Stories of Pregnancy and Infant Loss
Stories of Pregnancy and Infant Loss
shouldn't be a heartbreaking and devastating experience. Unfortunately this is reality for many parents. STILL I RISE is a series that is near and dear to my heart. After my second loss, I found that keeping my story to myself hurt far more then sharing my journey. I started this project, taking portraits and requesting stories, to give parents who have experienced Pregnancy and Infant Loss an outlet to share their story and to perhaps help their grieving process. My hope is that these stories bring you a sense of comfort, knowing that you are not alone.
When my husband and I arrived at the hospital, 41 weeks and 1 day overdue, we were excited about finally meeting our baby girl. She was our first baby and we were anxious and over-prepared, just as most first-time parents are. I sat on the hospital bed as the nurse began what we thought was a very routine ultrasound to check on our daughter.
When the nurse couldn’t find her heartbeat, the look on her face went from excited to serious. I got scared. “Is everything okay? What’s wrong? I just worry too much. The doctor will know what to do.” All these thoughts went through my head.
The doctor came in, with the nurse following closely behind, and he began to search for Avery’s heartbeat. I could sense that something was wrong. The look on the nurse’s face was that of worry, which caused fear in my heart. My husband and I looked at each other in silence, both afraid of what was wrong. The doctor placed the wand on top of my large belly. There Avery was on the screen, like she had been so many times before. But only, she wasn’t moving. The place where her heart should have been fluttering was still. No movement. I had this sinking feeling and a knot in my throat. I knew what he was going to tell us. She had died.
And then the doctor said so matter-of-factly, “I’m sorry. There is no heartbeat. Your baby has died.”
We were in complete shock and denial, “Are you sure? You must be wrong. Is there anything we can do?” The doctor replied, “I’m sorry, there’s nothing we can do.” My husband burst into tears and I screamed a shrill of agony and pain like I never have before. It felt as if life were passing in slow motion. The memory of this moment is forever engraved in my heart as we were told our daughter had died, before she ever entered the world. The feeling of elation, excitement, and joy that we had just minutes ago, had quickly vanished with the words, “I’m sorry."
Our worst nightmare had come true.
The following moments were filled with phone calls to our parents to deliver the devastating news, meeting with bereavement nurses and the hospital chaplain, paperwork and making decisions like what funeral home to send our newborn daughter to. Funeral. Not home. All these life-altering decisions while preparing to deliver our baby, knowing we would never take her home.
I would then spend the next 25 hours in labor. I lay helpless in my hospital bed, terrified of the labor process but also of how Avery would look when she was born. My heart was aching and a part of my soul had just died. I refused to let Greg leave my side, even for one second. In our deepest, darkest, moments of pain and suffering, I felt so much love for this man and I knew he felt it for me too.
The time finally came when I was to give birth to Avery. The two nurses and my mom were holding my legs, while Greg was by my side squeezing my hand. It was time to push. I pushed and pushed, but Avery would not come out. The epidural had worn off and we needed to speed up the process. She was dead, so she could not “help” they said. I screamed and cried out in pain as I pushed her lifeless body out of me. And then it happened. She was delivered.
Silence. A silence so loud it was deafening.
There was no crying, screaming, or movement. But she was here, all 7lbs and 14oz of her. The nurses cleaned her off, wrapped her in a blanket and brought her to me and Greg. She was beautiful. She had dark brown hair, long lush eye lashes, soft chubby checks, a small button nose, and beautiful lips. She was perfect. She felt perfect as I held her on my chest and in my arms, and in that moment, I was proud. I had that indescribable feeling every mother talks about when their baby is born. It was the worst and best moment of my life. We finally got to meet our daughter. The child that we prayed for and had prepared for these last 9 months. She was everything we dreamt she would be. For that second we had forgotten the horrifying truth and lived in that moment of happiness of seeing Avery for the first, and what would soon be our last, time.
We went home the next day and I was wheeled out of labor and delivery in a wheelchair, with a box of memories from our brief time with Avery, held tightly on my lap. The echoes of newborn babies crying in the rooms nearby were like a dagger to my heart. We left the hospital without our daughter, with an empty car seat in the back of the car. Greg and I cried the entire drive home, with our parents following closely behind. We dreaded walking into our house, filled with baby necessities and a beautiful nursery that was meant for Avery.
Since then, I have come to know the reality of grief and a new meaning of sorrow. She changed my identity and the essence of who I am. I am a mother who has lost a daughter. If you want to know who I am, you have to know of my heartache and of Avery.
Greg and I have since welcomed Avery’s little brothers, Ryan and Evan, into the world. There are no words to describe the love and amount of joy these 2 little boys have brought to our lives. They have taught us that there is still love and beauty in a broken heart.
Ask any mother if she would give her life for her child and the answer will be a resounding “yes”. Life isn’t always as clear cut as that though, and as much as I wanted to give my life for my daughter, she wasn’t able to survive without me when I developed severe Preeclampsia at only 5 months pregnant. The doctors told me I had no other choice but to be induced and that even if Charlotte was born alive, they would not try to save her. It’s been three and a half years and there are times I am still so racked with guilt and grief that it’s hard to breathe.
I spent four days in the hospital, fighting for myself and my daughters life, only to have my body betray me and begin shutting down. Even though I was so out of it from medication that was trying to keep me stable, every single moment of those four days and then the 24 hours when I was induced, birthed my stillborn daughter, and struggled for my life through the night are etched in my mind permanently. I can relive those days or minutes anytime. Finding out that you are going to lose your first child, giving birth for the first time, to a stillborn baby, changes your life forever. Gone was my innocence about pregnancy and the feeling that the worst will never happen to me. I have a heightened sense of fear about something happening to my son and often have to talk myself down from the ledge of racing thoughts that anxiety creates. The fear, anxiety, sadness have become less often and less intense over time but there are moments where it feels just as raw and real as it did in those initial moments of grief.
I remember one of my doctors trying to console me by saying that I needed to live, for my future children. I had to make the impossible choice to let one child go so that the rest could come. I didn’t believe it, didn’t want to hear it at the time; however, it eventually became my reality and I am so grateful for it. I welcomed my rainbow baby, James III, on 1/26/16, 1 year and 2 days after I was supposed to welcome Charlotte, and almost 1.5 years from when Charlotte was born sleeping. I can’t imagine my life without Tre. He is so full of energy and love, he’s hilarious and determined, and I see now that I wouldn’t have him if I hadn’t let Charlotte go.
And still I rise....to manage my grief in the early stages, I found the Preeclampsia Foundation and have been an active participant and, more recently, a coordinator for their annual walk. I keep Charlotte’s memory alive and work to save the lives of moms and babies by raising awareness about Preeclampsia and helping to fund research to find a cause and cure for Preeclampsia. I hate knowing that another woman, another family, has to go through the heartbreaking experience that my family did and I am doing what I can to help. I’ll never get to know Charlotte’s personality, what she would have grown up to look like or what she would have been interested in and become. But I hope that she would be proud of the legacy that I have created for her: an advocate for change to save the lives of moms and babies and most importantly, a beloved daughter and big sister to James.
