As part of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month in October, we will be sharing stories of loss from local families. Please know that if you have experienced loss, you are not alone. Please join us at our 3rd Annual Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Family Walk on October 15th to find the support and community you need to walk through your grief. We will be donating all proceeds to local loss groups who provide year round support for area families. A big thank you to Michelle Beckley of Running Circles Photography for her beautiful contribution of this photo series.
This is Sarah‘s story.
The morning I discovered I was pregnant with Judah, I had a dream that I was holding a radiant, sweet baby boy, all swaddled and pink and perfect. In my dream, an angel came to me and told me I could only hold him for a little while, because soon I'd need to give him back to her. I remember waking up crying, wondering what that was all about. It prompted me to take a pregnancy test, because hey, better safe than sorry. It was positive. I was elated, but there was an odd twinge of trepidation present, as well, recalling my dream still fresh in mind.
I started writing Judah letters, thinking about how I would read them to him (or her, I thought) when he got older. I will forever be grateful for those letters.
Several days later, I started bleeding. I went to my doctor, who couldn't find anything in my uterus, but assured me it was probably just too early to see anything. I started bleeding more and more over the course of the following days, and I thought, heartbroken, that I had miscarried. I was told to wait it out, and allow my baby to pass naturally.
I grieved, quietly, with my husband, being careful to try and appear well for the sake of my other three children. But, inside, I was devastated in a way I do not have adequate words to describe.
Two weeks later, and I was still bleeding, and my cramps were getting worse, not better. I was exhausted, in mourning, and in increasingly more pain.
My husband eventually decided a trip to the ER would be wise, as a precaution. The nurse doing my intake bloodwork brought me back, and started asking me questions about why I was there, what my symptoms were, and seemed to look more and more worried as we continued.
On my way to a triage room, she asked if I had other children. I answered that I did. Her response has stuck with me, all these years later and was reflected in comments made to me by others. She told me at least I had other kids, which means I should have no problem "just having another one, later" although, she said "Three seems like it should be enough.". And then she left me to continue to slowly bleed out.
After about an hour, the on-call ER physician came to see me, informed me that I was actually still pregnant, but my HCG was suspiciously low. I needed to do a trans-vaginal sonogram to confirm a diagnosis, however. At this point, I am in an extreme amount of pain, and am wheeled to imaging, where I was instructed that I needed to place the sonogram wand myself. I could barely move, but somehow I had to place a sonogram wand.
Throughout the imaging exam, which was considerably painful, the sonographer kept apologizing and telling me she saw why I was in so much pain, but when I asked to see my baby, she refused to even give me an image because "It would just be too painful" for me to see.
I have nothing of the child I lost but heartbreak, pain, and the memory of repeated violations to my body.
Even after being delivered the news that I was suffering from an ectopic pregnancy, that a softball sized mass/clot had formed around my dying baby, the on call physician still tried to perform a cervical exam on me. Thank God my OBGYN came in when he did, because he took one look at my chart, told the on-call he needed to leave, and finally someone treated me with the urgency, compassion, and care I needed and deserved.
I was taken immediately back to the OR and put under general anesthetic. It was the first time I had slept in over three weeks.
I was exhausted from lack of sleep, and pain, devastated all over again knowing my child had not passed away two weeks prior, but that evening in surgery to save my life, and I had nothing to remember him by but letters I had written to him and a dream.
To add insult to injury, I was repeatedly told by hospital staff that this was actually a blessing, that thankfully my loss was so early that I didn't have time to get attached. I stayed, overnight, in the antepartum ward, alone, in the dark. The next day, my husband picked me up, drove me home in silence, then left again to pick our kids up.
It was my oldest son's birthday, so I baked a chocolate cake and cried by myself in the kitchen, before having guests over for the birthday party.
The sole person to validate my loss and grief was my sister in law, whose own son was born sleeping several years prior.
It took three more years of secondary infertility, and the birth of my rainbow babe for my heart to begin to heal. It took until two years ago for me to finally stand up for the memory of my Judah (which translates to "Light of God") and find a community that validated and honored my loss experience.
My goal, in participating in this event, is to validate the losses of those women, like myself, that mourned in silence and carried the burden of their grief alone. You do not need to hold those feelings back, and I am here to hold space for you; to mourn alongside you; to carry and protect the memory of the child you brought home only in your heart.
Loss is loss, and our experience as mothers is important, valuable, and essential to the experience that one in four of our children, statistically, will face in the future.
I am one in four.