"So, how many kids do you have?" A simple enough question. But for those who have experienced loss, it is a loaded one. It is there, in that moment I have to decide how well this person is about to get to know me. Do I tell them the truth? That this is my 7th possibly 8th pregnancy but I only have 3 kids to show for it? Do I say it's my 5th and hope they don't prod for details on each? Am I going to see them again? Is it worth it to even answer with what I want to say? What if I leave out my miscarriages and stillborn son at the expense of my sanity that day, only for that stranger to become a bigger part of my life than anticipated? Question after question flood my thoughts in the .5 seconds since this well-meaning and unknowing person has asked. And honestly, my answer changes nearly every time. My journey into motherhood was not the smooth sailing I expected it to be, and it wasn't until I experienced loss that I found out that many other women had gone through similar situations, but it's not talked about enough.
I had my first son in April of 2016. It was a learning curve of fun and stress, joy and exhaustion, and all the things that come with being a mom. Soon after my son's 1st birthday we began trying for another baby. We got pregnant right away and were so excited to have a May baby! May 6th was the due date. A day or so before our first scheduled OB appointment and ultrasound, I started spotting. Fearing the worst, I called my doctor and they bumped up my appointment to as soon as possible. I laid on the table, legs in the stirrups, eyes glued to the screen. There you were, my little jellybean of a baby. I breathed a sigh of relief, until I saw my doctor's face. "I'm sorry, he said, there is no heartbeat." My own heart sunk. I stared in disbelief at that little round shaped blur on the screen. You were there, I saw you. All I could muster up to say was. "ok." I couldn't hear what the doctor was saying. I didn't feel myself get dressed or register the sorrowful glances of the nurses as I walked out of the office.
I took this miscarriage hard. Regret for not asking for a print out of the ultrasound filled my aching body. I needed something to hold on to. Something that was tangible, something that proved this baby was real and was mine. We named her Peyton. It was hard telling people, but I wanted them to know. I didn't want to suffer silently. We told close friends and family. That was when story after story came out from women I knew and loved. Sharing their sentiments and telling of their own miscarriages. I began to heal.
My husband and I tried again for another baby and got pregnant right off of the miscarriage. In my mind I just had to make it past 10 weeks. That was around when we lost Peyton. 10 weeks came and went and I was feeling so anxious for this new little babe to join our family. Soon we hit 20 weeks and at the ultrasound we learned we were having a boy! I was so happy to give my oldest his little brother, and the thought of having a girl after losing the first was too hard. We told everyone about this pregnancy from the moment we had our first ultrasound. My next appointment was just before 26 weeks - my glucose test. My doctor came in to check on the heartbeat. After fiddling around for an uncomfortable amount of time, and knowing my recent history, he said he wanted to try the ultrasound really quick. He explained that this would be faster and easier on my nerves to just see the heartbeat rather than fiddling with the doppler. It made sense to me and my nerves calmed. We walked across the hall to the ultrasound room and I laid on the table. Eyes glued to the screen. There you were! My sweet, little, Banks. Feelings of deja vu began to set in, and I quickly glanced at my doctor's face as he prodded the paddle to and from, all over my belly. His brows furrowed with worry. "I'm sorry," he said, "there isn't a heartbeat."
A wave of disbelief washed over me as I began to register what he said to me. I distinctly remember thinking, "no, no. no, not again." I looked to my husband, tears were already welling and falling from his eyes. The emotion released and I began to sob. The called the radiologist who just happened to be in that day to confirm, and he did. My sweet little Banks had already passed away.
My doctor scheduled for me to have an induction in the morning to deliver Banks. We went home and began making the impossible phone calls. Family started pouring into our little home. My husband called Labor and Delivery and asked when we should come in if I thought I was in labor. They said if they were lasting every for a minute every 5 to 10 minutes or something to that effect. To which I said I couldn't tell when one was starting and one stopped.
