While I am also very sorry for the reason you may be here, I would like to take this opportunity to welcome you. I hope you find a little comfort and peace of mind knowing you are not alone in this journey…I have been there…and I am here!
My journey began years ago (more than I care to mention)! When I was much, much younger, I had become pregnant and suffered a miscarriage. It’s not something I like to talk about much, but it was my introduction into the world of pregnancy and loss, at a much earlier age than most. I would learn a few years later, after graduating high school and joining into the military, that I was unable to have children as a result from the prior pregnancy/loss. It was a very emotional blow to the gut…one that took years for me to work through, and in the most inappropriate and destructive ways, as I was a young adult not sure how to navigate through life with this new found knowledge and having not dealt properly with my grief from the loss some years prior.
Fast forward about 7+ years to 2000! I went to visit a close school friend, who I had stayed in touch with over the years, while he was on a business trip in France for a few months. Finally, after years and years of knowing one another, we finally hit it off in the City of Lights…I joke that it took a whole different country and continent to bring us together! After his return to the U.S., we began a long distance relationship that would soon take its toll. Calls, emails an visits to one another between Vermont and the Mississippi Gulf Coast just became too much. We either needed to call it quits, or one of us had to move. We chose the latter, and it would be me who left the Gulf Coast and moved to Vermont in June, 2001.
A year or so after moving there, we decided to purchase a home together; we bought a car together; we had multiple things in both our names…as married couples usually do. However, we were not married. You see, one of the unspoken reasons for our not being married was the fact that my husband desired a family, a large family, and one that I could not give him. We had “the talk” a few times…but it always ended the same…he wanting a family…my not being able to give him that…and the discussion would end with no further questions or answers about marriage.
Then one day I went for a physical with my new primary care provider where it was discovered that I was not sterile…I had something called Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome…and, I could very well get pregnant and have a child…I could possibly have a “family”. This was great news! There was a treatment…Metformin (a medication used to treat diabetes). So, I began the medication. After a follow up soon after, I was advised I could get pregnant at any time…so, needless to say, with our not being married, I quickly discontinued the medication! Apparently it did something though!
After stopping the medication and then losing a bit of weight, I began to feel strange one week. A friend asked me if it were possible that I were pregnant. I brushed that off as a bit of crazy talk…no, no I couldn’t be pregnant. But wait, maybe I could! A pregnancy test the following day would confirm that yes, in fact, I was pregnant!!! I was thrilled and scared out of my mind at the same time! My husband, then boyfriend, was beyond thrilled! We were going to start a family! Our own family!
Everything went as expected and hoped for…that is, until about 23 weeks. A few weeks prior we had found out we were having a little girl and soon after we went out and purchased our first couple of items for her, one being the cutest little stuffed bunny (remember this later…it’s a personal important little part of our story you'll find in my upcoming Blog). One late afternoon I would start having issues, then start bleeding, and then came contractions that seemed regular. So, off we rushed to the hospital, per our doctor’s orders. I would be admitted for preterm labor. It was November 22, 2005, and I would spend the next few days in a bed with my feet higher than my head and on medications, all to put off labor as long as possible. I would spend Thanksgiving Day in the hospital while my family had traveled up to be with us (although, my awesome nurse did let my family sneak in a couple bites for me to sample from the family Thanksgiving feast). Finally, Sunday, November 27th arrived; the day I could no longer take the medication they were giving me…and labor would slowly begin as the day went on. I was around 23 ½ weeks.
That evening, our tiny breech daughter would be born en caul (which is in the amniotic sac…meaning, without breaking my “water”). Rosanna Jeanette had arrived all too soon! She was tiny and perfect…and alive! They quickly whisked her to the other side of the room to work on her; stopped by my bed so I could give her a quick glance; then they were off to the NICU to work on her. It would be hours, but finally we were able to go in and visit her. Unfortunately, we would only have limited time to spend with our Zanna over the next couple of days before her health began to fail. She had a Stage IV brain hemorrhage that she would not recover from. We invited family back to Vermont to say their hellos and goodbyes and then the night of December 1st we would remove life support. In the wee early morning hours of December 2, 2005 our Zanna had passed peacefully in my arms. My husband was actually able to snap a photo while we were doing skin-to-skin to keep her warm, and actually caught her last breath.
We were so thankful for the doctors, nurses and staff and care we had at the hospital we were in. Over the years I have heard so many stories from so many women and families, and while none of these situations are good, we were fortunate for the care and options we had at the time…options and care that so many suffering pregnancy and infant loss I know have not received. They gave us our own space, clothes, memory box, imprints, hand/foot prints, book, and so much more. They were absolutely amazing, and they allowed us to leave the hospital with no regrets and no blame being placed…no resentment toward any of them. It wouldn’t be until years down the road that I would realize just how important all of this was and how greatly it impacted our lives and our path to healing.
At my follow up with my doctor, we weren’t sure if a placental abruption had taken place first and caused preterm labor, or if cervical incompetence (IC) played a factor and caused the preterm labor/abruption. Which came first…the chicken or the egg…we didn’t have a clue. So, we decided to proceed with caution but to try again sooner rather than later while my hormones were at a normal level (unlike once my PCOS kicked back in).
