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When Lighting Strikes Twice

Becky Louis1 Comment

5 months. That's how long it took me to get pregnant after we lost Noah.

The emotions ran rampant those 5 months. I was angry. I was sad. I felt guilty. I was just so mentally exhausted from the thoughts constantly circling my mind.

What have we done?! We HAD a baby. We were given the greatest gift and we gave him back. He was too sick for this world, but we didn’t even give him a chance! Why did we listen to the doctors…he could have been a miracle! It was our choice. Our decision.

I am the reason I am no longer pregnant.

Oh yes, I made myself sick with the guilt. If I had the chance to go back in time, I know that we would make the same decision, but when you are struggling to fall pregnant, the guilt of ending the thing you want more than anything in the world really eats away at you. By month 5 I was frustrated. They always say you are most fertile in the 3 months following a loss.

But that's bullshit.

Noah was conceived on my third round of Clomid and I had one more dose left over in my bed side table. So during that 5th cycle, I thought "fuck it" and I took it. And it worked. I fell pregnant. Ben and I hugged and we cried. Finally. The rainbow at the end of the storm was beginning to shine through.

But deep down, I was SO scared of losing this baby. Every single day since I found out I was pregnant I would repeat "I will not lose this baby. I will not lose this baby. I will not lose this baby"  over and over in my head. Ben talked to my belly every night. We begged him or her to grow strong and healthy. We knew that the baby couldn't hear us, but we wanted it to be surrounded by so much love and positivity.

Our first scan didn't go to plan. At 6.5 weeks they couldn't detect a heartbeat. The doctor tried to reassure me that it could just be early, and to have another scan in a week. But I had a terrible gut feeling.

The second scan was worse. The doctor was able to find a tiny flickering heart beat, but the baby was still measuring around 6 weeks. It hadn't grown at all in a week and a half. I could tell by the way the doctor looked at me, lost for words, that we were going to lose this baby. We were told to come back again in another week or so to confirm the baby's death, if I didn't start to bleed and miscarry naturally.

Once again, I found myself sobbing on an ultrasound bed. Why?! Why is this happening again?! How can this possibly be fair? We're never going to have a baby.

The following week, at 9.5 weeks pregnant, we went back for our third, and what would be our final ultrasound.

"The baby hasn't grown. And that tiny flicker of a heartbeat is gone. I'm so sorry"

The silence that fills the room after a doctor tells you your baby has died is deafening. It breaks you into a million pieces. You feel like you've been stuck by lighting, and you realise that lighting does strike twice. 

We booked a D&C for later in the week and that was it. We had to say goodbye to our future plans once again. We had to say goodbye to another baby.

It feels like everywhere I look there are pregnant women rubbing their big belly's in my face. I want to scream at them “I USED TO BE PREGNANT TOO! BUT MY BABIES DIED.” I’m unreasonably angry at them because they have what I want. Sometimes social media can all become a bit too much, seeing pregnancy announcements or baby bump updates. (I know, I know, how I'm able to keep making onesies and run a baby based Instagram account is beyond me. It's almost a creative release for me if that makes sense?) I know that one day those pregnancy announcement photos and bump updates will be mine, it's just been a long and torturous road to get there.

 But we won't give up. Not yet. 

An open letter to the newly bereaved mother:

Becky Louis

I saw you crying today, wrapped in your partners arms. You just lost your baby. My heart broke for you, and I haven't stopped thinking about you since. I don't know if this is your first pregnancy, or your fifth. I don't know if you already have a child at home, or if you've lost babies before. I don't know if you've been trying for years, or if you got pregnant on the first try. I don't know anything about you.

But what I do know, is how you're feeling, and how your life is going to change. I know what it feels like to fall apart in your partner's arms. I know what it feels like to cry in ultrasound rooms and doctors offices, unable to breath. I know you probably felt like the room was spinning. Your whole world had just been shattered. All the hopes and dreams you had are suddenly gone. There will be no baby shower. No more due date. No more baby shopping or nursery set up. No birth announcement. 

You will bleed. Your hair might fall out. Your milk might come in. If you're like me, it won't all happen at once, but one after the other. I would say they're each a painful reminder of what you've lost, but to be honest, you'll never forget.

If you put a pregnancy announcement on social media, you'll probably now put up a 'loss announcement'. You'll probably keep the door to your would-be-nursery shut. You'll pack away all the maternity clothes and things you bought for the baby. If you've done a lot online shopping, chances are there are some cute baby things still to arrive in the mail. This will break your heart all over again. 

If you told your family and friends you were expecting, you'll now have to break the news to them. Personally, we opted for text messages and emails. It's easier on you, and allows them time to formulate what they deem an appropriate response. They'll write heartfelt messages of sympathy, but it won't help. The only thing that could possibly make you feel better is a call from your doctor saying "Sorry, it's all been a big mistake. Your baby is fine". Instead, you'll probably receive at least one of the following:

Everything happens for a reason.

