In January 2007, I was a young mother of an 18 month old daughter anticipating the birth of my first son in February. Both pregnancies had been healthy with not even morning sickness to speak of. I expected my second pregnancy to end similarly to the first...with a healthy baby born close to his due date.
However, the second pregnancy was not to end this way. A series of events resulted in me having an emergency c-section at 36 weeks gestation and giving birth to a 7lb baby who was not breathing. Though doctors were able to revive his heart, baby Daniel never opened his eyes here on the earth. He passed away in my arms two days after his birth at Brenner Children’s Hospital in Winston Salem, North Carolina.
An autopsy showed that baby Daniel had suffered oxygen loss. Doctors could find no cause for such. I was told that this was a “freak accident” that happens rarely: one in three thousand births.
Before I left Brenner Children’s Hospital the nurses gave me some contact information about a group called Heartstrings and said they would be able to help when I was ready.
For several weeks, I was surrounded by friends and family who wanted to help me, support me and “make things right.” Even with this support, I began to feel all alone.
I read books about loss. I talked to ladies who had experienced similar losses. These things were healing, and while I appreciated the comfort and counsel of these friends, I kept remembering that group, Heartstrings.
One dreary day (they all seemed to be dreary that year), I contacted Heartstrings. The lady who called me back had helped to found the group and said her loss had been very similar to mine. As a matter of fact, she would like to be my support parent if I would like such. I did.
My support “mom” was wonderful. She e-mailed me regularly to ask how I was doing and how I was feeling. Did I want to talk about anything? It was so comforting to have someone who had been through a loss to talk to without any strings attached and no judgement for my thoughts or feelings. She even sent me a monogrammed gift when my second daughter was born healthily 18 months after we lost Daniel.
My husband and I now have three daughters whom we love very much. But the comments we get are ridiculous. “Oh, three girls...good luck!” “You are going to have three weddings to pay for!” and my least favorite, “Are you going to try again for a boy?”
That last question has always left me dumbfounded. I have often wondered if I should explain about Daniel and make the questioner feel awkward or would it be better to just smile and ignore. But one day, my middle daughter answered before I could decide how to respond. She simply said, “I have a brother. My brother is in heaven.” This stunned and quieted the inquirer.
A few years later, I began to have an idea for a children’s book that families could read together to remember and discuss their child(ren) in heaven. I kept thinking that it was a great idea, but someone else should write it...I was not a writer! Then about two years ago I felt God leading me to share our story. In 2016, I self-published a children’s book, I Have a Brother - My Brother is in Heaven.
I Have a Brother-My Brother is in Heaven is the story of a little girl and her family who experience an infant loss. Told from the perspective of my oldest daughter, Ruthie, I Have a Brother gently recounts the story of her brother, Daniel, and his short life here on earth. This beautiful story is also a story of hope: Ruthie learns that not all babies are meant to live here on the earth and explains that though her earthly loss has been difficult, she looks forward to seeing her brother again one day in heaven. My desire is that this book would be something families read together to discuss a baby/infant loss or miscarriage and find hope.
I hope this book will help mothers and families not feel so all alone as they experience and grieve an infant or baby loss like I did. And to look forward to seeing their baby again one day.
Daphne Petrey contacted Heartstrings in 2007 after the loss of her son. She received the support of a Support Mom and served as one for several years. To read more from her or to purchase her book, you can visit her blog: www.carrythemforever.com