Shannon’s Story

Our journey to expand our family began in August of 2016. We celebrated our first wedding anniversary with a naïve proclamation that we would start our family. First try, pregnant! I look back at that time and the person I was and think of how innocent and excited that I was. I did not know then, it would be the last time in my life that I felt that way about pregnancy.


At my 16 week ultrasound, December 7, the doctor had trouble locating the heartbeat. After several attempts by her and the midwife, I was sent downstairs to the lab for a full ultrasound. I was told to call my husband and I had a horrible knot in the pit of my stomach. The ultrasound tech would not say a word and this is when I knew. My nightmare had come true, the doctor told me the words that no mama ever wants to hear, “There is no heartbeat.”

That appointment, that moment, marked a before and after in our lives. I was no longer the same person and I never would be again. This led to a series of appointments and tests, specialty doctors, and a wide range of medicines. Every test came up inconclusive and we never received an answer as to why we lost our first angel. 


On August 7, 2017, we found ourselves in the same cold and dreary room. Again, the words, “I’m sorry, there is no heartbeat” echoed off the sterile equipment in the office. We lost our second baby, a baby girl, 9 weeks gestation. She had Turner Syndrome. It felt bittersweet to have an answer to this loss.


My third pregnancy looked great! I was so healthy and so was the baby. We were so sure that this was the pregnancy that would result in a healthy baby in our arms. We purchased an at-home fetal doppler. I tried like hell to not use it more than once a day. I felt the most overwhelming sense of relief when I heard my baby’s heartbeat each morning. On occasion, I wouldn’t be able to hear it. Sheer panic. Eventually, I would find it later in the day. On Father’s Day, June 17, 2018, I could not find the heartbeat. Something felt different this time. I called my mother who has been a nurse for over 45 years. She brought her stethoscope over and tried to reassure me that the baby might be in a different position or some other excuse that did not make me feel any better. When she couldn’t find it, she calmed me by telling me that she was sure everything was fine, but that she would take me to the ER for an ultrasound. 

I was 18 weeks along when I found out that I had lost my baby boy, my third angel. “I’m sorry, there is no heartbeat.” This time, they sent in a social worker to provide me with resources. The papers that she handed me would become my lifeline at the beginning of my spiral. A list of groups, meetings, doctors, counselors. I spent my days calling therapists, trying to find someone who could save me from the deep depression that I was sinking into.

My third loss shook me to my core. I lost myself. I took a leave of absence from my job for months until I decided that I would not be going back. I spent eight months at home doing nothing. When I finally worked up the courage to move forward with my life, my husband and I decided that we would try one more time. This was it for us, we decided. My husband could not watch me go through another loss and I didn’t think that I would survive another loss. 


I spent my time preparing my body and my mind. We saw the top specialist in the country and I started a regimen that included certain foods, medicines, and exercise. We were days away from our first IUI appointment. We never had trouble conceiving. In fact, each time we made the decision to try, we conceived a baby. But our doctor was sure that an IUI would allow him the ability to have control over some factors that could play a role in the success of our pregnancy. The doctor told us that we could start trying during the days leading up to the IUI as an added protection that we didn’t miss my ovulation window. When we arrived, we found out that we would have to wait until next month because of a miscalculation of timing. Fortunately for us, we had followed instructions and tried all weekend. We had conceived again on our own without intervention. I had weekly ultrasounds and it didn’t take long to find out that I was pregnant with twins. I will never forget my husband’s reaction. He thought I was kidding. Twins run in both of our families. I always told him that this was a possibility! 

