Disclaimer: As you can tell by its title, this post touches on a seriously personal, seriously sensitive subject matter – pregnancy and pregnancy loss.
As I share on my home page, my aim here is to share stories, tips, and inspiration on life, business, and all things communication.
We can safely file this one under the “life” and “story” categories.
One year ago today, we lost the little one who (we know now) would’ve been Bryson’s baby sister.
(She would’ve been due in June, just in time for my 30th birthday.)
That day was the most painful, scary, confusing, heartbreaking day I’ve lived so far, and I’m sharing the story of it now because in the moments of the unknown, reading about other people’s experiences helped me feel less alone in it all.
My sincere hope is that this post can offer the same – some type of comfort + validation to those who have had or will someday experienced a miscarriage of their own.
There are so, so many of us – not just the women going through the physical loss, but the fathers and families who feel it too.
The Days Before
We lost this little one on Wednesday, October 29, 2014 – exactly one week after losing my grandfather and five days after celebrating the first three years of B’s life.
My parents were in town visiting, and we were staying at my favorite spot on earth – Disney’s Aulani.
I was about 7.5 weeks pregnant at the time – had noticed some light spotting on that Monday, then a little more on Tuesday. No cramping yet.
Since I had a chemical pregnancy earlier in the year, my mom and I headed to the hospital for an ultrasound for (what we hoped would be) some peace of mind.
We measured my HCG levels, which were lower than I expected, but still within a “normal” range.
Then came the ultrasound.
We saw a teeny flicker of a heartbeat and a little one measuring about 6 weeks 5 days.
I wanted to be relieved, but I wasn’t.
(I know my body well enough to know my dates were right.)
That day, I played Mandisa’s “Overcomer” on repeat.
Rested with my feet up, praying praying praying.
Went to old Facebook albums to find photos of myself in my third trimester of Bryson’s pregnancy and saved them to my phone to help me visualize a big belly with this little one too.
Found inspiration in my news feed via image quotes like “You have miracles inside you” and “Si Díos lo prometió Él cumplirá; Él está conmigo todos los días de mi vida y no me desampará.”
Saved those too.
The day was a blur, but I somehow fell asleep that night.
The Longest Day
I was woken up by the worst cramps I’ve ever had – exactly what I’d feared the day before.
(With the chemical pregnancy in May I remember waking up just a few days after the positive test and thinking, “but wait – I’m pregnant. This isn’t supposed to be happening.”)
I knew it was happening again.
The chemical pregnancy (which is such an oddly invalidating term) was emotionally hard, but physically not much different than starting a few days late.
If I hadn’t taken a pregnancy test (again, I know my body!), I may have just assumed my cycle was a bit off.
But this time was different.
I didn’t experience real labor with Bryson (my water broke and he was breech, so we had a c-section within hours), but I had a feeling these weren’t just cramps – they were contractions.
We were heartbroken.
We stayed in the room (a spacious two-bedroom villa with plenty of room for B to play without worrying) for the morning.
My angel of a mom (who, mind you, had suddenly lost her dad exactly one week prior), kept checking on me, bringing warm towels from the dryer that I could put on my belly to help ease the cramps.
I played the “Christian Contemporary Radio” station on Pandora as I sat there….waiting.
I tried to keep perspective and focus on what I could be grateful for (like the beautiful, healthy three-year-old boy playing with his new birthday presents in the next room).
I knew it was okay to feel sad and upset and confused, but I also knew that when I was ready to share, God could use me and my story to help other women going through the same thing. Somehow.
I didn’t really want to move (I imagine that’s normal – to feel as if you stay perfectly still this little life will hold on just a little bit longer), but I knew we needed to go to the hospital.
I was super-weak since I’d felt so sick and had barely eaten anything.
My dad went down to the lobby to ask for a wheelchair.
To the Hospital
Once I had enough strength, my mom and I headed down to the car, while Pop stayed on Bryson duty in the room.
As we loaded into the car, the Aulani staff member who helped my dad get the wheelchair walked up to the window and started, “I know you’re in a rush, but….”
I remember being almost annoyed, thinking – “RIGHT. Do we look like we have time to chat right now?”
Then she asked if she could pray with us.
(She prayed just like one of my dearest friends Ashley, which was an indescribable comfort to me.)
I cry just thinking about that moment. She was truly heaven-sent.
As we drove across the island to the hospital, I kept in text with my sisters and close friends, who had been my prayer warriors since the spotting began that Monday.
By the time we got to the valet, the cramping had finally stopped.
We walked in and sat a waiting room full of (seemingly) happy, healthy pregnant women (who seemed to all have at least five kids in tow), waiting to confirm what we knew was already happening.
Blood tests, ultrasound, exam…confirmation.
Tears, but at least SOME closure – knowing (hoping) the worst part was over.
Weeks (or maybe months?) later, we got the test results back and learned that this little one had an extra set of chromosomes – instead of 46XY or 46XX, she was 69XXX.
It’s a condition called triploidy, it happens in 1-2% of all conceptions, and it’s always fatal (usually resulting in miscarriage in the first trimester).
