November 5, 2015 17 minute read
Pregnancy after loss isn’t something I ever wanted to have to experience – but I did. This is our story.
Although my mom suffered from miscarriages and struggled with conception I seemed to surpass those worries. After getting pregnant with our first child on our honeymoon, I made it past the first trimester without any problems other than constantly throwing up and worrying like crazy – being a worrywart is just my nature. Everything went smoothly.
My pregnancy was pretty normal for the most part. I was very sick, but I sort of embraced that as a sign my little one was growing stronger by taking all my nutrients. I still couldn’t shake this strong feeling I had from the moment I held that stick with the 2 lines in my hand that I wouldn’t get to keep this baby. But as I slowly but surely made it further and further into my pregnancy and felt those strong kicks from within, I knew that I needed to let that worry go. The day I made it to 37 weeks gestation I relaxed – it was time to believe this baby was coming home with us.
2 days later, February 12th 2013, I woke just like any other day. My husband said, “Have a good day, I love you,” and I replied, “Love you too.” I rolled back over, stretched, felt a little reassuring movement, and I went back to sleep. A few hours later I got out of bed and made breakfast like any other day, sat on the edge of the couch, and waited for those kicks. But I felt nothing.
Is he still sleeping? Hmm, maybe I’ll drink some orange juice…Nothing. Ok, don’t panic, he’s getting big and running out of room, the doctor warned me the movements would likely be less intense once he ran out of space…Ok, bounce on the exercise ball…Still nothing. I could hear my heart beating faster.
Ok, lay on your left side do the kick counting…Still nothing. Come on, just kick me! Poke, poke, poke. Come on “sweet B,” come on! Still nothing.
These moments will forever be scarred into my memory. The nurses trying to find a heartbeat and saying, “It must be a bad doppler, I’ll go grab another one,” but then that doppler was bad too. Waiting for the doctor to come into that room and it feeling like an eternity. The moment he switched on the ultrasound screen and placed the probe on my huge 37 week 2 day belly, and I looked at the screen and only saw an outline of a body. I could see his spine and his ribs, but it wasn’t lit up, it was dark. I knew he was gone. But when the doctor said, “I’m sorry it appears your baby has died,” the horror, the feelings, the emotions. The memory still brings a lump to my throat and it still feels like something is sitting on my chest – I can’t take a deep breath. I can still feel my heart breaking into a million pieces in those moments.
My mom was by my side, she tried to hold me while I screamed, my husband was on his way. When he walked into that room and I told him: “They think our baby died. I am so sorry,” tears flowed as we held each other. But it wasn’t until we transferred to the next hospital and they showed us both on the ultrasound that either of us really believed it. But I think we still held on to hope that a miracle would happen during labor. The events are such a blur of sadness and trauma, but the feelings I felt in those moments come right back whenever I have a flashback.
I was induced a few hours later, with our families by our sides. We welcomed our son, Letley David, silently into the world after 22 hours of labor. 22 hours of labor and the anticipation of pushing out my baby whose heart had stopped beating, welcoming a baby who wouldn’t cry, wondering what he would look like, what would it feel like to finally hold him. I can’t even begin to explain what your heart and mind go through during that labor and delivery, only us moms and dads who have experienced such a heartbreakingly beautiful moment will understand.
When I pushed Letley out and they placed him on my chest, the fact that his soul was gone wasn’t on my mind – I was euphoric. It sounds so strange but it was truly beautiful. It was too quiet, but he was the most gorgeous baby, he was everything I wanted, I just wanted him to open his eyes and cry. But he never did.
The strange part is you are still a mom of a newborn baby – you still feel all the pride and overwhelming love for that baby. Singing to him, holding him for as long as we could, then having to say goodbye. That’s something no one should have to experience. Thank God for the shock and the strength the Lord gives you in these moments. Without it, we wouldn’t live, we would simply die of a broken heart. I still don’t know how we can survive a single day without our children.
I felt like the story of my pregnancy after loss had to start with my first born – my son – and how perfect he was. My story is unlike most pregnancy after loss stories and it was very hard to come across a story like mine, so I feel it is my duty to tell it. Maybe it will help someone else who is now going through what we had to endure after saying goodbye over 2 and half years ago.
After we lost our son Letley, we knew we wanted to try for another baby quickly. I mean as soon as we possibly could. With our previous history of conceiving so easily on our honeymoon, we figured that would be the easy part and that it would just be the pregnancy after loss that would be the hard part. But month after month my period didn’t return. Finally, after 5 months, the doctors put me on the pill to try to induce a period. Luckily it worked. Then I started clomid. I wanted another baby and I wanted one NOW, no I wanted one yesterday, no wait…maybe I just wanted Letley, and knowing I couldn’t have him, I wanted another baby immediately.
