Most times when we think of pregnancy and childbirth we think of times of joy, excitement, and hope. Rarely do we associate the idea of pregnancy with loss and grief. But unfortunately, it is a harsh reality that millions of women around the world face each day, which equals to about 24,000 babies each year in the United States alone, according to the CDC. Think about that for a second. That’s a hard pill to swallow under any circumstances.
In a time when women are more vocal about their bodies, their mental state, and the expectations they put on themselves in all aspects of life, this conversation is yet another topic to add to the list of things that get far too little attention but needs to be normalized. Thankfully, SET had the opportunity to sit down with Lauren Bea Robinson (Wife of Keenan Robinson, retired NFL linebacker) and Toria Moore (Wife of Baltimore Ravens wide receiver, Christopher Moore) to have a very real conversation about dealing with infant and pregnancy loss and why they feel the need to share their stories.
During pregnancy, your body endures so many things. The transformation and anticipation of nourishing and caring for your unborn child is both overwhelming and exciting. A cocktail that’s filled with emotions and can make anyone crazy. So imagine that big day that your body has been preparing for 9 months finally comes, you’re surrounded by family and friends all waiting for the arrival of the new addition only to learn, this day that should be filled with joy and excitement is now a day filled with grief and remorse. Imagine the heartbreak when you learn that you will have to deliver your baby knowing she/he will never have any of the “firsts” you envisioned. No first cry, first step, first birthday – only the first and last time you will ever see and touch them again.
Baby Haven’s journey
For Lauren, at 40 weeks and 2 days, she remembers this day all too well. Prior to that day, she had a healthy “normal” pregnancy but at a moments notice the day that she had expected to go down as one of the greatest moments in her life, quickly changed into an emotional day filled with questions and self-doubt as she learned that she would have to deliver her precious baby despite just learning she had already passed away.
“It was hell, there’s no other way to describe it. I remember when the doctors first told me that she didn’t have a heartbeat and in the same breath said, ‘You still have to deliver the baby.’ “I felt like I was going to die. When something like that happens to you logic goes out the window it’s like you’re living in a new dimension.”
After laboring for 30 hours with Keenan by her side Lauren and her husband sat in silence. She remembers that she felt so alone at that moment because she knew she was the only one who could deliver this baby.
Losing a child takes a toll on everyone and having to process all of this at a moment’s notice is well, a lot. If you’re wondering how Keenan was handling all of this, “He was really upset. He probably said maybe three words that whole process. He just sat there quietly or just stood next to the bed and held my hand. Off and on he would just cry (and then sit in silence) He was as supportive as he could be considering the situation, because I mean there was really nothing he could say.”
Coping with the loss of a child is traumatic for husbands as well. If you think managing your emotions while grieving is hard, imagine trying to process all of this as a child.
A big sister’s big lesson in loss
Kaidence, the Robinson’s first daughter, was just three, so she understood that her sister would not be coming home, but not completely. Immediately following delivery, they brought her into the delivery room to meet her baby sister. She was excited. She touched all over her face and gave her kisses. She didn’t fully understand but probably way more than what you would expect from a three-year-old. A short time after Haven’s death Kaidence would randomly ask, “what happened to Haven?” Managing emotions of her own, Lauren figured the best way to handle her grief so that Kaidence wouldn’t worry, was to hide her emotions. She often would go to the bathroom to cry so Kaidence wouldn’t see her. Despite her efforts, Kaidence knew something was wrong. As we all know, kids are way smarter than we give them credit for. Lauren realized the best way to deal with her daughter’s innocent curiosity was to deal with it head-on.
“she knows something’s going on because when I would come out of the room she would come and hug me. So, I just started telling her everything. I was crying in front of her…I wouldn’t hide my face anymore and I would just share, ‘mommy misses baby Haven. I miss her and I wish she was here. But I’m so glad you’re here and I love you and you bring me so much joy’.”
Lauren recalls realizing that it was then that she knew that it was just as important to let her daughter know that it’s okay to grieve and have feelings. She knew that she had to be open to help Kaidence understand that she was not the reason why she was upset.
The unspoken truth
“I think society as a whole has a big problem with loss and moms who have had loss and babies who have passed away.”
“I learned that unfortunately the hard way literally hours after I gave birth to Haven I was in the hospital bed and my legs haven’t even gone back to normal after the Epidural. They put Haven right next to me in a crib. She was just lying there in bed right next to me. They swaddled her just like a living baby. I was in bed and I knew the nurses were coming back to check my vitals, that’s why she was not in bed with me. She (the nurse) came in and pushed the baby bed out of her way, which automatically sunk my heart right away. She moved her and said nothing, which she wouldn’t have done to a living baby.”
She checked my vitals and left without returning Haven to my bedside. I just started crying. It was like she thought that my baby was literally disposable. because she moved her in that way with no regard for her life. At that moment I knew that I was going to have an uphill battle against me. I felt that I was going to have to convince society that my baby still had worth even though she had already passed away.”