The first one was like a gut punch. It felt like it came out of nowhere. I was completely naive and oblivious to the fact that any woman, even a young, healthy mother could experience a miscarriage. I wasn't very far along, but it really opened me to a world I hadn't realized existed. A world of loss. A world of realizing a positive pregnancy test doesn't always mean holding a living baby.
Then life eventually went on, that was in 2010. There was waiting, tests, surgery for endometriosis and eventually a sweet boy. After my first loss, I realized I'd never experience a pregnancy without that fear of loss. But I was a bit naive again. I figured once you're beyond 12 weeks, once you have doubling hcg labs, once you see a heartbeat, you're in the clear. Sure, loss can happen any time, but it didn't register that it can hit anyone. I guess I thought that having one loss happens, it's common, it's awful, very awful, but it's somewhat common so I told myself I wouldn't likely have another. Then just after the new year in 2016, I found myself in the office with a silent doppler. It was a bit of a blur, being trapped where you hope they're wrong but knowing full well, they're right...and then confirming with a scan that the baby stopped growing the week before.
That was hard. Really hard. I had been really sick for those 13 weeks. It was such a weird thing to comprehend. Even the morning of my procedure, I was still sick and had to take medicine. Immediately after my d&e I was hungry, and not sick. It was a horrible mix of relief and grief. Thankful to feel better, but realizing I'd happily be sick every single day if it meant not saying bye before there was ever a hello.
And then another loss immediately after. I questioned if it was worth even trying again. The next time, we were so fortunate. We had a really rocky road, and she came very early, and she has some health issues, but she's here. And she's amazing. It was such a hard physical and emotional experience having 3 pregnancies within a year. I don't know that I really stopped to grieve the whole experience, I was just so set on bringing home a baby.
And then there was another loss after her. One where I guess I knew from the beginning it wasn't going to be, but once you see a heartbeat a few times you think it can still be okay.
I'm a bit trapped in this place where I'm so incredibly aware, grateful and appreciative of the ones who are with me. Beyond grateful. But also figuring out how to honor, remember, or really allow feeling that grief that the four who aren't here deserve. It's really weird to reconcile acknowledging that if I hadn't lost them, the ones who are here wouldn't have been. It's a very weird place, a place where I guess all that's left is faith? Because I can't really comprehend the hows and the whys. It's not something you can really reconcile with information or numbers, and that's hard for me.
I think we're in a place where we're just grateful for our family, we're so fortunate. But it's also weird ending on a sad note. I sort of think maybe it was just a reminder of how fortunate we are? Something to make sure we never forget what a miracle our kids are.
A Miscarriage Follows You Around
By Julie Plummer
A miscarriage follows you around
In the darkness of night
In the quietest of mornings
It is an ever-present reminder of what could have been
A tiny soul gone too soon
A whole in your heart
A space in your belly
An emptiness in your being
A miscarriage follows you around
In your struggle to get pregnant again
With every fight with your husband
Every sleepless night
Every pregnancy test
Every hospital bill
One tiny little heartbeat on a screen
One tiny crack in your chest when it is no more
A miscarriage follows you around
Every pregnancy announcement
Every swollen belly passing by you on the street
A constant reminder that what you had was fleeting
A miscarriage follows you around
It does not discriminate
It lies with you in bed at night
It drives with you in the car
It is with you when you are applying your make up in the morning
It is with you during every minute
A miscarriage follows you around
Because it wasn’t just a missed period
It was a missed opportunity
A missed moment to hold your baby
To kiss their nose and cuddle their toes
To wake with bags under your eyes
Because you are tired but so overwhelmed with love
A miscarriage follows you around
Even when you are genuinely happy
Even when you already have a beautiful child of your own
It makes you feel like a failure
Like maybe it could have been prevented
Was it that hot bath?
People will tell you
“This is a blessing in disguise”
“Something was probably wrong”
You feel embarrassed for crying
For mourning your baby
You were still our baby
And it hurts
It is a grieving process
Of letting go
But knowing deep down
How hard it can be to just move on
So you drink a beer
Or have a glass of wine
To maybe feel like the person you once were
A miscarriage follows you around
You are forever changed
By the brilliance of loving someone you never even met
And knowing you loved them
those two tiny pink lines
And at times
your husband will have a hard time understanding
why it still hurts
Even after all this time
A miscarriage follows you around
It reminds you
You Are Resiliant
You are loving
You are a mom
And so you carry that with you
And it gives you a small inkling of hope
That yes maybe one day it will get easier
But you know you will never truly forget
Because you loved your baby
A miscarriage follows you around
I was twenty years old when I learned I was pregnant with my son, Maddox. Although I was young and on my own, when I learned I was carrying a life inside of my own, I embraced the beauty of such a blessing and transformed myself into a woman I soon didn’t recognize. I was strong, I was brave. My pregnancy with Maddox was nothing short of amazing. I was healthy and he was healthy. I experienced a remarkable delivery. I don’t take for granted a single second the moments I hold my son in my arms and the days I spend alongside him watching him grow. Maddox is just shy of four years old now. Where does the time go?
Maddox was seven months old when I met my now husband, we have all grown so much together in so many countless ways. Growing is something we knew we wanted to continue to do by adding to our family. My husband and I married on March 26, 2017; we knew we wanted to get pregnant right away. Our decision was a simple one; it was a goal we had created earlier on in our relationship. My husband had never experienced the pregnancy journey and seeing the way he loved Maddox over the years, I couldn’t wait to give him that gift.
On June 10th, 2017 we found out the news we had longed for, five tests later, we celebrated becoming pregnant! After such a long journey of experiencing pregnancy all alone, becoming a single mother and working hard to create the life we now have, I took a deep breath and repeated over and over “Gods timing is far better than our own”.
As the weeks went by and my belly grew bigger, I soaked up every second and embraced the beauty in carrying a child just as I did when I was pregnant with Maddox. With each passing day my morning sickness grew stronger, some days I could barely make it out of bed but we swore we were having a girl since I had such an easy pregnancy with Maddox so we didn’t see it as a concern. After counting down the days until our first ultrasound the time had finally come, we were going to see that beautiful blessing on that screen. Who knew you could experience love and loss in only a matter of seconds. Our baby had stopped growing and just like that, at 11 weeks, our baby was gone.
Just as our hearts didn’t want to experience that loss, my body didn’t either. I wasn’t able to pass the baby on my own. After the longest five weeks of my life I received a DNC surgery. After physically carrying the baby so long after our loss I thought I would wake up from surgery finally able to mourn our loss. However, it was quite the opposite. My mind raced just as my emotions did. In that moment in time the baby was actually gone. The days that followed were long. I witnessed my husband, who is my glue, break into a million pieces. To see a man love the way he does and so full of strength fall to his knees in pain was just as hard as looking at that monitor and hearing the doctors excitement rush out of her body. We didn’t want to upset Maddox by explaining to him all that had happened, he was far too young to understand. We thought time would be best, if we didn’t talk about the baby then maybe he would forget. We were far from right. Each passing day he would lay and talk to the baby, kiss my tummy, sleep on my tummy, so finally we decided to simply express that he wouldn’t be meeting the baby in this lifetime but he would meet him or her one day in heaven. We all wrote a message on a balloon and Maddox released it, each of us needed that.
