Episode 16 - Courageously Expecting after Loss with Jenny Albers
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Join us for a conversation about pregnancy after loss with Jenny Albers, author of Courageously Expecting. After losing two precious babies, Jenny created Still Loved, an online space for grieving families to share their stories.
She is passionate about giving bereaved parents a voice in their grief as well as supporting women in their pregnancies after loss. Jenny shares about her new book, Courageously Expecting, which provides women with 30 days of encouragement for pregnancy after loss.
In this episode, we discussed:
The emotions and fears of pregnancy after loss
Professional remembrance photography, regrets and wishes
The physical aspect of grief and what it does to your body
Surrender as a daily practice
What surprised Jenny about her experience with loss
Entering back into the deep waves of grief, even years later
The beauty of online communities for bereaved parents
The power of writing down and sharing your baby’s story
All about her new book, Courageously Expecting
Full transcript below.
Each episode has a special Hope Guide that you can download by clicking the button below. It is packed with hope-filled resources and extra information from the episode!
Discussion / Application Questions (leave your answers below in the comments!)
Jenny and Ashley discuss the physical aspect of grief and what it can do to your body. Have you experienced physical symptoms of grief and if so, which ones? Take some time to assess the impact grief has made on your body. Is there anything you can do to combat it (e.g., give yourself more time to rest)?
In this episode, Jenny says that surrender must take place over and over again. It's not a one-time event. You have to surrender control or fears over and over, sometimes daily or hourly. Have you recognized that you need to surrender to God in your grief? If so, list what you need to surrender and give yourself grace knowing it will be a daily practice.
We talked a lot about pregnancy after loss and the emotions and fears that come with this new experience. If you've had a pregnancy after loss (or are currently expecting after loss), which emotions have been the hardest for you? In what ways do you need to be supported during this season?
Graphics to share on social media or pin on Pinterest!
MEET OUR GUEST
Jenny Albers is a wife, mother, and writer who has discovered her need for God in each of the roles she's been given. She has two babies in Heaven and has been amazed at how God used this part of her story to bring her closer to Him.
She is the author of Courageously Expecting and the founder of the Still Loved Baby Loss Community.
Connect with Jenny:
Facebook: /jennyalbersauthor /stilllovedbabies
Instagram: @jennyalbersauthor /stilllovedbabies
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MEET OUR HOST
Ashley Opliger is the Executive Director of Bridget's Cradles, a nonprofit organization based in Wichita, Kansas that donates cradles to over 1,090 hospitals in all 50 states and comforts over 26,000 bereaved families a year.
Ashley is married to Matt and they have three children: Bridget (in Heaven), and two sons. She is a follower of Christ who desires to share the hope of Heaven with families grieving the loss of a baby.
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Episode 16: Courageously Expecting after Loss with Jenny Albers
Ashley Opliger: [00:00:00] You’re listening to the Cradled in Hope Podcast where we believe that the hope of Heaven, through faith in Jesus Christ, has the power to heal our hearts after the loss of a baby. It’s a pain no mother should have to endure and we want this podcast to be a safe place for your broken heart to land. Here, we are going to trust God’s promise to restore our joy, use our grief for good, and allow us to spend eternity with our babies in Heaven.
I’m your host, Ashley Opliger. I’m a wife, mom, and follower of Christ clinging to the hope of Heaven. My daughter, Bridget, was stillborn at 24 weeks in my first pregnancy in 2014. In her memory, my husband and I started a nonprofit ministry called Bridget’s Cradles, and God has given us purpose in our pain and we’ve seen beauty come from ashes.
Although we wish you didn’t have a need to be listening to this podcast, we believe God has a reason for you to be here today. We pray this time would be a source of healing for you as we remember that Jesus cradles us in hope while He cradles our babies in Heaven. Though we may grieve, we do not grieve without hope. Welcome to the Cradled in Hope Podcast.