Lauren’s mouth-dropping hospital experience didn’t end there, shortly after, the nurse asked, “How do you want to dispose of the body?”
A question that will forever be ingrained in a grieving mother’s mind.
When reality sets in
She remembers, in the beginning, having good days and bad days but never knowing what was going to be the next trigger. So for Lauren, her grief looked different day today. Now, she is better equipped to recognize triggers and process through the grief without getting upset.
When asked to put the experience in words, Lauren said, “Death passed through me. My body felt death in the most intimate way I possibly could have other than you passing away (yourself). I know that I did give birth to life spiritually. I know my daughter’s in heaven. I know I did not give birth to death spiritually, but physically my body did give birth to death and that messes up your mind.”
It’s that mind-manipulation that Lauren vividly recalls, that manifests in everyday life and you notice that you might be more irritable with your husband, or less patient with your children or have anxiety.
“I was scared for my daughter and husband to leave the house. And I had to share with him I’m not ready for you guys to leave the house, so then we’d all go together.”
Everyone deals with grief differently.
“Sometimes I’m irritable with my husband and less patient with Kaidence, on the other hand, I am way more of an empathetic person and truly try to see the best in all situations. However you deal with your grief is okay. That process doesn’t happen overnight. You can’t be hard on yourself, you have to give your self grace. “
In addition to giving yourself grace, Lauren urges women dealing with the loss of a child to…
“Be open with your partner and your family. Share how you’re feeling. Be gracious. You’re learning how to live this life without your baby and it’s really hard.”
It’s clear that Haven holds a special place in Lauren’s heart. She honors her every single day with the work that she does. Since her loss, she’s devoted her life to helping other Loss Moms by being there for them. Her story not only gives her purpose but gives hope to those who feel like all hope is lost. For Lauren, it’s heartwarming to see her daughter’s life continues to have a purpose. In a sense, it’s her Haven.
Thanks to her faith and relationship with God, Lauren has devoted her life to helping other Loss Mamas who have angels in heaven heal from their loss. If you or someone you know could benefit from connecting with Lauren, you can reach out to her on Instagram at @laurenbearobinson or on via her website www.Thelossmama.com
During pregnancy, a mother’s joy can always be found in the kicks and motion felt from her growing baby. No matter how uncomfortable, those little milestones remind you of your superpower as a woman — that you are growing a whole human inside you. That joy was what Toria Moore experienced for most of her pregnancy. Those little signs became benchmarks for different times of the day that she could almost set her watch to. But this morning would play out a lot differently than expected.
My pregnancy was super easy. I had no complications, no sickness and he was growing perfectly normal. I went to my 39-week appointment and everything was fine.”
As night fell, things began to change
“I remember that night telling my husband, ‘I feel like he hasn’t been moving as much.’ ”And as soon as I said it, he kicked and I was like, ok there he is.”
Even though the movement of Chris jr. put her worries at ease in the moment, her woman’s intuition kicked in and she still felt a little uneasy. Since they had just gotten a clean bill of health at the check-up that morning, she went to bed. (That women’s intuition is a powerful thing and although we know that, we often tend to suppress that inner-speak.) The next morning was not like every other morning. Toria still searched for movement from her baby. She did all the things she could think of, from trying to move him around to drinking cold water…but nothing seemed to work. At that moment she knew she needed to get to the hospital and fast.
Sometimes silence is scary
When the Moores got to the hospital the nurses took them back to their room to check Chris jr.’s vitals, as they had just done the day before. At 39 weeks, at this point, everything was still pretty straightforward. The nurse set up the monitor and…
“I had been to enough appointments to where I knew what was supposed to happen. I could look at the screen, I knew what it’s supposed to look like. I knew that I should be hearing a heartbeat immediately and I didn’t. And it was really quiet.”
The silence was broken as another nurse came in to check for a heartbeat. And this time, Toria could hear it. Imagine the sigh of relief at that moment. That relief would just as quickly be ripped away as she learned the heartbeat she heard was her own.
“The next thing I know, there’s like three nurses and two doctors in the room with me. They finally brought Chris, (my husband) back there and I just looked at him and said, ‘something is wrong.”
The presence of all of the medical staff in the room only confirmed that something was in fact very wrong. As the next doctor entered the room, she explained to the Moore’s that she was going to bring in another machine, but warned them that she did not see nor hear a heartbeat.
“Even after that, I still wasn’t processing. Like, ‘no, no no, no, there has to be a heartbeat’. She brought in another machine and the next thing I know she just started crying. I mean, the doctor was crying and then she said, ‘I’m so sorry, you lost the baby.’
The Moores sat in silence and disbelief.
“I didn’t even cry immediately because I was in such shock. Chris got up and went to the bathroom he was getting sick, he was so overwhelmed…I was so overwhelmed.”
