Parenting after child loss is bittersweet
In 2017 I got pregnant for the first time when my husband returned from deployment. We were absolutely thrilled, and the pregnancy started off very smoothly. My 20-week anatomy scan is when things started to spiral.
My OB found that they were having trouble seeing both chambers of baby's heart and sent me to a perinatologist the next day for a more detailed scan. Over the next month we went to every specialist and surgeon we could, had a fetal MRI, and did all we could to get every bit of information we could. Each appointment brought more bad news or continued to confirm the previous...
Our son had Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome which means that the left side of his heart didn't fully develop.
He also had a Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia, for him this meant that his liver and kidney were up on his left lung and his heart pushed over to the right. His left lung was only able to develop to about 30%. His conditions made each other significantly worse, and they deemed him "incompatible with life".
We were forced to turn out attention to preparing for our son's death while still trying to relish the time we had/may have with him. We worked with a nonprofit that supports bereaved parents and they helped us make a birth plan, plan for the time we may have with our son and do things with him while we could like pictures and even a helicopter ride. My husband is a pilot and loved being able to fly my son and I.
On January 22, 2018 our son, Caleb James Akin lived forty minutes in my arms.
We had some family come to see him and had photos taken from another nonprofit, NILMDTS. I'm thankful for them but can't look at most of them. The next year was blur and best described by me attempting to just keep my head above water. I got pregnant again and miscarried at eight weeks that September. I was able to get pregnant again shortly thereafter but at this point I felt completely shut down and my anxiety and depression took over my pregnancy with my son.
Our son Wesley was born eighteen months, to the day, after his brother and he is an absolute joy in our lives. Parenting after loss is the definition of bittersweet and we miss Caleb every single day. I hope to be making him proud and do think he has made me a different (hopefully better) mom to Wesley.
My husband and I grew up Christian but loosing Caleb wrecked me. I did not turn to my faith and really struggled with anxiety and anger in missing my son. I couldn't bear going to church and silently arguing in my head with everything that was sung or said and spent the whole time in tears. Unfortunately, I had both friends and family members who were unable to support us through loss and fell away from our lives. That has been another difficult aspect of my grief and anger as well.
In the last few months, I have been making an effort and felt okay returning to church, joining a small group, and trying to work through my anger. I want to be present for my living son while we celebrate our angel and I want to be an example of joy and hopefully someday faith for him.
Click here to read more of our blogs about stillbirth and baby loss. This blog was written by Shannon Akin in Buford, Georgia. Shannon and her husband, Jay, have been married for almost eight years. Together they have two sons - Caleb James, their angel baby, and Wesley Cole. Photography courtesy of Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep.