My husband and I fell pregnant for the first time within the first two months of trying in April 2020. We were both surprised and in disbelief that it happened so soon, and we were actually going to become parents. I had a textbook normal pregnancy – attending each doctor’s appointment with innocence, hosting a baby shower, buying baby clothes, and decorating the nursery. We decided we wanted to be surprised by the gender at birth, and we discussed baby names as we continued to prepare for our little one’s arrival.
As I became closer to my due date, I felt more fearful about the birthing process. I attended virtual birthing classes, breastfeeding classes, and infant first aid classes to prepare myself for this new role as mother and chapter of parenthood. I did as much research as I could on what to expect and felt more empowered as I neared the end of my final trimester.
Just after I passed my 39 week milestone and began my maternity leave, I began showing signs of labor. Contractions began in the middle of the night–coming and going every ten minutes. I tracked them until I was able to call my doctor’s office in the morning. In the morning, the doctor told me to wait until my contractions progressed until about every five minutes. This was it – I was experiencing all the expected symptoms I had read about, and knew that meeting this baby would happen soon. After another day and my contractions not progressing, I began noticing that the baby was not moving around as much. I kept asking myself, “Was that a kick or was that a contraction?” and “Was this normal to feel less movement at the end of pregnancy?” I was told to do another kick count, but eventually was sent to labor and delivery. The nurse I spoke with over the phone reassured me that I was most likely going to have my baby that night!
On our drive to the hospital, I told myself that everything was going to be okay, and I pushed away the intrusive thoughts that something could be terribly wrong. When we arrived at the hospital, the nurse used the fetal doppler to check the baby. As she moved the doppler over every inch of my stomach, all we could hear was deafening silence. She wheeled in the ultrasound machine, but I already knew what she would tell us. After continuing to look at our baby on the monitor, our dreams of parenthood evolved into a nightmare within a split second as we heard her tell us, “I’m sorry. There is no heartbeat.”
Our dreams of bringing home our baby were shattered. We spent the next few hours sobbing and telling our immediate family that our baby had died. My birth plan was interrupted by decisions about induction, autopsy, and funeral arrangements. My husband and I had no choice but to endure the labor and delivery of our baby, but now under layers of trauma that birthing classes did not prepare us for. Our baby daughter, Alice, was born on January 12th, 2021. We discovered immediately after birth that she had died due to a spontaneous umbilical cord accident.
The next hours, days, weeks, and months were a blur. I navigated the weight of my grief, post traumatic stress, and postpartum depression and anxiety. So many of our questions were left unanswered, but all I wanted to do was try for another baby. I struggled with my own feelings of guilt and anger over the months of trying for another baby while continuing to grieve and long for our daughter. I found comfort and ways of coping through therapy and support from the community of many other parents who experienced pregnancy or baby loss.
It took us eleven months to get pregnant again, this time with a baby boy. We found out at 23 weeks that our son would be born with a congenital heart defect. After visiting the maternal fetal medicine doctors and a pediatric cardiologist, he was diagnosed with truncus arteriosus type 1 – a condition that requires him to have open heart surgery during his first week of life along with additional heart surgeries as he gets older. He will be cared for in the NICU as he recovers and be followed by a cardiologist his whole life. While this complication has caused grief and anger to resurface, we are relieved his diagnosis has a positive prognosis and that he has the chance to come home with us. We expect to meet our little heart warrior in July 2022.
Read more about Truncus Arteriosus Type 1 here.
Photos taken by Crystal Parenti Photography.
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