I am dedicating this post to Share’s Walk of Remembrance (http://nationalshare.org/) and the Wave of Light (http://www.october15th.com/) in support of infertility and pregnancy loss and shattering the stigma. I would personally like to thank Justine Froelker, author, advocate, and blogger at Ever Upward, for the opportunity to share my story with as many people as possible. I’m honored to be a part of this esteemed group of bloggers. Please visit Justine’s site here for a complete list of participants in our blog tour that will continue through October 15th. Tomorrow, Elena Ridley of Baby Ridley Bump will share her experiences of her infertility struggles.
Every life has challenges. No one dwells on this planet, year after year, unscathed by the ugliness that can drive us to our deepest places of sadness, grief, and despair. Eaten away by the anguish, some disintegrate into a shell of their former selves, unable to gather enough strength to emerge from the dismal abyss. Others grapple at each moment of every day, fighting for a chance to find the positive, no matter how minute. Each path is different, yet the same. Two people experiencing the same event are, in fact, not. Feelings, perceptions, length of grief, outlook into the future varies infinitely. At the same time, the empathic connection is undeniable. And to have that in common is the link to all of humanity.
Nearly six years ago, at 29 years old, I had heard of miscarriage and knew of infertility. Not having had experienced either firsthand, they were things that “happened to someone else.” The scope of my knowledge concluded with the notion that some pregnancies just end. I had no idea how often this happened. I had no idea there were so many causes or moments during a pregnancy in which it might occur. I could not fathom the aftermath that materializes both emotionally and medically. My ignorance ended abruptly December 16, 2010 when we were told our daughter, at nearly 18 weeks gestation, had multiple abnormalities and we would need to see the high-risk doctors.
Two weeks spanned between that fateful ultrasound and her arrival into this world. Backhanded by the supernatural force that controls everything of which we desire human authority, my blissful typical worries of a first-time mother-to-be were stomped to a pulp. When I was fortunate to bypass the anxiety, restlessness, and tears, too exhausted to keep my eyes aware of reality, my dreams were nightmarish: filled with babies, ultrasound images, and dark sorrow. Waking up each morning reignited the apprehension that bubbled from deep within my soul. Not knowing what would happen next, what was wrong with our baby, or even if she would survive shattered my heart. As the answerless test results trickled in, drenched with uncertainty, we were told this pregnancy was not viable. Whether we chose to terminate the pregnancy or wait for her birth, the doctors informed us this pregnancy would not result in a healthy baby. Our daughter was going to die.
Faced with insurmountable choices, it was nearly impossible to be the one to end my baby’s life. At the same time, doctors cautioned the longer the pregnancy went on, the more of a risk it would be to me. Distraught, and often in disbelief, the strain of my body carrying a pregnancy this risky was second to my child. However, with a husband who still needed his wife, and a chance at trying again for a baby sometime in the future, we closed our eyes to the repulsiveness of taking matters into our own hands. We chose what allowed for the greatest possibility to carry on, for better or worse.
Before finalizing our decision to terminate, the need to have all questions answered hung over our heads like a dark heavy storm cloud waiting to burst. Anticipating the final test results, although brutal, allowed my body the time needed to naturally free our daughter from her suffering and her fateful outcome. Born alive at 20 weeks gestation, her one-and-a-half hour life made us a first-time family of three. As the enormous anxiety shrouded me in a delirious stupor just hours before, her birth was the epitome of crisp, clear mountain air. As the murkiness dissolved, my true feelings surfaced for the first time in two weeks. I was a mommy. My husband was a daddy. She was strong. Her beating heart and shallow breaths allowed her tiny life to extend beyond the time doctors anticipated she could. Our tepid smiles in the hospital pictures cannot disguise the joy felt as we held her tiny 9 oz. body. In addition to family pictures, the staff made us molds of her hands, ink-prints of her hands and feet, and neatly folded her one and only dress into a smartly decorated keepsake box. We got a certificate announcing her birth. We answered all the questions required for a birth and death certificate. We named her Sophia. Meaning “wisdom” in Greek, she proved her namesake to be true through her innate ability to navigate this horrendous situation.
Since Sophia, we struggled through two additional early miscarriages. Far different from our first loss, each brought along familiar feelings of grief and defeat. Labeled with “unexplained recurrent pregnancy loss” we now belonged to a club of which we wanted no part. We now qualified for fertility testing–a trivial consolation.
Just as every life has challenges, every life has peaks. Through our journey, the lower we got dragged through the valleys of sorrow, the higher our pinnacles of joy have been. Though not without her own challenges–and a pregnancy riddled with anxiety, tests, ultrasounds, and unnecessarily incorrect prognoses–we are blessed to have our fourth child with us here on Earth. Evelyn survived many similar challenges Sophia faced, yet the supernatural force of life decided she was to make it through each trial. Through no rhyme or reason, she was allowed to live in our Earthly presence. She was ours to take home.
The loss of a child changed my life more profoundly than anything else that has graced my now 35 years. Witnessing Sophia’s brief life enlightened me beyond my wildest dreams. Her legacy shines in my connections with others who have dredged through their own pregnancy loss and infertility issues. Sharing her story, along with my other babies’ stories, forged profoundly compassionate relationships with countless others: friends, acquaintances, and strangers alike. The journey can be phenomenally lonely, yet none of us is ever alone. With the miscarriage rate at an estimated 25% (most likely higher and just underreported), most in society are affected through personal experience or relations with those who know this path.
In an act of unity, please consider posting your Walk of Remembrance photos on social media using #ShareWalk2016 and also your Wave of Light candles at 7pm October 15th using #WaveofLight #pregnancyandinfantlossawareness.