Jim Beeghley

On Saturday, October 17, 1999 my wife of five years, Kim, our 2 year old daughter Sarah and I were in one of our favorite places, Winchester, Virginia. We were attending the annual Civil War reenactment of the Battle of Cedar Creek. It was a beautiful fall day, the leaves on the trees were a multitude of bright and beautiful colors. Kim was in her 9 th month of pregnancy with a due date of the 25 th and we were going to have a little boy which we were going to name Benjamin James. Kim and I can still remember feeling Benji kick every time the canons were fired as we talked about the upcoming holidays, watched the reenactment and played with Sarah.

Then when everything in nature was at its peak of color and beauty, our world would become very dark. On Sunday evening, Kim told me that she hadn’t felt the baby kick or move for a while and was a little nervous. The next morning things seemed okay as I got up and drove an hour and a half to work. She called me at work and told me that she still had not felt the baby move and was going to go see her doctor. I was not worried and simple thought the Kim was nervous and that everything was fine. A few hours later, I received a call from my mother-in-law telling me that I needed to come to the hospital. So, I finished up a few items and drove all the way home thinking that we were having a baby. When I arrived at the hospital, Kim gave me the bad news that the baby had died. We sat there on the hospital bed, held each other and cried for a long time. They had to induce labor in order to deliver the baby which made the news that much more painful. A very long, eighteen hours was spent before Benji’s lifeless form entered the world. This was a moment when we should be happy and holding our new baby boy, instead it was spent crying and holding each other as we asked why this had happened to us. Family and friends cried with us, but it could not ease the pain that we were feeling and fortunately Sarah was too young to understand. Later that day, we got to hold our son for a few moments. My hands shook as I held Benji and seeing him with his eyes closed, I kept telling myself that he was only sleeping and would wake up any moment.

As if things could not get any worse, we had to arrange to bury our baby. The entire process of meeting with the funeral director, picking out a casket, and then seeing Benji for the final time and kissing him goodbye. Our parish priest spoke with us and talked about how God had plans for our son or He would not have taken him from us. I remember Kim asking “But why us?” As Father presided over the funeral he said that we must be strong parents for God would not have taken our son if he did not think we could withstand the pain and to be thankful for Sarah. At the graveside, I played “Amazing Grace” on my fife and we watched as Benji was lowered into the ground next to his great grandfather.

Throughout this entire ordeal, we had no one but each other. Family and friends would call or stop by and ask if we needed anything but what we needed most was our son. There was no one who had gone through this and knew what we were feeling or thinking. We sought professional help, which helped Kim more than it helped me. Which leads to the real problem: being a father of a stillborn child is different than being the mother of one.

Fathers do not feel the loss the same as mothers do. While fathers may be sympathetic to his wife’s fears, he may not be as sympathetic to her grief. This reaction is perhaps natural for a husband—he does not undergo the same physical and emotional bonding that his pregnant wife does. Nevertheless, he suffers a loss. And it is vital that husband and wife realize that they are suffering together, although in different ways. They should share their grief. If the husband hides it, his wife may think he is insensitive. The best thing to do is to share your tears, thoughts, and embraces and to show you need each other as never before.

I was and occasionally still am jealous of my wife and the bond that she was able to form with Benji while he grew inside of her womb. This is something only a mother can experience; the father has to wait until the baby is born. However, I never got to know my son or feel him move, which at times shortly after his death I was angry at Kim for having felt our son when I couldn’t.

The hardest part was simply dealing with people right after it happened. When someone is very old or very ill, it seems that dying is inevitable and anticipated. Family has time to prepare and to say goodbyes while friends can offer support with comforting stories of the one who died. With parents of stillborn children, family and friends are anticipating happiness and excitement, not shock and grief. People would come up and say that they are sorry or that they understand what we were going through. They asked if there was anything they could do, I wanted to say, “bring my Benji back to me” but I simply said “No thank you.” In truth, there was no one that we could find that HAD experienced what we had. So, Kim and I had to bear the burden and try to work through the grief on our own.

As Kim and I continued to talk about Benji, we came to the realization that our son never existed to anyone but ourselves and our immediate family. Part of the reason for this is that we never received a death certificate or anything that symbolized that we had even had a son.

After years of searching, we have finally found others to talk too. Through the wonders of the internet, we are able to share our experiences and grief with others around the world. We have officially established a charitable foundation that provides teddy bears to local hospitals. These teddy bears are then given to parents of stillborn and miscarriage children. We have created a website for parents to come and share their stories about stillbirth with other parents. In addition our foundation has made contact with local and state representatives about state House Bill 799 that would provide a birth/death certificate for our son. The best therapy that my wife and I have found is in talking to others about stillbirth. Our sincerest hope is that other parents and families of stillborns and miscarriages do not have to grieve alone.

Please feel free to email me: jim@angelteddybears.org

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