October is known for being Breast Cancer Awareness month, but do you know that it’s also National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month? In 1988, then-President Ronald Reagan declared October a month to honor those who have lost children:
When a child loses his parent, they are called an orphan. When a spouse loses her or his partner, they are called a widow or widower. When parents lose their child, there isn’t a word to describe them. This month recognizes the loss so many parents experience across the United States and around the world. It is also meant to inform and provide resources for parents who have lost children due to miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, molar pregnancy, stillbirths, birth defects, SIDS, and other causes.
Alamo City Moms Blog is honored to bring you a three-day series of stories from moms who have suffered the pain of losing a child. Our goal is to let you know that if you are grieving or have experienced a similar loss, you are not alone.
Pregnant. It’s a word that changes an infertile’s life forever. The moment the word flashed across my digital pregnancy test, my heart felt joy like never before. After years of seeing Not Pregnant, I was stunned to see the word my eyes had longed to read staring back at me on the test. Tears of happiness immediately followed along with an overwhelming sense of relief. We got there; we did it; we are having a baby!
I couldn’t wait to share my news. I wanted to wear a flashing neon sign, to declare it to anyone with whom I came in contact. I wasn’t shy in sharing our journey to get to this place, so why would I hide my good news? My husband, Blake, and I made our official announcement to my family that evening at my niece’s birthday party: Come May we would be a happy family of three.
The next few weeks were spent browsing baby items, planning a gender reveal party, pinning nursery inspirations, and at night Blake and I would discuss the names of our baby-to-be. I would daydream about putting my ultrasound picture up on Facebook, announcing to the world that this girl is finally getting her precious baby.
Soon it was time for my ultrasound—a day I’d been waiting for my entire life. I was finally going to see my tiny jellybean on a black-and-white sonogram machine. I remember work going by so slowly that day. The anticipation was just too much; I felt like I was going to burst. While we waited in the doctor’s office I was nervous with excitement. I was fearless, not thinking anything could go wrong.
After visiting with our doctor it was time for baby’s debut: his first picture, and our first time to hear the sweet sound of his heart beating. The sonogram wand was put in place… There was my uterus—OK, no big deal… I remembering searching that tiny screen: “Where’s my jellybean? Where is the black blob?” There was nothing in my uterus.
My doctor didn’t say much, just to get dressed and meet him back in his office. He even said, “You might be off on your dates.” I looked helplessly at Blake, my backbone and the rock in our relationship. It didn’t even cross his mind after seeing nothing on the screen that anything was wrong. But I knew something wasn’t right.
My fearless attitude was out the window; something was wrong, very wrong. Our doctor informed us that I was most likely experiencing an ectopic pregnancy, a non-viable pregnancy. “What in the world is he talking about? What does this mean? Is the baby going to be OK? Where is the baby?” These are just some of the questions I immediately had, and in that moment, Google became my best friend. From that point forward, I Googled obsessively, frantically searching for the answers to the millions of questions that inundated my daily life.
For the next three weeks I went in for blood draws and visited the doctor every two days, ultrasound after ultrasound, only to ultimately be told we would need to terminate the pregnancy. I was left breathless. Why was this happening? This was our baby, the child we so desperately wanted, the person we tried to conceive for years. No one wanted this precious babe more than we did. I loved this baby; I didn’t want to lose it.
I remember going to the hospital for the procedure. I remember thinking it was so morbid, so depressing, and yet also seemingly so normal to the nurses who took care of me. I hated every second of it—what it meant, what I lost, what I couldn’t understand. When you lose something you love so fiercely, it shatters you. I was broken. Afterwards people would tell me how sorry they were, or that it wasn’t meant to be, and God has a plan for us.
Those were not the things I wanted to hear.
I wanted to grieve the loss of my baby. I wanted to know I wasn’t alone. I needed to know that this has happened to other women and that hope was out there in the midst of unspeakable loss.
My heart hardened that day, but little did I know I would see those words again nine months later. It was July, and I had just returned home from Colorado. My husband and I had begun our fertility treatments in April, and we had renewed hope in one day becoming pregnant with a viable baby. I took the test and then quickly tucked it away in a drawer without waiting to see the results develop.
After eating dinner I returned to the bathroom to take a peek. Two pink lines—two very pink lines—and a heart full of fear. No longer was I that naïve woman who thought that pregnancy equals baby. The journey had begun all over again.
Of course we found out on a Friday, so Saturday morning was spent at a clinic getting my blood drawn, followed by a phone call from our fertility doctor. She told us we were, in fact, pregnant, and I would need to go back on Monday for a repeat blood draw. This was exciting news, so I naturally let my guard down a bit. “We did it, and this time it’s going to work.”
Monday morning I went in for my blood draw, and we waited to hear from our doctor. We got the call, and it was the beginning of the end again. The levels weren’t increasing the way that they should, and it was time to come in for an early ultrasound. My knees were shaking as we sat in the waiting room, my stomach was in knots, and all I could think about was not seeing anything in my uterus. I wasn’t excited. I was terrified.
Once again the ultrasound wand was put in place… There it was: my gestational sac, the tiny jellybean I had waited my whole life to see. It was beautiful. There was my baby, in the right spot, in my womb. I burst into tears. I cherished that moment of knowing that baby was where it was supposed to be. It was too early to detect a heartbeat, and we weren’t out of the woods yet either. We were to return in one week.
After a loss you are more cautious: This life that is inside of you is more delicate, because you know how fragile and precious it is. I remember just wanting to lie in bed all day to keep this baby safe. For the next three weeks we would go see the doctor weekly, sometimes twice in one week, to measure our little one’s growth. Each visit we would see the growth, and my heart would soften in the spot that had become so hard.
Then the day came when our little one’s heart stopped beating. She had fought long enough, she had given her parents hope—hope that miracles do exist—but it was her time to be with our Lord. The loss of this baby wasn’t easy. It was another child that went straight to Jesus’ feet. It was another reminder that we were still infertile, childless, and forced to take two steps back.
I used to think of miscarriage as losing a baby that was never really yours, but it’s not like that at all. I lost my babies. From the minute you form them in your womb, they are your precious gift. You love them; they are yours; and the bond you both form is instant.
I think that many people expected me to be OK with another loss—that it was something I was used to, and that hurt. Each loss was different, and the same, and tore my heart into pieces. Losing a baby is a struggle, both with God and yourself. I thought, “What is wrong with me? Why isn’t my body doing what it was designed to do? Why is God punishing me?” I can remember that nothing was very comforting, and despair sunk in. I watched my friends, sisters, and co-workers continue making babies, while I was left behind. Would-be milestones and due dates came and went, and I was still waiting on a healthy pregnancy. Until now.
As I write this, I am so beyond happy to tell you that I am 39 weeks pregnant with my rainbow baby, my miracle daughter, and I now understand why I suffered so many losses: God was preparing my daughter, Hogan. He had something so wonderful in mind for me and my husband. Even as I get ready for her most anticipated arrival, I still think about my angel babies and know that we will all be reunited, as a family, one day in Heaven.
Catherine is a native Texan who currently resides in Boerne with her husband, Blake, and a menagerie of three dogs. Their home will soon be made complete with the addition of daughter Hogan. Prior to Hogan’s arrival she was a teacher by day, and once Hogan makes her debut she is fully prepared to embrace the role of milk machine by night. She is passionate about all things living—including bugs—and has been known to be unabashedly and completely inappropriate during family gatherings.