Months passed and we learned to heal as a unit. Things slowly got back just as they once were. Until the morning of October 28th, 2017, we were taken by surprise to find we were given our rainbow baby!! The baby and I were so healthy. Things were progressing so well that I found myself crying because I just knew it had to be too good to be true. At 14 weeks we experienced yet another loss.
During our first loss I was mortified, caught off guard and in shock. I had no words and it took days and many needle pricks later to finally accept what had happened. Our second loss went a little different. Because our pregnancies were so close together and our first loss was so fresh in our minds, I knew the circumstances all too well and recognized what was happening right away. I lost it. I screamed louder than I have in all my life and cried more in 15 minutes than in my lifetime. Six short days later I labored for four hours and passed the baby on my own. Experiencing the feeling of giving birth but becoming empty handed has to be one of the hardest feelings to hold, accept, and grow from.
However, in those raw moments I felt the presence of God, his hand on my shoulder telling me all would be well. So instead of the internal battle I put myself through the first time I thought to myself that although we have two beautiful blessings in heaven, we have a handsome, healthy, blue-eyed little boy here on earth and it was time to focus on growing instead of grieving and that is exactly what we have done.
I remember that day so vividly. We went for a routine check-up. The doctor, whom I worked for, had the ultrasound machine at the bedside, and said he thought I’d want to see my baby. Of course I did. I would take any opportunity to see my sweet miracle. But, when he put the probe on my belly he couldn’t find the heartbeat. And at that moment, I knew. He tried and tried to find one, and I could see he was becoming anxious. He reassured us, saying it must be the machine, it’s really old and all, and left to get us set up with an official ultrasound. While we waited I could feel my heart breaking. I willed myself to keep it together for my husband so that he wouldn’t know. Maybe I was wrong. Maybe I was overreacting. Please be wrong. Those minutes lasted years. In the ultrasound room with the fancy monitors I could see my baby, my sweet baby, still, sleeping, peaceful….no heartbeat. My heart was no more. It shattered. A part of my soul died with my baby.
I remember holding my husband’s hand. I remember walking down the hallway and wanting to scream in agony, to let everyone know just how broken I was in that moment. Again, I willed myself to keep it together as I talked with my doctor, and I remember saying “I know God doesn’t make mistakes.” Then, I left through the waiting room full of happy pregnant women. I was Broken. In the car, I watched my husband, my rock, cry for our baby. I was a failure. My one job was to protect our baby, and I had failed. My body had failed me. The next part of my life was a fog…had a D&C…spent the day in bed…went back to work where I was forced to put on a smile as I helped other women bring their babies into the world day after day, fog after fog. I remember going through all the stages of grieving that I’d learned about in nursing school. Denial. Anger. Bargaining. Depression. Oh the overwhelming depression, and finally acceptance. It still is the hardest journey I have ever taken, but it is my journey none the less.
I learned that because I hurt more, I also LOVE more. I understand more, I listen more, I care more. It has shaped me, for better and for worse. I used to be the nurse that didn’t want to take care of patients that had lost their babies because I was afraid I wouldn’t know what to say. Now, I know. Now, I can take care of them because I am them. I have talked with them and cried with them. I have held my patients, my friends, and my family that have also suffered the loss of their babies. Their sweet babies. I am able to comfort them in a way that only someone who has been through it can.
This is the story of my first angel. Four years later, and I have two angels waiting for me in heaven, beautiful and flawless, and with perfect little heartbeats. They have each other. I also have two children that I wrap my arms around every day, and I love them with a fierceness I never knew existed…I love them more. I look at them playing with their toys, and I think about my other babies with an ache that will never go away. Do they have my eyes, my hair, my laugh, my heart? I can picture them all playing together. One day I will tell my son and daughter about my angels. I will tell them about how we will meet them one day, and our family will be complete forever, because God never makes mistakes. But for now, I spend all my time on earth loving my babies more!
When my husband and I decided we were going to start trying to have a baby, we were mentally prepared for a rough road. Since I had had two dermoid cyst removals, a leap procedure, and endometriosis, I was pretty convinced that getting pregnant was not going to be easy. So when I found out I was pregnant after the first month we tried, I was very surprised. Although I was overjoyed, I couldn’t get rid of the feeling that this pregnancy wasn’t meant to be. I felt this way so much so, that I didn’t do anything crazy or special to tell my husband we were pregnant, I just casually mentioned it in conversation. I ignored the feeling of dread and basked in the glow of a newly pregnant woman. Until about week six when morning sickness kicked in. I remember how awful I felt and not just in the morning, all day! It was terrible, nothing tasted right and every smell made me nauseous. I kept thinking, how am I going to do this for 34 more weeks and how have women survived feeling this awful for so many thousands of years? But like all women, I pushed through.
I had my first prenatal appointment around week seven of my pregnancy. The OB told us that the baby’s heartbeat was low and to come back next week to have it checked again. She said that it was no big deal and that I was probably earlier in my pregnancy then we realized. So we went back to the OB during week eight and found that the baby’s heartbeat was still too low. This time however, the OB said she wanted us to come back next week to check the heartbeat again and that there was a chance that the pregnancy may not be viable. When we left the appointment, we started looking things up on the Internet; trying to see if there was any possibility that our baby had a chance. Everything we found left us in limbo. There was a 50-50 chance of either the heartbeat increasing or stopping completely. So for the next week we tried to stay positive; our baby’s heartbeat was going to speed up, this was no big deal.
My husband and I waited anxiously for what would be our last appointment during this pregnancy. The doctor completed the ultrasound, and the baby’s heartbeat had almost completely stopped. The doctor then went on to explain that we had two options: we could either let nature to take its course, allowing my body to miscarry on its own; or we could schedule surgery for the next day. Although we were both in a fog, we opted to schedule the surgery. We managed to keep it together until we got into the car. I completely lost it first; I sobbed for a good ten minutes before I could speak or look at my husband. He was visibly shaken, but working very hard to be strong for me. Once the initial shock had worn off a bit, we then had to make some of the most difficult phone calls imaginable.
Up to this point we hadn’t breathed a word to anyone that we were pregnant. Initially it was because we were waiting to tell everyone once we had our first appointment. However, since our first appointment didn’t go so well, we decided we would wait until the doctor told us the baby was healthy. Instead, we now had to call our parents and tell them that we were pregnant, but the baby’s heartbeat stopped. This brought on another round of hysterics, not only for the baby I was losing, but the heartache that we were now causing our parents.
The day of the surgery was a blur; we were completely in a fog of disbelief. I don’t think things really seemed real until after I was home from surgery. Between the hormones and knowing what had just happened, I couldn’t stop crying. I cried so hard at times that I couldn’t breathe. This continue for several days after surgery. Many times crying would start after a bout of cramping; one of the side effects of the surgery. The main thing that keep going through my head was, “My baby, I lost my baby.” My wonderful husband was there to dry the tears and kept reminding me that we got pregnant once, it will happen again. To which I often replied, “But, I wanted this baby……” and I would began crying again. I kept thinking, “how unfair it was that I was ready for this child and wanted it so badly, but couldn’t have it. And that he/she was planned and it wasn’t fair that some people who didn’t even want a child conceived accidentally.” I also kept asking, “Why was this happening to me? What did I do to deserve this heartache?”