At least it was early.

There was probably something wrong, lucky the baby wasn't born like that.

At least you already have a child.

It will make your relationship stronger.

At least you know you can get pregnant.

They mean well, but they don't understand that there is no "at least". They don't understand that this was your baby. That you don't want just another baby, you wanted THIS baby. You won't understand why it had to be your baby. People will want to take your pain away, but they won't be able to. They'll ask you how you are. You'll say you're fine. You won't be. You'll probably just want to be alone most of the time. That's ok.

It's also ok to unfollow people on social media who are pregnant or who've just had babies. It's ok to turn down invitations to baby showers or other social events. It's ok to cry. It's ok to hurt. It's ok to long for your baby that died. It's ok to miss them, even if you never met. It's ok to put up photos, to have jewellery made, to purchase items to remember them by. It's also ok to do nothing. Everyone grieves differently.

It seems impossible right now, but one day you will smile again. One day you'll breath a little easier. One day you'll finally be able to fall asleep without any tears. One day you'll go out again and face the world.

But for now, if all you do today is breath, that is enough.

Sincerely,

Another bereaved mother

Losing Noah

Becky LouisComment

After 12 months and 3 rounds of fertility treatment, on Thanksgiving, we found out we were expecting a baby, due in August 2017.

5 weeks. At this point we hadn't told anybody. Christmas was only a few weeks away and we thought if we could keep it a secret, it would make the best Christmas present ever. We also didn't want to get everyone's hopes up in case something was wrong - like any pregnant woman, there was a real fear of losing this baby. My dating scan would confirm that I did indeed have a healthy looking pregnancy. I'll never forget that day, seeing my tiny speck of a baby on that screen and even seeing his heartbeat. (I referred to my baby as "he" from the very beginning...I just had this overwhelming feeling it was a boy).

On Christmas Day, when I was just over 8 weeks pregnant, we gave our families Christmas tree ornaments revealing our secret. It was the greatest Christmas ever. There were so many happy tears.

The planning for this new baby started, he was nicknamed "baboo", and we all loved talking about our future with this new baby. 

Ben and I decided to have the harmony blood test done at 10 weeks. We wanted peace of mind knowing our baby was healthy, and also we wanted to know the gender as soon as possible. So impatient! Before we found out the results, I asked Ben what we would do if the results came back as high risk.

"I think if the child wasn't going to have a good quality of life we wold have to terminate. It wouldn't be fair to the child"

"Yeah I agree. God...I couldn't imagine anything worse than having to make that decision"

"I reckon a stillborn would be worse. But let's not think about it, it's not going to happen"

I was so nervous to receive those results, but when my doctor called to tell me the baby was low risk for everything and that it was a boy (hah! I knew it!) I burst into tears. I was so happy! The baby was healthy! And it was a boy! Everything was going so well.

I was so excited for my 12 week scan, to finally see my baby looking more like a baby. Seeing him up there on the screen was magical. He was perfect, and the sonographer seemed to think so too. Everything looked good. We'd made it past the 12 week mark, the 'danger zone'.

We began to tell everyone else our happy news. We told our colleagues and posted an announcement on Facebook. We were overjoyed.

  our social media pregnancy announcement (hubby is a basketball player, it's how we met)

our social media pregnancy announcement (hubby is a basketball player, it's how we met)

They next 8 weeks were pretty uneventful. I didn't have any morning sickness, just frequent headaches, which isn't all that unusual for me. I finally started to get a little belly and feeling some kicks around 16 weeks. Those kicks were the greatest feeling in the world. I couldn't wait to for my belly to really pop. Other than actually having the baby (obviously) that was the thing I was most excited for, the pregnant belly. Everything was going so well. It seemed so surreal that in 4 months time, I would have a baby of my own.

 12 - 14 - 16 - 18 weeks pregnant

12 - 14 - 16 - 18 weeks pregnant

 

Then came my 20 week scan. The worst day of my life.

I was weirdly anxious before my 20 week scan. And when my friends asked why, I said 'I don't know..I'm just scared they're going to find something.' I had my scan done on the maternity ward of the hospital I work in. All the nerves vanished when I saw my baby on the screen. And Ben's smile. He kept smiling and looking at me, I'd never seen him so happy!

"Ok almost done, I just need to check the spine and legs" the sonographer said. I thought we already looked at those, but ok....aww! Look at him, he crossed his legs! So cute! Wait..what's that big black thing? Why does she keep taking pictures of it? Its probably nothing. It's probably an organ. It's fine. If I don't ask then I won't know and everything will be ok.

