October is dedicated to pregnancy and infant loss awareness, and the voice of a husband and father on the topic isn’t something we hear very often. We’re pleased to share the story of Tim and Heidi Indahl, who’ve experienced every kind of loss together—miscarriage, stillbirth and infant loss. Tim is sharing from his perspective, and he tells their story beautifully, including how their losses have affected their marriage.
Our Pregnancy & Infant Loss Journey- A Father’s Perspective
I (Tim) am not really sure where to start sharing about the loss of my children. Maybe I should start at the beginning of my story as a parent, which began with a miscarriage. I remember the excitement of learning Heidi was pregnant—I told everyone! I don’t really remember all the details, but I remember the ultrasound and no heartbeat. There should have been a heartbeat.
And just like that, joy was turned to sorrow. I was slower to tell people we were expecting after that. With our second miscarriage, we shared the news with close friends…only to find out we’d miscarried again. One of our friends actually told us that we shouldn’t share the news so early and to think about what it did to them. I was so angry, but I didn’t say anything.
We didn’t have long to wait before we were expecting again. After making it well into the second trimester, it felt like there was nothing to fear. We learned we were having our first girl, and we (and our families) were excited beyond explanation. This was the first girl in our extended family too. We named her Kenna, and started calling her by name as soon as we knew she was a girl.
When Heidi was almost 30 weeks along, she realized she hadn’t felt Kenna moving. We tried all the things they tell you to try, but nothing helped. So I dropped Heidi off at the hospital and went to find something to do with our two young boys.
I’m an eternal optimist, and I was hopeful they would find the heartbeat on doppler and we’d go on with our day. But Heidi called and told me they couldn’t find a heartbeat and to come as fast as I could—they were going to get an ultrasound machine. I didn’t have anywhere to drop off our boys, so I drove to the hospital with them. And I prayed. I prayed like I had never prayed in my life before.
My prayer was frantic, begging God that this was all a mistake, that we would discover that everything was fine. I felt helpless and powerless. I ended up in a small hospital room with Heidi in the labor and delivery center, and the nurses took the boys somewhere.
When they finally did the ultrasound, there was nothing—no movement, no heartbeat, no life. The dam broke, and I cried. We all cried—Heidi, the nurse, our midwife, and me.
Dreams that would never be
I had to call a lot of people about our weekend plans—some to change plans, some to cancel. I remember one call in particular: I was sitting on my bed, and I had just called and managed to leave a voicemail cancelling our planned trip and explaining why. Heidi had come into the room as I was finishing the message, and I broke down—sobbing violently, not even able to sit up on the bed. It was as if I had made it true by speaking it aloud. Kenna had died, and with her short life flashed the dreams of a father for his daughter—dreams that would never be for her.
Then we had to go to the hospital for Kenna to be born. I wasn’t sure what to expect…would we be able to weather the challenges of labor, knowing our daughter had already died and that we wouldn’t be taking this baby home from the hospital?
I remember her being born, cutting the cord, holding her in my arms and crying, holding Heidi as she cradled Kenna in her arms. We only stayed for a few hours, but oh how I wish we had stayed longer, cherishing the moments we could with our precious daughter.
After many years, several moves, and 3 new members of our family, our story of loss continued. First it was a miscarriage. I honestly thought we were past this happening, but I barely had time to process the miscarriage before we learned we were expecting again!
The pregnancy seemed to be going along fine, until one night around 18 weeks Heidi woke me up in the middle of the night—she was bleeding. Somehow I just knew that our baby had died, and I dreaded going to the hospital to verify what I already knew. But we had to go, so we packed up all the kids and went to the emergency room. Heidi got settled in a room, and I bounced back and forth between her and the waiting room, where the kids were watching cartoons and playing with toys.
A little bit of hope
After an ultrasound, we discovered a heartbeat!! There was no amniotic fluid, which was a problem, but the baby was alive! I was so elated, because I was so sure we had already lost the baby, that it didn’t really matter at that point. The baby was alive, and hope had returned to my heart.
This was the start of a four month journey. The doctors didn’t really know what was wrong or what would happen. There were so many different tests, appointments, and suggestions about what we should do. Initially, they thought bed rest.
Early on, I remember getting Heidi settled in our bed, and after coming downstairs, my legs collapsed under me and I started crying right there on the floor at the foot of the stairs. I’d been holding it all together, doing whatever was in my power to give Heidi what she needed, to be a support for her. In that moment it all felt like too much, but feeling the emotion gave me strength to stand again—to live this journey, wherever it would go.