After a day or two, my husband convinced me it was time to go out and take a walk, the fresh air would be good for me. He was right, the sun and air helped. Two weeks went by and I was back to being able to function again physically and somewhat mentally. I would still cry here and there, but it wasn’t as debilitating as it had been initially. I made myself a list of tasks to keep myself busy, so I wouldn’t sit and think about the little life I had lost. Eventually, the crying stopped and the waiting for my next period began, so we could start trying again. I have never wanted to get my period so badly in my life and probably will never again! About eight weeks after surgery “Aunt Flo” returned. A month later, I was planning how to tell my husband we were pregnant again. Our little boy was born five weeks early, but extremely strong and healthy. Even though I have been blessed with a healthy, energetic child, I still wonder about that little one I lost. I often feel like that baby was the little girl I was supposed to have.
Hunter Henry Hoffman
When we found out that we were pregnant, we were shocked. It was unexpected, but we embraced it with great joy. Labeled a high risk pregnancy, testing showed a chance that our baby had Trisomy 18. All testing came back great, he was perfect. Still at a high risk of delivering prematurely, I had weekly injections of progesterone and months of strict bed rest. Finally at 38 weeks, I gave birth on August 10, 2013 to a beautiful, healthy baby boy, Hunter Henry Hoffman. Perfect in every way, we were blessed and extremely happy. Exactly six short weeks later, September 21, 2013, our life was forever changed. We woke up screaming and terrified . We woke up to find our precious Hunter had passed away in his sleep, he was taken from us by SIDS. There was no warning, no sign at all. I had just told my Fiance' the day before how grateful I was that everything turned out perfectly with our little guy and how I couldn't imagine life without him. And the next morning we had to be without him forever, left broken hearted and a hole in our hearts that can never be fixed. We were planning his baptism, now we had to plan a funeral instead. Surrounded by family and friends I still felt alone. We both felt alone, no one could understand the agonizing pain we were in. I would wake up all hours of the night for months crying hysterically, searching for my baby, but he was gone. I now suffer from post traumatic stress disorder. It has been almost two years and not one day goes by that I don't cry for my baby, I am left with all of the what if's and the wonder of what he would be doing at his age. I will never hear what his sweet voice would have sounded like saying mommy or daddy, we will never see him play and grow. Everyday still seems like a nightmare. But everyday we get up and do what we have to do. There are days, still that I don't want to get out of bed. Hunter's bedroom is still set up, that is my place to try and find peace. Nothing will ever take the pain away.
Mason George Hoffman
A few days after celebrating Hunter's First heavenly birthday, we found out that we were expecting again. We were scared and happy at the same time. What would the future hold, would we have a baby that would stay with us forever? Was this our second chance at happiness, although no one can replace Hunter, it was going to be great and we thought that we would have some light again. I was again labeled a high risk pregnancy. I started my testing to make sure everything was good. My due date was 5-5-15, we thought that was a cool date. So far everything looked great in the ultra sounds, I waited impatiently for my blood work to come back. I was in the shower, and I got this horrible sick feeling that something was wrong with the baby, a few hours later, I got the phone call, my baby boy had down syndrome. We were devastated, I had two invasive tests to confirm it and another round of blood work. It all came back the same. I just cried, how can this be happening. He looked perfect in all of the ultra sounds. There were other things wrong with him as well, he had very little chance of survival. Two days shy of being 20 weeks pregnant, December 6, 2014 I had my baby boy, he was gone, he had passed away inside of me. His skull was crushed on his way out, I never got to hold him, I never got to see him. The only thing I have of Mason is his little footprints. I was screaming and crying to hold him, but it was not possible. Our hearts were broken again, how was it possible to lose two babies. I now have a baby that I buried and one that I had cremated.
Now all we have is six weeks of memories of our beautiful Hunter and 19 weeks of ultra sounds memories watching Mason bounce all over over the place. A bedroom still set up for a baby, but we have no baby. We can't take the room down, we aren't ready to say that final farewell. Maybe the room will stay set up forever. Our lives have changed dramatically. We will never be the same, we will always have empty arms for Hunter and Mason.
My story begins with four letters, TTTS. I had never heard of it before my pregnancy with my twin boys. It stands for Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome and occurs in 15%-20% of twin pregnancies where each baby has its own amniotic sac but share one placenta. The maternal fetal medicine doctor told me that most times it can be avoided if the mother just increases her protein intake, but there was no real description of the symptoms of the “syndrome” and not really even more than a second thought given to it. So, of course, I increased my protein intake and I went for ultrasounds every 2 weeks as suggested to check for this and any other “syndromes” the one placenta could cause. All was looking great at my 20 week ultrasound where they informed us we were having boys!
Somewhere between 24-26 weeks things started to happen in my body, the severity of which I was unaware. I did mention to my husband a few times that I had already gained what I had with my first son at full term and I wasn’t sure how I was going to go another 12 weeks. At one point my skin started to feel uncomfortable and felt as if there was a balloon under it slowly being inflated. I started to feel some contractions on Friday, at 25 weeks 5 days, and went to the hospital Saturday morning. They gave me some IV fluids and checked the “fluid” in the sacs and said all looked good and to follow up with my MFM and to just take it easy. I started to get very uncomfortable, physically over the weekend. On Monday I worked and then I had my 26 week u/s scheduled for the afternoon. While driving I realized I was probably going to have to tell my boss that I can’t drive anymore because I could barely sit in the driver seat comfortably. My right rib and side felt unbearable. When I went to my appointment, I described my hospital visit, contractions and that Baby B was stuck under my right rib. The expression on our sonographer’s face was telling. She said she had to get the doctor. When the MFM Doctor came in, she said the images they were seeing were “ominous” and that I needed to get to a hospital asap. Baby A’s – (Mark) fluid was so plentiful while Baby B – (Luke) had little to no fluid, which was why he was “stuck” under my rib.
I was admitted to Morristown Medical Center and observed overnight in labor and delivery. The pain I experienced that night was more unbearable then my all natural childbirth with my first son. And what made it worse was that I had to lie down and keep the “heartbeat monitors” on my stomach the entire night which is almost impossible for any pregnant woman. On Wednesday, an amnio reduction was performed to remove 2L of fluid from Mark’s sac in hopes that would reverse the transfusion occurring or at least buy more time for the little ones to cook inside mama. After that I was moved to an “extended stay” labor and delivery unit where I was much more comfortable. Thursday was Thanksgiving Day and limited staff was on but they did note that the fluid rapidly built back up in Mark’s sac and Luke was starting to get stuck again. That night, a resident came in every few hours to check the heartbeats and take and u/s. The machine they were using wasn’t working right and they could never really find the heartbeats long enough to get a good reading so she did it all manually with a watch and counting the beats. It seemed really odd to me at the time that they didn’t have better machines or that maybe that resident didn’t really know how to use it.
Friday morning the MFM Doctor came in using the same machine and realized it was no good. She called for a more advanced machine and tech to do the u/s. At this point, we were informed that what they feared would happen, ultimately has happened. Fluid had begun to build up around Mark’s lungs, heart and abdomen and if left alone, he would go into heart failure. They left the decision in our hands on what to do.
