I have been pregnant three times in the last four years. I have one living child. This is my story.
I miscarried my first baby at eight weeks but my second pregnancy gave us a healthy, beautiful baby girl who is now a wild, tutu wearing two year old. When we started trying again we were shocked and relieved to get pregnant on our first shot. “Aren’t we just so lucky?” we thought. When I was eleven weeks along we found out it was another healthy baby girl. It was everything I ever wanted – an amazing husband who I love more and more each day and now two little girls. Sisters who would be two and a half years apart. One Christmas birthday, one summer birthday. “It’s just so perfect,” we said to ourselves. Our family would be complete. We couldn’t have been any happier.
With every appointment, every scan, every blood draw, my confidence grew that this baby was meant to be our fourth family member. I began sorting through old baby clothes, cleaning out cabinets and drawers to make room for our ever increasing swaddle collection. I subscribed to every freaking pregnancy website to get weekly or daily updates as the countdown to baby continued. We chose a name. We fantasized about family of four Halloween costumes and about how she would be five months old for her first Christmas. We would take her to meet her grandparents in Ireland and get her christened at the same church as her big sister once she was old enough to fly and after her first round of shots. We were innocently unaware of any alternative future that didn’t include her.
Then at ten weeks I started bleeding. A lot. So I was told to rest a bit. When it happened again at thirteen weeks I was put on pelvic rest. I took vitamins religiously, ate well, exercised a moderate amount, blah blah blah. I followed all the rules. I started hemorrhaging again at nineteen weeks but this time had two emergency room visits where I was told that I had placenta previa and that my cervix had shortened to 1.6mm (which is what a woman should be at 37 weeks pregnant). I was put on very strict bedrest. It wasn’t the way I had envisioned the second half of my pregnancy going and it definitely wasn’t going to be easy with an energetic toddler to take care of but I was willing to do anything to keep this baby. My mom flew in to help and I steeled myself with books, painting supplies, cross stitch kits, you name it so that I could spend the next four months pretty much horizontal. I was determined. I could do this.
Two weeks into bedrest on an uneventful Monday night my water broke. We were admitted to the hospital and I knew it was the beginning of the end. I tried to stay hopeful and desperately wanted my baby to be that miracle story, but now I know that you can want something and wish, and pray, and hope, and it still doesn’t mean you get it. It’s a first world problem I know, but it shook my whole belief system. I truly thought if I did everything I was supposed to and if I wanted her enough that I could somehow mind over matter my body into keeping her until she was ready. I labored for three days and on Thursday March 16, 2017 our Emmy Claire came into this world too soon. I was almost 22 weeks pregnant. I wish I could say everything was a blur but unfortunately I remember every pain, every contraction, every kick wondering if it would be her last, and every tear shed wishing that this wasn’t our reality.
I was so ready to be Emmy’s mom. I was ready for the nursing and the no sleep, for the colic and the teething. I was ready to watch my toddler become a big sister and for my husband to be proudly surrounded by “his girls.” I wanted it all. I was prepared for it. What I was not prepared for physically having to recover from birth without the joy of a new baby to ease the pain. I wasn’t prepared for the outrageous hospital bills that just keep coming. I wasn’t prepared to leave the hospital with only handprints and footprints as consolation for the daughter I was supposed to bring home. I wasn’t prepared for my milk to come in because my body didn’t know there wasn’t a baby to feed. I wasn’t prepared to put away all the maternity clothes, the newborn onesies, the pregnancy journal, the monogrammed towel, and all of the countless reminders that she is gone forever.
Sometimes in the morning I forget for a split second that I’m not still pregnant. I instinctively put my hand on my belly to briefly say hi and wait for a little kick or punch hello, and then it all comes rushing back to me and it’s so painful that it takes my breath away. I spent half a year conditioning myself to put the baby first and identifying as a pregnant woman. Now when I do something that could “potentially hurt the baby,” I have to repeatedly remind myself that I can eat anything, lift heavy things, have my bathwater any temperature I like because it’s just me. No more baby to protect. And it’s honestly the most unrelenting of heartaches.
I spent months growing a little person that I’ll never get to meet, who will never know how much she was loved. That alone should make me content to keep us a happy family of three, but here I am twelve days postpartum and I can’t stop thinking about being pregnant again. It’s maddening. Not because I want to replace her (she can never be replaced), but because even though I’m not the same person I was pre-Emmy, there’s still enough of me left to know that our family isn’t finished. Once during all of this a friend said something that stuck with me. She said she used to think a strong woman was a woman who could get pregnant and have one kid after another without any trouble. She said that she now knows a strong woman is a woman who fights for her family every step of the way, even if every step is uphill. She doesn’t give up even if it doesn’t come easily.
This is my story. The story I never wanted to be mine, but it’s mine all the same. Late pregnancy loss isn’t something that gets talked about very much – I get it. It’s not the easiest of topics to discuss. This is dedicated to all the women out there currently fighting for their family. It’s for every broken-hearted mama who wasn’t prepared for the grief, the anger, the unbearable sadness that comes with losing a child and losing the future you thought you would have. You are not alone.