This week was infant and pregnancy loss awareness week and, to be honest, it was hard to focus on anything else.
Some of you may know that Will and I lost a baby on the 4th of July 2016. However, I’ve never actually sat down to write about that loss or the struggles we experienced in conceiving Winifred. I’d like to do that now. *some of this might be triggering if you’ve experienced a miscarriage*
The summer of 2016 was sweet. I had just finished up my first year of teaching, we celebrated our first anniversary, and I was about to stand next to my sister as she married the man of her dreams. It was wonderful. I was home in Houston, helping prepare for all the wedding festivities, when I realized I was late for my period. I figured it was probably from all the stress of my sister’s wedding, so I tried to not think too much about it. A few days went by and I confided in my sister what was happening. She said, “Oh boy, are we about to be in a Rachel and Monica situation?”. I laughed, thinking how extremely unlikely it was that I would be pregnant. Although, in reality, it was extremely LIKELY that I was pregnant. Will and I were doing nothing to prevent it, I was just in denial.
Being a mom was something I’d always wanted! I could picture myself with kids, a million of them. I couldn’t wait to experience motherhood and all that it entailed. So, why was I so terrified? Will and I had been married for a year, we both had amazing jobs, and we were deliriously happy. Wouldn’t this just be the icing on the cake? It was time to to know for sure if I was going to be a mom or just freaking myself out. My sister and I snuck off to buy pregnancy tests, smuggling them back into our parents’ house. I waited until the next morning to take it, per the mommy blogs’ instructions. The test was negative. “I’m sorry, what?”, I thought. How could that be possible?? I was 12 days late, and I was NEVER late. Maybe I really was just stressed. I tried to just focus on my sister’s wedding, but something inside me felt so off.
For the next three days I took a test every morning. Negative. Frustration kicked in as I looked at negative test after negative test. What the actual heck? My boobs were sore, I was exhausted, and the smell of food made me absolutely sick. Was I having an hysterical pregnancy? Was I really just THAT stressed? Am I just insane? All possible explanations.
On July 1st, 2016 at 4:00am my whole world stopped. “Pregnant 1-2 weeks” popped up on a ClearBlue Digital. I dropped the test and fell to my knees on my childhood bathroom floor. For about 20 minutes I sat in shock as the weight of this news enveloped me. Then, I burst into happy tears. Was this the plan? No. Was I ready? No. Was this the happiest I’d ever been? Yes. There was a little life inside of me, planned or not. My dream was coming true. I was going to be a mommy and Will was going to be a daddy.
I was exploding with emotion. Will wasn’t in town yet and because my sister, Rachel, was the only one that new of my “lateness”, I sprinted into her room. (Keep in mind that it’s 4:30am) I jumped on her bed grinning ear to ear. Rachel, shocked from my abrupt entrance, sits up groggily and asked what the hell was going on. All I could do was hold the test about an inch from her face whispering “LOOK!”. She grabbed her glasses and tried to focus on what it was. When she realized what she was looking at she says, “Are you freaking serious??”, and we both just laughed. This would be the biggest secret we would both ever keep. It was, after all, the day before her wedding!! I couldn’t wait for Will to come into town, and I decided to wait until Rachel’s wedding was over to tell him.
Rachel’s wedding was absolutely perfect. She was the most beautiful bride on the planet and joy filled the day! When Will and I got back to my parents’ house, I told him I had a little present for him and handed him a tiny box. He opened the box to find a tiny green pacifier with a piece of paper saying “Baby Lou coming soon!”. What happened next makes my heart twist when I think about it today. Will looked at me with tear filled eyes, said “Babe…are you serious?” and pulled me into the biggest hug. We laughed, we happy cried, and we laughed again. I’m gonna tell you right now, there are few moments that have made me happier than seeing his face when he found out he was going to be a father. Will and I decided to tell my parents that night. According to my calculations I was about 5 or 6 weeks along. I know that was before it’s truly safe to tell people, but we wouldn’t see our families again until Thanksgiving, and we wanted to tell them in person. So, we packed up the pacifier and walked downstairs.
Now remember, my parents had literally JUST got home from their daughter’s wedding and were more than exhausted. Still, as in shock as they were, they joined in our joy of the life that was coming! The next day, we told Will’s family during his father’s birthday dinner. Will’s brother and his family were there, which made the announcement all the more special. We were over the moon to have both of our families praying over this baby. During the next 24 hours we went into baby hyper drive! I downloaded all the baby apps, we tried out baby names, and dreamed of what would become of this little life. We both KNEW it was a girl. On the app, I learned that at 4 weeks, the baby is the size of a poppy seed. “Poppy” I said, “What a cute name”. It stuck. We referred to the baby as Poppy, it was perfect.
On the morning of the 4th of July, Will rolled over and kissed my belly. “Good Morning, Poppy”, he whispered. I wanted to stay in that moment forever, everything was like a dream, but the 4th of July party my parents were throwing required all hands on deck. I went to the bathroom to get ready for the day and felt sick. “Morning sickness”, I thought, weirdly excited. I sat on the toilet and saw blood. Bright red, thick, and lots of it. I called to Will and he came running. I showed him and we both just starred at each other, unsure and surprised. “Go get my mom”, I said as tears rolled down my face. The cramping started as my mom climbed the stairs. “Mom, I think I’m having a miscarriage” I said between sobs. She looked at the blood and nodded. “Why don’t you get in the shower”, she said, hugging me. I obeyed. A dark feeling came over me as I watched the blood go down the drain. My whole body felt heavy as the water pounded my back. This wasn’t real, this wasn’t happening. We’d made plans, we had names picked out, we WANTED this baby. I crumpled in the shower, sobbing. My thoughts were racing, wondering what I had done wrong or what I could have done to save the baby. I begged God for this not to be real. I pleaded with Jesus to make another miracle and keep this baby alive. I knew my prayers were futile in that moment, but I had to try.