We didn’t have much time to think about what life with twins might look like. At our nine-week check-up, we found out we lost one of the babies. I didn’t have time to grieve. I needed to continue to take care of my mental health for the baby, baby B is what they called my surviving twin. I suffered my fourth loss, mostly in silence, since I had not even told anyone I was pregnant except for family. We were doing great! A healthy baby was developing and CNY Fertility released me. I found a high-risk doctor to take me on. I explained that I needed to have weekly ultrasounds because of my past. I was not capable of going any longer than seven days without hearing my baby’s heartbeat. I had only seen the doctor twice before he sat me down and told me that there was a serious issue. The first appointment that I went to alone because I was feeling confident. I literally could not breathe. It was Christmas Eve and the office shut down early, a half-day. I was the last appointment at 11 AM. I remember the doctor speaking, a nurse coming in and holding my hand, and he was pointing at the ultrasound while talking. It was like Charlie Brown’s teacher, all I heard was, “WOMP WOMP.” Nothing. I only remember words and not sentences. I do know that he told me, “there is no hope.” I walked out of the office and to my car in the parking lot. To this day, I don’t know how I drove home. I called my work, where I was supposed to return to finish out my day after lunch, and I told them that I wouldn’t make it back in. I called my husband. I called my mom at her office then I called my dad. I remember everyone telling me to wait and they would pick me up. There was no way that I was waiting anywhere. I had to go. It was the longest drive home of my life, yet I remember nothing. It went by so fast. How is that even possible? When I returned home, I felt defeated and confused. I called the office to ask them to detail to me what was said so I could allow my husband and my mom to hear what I heard. The office was closed for the holiday and would not be open until after the new year. I felt like someone slapped me in the face. What kind of doctor tells a woman that there is no hope for her baby’s survival on Christmas Eve?! I had to wait ten days before I could speak to the doctor again and ask for clarification. I spent that Christmas in a quiet fog.

When I returned to the office, this time with my mother, a nurse, my support system, my advocate. She asked him all of the hard questions while I listened to him tell us that I should schedule an appointment for termination. He told me that I could seek a second opinion and an amniocentesis if I wanted to. So, that is what I did. I found the top doctor at the CNY Regional Perinatal Center, and booked an appointment.

My husband and I went to the appointment, fully prepared to hear the worst. We were already discussing what we would do next, how we could go on. We did the amniocentesis and an hour-long ultrasound. The doctor comes into the office and pulls the ultrasound up on the big monitor. What he told me next, I cannot tell you the words. I can only describe the feeling. This may have been the only time in our lives that I saw real tears in my husband’s eyes. I asked him to speak slower because my brain was not processing anything. What I gathered is that this doctor just told us that there was hope. My baby had a cystic hygroma on his neck. However, there is a chance that it could be nothing. It could disappear, it could just be a flap of skin that needs to be removed. This did not mean that my baby was not going to survive. There was hope! 

We spent the few months after this revelation at doctor’s appointments. Each time, we seemed to be getting closer to the possibility of having a healthy baby. It was a crazy emotional rollercoaster. One day, I am preparing a nursery and maternity leave, the next day, preparing my heart for devastation. It was the hardest time of my life. The scariest pregnancy! I never took a pregnancy photo and I didn’t tell anyone I was pregnant. The pandemic hit and I started working from home for the last four months of my pregnancy. This allowed me to hide at my house and push everyone away. Luckily for me and my baby, we have amazing family and friends, who threw a beautiful virtual baby shower. It is really hard to celebrate when you are not sure that you will be bringing this baby home. There is no guarantee. Until I am holding this tiny baby in my arms, anything can happen. Angel mamas know this best. 


Tuesday, June 30, 2020. My husband and I checked into the hospital for a planned induction. I was so high risk that they wanted me there to monitor. 14 hours of slow labor before the mood changed. The baby’s heart rate was dropping and I was hyperventilating. The doctor broke my water to move things along. I went from dilation of 4cm to dilation of 10cm in seconds. An entire team rushed in and it was time. There was no time for an epidural or pain medicine. They put an oxygen mask on my face and tried to calm me down. My husband was holding one leg and a nurse, the other leg. One of the doctors looked me in the eyes and got real with me. She said that I needed to breathe and follow instructions because my baby’s heart rate was dropping quickly. I tried so hard to do what I had to do to bring my baby into the world healthy, but I couldn’t breathe. I was pushing when they told me not to and I was practically fainting on the table. How could I do this? After everything, my baby’s existence was dependent on my body at this very moment. There were a dozen people in the room trying to talk to me and hold me. I can hear one doctor say to the other, “let her push once more, and then we need an emergency c-section.” I realized that they were giving up on me and that things were going to take a turn for the worse. I needed to push this baby out NOW! One last push. I did it. We did it.

11:04 PM. I am holding my son, my earth angel. Daniel Brian III. 7 lbs. 3 oz. My rainbow.   

I am so grateful to have been invited to this club of amazing rainbow mamas. I am so honored to have had the opportunity to wear the rainbow skirt while holding my rainbow baby. Daniel just turned a year old when we did our photoshoot. He has no idea how much this skirt, this moment, means to me. Maybe someday, I will tell him the whole story. For now, it is my story and he is my everything. 






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