Edward Erwin, after both of Ken’s grandfathers.
In the beginning of our pregnancy we had opted for genetic testing, never imagining we would be given the news our baby had a chromosomal anomaly. At 18 weeks, we were told our baby had a 1 in 6 chance of having Downs Syndrome. With an additional non-invasive blood test our fear was confirmed. To add to this, at our 20 week ultrasound we were informed Edward had a heart defect. He had a hole in the middle of all four chambers of his heart and would need surgery within a few months of birth. Lastly, he had been diagnosed with Duodenal Atresia, which is a separation of the stomach. He would need surgery within 24 hours of birth to be able to eat and I was likely not going to be able to hold him right away. Our pregnancy from then on was filled with extra appointments to monitor our little Edward’s heart and began preparation for many months stay in the hospital since he would be having surgeries immediately. With all of our fear and stress, we still found happiness in our pregnancy. We still dreamt of our happy future and had faith that our baby would be strong through it all. However, at 38 weeks, we went in for a routine check-up and were told the heartbreaking news that our son's heart was no longer beating.
If I allow myself, I can still imagine the exact layout of the small ultrasound room. For some reason, as soon as we got there, I had a sinking feeling like something was wrong. The ultrasound tech was having trouble and I fearfully asked what was wrong. She shook her head and said the machine wasn’t working and she needed someone to help her. As she left I started shaking. Ken smiled and told me to calm down and that everything was okay but I couldn’t. The two women came in and checked. Then a third. The third woman was a dark haired doctor. After a quick check she turned and looked me in the eye. “Ma’am I am so sorry but we cannot find his heartbeat. When was the last time you felt him move?” I started hyperventilating and looked desperately at Ken.
Shaking my head rapidly saying, “NO, no, no,” hoping the nightmare would end and I’d wake up in my bed. But this wasn’t a dream. My husband reached out in tears and put both hands on my face and shushed me as I cried out. I had never seen him cry. They had to be wrong. I couldn’t breathe. “Ma’am do you remember when you felt him move last?” The doctor asked again. I couldn’t remember. He moved so much all the time I never had to worry about kick counts and the last two days contractions had started but were so irregular and not painful yet I hadn’t thought anything was wrong. After explaining this, the doctor said that was completely normal and assured me that it wasn’t my fault, these things just happen. Then she asked what I wanted to do. All I could reply was, “I need to call my mom.”
I was induced June 16th and had him stillbirth June 17th, 2015. Edward was born but the room was silent. I had never cried harder than I did in that moment. That silence, where there should be a baby crying, was devastating. I held him for about an hour. His skin was peeling but I couldn’t look away. My sweet boy would never grow up, never take his first steps, never learn to ride a bike. I felt as though I failed him. What kind of mother doesn’t know what’s wrong with her baby she’s carrying? You read those stories about “mother’s intuition,” but mine failed me. And now I sat holding a still baby in a silent room.
The details of the rest of our stay in the hospital was a bit of a blur. Before we were discharged were given a purple satin box with our son’s handprints, footprints, lock of hair, and a few more little things. We were also given a weighted teddy bear called a Comfort Cub. We were told how a woman went through something similar and created these cubs to donate to hospitals for women who had to go home with empty arms. I clung to it. It sat on the couch next to me for weeks and I carried it around if I didn’t know what else to do. It also gave us inspiration to find a teddy bear urn. We wanted to have our baby with us wherever the military took us so cremation was the only option for us.
We were ready to be parents but instead came home with empty arms and broken hearts. We decided to get pregnant again right away. In September, we were pregnant again, this time with a little girl. A baby born after a miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant loss is referred as a Rainbow Baby. A rainbow is not a replacement but a glimmer of hope and happiness after the storm. Myra was my rainbow, my bright light in a very dark time in my life. She helped me heal in a way I don’t think I could have without her. Myra brought meaning back into my life and gave me my reason to keep living.
My children are the reason I became a photographer. I named my business Angels and Rainbows Photography, for my angel in heaven and my rainbow here with me. Every year on Edward’s birthday, I buy a birthday cake and I do a special photoshoot with Myra to honor him.
I decided a long time ago I would not live my life pretending he never existed. He was a huge part of my life and I will always talk about him and share my story with others. Sadly, 1 in 4 women lose a pregnancy because of miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant loss and I feel like my calling in life is to help them and be there. My goal for my business is to offer rainbow baby sessions every year and donate the proceeds to help other women and families who have lost children.
Sometimes words aren’t wanted or needed. Sometimes it’s about just being there and offering a shoulder to cry on. I got a lot of, yet heartfelt, useless advise after losing our son. Most of it angered me. I didn’t want to hear it was God’s plan or that it was better for my baby to be in heaven. I didn’t want to hear time would make it better or easier. I know everyone meant well but at the time when you’re grieving it doesn’t help and just causes anger and resentment. That’s one reason these comfort cubs are amazing. It gave me something to cling to when I had no one to turn to.
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