The Story of Wills
When I first got pregnant, we weren’t trying so it was quite a shock! The second you see those lines turn blue, everything changes. It might take a few days to wrap your mind around it, but you start telling yourself all these littles stories. A few weeks later, I had a terrible pain down my leg and went to the hospital. I had an ectopic miscarriage. The medical staff kept coming into my room and saying things like ‘This isn’t a viable pregnancy and this could kill you’. It was terrifying - they must have said that to me six or seven times. I remember being on the operating table, so scared, and my doctor quietly said “I’ll look after you”. I knew immediately she was empathetic for what I was going through and that made all the difference.
After, I went home and felt so alone. My husband was away working and he got on a flight home right away, but then he had to leave for another business trip later that week. I had recently moved to Vancouver so I didn’t have core friends I could call on to say that I was having a really hard time. I kept picturing this tiny baby and wondering where it went. There was a light, and then it went out. Everyone genuinely does their best – they try and say things that help, but most of the time it’s frustrating and makes you want to scream! People would tell me about others they knew who had years of infertility, or that at least I could get pregnant. It didn’t help – the pain was still there, yet it felt like people were avoiding my pain.
We waited a while, and then my husband and I felt ready to try again. We got pregnant yet I definitely felt on edge. I slowly let myself feel it all – taking belly photos and sharing my news. When we went in for the 20 week scan, we thought we were going to find out the gender and celebrate. Instead, they told us that they couldn’t find a heartbeat. I went numb. I couldn’t believe it. They told us this devastating thing and then they sent us home. My husband and I got into bed and cried. I didn’t know what to expect next so I started to read a few articles. Someone said to bring something with you to the hospital to leave with your baby. All I had was a brown stuffed bunny a friend had given me for the baby, so I put it into a bag and didn’t think about it again until later.
My midwife called a few hours later to tell us to come back to the hospital to get induced. I was really scared, and when my contractions started they offered me pain medication, which I accepted. I wish they had explained to me that feeling that pain would help my grieving process. Instead, I was numb and high. I didn’t even know what day it was. I delivered a tiny baby, and he had all the recognizable features of a baby yet was only a bit bigger than my hand. They wrapped him in a towel and asked if I wanted to see him. I remember his little hands. My husband subtly took a few pictures because we didn’t know if it was weird. I wish someone had encouraged us to take more photos to remember him by, or even offered to have a photographer like Felicia come in.
When our baby boy was born, I could feel the presence of my grandfather, William, so we named him Wills. A few weeks later, there was a photo laying on my parents floor of me as a kid on my grandfather’s back. No one knew where it had came from or why it was laying on the floor, but it made me feel connected to something bigger. That photo has become important to me, and I like to keep it close. After Wills was born, the nurses put him in a little cot and I remembered the bunny - I placed the bunny next to him. Fortunately there was a lovely nurse who told me to take the bunny home with me - that it would mean more to me there.
The following year, I had a healthy rainbow baby boy, Hunter. I knew it was time to come back to my experience, and to never let a family leave the hospital without something precious to hold onto. I started making memory boxes that I packaged myself and donated to our local hospital. In every box, I include a brown stuffed bunny with a note from us – my tribute to Wills. I also put a sticker on the envelope that the hospital provides that says “There are some really helpful resources in here and people to contact. You may not be ready to open this right away.”
Recently, I had another baby boy, Mylo. The week before I gave birth, my mom was talking to a client and he told her his wife had a stillbirth. He went on to tell my mom that they were given a box with a stuffed bunny in it, and how much that helped. He said it gave them a place to start with their grieving process. She told him afterward that her daughter made those boxes and he couldn’t believe it. My hope is that these boxes touch parents in some way. You can’t fathom how you’ll ever come back from the worst day of your life, yet somehow, along the way, the grief softens and the journey becomes more peaceful.
October 25th was the day we lost Wills. It’s been five years and I can still feel that devastation. Each year, I try to honour him. It doesn’t have to be big, in fact I’ve learned that me sleeping with the bunny, or lighting a candle, or going for a walk in the forest is actually my way of honouring him. That’s ceremony. For anyone who has a friend that went through pregnancy or infant loss, light a candle on their behalf and tell them your thinking about them and their baby. Honour their grief with ceremony.
My hope for the future of these boxes is to include more pieces around ceremony, so I’m partnering with Megan to find simple ways to add to the boxes. We want to give people a place to start, and sharing our stories and offering some ceremony inspiration is the best way we know how.