Brian and I prayed for God’s wisdom and we realized our only choice was to have an emergency c-section to deliver in hopes of saving them both because at this point, it was no longer beneficial to stay inside mommy.
They gave me a bolus of magnesium to prep for surgery to protect the babies brains and I had already received steroids to help their lungs. During the 30 minute magnesium bolus, my new revelation was that I was going to die and my babies would live; seriously I thought I was going to die!!! And my nurse said I was being overdramatic and hyperventilating, that I just needed to calm down. Well, I didn’t die…and I was prepped for surgery. They told us not to expect to hear any cries during delivery but when Luke was born, he made the tiniest squeak of a cry and we heard it! Both boys were sent to the NICU asap and needed intervention in order to get them stable in their isolettes. I delivered at 12:01 and 12:03pm.
Afterwards, I didn’t really know what to think or feel. I was afraid to even go see my babies for fear that they might not survive and I’d rather not even create a bond with them. I didn’t go up to the NICU until after 11pm at night. Visitors started pouring in the next day to see the babies and still I think I was just in a state of shock. On one side I had my mom who was so excited to see these “miracle babies” and on the other side, I had my dad who was actually crying because he was so emotional for all I had to endure. I didn’t know if I was supposed to be happy, strong, sad, emotional or what. I think just looking at their teeny tiny bodies in the isolettes just didn’t even seem real to me, they didn’t look real even. They were just skin and bones, faces covered with eye-masks and breathing tubes…they didn’t look like my babies. They smelled like chicken too…so weird. All I knew was that God was in control and I just prayed for them both and the entire situation.
Anyway, after the hub-bub of all the visitors had gone, and when Brian and I just had some time to ourselves and I wasn’t in ridiculous pain from just being sliced open, it hit us - this is real, this is happening and we have to figure out how we’re going to get through this, this roller coaster of a ride. Mark only survived 21 days. He had grades 3 and 4 brain bleeds. He had a spontaneous perforation of his bowel which required surgery on day 6 and never properly healed. He ultimately developed a skin infection which ate through his paper thin skin, his organs shut down and he had severe edema. They had him on very strong morphine because they said they could tell when babies were in pain because of their “wincing”. We had to make the toughest decision of our lives. We had one of the best NICU staff of doctors taking care of our babies but when the one we respected the most came in and said “I think it’s time we think about holding Mark and saying goodbye” we knew it was a reality; that this was it. Looking back it all seemed so surreal. Holding him as we removed all of his life support was totally unimaginable. I felt as if I was on the outside looking in. I even turned to Brian at one point and actually said “is this really happening?” We just sobbed, uncontrollable, pouring out everything we had into our little boy as he went home to be with his Father in Heaven.
We asked our Pastor to come to the hospital to pray with us. He reminded us that all of us are God’s children, even our children belong to God. So with that, we are just giving Mark back to God. Through it all, we just honestly prayed for the best for Mark. We wanted our son to be able to experience the joy and happiness that any child would experience. We expected him to have some disabilities if he survived but we truly prayed that they wouldn’t hinder his ability to be joyful. And if they would, we prayed that God would take him. Because we knew he would experience ultimate joy and happiness in His Kingdom. It sounds horrible to say aloud but it was our honest prayer. Even though the pain from our loss is real every day we see a glowing smile on Luke’s face, we know that Mark has an even bigger smile on his face worshipping a living God. We are thankful that he never really had to experience the pain and hurt of this world and that all he will ever know is true joy and happiness, our ultimate prayer was answered.
- Sonja Chartowich
before my sunshines…
more probing more surgeries more drugs more money more tears more harsh words more sadness more loss
after my sunshines…
and lots of diapers
Both of my girls are adopted. Fifteen years ago, after a long and painful journey with infertility, I was gifted with my oldest and precious daughter Sydney. Six years later along comes a little light, her name is Maya. For those women and men who are considering adoption, I can tell you firsthand that when someone hands you a crying little baby, you do what moms and dads do. It’s called love.
Every day I wake up, I think of my beautiful children. The ones I see daily, living, healthy, full of boundless energy and lots of joy to give and the ones I see in my dreams, who left me way too soon. The babies that were too good for me to keep here on earth, my angels. My three courageous angels.
Before my first born was conceived, I had lost not one, not two, but three children in one full year. 2010 will never be forgotten. It was the year I thought that I was useless, a failure. Why couldn't I have children? What did I do to deserve this? Only being married for two years at the time, I had horrific nightmares of letting my husband go, to find another woman to have his dream family with. My dreadful thoughts were always directed to my body's failures. It was all my fault that I couldn't be a mother. A "good enough" wife. I was wrong.
After all of the tests, the doctor's appointments and the agony of defeat, a light was shining in the distance. Medically, we could finally explain why I was losing the babies. The support of the doctors was unbelievable and now my faith was unwavering. With the support of my loving husband and family, we knew we would get through this.
I now look at my three amazing children every day and do not remember my life without them in it. I think of my three angels in heaven every day and do not remember my life without them, either. No matter how long or short they have been with me, they have all left footprints on my mind, body, heart and soul.
To my Camryn, Declan and Kade, my angels on earth, I will cherish your life and hold you close to protect you and love you forever. To my three angels in heaven, I pray for you nightly, to watch over me and the family you left behind. The pain of losing all of you are still so real and you have not been replaced. Please know that I love you with all my heart and I know we will be together, all of us, one day. Love, Mommy.
- Heather Bonner
I have always wanted to be a mommy. My husband and I decided that once I was done with nursing school we would start trying and were thrilled to find out that we were expecting on 12/31/09, just two weeks after finishing nursing school, our first month trying.
My pregnancy was fairly easy. I didn’t have severe morning sickness, just some nausea in the beginning. Our 8 week ultrasound was fantastic as was the 12 week first trimester screening. Our “ pumpkin” as we called the baby until we found out the sex was quite stubborn- moving when the ultrasound tech didn’t want her to and not moving when the tech wanted her to! I started to feel her move around 15 weeks. At our big ultrasound in April we found out we were expecting a baby girl.
She was again very stubborn so we got to have a second ultrasound a week later so they could get all of the views of her heart that they needed. I was excited to get to see her again. We had already decided on a name, Ella Marie. At 35 weeks I developed a case of PUPPPS, an itchy, harmless skin rash. Once that resolved, I felt great again and was so excited for Ella’ s arrival.
We had been house hunting the entire time I was pregnant. We lived in a one bedroom condo and wanted to find a house so that Ella would have her own room. We finally found a house that we loved in May. We closed the end of July. Although we had a lot of work to do to update the house, we were thrilled that all of our dreams were coming true- a house with a ton of potential and a baby girl on the way! I had planned to work until my due date (Sept 10th) or until I went into labor. I worked the night shift as a nurse and although I was exhausted, I was determined to work until the end of my pregnancy so I could spend as much time as possible at home with Ella once she was born.