When it was time to deliver our daughter Siena, they brought me back to Heidi in the operating room, and I was so nervous. Despite knowing how grim things looked, I dared to hope—while at the same time knowing Siena might not even be born alive. I hoped she would be so that I could hold my living daughter, even if only for a time—that I could watch as her mom held her for the first time.
The battle for our daughter’s life
When Siena was born, they quickly showed her to us, and then whisked her off to the team of doctors and nurses who would begin the battle for her life. I engaged in my own internal battle—pulled between my desires to be with Heidi and to follow our daughter. Heidi told me to go. I quickly went to the room where Siena was, just in time to witness Siena’s Baptism and Confirmation by a hospital priest, who means so much to me to this day.
Then the doctors brought me to the head of Siena’s bed. For this brief time, I finally felt as if I could do something for my daughter. I had stood by helplessly for the last 19 weeks, knowing that I was powerless to do anything for our daughter. I didn’t know how much time we would have with Siena at that point, but in those moments my love could take physical form, even if it was just holding her tiny beautiful hand, caressing her face, kissing her head—pouring love over her in a way I physically had been unable to before that moment.
I have never seen a room full of people work in concert to try to save a life like all of those doctors and nurses. In the end, they realized that we couldn’t save her, so Heidi and I decided to spend the remaining moments of her life holding her, together with our family. I carried Siena to our room, where I placed her into her mother’s arms. It may have been the hardest and most grace filled walk of my entire life. And then I held them both.
There aren’t really words to describe what I felt: sorrow, joy, love, peace, anguish. Siena was a gift—she reminded me of what is so precious about children, life, and family. She was a gift because her oldest brother got to hold her in his arms—something I deeply regret denying him as a 4-year-old with his sister Kenna. To me, Siena was—is—an embodiment of love, and her life encompasses all of our pregnancy and infant loss experience.
How Losses Have Affected Our Marriage
Our pregnancy and infant loss journey has had a huge impact on our marriage, so much so that the story of our relationship can’t really be told without it—particularly in the context of our faith.
As converts to the Catholic faith, wading through Natural Family Planning has been a big piece of this. One of the things we appreciate about the wisdom of NFP is that we had to have hard conversations right away. Instead of just hopping on the pill (or another form of hormonal contraception) at the moment of loss, or putting off the decision to try again, we had to talk about where each of us was physically, mentally, and emotionally. In a couple of our losses, NFP also gave insight into potential problems so that we could make some adjustments before trying to conceive again.
During our pregnancy with Siena, our Catholic faith gave us common ground for making decisions and language for communicating with caregivers. While we did face some resistance, a few weeks before her birth a doctor told us that many couples walked this road in his years of practice. Those who made the choice we made (to carry to term) were always in a better place six months later. That definitely held true for us, and once again I think this is because we faced difficult conversations rather than avoided them.
With loss, comes the gift of grace
We have been given a huge grace in that hindsight makes it easy for us to look back and see how God has used each of our losses to move us from where we were at the time, to a place of restored relationship with God and with each other.
Our first miscarriage—a perfectly formed 8-week baby and the only miscarriage we were able to see remains—really cemented our prolife beliefs.
Our second loss solidified our leanings towards NFP (which we had only just begun practicing) and our relationship with each other.
Our stillborn daughter Kenna opened our eyes to the Blessed Mother (and was probably the biggest impetus for Heidi’s book).
Our third miscarriage carried the grace of prayer as a couple, discerning what we would do next.
Siena, our sweet daughter who passed away a few hours after birth, gave us a gift of community and bolstered faithful trust in a new way. We learned to just take the next step as we waited, not knowing what the final outcome would be.
That said, we didn’t always see these gifts for what they were when they were happening! Instead, we have been shown that there is a lot of grace in being willing to do hard things, trusting that there is a way that God is using a situation to move us closer to where He would like us to be.
Even when we couldn’t see how or why, we learned to just take the next step in faith. Leaning on this truth during pregnancy and infant loss has given us a great deal of trust in other challenging situations. If good can come from suffering the death of a child, then it becomes a lot easier to believe that good can come from other seemingly impossible circumstances!
Tim and Heidi live on an 8-acre homestead in southeastern Minnesota with their seven living children. They have five children who had gone on before them—one to stillbirth, one to infant death, and three to miscarriage. Tim is an education professor and Heidi is a homeschooling and work at home author. She wrote Blessed is the Fruit of Thy Womb: Rosary Reflections on Miscarriage, Stillbirth, and Infant Loss, which is available at Our Sunday Visitor and Amazon. Her pregnancy and infant loss website is found here. Follow Heidi on Instagram and Facebook!
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