Totally random, no reason to expect it to happen again.
The test results certainly didn’t take the pain away, but I was thankful for an “answer” of some sort.
I know most people who experience miscarriage will never know exactly why their little ones weren’t ready to stick around.
The ride back to Aulani from the hospital was a LONG one – westbound traffic was even slower than usual. (Took us over two hours to go just over 20 miles.)
When we got back to the room we saw that our angel from earlier had thoughtfully sent up some chocolate-covered strawberries and a note:
Please get well soon!
I remember feeling devastated yet relieved that it was over and the healing process could begin – whatever that would look like.
I also remember trying to make sure my little man felt as normal as possible, even though he knew Mommy had been sad and crying and “at the doctor’s” for the day.
We went outside to watch the sunset – and what a gorgeous sunset it was.
I shared this photo with the caption:
No words for today yet.
Just thankful for this divine sunset and this precious little being who calls me “Mommy.”
(And sometimes “Nikki Ehwedge Bwown.”)
The next morning we woke up and headed down for breakfast with Mickey.
(I look back at this picture and marvel at how “normal” I look…although I had never felt so physically empty – B-man was in Disney heaven, and that helped a LOT.)
At the breakfast table, my parents and I decided to cut our stay short and book flights to head to Texas that night.
It was a little crazy, but if we left that night we’d get home on Halloween morning, just in time to trick-or-treat with cousins and be there to help out with the events leading up to my Paw Paw’s funeral mass the next week.
It was all so sudden and surreal, but being home and surrounded by family in Texas was exactly what we all needed.
As usual, my little Ninja Turtle was a great sport. (He’s one of the most resilient people I know.)
By the time we got back to Hawaii, Jeremy was home to pick us up from the airport.
I had some tears saved up just for him — it was a huge relief to finally let them go.
The Secret Sisterhood
Several weeks later, in December, I shared about my losses via this Facebook video:
It was right after my ACAC Christmas party (which went all kinds of tech-wrong).
I was wrapping up the year, thanking the clients + customers who had been part of it, noting the highs and lows, and I wanted to express my sincere gratitude to the folks who had sent prayers, love, and light via Facebook on those dark October days.
As you’ll see if you click over to the post, the response to the video was beautiful.
It really is like a secret sisterhood that nobody wants to be part of – you don’t know who’s a member until you have the password:
We didn’t “try” to get pregnant again in the months that followed because a) my heart needed time to heal, b) we’ve got a very high try-to-succeed ratio, and c) I didn’t want to be solo and pregnant (or due) while Jeremy was deployed for most of 2015.
Thing was – as deployment got closer, I started to feel sad and a bit antsy about the thought of NOT being able to try till the end of the year.
I even started to feel a bit bitter and jaded toward women who talked about planning for babies like planning for a vacation – resting easily knowing their husbands would be home every night, assuming everything would automatically happen on a set, predictable timeline with no need for travel insurance.
If they only knew…
Then, the night before he left, I got a hunch.
(And if you know me, you know I don’t mess with a hunch.)
NOTE: This bit of the story could be considered total TMI even by my own standards (+ this child will never live it down), but it’s just too good not to share, so it’s happening.
Literally the night before deployment, I thought:
“What the hey. Who are we to micro-manage? If God wants to bless us with another little person sooner rather than later, let’s get outta the way.”
So we got outta the way.
The next day, my husband left for a six(ish)-month deployment.
My Magic Refrigerator
Inspired by my buddy Laura (who had recently gotten pregnant with her precious little bundle Finn, born just last week!) and the “baby gear sale” ads that showed up in my mailbox that week, I decided to create my first mini-vision board.
I wanted to get my subconscious mind on board with the idea of me being pregnant, because even if I wasn’t pregnant yet, we’d DEFINITELY be ready to try again once Jeremy was home.
I cut out pictures from the promo papers – a breast pump, baby gear, a pregnant mama…and glued ‘em on to some extra card stock.
I printed out the picture of my “bump” photo album that I had saved in October.
Stuck the prayer magnet my dear friend Liz had made for Bryson’s Texas baby shower right up there next to it.
I even printed out Google images of families of four (and five – because why not?).
I added the “vision board” to my fridge, right by the handle where I’d see it every day.
For bonus points, I moved one of my maternity photos to a prominent spot on the stairwell.
In the days that followed I noticed that I started to feel unusually sleepy – falling asleep while I was tucking B in, falling asleep on the couch at night before heading up to bed…but I didn’t want to get my hopes up.
Could I be?? I meeean it would make for a GREAT story, but no.
That would just be TOO crazy.
Almost two weeks later (when I was due to start), I noticed a little spotting.
Still – I had some pregnancy tests leftover that would expire while J was gone anyway.
I could throw them all away, or I could take one just for kicks.
So I did.
And in a crazy quick flash – it was positive.
Here we go…
I couldn’t believe it.
Excited, shocked, happy, and scared, I ran to my nightstand (where I’d kept the other two positive pregnancy tests from 2014) and compared the line.
