Here comes one of the hardest things I have ever written.
Two Thousand Eighteen was a nightmare of a year for us. If I had been told how hard it was going to be prior to the start I would be in disbelief. My life was content before 2018, I thought I had learned all my lessons and paid my dues. I believed that nothing else could cause me more pain than I had already experienced in the years prior. I’d been through a lot in only 27 years and I was finally feeling like I came out on top of it all.
It all started at the end of 2017 when we decided we were ready to become parents. We dove in head first, excited and innocently with no clue what was in store for us. Friends, family and acquaintances all around us were birthing sweet chubby babies, that were filling their lives and our news feeds with joy. (I know children aren’t all rainbows and butterflies all the time, I’m not that naïve.)
To our surprise by mid-January we got our first positive test and we could hardly contain ourselves. (Weird coincidence, we actually found out on January 17th- 5 days after my birthday- the 9th anniversary of my dad’s death-this made it feel more special). This put our due date somewhere in early October and that seemed like perfect timing. We’d have our first baby before the end of the year and we’d have our first magically holidays with the joy that only a new baby can bring. In the coming weeks we told our immediate families and close friends. In hindsight, I am glad we did this- Scott didn’t want to tell anyone until the 1st trimester was over, like most people do, but of course I was way too excited not too. As quickly as the joy engulfed us we were soon met with darkness and after 6 short weeks we learned our first shot at mommy and daddy was over. The embryo didn’t have a heartbeat.
Miscarriage is different for everyone. Although it was still a loss, I felt lucky that we never saw a heartbeat and we never saw anything more than a tiny formation of cells, making it feel less human. Don’t get me wrong, our hearts were still broken. I was diagnosed with a missed miscarriage and I had a D&C because I wanted this thing out of me as soon as possible in order to move forward and start trying again. The hopes and dreams that came with that tiny formation of cells in my body was so incredible and losing that all in a moments time was awful and I wanted that joy to come back. The following months were some of the darkest of my life (Or so I thought). I had so many unanswered questions and we didn’t understand why this was happening to us. We were assured that 20% of pregnancies end in miscarriage and woman still go on to have babies afterwards. Unbeknownst to us at the time, we later found out that we actually knew plenty of women who had miscarriages and stillbirths, they just never talked about it or shared their experience publicly.
Even if your heart is broken and your dreams are shattered life goes on.
So, with love and determination after a couple of months we decided we were ready to try again. We moved forward not only equipped with more knowledge now about pregnancy then I knew what to do with but a tiny bit of our innocence and excitement for a pregnancy stripped away.
On June 1st to our surprise again, we received a positive pregnancy test. As excited as we were, we knew we wanted to guard our hearts this time and keep our secret between the two of us just a little bit longer.
With as much optimism as we could muster, with our breath held and palms sweating we went to prenatal appointments every month, we saw a heartbeat, we saw a tiny squirming baby, we learned we would be having a baby boy, we felt him moving, we were assured he was growing normally and that things were looking good. All the genetic tests came back negative. I passed the glucose test with flying colors. He passed his anatomy scan, where he gave us a thumbs up and a tongue sticking out. We counted 10 fingers and 10 toes. We finally shared our news with the world. Everyone was excited for us, it all felt so magical. This would be the first grandbaby on both sides of our family. We felt like we could finally let our guards down. We fell in love with our tiny being growing inside my womb. We continued to disagree on a middle name but decided to name him Benjamin. Ben, Benny, Benj, Ben Jammin’.
We were so happy. We were so ready. We were so excited. We could not wait for the day we would meet him outside of my belly. We bought all the things, we made all the plans. We set up his nursery. I ate healthy. I exercised. I took my prenatal vitamins. We planned a shower. We signed up for child birth classes. We took a tour of the hospital I would be delivering at. We were so close we began to imagine our first nights, our first weeks, and our first years with Ben. We were so happy.
Throughout this time, one thing our doctor never discussed with us, which I am sure is pretty common because it would probably send most women into a spiral of anxiety ridden thoughts– was the topic of pregnancy loss. The doctor, nor anyone else ever mentioned that stillbirth was a possibility. As hard it is to hear, they should let you know up front, even though you have no signs of abnormality, your baby can still die before you get to meet them. For really no reason at all, or for reasons out of your control. If I had been warned, would I have even listened? Would it have even helped the situation? Or would it have gone in one ear and out the other, because that would never happen to me… I am young, healthy and a good person… That kind of stuff happens to other people. But still we need to know this is a possibility. Side note: I had been listening to birth podcast and they had an episode about stillbirth and pregnancy loss, I completely skipped this episode because my thoughts were exactly that. THINGS LIKE THAT DON’T HAPPEN TO PEOPLE LIKE ME.
