Each year I wonder if this year will be the year that I share our story; almost every anniversary/birthdate, almost every Mother’s Day and several sentimental moments in between I stop and ask “Am I ready?” This year I finally feel ready. Because there is so very much I can and want to share, this will be a series of posts about my experience with infant loss, rebuilding my life and repairing my marriage. I hope that you enjoy and more importantly, I pray that it blesses you or someone close to you in a special way. 

ForCarter

I was never THAT type of women … I am an only child and spent my childhood playing with cousins in my neighborhood during the day and returning to the peace and quiet of our home in the evening. I never longed for children or kept a list of baby names. Until my late 20s, I didn’t think I would ever get married and wasn’t sure if I even wanted children. But then I met him and considerations that hadn’t received much time began to seem like a reality. After four years of dating, we got married and began a new phase of our lives together. About six months into our marriage, we began talking about starting a family. After several conversations and a little research, we decided that yes, we were ready and would begin family planning. By this time we’d heard several stories of it taking anywhere from months to years to conceive, so we approached conception from this standpoint. With calendar and ovulation kit on deck and prayers all around, we started the process. BOOYAH! First try and we were in!

The next few months were both nerve-wrecking and a joy. We did as we were advised: come back in however many weeks; be aware that many women miscarriage in the first 12 weeks; try to relax. Done. Done. And done. As you can imagine, when we went back for our 12-week visit and had a successful ultrasound we thought we were in the clear. We made our announcements to close family and friends first. Naturally, my mom was ELATED – her first and long-awaited grandchild!!! We slowly made announcements to others and became those giddy parents awaiting our next doctor’s visit – heartbeat is strong AND we have a “flipper” (our son would spend the majority of the ultrasound visits doing what appeared to be flipping around as if he knew we were watching :-)). We received random pre-birth gifts in the mail and my husband – I’ll call him Gregg – surprised me with a portable crib that he saw on sale and couldn’t resist. We traveled to North Carolina for Gregg’s birthday and took our first candid maternity photos – this was also when he remembers noticing my “baby bump.” And I made my epic announcement on Facebook with that same photo.

In December we flew to the Midwest for another family member’s baby shower – it was there that we made our announcement to the rest of the family. We had a fabulous weekend and by this time everyone close to us was aware that we were welcoming our new addition. We were at the airport and like most pregnant women, I made a visit to the restroom yet again before we went through the security gate.  I sat to use the restroom, felt a flood of water released and knew that something had happened … I immediately began crying! Amniotic fluid was all over the restroom floor. The moment that so many women wait for happened for me in a random airport restroom.

Everything that you could think of happened over the next six weeks. I was hospitalized while away and finally cleared to fly home.  We cried together, prayed together, and had all of our family praying with us – even one of my nurses joined in and gave us a crocheted angel as a token of support and encouragement. We returned home and connected with the top physicians to provide our ongoing care. I was confined to quasi bedrest – no work, prolonged standing or lifting and minimal activity outside of the home.

Three very important things happened while I was at home: I realized how incredibly blessed I was and am to have Gregg in my life. He cared for me every single day without complaints, even as tiring as I knew that was. I had A LOT of time to reevaluate my life: who am I? What do I want? Who has God told me I am? It was during this time that I came to see how deeply complacent and off track I’d become. I was working a job that stressed me to no end and had all but completely eliminated my community engagement and involvement. And finally, I began to know pain like I never have before. Up until that point, I’d never been hospitalized overnight. I’d never had so many tubes connected to my body and tests run and doctors inspecting me. It was miserable – the random emergency room visits, each time holding my breath as we waited to hear a healthy heartbeat.

On the eve of January 29th I began to experience excruciating pain. I called my doctor and she advised me on timing my contractions and what would need to happen as they increased intensity, decreased in time intervals. As Gregg slept peacefully, I looked at him knowing it would be the last night = for at least a few weeks – that we’d sleep together in our home. We had already been advised that I would probably deliver early since I had little to no amniotic fluid remaining. I would be hospitalized at ~32 weeks (the details of this are fuzzy now) and would remain in the hospital until I delivered.

At about 4am while still in pain I got up to use the restroom … and just like that I delivered at home. Everything happened in what felt like less than five minutes. There our baby was. Between us trying to follow instructions given by the 911 operator, our struggling to hang on to hope, the sounds we were hearing without knowing what do to and what felt like forever before the ambulance arrived some part of me slipped away.

Following my hospital stay, a series of tests, visits from the hospital chaplain (a role that I now have a tremendous amount of respect for) and final clearance, we returned home. After a few weeks of healing, we struggled to find ways to celebrate good health, to honor Carter (what we named our son) and to rebuild our lives. We attended multiple infant-loss support groups, found a therapist and returned to our church. The next few months were challenging – extreme lows with sprouts of highs. I was preparing to return to school – one of my many revelations while at home – and Gregg was still working on finishing up his doctorate. The pressures of stress, my continual questioning of who I was, what I wanted, what this experience meant to me and what was next slowly chipped away at me and our marriage.

What followed was what felt like a forever of me rediscovering myself and an arrival of what I thought was a point of no return for our marriage. While subsequent posts will discuss the aforementioned in more detail, I will say that this story or more appropriately, this chapter of our life story does have a happy ending :-). I’ve recommitted to my life’s work and am now happily matriculating through my doctorate program (as mentioned in previous posts). My husband and I have recommitted to each other, as well as our service in the community AND our life continues with the precious reality that there are a myriad of ways to be fulfilled in life.

The anniversary of our loss is no less painful – but we find time to perform rituals to honor Carter. I honor him through this blog – my commitment to keep writing. I honor him through being authentically me in every way I can. I honor him by not downplaying our experience of loss – the pain of losing a child at any time, including so far into my pregnancy, OR solely defining my womanhood by the absence of having children. And I honor our marriage for what it is: a story of love AND loss; laughter AND tears; building AND repairing.

As we approach Mother’s Day, I write this post as a release for myself, but also for women who may be like me. While I have friends who are faithfully awaiting their moment of conception, those who have conceived after years of trying and others who are currently exploring alternative ways of parenting, including adoption – I also write this post to and for women who have decided not to have children or submitted to their inability to carry a child healthfully (for one reason or another). I write this post for women who feel the pressures of the world to have children when they aren’t really sure that this is what they want for themselves. And I write this post for those who’ve experienced loss of any sort, but particularly the loss of a relationship or child and wonder how life will ever continue afterwards. I write as a woman who has chosen to embrace my life as is and find alternative ways to share my love :-). No matter where you find yourself, I hope that you too are actively practicing self-care on a daily basis as you wait for what you believe and know will come to fruition OR redefine your life after an unexpected event. Hang on to you – don’t get lost in the process. Seek professional help. Re-evaluate your circle and love yourself without ceasing!!!

Finally I want to send a special thank you to some amazing people who have supported me throughout this entire time: Venteria, Monica, Lottie, Liz, Elizabeth, Melissa, April, Charmaine, Vickie, Gregg 🙂  I will NEVER forget your kindness and care.

Thank you for reading!

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