Remembering My First Baby

Today is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Rememberance Day, and is part of October’s Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. Approximately 1 in 4 pregnancies end in a loss – this is my story.

October 14, 2016 started as a day just like any other except for the fact that Justin and I were keeping a big secret – I was eight weeks pregnant!

Baby #1 Pregnancy Test

My first official ultrasound was not scheduled until ten weeks, but I had no risk factors or symptoms to indicate things were going any other way than perfectly. Justin and I were over the moon and could not wait to share our news with the world.

Baby #1 - 5 weeks
My first “bump” tracking picture @ 5 weeks

This particular day was a Friday. I had just finished eating lunch in my classroom and headed to the copy room make a few quick copies before my next class. As I was walking down the hall, I realized I felt sick. VERY sick. I immediately changed course and headed for the bathroom.

From there, things quickly spiraled downhill. I didn’t just have a little pregnancy nausea; I experienced an extremely violent sickness. I will spare you the details but suffice to say it was worse than any other illness I’ve ever had. By the time Justin got off work, I was also experiencing searing side pain. He immediately rushed me to the ER where an ultrasound confirmed terrifying news: my pregnancy was not going as perfectly as we had thought and our baby was not growing in my uterus but actually within my right fallopian tube – a condition known as an ectopic pregnancy. To make matters even worse, my tube had ruptured and was causing a very serious amount of internal bleeding that was life-threatening to me. I was immediately taken into surgery to remove the pregnancy and stop the bleeding.

October 14, 2016 marks the day we lost our first baby. It was, quite honestly, the absolute worst day of my life.

Waking up from surgery was like waking up in a nightmare. I was devastated by our loss and also in a tremendous amount of physical pain. I had to undergo four blood transfusions due to the significant blood loss from the rupture. I couldn’t even sit up without passing out. And perhaps worst of all, I was in so much pain that I couldn’t even cough without having to brace my abdomen with a pillow, let alone do what I really wanted: scream, howl, and ferociously ugly cry to mourn the loss of my sweet little baby.

The days and weeks following my surgery were full of sorrow and recovery. I took ten days off work and spent my time lying on the couch with my dogs snuggled up beside me, my eyes puffy and red from constant crying. I wouldn’t wish the pain and sadness of those dark days on my very worst enemy. My long, slow journey of healing had only just begun.

Baby #1 - hospital bed
The first small step towards healing came when I woke from a nap and realized Justin was sleeping next to me in the hospital bed, holding my hand. The road to healing would be long and difficult but in this moment I was so thankful that we had each other to lean on.

It is hard to describe the roller coaster of emotions that come with the loss of a pregnancy. One moment you can be numbly watching Netflix on the couch and in the next moment you’re screaming and crying into a pillow over how unfair life is. You might see a pregnancy or birth announcement on social media and try to conjure up happiness for the other person but you really just want to smash your phone into a thousand little pieces because you desperately want to be able to make that announcement too. You finally get up the energy to leave the house for a much-needed date or outing with your husband and you enjoy yourself, only to post a picture and then feel like a fraud because your marriage looks perfectly together online when in reality you’re both just trying to deal with your grief and make it through one day without breaking down in tears over the “what could have beens” for your family. You aren’t sure if you will ever really feel like yourself again and wonder if this cycle of anguish and heartache is just your new normal.

Then finally…finally…you have a day where you are truly okay. And then another day when you’re okay. And then another. And suddenly, you’re just okay. Until you’re not. And then you have a hard, hard day where grief encompasses you all over again. But this time, it’s a little easier than your last hard day. You get back to being okay a little bit quicker. And the long cycle of healing continues.

Justin and I are so grateful that we were able to get pregnant again (a miraculous story for another time) and did not take a single moment of my second pregnancy for granted. We welcomed LJ into our lives with so much joy and tears of happiness and gratitude. We are so in love with him and so SO thankful to be his parents. But this doesn’t erase 100% of the grief from our first loss. Two years later, reliving it all by writing this blog post has brought me to tears several times. When I was pregnant with LJ, I cried during the Mother’s Day church service and again on our baby’s due date (May 25, 2017). I still trace the tiny scar on my belly from my emergency surgery – my only physical reminder of the life I carried for eight weeks. And I still hesitate whenever a curious stranger making small talk asks me if LJ is my first because the truth is, LJ may be my firstborn but he is not my first baby (but it’s way too heavy and complicated to explain to a stranger making small talk that my first baby is actually waiting for me in the arms of Jesus so I just smile and say “yes” and walk away with a twinge of sadness in my heart).

Pregnancy loss is an ongoing journey. It’s messy and hard and multi-faceted. If you are struggling with the loss of a pregnancy or infant, know that you have been in my thoughts many, many times over the past two years, even if I don’t know your name of your story. I am praying for you and sending you so much love. You are not alone.

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