Finding hope - Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day
The topic of loss has been weighing on me heavily lately. In the last year, I've debated about whether to share something so personal in such a public forum, but as today in particular is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, I thought I would break the silence and share in the hopes that this can bring a little light to someone else's pain.
In the last year and a half, I personally experienced the painful losses of four babies, all months apart from one another. I use "I", instead of "we", not to diminish the feelings of loss and grief that June and my husband also experienced, but in our case, and I believe in many cases, I think that the losses have had the most devastating effect on the mother. This is my personal journey through loss and grief. And until we experienced it, I had no idea how much my heart could break over and over again.
Last year in June, literally the night after we celebrated our daughter June's 6th birthday, I experienced one of the scariest episodes in my life. I woke up in the middle of the night (it was a Saturday) bleeding heavily. I had known that I was a little over 9 weeks along, and because my morning sickness had been so severe, we had announced to our daughter that she was going to be a big sister! She was beside herself excited -- that is her biggest wish in life, to take care of a baby sister ("brother is ok too, but definitely would love a sister..."). Having had an easy pregnancy with my first, it never occurred to me that something like this could happen. I called the nurse line and they assured me that I will see my doctor first thing on Monday, although she suspected that I had a miscarriage.
Miscarriage. It was such a foreign word that I never wanted to think about. I never thought it could happen to us. My heart hurt, and I couldn't shake the anxiety all weekend long. Then came the ultrasound with my doctor on Monday. We saw what appeared to be an empty gestational sac. My doctor looked at me and said empathetically, "I'm so sorry, but it looks like you've had a miscarriage...the pregnancy was not viable." I burst into tears as she handed me some tissue and walked out of the room to give me and hubby time to process. When she came back in, she gave me the choice to let the pregnancy pass naturally, or to have a procedure called D&C done, where they surgically remove the pregnancy tissues. Hanging on to hope, I decided to let it pass: "Maybe it's not true, maybe there is still a baby in there."(I thought to myself anyway).
The following week I continued to bleed heavily every day, and after a follow up ultrasound, she confirmed that the sac was still there, and that I needed to take medication to help it to pass quickly. For the next 3-4 hours after I took the medication I had started bleeding profusely. June had come home by then and hubby decided to let me rest, so they went out for ice cream.
During my last trip to the bathroom, I got up and suddenly blacked out for a moment. I couldn't stand up without falling to the floor. So I called hubby who immediately called 9-1-1. Thankfully the fire department is 2 minutes from our house so the whole crew came just as hubby came home with June, still holding her ice cream cone and licking it. I was rushed to the ER immediately and had to have a blood transfusion. The OB/GYN on call had to perform an emergency D&C right there to get the rest of the pregnancy out. There was no time to get drugs, so I endured excruciating pain. But then it was over. She checked with an ultrasound and everything seemed to be normal again. That sac was gone. the last pieces of what would have been our baby was gone forever. I wept. And as I started to process what had happened, I felt like something wasn't right - I was still bleeding. The nurses alerted the ER doctor, who tried to convince me that my bleeding was not active. They were ready to discharge me when I asked if I could stay longer and get a second blood transfusion so I wouldn't pass out again at home. They agreed, but as soon as the blood transfusion started, I lost consciousness. The nurses ran into the hallway screaming for help, and there was pandemonium. Hubby was scared he had lost me.
They called the OB/GYN back and she knew immediately that something wasn't right. I wasn't supposed to keep bleeding now that there was no more pregnancy to pass. Because I had lost so much blood, my body finally shut down. I was wheeled back into the OR for a second D&C, which finally came to an end. Even though the physical trauma was over, the loss of this baby quickly took a mental toll on me. We had given her a name, imagined where her nursery would be, and guessed at what she would be like, and the best part was getting to see June become a big sister. It was a difficult thing to come to terms with all of this taken away from us overnight. I spiraled into depression, crying a lot, breaking down randomly at every reminder of the baby that we had lost.
The odd thing with miscarriages is, as often as women experience it, no one seems to talk about it, as if there is shame associated with it. So when it happened, I felt completely alone, like no one understood how I felt. I recalled one friend who had told me she had a miscarriage before, so I relied on her for support. Somehow, our family got through those dark days/weeks/months. I considered taking a break from the business to fully process the grief. But instead, I pourded myself into it even more, as a way to distract myself from the pain. Then, four months later, in October, we found out that we were expecting again. This time, the positive test carried a lot of baggage with it. I was scared that history would repeat itself, and...sadly it did. We had another loss, and I ended up at the hospital again.
The end of 2018 ended with my feeling so confused and angry at God. Why did he allow so much pain and grief to enter into our family? Does God even care? Is He there?!
Then I heard a sermon at a church we were visiting in LA over Christmas break. The pastor spoke about how in the midst of pain and suffering, we have to remember the good too, and how we wanted to see God work in 2019. I wrestled with Him for months and was finally starting to come out of this fog, when in March of 2019, it happened again. Yet another miscarriage. Then another-in July. It felt like a cruel game that God was playing with me. Every pregnancy would give me a glimmer of hope, only to be snuffed out instantly. I would start to come out of the darkness, only to be plunged back in again. Baby showers were often painful reminders of what I couldn't have. It felt like everything in the universe was taunting me, showing me what I had "failed to do". Even though I knew there was nothing I had done to lose the babies, I still felt like I failed as a mother to these babies.
And one of the hardest things was the impact that these losses had on my marriage relationship, and to some extent, even my relationship with our daughter June. It took a lot to communicate to them what I was experiencing, what I needed from them to feel supported and understood, and that was a first step toward healing and mending. I told June that I felt like I was failing her by not being able to give her a baby sister. I think that helped her to understand me better. And recently, she finally told me that she was perfectly OK if she didn't have any siblings. It gave me great relief because it was agonizing to even decide whether or not we were done having kids.
The last several months since our last miscarriage in July, I started to open up to more friends and connected with a few moms (some on IG) who have experienced losses, and they helped me to see hope and that God can answer prayers. With their encouragement and my family's acceptance (of where I've been), I am finally feeling OK. I have a profound gratitude for the perfect daughter I do have and love with all my heart, and recognize the many blessings that God has given me. I have accepted that if it's God's will, we can become a family of four, but I am content with remaining this family of three. I don't think I will ever be completely over my grief, but I am OK where I am finally.
I know this was rather long-winded and probably had more details than you might care to read through. But I hope that by my sharing my journey with you, that some of you who are going through similar losses may know that you are never alone in your grief, your pain, and that there is hope in a God who sees you and will never leave you in your sorrows. That is my prayer for you, that you would experience hope in the midst of loss, and respite from your grieving heart.
with love & hugs,
Our photos were captured by the talented @jodilynnphotography. Jodi, we will forever treasure these photos of our family of three. Thank you so much for sharing your gift with us.
June wore the Little Princess dress in Pearl and I paired my Princess Dove skirt with our All Wrapped Up velour top in Slate. M/U/H by my sweet friend @beautybysofiabee.