1. Describe the process of getting pregnant. Was it easy for you? Was it hard? Did you have to go through fertility treatment?
My husband and I were not trying to get pregnant but were not preventing it. I had just settled into the thought that we likely wouldn’t have another baby since nothing had happened for us in over three years and was perfectly happy with my two boys. When I found out I was late I was shocked. I planned a cute way to tell my husband and wrote it on the mirror with the pregnancy test so he would see it when he woke up.
2. What was the pregnancy like? Was it easy and smooth? Hard with a lot of pregnancy symptoms?
The pregnancy started out fine. We were planning to tell my parents about the pregnancy at the end of the first trimester as part of our Christmas gifts to them. The night prior to our traveling for Christmas, I went to the bathroom only to find I was bleeding profusely. I went to the ER by myself so my husband could watch our youngest. I was of course expecting we lost the baby. When the hospital ran all the tests, they said the baby’s heartbeat was fine but that it would be a 50/50 if I lost the baby or not. The bleeding continued for another month but in a much smaller amount. We told my parents but in tears and told them not to share the news as were were uncertain if we would lose the baby. It was during COVID so I was able to keep my physical changes private and the baby continued to live and grow. The pregnancy was difficult. My body hurt the entire time. I struggled with nausea from the end of the first trimester on. I tried to stay walking etc to stay healthy but it was difficult. At the end of the 8th month I finally settled into the thought that we had made it and had just started to process that I would soon be welcoming in our baby girl into the family. I went a few public places and let the rest of the family and our friends know we were expecting.
3. Did you have a reason why your losses occurred?
Nothing specific was called out. I had COVID and so they tested the baby for COVID. While she did test positive, they did not think that was the cause of death. I was left with no answers until later with our next child. Based on my experience with my following pregnancy, they think possibly that I had placenta Provera which didn’t allow my baby to get enough nutrients from the placenta. Basically my little girl starved.
4. How far along were you?
I was 38 weeks and was going into the hospital in labor.
5. What are your babies names?
My baby was named Ava Grace Leavell
6. What was the birthing/loss experience like?
Because the pregnancy was so difficult, I initially did not realize I was going into labor. My contractions were ten minutes apart before I put it together. Based on the experience from my previous delivery, I still anticipated I would have some time before we had the baby. I headed to the hospital by myself and left my husband with the 2 year old to find a place for him. When I got into the hospital the nurse set me up on the table and began looking for a heartbeat. I could tell by her response something was wrong. She went to get help and a doctor came in to tell me the news. I was astonished and shocked. How had I made it this far to lose her? I couldn’t wrap my head around it. I made the call to my husband to tell him our baby was dead. He immediately started crying. I then proceeded to call my mother and my best friend and let them know. While I was completely alone at the hospital, the response I heard over the phone was very real from everyone and I did not feel I was experiencing this by myself. The doctor then explained to me that I was going to another room to deliver the baby. The news was like being told I was going to have to walk straight into my worst nightmare by myself. When my husband arrived there was panic. We tried to get the doctors to do a C-section. I wanted no part in experiencing the delivery. I couldn’t handle experiencing any further pain or trauma. The doctors were not up for it. They explained they would make it as easy as possible with an epidural but that it was healthier for me to have her vaginally. Before we could protest or even get the epidural, Ava Grace ripped through my body. I remember seeing the panic on my husbands face and hearing myself scream as it happened. The nurses were not ready and barely caught her before she fell to the ground.
The nurses handed me my dead baby and allowed me to hold her as long as I needed. Her lips were bright red from blood but her body was a dark purple. I asked them to bring her in over and over until her skin began to look saggy. Probably one time too many as the last image in my head is not one I wish I have but then again, I didn’t wish to have any of this experience. We took some pictures that I plan never to share with anyone. We got hand and foot prints as well as some hair. They are all stored in a beautiful box that the hospital gave me with her ashes.
8. How was the medical treatment/support during your loss?
Given my delivery was not planned, I did not get to have my OBGYN deliver. When my doctor did show up she sat and cried with us. The nurses and doctor were truly amazing although I didn’t have it in me at the time to really recognize it. The hospital sent me a box with keepsakes and a necklace which I have never worn. They also sent paper work for which they named a star after the baby. Looking back my support was really incredible. My follow up apts were at off times so I never had to see any other pregnant women and they called and checked up on me a great deal. I saw a family counselor with my husband and children as well as a private counselor who specialized in infant loss.
