My name is Erin and in early 2022 my husband and I were fortunate to quickly become pregnant with our first child. Our pregnancy was uneventful for 35 weeks: we were followed by midwives and were able to kayak, hike, trailrun and otherwise recreate outdoors however we wanted. While we were cautious to get excited in the first 20 weeks of pregnancy, we were blissfully ignorant of the possibility of loss further along. In late third trimester I noticed mild itching on my hands and feet in the evening and mentioned it to my midwife. She had bloodwork done and I was diagnosed with very mild intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy (ICP). A monitoring plan with further bloodwork and biweekly NSTs was agreed upon and induction was recommended at 38 weeks. While waiting for lab results, our daughter Briar died in utero at 37+4 which was discovered at a regular appointment after feeling her strong movements the night before. After 10 hours of labour and heartbreak I delivered our breathtakingly beautiful daughter who weighed 8 lbs 3 oz and had a full head of her dad’s curly auburn hair. Due to the lack of a cooling bassinet at our hospital, we were only able to spend 3 hours with Briar before we went home the next day to begin the lifelong process of grieving our daughter.
Since Briar’s death we have been learning how to parent her and are finding ways to share her story and create change in her name. We were able to fundraise, purchase and donate five CuddleCots to local hospitals so that parents like us will have more time with their children. We have also begun the process of a formal review into decentralizing laboratory testing related to ICP in our province to reduce delays in labwork related to ICP. Lastly, we’ve set up a bursary in her name to send children to a week-long pony camp and were able to send two deserving children this year. We have grieved loudly and openly and have made incredible connections within and outside of the loss community while working to destigmatize pregnancy and infant loss. We have gotten closer and also lost friends and family members through our grieving process and are grateful to those who have given us grace and have been willing to listen and learn how to support people walking this path.
In early 2023 we made the decision to face our fears and the high statistics around recurrent ICP and give Briar a sibling. While we absolutely don’t view our first pregnancy as a “storm”, we are currently pregnant with our rainbow baby: a little sister who miraculously shares the same due date as Briar. We are being heavily monitored and have a large team supporting us physically, mentally and emotionally leading up to an induction in October. We both are terrified to get our hopes up that we may be able to bring home a live baby and are also grateful for our support team and the opportunity to carry another child.
Briar will always be our firstborn. We miss her desperately and wish that she was here in our arms and we were still blissfully ignorant to the world of loss. Briar shows up for us in our days as hummingbirds, butterflies, rainbows, cotton candy sunrises and sunsets and the colour purple and always brings a smile to our faces. We know that, wherever she is, she’s looking out for her parents and especially her little sister. We love you so much, star girl.
XXOO Mom & Dad
PS. To any other parents navigating the world of PAIL: You are not alone. This lifelong pain is really as bad as it feels and it is not something that will get better or go away. You will, however, gain skills to process these heavy emotions more effectively and over time you will create more memories that aren’t as heartbreaking and sad. Try not to be afraid to reach out for support in the form of friends, family members or professional counsellors/therapists. Lean on your community. Love and mourn your children as deeply and openly as you want and say their name(s). Do not feel pressured to move on or stop talking about them if that doesn’t feel right. We are here for you.
Photos taken by Kim Lockhart Photography.
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