At the Blossom Method, we feature real-life stories from some of the people we have worked with and helped. This week, we feature a story from a former patient of ours who had difficulty with pregnancy loss and turned to the Blossom Method support system for help coping with the frustration, anxiety, and nerves that are inevitable when one becomes pregnant again after losing a pregnancy. Often, patients find comfort from stories of others’ experiences coping with loss as well as in sharing their own stories. 

Babies, Loss and the Future

When I was four years old, I asked my mom, “How do you become a mother?” She thought about it for a minute, and then she said, “You just put your heart into it.” So, at the ripe old age of four, I set for myself the ultimate goal of my life: Eventually I would “put my heart into it” and become a mother.

Three days before my tenth birthday, my mom went in for her 20-week ultrasound and discovered that my baby brother had died. It stopped me in my tracks, essentially ending my childhood at the exact moment my dad told me. How could a baby die before it was born? How could there just be no reason? What other tragic horrors awaited me in life? We were all sad, but I took it the hardest. I always imagined him as with us, as part of our family. I think of him each year on his due date—how old would he be now? When people asked me if I had siblings, I responded that I had a sister and also a brother who was in heaven. Mom told me not to mention my brother–people didn’t want to talk about things that weren’t nice.

The Hope of Pregnancy and Fear of Loss

As I grew older and closer to having children of my own, I realized that my biggest fear was losing a baby. I always told people it was flying, but that wasn’t true. It was hard for me to verbalize something so awful, and, like I’d been told, people didn’t want to talk about things that weren’t nice.

A little over two years ago, my wonderful husband Anthony and I decided that while we would never have enough money or the perfect job or enough free time, we would “put our heart into” becoming parents anyway. It was slow-going at first, and I was impatient. One week before my 30th birthday, I dreamed that my mom told me to take a pregnancy test. I woke in the middle of the night and took one, and was absolutely shocked to find out it was positive. Such joy and such fear I had never known.

An Unexpected Turn

I buried my fear beneath the surface and sent positive thoughts to our precious baby. I was convinced it was a boy, and we decided to name him Jack after my brother who had died. I began to think of him in a Harry Potter-like way: This Jack would be The Boy Who Lived. At seven weeks, though, I started to bleed. We rushed to the ER and were quickly reassured by the baby’s heart tones on the ultrasound. They diagnosed me with subchorionic hematoma and told me the problem should resolve itself and the bleeding should stop soon. I bled again at 10 weeks. This time they could find no cause, so my doctor put me on restricted activity: no chores, no exercise, no lifting. It was the prime of summer and I wasn’t even allowed to go to the beach. I was bored, and this left me a lot of extra time to worry, but I kept telling myself it was for the good of the baby.

At 13 weeks, we had a normal ultrasound, and my doctor assured me that we were out of the woods, so to speak. We were really going to have a baby. I was so ecstatic that I cried. I posted it on Facebook. I basically told anyone who would listen. Two weeks later, I started to bleed again. At first I tried to remain calm, telling myself that some women bled through their entire pregnancies and I could wait to see my doctor the next day. But I couldn’t sleep that night with all the pain and cramping. So at 5am, we went to the ER for a third time. When they wheeled me into ultrasound, I said to Anthony, “Ah, the moment of relief.” All of our other ultrasounds had been mostly good news—why should this be any different?

The ultrasound technician didn’t say a word to us. She wouldn’t let me see the screen. I begged her to tell me something, but she just wheeled me back to my room and said, “I’m going to get the doctor.” And that was when I knew. Our precious baby had died. We opted to deliver him because it was the safest route for me, knowing I wanted future children. They forced me to stay in a room on the labor and delivery floor. I heard babies crying up and down the hall. I heard women screaming in labor. Hospital staff would bring meals and say things to other patients like, “Congratulations!”

It was my own personal version of hell. I was pretty seriously drugged up, but I don’t remember sleeping. I remember looking out the window at the moon, wondering why my baby would never see it.

Coping with Pregnancy Loss

Anthony was my rock during this time, and has been ever after. He left my side only to run home and feed the cats or bring me something comforting. He spent a lot of time squeezed onto my hospital bed just holding me. My parents were on a cruise in Germany and couldn’t get to me, but they called me at every port. Thankfully, my aunts came to be my proxy mother. They booked a room at the hotel next door, they demanded answers from doctors, they demanded the best care for me, and they made me laugh. On the morning of my third day in the hospital, my doctor checked my progress and our son Jack slipped out in her forceps. I held him for a long time. He was much smaller than the palm of my hand, but he had a tiny little face, and tiny little ears, and ten tiny fingers and toes. We didn’t take pictures—I didn’t need any. I will remember him always, just as he was. They tried to take him away on a pink receiving blanket. I hate pink. I refused to let him go until they found a yellow blanket. Yellow is the color of sunshine, the color of life. Although his life was short, it was worth celebrating.

We asked for an autopsy but the results were inconclusive. The death certificate says “unstable placenta”. How the hell can you have a death certificate but not a birth certificate? We had him cremated. We both cried and cried the day his ashes were delivered from the funeral home. The time after that was a really dark time for me. I didn’t cope—I hid, from myself and everyone else. I slept through most of each day, and drank heavily almost every night. I was pretty self-destructive, not caring what went into my body. I abused other people’s prescription drugs, like Ambien and Xanax. Sometimes I even refused to wear a seatbelt. What was the point? When I slept, I moaned and cried, and when I drank, I raged. Anthony asked me to stop drinking at the restaurant where he works because his coworkers were tired of hearing me wail about dead babies. People didn’t want to talk about things that weren’t nice.