By this point I was in so much pain that when I got to L&D they got me a room, and pain killers before I was officially checked in. It helped. The whirlwind of it all was happening so fast. That morning I had a baby, the afternoon I learnt he was gone, and tonight I would get to say the quickest hello and fastest goodbye. My nurses were so sweet to me. They gave me a room away from all the other mamas on the floor. I got an epidural and when they went to check me, I was already at a 6 and it broke my water. The epidural slowed things down and less than a half hour later my doctor came in and I delivered Banks. No pushing was needed, he just slid out. His perfect, tiny body. Holding my sweet baby boy who was no longer with us felt like holding a baby doll. He was gone.
I stayed up as late as I could, holding my baby, holding my husband, eyes puffy and drained of tears. It felt like there was no moisture left in my body. The nurses lovingly asked if they could take care of Banks for me so I could sleep. I didn't know how I could sleep. They gave me something to help and I reluctantly let go of my infant son.
The next morning I had Banks brought to me as soon as I could hold him. I had gotten ahold of the organization, "Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep" that takes photos of babies who've passed on in the hospital. My mom brought my oldest to me, and my heart broke all over again. How do you explain to your two-year-old that their little brother has gone back to heaven? I sat in my hospital bed with my husband, and two sons for the only family photos I would ever have of all of my children with me.
My heart ached for a baby. I felt the pain physically gnawing at the back of my throat. After my 6 week postpartum appointment, I was cleared to try again for a baby if I wanted. I did. We got pregnant right away. I was terrified.
My sister in law lent me her doppler. Until I felt baby kicks, I used it daily. Reassuring myself with the comforting sound of a whooshing, thumping, heartbeat. Lab results had come back on Banks and there was no indication that what happened to him would happen again. In fact, we still don't know why or how he died. All we did know, was it was nothing we did and the chances of it happening again was very, very low. But that still didn't calm my nerves.
For 9 months I planned and prepped for this sweet and precious rainbow baby. Full of hope but afraid to lose. As I approached my due date, I asked my doctor if I could be induced at 39 weeks. Knowing I had an end date and hopefully missing the trauma of going into labor naturally sounded so appealing. Since my doctor knew I had to be induced with my first and the losses that followed, he told me if everything looked good he would sign off on the induction. May 14th, 2019 came. 39 weeks. I arrived at the hospital and a few short hours later was pushing out my third son. Feeling his body leave mine was a moment I will never forget. The relief I felt was unmatched. It felt as if I had been holding my breath for nine months. Hearing his cry and holding his chubby, little body was euphoric. At the time of delivery, I had been pregnant for 18 of 24 months. 3 pregnancies back to back. I remember just smiling and saying, "we did it!" to my husband.
That following year of bringing another little one home was healing. My baby began to fill in the cracks, but at the same time, remind me of what I was robbed of. My rainbow baby brought us so much joy. Soon after his 1st birthday we began to try for another baby again. On September 24th, 2020 we learned we were pregnant again. For two glorious weeks I carried that babe. So in the early afternoon on the 2nd when I went to the bathroom and saw the slightest tinge of pink, my heart sunk. I tried to ease my mind with telling myself it was harmless spotting. But the day went on, the cramps got worse, the blood flowed more, and I knew.
My husband and I tried again and got pregnant right after that miscarriage. Once again, I was met with all the emotions; joy, pain, anxiety, hope, worry, love. It was everything you could feel wrapped up into one hormonal, pregnant lady. This pregnancy went smoothly and I was once again induced at 39 weeks. July 8th, 2021 brought our fourth son into the world and I could once again breathe. He was here, he was safe and I had a baby to hold once again.
Just like the pattern followed before, soon after his 1st birthday we began trying. I felt like I was pregnant. All the early symptoms and signs I get were there. But just before I could test, I started cramping and got my period. Or at least I thought it was my period. Not knowing, but still grieving what could have been, we tried again. To my delight we conceived and I am currently over halfway pregnant with my 5th son. 7, possibly 8 pregnancies later and I am due with another boy just days before my youngest turns two.
Although in the thick of pregnancy and having the anxiety that comes with an anterior placenta and not readily feeling the baby's kicks as soon as I did his brothers, I feel at peace. I'm counting down the days until summer when I get to meet this little one and bring him home.
Motherhood is so hard, and so much work - especially in getting these little ones here. But through all the heartache and pain, loss and joy and pure euphoria that I have gone through in getting my children, I would do it all again and again, just to be their mom.