My name is Elizabeth and I’m a mom of three boys. Whenever I tell people that they always tell me how busy I must be or how much money I’ll be spending on groceries when they’re teenagers. I wish they were right.
In 2016, after an uneventful pregnancy I gave birth to our first son. It was pretty textbook and although my delivery and those first few weeks were a bit rough, I loved being a mom. I had waited to be a mom for so long and was so grateful that it was now that time for me.
In spring of 2018 my husband and I discussed having a second, and last, baby. It took a bit longer this time to get pregnant but on January 1, 2019 we found out we were pregnant again.
I chose a different birth plan this time and different provider. It was a great experience and it was nice to see the same office for the duration of my pregnancy. I was pretty low key this time as I had been pregnant before and wasn’t really worried about much, especially after the 12 week ultrasound showed things were progressing nicely. We did a gender reveal this time, our first born had been a surprise, so this time we decided to find out.
Another boy! I had been convinced that this pregnancy was a girl since I had felt so differently. But being a boy mom was going to be fun. And I already had 3 years worth of boy clothes so we were pretty set.
My pregnancy continued on uneventfully into the second and third trimesters. It was nearly time for his arrival as we finalized buying those last minute baby items and getting things ready. I was nearly 36 weeks pregnant, and although I was just planning to let him arrive when he was ready, I knew that could be almost any time now.
On the day of my 36 week appointment we were rushed. My first was potty training and taking his time on the toilet when we needed to be heading out the door. It’s interesting that when you experience a trauma your mind can remember all the minuscule details surrounding it. I remember the very banal weekend we had just had, rushing my son to get off the toilet, and heading to the doctor first thing on a Monday. My blood pressure had been slightly elevated the week before and I wanted it to be rechecked and to get some reassurance.
The appointment was fine, blood pressure was fine, weight was fine. We finished up the visit checking for the heartbeat.
The doctor couldn’t find it.
We had to wait for the ultrasound room to be free and I texted my husband they couldn’t find the heartbeat but that I was sure our son was just being a brat.
In the ultrasound room they confirmed his death with silence. He wasn’t ok. He wasn’t being mischievous, he had died. They shuffled my oldest son into another room with his tablet while the doctor called my husband and told him that our son had died. But instead he used the term “fetal demise” which I hate to this day. He was a baby. My baby.
I remember walking out of the appointment in a haze and immediately joining stillbirth support groups online. We were able to meet our son Arlo a few days later after a gentle delivery surrounded by some of the most caring providers.
I knew that my motherhood journey was not over yet. I wanted to have a living sibling at home for my oldest. I worked hard to recover from my delivery so that my body would be able to sustain another pregnancy. I joined the loss community online and in real life, and met some of the most amazing women. I worked hard to navigate my grief so that I could still be present for my oldest. He still needed his mom.
Approximately 10 months after the birth of my second we finally got pregnant again. I had encountered some secondary infertility issues that were triggered by my second delivery and had grown increasingly disheartened on the journey to get pregnant.
I was so excited to finally see those two lines on the pregnancy test. This excitement lasted about 1 day and then I became worried and fearful. Having been accepted into the pregnancy/baby loss community I now was acutely aware of all the negative outcomes that could occur. Miscarriage, ectopic, stillbirth… there was no free pass or guarantee just because we’d had a loss before.
This time my pregnancy journey was not uneventful. It was filled with many doctor appointments. First to check HGC levels, then to check for heartbeats, then to be sent to the high risk Maternal Fetal Medicine doctor.
I lost count of how many ultrasounds I had during the course of this pregnancy. And they were never reassuring. I was convinced with each visit I’d be told again that my baby had died or that there was something wrong.
My OB was agreeable to a 37 week induction and I counted down the weeks. Towards the end of my pregnancy I was admitted to the L&D triage department 3 times. Each time allowed to go home with a sliver of hope that we’d make it just a few more weeks and get to stay there and be monitored the whole time.
On February 21, 2021 we’d made it to 37w1d and were admitted to the hospital. My body wasn’t exactly interested in cooperating, but after 36 hours our son Atlas made it into the world alive and healthy.
Being pregnant after having a third trimester stillbirth was a really hard experience. The blissful ignorance and naivety of pregnancy was forever gone. And despite being cared for by a wonderful set of nurses and doctors the birth itself was emotional and traumatic.
Having Atlas here also has brought up many feelings of being postpartum with Arlo. While it is different of course, to mother a living newborn it has made me miss his brother on an entirely new level. My grief for Arlo is once again raw and delicate.
I will continue to do my best to mother three boys in their own unique ways. Navigating this new chapter is both wonderful and difficult. I am grateful but grieving. And so, I will continue to remind myself that both grief and happiness can co-exist together.
Photo taken by Dallas Arthur Birth Stories & Support.