Two years ago – almost to this exact date- I found out that the baby I was carrying stopped growing. The way the doctor put it was “the pregnancy is not viable.” It was nothing I did to cause this. In fact, he told me and Josh that it was quite common. For whatever reason, this baby was not healthy and would not survive. Maybe this baby had a few extra chromosomes. Maybe this child already had a major health defect. Whatever the cause, this baby had stopped growing and the embryo was already detaching.
For some of you reading this, this post might be way too personal for you to want to continue reading. Some of you may question why I am writing about this at all. Especially now, two years down the road.
I’m telling my story because every Memorial Day weekend, I’m thinking about this baby. I’m telling my story because it’s therapeutic. I’m telling my story because maybe it will help me shed some of the shame that I still carry from this very major life event occurring… and being silent about it.
There are many things I wished I would’ve done differently both during the short, few weeks that I actually knew I was pregnant and during the long, few months that followed.
In May of 2017, I was traveling slightly more than usual for work. May is always a busy month for my job and I often have back to back trips. This time I had three trips scheduled. First to D.C., then Scottsdale and lastly Philadelphia.
At the same time, we had just become an ‘active’ family with FAC and I was stressed trying to respond to different situations we were presented with while attending meetings. I distinctly remember one case where the birth mother wanted to receive letters from each family presenting to her. I worked on editing the letter that Josh wrote on the Metro going back to my hotel at 9pm— with my uneaten dinner sitting on my lap. The days were so crazed that I wasn’t eating well- skimpy calories and many hours between meals.
I was also training to run the Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, MN in June, so I was sacrificing sleep in order to get my training runs in while traveling.
Around this same time, we found out my sister-in-law was expecting. I was upset. I know it’s awkward and painful to admit this here- feelings that up to this point had only been shared with my husband, but it’s true. It was a Sunday when we found out. I remember because I proceeded to sit on the couch all afternoon watching sappy rom-coms and I drinking an entire bottle of wine. By myself.
We had tried for a while to get pregnant ourselves. We began our journey to expand our family with the mindset that whatever happened first- pregnancy or adoption- we’d be happy and cool and roll with it. The problem with that outlook- that I didn’t know at the time- is how easy it is to get sucked into “trying to get pregnant.” The timing, the waiting… and the disappointment when it didn’t happen.
I was genuinely happy for my sister-in-law… and at the same time throwing a pity party for myself. It didn’t help that at that point, we had been waiting for a match through another adoption agency for over a year with little interaction and feeling quite hopeless.
It dawned on me on a Tuesday after my trip to D.C. that I didn’t start my period. Now- this wasn’t alarming or unusual since I was training for a marathon and knew that my sleep schedule and diet was off. Regardless, Josh and I decided to pick up a pregnancy test on the way home from bible study. I mean- I had just recently drank a whole bottle of wine. And with more work trips scheduled, happy hours and networking events would be plenty.
I was teaching a 5:05am class at the fitness club I coach at the next morning when I took the pregnancy test. And then proceeded to take another because I didn’t believe the results of the first one. I woke Josh up at 4:30am calling out from the bathroom “We’re pregnant!”
To say that I didn’t receive the cheerful response one would expect is an understatement. And to be fair, how would you react to news that seems incredulous at an insanely early hour and when woken from a sound sleep. We were both in a state of shock. I remember teaching class that morning and thinking the entire time that I have this huge secret and I can’t share it with anyone! How weird it was!
You would think that I would have been over the moon with this new secret. But I wasn’t. If you don’t know this by now- you guys, I am a tad bit of a control freak. I was freaked out by the changes that would happen to my body that I had no control over and that I didn’t entirely understand. I was upset at the timing. We had just signed on with a new adoption consulting firm and I didn’t want to mess up our plans to adopt a baby. Most of all, I was scared out of my mind.
I left a few days later for the next work trip. All the while, we continued to receive situations to present to different birth mothers and we were putting our ‘yes’ on the table as much as we could.
I returned from my work trip just before Mother’s Day weekend. By this time, we had told our parents that we were pregnant because we wanted them to begin praying over us and this baby. The Friday before Mother’s Day, our dinner was interrupted with a call from FAC. We had been chosen by a birth mother who was expecting a baby girl in August. I couldn’t believe it. We were blessed! Two babies who would be born just 4 months apart from each other. We were ecstatic at the thought of this and it seemed perfect.
I was home for a week before leaving on my next and last work trip. The day before I left, Josh and I were laying in bed watching the movie What to Expect When You’re Expecting (how cliche, I know) when I felt this weird tug behind my belly button. It was somewhat painful and definitely something I had never felt before. I also had some weird discharge that caused enough concern that we called the emergency nurse listed on my health insurance card. After talking to her, she thought I could still travel and that there didn’t seem to be anything too concerning. But the truth is- I knew. I knew something was off. Call it intuition, call it instinct, call it whatever. But I knew I shouldn’t get on the plane the next morning and I did anyways.
When I returned home, we had our first scheduled ultra sound. It was the Friday before Memorial Day. It’s the day we learned that the baby had a 99% chance of surviving and that the baby had already begun to separate from my uterine wall.
Immediately, I felt guilt over my selfishness in not being excited about the pregnancy from day one. Guilt over my selfishness in not wanting my body to change. Not having control over what would happen to me over the next 9 months. Not being able to run as much as I would like. Not being able to eat or drink what I wanted. Guilt for being such a horrible person for having these thoughts.
What’s more is I passed this event off as if it didn’t matter. No big deal. I was one of the statistics- you know, 1 in every 4 pregnancies ends in a miscarriage. In fact, I was one of four women who I knew were pregnant at the same time. We all miscarried within two weeks of each other. While I wasn’t alone in this per se, I was still very alone with my feelings. It’s not a subject you are told by society you should talk about. It’s not a subject society embraces.
Josh went to work that afternoon. He came home that evening and shared that he found it incredible that when our dog died, he told coworkers who empathized with him and comforted him. We just learned that we were losing our baby and we felt as though we couldn’t share this with anyone. And this hurt so much worse.
So, I’m choosing to speak out. In remembrance of our baby. A baby we never met but who has changed me forever.
And I know now that we were never alone. God knows what it’s like to lose a child. He sent His son into the world. And He eventually sacrificed Himself for us. Talk about love.
Because I have experienced this loss, I can better understand the sacrifice that Lyla’s birth mother made. Losing a child hurts. It’s a hurt that you never recover from. And I am forever grateful for the choice that Lyla’s birth mother made to carry through with the pregnancy, not to terminate, and to make a sacrifice so unselfishly so that Lyla can have a life she didn’t think she could provide for her.
Because of this loss that I experienced, I have so much love and appreciation for the birth mother of the baby girl who was born in August 2017 and who decided, with the birth father, they loved that baby so much they wanted to parent her.
It’s taken me two years to fully appreciate and understand what I have gained through this loss. And I have gained so much.
Because, even in the ‘no’… God is blessing us.