Sensitive post regarding Child Loss.
I photographed this Mom a while back. She is the first to say let me share my story, with hopes it will be a comfort to those going through the same thing. It’s been hard for me to actually put this up and share it, not due to fear, but the reality that is this post. It’s real. It’s raw. It’s what happens often and is completely tabled, so women continue to go through their grief thinking that they are alone. Let me shut that down right now. It kills me that this is something we’re not alone in, although not being alone means someone to talk to about it. Being together in this means working through our grief with another. For a healthier life. To continue living, not once being over it, but learning how to continue living despite our heart-ache. These Mommies, who have decided to share their hearts with the world, are here for you. I’m here for you. So please reach out via comment or email with your struggle. Maybe we know something that will help you, maybe we can only say you’re a wonderful Mom and we’re here for you. But we’re here. Below is Ilse’s story. Her life, shared with you regarding the loss of her sweet son, Axel. If you’re going through it, or family of someone who is, or even if you can’t relate yet, I hope you’ll read through to better understand, to find something that would be helpful, or to be a helping hand.
Note* Ilse has to wake up every day. She has to show up for her eldest son, for her husband. She has to still be a teacher, and play, and do all the Mom things, without a part of her. She’s one of the strongest women I’ve met and quite inspirational. Please follow her on Insta @ilsemunson
Baby boy was how old, how big and how long when born?
Axel was 24 weeks and 6 days old. He was 2lbs 2oz, and he was 14in.
Tell me a little bit about your pregnancy prior delivering, were there any off symptoms? Please share your story with us.
My pregnancy was hard and rocky from the beginning. I had a few scares that put me in the ER. I pretty much had bleeding my entire pregnancy and my doctor suggested to take time off working out to take it easy.
After a few weeks of mild bed rest I was able to go back to work as a fitness instructor but just had to take it easy. One day after class I went to hang out at the mall with a friend and our kids. I began to feel very sharp pains in my belly that would come and go. They started getting closer together and started to get stronger. I remember thinking to myself that it was not normal to get these types of pains this early on. I was only 24 weeks pregnant. as we were walking to the car, there was a moment where I had to stop because the pain became so unbearable and just like that my water broke. It was the scariest moment of my life because I knew that it was way to soon. My friend immediately called 911, and the ambulance got there 20 minutes after that. The hardest part during those 20 minutes was seeing my 2 year old son sitting next to me looking worried asking me if I was ok. I felt helpless and all I could do was look at him, try to be as calm as possible and tell him that it was all going to be ok. I was then taken to the hospital in the ambulance and was rushed to the OR for an emergency csection, We had 5 days in the hospital with our baby boy. Five days where I would walk down to the NICU as much as I could and just sit with him. I would say that even though those five days were the hardest my family has ever had to go through they were also a blessing. A blessing because I got FIVE days! Five days where we could see our baby, touch our baby, feed our baby, even if it was just with a q-tip, and five days where I was able to change his teeny tiny diaper. Five days where we were able to tell him just how much we love him and will always love him. I call it a blessing because I know that some moms don't even get that time. And after five days, he went to Heaven.
When were you able to hold him for the first time, what did that feel like?
I was finally able to hold him the day that we had to say goodbye to him, so after 5 days of being born. It felt, so many emotions going on at the same time. It felt amazing holding my little teeny tiny baby but it felt devastating at the same time because I know it would be the last time I would be holding him. It also felt right, I was his mama and he needed me to hold him close and tell him that I loved him.
When did you go home? What was that like?
We went home 5 days after giving birth to our son. It felt very strange and I felt empty like something was missing. Like this was not how it was supposed to be.
How was the process at home after being in the hospital and not coming home with your second child?
It was very strange, I was still taking care of myself because I had just had major surgery but unlike my first pregnancy there was no baby to take care of. It still is hard to this day, especially when I see friends with their babies who are around the same age that my son would have been.
Thankfully my husband took almost 2 weeks off after coming home from the hospital and we had my mother in law who stayed and helped for almost 2 weeks as well.
How were things with you and your husband during this time?
They were good, we stayed strong and tried to cope with it as much as we could. After a couple of weeks things got hard and there was a lot of fighting going on because our communication had stopped. We finally talked about it and talked about what each of us was feeling and we started communicating and our relationship got better.
What would have been helpful during this process and even when at home? How could people help? I want to educate others - family and friends on how to help.
For us, we honestly were so blessed by all the support we got in and out of the hospital. We received meal trains for almost 2 months. Flowers, texts messages, gifts, random acts of kindness and love. I would say just show up! be there even if you aren't asked to.
What were the things you told yourself to love yourself, give yourself grace and lift yourself up during this hard time when you could be really hard on yourself?
I just had to keep telling myself and still do to this day that it was not my fault, not anyone's fault. What honestly keeps me going is knowing that our baby boy is in a much better place that he could ever be. A place where he does not suffer or feel pain. I tell myself that God does everything for a reason and that even in our worst trials He always has something good come out of them.
How do you keep Axel’s memory alive today?
I try and talk about him when I can and I always talk about him with our 3 year old even though I don't think he remembers him. We have a wall in our house that has a big wooden bible verse on it and underneath it is his full name in a frame. Next to that we have Axels and our 3 year old Williams hands done in clay. I also have a couple pieces of jewelry that I always wear that have his name engraved on them.
What hospital did you deliver at? What hospital did you reside at? Do you recommend it? Any favorite doctors or nurses to recommend? What insurance? Sharp or Scripps etc?
Delivered and stayed at Sharp Mary Birch. I highly recommend this hospital, they were great, very sweet and most importantly very understanding. We had a couple of nurses who were so amazing and went above and beyond with some of the things they did. Two of them made us cards, took pictures of our baby, made beautiful signs with his name and picture on it and different stats. We still have all of that. Rose Bloomberg, Sharps family counselor, was also amazing and so helpful. One of the nurses name was Marcy Vanwagone. Our insurance was United Health care.
Anything else to share?
"Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy." John 16:20