It was darker than both – even darker than the control line – but I still felt guarded.
Once you’ve had a miscarriage – that magic made-for-TV “we’re pregnant!” moment is never the same.
You want to be so excited and thankful for the little spirit on board, but at the same time – you can’t help but wonder if s/he’ll ever make it to your arms.
You can take all the blood tests, take the supplements, even see the heartbeat and make it through the first trimester, but you’ll never feel as carefree as you did BEFORE the loss.
And that’s okay.
In the fearful days (especially around the time of the previous loss), I’d tell myself,
“Today, I’m pregnant. Today, this little one is here with me.”
And I’m so incredibly thankful to share that today, at almost 32 weeks in, this little one is still here with me, wigglin’ strong.
Photo by Debbie Leanne
Our Rainbow Baby
If you haven’t heard that before, “rainbow baby” is a term often used to describe a little one who arrives after a loss. The bright spot after the storm.
Our rainbow baby is a baby brother named Deacon, and we couldn’t be more excited to meet him in December.
Due to his deployment schedule, Deacon’s daddy didn’t know he existed until I was almost 10 weeks along.
That was a fun FaceTime :)
Being 2-30 weeks pregnant without my husband around was interesting, but not nearly as crazy as I imagined it would be when I was so set on avoiding it last year.
We’ve had so much support (+ so much going on), and just like big bro, Deke’s taken it pretty easy on me.
I’ve got everything to be thankful for with this pregnancy.
I haven’t taken weekly belly shots this time like I did with Bryson, partly because of the uncertainty in the first trimester (it takes a while to shift from fear + reservation to excitement + anticipation), partly because I had a three-year-old photographer, and partly because I’ve been rather occupied running a business and raising said three-year-old, which means less “free” time on my hands.
But as we all know – love can’t be measured in pictures and Pinterest projects.
It’s measured by how we treasure the ones we care about – no matter how long we get to have them with us.
My Emotional Disclaimers
It took me a year to write this post because I honestly didn’t know how to share this with you (and the internet).
There’s the TMI factor: How much is too much?
Then there’s the guilt from comparing losses: Who am I to call heartbreak when I have a healthy little guy running around (disowning me when I refuse to give him more candy corn)?
Many women have had several miscarriages. Many women have lost their babies at (or just before) birth – others soon after, or even years later.
Losing a child’s life at ANY point – is a mother’s worst nightmare.
And many aren’t able to get pregnant at all in the first place, which brings up all of its own emotions + complexities.
Then there are all the complicated emotions tied to my OWN gut reactions when the losses were still fresh: What if sharing my story makes others feel bad, sad, or upset in some way?
This time last year when I read posts about new (especially second) babies and pregnancies, I hid them from my news feed.
I’d read and find some comfort in other people’s stories of loss, but when the post ended with something like “and then we had five healthy babies,” I just couldn’t relate.
There was too much unknown and up in the air for me, and it was all too raw to process.
Then, when I got pregnant again and all seemed to be well, I worried that I somehow missed my window of opportunity to share my story without judgment.
Because I don’t want to be one of “those people” who says this horrible thing happened, but TA-DA…life’s all sunshine and rainbow babies now so it’s fine.
Truth is, life is really good right now.
And I’m so incredibly thankful for another chance to experience the miracle of pregnancy.
But – as precious as he is – this rainbow baby does NOT diminish the pain of the loss that came before.
I didn’t get that at the time when the wounds were still fresh.
It’s like I thought having (or adopting) healthy kiddos somehow erased the heartache of the loss.
It still happened, it still hurts.
It’s still a LIFE that was here for a flicker, then gone.
I still sobbed before falling asleep the other night when I revisited these photos and tried to tell my husband how I felt that day.
I will never forget the pain I felt on October 29, 2014.
Just like those brave women will never forget the pain they felt.
Those were their stories.
This is my story.
And I’ve finally realized that even while it may trigger different people for different (totally valid, absolutely understandable) reasons, I owe it to myself, to my sisters in heartache, and to my little angels to share it.
The Biggest Lesson
We all experience loss. It’s part of life.
We’re all here for a finite amount of time.
Life is precious at every age and every stage.
From conception to 100 years and beyond, every life deserves to be acknowledged and celebrated.
So this is my acknowledgment. Of my angel babies and of this handsome little guy who, God-willing, will be safe + snuggled in our arms by the end of the year.
This is my story.
If you’ve experienced miscarriage or infant loss, please know that I am so sorry for your loss and your pain.
No matter how long s/he was here in the physical world, that life mattered.
Your story matters.
I acknowledge your heartache.
From the bottom of my heart: Thank you for acknowledging mine.
Here’s to YOU, me, and this crazy, precious thing called life, my friend.
Let’s see what kind of good we can make of it while we’re here.
P.S. Songs like “Overcomer” are great when I need strength, but sometimes I just need a good cry. In the midst of it all, this sweet song “Glory Baby” by Watermark still speaks straight to my hurting heart. Hope it helps you too <3