5 more months passed and for each one I tried clomid. With every month that passed a new hopeful self arose, and with each passing period I reached an all time low. I was beyond sad, devastated, hurt. I was so low, many times I wondered if maybe I wasn’t supposed to be here on earth if I didn’t get to have my son or make another baby. If I couldn’t get pregnant mine and my husbands hearts would never get to feel joy again.
My life revolved around pregnancy, and babies, and desperation. I did everything right. I took the vitamins and the fertility meds, I did acupuncture, I got added to a fertility clinic wait list. I didn’t drink alcohol, I didn’t smoke, I tried my best not to “stress.” Ha! Yah right. My life was centered around the stress, worry, and need for another baby!
I decided to stop the fertility medication and focus on my own energy and learned reiki, which was extremely helpful. But no matter what, I still wasn’t pregnant. So when I finally received that phone call from the fertility clinic and learned that we had an appointment I felt hope again first time in a long time!
We chose to go ahead with IVF, and although it wasn’t easy to make that decision we knew it was our best option. It had the highest success rates and at that point we just wanted a sibling for Letley and didn’t want to keep trying month after month. So we went all in – used our entire savings. The needles I had to give myself three times a day in my tummy and medications were very hard on my body and mind but I reached out to other people who had went through IVF and they were tremendously helpful during the days I was really down. They helped lift me back up and remind me to believe it was our turn to see a positive! But it wasn’t easy – especially with being separated from my rock, my husband. But we knew it was going to be for the best. We chose hope instead of fear, and gave our worries to the Lord and any friend or family member who would lend an ear!
Sure enough, November 4th 2014, they placed a beautiful high quality day 5 embryo back into my uterus and from that moment I told myself this baby was coming home. But even constantly reassuring myself there was so much worry. The worry, the fear, the disbelief, and the constant nagging feeling that something would go wrong was so overwhelming.
When I saw those 2 lines, for that second time, I didn’t believe it. After 18 long months of trying and seeing one line month after month, I didn’t really think I’d ever see two again. I tried to imagine it over and over again but when it was finally in front of me, I kept shaking my head thinking, “How? Is this real?”
Sure enough, at 7 weeks we saw a heartbeat, but for some reason – I don’t know if it was me trying to protect myself – I still didn’t really believe it. When I started throwing up constantly I thought, “Ok, this must be real,” but at 8 weeks I panicked again. Luckily, a great doctor in the ER showed me my beautiful baby’s heart beat.
At 10 weeks we got to see the baby again, and this time it looked like a baby! I guess this must be real, please, God, universe, family who has passed on, please Letley, watch over this baby and make sure they to come home. The amount of time spent praying, dopplering, googling, laying there trying to feel kicks, and eating sugar specifically to make the baby move, was overwhelming. There wasn’t a moment I went without thinking about when I last felt the baby. Even in the early days when you might feel a movement a day, I still dopplered over and over “just to check.” I felt horrible for my husband and my friends and family who constantly tried to reassure me that this time would be different.
At 22 weeks I fell on my bum. That evening I was convinced that little fall killed my baby, my little girl, and that I was the worst mother ever. I stayed up all night and dopplered every hour to make sure the heart rate was “reactive.”
I. never. stopped. worrying.
I had bi-weekly ultrasounds, used my doppler even when I felt the baby moving, didn’t really sleep, when I did sleep had my hand glued to my tummy, and when I woke to pee I couldn’t go back to sleep unless the baby kicked, and, if she was sleeping I had to doppler and hear her heartbeat before I could even try getting back to sleep.
To say pregnancy after loss for me was exhausting is an understatement. That being said, I tried my best to enjoy the movements and growing my sweet baby. I took weekly photos with a chalkboard, and I think in the back of my head it was because if she died I could have belly photos to look at. I took a million videos of her moving in my belly, and, again, I think it was so I would have “memories.” After loss our brains go to the worst place first. Even when you try to talk yourself out of it.
I was scared to get maternity photos, because we had maternity photos the weekend before we lost Letley. I thought they would jinx things so I didn’t want to have them taken and lose her too, but I luckily had an incredible friend who helped me realize it wouldn’t happen and that I would regret not getting them.
I feel like I’m ranting at this point, but I want to be honest and raw with all the emotions and feelings that you are going through during this journey. Saying and feeling them seems crazy, but it’s the only way you know how to get through.
At 34 weeks I moved to the city I was going to give birth in, knowing I was delivering at 36 weeks with an induction my doctor and I had come to an agreement on. In those 2 weeks leading up to my induction I thought more times than I’d like to admit that she had stopped moving and that she died too. So I went to my non stress tests twice a day, watched Netflix, and had incredible support from friends and family. I ate loads of ice cream and drank smoothies and basically just cried ALOT! I just tried to envision what that moment would feel like hearing her cry…
I had an ultrasound the week before delivery and I knew what I was looking at: a healthy baby, a strong beating heart. But after seeing so many ultrasounds I could also see the location of the cord: it was around her neck. I tried not to let my mind go there but of course it did. I wondered if it would strangle her before she got to be welcomed loudly into the world. My doctor and the ultrasound techs kept saying that it would be fine, that it was hard to tell the exact location of the cord. But I knew in my heart where it was.
