Finding support after losing a baby: Lindsey’s story

Lindsey Duke and her family
Lindsey Duke with her husband Kevin, son Elijah, and daughter Abigail. The white teddy bear represents their son, Jonah, who died in 2014. Credit: Purple Lilies Photography.

Losing a baby is an unimaginable experience for those who have not gone through it. Unfortunately, too many parents experience this pain.

If you are in this situation, know there are others who understand what you are feeling and can offer support and advice. You will never forget your little one or “get over” losing your baby, but you can move forward with life – and for some, that includes finding joy in another pregnancy.

One of my patients, Lindsey Duke, experienced the loss of a baby and the anxiety that a subsequent pregnancy can bring. She offered to share her story to show other women they are not alone and to encourage them to seek support and help.

Here is her story in her own words.

Losing Jonah

My husband, Kevin, and I got married in 2007 and started our family in 2010. Our first baby, Elijah, was born at just 32 weeks. Fortunately, he was healthy and required no major medical interventions – just some time in the NICU to learn to eat!

When we decided we wanted to have another child, I was nervous that the next baby would come early, too. I talked to my Ob/Gyn about why Elijah was born so early. We discussed possible options with a second pregnancy, such as close monitoring of my cervix. However, we weren’t certain of the cause of Elijah’s early entrance into this world. We became pregnant with our son, Jonah, in October 2013, and my Ob/Gyn kept a close watch on me.

At 15 weeks, I began to have some bleeding. Everything looked fine during a check-up, however, and I soon began to feel the flutters of our little one’s movements.

When the bleeding didn’t stop, I was referred to a maternal fetal medicine specialist, a physician who specializes in high-risk pregnancies. It was at this time we discovered during an ultrasound that there was now very little fluid around Jonah. Because of my family history of autoimmune disease and Elijah’s preterm delivery, tests were ordered, but nothing provided a clear answer.

On Feb. 2, 2014, at 18 weeks and five days, I went into labor. Our baby boy, Jonah, did not survive delivery. It was the most painful experience of my life, both physically and emotionally. Kevin and the nurses were so kind, offering comforting words and encouraging me through labor. Kevin and I got to spend a few precious moments holding our perfect son, and then we had to let him go.

Leaving the hospital without Jonah, I felt so raw and abandoned. Getting out of bed the next morning and doing normal things like making breakfast and waking up Elijah reminded me that my fight for Jonah was over. I questioned why God would create a life just to take it away. Soon after, though, I was reminded that God still had a purpose for me and sent me the support I so needed.

Moving forward with support

After we lost Jonah, one of the important things that got me through was being able to talk about him. A friend introduced me to the support group Hope Mommies. I met women there who understood what I was going through, listened to my story and my fears, and supported my faith. After a while, I was able to offer support to other parents who had experienced loss, and that also helped in my healing.

At first, I struggled with how other people responded to Jonah’s death. I heard phrases such as, “The ones who come that early aren’t meant to make it,” or, “You can have another.”

When people said these things, I had to remember that they weren’t trying to hurt my feelings. They just didn’t understand the loss I felt – and I don’t ever want them to understand. Jonah was loved from the moment we found out about him, and we still miss him.

The moments I cherish are the ones when people tell me they remember Jonah, or remember me being pregnant with him. Parents who have lost a baby worry that people won’t remember him or her. If you talk to parents who have lost a child, don’t just ask how they are doing – because it’s easy to say, “I’m fine” – but instead, sit down and let them talk about their baby and their experience. Their tears and pain may be uncomfortable to experience, but it is healing for them to talk about their baby.

We can’t forget that our partners grieve, too, even if it’s in a different way. We need to give them time to talk, as well. Kevin writes and plays music, and he led worship at Jonah’s memorial and wrote a song for Jonah, which he found therapeutic. Hope Mommies may be centered on the mother, but Kevin has benefited from my involvement by befriending the spouses of the women I have met.

Welcoming Abigail

Elijah had come early, followed by losing Jonah, so I underwent testing to try to determine what had happened. My doctor ruled out autoimmune problems, but suggested that I may have cervical incompetence, a condition in which a woman’s cervix begins to dilate before her pregnancy has reached full-term.

In August 2014, Kevin and I found out we were pregnant with our daughter, Abigail. We were excited, but I also was anxious about going through another traumatic experience. A friend who also had lost a child recommended I visit Dr. Zink.

We’re so glad we did. Dr. Zink made us feel comfortable immediately, and she talked us through what she thought had happened with Elijah and Jonah, and what she thought we should do going forward.

I saw my Ob/Gyn every two weeks and Dr. Zink every month. Later in the pregnancy, I saw her every week. Even though every visit confirmed that Abigail was doing well, in the back of my mind I worried about something going wrong. I was fortunate to have found Dr. Zink, who listened to my fears and reassured me.

In February 2015 – just one year after we lost Jonah – my mother got sick. The day we found out she had taken a turn for the worse, I started having contractions. Dr. Zink worked me into her schedule, did an ultrasound, and reassured me that I was still doing OK. Thankfully, the contractions were just Braxton Hicks. She urged me to go see my mom, and gave me signs and symptoms to watch for as well as recommendations to make sure I was taking care of myself while we were there.

On April 2, 2015, our beautiful, healthy daughter was born. My mother died a couple months before Abigail was born, and we wish she could have met her granddaughter. Kevin, Elijah, and I love our little Abigail, but she’s not a replacement for Jonah. We are just so grateful we had the opportunity granted to us to experience another pregnancy and bring home another child. We know not everyone is given that chance.

Losing a child can tear a family and a marriage apart, so please don’t shy away from talking about what you are feeling. You may think no one understands, but you are not on this journey alone. Let others walk with you, and you will find the strength to enjoy life again.

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I have other patients with stories similar to Lindsey’s who also have found support within their family and community. Let yourself grieve, but don’t let the experience prevent you from living.

If you have experienced a pregnancy that was difficult or ended in miscarriage or stillbirth, we can help you understand what happened and what steps to take as you enter into a new pregnancy. Request an appointment or call 214-635-8300.

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