Today we are featuring Amy Munoz, whose story is so powerful that we guarantee you will want to hunker down in front of your computer with a latte or a glass of wine and read her piece from start to finish (and then maybe start all over again). Amy and her husband, Alex, live in the Dallas/Fort Worth area and they have a one-and-a-half year old daughter named Kiera. In 2013 they lost their daughter, Kaitlyn, when Amy was 39.5 weeks pregnant; in fact, they didn’t find out that their daughter was gone until they went to the hospital for their scheduled C-section. Though Amy works full time for Biosense Webster as a Clinical Account Specialist, she is passionate about her work with Hope Mommies, an organization that she serves in many ways, including by being the President of the non-profit’s Dallas Chapter. Read on to learn more about Amy, Kaitlyn, and what this mom is doing to honor her beautiful daughter’s legacy.
Thank you for joining us, Amy! We are so grateful that you are willing to share your story with our readers. Can you tell us about your sweet daughter Kaitlyn?
We were thrilled to find out we were expecting our first child in January of 2013. My husband and I had been married for almost three years and he was active duty military at the time. We knew that he was going to be deployed to Afghanistan in February but God had really put it on our hearts that it was time to start expanding our family. Before Alex deployed, he was able to go to the first doctor’s appointment with me and see the baby’s heartbeat.
I had an absolutely beautiful pregnancy, especially considering my husband was out of the country. We were even able to coordinate a gender reveal where he and I found out the baby was a girl at the exact same time! We had decided if it was a girl we would name her Kaitlyn Sophia and call her K-So for short.
As the weeks progressed, our daughter decided that she was much more comfortable breech than with her head down. Since we knew that I would have to deliver via C-section, my OB wrote letters to Alex’s commanding officer in Afghanistan to request special permission for him to return home early for the delivery. We were so excited when Alex returned home on September 13th, just five days before Kaitlyn was scheduled to arrive.
On the morning of Kaitlyn’s birth, we drove to the hospital early and checked into the pre-op area. One of the nurses attending to me put her hands on my belly and asked if I had felt the contractions because I was having one right then; I responded that I hadn’t. Another nurse started hooking up two fetal monitors across my belly—one to monitor the strength of the contractions and the other to look for Kaitlyn’s heartbeat. She was having a really hard time finding the heartbeat, but in that moment I didn’t know enough to be worried. The first nurse decided to get out the Doppler to help locate Kaitlyn’s heart but after going all over my belly, she still couldn’t find a pulse. The nurses told me they were going to call my OB in early; I waved it off and told them that Kaitlyn was probably just being stubborn, that it wasn’t that big of a deal. A few minutes later, my OB came in and the first image I saw on the sonogram machine was Kaitlyn’s profile as well as her heart, which was perfectly still.
I lost it. My world completely crumbled around me. I had no idea that I could ever lose a child this far along in a pregnancy. I knew about miscarriage, sure, but I had never thought that you could lose your baby when you are 39.5 weeks pregnant and literally packing a car seat in preparation to bring your baby home from the hospital. We opted to continue with our scheduled C-section, and I even remember asking my OB if we could do CPR to revive Kaitlyn once she arrived. The problem was that we didn’t really know when Kaitlyn passed, so there was no hope in bringing her back.
We delivered one of the most beautiful baby girls this world has ever seen. She was 7 pounds, 9 ounces, with a full head of dark hair. She had long, thick eyelashes that she clearly inherited my husband. We ended up having an autopsy done to see if there was any hint as to why Kaitlyn had passed away, but the results from the autopsy deemed her to be “perfectly healthy” —well, except that she was gone, of course. We have no reason for why she died. All we learned was that nearly 60% of stillbirths happen without any known cause.
Was there a specific act or gift or word of encouragement that was most helpful to you in the dark days after you lost Kaitlyn?
In the initial weeks after her death, friends and family surrounded us. But then, as time marched on, the visits grew less frequent. Eventually Alex had to go to El Paso to complete his time in active service. There were days that stretched on forever in grief; honestly, they were such a blur that I can’t even recall what happened in over half of them.
About six weeks after we lost Kaitlyn, I stumbled across a message on Facebook from the wife of a high school friend. She told met hat her cousin volunteered for an organization called Hope Mommies and that they have special boxes called Hope Boxes that are given to moms who have experienced pregnancy or infant loss. She offered to sponsor one for me and have it mailed to me.
