sharing your stories and remembering your children
By: Sonja Bindus
I was pregnant with my first child and was very excited for her arrival. I was a teacher at that time, working with toddler/preschool-aged children. There was much relief when I had passed through the first trimester with no complications or issues.
It was the end of my second trimester when I became very ill with pneumonia. My cough was so severe that my doctor considered hospitalizing me because he was concerned my oxygen levels were low. However, I seemed to progress in my recovery with antibiotics, so my doctor was no longer worried about my health or my baby. My husband and I drew a breath of relief and continued on with anticipation of the arrival of our baby.
A few weeks passed and a friend of ours, who was an ultrasound tech, offered to do an ultrasound so we could have a peek at our baby. Of course we jumped at the chance. At that appointment we would hear some devastating news. As soon as my friend started the ultrasound, I noticed her face and knew immediately something was terribly wrong. I asked her if my baby had died, and she sadly confirmed.
Because I was 20 weeks along, the process of delivering my baby was by far the most difficult thing I had ever faced. Fortunately, I had a wonderfully supportive doctor and nursing staff who tended to me through 12 hours of induced labor. After a few minutes of holding my baby, I had to say goodbye to the most beautiful child I had carried and loved. The loss left a hole in my soul that I will never be able to fully replace.
As a part of my aftercare, my doctor ordered a series of bloodwork. The bloodwork revealed I had CMV, or Cytomegalovirus. CMV is a virus that is prevalent with children under the age of five. Because I had daily exposure to children of that age, I knew I had contracted it from one of my students. This stirred up a new set of emotions within me.
My first instinct was to get pregnant again as soon as possible. However, I learned that until my body started producing antibodies against CMV, it was not safe for me to become pregnant. That took about six months.After my body began producing antibodies, my focus became self-care, health, and conceiving. God definitely knew my soul needed healing and blessed us with a healthy pregnancy and delivery the following year.
The loss of my child changed me dramatically. The sanctity of life became much clearer after loss, and I treasured it even more than before. For a while I became obsessed with germs and keeping my hands clean, especially at work. While I’m still mindful of clean hands, I now focus more on general wellness strategies for the school I am now the director of. It is my goal to educate parents on how they can best care for their sick child and also on the reasons sick children should not attend school. There are many people who have compromised immune systems, and they are at greater risk for developing severe symptoms of viral and bacterial infections.
My advice to parents who have lost a child would be to find a way to grieve together and with others closest to you. The tragedy of loss can only be understood by those who have experienced great loss of their own. Also, faith was a big component in my healing, and it carried me through my darkest days.
I did not share my story with many people, but most people knew my story because I was halfway through my pregnancy when it happened. Not many approached me or talked with me about it, other than saying, “I’m so sorry.” I did reach out to people who had miscarried and mentioned to them I had experienced loss like theirs. Sharing the whole story was very painful and mostly made me uncomfortable. I thought at one time that I should seek out a support group, but there wasn’t anything close to our hometown at that time - 23 years ago.
I proceeded to have three children and kept my focus on their lives and to be present with them each day. My children know about their sister that died, and from time to time her name, Emaline, comes up. She is never forgotten and I think of her often and look forward to reuniting with her one day in heaven.
Sonja Bindus resides in Hillsdale, MI, and is a wife and mother to three children. Sonja, a Hillsdale College alumna, is the head of Early Childhood Education and the director of the Mary Randall Preschool at Hillsdale College.