On July 6, 2017, Kailey Clymer and her husband Ben, who were 25 weeks pregnant, they learned their unborn son, Cayden, no longer had a heartbeat.
After their OBGYN expressed her condolences to the couple, Kailey was whisked away to another room where labor was induced.
Cayden entered the world stillborn on July 7 at 12:15 a.m. While Kailey and Ben cuddled their son’s sleeping body, Kailey was left with thoughts of what he would have been like:
We held his perfect little body, meeting our firstborn that we had so many plans for upon his due date in October, our wedding anniversary. But we also said goodbye. To him, our plans, our family of three, and what was supposed to be. ‘What happens now?’ I asked myself lying wide awake in my hospital room at 3:00 a.m. with an empty belly and constant stream of tears. Exactly one year later I can say without hesitation, ‘the worst and best days of your life. That’s what happens.’
Kailey admitted that in the days immediately following Cayden’s stillbirth, she didn’t see the full picture right away. It took many nights of crying — to the point that her husband would have to rock her to sleep — for her to get to a point where she wasn’t constantly asking herself, “Why me?”
All the while, she and Ben held on to two words that kept them going when the days got hard: hope and love.
Kailey explained to Dearly that their wasn’t a singular moment in the last year that allowed her to find the strength to search for all the positives in what was a negative time in their lives.
Instead, she said, there were multiple different moments that ended up making her stronger and stronger as the year went on:
“The first was in the hospital as I was delivering Cayden. I looked at my husband and said, ‘I don’t know how I would do this if I didn’t have a relationship with Christ,’ since that is who and where our hope lies. The second thing that built up my strength to see the good would be that even on my bad days when I didn’t feel strong, I would come into contact with genuinely kind people at the store who didn’t know my situation, or at the same time come into contact with others who were suffering themselves.
Little glimmers of hope and strength builders included a stranger letting me go ahead of them in line at the store, our neighbor cutting our grass, family and friends sending care packages, and the list goes on.”
Kailey told Dearly:
“Then on the other hand I would bump into a mom with a disabled child, a single mother or father struggling through a bad divorce, a family who lost their 13-month baby girl while she was simply taking a nap. All of these things add up to the reality that there is good and bad times in life, but we are all marching onward in our own way. We’re doing it…this thing called life!
When you see others get out of bed despite their broken pieces, you can’t help but to pick yours up and carry on with yours. Bad things happen to good people. We made a decision to live by specific verses in the Bible and not let the bad things win. We are naturally competitive, challenging each other on a daily basis to see and live out the good; so there’s no way we can lose.”
The last year also came with many changes— Kailey left her job to pursue her passion as a freelance PR consultant and started writing again, creating the blog Stillborn Still Strong. Ben had the chance to pursue his own passion as well by becoming a wrestling coach.
Cayden’s stillbirth also changed Kailey as a person. Before her son, she was “selfish, short-sighted, and nagging in our marriage.” Now, the 29-year-old has learned to love others more— specifically her husband, who has been her rock throughout the last year.
Kailey admitted that she never would have been able to make those positive changes or find the positive things in life after Cayden’s stillbirth without her trust in God and without the endless and unwavering support of her husband, their church community, and other family members and friends.
In January 2018, Kailey and Ben suffered another loss. At 10 weeks pregnant, Kailey miscarried their second child.
She told Dearly that while she is in no way comparing a stillbirth to a miscarriage, grieving the loss of her second child was much different than grieving Cayden:
“After having gone through our loss with Cayden, we were stronger and in a sense more prepared this time around. With Cayden we were blindsided, and with our miscarriage we were well aware of pregnancy loss and how to get through something like this. Our faith grew even stronger after the miscarriage, experiencing a new wave of strength and determination than ever before. We decided to continue living our best lives together, just the two of us, since that is what the recipe calls for right now. “
One of the first things Kailey would tell someone going through a similar situation is to “be kind to yourself and guard your heart.”
And while everyone grieves differently, here are the three things Kailey would suggest to anyone going through the grief of a stillbirth or losing a child:
- When you are ready, come out of hiding and find a local church with solid biblical teaching. Most people view churches as a building full of people trying to look and act perfect through good deeds. The church we belong to is full of broken people who love Jesus, share their tragedies and mistakes, and then build each other up despite their past.
- Help others. When I still felt pretty weak in my thoughts and emotions, I dove into serving out of my comfort zone. I volunteered with a girls soccer team and youth group. It reminded me of my awkward teen years and who I once was, and how far I’ve come. Helping others takes the focus off of your struggles and zeroes in on someone else’s. In the end you usually end up helping someone while helping yourself in the process—we need each other.
- Revisit things you love to do. Read, write, sing, take a trip, get a massage, go to HomeGoods and redecorate your bedroom, pray, run and lift, etc. These activities won’t satisfy the hole in your heart or your empty womb but they will give you enjoyment, perspective, and slowly bring you back to what makes you, you. And you never know, you just might be writing to an audience of fellow pregnancy loss families one year from now!
Kailey told Dearly that she and Ben also found the words of PJ Fleck, the football coach for the University of Minnesota, helpful.
Fleck also experienced the loss of a child, which made him decide to live out the rest of his life for his son. That sentiment “struck a chord” for Kailey and Ben. Kailey explained:
“PJ Fleck’s “Row the Boat” mantra stems from the loss of his son. He says, ‘When you row a boat your back is to the future. Can’t see it, can’t control it. You don’t know what’s coming. You don’t know what calm seas or storms are ahead of you. You just continue to keep your oar in the water, in the present, because that’s the only thing you can control.’
So even on your worst days, when you don’t feel like doing a thing, think about your baby and muster up the strength to do something…do it because he or she can’t. You were given this gift to live, don’t waste it. And if you’re like me, go buy yourself a Minnesota Gophers Row The Boat t-shirt as a tangible reminder to wear on the bad days. Chances are someone else will read it who needed it more than you did at just the right time. Just keep rowing.”
Kailey hopes that other people going through rough situations don’t allow the “broken pieces of their life add up to the measure of who or what you are.”
She encourages others who have endured a stillbirth to look to the Lord for strength and spend each day living the best life they can live.