Experiencing More Heartbreaking Loss

In September it was time for me to go back to work teaching preschool. My boss was callous and ignorant. One day she told me she cried harder than she’d ever cried in her life when she had to leave her son to come to work for four hours. The next day she told me pregnancy was the worst thing she had ever experienced. After the third day of driving home in tears of rage, I quit.

I knew I couldn’t go back to the life of meaningless darkness, so I decided to seek professional help. I have always battled depression and anxiety, and I could tell I was in a hole that I could no longer dig myself out of. I quit drinking and using others’ prescriptions. I started exercising, doing yoga, and putting some structure into my days. I began to go to support groups, and I talked about my experiences. For the first time, people didn’t mind that my stories weren’t nice. They wanted to listen. Things slowly began to get better.

In early October I had another dream, this time about a pink plus sign on a stick. I took another pregnancy test, and sure enough, it was positive. I was overjoyed. God and the universe had given me a second chance. I was going to be a better mother this time. I would not take one single second for granted. At our six-week ultrasound, baby’s heart rate was only 80 beats per minute. The technician assured us it was fine. I knew it wasn’t. I went into the bathroom and cried and cried. I was sure I would lose another baby. A few days later, I started to bleed. I called my doctor and begged her to do any sort of intervention. She told me I was being dramatic and that she wouldn’t do anything until I had lost three babies. I told her that was unacceptable, hung up on her, and switched doctors that same day.

I spent an agonizing weekend waiting. I was at a karaoke party when the cramping started. Bohemian Rhapsody has always been my favorite karaoke song, but that night it haunted me. “I sometimes wish I’d never been born at all”—who would wish that on their mother? Truly, “nothing really mattered to me.”

When I went to see the new doctor the following week, I was unsurprised to find that there were no fetal heart tones. This doctor did not diminish my feelings or tell me a bunch of rubbish about losing three babies. Instead, she said with great sympathy, “I know today is a sh***y day.” She walked us through our options. We decided to do the D&C. This was partially so the hospital could easily test the tissue, but it was also partially because I wanted to be unconscious. It turned out our second son had trisomy 13 and could not have survived, no matter what I did. My mom came and stayed with us for the third time in as many months. Neither of us had happy days anymore, but sometimes we had tolerable ones. Anthony was afraid to leave me alone, but I knew I couldn’t go down the same dark path again. This time, I chose anger.

I completely lost any and all faith I had ever had in God. I told him to go f#@* himself several times a day. I adopted the persona of the honey badger, from the viral YouTube video. Honey Badger does what it wants, when it wants. Honey Badger will steamroll over everyone else. Honey Badger don’t care that people didn’t want to talk about things that weren’t nice. The world wasn’t nice—get used to it or get eaten alive. When I went home for Thanksgiving, I said some truly terrible things to my sister, who was pregnant at the time and already had a toddler. I think I broke my mother’s heart. So I decided that anger wasn’t the best way to go, either, although I did stick with Honey Badger.

Moving On, Living Life

I was fortunate enough to spend Christmas and New Year’s with my husband’s family in coastal Florida. Coastal Florida is my favorite place—heat, sunshine, palm trees, and waves. At midnight on New Year’s Eve, I jumped into the ocean, fully clothed. I considered it my pagan Baptism. Things would be better in 2014. They just had to be. I got a new job, and it felt great to be teaching again. The polar vortex didn’t bother me as much, for I had already been through a long and terrible winter. I got a tattoo of the moon, in honor of our sons. I tried to mend the relationships I had damaged earlier, and I waited for it to be our turn.

Pregnancy After a Loss

In February, on the morning of my sister-in-law’s baby shower, I discovered I was pregnant a third time. I didn’t need a dream to tell me to take the test—the timing was right. This time I proceeded with caution. I tried very hard not to let fear in, but I also tried very hard not to let joy in. I settled on hope. I could give my baby hope for as long as it was with me. The day after I discovered I was pregnant, I met Aviva at a support group. She invited me to join The Blossom Method, and in these grieving, hopeful and brave women, I found my strength. I don’t know where I would be now without them. Lonely, I guess, and misunderstood. Here, people wanted to talk about things that weren’t nice. Here, finally, people got it. Here, finally, people cared.

My doctor has been great. She lets me come in to hear the heartbeat whenever I am anxious. She runs all the tests that she can. Every time another test or ultrasound comes back normal, I am pleasantly surprised. We are having a girl this time, with normal measurements and normal chromosomes. I am 35 weeks at the time I am writing this. She could arrive any day. Although I am still anxious and cautious, I decided that I owe it to myself and my daughter to celebrate this pregnancy. We had a baby shower. We moved into a bigger apartment and the nursery is almost ready. We read to her, and my husband plays her songs on his guitar. I talk to her constantly, telling her about my day and about her cats and about the sun and the moon and the ocean. She is quite active, and the best part of every day is when she kicks or punches me.

I roll my eyes at strangers who ask “Is this your first?” Sometimes I tell the truth. Sometimes I lie. It turns out that sometimes even I don’t want to talk about things that aren’t nice. But I never forget our sons. Every night I say goodnight to all my babies. I tell my daughter about her brothers. I don’t sleep soundly very often. I am emotional and still very afraid. I have now been pregnant for the better part of 18 months, and I know I will not truly relax until I hold my living, breathing daughter in my arms. But this time, I cope. I talk openly with Anthony about my feelings and apprehensions, and I listen to his. When I have the energy, I do yoga, take a walk, unpack some boxes. When I don’t, I lie in the sun, take a warm bath, go to the movies. I don’t know what’s going to happen next.

I do know that I have “put my heart in it,” as well as my soul, my body, and every fiber of my very being. I am most definitely a mother.

I wait, I love, and I hope.