When Jenifer Thie Eitniear got hit with a serious nesting instinct one day in July 2008, she was six months along in her fifth pregnancy. Already mother to McKenzyee, 2, Madisynn, 4, and step-mother to Morgan, 9, Eitniear had gone through two devastating miscarriages the prior year.
But that day, Eitniear says she felt “weird.” While she had no physical symptoms such as cramping or bleeding, Eitniear still felt unsettled. When she called her husband at work, he told her she was being ridiculous and that everything was fine.
Later that night, Eitniear began having contractions.
After she called her doctor, who instructed her to lay on her side for an hour, her contractions stopped. Feeling better, she sat down with her husband to go through bills. Suddenly, her husband gasped at the sight of blood coming from her.
Eitniear quickly rushed to the bathroom. When she stood up from the toilet, she was shocked to look down and see her tiny daughter slipping from her body.
There in the bathroom, Eitniear delivered her daughter alone — the cord remaining attached to the undelivered placenta still inside of her. The EMT on the phone with Eitnear instructed her not to stand up again, so she cradled her daughter on her leg while she waited for help to arrive.
“Her two feet were crossed and she had her finger on her mouth,” Eitniear tells Babble. “She was so tiny, only one pound, nine ounces and 15 inches long. I was freaking out — you are in so much shock and panic, I had no idea how to handle it, or what to do. I remember asking if I should pull on the cord or what I should do. It was very scary.”
Eitniear later learned that her baby had never taken a breath outside of the womb; she had passed away in the safe and cozy home she had known all of her life. Testing would reveal that her baby had Down syndrome.
But now Eitniear was left to pick up the pieces without her. Eitniear was taken to the ER, where medical staff offered her a prescription for Percocet, had her sign paperwork to release her baby’s body, and then sent her home with no mention of grief counseling or resources.
When Eitniear asked what she should do next, she was met with quizzical looks. “They said, ‘It’s just having a baby, your breasts are going to fill up.'” In less than two hours after calling 911, Eitniear was home with empty arms and nowhere to turn. “I will tell you, mentally and emotionally I had no business going home that night,” she recalls.
Her older daughters helped her to choose the perfect name for their sister — Faith Hope. “They said, ‘We need Faith and Hope to move forward!'” Eitniear remembers.
Unfortunately, neither faith nor hope could help Eitniear or her husband, who were unable to cope with their enormous loss.
“I did not cry or mourn until two weeks after her passing,” she remembers. “I was frozen. I didn’t know what happened. What set it off was when my milk came in, it made me realize it’s real, it’s not going away … it’s my reality.”
The grieving mother found herself looking for ways to numb her pain. With a Percocet prescription, Eitniear says she “figured out quickly” that taking three pills instead of two helped dull her pain. That realization, coupled with the lack of resources to help her cope, led her to abuse pain pills for almost two years.
“I kept myself numb because I didn’t know how to deal with it,” she explains. “Looking back, if this would have happened to me now or if it happened to someone else I knew, I would think that the doctors should offer you grief counseling. It’s not something you can deal with on your own. It’s the most traumatic thing a woman can ever go through, you can’t prepare for it or plan for it.”
Unable to cope with her loss, Eitniear dealt with overwhelming feelings of guilt.
“I kept blaming myself,” she relates. “I had people telling me, ‘This is what God wants, she’s your angel’ and that just made it worse. It’s not OK, this is my baby, it’s not OK. I heard her heartbeat, I felt her moving … I blamed myself for a long time — that’s really where the addiction came in, to bury those feelings.”
After overdosing on pain pills, Eitniear checked herself into an in-patient rehab center, where she worked with a psychiatrist and a grief specialist who deals specifically with women who have experienced stillbirths and miscarriages.
Clean and sober for over six years now, Eitniear has completely turned her life around. She gathered the courage to leave an unhappy marriage, went back to school to become a social worker, and after eight long years, found herself finally able to face the loss that had been haunting her.
She realized that for the first time, the birth and death of her daughter could no longer destroy her. She realized that through faith and hope, she could finally look back at her daughter’s life and focus on the love.
Eitniear had long wanted a tattoo, but says she always “chickened out.” It wasn’t until a friend who had lost her husband convinced her to go with her for a remembrance tattoo that Eitniear decided to take the plunge.
Her tattoo — which represents faith, hope, and love — has finally given Eitniear peace. Not only does she consider her little Faith Hope to be the guardian angel who led to positive changes in her life, but she says having her — and losing her — has helped her look at life differently.
And marking her daughter’s life permanently on her wrist released Eitniear from some of the pain that had been haunting her.
“I don’t have the struggle of the pain anymore,” she says. “I miss her every day, and have the questions of what she would be like and look like — I will always have those questions — but I have a sense of peace and relief. On the bad days, I can look at my wrist and remember why I’m still moving forward: because of my faith that I walk with every single day, I have hope that things can get better, and I have love because I have a loving heart and I can move forward in a positive direction. I can overcome anything I put my mind to.”