The hours following, Will and I just laid in bed and held each other. My parents’ party had started but we stayed upstairs. My cramping had worsened and I just wanted to be in bed. Will left to tell his family about the loss. I hate that he had to go there by himself, I can’t imagine how lonely that must have been for him. We had just told his family not even 24 hours ago. A part of me felt guilty, like we were taking away a present we had given to our families. When my parents’ party started my cousin and my friend’s mom (who are both Labor and Delivery nurses) came to comfort me. They were saying all the right things, but I couldn’t hear them. All I could think about was my dreams crashing down. When Will came back, we decided to join the party and do our best to be ok. As hard as it was, being around people we loved most really helped our hearts.
It took a very long time for me to feel like myself again. It was like a little piece of me left with the baby. I was only 5-6 weeks along and I’d only known about Poppy for 4 days but it felt like a lifetime. It changed me. I started to feel ridiculous. There were women who had been much farther along than me and lost their actual babies. There were women who had carried to term and had a still birth. Did I really have a right to grieve as much as I was? I resisted sharing with people at the risk of being dramatic. The pain was still so real. I felt alone, vulnerable, and miserable. I felt stuck. The doctors said it was safe to try again next month, but we weren’t ready. Our hearts weren’t ready and, to be quite honest, I was terrified to try.
“At least you know you CAN get pregnant.”
“There was something just wrong with the chromosomes.”
“This is more common than you think.”
“Everything happens for a reason.”
All things said out of the most sincere of places, but none of them helped. I wanted my baby back in my belly.
Fast forward to 2017. Will and decided for real that we would start trying and I was still terrified. What if I lost another one? What if it’s still born? What if my body can’t do the one thing that a woman’s body is suppose to do? I prayed a lot through those fears during this process but it never got easier, I just had to trust in a God that gives and takes away.
In September of 2017, I found myself looking at the faintest of second pink lines on a First Response Test. I was overwhelmed with hope! I’d become obsessed with tracking my cycle and testing 5 days before I was scheduled to start my period. We’d really wanted to get pregnant in September so I could have the baby right when school was getting out. You know what they say about making plans right? I showed Will the test. Naturally, he was unsure about the validity of the faint pink line, but every app says that a line is a line. My eggo was preggo. To be safe, I took a test again the next day. To my joy, the second line was still there! Experience told me to hold my breath and wait for the other shoe to drop. It did. 3 Days later, I was bleeding. This was my first “Chemical Pregnancy”. To my knowledge, a chemical pregnancy is when the egg gets fertilized but doesn’t implant in the uterine wall. Your body starts making hormones to prepare for a baby (hence the positive test) but the pregnancy doesn’t “stick”. Most of me was numb and extremely disappointed. We’d been trying for a while and this was my first glimmer of hope. Will and I took some breaths and held each other. Will said that we could try again but I wasn’t sure. I didn’t know how I’d get through this season of life with my heart still in tact. To be honest, I didn’t.
I had my second Chemical in October. This time, I was furious. I was furious at God for treating my fertility like a yo-yo, dangling it in front of me and snapping it back up. He and I had several rough conversations over the course of that month. I gave in. I stopped tracking my ovulation and stopped the test strips. I focused on my relationship with Will and we started researching the process of becoming foster parents.
In December 2017, I found myself late again. I refused to test, waiting for the inevitable. It never came. I could feel my body starting to change and I was full on freaking out. On December 15th at 4:32 in the morning another First Response told me there was DEFINITELY a baby in my belly. The second line was so dark that it pulled the dye from the control line. I’d never had a test THAT positive. I burst out of the bathroom and ran to our room hysterically crying. Poor Will was so confused as I shoved the test in his face. “Are you happy?” He asked. I told him that I was unbelievably happy, but what I didn’t tell him was how unbelievably scared I was at the same time. I didn’t think my heart could handle another loss. I prayed with all of my heart for this bean to stick for good.
And stick she did. Winifred joined us 9 months later, perfectly healthy.
This pregnancy was not perfect, it was scarred. My heart had scars from the losses. I didn’t let myself get attached to her until about 25 weeks. It’s something I feel guilty about to this day. I would feel her move and kick but I wouldn’t let myself picture a future for my child until we were in the “viability zone” of the pregnancy. I put walls up because of the pain I’d experienced before her. I’m not proud of that but it’s what my brain had to do to cope with the anxiety. I’m not sure if those scars will heal or if they’ll affect my next pregnancy (God willing there is one). But I do know that I’m sitting here starring at the most perfect child and my heart is so so happy.
I still grieve for my babies in little ways. I got a P. tattooed on my arm to remind me of Poppy and to pray for our little lives in heaven. I know that one day we will all be together as a family one day.
Losing a baby is hard, no matter how far along you are. It was difficult. I’ll tell you what, though. Sweeping my feelings under the rug didn’t make feel better. Trying to hide my grief didn’t make me feel better. Talking about it made me feel better. Letting myself feel my feelings made me feel better. Sharing my experiences made me feel better. So, if you’re going through this, talk about it. If you know someone who is going through this, don’t use a cliche phrase to try and comfort them. Just let them feel their feelings and be there for them. It takes a village.