While I waited for the package to arrive, I found the Facebook group for the organization and was immediately excited to read the posts I found there. The updates were filling my News Feed with Scriptures of what God says about child loss and where our babies go when they die. A few days later I received my Hope Box in the mail. I found a note inside of it from a mom who had lost her firstborn son in almost the exact same way that I had lost Kaitlyn. I cried over that box because all of a sudden I realized I wasn’t alone. I realized I had friends that knew what I was going through, friends who would walk with me through this darkness, continually pointing me to the hope that we hold true in Christ.
Tell us about your involvement with Hope Mommies. What does the organization do, and how could someone interested in joining get involved?
Hope Mommies is a 501(c)3 based in Austin that was started by Erin Cushman in 2011. Erin had lost her firstborn, Gwendolyn Hope, due to birth complications, and she couldn’t find an organization for grieving moms that was rooted in Scripture. So she and her husband, Blair, started Hope Mommies.
The organization helps grieving moms in several ways. They provide them with an online resource to process their grief, share pictures, and have conversations that the outside world generally doesn’t want to participate in. They provide hospitals with Hope Boxes for grieving moms that contain a Bible, a journal, a devotional, and a brochure on how to connect with the online community. They host an annual retreat that moms can attend to connect with other Hope Moms in person and share stories about their babies.
In February of 2014 I was able to go to my first Hope Mommies retreat. My roommate was a mom who had delivered her baby girl just a week after we lost Kaitlyn. It amazed me how much we connected with one another. Later that year we were able to walk through our second pregnancies together and now we have two girls that are just a few weeks apart!
Over time God kept presenting me with opportunities to share the mission of Hope Mommies in the North Dallas area. Eventually the organization was able to partner with Gateway Church at their Frisco campus as well as supply Hope Boxes to Baylor Hospitals in McKinney and Frisco. In January of 2015, Erin approached me about starting a Dallas chapter of the organization, and I was honored to be appointed president of the chapter. Since then we have been spreading awareness about the organization and the hope that Christ brings to grieving families.
How has serving others and raising awareness through Hope Mommies helped you in your grief journey?
The most beautiful thing about Hope Mommies is being able to enter into a space where nobody else wants to go and to get in the trenches with moms who have not experienced any hope. My favorite stories come from moms who find God’s goodness and grace even in the hardest moments. One mom shared a beautiful story of receiving a terminal diagnosis for her son at 13 weeks and begging God for just an hour with him. Her son ended up living for an hour and seven minutes after he was born, and he was loved so deeply by his family for that entire time.
Another mom told me that the Hope Box I sent her led her to become a Christian, and the mercy and grace in that still overwhelm me. There is no greater honor to think that God would use our story and our brokenness to welcome another person into a relationship with Him. That is something permanent, something that can never be taken away from that mom.
What advice or encouragement would you give to someone who is just starting down the path of grief?
One of the prayers I repeated over and over in the early stages of my grief was, “God, please show me your grace here. I know you are with me but I can’t see you right now. Show me that you are here.” Over the following weeks, the layers of our story started to peel back and I would see glimpses of goodness within them. The biggest blessing was that Alex was able to come home a few weeks early from his deployment to be there for Kaitlyn’s birth. I can’t imagine not having him at my side when we heard the news and delivered the baby. I can’t picture having to tell him over Skype that Kaitlyn had passed. I am so grateful for that mercy.
Pray those kinds of prayers and God will answer you in ways you could never imagine. I like to think that Kaitlyn’s life is like a diamond—there are so many facets to how she affected me and others. I’ll be discovering all of the sides of her and our story for the rest of my life.
Most importantly: feel what you need to feel. There is no right or wrong way to grieve. There is purpose in this season of darkness, and there is light on the other side; rest in that. But in the day-to-day moments, you need to allow yourself to feel whatever emotion you are feeling.
Take the time to find what works for your grief. For me, it was writing. I wrote nearly every day just to get all the emotions out and process the thoughts that were spinning around in my head.
Is there a verse, quote, poem, etc. that you could share with us that has served as inspiration to you during this season of life?
I grew up in a small town out in West Texas and I used to drag my best friend outside at night just to sit and look at the stars; I have always loved stars and constellations. We were visiting my hometown after we lost Kaitlyn when I heard a verse that struck me so profoundly: “Look to the stars, He is the one who calls each one out by name, and because of His might and power, not one is missing.” (Isaiah 40). I needed that reminder that my daughter would never be missing; instead, she would always be called by name by her heavenly Father.
We decided to use that verse on Kaitlyn’s urn. On the day I went to tell our funeral director about the verse, I came home and found a FedEx envelope on my front door. I opened it to find out that a group of friends from work had chipped in and bought a star to name after Kaitlyn. It was such a profound, powerful moment.