Being a mother is usually depicted in pictures with fields of flowers, a mother holding her child, smiles and happiness, love in its most visual sense of the word. What these pictures do not show is the other side to motherhood. The not so happy side.
Mothers hold on to sorrow in ways most can’t fathom or understand. The heartbreaking trials that happen in their lives are only exposed to the public for a moment but this grief and sorrow cuts deeper and becomes part of them. Reflecting back on it years later, a mother is still able to remember every detail of her emotions and the scares are born again in that moment.
As most of you are reading this, I’m still trying to sift through “how I’m feeling” and what exactly is going on.
This is the most raw blog post I think I have ever written and I hope it’s the last one I’ll ever write. I decided to write this now while I’m in the very raw state of emotions and going through the motions as most of us tend to do when faced with loss and grief.
I wanted to share this story because there are so many women who don’t know that they’re not alone.
It was a normal day.
Monday, November 13th, I went to my 18 week prenatal appointment. I was so excited to hear my baby’s heartbeat, talk about the second trimester energy, and all those things. That morning was absolutely normal. I managed to get everyone to school on time and even had time to run some errands before heading out to my appointment.
Since it was just a routine appointment, I told my husband not to worry about taking off of work to come. We had our sonogram later that week and I knew he wanted to be at that one more.
The appointment was completely normal. The midwife asked all the same questions about how I was feeling, any changes, any concerns, etc. My response with a smile, “Nope, everything’s great.” I even told her how I started nesting that weekend and ended up organizing the ENTIRE house. Seriously, all the closets, the two attic spaces we have, kitchen, office, pantry, utility room, kids’ bedrooms, etc. The only room I didn’t have time to touch was the guest bedroom. We laughed and exchanged some small talk.
Her and her family are planning a New Orleans trip so I gave her some things to check out while they’re there. She wrote them down and we continued on with the appointment.
Urine was normal. Heart rate was normal. Blood pressure was normal.
Then, it was time to lay down so she could hear the heartbeat.
We tried for 15 minutes to get a good position. Since the placenta was anterior, it made it difficult to read. She had me try some moving positions and suggested maybe baby isn’t in the right position. She switched out her doppler head thinking that may be the problem. I was over 17 weeks so no one thought anything of it.
I didn’t fully grasp the magnitude of the situation until we were on our way to an emergency sonogram. Halfway through the drive I started replaying what had just happened in my absolutely otherwise NORMAL prenatal appointment. It took every ounce of self-control not to breakdown in the car.
I convinced myself everything was okay. It was the baby’s position or something was wrong with her doppler.
I pulled into the parking lot and saw my husband waiting by the front door to the office building. Feeling confident that everything was fine, I gave him a hug with a small smile. I was convinced my baby was okay and we would see him/her soon on the TV in the room.
The wait in the waiting room felt like it took forever but it was only about 10-15 minutes. I laid down on the bed and pulled my shirt up, revealing a nice rough baby bump. The technician squeezed the gel on my belly and put the wand on and started moving around. I saw my baby immediately but I also saw something else before the technician even confirmed…no heartbeat.
I lost all self-control and so did my husband.
The technician left the room crying and went to get the doctor. He tried to explain the best he could but seemed absolutely confused as to “what happened”. Normal pregnancy, all other tests were normal, all other scans were normal, I am young and healthy…he was lost as to why this happened and what caused it.
He asked questions like “was I in an accident”, “did I have any sort of fall”, “did I run an over 105 fever”, etc. Nope! Nothing!
He left the room to speak with my midwife and discuss my options together. The rest of the day shifted into a blur. My husband and I just couldn’t believe it. We still can’t!
I felt heavy leaving the office and didn’t really know what was going on. This must be what shock feels like. I remember walking to my car and my husband talking to me, trying to comfort me but I can’t remember what he was saying. I left the parking lot and had the GPS take me home. It wasn’t till I was about a mile away that my phone rang. It was my husband, Will.
I answered and he sounded worried and upset. He asked why I didn’t wait for him. It dawn on me that I had agreed to let him follow me home when we were walking to our cars. I just kept apologizing. I didn’t know what else to do or say. I wanted to get home, hide under a rock til the storm passes. But reality isn’t that generous.
