In honor of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, I asked a dear friend if she would be willing to share the story of her recent loss. She gladly agreed as she said she wants to bring hope and encouragement to others who have felt this pain. Thank you, Juliana, for sharing the story of Bristol with us.
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I was at the park one July morning with my son, Barrett, when a lady asked me if I was pregnant. “Not that I know of,” I replied. We were both a bit embarrassed and then continued to push our kids silently on the swings.
The next morning, I decided to take a pregnancy test. Come to think of it, my shorts were a bit tight, I’d been waking up to pee at night and I’d been a bit nauseous for the past week. Before the control line on the test was even wet, the pregnancy line was glowing in its fuchsia glory. It was a rare solitary bathroom trip and I stood their shaking for several minutes as my son played with trains in the other room. I wanted to tell someone, but there was no one with whom I could share my news –Chris, my hubby, was in an all-day meeting with the President of his company, a first and not something I could interrupt unless I was dying. So I waited and waited and cancelled plans with friends so I wouldn’t accidently divulge my secret before telling our little one’s sweet daddy.
I stalled on bedtime that night, so our son could be the one to tell daddy that he was going to be a big brother. When Chris walked in the door, Barrett said, “baby” and handed him the stick. He hugged him and said, “You are my baby!” Then he asked me, “What is this?” Thirty seconds later, the recognition set in and he said, “Really?!?! YAY!!!” We took pictures of Barrett in his Big Brother shirt and shared it with family. Unable to contain my excitement, I drove to my friend Jaclyn’s house to tell her that night.
Chris and I had never experienced the pure joy of being pregnant before. Previous positive EPTs had sent me immediately to the doctor’s door to find out if the pregnancy was viable. Since the full term birth of my son, I felt confident right away that I was indeed pregnant and everything was going to be fine.
The almost all day nausea further assured me that I was indeed very pregnant and going to give birth to a baby in the beginning of March 2015. We both felt really strongly that we were having a girl and began to dream and plan for the new addition to our family. We worked toward fully-weaning our almost two-year-old son, moved him to a toddler bed and transitioned bath time to daddy in preparation. We designed the nursery in our head and dreamed of snuggling our little girl in our favorite carrier. We were smitten and unreservedly sharing our exciting news.
Since I had a history of ectopic and chemical pregnancy, we scheduled an early ultrasound just to be sure. According to my ‘record keeping’, I should have been at least eight weeks, three days when we had the ultrasound. I only measured six weeks, three days. Something just didn’t seem right, but we could see the heartbeat flutter and everyone tried to assure me that perhaps I had missed something in my record keeping and that everything would be fine. I pushed doubt out of my head and continued on with my nausea and dreaming.
Several days later, I found out that the heartbeat was slow and that I should have another ultrasound and
then some blood work to make sure everything was ok. I began spotting the same day. I immediately felt a dark cloud come over me. We had been here before and I knew how this story ended. I began to grieve the possibility of losing our little girl. I scheduled the ultrasound for the next morning and went to bed trusting that God knew exactly what was going on and had a plan for our family.
My husband was able to join me for the ultrasound – our son sat joyfully in his lap as daddy said, “See the baby?” I didn’t see the baby and flashed him the ‘no more’ look. There was still a sac and I could make out some tissue inside, but it didn’t look right and I couldn’t see the flutter of the heartbeat like I had the week before. The tech did a few measurements and confirmed my worst fear – the baby had not grown since last week and the heart had stopped beating. We thanked her and quickly left the office. I was devastated. I explained what had happened to Chris, who was still wondering if there was something we could do to preserve the pregnancy. “The baby’s heart stopped beating, it’s the same size as last week- she’s gone,” I managed through tears. We sat in the car for a few minutes, just letting what had happened sink in. I told him that I wanted to name our little girl. I felt so bonded with her and she deserved the dignity of a name. We decided on Bristol.
He took the rest of the day off and we had lunch as a family and went to the beach. I needed to see the power of the ocean and be surrounded by children playing to remind me that God is the author of life and that our little girl was in his hands. I stared out at the waves and lamented to our sweet girl that I would never see her run on the beach, never hear her laugh or cry, never nurse her or smell her sweet baby skin. Meanwhile, I watched our son shriek with glee as daddy pushed him so high on the swing. He could laugh, he could run, he was alive and the answer to years of prayer for a child. I knew in that moment that, although my grief over Bristol’s loss might be greater, I had hope and this miscarriage would not send me into the despair that my previous failed pregnancies had.
We shared our news with our family and close friends. I think they were more shocked than I was. God had been preparing my heart for this loss and I was grateful. We shared dinner that night with some of our best friends, who were also experiencing some significant loss. I needed to fill my home with life, love and the joy of our little boys. The grieving came in waves over the next several days. Chris and I grew closer as we
shared our sorrow and trusted together that God would grow our family in His time and His way. The outpouring of love and care from our loved ones was astounding – flowers, meals, cards, babysitting and a keepsake box filled with chocolate, a bottle of my favorite wine, and personal care items to help me through the miscarriage. What was even more amazing was that my mom, who lives in Oregon, already had tickets to come visit us in a few days; she would be here for the miscarriage. The same thing had happened when I had the chemical pregnancy – she had a preexisting trip planned that fell exactly during the time that I lost that pregnancy. I felt God’s merciful hand upon me.
