Learning to live a new "normal"

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt. Lacie Jo Collins
  • 31st Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Everyone reacts differently to tragic events when they happen, but I never thought I would react the way I did when tragedy happened to me.

I always thought of myself as a strong person that could handle anything. However, when my son died, I initially felt like I would not be able to live my life in any state of "normal" ever again. I have never experienced a broken heart the way I did when he passed away.

In July, my husband and I lost our second baby eight hours after he was born. Little did I know that losing my son would change my life forever.

It was a Sunday afternoon and I was 31 weeks pregnant. I hadn't felt the baby move since the evening before so I began to worry. My husband was shaking my belly and talking to our son and nothing was making him move. I told my husband that I was going to go into the clinic and get checked out just to ensure everything was OK. He stayed home with our two-year-old daughter because we assumed that I would be back in a matter of hours.

When I arrived at the clinic on base, they hooked me up to monitors so they could see the baby's movement and heartbeat. There was a heartbeat and it was strong, however, it wasn't fluctuating like it should have been if the baby was moving.

The next thing I knew, the doctor was coming in and telling me that I needed to go in for an emergency cesarean section because it was the best chance of survival for my baby. My husband didn't even have time to find a babysitter for our daughter and get to the clinic before the surgery started.

Once I was in the operating room, my whole life became a blur. Not because of the anesthesia or the C-section, but because so many emotions flooded over me that I couldn't even think. Where was my husband? What if the surgery didn't go well? What would I do if my baby died? How would my life change after all of this?

However, once the baby was born, I could only bring myself to ask two questions: Was the baby OK, and was it a boy or girl? We had kept the gender of our baby a surprise, like we did previously with our daughter. Once they told me it was a boy, I glanced over and saw that my husband had arrived and was looking at me through the window. Tears filled my eyes because I could not share with him the joy that we had been blessed with a son, Osias.

After the procedure, Osias was transferred to another hospital once they got his heartbeat stable enough. My husband followed behind the ambulance to be with him while I recovered from surgery.

The next several hours were torture for me.

During that time, my husband would call and give me updates on how Osias was doing. Then, nearly eight hours after he was born, I got the dreaded call from my husband to say that Osias just couldn't hold on any longer and that he had passed away.

I had never felt so alone in my whole life.

My son had just died and I never had the chance to hold him. My husband was at the hospital all alone going through this by himself, and I couldn't be there to cry with him.

The staff at the clinic on base tried to console me, but I wanted someone there I knew, someone who knew my family. Unfortunately, I didn't have that. It can be really tough being in the military and away from family, but it's even tougher when a tragedy like this happens.

However, the support we received from our military family over the next few days was amazing.

The clinic staff tended to our every need, gave us information on where we could go for emotional support, and constantly asked us if there was anything they could do. We couldn't have asked for a better experience of care than what we received.

Our units were there to bring us food, cry with us, take care of our daughter and handle all the administrative things that had to be completed. Our family liaison officer and the mortuary affairs office were also amazing. We were also fortunate to have a chaplain stationed here that we knew from a previous base.

We soon began to realize that even though we didn't have our biological family with us, we had our military family. The grace and hospitality we were shown by everyone on base was a huge blessing to us.

We are Christians and relied on our faith in God to help us through this difficult situation, but all of the agencies on base helped as well. I brag about them because they are what kept us resilient during our time of need. Our faith, along with these agencies, helped us bounce back from this tragedy.

We are constantly hearing about resiliency during commander's calls, core group discussions, etc., and it can seem like it is just a buzzword. However, I can definitely be a testament that your commander, first sergeant and other agencies really are there if you need help, and it is more than just a buzzword to them.

It has now been four months since our son was born and I still have days that are harder than others, but I know that there is help out there if I need it. I find peace in the fact that I have all the resources I need to help me continue to heal from my loss.

Life was never meant to be normal. If it was, then we would never be challenged, never grow as individuals, and never appreciate the simple joys in life. With every tragedy comes an opportunity to move past it and become that much stronger.

I may never get back to "normal," but the help and knowledge I have received has started me on the right path.

It's not the tragedy that defines you; it's how you overcome it.