"Ok....So....There are a few things I'm not happy with. The spine and legs are abnormal"

I immediately sat up and started taking my clothes off. I felt really hot. I couldn't breath. I was suffocating. The silence in the room was deafening. "I'm going to be sick". 

Surely she's wrong. She doesn't know what she's doing. She must be new. 

The sonographer told us she wanted to get her colleague to come have a look. 

Ok good. She'll tell you you're wrong. 

But, for some reason I knew there was something seriously wrong and I was so, so scared. By the time the other sonographer came in, the tears were streaming heavily. She wasn't happy with what she saw either. They immediately took me downstairs to the radiology department to talk to an experienced radiologist. I couldn't believe what was happening. I can't remember word for word what was said to us next, but the words "severe", "abnormalities" and "neural tube defect" were part of it. I couldn't speak. She was telling us our baby had a spina bifida.

I thought there was no way my baby could have spina bifida, I'd been taking my Prenatal vitamins for over a year. I remember learning about the importance of folic acid for pregnant women in high school and I knew I was taking the recommended dosage. It can't be spina bifida. 

"We don't just suspect it. We're sure of it" she said. And just like that, in a matter of minutes, our entire world was flipped upside down.

They took me back upstairs to speak with an obstetric doctor who would go over the scan results in more details. She told us how the baby's spine didn't fuse properly and used words like "quadriplegic" and "brain damage". The more she spoke, the harder I cried. It was bad. Really, really bad.

After a bit more conversation (mainly one sided as neither Ben nor I had any words) Ben finally asked the doctor what terminating the pregnancy would involve. She told us that I would be induced, go into labor, and give birth. I think that's the moment my heart broke. It all became so utterly real that we were going to lose this baby. She left the room to get some referral forms to the fetal diagnostic unit at another hospital. "Why is this happening?" Were the first words I was able to choke out throughout the whole ordeal. After that, Ben and I didn't speak to each other, there were no words. We just held each other and cried.

The next few days were a complete whirlwind. We went to fetal diagnostic unit at Monash Hospital where they confirmed the findings of the previous scan, and gave us our options. I asked about the best case and worse case scenarios. They were both horrible, and to be honest, not much different. The spinal cord hadn't fused properly, there was swelling around the brain, and he had clubfoot. They told us our baby would be wheelchair bound. He would have no function of the bowel and bladder. There would be brain damage. And it might get worse as he grew over the next 20 weeks. Immediately after birth he would need surgery to close the hole in his back, as well as surgery to implant a shunt to drain the fluid from his brain. Over the span of his life, however long that may be, he was going to need countless, constant surgeries. The list of professionals he would need was endless....neurologists, urologists, pediatricians, rehab physicians, orthopedic surgeons. He was going to spend his entire life being poked and prodded and passed from one specialist to another.

We decided to spare our baby boy from a lifetime of pain and suffering.

I think one of the hardest parts between those scans and when I was induced was feeling him kick. I can't do this. I can't kill my baby. He's so alive right now. How is he moving so much? I can't do this. I was prepared to be a mother at any cost. I could be the mother of a disabled child. I would sell my brand new house for a more accommodating one. I would sell my car for something cheaper, to pay for all the rehab and special equipment he would surely need. I would quit my job and give up our current lifestyle to be a full time carer. I would have done anything and everything for my boy. I would have given my life for him. But it wasn't about me and my desperation to have a child. I knew I couldn't be selfish. What kind of life would he live? Constantly at doctors appointments, in and out of surgeries, sitting in his wheelchair, watching his siblings run around and play, unable to join them? It broke my heart just thinking about it. Ben tried to tell me that it wouldn't be fair to our future children either and how much their lives would be impacted. But honestly, I didn't care about them, because they don't exist yet. Only our unborn baby existed, and he was all I cared about.

Which is why I knew that sparing him from this life was the greatest gift we could give him and the only parenting choice we would ever make for him.

And so 2 days later, I was induced. It was a horrible experience. The medication made me so sick, I was vomiting and having diarrhea at the same time. I was shaking violently as my body went into shock. The cramps were intense and constant, for about 6 hours. I had two shots of morphine that did not work. I was in so much pain, but I felt like I deserved it. It seemed like I was taking away all his pain. After about 6 hours of labor, my water broke and proper contractions started. I delivered my son, stillborn, one hour later.

He was born at 1:25 am on March 27th. He weighed 350g and was 24cm long. He was beautiful.

We chose the name Noah for it's meaning, 'rest comfortably'.

I didn't cry when I gave birth and I didn't cry when I held him. I felt weirdly at peace. I had my baby. It wasn't until later in the day, when we were leaving the hospital that I broke down.

It wasn't until we had to say goodbye.

The angel in the book of life, wrote down my darlings birth.

And whispered as she closed the book, "Too beautiful for earth".

Rest in peace sweet angel. I love you so much.

xxx Mommy