And so, as the story goes, on December 2nd at exactly 30 weeks I went into labor. At the time I had no idea I was in labor. I thought it was probably just normal pregnancy cramps from the baby moving and growing. I texted a friend asking what Braxton Hicks felt like, because I was pretty sure that’s what these were. On Monday morning I drove to work and by the time I had gotten there and worked for almost two hours the cramps were more frequent and eerily consistent. I text my friend again and she suggested I head to the hospital to have it checked out. I told my boss not to worry and that I would be back in a few hours. I texted Scott and said he could stay at work because I was sure it was nothing. I went to the ER with deep concerns and begin to cry as soon as the nurses started to ask me questions. They told me not to worry, yet. I had no idea what was in store for us. After about 30 minutes of trying to find Bens heartbeat, after calling in the doctor and then an ultrasound machine, I was surrounded by doctors and nurses, complete strangers who were staring at the screen blankly not giving away any emotion– the doctor held my hand and she said I’m sorry hun but there is no activity, your baby has no heartbeat…
I can’t even put how I felt into words because I was still thinking, things like this don’t happen to people like me. I’ll let you use your imagination and picture yourself in this situation. How would you feel?
Times that by one thousand.
I had to then call Scott and tell him over the phone this horrific news, I tried to persuade him to come to the hospital before knowing but of course he insisted on knowing what was going on.
And it was from that moment forward I knew our lives would never be the same. Going forward ours lived would be separated into two parts, life before Benjamin died and life after Benjamin died.
I got moved up into Labor and Delivery. Yep, the wing of the hospital where in all the rooms next to me woman and families would be welcoming sweet chubby babies who were alive. I would be delivering a dead baby and that was that. They don’t have a special location in hospitals for moms like me because it only happens to 1% of pregnancies and as it turns out, things like this do happen to people like me.
Scott arrived at the hospital, my contractions got worst. I was already at 5 1/2 centimeters and quickly moved to 8 centimeters before receiving an epidural. I probably could have kept laboring naturally but why was I going to let myself continue in pain if the end game wasn’t going to be a live baby. I was offered other drugs for the pain, but I knew I wanted to be completely present for this moment. I wanted to remember every single awful detail.
We cried together. We cussed at the universe. Scott called our families. Our moms arrived at the hospital. We waited for my water to break. We waited to finally meet Benjamin. Not the Benjamin we had hoped and dreamed about but a Benjamin that would never get a real chance at a life full of love and happiness with us.
After about 6 hours on December 3rd at 4:25 my water broke and Ben just barely 2 lbs 7 oz and 15 inches long, came into the world gently and willingly. Scott cut the umbilical cord. As hard as it was and as distorted as he looked we spent time with him. We embraced him. The most surreal thing I have ever experienced. His feet & hands were tiny and perfect. He had Scott’s lips and a head full of dark hair. I watched a tiny tear drop out of the side of his eye and we knew it was time to say goodbye.
Just like that our second chance as mommy and daddy ended.
And just like that in only 28 years on this earth I’ve felt the pain of both losing a parent and a child.
The following weeks this time really were the darkest of my life. The universe chewed me up and spate me out. It showed me that there was more pain to bare. That there were more lessons to learn and dues to pay. I cried for almost a month straight. I thought I would never be able to stop crying. I still cry most days. I thought I would never be able to get off the couch or leave the house. I suffered two weeks of a spinal headache from the epidural. I bled outrageously for weeks like any new mom. My milk came in and my breasts were engorged for almost a week, because your body doesn’t know that your baby didn’t live it thinks you still have someone to nourish and feed. I’m left with the body of a new mother, but what separates us is, I have no baby to mother. I’m alive. I made it through the worst. I’m coming out on the other side stronger than ever. Wiser than I ever wanted to be.
People keep asking me how I feel. The answer to this question is so difficult because every day is different. Do you really want to know how I feel, or do you want the surface level answer?
Some days I wake up and I laugh in the universes’ face. Is that all you’ve got? You think you can break me? I spend the rest of the day smiling and appreciating all that I have in my life. If we’re talking material things, experiences and relationships, I’ve hit the jackpot. Some days I can be as strong as everyone likes to say I am. Somedays this too shall pass is my motto and all that I want to do is move forward in every way. Somedays I have moments where I forget what even happened, I forget I’m supposed to be a mom right now. I feel alive and well. Those are my good days.