Ashley Opliger: [00:01:26] Hello friends. We have a very special guest today on Cradled in Hope who just released her first book into the world a couple of days ago called Courageously Expecting. I'm excited to introduce you to Jenny Albers. She is a wife, mother, and writer who quickly discovered her need for God in each of the roles that she has been given.
After losing two babies, she began writing in order to process her own story, connect with other loss parents and raise awareness around the topics of pregnancy loss and life after. She has been amazed by how God has used this part of her story to bring her closer to Him while connecting with other hurting hearts.
Because of her personal experience with loss, Jenny recognized the need for a designated space for other loss parents to share their own stories, which led her to create the Still Loved baby loss community.
She is also the author of Courageously Expecting 30 Days of Encouragement for Pregnancy After Loss which focuses on empathizing with and empowering women to face pregnancy after loss with faith and courage, despite feelings of grief and fear. I can't wait for you to meet her and learn more about Still Loved and Courageously Expecting.
Ashley Opliger: [00:02:40] Welcome, Jenny. We're so glad to have you here today.
Jenny Albers: [00:02:44] Hi, thank you so much for having me.
Ashley Opliger: [00:02:46] Well, I would love for you to introduce yourself to our audience of moms and share about your motherhood journey and your experience with loss.
Jenny Albers: [00:02:56] My name is Jenny Albers and I have had four pregnancies. Two of them ended in loss. My first pregnancy was textbook; that was my pregnancy with my daughter and she's 10 now, so it's been a while.
And then my next pregnancy ended at about five and a half or six weeks along. That was an ectopic pregnancy and that was in 2014. And then in 2015, it was about a year later, exactly a year later, both of my losses happened in January, I had a stillbirth at 20 weeks, three days. And that was our baby Micah, and that was due to PPROM.
For those who don't know it, that’s preterm premature rupture of membranes. So my water broke and that was at 17 weeks, six days pregnant. So I had some bleeding and some migraines and some different things that felt off. And so I'd gone to the hospital and seen the doctor a couple of days in a row.
And then after those two appointments, my water broke in the middle of the night at home. And so then I went back to the doctor, who sent me to a specialist, who confirmed that there was no fluid and that my water had indeed broken.
So they gave me, my options were to terminate, which I said no to. My baby still had a really strong heartbeat and was growing as expected, so there was nothing wrong there. It was just that my body didn’t function as it was supposed to.
So the other option was just to wait, wait it out and see what happened. We didn't think that things were going to turn out well, but I felt very strongly about carrying my baby for as long as I could and for as long as there was life there.
So from the time my water broke to the time that I delivered Micah was about three weeks, which it felt like a lot longer, just all the doctors’ appointments and the bleeding and taking my temperature because temperature signified a possible infection. And so that was really important in order to keep me healthy. And so it felt like we were doing all these things just to get through the day.
So anyway, it was a long three weeks, and at one point I did have a fever. And then a few minutes after I talked to the doctor, I went into labor. And so I could tell, “Okay, I'm in labor now. Time to go in.” And when I went in, they could feel Micah’s head, and definitely, I was going to be delivering.
So that was at 20 weeks, three days and it was a very painful, dark experience. So then, so that was January of 2015. And then by November 2015, I had become pregnant again with my son, Axel, who is five now so that's also been several years. And it was just a really hard pregnancy, not knowing what was going to happen.
And having lost two babies prior to him, it felt very, not only uncertain, but just almost impossible, which I think is hard to comprehend just because babies are born all the time and people get pregnant all the time, so it's not something that's out of the ordinary. But after you've lost babies, you just know what can happen and how things can go wrong.
Ashley Opliger: [00:06:09] It's so different, your mind and your heart are in a different place than you would have been. I feel like the innocence of pregnancy–where being a first-time mom before I started having complications, I wasn't thinking about all the things that could go wrong or that my baby would die. It's not something that you think about.
Jenny Albers: [00:06:26] Right.
Ashley Opliger: [00:06:27] So would you mind sharing more about Micah's birth and your experience at the hospital, if you received a cradle or anything to hold him or any mementos that they allowed you to take home with you?
