Remembering Our Babies on Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day

I love being a mom. I wanted two more children, but after secondary infertility issues and three losses (one at 18 weeks), I had to listen to the doctor after my fourth child was delivered. When he said that the next pregnancy could kill both me and the baby, I had to focus on the fact that I had four children already who needed me and I couldn’t risk another pregnancy loss.

A few years later, it was clear that it had been a good decision. One child was diagnosed with autism a few months before another developed epilepsy after her middle-school vaccinations. Our lives changed, as going anywhere meant that I had to corral my son, aka the runner, in his sports stroller while monitoring my daughter to make sure she didn’t have a seizure while still having some normalcy for them and the older two kids, too. I needed four hands and another set of legs.

Still though, I’d not have changed a minute. I’m so extremely fortunate I was able to have my four kids, so when I mention the secondary infertility and pregnancy loss to people, not everyone gets it. No matter how many kids I have now, I still lost three. On today, National Pregnancy and Infant Loss day, I am sharing my story. (Thank you to President Reagan for making this a

Each pregnancy loss was different, and each was devastating. It didn’t matter how many kids I had playing happily or sleeping safely in another room; each loss was a baby, a child, I wasn’t going to be able to hold. Each child was a beating heart that I waited to see and hear during an ultrasound. Two I heard, one I never did.

Each pregnancy was a due date, a celebration, a plan, an addition to our family and a future. Each baby came with excitement, possible names, thoughts of the nursery and anticipation of the birth and snuggling with that precious baby. You don’t think about loss, it’s almost as if you don’t dare. You’re pregnant, all is good, and loss is something you push to the back of your head. “It can’t happen to me again.” Each loss leaves you a mess, with a blur of feelings and things to get through, some more graphic and painful than others.

One pregnancy loss happened at a very popular HMO. We rushed to the ER, in a mess, late at night, and a paramedic happened to be outside as the husband was trying to get me out of the car. The paramedic put me on a gurney and rolled me in; he had realized what was happening and knew that laying down was the best thing. He was trying to help. Nurses hassled us when we came in: “Why get on a gurney now?? That’s so ridiculous to drive all the way here and then need a paramedic?” It was humiliating and in the midst of our horrible situation, we didn’t have it in us to explain. When I was finally rolled into a room, the nurse and someone stood there, laughing and telling a knock-knock joke. I remember it clearly. The husband finally said “Guys, my wife is probably losing our baby. Can you stop telling jokes and get her in a bed now??” The nurse gave us a nasty look, sighed and turned away; someone else saw what happened, sent her on an errand and helped us, but they had the last word when they left something in the room for me to see after my emergency surgery, where I did in fact end up losing our baby. I’ll never forget what I saw and the fact that no one cared. I don’t wish bad on you, mean nurse, but I hope someone stopped you from doing it again. It was unforgivable and horrible and so completely unnecessary. I was 14-weeks along and instead of the empathy and help we needed, we got more pain and difficulty. I came in pregnant and left devastated.

Secondary infertility, pregnancy loss and infant loss is never easy. On this day of national remembrance, go easy on those who share their stories. Let them share them without judgment and comment. No matter how many children they have had since or had before, don’t dismiss their loss by a trite comment.

I’ve heard them all, and some from strangers. People who thought my reproductive plans were their business…if they aren’t paying for my children, they need to shut up about how many kids we wanted, and in a bad moment, I told a few that. Even those that meant well didn’t realize the “You’ll have more babies later” comment is of no use at all.

Talking with someone who is suffering or has suffered a loss? Just listen. Give them a hug. Look at them. Acknowledge their story and their memory and their pain. It doesn’t matter how many years it has been. It was a baby, a child they love.

All these years later, I may not talk about our losses and I may not memorialize their due dates or their loss dates, but I still have their ultrasound photos. I still have their tentative names and wouldn’t use them for future children. Each baby I lost was an individual, a soul, a unique person who can’t be just replaced with another baby.

When I was trying to get pregnant, or waiting for my body to heal and be ready to get start trying to conceive again, going in public was hard. I didn’t want to hear about teenage pregnancies. I didn’t want to hear a friend tell me she was pregnant without trying or even go to a baby shower. It wasn’t that I was unhappy for others; they deserved their happiness and moments too, but I was unhappy for me. Why me? I couldn’t get over the unfairness that I’d lost another baby. The first loss was difficult enough; I was 18 weeks along and in the military, across the country from everyone I knew, and no one back home acknowledged it. I remember coming home to visit at Christmas and a friend of mine who had had a baby a year prior was invited to the house. I was thrilled for her, but not so much when someone started discussing her c-section in front me. Folks, hey, I’m standing here, a few weeks after losing my baby, can we not do this? I had to leave the room. “Get over it, Donna.”

I tried so hard to “get over it.” I really didn’t want to be mourning and unhappy and jealous and resentful, but it was, and is, normal to feel that way. Having babies isn’t supposed to be hard. It isn’t supposed to take pills and shots and medical procedures. Then, when you do get pregnant, you’re supposed to have a baby in 40 weeks. You’re supposed to be able to enjoy the pregnancy. The first kick is a momentous occasion, but the minute you don’t feel a kick for a little while, you worry. Feel a pain? Worry. Don’t feel a pain? Worry. Every. Little. Thing. Makes you worry. You want to attach yourself to that baby from second one, but you can’t help but worry that you’ll lose this one, too. A friend told me once that she couldn’t understand why I wasn’t excited. Oh, I was, but I was terrified, too. Her “Oh, I see” response was almost our last conversation. I didn’t expect her to get it, she’d never lost a baby, but I did expect her to try to understand me, and not everyone can. When pregnancy is easy, I imagine it is hard to understand that it isn’t always easy for everyone else. I don’t know what infant loss feels like, but I can guess it’s unimaginable pain. Get pregnant, have a baby. Ah, how idealistic.

On this day of remembrance for the lost babies out there, be kind. Be gentle. Don’t diminish your pregnancy and/or baby excitement at all; we don’t want that. We just don’t want our situation ever to be diminished when we need to discuss it.

I don’t really talk about it anymore; it’s not that I’ve forgotten, but that I remember quietly. All moms do, that will never change I am so extremely fortunate that I was able to have the baby I’d been trying for after that. Don’t get me wrong, that pregnancy was so difficult. I was on bedrest and medication for the first 14 weeks. Then, when I was let off bedrest for some activity, I went into labor at 15.5 weeks; I was put on a new medication, and then put back on bedrest at 26 weeks, all the way until I delivered at almost 37 weeks. At 30 weeks and 5 days, I was hospitalized (again) but this time for several days. I was dilated a couple of centimeters and the contractions were strong and constant. NICU staff came in to talk with me and prepare me for what everyone thought was impending delivery. I’d been put on mag sulfate, a nasty, nasty drug for mom but helpful in keeping the baby in a bit longer. Problem was, I got to toxic levels and they had to stop the medication. They began giving me shots to help develop the baby’s lungs somewhat. They told me, we’ve done all we can. All we can do now is to keep you still and hope they stop, but don’t expect it. A priest came in and blessed us and gave me a medal for the patron saint of pregnant women. And then the contractions stopped. Truly amazing. Baby had some issues at birth but nothing we couldn’t overcome. I was lucky and I’m aware, completely, that not everyone is.

To my fellow moms and dads out there who have dealt with loss, my thoughts go out to you, especially if it’s recent and you’re still in those early stages. I have no words for you other than to tell you to talk about it when you need to and don’t let anyone tell you to ‘get over it’ or ignore it. And take care of yourself.

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