9. Did you receive support from family and friends after your loss?
Friends and family struggled to support us as no one really knows how to support in this instance. They brought over food and checked in via text. They all offered to come over if that is what we wanted or to leave us alone. They were lost on how to support us and we were lost in regards to what we needed. End of the day we managed things very much in private. My husband sent out a large facebook post to cover all basis and in hopes to eliminate any questions. So many people wanted to share their loss stories with me about early miscarriages or even second trimester miscarriages. I hated every single person who made this comparison. Anyone who didn’t actually have to experience the process of delivering a dead baby to me was just another person who was out of touch with what had happened. It felt like they were not trying to comfort me but to perhaps get sympathy for their experience and I just didn’t have it in me. I didn’t have space to hear anyone elses sad story. It didn’t make me feel better and I didn’t have it in me to be kind or empathetic to them.
10. How were your emotions after loss? (Angry, sad, scared, confused, etc)
I struggled a great deal with PTSD. I couldn’t verbalize what was happening to me until my counselor described it. Every sense in my body was heightened. I could see movement from far away that I would have never noticed before. Bugs crawling on things and sounds from far distances. I was overwhelmed by sensations and could not focus on any one thing. I couldn’t even be sad for an extended period. I would drive places and forget what I was doing and just sit in the parking lot. I would look down at the speedometer and see I was only driving 25 in a 45. The nightmares were endless. I felt like I missed someone but didn’t know who it was. There was no personality to hold on to or remember, no good times to associate with a person. I even struggled with my religious beliefs because I couldn’t put together how I would ever be reunited with someone I never met. And how would God allow this to happen? What would be the reason? Why not take her when we first thought we miscarried? Why wait till it was time for her to arrive only to then take her from me in the end. I felt like I had failed somehow but couldn’t put my finger on what I had done or could have done better. I regretted that I had taken the stance to protect myself from the potential loss and had not tried to enjoy my pregnancy as much as I could. I felt like I was a terrible mother who didn’t love on her child while she had the chance. I was embarrassed, confused and angry. I knew we had to take down all of the baby stuff from the nursery but I couldn’t do it. It took months and even then I did it in small pieces only when I felt I could handle it, when my husband and I both felt ready and when I had enough time to do it slowly and cry if I needed to.
11. How did you know you were ready to try again?
After our loss I felt there was a gap in our family. While I had felt fulfilled with my two boys prior to my pregnancy with Ava, I didn’t feel that way any longer. I wanted another baby. I waited till my counselor released me and gave her blessing to my mental state.
12. What has the pregnancy with your rainbow baby been like?
My pregnancy with Quinton was high stress. I had Apts every week and at one point every day to make sure he was OK. We were on high alert ready to remove him as soon as he was deemed viable. Every apt when they went to hear the heart beat or do an ultrasound my heart stopped beating until I could hear or see him. It was physically easier on my body but mentally I struggled. I did everything I could to just love on being pregnant while at the same time kept it as private as I could. I couldn’t bare going through it again. I didn’t want to have to tell anyone our sad story a second time. I couldn’t handle putting baby stuff back in storage or giving it away to strangers. I in no way prepped the nursery. I purchased a single outfit to bring home my baby in. We didn’t confirm gender as it helped me keep a safe distance from over planning or developing dreams of me and my new baby girl or boy. When Quinton finally made his way into the world and I heard him cry, I felt 1000 pounds lift off of my soul.
13. Is there anything special you do to remember your angel baby/babies?
My husband and son let out balloons for her first birthday.
14. Is there anything you want others to know about going through loss?
If you end up going through this loss know- Everyone handles this differently and no one knows how to handle it well. It’s OK to not know what you need or what will help you. It is ok to handle things in private or to allow this to become part of your story. However you handle it know that there is still joy to be had. It may take time but you will laugh and smile again. If you know someone who is feeling this loss..do not tell them about yours or a friends loss to empathize. Just accept you aren’t aware of what their hurt is and be there however they ask you to show up.
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