With tears streaming down my face that day, heading back to the house I was staying at, I just prayed over and over that it would be ok. On June 22nd I checked myself into anti-natal and stayed there for 2 days before my induction. I was starting to feel very unstable and knew I would feel more at ease at the hospital.
On June 24th 2015 they started my induction. I was a wreck the whole time. I wanted to be hooked up to the machine the whole day I was so terrified her heart would stop from the pressure of it all. If I could have been hooked up the entire time I walked those halls, round and round, I would have been. But I just kept as much faith as I could and asked to be hooked up to see her heartbeat as often as they could. I started to bleed a lot and of course panicked, but the nurses kept me calm, got me into labor and delivery, hooked me up to the heart monitor for the remainder of my labor and delivery, and I just watched that screen like a hawk between the contractions and the epidural. I didn’t sleep, I don’t even think I blinked; I breathed deeply and watched that screen. Any dip I saw I called the nurses and they assured me: my little girl was ok.
They warned me they do delayed cord clamping, and said sometimes a baby doesn’t cry until the cord is actually cut. I had prepared myself for them to take her once she was out and since she was being delivered early at 36 weeks the NICU was standing by. I told myself over and over they would likely have to take her and check her lungs and stability. But I prayed that when she came out she would cry and that she would be placed on my chest and I would get to keep her in my arms.
At 3:25am after 18 hours of labor I knew it was time to push. There was fear, but for the first time excitement kicked in. I looked at the screen before the doctor walked in, her heart was still beating and it was time to start.
How could this be? Am I going to push out my baby girl and hear her cry?
So at 3:31am on June 25th I took a huge deep breathe and pushed 3 times in 1 contraction and she was out. And let me tell you, she didn’t wait for the cord to be cut. She came out screaming. I looked down and saw a screaming baby girl, heard her sounds, and closed my eyes and wept. Full on bawling happy tears and sad tears combined. I wanted to hear those cries so badly with our son.
The doctor unwound the cord that was wrapped around her neck (THREE times!) and put her on my chest, told the NICU team they could leave, and I held her, her warm, slimy, stick, vernixy little body on my chest, skin to skin. She cried and coughed and I held her so tight. It was an out of body experience and I wish I could explain every emotion. It’s so amazing. I felt the rise and fall of her little chest, I heard her breaths, she was here on earth, on my chest skin to skin, and she was ALIVE! Her heart beating against mine. Within 20 minutes she latched on and was nursing. A moment I had longed for desperately.
We expected to be in the city for a week with a baby who would need to be in the NICU, but we went home the following morning. Leaving the hospital with a car seat was so incredible. As we walked out of the post-natal and into the elevator I cried. I had flashbacks of leaving without Letley, getting into the car and throwing up, wondering how I would make it home, how I would make it through the next hour let alone the next 2.5 years before welcoming his beautiful little sister into the world. I never imagined we would deal with infertility after loss, it felt impossibly hard, and the pregnancy after loss was unbearable. The anxiety, the stress, the worry. But, guess what? HOPE conquered. She is here, she is 4 months old, and she is amazing! She is sleeping in the swing in front of me as I write this. She is here, SHE IS ALIVE, and I still tell myself the same thing I did throughout my pregnancy: this baby is going to live a long beautiful life.
We wonder with every milestone what life would be like with the two of them. What Letley’s firsts would have been like. But we feel blessed beyond belief to finally welcome joy back into our lives and watch our sweet daughter, Letley’s little sister, grow and flourish in this crazy place we call life. And how lucky is she to have her own personal guardian angel for a big brother? One of the craziest parts about all of it is that I know I will do it again when we are blessed with another baby. I will go through the whole fearful pregnancy again because even though we didn’t get to keep Letley, it was worth it. His time was short, but I cherish every memory. And now knowing what it feels like to get to give birth to a living baby…you guys! It’s SOO worth the fear and anxiety! I do pray that because we now have a living baby that I will hopefully be able to trust my body more next time and relax a little. Parenting after loss is a whole new journey in itself, it’s a struggle between fear and joy and bitter-sweetness, anxiety and full blown happiness, the smiles, coo’s, giggles, the late night feedings and the diaper changes. It’s another gift Letley gave us: to live in the now, take life one day at a time, appreciate it fully. No moment is taken for granted, not even for a second.
–Bodi shares more of her journey over on her private Instagram account here.