On the way home, everything seemed to stop around me. I talked to my midwife and told her we made our decision. Now thinking back at the conversation, I have no idea how she understood me. I was a crying, blubbering mess. All I knew was I wanted it out. I felt that I was frozen in the pregnancy stage and not able to fully move on with the baby still in me and my belly still round and cute. She told me to take some time and we’d talk that afternoon.
Then, I called my mom. Isn’t it strange that even as adults we still reach out for our mommies in times of need…
I wasn’t the least bit ashamed. I needed my mom.
Getting those words out to her was the most difficult thing I had ever done to this point in my life. I had to admit it for the first time out loud. The words took me about three times to finally get out to where she could understand. “I lost the baby!”
Once she could understand what I had said, she broke down and cried. Which, of course, made me cry even more. I felt like I failed her. Like I failed all women.
This was the second time I had to tell her I lost one of her grandbabies.
But this time it’s a deeper cut, a more significant loss. This time I felt like we lost a child. We were out of the first trimester, the baby was healthy and growing, I was healthy and young. There were zero symptoms; zero complications. So why?
All I wanted to do was hold my baby, meet him/her, find out the gender…say goodbye.
We already had names picked out. We were going to wait to find out the gender when I deliver…the whole thing was planned. Birth photographer and everything. Everyone was ready to go and I was excited to be a mom again.
It’s never easy to say goodbye and I feel like it’s still isn’t true.
I found out the devastating news on a Monday, on Tuesday I was scheduled to meet the OB/GYN that would be helping me deliver my baby at the hospital. She told us to meet her at the hospital the next morning at 7 am.
Again a blur…it was all moving so fast and so slow at the same time. I lost track of time and of how many times I broke down and cried and rubbed my belly. I wished so badly that I could take his place or that I could rewind to just 3 days before when I was so excited to meet my baby in our 20 week sonogram.
We were at the hospital early with zero sleep.
The admissions nurse, if that’s her official title, thought I was there to deliver a baby. She handed me a birth certificate form with our baby work. I was confused and couldn’t find the words. I just looked at my husband helplessly. He told her, “We’re having a miscarriage” and led me away to our room.
I cried when we got into the room. Everything started to feel so real. The gravity of the situation was weighing down on us.
The doctor and nurse came in, told us the process and we got started. My perinatal doctor and us were still wanting answers so the nurse had to take about 10 blood vials from me to run labs.
I felt so small in that room. The process was exhausting and painful, both physically and emotionally. The doctor had to come in every three hours to insert the medicine vaginally (painful). Then, I had to deal with these intense cramps.
An epidural was always on the table but I never took them up on it. I had already delivered two over 9 pound babies without the need of any sort of medication so I opted not unless they had to do a D&C.
I wasn’t allowed to eat anything other than jello. We were approaching about 21 hours without food when the doctor finally allowed me to order something off the menu.
The first nurse I had was absolutely amazing. She sat with my husband and I for about 3 hours talking about dogs, traveling, anything to get our minds off of what was happening. She succeeded. We forgot for a brief time of where we were and what we were doing. When she had to leave to check on her other patients I thanked her for the distraction. That was the first “normal” conversation we had in days.
At 7pm, my doctor and the nurse came in and let us know that it was shift-switch time. I was going to be left with another doctor (a male doctor) and another nurse until the next morning. I had forgotten this happened in hospitals. I was so used to my midwives staying with me whether you had a 72 hour labor or a 3 hour labor. They would be right there by your side.
The new nurse was upsetting. She seemed new and not experienced at all. I think my situation scared the crap out of her too.
She had just gave me some medicine to help me sleep. It didn’t take the pain away but helped me fall asleep where I just dreamed of the pain instead of being awake for it. Very weird sensation. But my body desperately needed rest. I had been depriving myself of any sleep for days and my body had enough.
About an hour into my pain-sleep, I was awoken by an incredible urge to push. I yelled, waking my husband up, “Will, I need to push!” He shot out of bed and scrambled over to me to try to find the light. In which time, I had pushed twice and he was there.
I delivered the sack and everything still in tact.