Jenny Albers: [00:06:40] Yeah. So the birth was obviously heartbreaking, but I did feel very cared for. Thank God for nurses. I have a really great nurse who had shared a little bit of her own loss story.
She was on, I'm not sure what the committee was called, but the hospital had a committee specifically for pregnancy loss and stillbirth and things like that.
Ashley Opliger: [00:07:00] Bereavement.
Jenny Albers: [00:07:01] Yeah, so she was on that committee and was just so kind. So I'm always grateful. I'm still grateful that I had her there and that I really felt like I was cared for.
They did send me home with a care package that had a small blanket that had been handmade, a small teddy bear, a prayer shawl, some books, and a couple of other small mementos. There wasn't any sort of cradle or anything like that. They did put a bonnet on Micah and wrapped him in the standard baby blanket that hospitals have.
So overall I was grateful that they had those things on hand and that there was that awareness. My nurses did call Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep for photos, but we were turned down because I wasn't at 25 weeks yet and that was the requirement, for whatever reason. And so my nurses took photos and so I have those, and I'm really grateful for that. I would have loved to have professional photos done, but I am grateful for what I do have.
Ashley Opliger: [00:08:07] Yeah, that just breaks my heart. I do wish that they would be willing to change that requirement because there are so many families that do have babies earlier than 25 weeks that still want professional photographs.
A 20 weeks little baby, they're perfectly made. They're so fearfully and wonderfully made and they could be photographed. And I think it really should be up to the parents to decide if they want those photographs or not.
And so maybe that's something that the organization would be willing to change or photographers in local areas would be willing to come up to the hospital and do that for families. That would be a beautiful thing because I do know so many families that have an extra layer of grief when they leave the hospital and they don't have the professional photos.
Of course, you can do pictures on your phone, but I know for me personally, having Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep pictures and phone pictures, it's very rare that I show anyone my phone pictures of Bridget because she just looks so different in her coloring. And having images that have been edited, that are in black and white, those are the ones that I generally share with people. And it really breaks my heart to know that mommas don't have that and feel like they can't share pictures of their baby.
So I really hope that’s something that can change overall and that moms can advocate for that. And it's a hard thing to be advocating for when you're in the hospital and that your world has just been turned upside down and you're in shock and you don't even know what you're supposed to be doing or who you're supposed to be calling.
Jenny Albers: [00:09:41] And it's hard to know really what to ask for or you don't realize necessarily what you're going to want in the future. In that moment, you don't quite understand where you're going to be in a few weeks or a few months, and what you're going to be looking back on and saying, “I wish I would have done this.”
I know that Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep does some retouching too, which might be an option for some families. But I think having a professional photographer too, they can guide that experience, whereas a nurse maybe wouldn't know what exactly to take pictures of.
I don't have pictures of me holding Micah, and that's another regret. And that's not something that I asked for, but it's also, I wasn't quite sure what to ask for, or your head is just all over the place and you're exhausted.
And for me, it had been several weeks of mental exhaustion. I'm waiting for this horrible moment to take place. And so it would be nice to have a guided photography experience in some capacity, if that makes sense.
Ashley Opliger: [00:10:43] Yes. I feel like I was in a similar situation as you, being on bed rest for several weeks. And I was obviously praying for the best and hoping that the outcome was not going to be what the doctors expected it to be, but then at the same time, we were preparing for the worst.
But even though we were preparing, I feel like I wasn't even fully prepared because just like you, I have regrets. This is something that I didn't think about, but I have no videos of Bridget or of me with Bridget or my husband or our families.
But I didn't think to take video of her, especially because she had passed away. It didn't seem like something I should do. But in the years since then, I've seen other bereaved moms have video of their babies. And I keep thinking I would have really loved to have a video of me kissing her and holding her. And I had my phone right there. I just didn't think to do it. And you don't think about those things when you're in incredible shock and grief.
And so having someone that's outside of your heartbreak be able to guide you and say, “What if we did this? We can take these pictures. We can take these videos and you don't have to look at them if yo