Photograph courtesy of the Trainer family
My son was born in 2017. I was one of the fortunate ones. I got pregnant easily, my pregnancy was easy, and my delivery was easy. My son has been and still is, easy. Of course, he cried a lot and didn’t sleep at all and I had some physical rehabilitation that I needed, but I had the knowledge and resources to seek out a pelvic floor physical therapist. I had one friend who had a baby at that time and I leaned heavily on her, but when I went back to work, I felt completely alone and isolated. It was hard. Keeping a baby alive is not easy when you don’t know what you’re doing, but I got through. That said, I also realized that there was support lacking for women who have just had babies and maybe don’t fit into the stroller brigade or mommy circle. There is absolutely nothing wrong with those support systems and I’m glad women have them, I just never found MY place there.
I had always thought that I either wanted no kids or tons of them running around. I also had in my head that I wanted my kids to be very close in age. In 2018 I got pregnant again. I was excited. My husband and I were both excited. Our kids were going to be less than two years apart. Six weeks later, I was in a yoga class and felt myself bleeding. I ran to the bathroom and found a lot of blood. I got in my car and cried. I was having a miscarriage. I, like many women, thought to myself, well at least it happened early. I called my OBGYN and he got me in two days later. He did an ultrasound and found a heartbeat. I had not had a miscarriage. For two days, I had thought I had a miscarriage and now my baby was still alive with a strong heartbeat at that. Bleeding can be common early in pregnancy and so I was sent home. Two weeks later, I was at lunch with friends and felt the same sensation. I was bleeding. However, this time I was bleeding so much that it was running down my legs. I was seen immediately and again, there was a strong heartbeat. My life continued in this pattern for a few more weeks, the doctors, my family, my husband hoping that the bleeding would stop as I entered my second trimester.
I, however, wasn’t living in the world of hope. I was quickly shifting into what would become my new world for a long time… fear and loss.
I was told to stop working out, which if you know me, is a great loss for my physical health, but also my emotional and mental health. I could no longer be with my friends on the bike or connect with my husband in the climbing gym or on the trails. I was still allowed to work and to hold my now fifteen-month-old son.
I entered my second trimester and now I was not only bleeding frequently, but I was starting to hemorrhage. Chunks of blood the size of my fists would pour out of my body. I never knew when it would happen or how I could stop it from happening. I was diagnosed with something called chronic abruption. My placenta was pulling away from my uterus. I was seeing my OBGYN almost weekly along with two different specialists. I was now on complete bed rest and was not allowed to hold my son. Honestly, had I not been on bed rest I wouldn’t have left my house anyways. I was terrified. All-day. Every day. Every time I hemorrhaged, I had to go to the doctor and every time that heartbeat was as strong as ever.
My baby started kicking really early and this was how we communicated. This kick, kick, kick was the only thing that gave me peace.
We spent New Year’s Eve in the hospital due to the amount of blood I was losing. I had an emergency doctor look me straight in the eye and ask me if I had a termination plan. I was unprepared to answer this and to this day still can’t.
At twenty-six weeks, I went to a specialist, they did a very detailed scan and said that my baby looked strong and though it had been a very hard pregnancy, he believed the baby would be okay. With my firstborn, we decided to keep it a surprise, but with this baby, I had to know. My husband did not want to know, so they had him wait outside and told me that I was going to have a boy. Two boys, less than two years apart. Could I allow myself to actually think this was going to happen? Though that appointment gave me a tiny piece of hope, it also came with a whole new set of fears. Fears that now took away all of what was my husband’s hope. Though the baby was strong, due to all of my bleeding and the chronic abruption, the baby could be born early. They wanted me to get to at least twenty-eight weeks. Anything before that could mean my baby could be blind, deaf, or have heart, or lung issues. And even if we got to twenty-eight weeks we could still have a long, hard battle ahead. My husband stopped sleeping. We pretty much stopped talking. We were both fighting battles and were doing it in the only ways we knew how. My husband did everything for us and for my son and I resented him. I was fighting a war I didn’t have any control over. My only peace was that kick, kick, kick. My baby boy. Kick, kick, kick. I decided that I was going to get to twenty-eight weeks. I didn’t know how, but that was it. I was going to get there. My baby boy and I were going to make it and we would deal with whatever came next later.
One week later, I hadn’t felt much movement and I called my OBGYN. He had me come in and he put the fetal doppler to me and we didn’t hear a heartbeat. He tried three different dopplers and then put me on the ultrasound machine. There was no more kick, kick, kick. There was just silence. Just total silence. My OB grabbed a nurse (whom I knew so well as I had seen all of them more than anyone else in the last twenty-seven weeks) to come sit with me as he called my husband.
I don’t remember how long it took for my husband to arrive. I don’t know how long I had been there or even how I got there. I puddled into his arms. I do know that this was a Monday because I was going to have to deliver my baby boy the next day. Tuesday, January 15, 2019.