All of my checkups had been perfect. The summer was hot, my feet swelled and I gained more weight than I wanted to, but my blood pressure was always great. I had two baby showers, one in my hometown and one where we live. Ella was going to be so spoiled! I had my 38 week check up on Monday 8/30. I was not dilated yet and Ella was moving around like her usual crazy self. We heard her heartbeat for what was to be the last time. I worked the night of 8/31. I thought that Ella was unusually quiet. I was hopeful that she was slowing down in anticipation of her big arrival. I left work that morning and went home to sleep- I was exhausted. I awoke around noon to go to the bathroom. I again noticed she was not moving much, but was so exhausted I fell right back asleep once I was back in bed. I again woke around 2:30pm. Again, I couldn’t get Ella to move. I lay on my left side, drank water, still nothing. Once my husband got home from work, I mentioned this to him. We went to Panera and picked up dinner. I got lemonade hoping the sugar would wake her up. We went to our new house so my husband could get some painting done. I sat in my comfy chair and ate my dinner and drank my lemonade. Still nothing. At this point I got very worried. I texted my mom who is a L&D nurse and asked her what I should do. She said I should call the OB if I was really worried, but that it was probably nothing.
I called the OB around 6:15pm and was told to go to the hospital for a non-stress test. I started to get upset over this. I asked if I could just come to the office and have them check her heartbeat, but they said no, to go to the hospital. We stopped at our condo so my husband could change out of his painting clothes and grab the hospital bag. We arrived at the hospital around 7pm.
One of the nurses led us to a triage room. She started by trying to find Ella’ s heartbeat with the Doppler. She couldn’t find it. She went to get the ultrasound machine. She returned with the ultrasound machine, a resident and the doctor from my OB practice. I realized this wasn’t going to be good. The doctor then told us that there was no heartbeat. We were devastated. The doctor told us I would need to be induced and deliver my little Ella.
They left the room so we could have some privacy. We both broke down and cried. I was 38wks 5days pregnant- this should not be happening. We had bought a new house so we would have a nursery for Ella. She had a closet full of beautiful baby girl clothes and a bright pink room.
Now instead of being excited to meet our daughter, we were devastated to find out we would never get to hear her cry, to watch her grow up or to take her home.
We called our parents. My parents were coming from out of town. I was so worried about them driving so far with the news I had just told them. My husband’s parents arrived shortly after we were led to our L&D room and my parents arrived a few hours later. I was given cervadil that night to soften my cervix. The next morning a cervical bulb was placed to help with dilation and pitocin was started. I labored all day with no pain medication. The cervical bulb fell out around 7:40pm. The OB broke my water at 8pm, I was 5cm dilated. The contractions started coming faster and were terribly painful. At this point I decided I could no longer handle the intense contractions and the horrible emotional pain. The anesthesiologist placed the epidural at 9pm. It took three tries because I was so scared and would not sit still. The pain relief was immediate once it was in.
I was checked again around 2:30am. I was fully dilated. It was time to push. At this point I freaked out. I didn’t think I could do it, I couldn’t push and deliver my daughter and not hear her cry. I am so thankful for my wonderful delivery nurse, my amazing husband and the support from my awesome mom. I started pushing with contractions at 3:15am. Forty minutes later, on September 3rd at 3:55am my beautiful Ella Marie was born. There were no cries to be heard except those from myself, my husband and my mom. Ella was perfect. She had daddy’s dark hair and his lips. She had my nose. She had the cutest long fingers and toes. She was 6lbs 8oz and 21 inches long. Perfect.
We were able to spend time with her until I was discharged at 7pm. I changed her and put a clean onesie and diaper on her. I napped with her. I held her and kissed her and cherished every moment I had. Our families got to meet her. In the afternoon we had a pastor come and bless her. My sister, who was in Argentina for a study abroad semester, was able to Skype in and be present for the blessing and our families were both present. The pastor performed a beautiful ceremony.
I'll always have a special place in my heart for the nurse who promised to take good care of Ella when we left. It was heartbreaking to leave the hospital without my Ella. The hardest part though, was going to the funeral home to plan her funeral. No one should have to bury their child. We ended up having her cremated so we could bring her home with us. We didn’t have a service because it would have been too much to bear at that time. I am thankful to have many pictures of my daughter. I cherish every one of them.
We have no reason for why her heart stopped. At delivery there was nothing apparent- the cord and placenta looked fine and Ella was perfect. Her autopsy and my blood work all came back normal. If I were asked if I knew the outcome of my pregnancy would I do it again, I would say yes in a heartbeat.
Although we didn’t get much time with Ella, the 39 weeks we had with her, along with the lessons we’ve learned since her passing have made us better people. My marriage is so much stronger than I ever thought possible. We’ve had to lean on each other throughout this and will continue to do so for the rest of our lives. We have learned who we can count on and who we can not. We have an amazing family support system and some pretty awesome friends. We know we have our little angel looking down over us and are so thankful that she has helped our three rainbow babies arrive safely into our arms.
- Lauren Colman
You think the moment you and your partner decide it’s time to have a family that it will happen instantly. Unfortunately it’s just not that easy for everyone, myself included. I wanted to share my story of infertility and infant loss in hopes that it can help someone else.
In 2011 my husband and I decided we wanted to start a family and began trying for a baby. After trying for about a year with no luck I spoke to my OB who suggested I take Provera (to get a period) and Clomid (to ovulate). For some reason after stopping the birth control pill I wasn't getting a period on my own. I did that for 3 months and still nothing so she suggested we see a fertility specialist. Since I had a few issues working against me we did not want to waste any time and we decided to do IVF. In March of 2013 we did our first IVF cycle. It was a lot of work, a lot of appointments and a lot of medication, but we were lucky that on the first try it worked!
I found out I was expecting a little boy and everything was going great. I felt good and had no problems at all, so I thought. At 36 weeks and 5 days I was rushed to the emergency room and had to have an emergency C-section. When I woke up I learned that my beautiful boy had to be resuscitated and we were both transferred to another hospital. After 2 days of intense testing we learned that he had suffered brain damage, amongst having a lot of other problems. If he survived he would suffer from many severe handicaps. He was so sick and we couldn’t stand to put him through any more misery, so at just 2 days old we decided to take him off of life support. We held him for 5 hours until he took his last breath. It was the worst time of my life and the best time of my life all rolled into one. The next morning all I heard was babies crying. I was discharged and left the hospital without my baby, with empty arms. Did this just all really happen? Why did this happen to us? Were we being punished for something? Babies aren’t supposed to die, especially my baby. I felt like I was living a nightmare.
I don’t think I fully comprehended what had happened until I went home and had to look at an empty nursery, and all of the baby things scattered throughout the house. I was fully ready for my baby boy and everything was set around the house for him. The next couples of months were just a blur. The pain and emptiness that you feel after losing a child is unbearable. You just can’t imagine going on with your life. Why is he gone? Why am I still here? It just doesn’t make sense. It should have been me instead of him. You become severely depressed and full of anxiety. Seeing everyone go on with their lives while yours has completely stopped is very difficult. You can’t help but be jealous of every pregnant woman you see.
The truth is nothing will ever be the same again, especially holidays. Instead of making him his Easter basket I decorate his grave. Instead of planning his birthday party I am releasing balloons and baking a cake in honor of him for my husband and I to eat by ourselves. All I have left of him is small memory.
