The Loss That Healed Me
This week is National Infertility Awareness Week and I couldn't think of a better time to share my story in detail.
This blog will make mention of recurrent pregnancy loss, miscarriage, stillbirth and infertility. I encourage all readers who are still healing or who may not be in the place to discuss these matters to exit this blog. I always want to be a responsible writer and advocate by encouraging my readers to be honest with themselves about where they are in their healing process. My thoughts and prayers are with all who have unfortunately experienced loss on any level. If you are in need of support, please visit my Resource Hub for resources.
Sunday, February 20 was an ordinary day. I woke up early to start getting myself ready for church and I had a thought back to the night before. My husband had been heating up some leftovers and the smell made me SO nauseous. That doesn't happen so easily normally and I had this "random" thought to take a pregnancy test. Well, within a few moments I realized that it wasn't a random thought at all. Two lines IMMEDIATELY popped up and I realized that I was in fact pregnant. Both joy and shock flooded me as I freaked out in the bathroom trying to figure out how to tell my husband. I decided to just start the camera and catch his raw reaction as I knew he would be just as shocked as me. And shocked he was!! We opted to share with our immediate family and close friends right away despite our previous reservations and tendency to withhold our pregnancies for some time. Everyone was so excited that our family was welcoming another baby.
About a week later I began to experience light spotting and knew something slightly off. I went to the ER and all they could see was a sac but my Beta HCG levels indicated that I was right on track. I was then instructed to get my blood drawn 2 days later to ensure that the numbers were trending upward. The results came back on the second day showing that my Beta HCG had slightly declined from 8,515 to 8,496--an indication that something was wrong with the pregnancy. My doctors advised that pregnancies typically end in miscarriage when this happens and they offered me two options to handle what they called "the inevitable": take a medication that would induce miscarriage or schedule a procedure called Dilation & Cutterage (better known as a D&C or medical abortion) . But something just didn't feel right as I began to ponder on what I thought would be best. I already had an ultrasound scheduled for that Friday so I wanted to wait to see if my baby had developed further and then make a decision. It was the most agonizing 3 days of my life waiting to find out if my baby had matured and my HCG had increased or decreased. I began relieving our previous losses (32 wk stillborn, 14 wk miscarriage, 2 years of infertility and then 22 wk TTTT) as well as the 4 year period of infertility that we just seemingly beat. We often look back, wonder how we overcame that and say that there's no way we could survive that again. We prayed earnestly that we would never have to.
Friday came and I couldn't have been more grateful. As we were escorted back for our ultrasound, I began preparing myself for the worst. After what felt like 10 minutes of searching, the tech couldn't find the baby within the sac and it seemed as if my worst fear was being realized. She asked me to go empty my bladder in hopes of getting a better view and I remember crying & praying the entire walk to the bathroom just asking God to please let everything be ok with our baby. I closed my eyes as she began searching and then she said "Oh there's baby!" I opened my eyes to see our little baby and soon after I would hear the heartbeat for the first time. We all breathed a sign of relief in gratitude. Not only did our baby beat the odds with a falling HCG, but there was it's strong heartbeat and matured body. We left the office and had our labs drawn. On Saturday we found out that our HCG had finally doubled although it took about a week. Our doctors seemed hopeful and so were we. We decided that we wanted to know the sex right away like we did with our daughter, mainly because we had earnestly prayed for a son and felt we were about to have one. I signed up to do an influencer deal with SneakPeek, the same company who's early gender test revealed that we were having a girl at only 8 weeks. I completed and sent the test off on that following Friday after recording all the required content and even buying props to make the video more interesting. The next day I began experiencing dark colored discharge when I would use the restroom. I googled and it seemed to be fairly normal outside of other concerning symptoms. But by Tuesday it turned to pink, then red and increased in quantity. I put a call into the nurse help line late Tuesday night and they suggested I come in that Friday for an ultrasound or go to the ER. Wednesday morning I began to cramp terribly and the spotting became a full on period. I had a sinking feeling in my stomach as I made my way to the ER and when we got there it was discovered that they had a 7 hour wait. I called back to the nurses line and they were able to get me in to have an ultrasound an hour later.
I was being cared for by the same tech who had taken my previous ultrasound which was comforting. We engaged in conversation as she set up the machine and the moment she put the probe on my stomach I felt an eerie, cold silence come over the room. As she shared the images on the screen in front of me I realized that the silence wasn't just in the room but in my womb. There was my baby, more matured than the last ultrasound but still--no movement, no cardiac activity. The tech never looked at me but I could see her eyes well up as she went to get the doctor and see if they wanted to get additional images. In that moment I knew. I knew that my worst fear had become a reality and the talks to follow would be very painful yet incredibly familiar. We were faced with the same two options again and this time we quickly chose the d&c to minimize the suffering and amount of conversation. The doctor offered her condolences and handed me a generic handout on pregnancy loss as if I were a stranger to it. I left the office screaming into the sleeve of my sweatshirt as the pain was absolutely unbearable and so were the questions flooding my mind.