Will paged the nurse. She ran in and seemed lost as to what to do next. There was blood and a massive sack sitting between my legs. She scooped it up and took it to the baby center in the room. Then, left! She just left. I started pushing out clots and we had to page her again to come make sure I wasn’t hemorrhaging. She peeked and said “no, you’re good.” And turned to leave. I had to call her back to help me get cleaned up as I didn’t really want to be sitting in blood clots and afterbirth. A lot more happened with this “nurse” during my stay but after I got cleaned up, I went back to my bed and waited. It seemed like forever.
Will paged for her to come back in to tell her I wanted to meet and hold my baby. She left to retrieve and clean him up.
She wrapped him in a blanket and handed him to me. Tears were already flowing down my cheeks as I reached for him. He was perfect and beautiful. He had my lips and long fingers and his daddy’s nose and monkey toes. We just sat there looking at him and crying.
The nurse needed to check me again to make sure I wasn’t producing too many clots so I handed him to Will.
Will collapsed to his knees and cried. I grabbed my phone and took a picture. It wasn’t planned but I’m happy I had the sense to do that…it’s the only picture we have of him.
The storm is just the beginning
After I delivered our son, Souvarine Jonathan Burgess, and got cleaned up, the on-call doctor showed up about an hour and a half later. He had zero emotion when he walked in the room. He approached my side and told me a possible reason was where the cord was attached to the placenta. But he wasn’t sure. The nurse asked him to check me and he just peaked as she lifted the sheets and nodded and left.
Will’s mom was there and I was so happy Will called her. I was so emotionally unavailable to offer him any kind of support. I’m happy she was there to comfort him as he broke down on her shoulder.
Everything throughout the night was a fog. I felt so weak and small and heavy. I just wanted to leave that hospital and never come back.
We made arrangements the next morning for Souvarine’s body with the social worker. She called to make us the appointment at the funeral home.
It just seemed like we couldn’t get a break.
The next morning, my doctor was back and we had another amazing nurse. She offered me a hug as we cried together and she told me about her miscarriage. It was a beautiful moment that I will appreciate always. I asked questions about trying again and grieving and she was so open with me.
We were discharged that morning as I delivered everything together there was no need for a D&C. While we waited to sign the remaining discharge papers the women in the room next to us delivered her baby. We could hear the small baby cries which were like knives stabbing my heart.
We left the hospital and drove home in silence. I just wanted to be in my house and cry in my shower.
When we got home we cuddled with our puppies and took a shower. I still had blood on me and I just wanted to scrub at my skin.
Seeing my kids was a welcome sight and I just held them close to me.
The next day, Friday, my milk came in. The doctor and nurses told me how to dry it up. But as I pumped and cried I realized I wanted to do more. I decided I was going to continue pumping and donate the milk to the NICU at the hospital. Helping other babies thrive offered a relief for me emotionally.
That morning we left to pick up my mom from the airport. Seeing her made it all real. I collapsed in her shoulder and cried. Yep, right there in the airport pickup area on the curb. All the emotions I was bottling up, came out at once.
That weekend offered many distractions. I was happy to see all the family and was thankful we talked and ate dinner together WITHOUT talking about our loss. It was a nice emotional break.
Then, Monday came and I had to take my mom to the airport. Once we dropped her off, the emotions came back full force. I realized we were just delaying them. There are moments within the day that are good and some that are bad. I’ll walk into my closet and just start crying then 10 minutes later I could be cuddling and tickling my other two littles.
Of course, any time there’s a smile or laugh, I feel guilty about it.
They tell you about the stages of grief but no one had mentioned that these stages aren’t in order and they don’t just go away. You can literally feel all of them in a matter of back to back moments in one day. The emotional roller-coaster is exhausting.
Honoring our baby boy
We decided to put our energy elsewhere. I started pumping to donate the breastmilk to babies who need it. Will decided to write to Souvarine. He going to create a character in his book to honor our son. And we’re releasing sky lanterns on Thanksgiving with our family, we’re planting a tree, and with some of Souvie’s ashes, we bought some keepsake jewelry for Will and me.
I don’t think there’s a right or wrong way to grieve or how to honor a loss. The last nurse I had at the hospital told me to grieve how I need to and don’t let anyone control that. It such a personal thing and no one can say you’re doing it right or wrong.
If you are going through a loss or have gone through one, please write and tell us your story in the comments.