I later learned that he had Velamentous Cord Insertion, basically his umbilical cord was not inserted properly into the placenta. It is something that is easily diagnosed via ultrasound in the second trimester. The blood that I had lost prior to going to the emergency room was his, that is why he had suffered such severe damage. Had it been diagnosed his outcome would have been very different, and there is a very good chance that he would have been fine.
I want everyone that is experiencing their own kind of loss to know that slowly as time goes on, you will be okay. The biggest thing that helped me was talking to other women that have been through similar circumstances. That and just letting time pass. No your life will never be the same again, but you do learn to go on. You don’t ever get over it, or through it, but you learn to live with it. I promise you that you will laugh and be happy again. You will even be able to think about your baby and talk about them without crying. You just start to live a new normal, and your loss becomes a part of you. That baby will always be your child and no one can take that away from you.
Where am I now? Well as soon as I was medically cleared we started trying again right away. This time the infertility issues were even worse. My next IVF cycle was a chemical pregnancy, and I had multiple failed attempts after that. We tried using a surrogate and that didn’t work either. The first attempt failed and the with the second attempt the embryo didn't survive the thaw. We then decided we were solely going to focus on adoption it happened. I was pregnant ……naturally!
In August 2015 I was blessed with another beautiful little boy. I had a planned c-section and everything went perfectly. He is now 2 years old and he absolutely lights up our lives, he is our everything. He in no way replaces my first born son but he definitely has made my days easier and brighter.
Yes this journey is a difficult one, whether its infertility or loss, or both. I believe the best things in life are worth fighting for, so that’s exactly what we have to do. Don’t ever give up or lose hope.
Eight months ago I was at the bottom of a deep well.
Imagine being trapped in a confined space so tight, dark and dank that you can’t see where it begins and where it ends. It just is. All you know is that it exists, and you are intrinsically part of it. Any effort to escape is futile because there is not even enough energy to lift your head up and search for a distant opening.
The only comfort and yet other horror I had was knowing that I wasn’t alone. My husband was in the well with me, squeezing my hand tightly but just as encased and just as desperate as me.
There really is no other way I can describe the unbearable loss of losing our first child than this analogy. And this weak depiction still does not portray what we were feeling at the time to the fullest extent.
At 23 weeks, we thought we were safe. We were wrong.
There were so many terrible things that I remember from those first days. The confusion, the pain, the inability to do simple things like cook or change the sheets on the bed. That was when I was first thrown into that well. And then there were times later on that made it worse. The doctors telling me it would be difficult to get pregnant on my own again. Trying to get back to a “normal” life of just being married when we were supposed to be a family of three. Living with this tragedy as others went on with their lives and ours were changed forever.
I found women who had gone through the same experiences as me and developed friendships that I will carry for the rest of my life. I discovered a newfound appreciation for my parents, who drove me to the grocery store when I couldn’t even go out to buy a gallon of milk. My faith expounded, leading to me a community of people who helped me grow into a fuller, richer version of myself. I saw my husband through new eyes, as the the man who stayed strong, who literally lifted me out of bed every day and gave me a reason to live.
I appreciated everything with new eyes. When something you love more than yourself is taken away so quickly, every moment and memory you have left has to be squeezed like wringing juice from an orange, and I tasted every last drop.
And then three months after our loss, I became pregnant again, against all odds. My children, the one who is kicking inside me now and the one I lost are only seven months apart. The saddest and yet most hopeful thing I know to be true is that this boy I carry now would not be here if we did not lose his brother.
I didn’t know back then that when I was trapped in the darkness, there was a way out. If I could have reached my hand down that well and extended it into the past eight months of worry, of sadness, of fear and desperation, I would have. I wish I could have grasped my husband and my own hand, and shared the future knowledge that good things could come, and would come again.
I don’t know if tragedy like this will befall me again in my future. I cannot say what will happen, good or bad. But right now, I have to be grateful for all the good things in my life, including those that were hard earned by sorrow.
In this very moment, today is a good day.
It was January 2009. After being married for a year and a half, we decided we were ready to start a family. While I knew that it may not happen right away, we were young, healthy, and had no family history of complications so I didn't really expect difficulties. After only two months of trying, we got pregnant in March and had a positive pregnancy test on April 1st. I would soon realize the irony of that date.
I was thrilled to be carrying this tiny life, even when morning sickness got the best of me. After my first OB appointment at 8 weeks, we shared the excitement with our family and friends. We went back at 10 weeks for our first ultrasound, only to be told that the baby was only measuring 9 weeks and no longer had a heartbeat. I remember asking the doctor to check again, begging him to double check with doppler and ultrasound. Graciously, he did, even though he knew the outcome. I was numb. I just sat on the table sobbing, as my husband held my hand. I had no words. The doctor gave us the options, but to me the only option I could wrap my mind around was going home and letting it happen naturally. As if maybe there was a mistake. Maybe there would be a miracle. I left that day with the ultrasound picture, the last piece of my baby's life I would have to hold on to.
After letting the news set in, I had my husband call our family and friends. I still couldn't bring myself to say it out loud. The problem with letting it happen naturally though is that you have to wait for it to happen. Pure agony. Not only was I trying to make it through the day without crying every hour, I couldn't leave my house in fear that the process would start out in public somewhere. Finally after 8 days of waiting, on May 18, 2009, my first baby passed from my body. The physical pain was much more than I could have ever imagined, not having had a baby yet. I labored in the bathtub for hours until finally it was over. I passed out from exhaustion and pain, and my husband carried me into our bed. I woke up the next morning hoping it was only a nightmare, but realizing that I was empty.
The doctor advised us to wait a few months before trying again, so we did. This time it was not easy. It took 11 months of being hopeful and then let down again before becoming pregnant. During this time, I truly was only a shadow of myself. I didn't know a single person in my age group who had been through a loss, and I have never felt so alone in my whole life. Nobody knew the pain I was carrying daily. Nobody knew the heartbreak that I faced monthly. Nobody had the right words to say even when they tried. Even my husband couldn't truly feel the depth of my sorrow. I couldn't make it though a baby shower without excusing myself early. I resented every perfectly round pregnant belly I saw. I was angry with my family and friends for not asking me about it more, or not saying how sorry they were. People didn't know what to say so they said nothing, and that killed me even more. Everyone's world kept spinning, while mine was standing still.
We finally became pregnant again in July 2010, and while thrilled, I was terrified. I couldn't imagine going through that again. To our greatest joy, our beautiful and healthy son was born in February 2011. My days were restored with hope and thankfulness. I still thought about my first baby often, and the date is still marked on my calendar with hearts, but I was no longer consumed by the grief.
Two years later, we gave birth to another beautiful baby boy! We got pregnant right away with him, and I felt like my body knew what to do now!