And then there are other days. Other days I can barely get out of bed. I just want to avoid the entire world. Other days I hold back tears to get through the work day and spend my lunch break crying in my car, wishing there was something I could do to make this go away. Other days life breaks me. I drive home crying and hold back the urge to scream at the universe about how unfair this situation is. Other days dark thoughts creep into my mind and I want to give up on all the progress I’ve made. Other days I can’t sleep. All I can do is replay the last week and the final day of having Ben over and over again. Other days I feel bitter, jealous, angry, sad and hopeless all at once. Other days I ache with the worst pain I’ve ever felt in my life and there is no one or nothing that can take that pain away, because I miss my baby and I’ll never get him back. Those are my bad days.
Sometimes it’s just easier to pretend it didn’t happen to me, that this is someone else’s story, but most times reality sets in and I must accept that we’ve been unfuckinglucky.
The truth is every day is a fight between wishing with every part of me that I could go back to change things (even though it was mostly out of my control) and then also wanting the grieving process to speed up, so I can get to the next chapter. The truth is bad things happen to good people and that’s hard to accept even though it’s that simple.
Maybe by this point you think I’ve shared too much, but I am here sharing my story for 3 important reasons.
First of all, it has been therapeutic as hell for me to write this all down. Putting my daily battles and the details I relive over and over again in my head into written words feels releasing and powerful.
Second, as time goes on I have been reading more and more personal blogs, books and social media sites of women who have experienced similar, if not, an almost identical scenario. It’s incredible how lonely this whole ordeal can feel but reading and hearing other women’s stories alleviates a lot of the loneliness. In my short time so many women I know have reached out to me about their own stories of pregnancy loss and miscarriage. Women who I had no idea experienced this devastation. I’m hoping that by sharing my own truths, one day a woman or maybe five will read my story and feel a sense of relief that she is not the only unlucky one. There is a whole community of mamas who have lost babies and we’ll welcome you with love, tears and support.
The third and maybe most crucial reason. I am not saying this to scare anyone or cause harm, but you need to know that stillbirth is a possibility. Stillbirth can happen at any time after 20 weeks up until the time of full gestation. It can come out of nowhere and happen for no reason that the doctors can find. Before 20 weeks a miscarriage is a possibility. At your 20-week anatomy scan finding detrimental birth defects that won’t allow your baby to live outside of the womb is also a possibility. Pregnancy loss is a possibility. It happened to someone like me and it can happen to someone like you. I don’t believe that people truly grasp how much of a miracle it is for two sets of DNAs to come together and rapidly multiply cells and eventually become a full-on living, breathing human being without something going wrong.
Now that you’re all sobbing and your terrified it might happen to you one day. I’ll wrap this up. Hopefully you made it all the way through to the end. We have no answers. We have no idea what caused Benjamin to die inside of me before he could be born into the world. We are stuck in this weird limbo of the grieving process trying to decide if we should give being parents another shot or if the pain of another potential loss outweighs our hopes and dream of having our own living child. There are many wonderful stories of women going on to have beautiful babies after a stillbirth, most times it is just a one off, fluke thing. I can already feel the anxiety welling up inside for my next pregnancy, if that day ever comes. If that day comes we will never experience the innocence and giddiness that pregnancy once held for us.
In the meantime, please don’t tell me how YOUR god has a plan for me, or how YOU KNOW my baby is in heaven. Please don’t tell me at least I know I can get pregnant and how YOU KNOW one day I will have beautiful babies. Don’t tell me everything happens for a reason or how YOU KNOW good things are coming my way. These words are not comforting. Just let me tell my story and don’t make it awkward because you don’t know what to say.
One of the tragic things I’ve learned over the past 10 weeks is how uncomfortable people are with pregnancy loss who haven’t been through it before. I get it, it’s morbid, babies aren’t supposed to die. But they do. Babies die every day at all stages of development. We need to open up the topic and stop making women feel uncomfortable when they want to share their stories. If you’re allowed to share your living baby with us everyday, what’s wrong with us sharing about our dead baby when we want to? Just because my baby died doesn’t mean my story should now be over and silenced. If my baby had lived, you would ask me about him every time you saw me.
With that being said, I’ll end on this. Go ahead and ask me about Benjamin. Ask me how I’m coping with his loss. Bring him up. Don’t act like I wasn’t just pregnant for 7 1/2 months. Ben’s short life matters. Ask me pregnancy related questions. Share your stories with me. Silence hurts worst than actually talking about it. I’m not uncomfortable with talking about my dead baby who was very much alive inside of me and you shouldn’t be either.
Benny Boy, big mama and big papa will always love and miss you. Thank you for the short but sweet joy you brought into our lives.