Parenting After Loss

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I was 29, married for six years, and finally ready to jump in completely to babyhood. First lesson learned: getting pregnant is not as easy as on television. With one secret about pregnancy exposed, I was oblivious to the fact that many more darker secrets were lurking in the shadows. Following our every move­­stalking our excitement, hopes, and dreams­­ pregnancy loss reared its disgusting head at the least opportune times.

At our anatomy scan with our first baby, excited jitters morphed into terror as the technician turned the monitor away, hushed her commentary, and suddenly excused herself from the room stating, “It looks like you could use a bathroom break.” Not expecting the doctor to join us several minutes later, our joyful world disappeared into the bleak abyss of genetic disorders and a pregnancy not compatible with life.

Taking time after the birth and death of precious daughter Sophia, we took time to heal, rejuvenating ourselves with a trip to the Dominican Republic. We swept up the broken pieces of our hearts, we taped them back together, leaving only hairline cracks of our sadness to remind us of our most painful loss.

Two more times we got pregnant; each time the hope was met by smaller, more hesitant peaks of enthusiasm. During pregnancy number two, Baby G had a heartbeat that stopped by week nine. Baby Number Three had a similar fate, and after many miscarriage scares, a trip to the emergency room, and numerous ultrasounds, he too lost his flickering lifeline. After this loss, talk of genetic testing swirled, casting doubt that I would ever succeed in carrying a child to term. Miscarriage is all too common; three losses in a row is not. We reluctantly joined the 1% of people who unwillingly enrolled in the “recurrent pregnancy loss club”.

Parenting After LossNow, a month after my 34th birthday, a fourth turbulent, terrifying, trauma­filled, appointment­ladened pregnancy ended in pre­term labor. Evelyn was born at 31 weeks 4 days. Almost immediately after being removed from her the only “home” she new, a small shrieking cry carried over the curtain that separated me from her. She was alive. She was breathing. She was calling out to us. We survived 39 days in the NICU. She proved the all the doctors wrong who constantly came up with diagnoses for her prenatally based on wild speculation, grainy ultrasound images, and citing our loss of Sophia as “proof” that Evelyn’s fate would mirror that of her big sister’s.

“It is extremely unlikely this baby does not have the same issues as Sophia,” they all said. “We want to see you back next week to see if she is still with us,” one doctor stated through fained sympathy.

Admittedly, there is one obvious similarity between the two: both have joint contractures, including clubbed feet. Beyond this, the differences abound. Sophia was born at 20 weeks, only able to survive a brief life that did not extend beyond the delivery room. Evelyn was born well past viability, and thrives in every way. Sophia had facial deformities and many severe joint contractures. Evelyn’s face is beautifully formed. Evelyn’s contractures are less severe and treatable. Evelyn does everything she needs to thrive: she needed only little oxygen in the NICU, and was mostly on room air, she allows for physical therapy stretches for her tightened wrists, shoulders, and legs, she tolerates casting on her feet like a trooper. She feeds like a champ, grows like a weed, and has begun studying her surroundings, trying to figure out this world of which she is now a part.

Evelyn brings us the joy for which we so longed. Evelyn reminds us every day why we endured the five­year­long struggle. Evelyn validates our choice to keep trying for a child, even when we faced nothing but devastation, grief, pain, anger, and trauma. Evelyn is my inspiration.

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