Ashley, the labor and delivery nurse who was there when my first son was born had become a friend of mine. I called her and asked if she would be there in the morning.
My husband and I arrived at the hospital early in the morning and Ashley met us and brought us through a back way so I didn’t have to deal with moms who were delivering babies who were alive.
The sound of delivering a baby that you know will not cry is a sound you will never forget. It’s hollow and echoes and the silence is deafening. What was heard was my wail. I remember a doctor came rushing in to make sure there wasn’t an emergency. The sound wasn’t of physical pain but one of loss and destruction. It was my primal wail of knowing I would never get to see this beautiful baby’s eyes open or hear him cry or get to rock him back to sleep. I would never know whom he would become and what he would like or not like. It was a wail of the most animalistic, maternal form.
I held my baby boy for as long as I was able. I felt his skin. I touched all his fingers and all his toes. Ashley suggested that we get pictures taken of him and so we hesitantly agreed. She held onto those pictures for me for many months. They now live next to my bed. We named him Zeek.
Photograph courtesy of the Trainer family
We left the hospital as two, not as three. We left the hospital broken and confused and wondering what we do now. What do we tell our firstborn? What do we do? We were given one name and number of a therapist. I called her a week later and she asked how I had her number and that she didn’t work with clients like me. This began a six-month terrible journey of trying to find someone, anyone who would see me. I was denied more times than I can count for reasons ranging from they didn’t have time or that my case was too specific or they didn’t do that type of work. Some never even called me back.
My doctor told me my milk would come in and the best thing to do would be to wear a restrictive sports bra for as many days as it took for the milk to disappear. I showered in my sports bra, I looked down at my swollen belly and the emptiness that it meant and I curled into a ball and cried. I cried and cried and cried. I made it into my bed and stayed there. I hugged my firstborn and cried.
Two days later, I went to get out of bed and couldn’t walk. I had somehow ended up with a blood clot and was now back at the hospital. My emergency doctor was so pregnant she was about to pop. I was so broken. I never wanted the feeling of the kick, kick, kick to disappear. That old familiar feeling of fear crept back in as now my own health was at risk.
Something had happened, though, and all I could think about was getting pregnant again. It is complicated and I understand it a bit better now, but I wanted to be pregnant again immediately.
I got the physical okay from my OBGYN and because I was still unable to get mental health at this time, went for it. I was so lucky that I could have the opportunity to try again and I was beyond lucky that I did so easily. I got pregnant with my daughter two months after losing my son. Though the pregnancy was not complicated physically it was emotionally and mentally destructive for me. Because of my blood clot, I had to inject myself every single day for fifteen months. The injection was painful and annoying, but more, it was a daily reminder of what happened before and could happen again. I finally found a therapist who saw me from six months until delivery and that did help a little. My daughter was born just two days shy of Zeek’s one-year anniversary, January 13, 2020. I have a happy, healthy seventeen-month-old baby girl, and when she first let out her battle cry, I cried….. I cried for so many reasons.
My daughter was born four weeks before the United States shut down. With that shut down came my shut down. The fear I had lived in for the past two years boiled over. I had a prolapse from having three babies in four years, mentally and emotionally I had nothing left. I didn’t want to kill myself and yet didn’t really want to be living either. I had two beautiful children, a husband who fought next to me and with me, and yet, I was not okay. The pandemic put me over the edge. It was too much fear for too long for my body and my mind.
I sought more help, I was put on meds and am still on them and proud of it. I started working with my old mentor and we rehabilitated me physically.
Loss and grief of any kind can feel unbearable. Loss of something that never quite was to the rest of the world put me into this grey area. This place is hard to explain and hard to exist in. Did I have a son? Do I have the right to grieve my child? Did this all actually happen? I have his footprints on my desk to prove it. I have some of his ashes in my bedroom and some on a mountain that we go visit. Zeek would have been two years old in May. Would he have had blue eyes like my husband or would they have turned brown like mine and my son’s or grey like my daughter’s? Would he have been adventuresome? Would he have loved to read? What would have been his first word and when would he start walking? What would he be like as he got older? I will never have answers to these questions, but I will always remember his fight and his kick, kick, kick. His ability to reach out to me and give me peace. His way of telling me he loved me and that he knew he was safe for as long as he could be. I wish I would have held him longer.
I still daydream about having a house full of kids. And if you asked, I would tell you I have three of my own. And I exist in a world where I know grief and loss and sadness and absolute fear. And in this world, I have found some of the bravest, strongest, smartest, compassionate women. These women know what I know and feel what I feel. I am surrounded by their love. They are my family and their lost babies are part of my story. I talk to Zeek often. I know he is around me and that he is loved. I know he is with the beautiful babies of the women who have held me up. Who knows what I know, who feel what I feel. Kick, kick, kick.