I had acupuncture to help induce the miscarriage naturally and the bleeding soon increased. It continued at the same pace for several days and the heaviness of dread hung over me as I waited. My baby had died inside of me and she was still in there. I had to carry her around with me, even though she was gone. I wanted this to be over. I felt terrible physically, and emotionally I needed closure.
The afternoon that my mom arrived, my son woke up from his nap with a 103° temperature. He was miserable the rest of the afternoon and evening. The next day, he showed mild improvement in the morning, only to crash in the afternoon again. He was grabbing his ear and would cry out in pain whenever he swallowed. He had little energy or appetite and he was miserable. He had been sick several times before, but I had never seen him act like this. We made the decision to take him to urgent care in the morning, as it was the weekend and the doctor’s office was closed. We took him in and I’m so glad we did – he had an ear infection and awful sores in the back of his throat. The doctor prescribed him antibiotics and told us to watch out for further signs of Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease. Sure enough, the telltale rash developed and my heart sank. There’s no treatment for it and due to it being highly contagious, we would have to keep him away from other kids for a couple of weeks. This meant isolation from my friends at a time when I really needed to be surrounded by them. He was so sad and wanted mama to hold him all the time. When anyone else tried to do anything for him, he screamed and threw himself to the floor. As he was clinging to my legs crying while I sat on the toilet, I thought to myself, “This is motherhood – caring for your sick baby while you’re losing another one.” Nothing can prepare you for this. In a time when I really needed to care for myself and process the loss I was experiencing, I instead had to push that aside and care for my son. My needs could wait.
I was starting to lose it. I just wanted all of this – the miscarriage, my son’s awful sickness – to be over. Thankfully my mom and husband did everything they could to help me through. My mom cooked, cleaned and cared for me, while my husband attended to our son as much as he would allow. Finally around six o’clock on Sunday evening, August 10, it happened. The bleeding had been increasing and a big sneeze broke everything loose. I jumped up from the couch and got to the toilet just in time to pass a clot the size of a dessert plate. I was surprised by its magnitude, but couldn’t tell if there was any tissue or just blood. I began to soak through heavy pads very quickly and pass additional large clots with every bathroom visit. When I had soaked through two pads in 20 minutes, I made the decision to go the ER (I had been told that I should go in if I was soaking one in 30 minutes). I called my mom and asked her to come back from my aunt’s house where she was having dinner so that she could take me to the hospital. I spoke with my midwife who confirmed that I should go in right away. I was losing a shocking amount of blood and I was starting to feel light-headed. I asked Chris which hospital I should go to and he suggested Saddleback Memorial where we had our son and my OB had privileges. I jumped on the phone with Dr. James and he said he would call ahead to the hospital and see me there. It was a thirty-minute drive, but well worth it to know that someone I trusted and felt comfortable with would be handling my care.
I reached out to some friends for prayer as my mother drove us to the ER. I told them that I would likely be given drugs to slow the bleeding or have surgery (a D & C) to clear out all the tissue and complete the miscarriage. I was given a room and hooked up to IV, BP and heartbeat monitoring very quickly. I continued to bleed very heavily and passed a clot with the dimensions of a grapefruit. The ER doctor did a pelvic exam and after clearing out a lot of blood, found that I had some tissue just inside my cervix. Dr. James recommended a D & C and I spoke with him personally to answer my questions of why I wasn’t getting an ultrasound first and if there were any other options. Satisfied with his answers, I began the preparation for surgery. I called Chris and told him through tears that I wish he could be there with me and how sad I was to be saying goodbye to Bristol. He assured me of his love and how his place was to watch over our son at home while my mother (an RN) could be by my side. I tangibly felt God’s peace and provision in all this.
Very quickly I was in the OR and under general anesthesia with a breathing tube down my throat. This was necessary because they were going to manually dilate me and if I were awake at all I would thrash around in pain from the procedure. Before I knew it, I heard the anesthesiologist calling me out of the depths. I woke up sobbing (this is my typical reaction to general anesthesia) and then quickly transitioned to cracking jokes and entertaining the recovery room nurses. It wasn’t because I found the situation funny; it’s just how my body reacts to the medication. Before Chris and I were even dating, I flashed him in a hospital room following an appendectomy.
Dr. James followed up with us to share how the surgery went. He said I would have continued to bleed extremely heavily for a very long time if we had not completed the miscarriage. It’s unclear why my uterine lining was so thick, but I was grateful that he had done the procedure. I was out of the hospital by midnight (we checked in at 9pm), in what must have been the quickest ER visit in history. Relief washed over me. I had closure and could finally process everything that had happened. I crawled into bed at 1am, grateful that I would not have to get up with my son at our usual 5:30 hour. My mom had changed her flight to be with us another day and my husband had taken the day off of work to care for Barrett. I needed a day to recover and transition back into full-time mothering.
I awoke at a leisurely eight in the morning, enjoyed a hot shower, ate breakfast and spent time reading Scripture and praying. It felt so good to be finally taking care of my needs. The bleeding was minimal and I felt like myself again. The rest of day was peaceful and my son played happily with ‘Nama’ and Dada, while I had the opportunity to nap and write this story. Bristol is gone from my belly and from this world, but I will always carry her in my heart.
This verse my dad shared encouraged me and I hope it will do the same for you.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
2 Corinthians 1:3-5 ESV