In October 2013, we learned we were pregnant yet again! We were so thankful to be welcoming a new blessing. I had survived the first trimester, made it through the morning sickness, and was very noticeably pregnant. I went to the OB for my 16 week ultrasound appointment by myself because my husband was home with our boys, expecting nothing less than a perfect check-up. But once again, I laid on the table sobbing as the doctor told me that the baby had stopped growing around 14-15 weeks and there was no longer a heartbeat. I was in disbelief. I was extremely angry. The anger definitely outweighed the sadness this time. I couldn't believe this was happening again. I chose to go home and let it happen naturally again this time, knowing that this being a late miscarriage, it would be very similar to a birth. Again, I waited for it to happen. Then on the evening of January 23, 2014, my water broke and I started contractions. I got into the bathtub and waited for the worst. Fortunately, since this was my 4th baby, things moved very quickly. Almost too quickly, because before I knew it, I was holding the lifeless body of our son in my hands. His tiny body was perfectly formed. Nothing could have prepared me for that moment. I screamed with everything I had. My husband and I cried together. Thankfully, both of my other boys were sleeping peacefully in bed during this time. Then things got scary because the placenta was not delivering on it's own, and I was losing too much blood. I was rushed to the hospital by ambulance, where I had to have a D&C to remove the placenta.
I went home to my husband and children, once again with empty arms. We took pictures, our little boy was buried, and I only get to carry him in my heart. Even though the sorrow was just as immense as the first time, it was a different experience this time because I had two little boys at home who needed me to get up and keep going, one of which who was still nursing full time. I would make it through the days, only to fall apart during the nights. However, I was thankful for the beautiful women in my life who had walked down similar paths and opened their hearts to me to help me through.
I honestly thought I was done. I didn’t think I could ever have enough strength or faith to be pregnant again. But in 2016, we decided to start trying and soon were expecting another baby. I started bleeding at 8 weeks, and I rushed to the doctor, expecting the worst. The ultrasound showed that there were two sacs, but only one developing baby. I didn’t know what to think, but chose to hold on to the good news of a healthy baby still growing. I continued to bleed until 13 weeks, living in constant panic that my body would fail me again. But in March of 2017, we welcomed our beautiful son. His name means “Light after Sorrow” and he is a true rainbow in our lives.
I still ache, and a part of me will always belong to my precious babies in heaven. My calendar will always display hearts for their birth dates. I will always talk about them proudly and share their stories whenever I can. I miss them and often imagine my life with them here on earth, but I also remain thankful for the three boys that I get to hug and kiss each day.
I have seen dark days, and I have known the joy of having children. I know that when you are in the middle of the darkness, sometimes nothing helps. But the best encouragement I can offer is that there are women who understand. They have been there. They want to listen. Open yourself up and realize that there is healing in talking about it. There is no shame in infertility, pregnancy loss, or infant loss. You do not have to carry this burden alone. The other thing that helped me tremendously is accepting the fact that there is no why or what if. There is nothing you could have done differently, and there is nothing to blame yourself for. Easier said than done, I know. One day though, you will let go of the questions. Lastly, there is joy again. It may take more time than we want, and it may end differently than we pictured, but new joy will be found.
Before having my son, I had a miscarriage. It was physically and emotionally painful, but I eventually accepted it. I had thought that since I managed to get pregnant so easily the first time, getting pregnant again would come just as easily. I was wrong. My son was eventually conceived with the help of fertility treatment. Doctors told us that it was likely that if we wanted to get pregnant again we would be able to do it on our own. They were wrong.
We had always wanted to have two children in our family and began trying for a second child when my son was around two. After little success, we wound up receiving more fertility treatment. We tried for over a year and a half with the doctors with no success. There were many painful tests, early morning appointments, expensive co-pays, medicines, surgeries (6 for me in total), and a lot of guilt on my part.
So much more than with my miscarriage, the fertility treatment was so much more emotionally difficult for me (and physically too), and I just felt so very guilty. I know that logically this made no sense. If my kidneys or some other organ were not healthy then no one would think anything of me getting medical care for this, but society seems to fault women who do not just accept that their reproductive health is less than 100%. It is somehow the women’s fault for not preventing this, or it is God’s will and she should accept it, or she is just selfish for wanting something she is not meant to have. Even though I know feeling bad for seeking medical treatment is illogical, I still felt guilty. Thoughts kept running through my head like, “perhaps I am not meant to have more children and need to just let it go” or “perhaps I am not a fit mother so genetics are stepping in so that I do not mess up any more kids and I am screwing with that in some way.” I felt guilty that my body is not able to do what it is supposed to be able to do - that it would fail me on such a basic level. This is something that animals can manage to do without medical intervention, what the hell is wrong with me that I cannot! I felt guilty that I was not able to give my son a sibling and watch him and this unknown offspring grow up together.
Whenever you are trying to get pregnant waiting out your monthly cycle is torturous. The anticipation is agony and it is dreadful when yet another month goes by and you are unsuccessful. With fertility treatment, that feeling was intensified so much more because not only did it mean that we failed yet again, but it also meant even more tests, blood work, hormone medication that turned me a little bit crazy, time, and money in the months to come. Eventually, it just became too much. We decided to stop the fertility treatment and accept the fact that it is unlikely we will get pregnant on our own.
For this decision I feel guilty too. I feel guilty that I am giving up and that I didn’t have the gumption to keep trying. I feel guilty that I am not entirely certain it was the right decision. Every time I am near a baby, I question the decision we made. I feel guilty that I am sad about this decision. I also feel guilty that I actually feel a little relieved that the anxiety and stress of treatment is behind me.
I know that I am absolutely blessed to have my son in my life and I am grateful for him everyday. I also know that there are women out there who are not able to have any children who might feel that I am selfish for wanting another child or selfish for being upset that I cannot have more. However, I know that wanting more children does not discount my love for my son in any way, nor does their difficulties minimize the grief that I have over not being able to have the life that I once imagined.
This grief in so many ways is more difficult because it is a private grief. It is not something we talk about with others. We suffer it alone. In the off chance that we do talk about it we are often told things like, “you can always adopt” or “just be happy you already have one child” or “just give it time, it will happen.” Although these words are offered in comfort, the person saying them doesn’t realize that they sting. Adoptions are too expensive for most people. You would never tell someone who has two children that they are selfish for having that second child, and trust me we have given it plenty of time and it is not working. Society says we should just accept that this happening, so we grieve quietly and alone.
Despite all of that, my husband and son are truly the best things that have ever happened to me. I am so very fortunate to have them in my life. I have learned to let go of my grief and my guilt and just appreciate all of the time that I have with them. I love seeing my son smile and watch him develop into his own person with his own silly sense of humor. I love seeing pieces of my husband and myself in his personality, appearance, and language. Knowing that we created this wonderful little individual gives me such a sense of pride and joy that gratitude is the only word I can think to describe it.
The pregnancy felt like a tangled up T of Christmas lights glowing on the inside of my body. It felt radiant like possibility, buzzing energy, love, and family.
I was standing at the stove cooking dinner, moving the spatula across the pan. I felt the buzz of my pregnancy stop buzzing. I felt the life leave. In one tiny second, just standing there in the kitchen, the lights went out. It felt like the lights just fell out no longer able to fight gravity they spilled into the earth, they were replaced by blood and ache.
AN ANGEL IN THE BOOK OF LIFE WROTE DOWN MY BABY'S
BIRTH. THEN WHISPERED AS HE CLOSED THE BOOK,
"TOO BEAUTIFUL FOR EARTH."
AN ANGEL IN THE BOOK OF LIFE WROTE DOWN MY BABY'S
BIRTH. THEN WHISPERED AS HE CLOSED THE BOOK,
"TOO BEAUTIFUL FOR EARTH."