"Why would God give us this baby and take it from us? Why were we in this same place yet again? Why take the baby before we heard it's heartbeat and weren't so attached? WHY ME? Haven't we gone through enough already?"
While enduring the most agonizing ride home, I realized that this hospital and doctor's office holds so many memories for me. It was there that my daughters pregnancy was confirmed, it was there that we watched her grow for 6 months and it was also there that my expressed concerns were ignored and also cost me my life just a few days later. I never thought I would see the inside of that doctors office again due to the trauma suffered there. But there I was experiencing yet another trauma in that same place. When we got home we decided to send my daughter to my mother-in-laws so that we could process and not deflect any emotion onto her. We thought we were going to have a restful evening but the cramping intensified to the point that I just laid down in the bathroom as things began to pass. No amount of pain medicine or heat would bring me relief. I found myself in a hot bath screaming in pain from the intense contracting. After about an hour I felt enough relief to exit the tub. And as soon as I stood, I felt a pressure I had never experienced. I sat down on the toilet and felt a pop. My husband & I both looked down and there was our baby in what we presume to be its sac in the bottom of the toilet. Relief filled my body as the pain subsided but terror and grief filled my heart as I realized what just happened. We were told in the doctors office to collect everything that we expel should the process begin for genetic testing. It took about 30 minutes, but I finally got the courage to take our baby out of the toilet. I couldn't focus on it too long as the contracting began again I was once again doubled over in pain. This cycle of contracting, expelling things and then relief continued all night long (and for the next 7 days while I waited for my d&c date). The morning after we lost our baby I got an email. One that confirmed what we thought all along.
Our Sneak Peek gender results confirmed that we lost a SON. Our sweet baby boy that we dreamed of, prepared for and wanted for so long had gained wings before we had a chance to hold him. But he gave me a gift, one I'll not soon forget--healing from birth trauma. Were it not for my pregnancy, I would've never revisited that hospital and opened myself up to be triggered. Up until this point, I couldn't ride by the hospital or outpatient building without being triggered. After all, this was a place where I trusted my prenatal care to a team of doctors who ultimately failed me. It's the place that I was told my daughter would be born at just 26 weeks and have a plethora of issues to overcome IF she survived despite the 60/40 chance that she may not due to not having time for lung steroids. It's the place where she was born fighting for her life and ultimately defied all of the odds. But its also the place where I nearly lost my life. It's the place where I nearly lost my life. And its the place where my faith in the healthcare system died and an advocate was born. Through out this pregnancy, I have felt heard and my concerns explored. They were so attentive to my husband & I along this journey and I couldn't be more grateful for that. Even during our D&C (which happened 8 days later), the doctors and nurses were so cautious not to re-traumatize me by only going over my pregnancy history ONCE. And as I was waiting to go back into the OR, my Google photos app reminded me that 4 years prior I was in this very same hospital, on this very same floor being readmitted for postpartum hypertension. I shared that fact with my husband and the nurse reassured me that my blood pressure was great and that they wouldn't take it more times than necessary as to not traumatize me.
It was as if my excruciating loss was the catalyst God chose to heal my birth trauma and restore my faith in the healthcare system.
About a week later, genetic testing results were back and my husband & I were in for the shock of our lives. Not only did they confirm that we were indeed carrying a baby boy, but that our son had Angelman Syndrome (click to read more), a very rare neurological condition that often takes YEARS to get diagnosed and wouldn't have afforded him the quality of life we would wanted for him. His birth would've made us the parents of TWO medically-complex children, one who would need around the clock care. After doing my research I found that it's not a condition most institutions test for prenatally unless there's a familial history or suspicion. That to me said that they went above and beyond to get answers for us, another action that we had not previously seen. So although extremely painful, this journey has been a very healing and redemptive process for us as a family. The place where I've experienced the most pain was able to provide a healing experience that I had been seeking since 2018 and gave us another cause to advocate for. But I am also able to share with other black women that our advocacy is successfully bringing about change. In addition to helping with NICU support groups, I have decided to partner with the volunteer department at the hospital to help them better serve not just black women, but those experiencing pregnancy & infant loss.
There are some things that happen to us that crush us . But much like a grape or olive, the essence of who we are is often revealed in the crushing an can be purified to serve a greater good. Would I love to be 16 weeks pregnant right now? Of course! But instead I'm sharing my pursuit of healing in hopes that someone else will be able to find healing in their journey as well. This was the loss that healed me. My prayer for all of you reading this is that you'll be able to find greater purpose in the midst of heartbreaking situations and that you'll let the process bring the forward the purpose you've been seeking all along.