Stuck in a time warp
“Everything happened so quickly”
Fifteen minutes later, Toria and her husband were whisked back to the delivery room with no time to process what just happened. At a moment’s notice, the couple was forced to call their family who was on standby for the arrival of their new baby boy, only to tell them he would not be coming home. Toria was already dilated one centimeter when she was admitted to the hospital, she was later given Pitocin to induce her labor. Instead of being anxious about becoming a new mom, she was forced to make decisions no mom should ever have to. The nurses were strictly business during Toria’s labor. They had to get answers, “Do you want an autopsy, do you want to bury or cremate him?” One who’s never experienced this would wonder, ‘Is this really necessary?’ But the reality was every question had to be answered before Toria left the hospital.
Finding the calm amidst the confusion
“Everything happened super quick. And I’m thankful that Chris and I are believers because as soon as it happened my husband stopped everything, and said, “we need to pray’, and we did.”
So many doctors along with emotions filled the room while Toria labored. While having to do the unthinkable, deliver a still baby, she somehow made it through.
“I remember begging for a c section. I just kept saying I don’t want to push him out. I don’t want to go through the whole delivery process, please give me a C-section.”
Against her wishes, the doctors convinced Toria a C-section was not in her best interest, physically nor emotionally.
During my actual labor, Chris was blasting worship music.I know that without him (by my side) I wouldn’t have been able to do any of this. I just kept saying, I don’t even know what’s happening right now, this is not real life.”
Toria delivered her baby in Baltimore. She remembers how quickly everything moved. She gave birth at 5:20 am and was back home by 10 am.
“Those 24 hours went so quickly. It was very overwhelming. I still couldn’t even believe it was happening. Normally people would stay another day to recover, but I was like, ‘I need to go home, I just want to get out of this hospital. I remember after maybe an hour, I stood up and walked around, and my nurse walked in curious as to what I was doing. All I could say was, I can’t do this, I need to get out of here!”
Losing a child is never easy, but losing them before you ever meet them, that’s a different kind of difficult. Toria contributes some of her healing in part to Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, a nonprofit commissioned by the hospital to take professional photos of babies stillborn. That organization as well as other nonprofits were instrumental in her grieving process. Because they were not prepared to stay in the hospital and had no clothes for baby Chris, these organizations gifted clothing and a blanket to help take pictures to commemorate the Moores baby boy. Those items were neatly stored in a beautiful memory box.
The road to recovery
“Thankfully my body recovered so well and I was able to do everything for myself. It was nothing but God because he knew I couldn’t sit in the hospital any longer.”
Could you imagine emotionally going through so many emotions in a matter of twenty-four hours? Starting with excitement because of course, you know you’re expecting a child, then to go through every emotion on the spectrum in a matter of hours? Imagine mentally tax and physical stress coupled with the idea of still having to deliver.
“I actually am thankful for the process because although he was stillborn, he was still our son and I am still his mother and I am thankful I got to deliver and experience that. But physically honestly I’m also thankful because I know a lot of moms who have gone through stillbirth and the epidural didn’t take.”
Despite her very traumatic account, Toria is thankful her delivery did not add to the trauma.
“my actual delivery was very peaceful and I’m so thankful for that. Just having the worship music playing kept me at peace. I had the absolute best staff and I’m so thankful that God placed them in that room with me. Because every step leading up to it was kind of like adding salt to the wound. I had watched a million Labor and Delivery videos and thought like so many times and thought about what that moment would be like but because he was stillborn I didn’t get that excitement. Every step closer I was dreading and I knew that they felt that.”
Helping hands that actually help
Unlike Lauren’s experience, Toria raves about how kind and encouraging her medical staff was. She was thankful for that.
For the most part, Toria’s doctors and nurses were great, but one moment stands out the most for her during her short stay at the hospital. Immediately after delivering, her nurses urged her to have skin to skin to skin time with her stillborn. For Toria, this was not something she wanted to do even though the nurses insisted. The one thing that she took away from that experience is one women across the world need to hear;
“Be your own Advocate. Not just in loss. I’m thankful that I was confident enough to say no to something I was against.”
Toria’s strength doesn’t stop there. Just days after her loss, her husband Chris was expected to report to training camp. His coaching staff was understanding and encouraged him to take some time off. Meanwhile, Toria was encouraging her husband to stay at camp. Chris was torn and wanted to be there for his wife. If that wasn’t enough, her birthday was just days away. The strength that Toria displayed could arguably be coined as one of her lowest moments, but her strength gives hope to those in similar situations struggling to get through. While she is still on the road to recovery, the couple plans to try for more children.
Both Lauren and Toria’s story reminds us that through faith anything is possible. If there was any advice they would give to women navigating loss, is to Have grace and take it one step at a time.
If you know someone dealing with the loss of a child, remember “sometimes that best thing you can do is just be available.