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Organization helps families deal with loss of infant children

Staff Writer

Kingsport resident Kimberly Broyles and her husband decided to try and conceive a child after they had been married for two years. Eight years later, they are still trying to start that family.
After learning she was pregnant, Broyles was excited that the family she had wanted was finally on its way.
But just six-weeks into the pregnacy, Broyles learned during an ultrasound that the baby’s heartbeat was weak. She returned to the doctor’s office a week later to further monitor the baby.
“When we went back, there was no heartbeat and I had to have a D&C,” Broyles said. “It was a huge disappointment to us. We never thought we would go through this.”
Still, Broyles and her husband refused to give up on their dream of having a child, and a year later, Broyles once again became pregnant.
“Our second pregnancy we were so scared, worried and nervous, especially for the first ultrasound,” she said.
The first ultrasound showed growth. This time, it was Broyles’ eight-week ultrasound where she heard the devastating news that her baby had no heartbeat.
“After eight weeks we found out we lost our second angel, that the heartbeat was gone,” Broyles recalled. “I had to have another D&C done. We just felt like, ‘What did we do wrong?’ We were so discouraged because we felt that we would make wonderful parents. Here, there are so many children who need homes and families who don’t want kids having them with no issues.”
Before Broyles became pregnant for a third time, she switched doctors. Her new doctor decided to do an exploratory surgery to see if anything could be found.
“I went in for a pre-op and surprise, we were pregnant,” Broyles said. “He followed me close and we were able to make it to 12 weeks. Leading up to the 12 weeks, we had an ultrasound every week and everything was going wonderfully.”
But the couple’s world again came crashing down when the doctor walked into the examination room at the 12-week ultrasound appointment.
“There were several things wrong with our angel and we were told our only option was to terminate the pregnancy, that the baby wouldn’t survive,” Broyles said. “We were just shattered, mad, heartbroken and exhausted from trying and the roller coaster of emotions.”
Although nerve racking, pure faith kept the couple trying for a child.
During Broyles’ fourth pregnancy, the doctors monitored her progress every step of the way.
“We made it all the way to 20 weeks,” Broyles said. Then she went into early labor.
Natalie Faith was born at 4:01 a.m. on Oct. 28, 2011, weighing just 8 ounces.
The Broyles had their daughter for two hours, providing the family with a chance to hold her before she died.
“I can’t even begin to describe what we were feeling when we lost her,” Broyles said. “My heart was done. I was in total shock holding my angel and being told she wasn’t going to make it.”
Almost two years after losing their daughter, the couple’s pain was still too much.
Broyles remembered hearing about Molly Bears, an organization that helps women cope with any form of infant loss.
A group of dedicated volunteers create weighted teddy bears for women who lose children. Each bear is personalized, weighing the exact same weight as the child that was lost.
Since the organization’s inception, approximately 4,800 bears have been made.
“We have bears in 18 countries and all 50 states,” said Bridget Crews, founder of Molly Bears. “It has been so healing and such an amazing thing.”
Crews lost her daughter, Molly Christine, on May 30, 2010, after giving birth to her at 34 weeks.
“You can’t imagine how hard it is to walk out of the hospital with no one in your arms,” she said.
Shortly after Crews’ daughter died, a friend told her about a 3-pound teddy bear that was given to mothers who experienced loss.
“She couldn’t get it to me for a couple of weeks,” Crews said. “I was racking my brain…how can I make this happen?”
She eventually found a bear shell and stuffed inserts into it, as well as rice before taking it to the grocery store to see how much it weighed.
“Every one of my children wrote a little note to her. They stuffed it inside her chest before we closed it,” Crews said.
The bear, which weighed 4 pounds, 9 ounces — the same weight as Molly — helped her cope with her loss.
“I had to sleep with her on my chest,” Crews said.
By the first week of July, she had made two additional Molly Bears for other women. “It was therapy,” Crews said.
Molly Bears was officially started on Aug. 9, 2010.
Now, there are 17 bear makers throughout the United States that make a minimum of 10 Molly Bears a month. Some make up to 30 bears a month.
Gray resident Jessica Head joined the organization as a bear maker in April after finding the organization on Facebook.
“I wanted to donate bows. Bridget asked me to make some bears,” Head said.
Head has made 142 bears. She receives each bear shell, weighs it, sews it up and decorates it before sending it off to the woman who has applied for it.
Before they are shipped, Head and her family sit over the bears and pray for the families.
Head was the one who made the bear for Broyles.
The bear, which weighs exactly 8.5 ounces, has a bottle cap on its foot replicating the tattoo on Broyles’ wrist for all four children she lost. It also has a monkey bow to represent the jungle theme the couple had used in Natalie’s nursery. It is wearing a pink and brown tutu, Broyles’ favorite colors, and angel wings on its back.
“Jessica put so much love into making the bear,” Broyles said. “It gives me so much comfort just to have something to hold.”
As a surprise, Head also gave Broyles three more bears — all micro bears for the three previous babies she lost.
“I am speechless,” Broyles said. “It was amazing.”
But if you ask Head, it is Broyles’ strength and her ability to stay positive through everything that is truly amazing.
“I think that is what gives me a drive —to see how much people love it and need it,” Head added.
Broyles and her husband are in the process of trying to conceive another child.