We became pregnant again after the New Year! This time I was watched a little more carefully. We found that I had a cyst on my left ovary that they wanted to keep an eye on. Unfortunately, it began to grow due to the high pregnancy hormones…and it didn’t stop. It got the point where it was of great concern that it could rupture or twist my ovary cutting off blood supply to it…all options were not favorable…for me or the baby…if we let it continue without removing it…WHILE PREGNANT! So, I went in for surgery to have it removed. The surgery went well for the most part, but they ended up having to remove the whole ovary and part of my fallopian tube. I didn’t care because the baby was doing great.
A couple weeks later, however, in the middle of the night my water broke. I was 16 ½ weeks and it was May 22, 2006. I was wheeled into the hospital in utter disbelief. 24 hours later there was no heartbeat. I knew the instant our baby stopped living…I pushed the nurse call button and demanded another Doppler check for a heartbeat (even though they had checked less than an hour before). I told her I think the baby is gone…and it was confirmed.
We had made good friends with a couple of the nurses from our last stay months earlier. One nurse in particular (our beautiful nurse, Bobbi…she truly was a heaven sent angel to us; more than she will ever know), we became really close with. The nursing staff called her at home to alert her to our situation and she left her own family to come in early to be with us while we labored our baby. Just prior to induction our baby began being born all on its own…we knew at that moment I did indeed have cervical incompetence from the way things began to transpire. On May 23, 2006 our son, Karl Doherty, was born sleeping. He was so tiny he was the length of my hand; from my wrist to the tip of my middle finger.
I cannot express here just how fortunate we were to have the doctors and nurses who walked with us through this journey! My doctor was in tears as she held my hand...sorry and wondering if the cyst they had removed may have been a factor in our loss (which is one of the risks). I assured her I did not blame her...I knew in the depths of my soul that it was nothing she did and it was not as a result of the surgery.
Unfortunately, my placenta did not pass, and so I had to have an emergency D&C to remove the placenta. It was then discovered all the blood clots that I had and my doctor would suspect a blood clotting issue in addition to the PCOS and cervical incompetence. Blood work would prove this to be true…a form of APS (antiphospholipid antibody syndrome). And with this news we made a plan for a subsequent pregnancy. Although, this time, we would decide to wait a little while before trying again.
Early in 2007 we decided we wanted to try again…it didn’t go as easily this time. Our doctor entertained the idea of trying different medications. We decided against most since we did not want to increase our possibility of multiples when I already had trouble just getting one here safe and sound. So, we went back to the Metformin treatment to see if that would work. It did the trick…we were pregnant again and immediately started on blood thinner shots in my stomach twice a day each day of the pregnancy and with a plan to have a cerclage (cervical stitch to keep the cervix closed) placed after passing the week 12 mark (which we had done at week 14). All was going well! We had our ups and downs and we were nervous wrecks pretty much off and on the whole time, including a few unwanted hospital visits. But it was all worth it…our oldest daughter, Rheanna (we call her Rhea) arrived, with our favorite doctor and nurses by our side, on November 28th!
I almost forgot!!!!!! Just a couple of days prior to finding out we were pregnant with Rhea, my husband FINALLY proposed to me (that, of course, gave me plenty to do and plan for while on my nearly 6 months of bed rest while pregnant)! We were set to be married in early May of 2008. We found out once again that we were pregnant!!!!!! However, it would end in miscarriage just a couple weeks prior to our wedding at only approximately
7 weeks along.
We would also suffer 2 additional miscarriages early on in late 2010 and late 2011 after we had moved to Virginia.
Now, to back up a little to let you know how I became involved so heavily with pregnancy and infant loss awareness and support! After suffering the loss of Zanna in 2005, as most parents are, I was just besides myself. I needed to seek out others like me…people who understood…people I could talk to who had been there. I found places online, but it wasn’t enough for me. So, I pulled out my handy dandy folder the hospital supplied me with to look through it…and I found a support group listed that met monthly. So, the next meeting I went…but no one was there. I was so disappointed. The following month I went again…no one was there. So, me being me, I contacted the hospital…the group had ceased to exist but they had not updated their information. So, I decided I wanted to look into helping them start a new group. I didn’t get very far at first. But then, one day, I received an email from the social worker who was assigned to us at the hospital during our loss. She advised me the hospital was interested in putting together a team to begin a support group…so we all worked together to get this wonderful group off the ground, get some of us trained through SHARE Pregnancy & Infant Loss Support, Inc., and do advertising, etc. Our group was wonderful! We had all couples attending…did you read that…COUPLES…not just moms! I was so sad to leave our group when we moved to Virginia. However, I was so happy to know that they continued well after I was gone…and still do!
Once in Virginia I had to get to work starting a new group! Initially I just started a small group of moms to make blankets, hats and clothing, as well as memorial boxes and sympathy cards to donate to the local hospital. Then I moved on up to creating another support group with the help of some already established women in the world of pregnancy and infant loss. Our group was small but we got it off the ground in October of 2011.
Once again, my husband decided he wanted to try one last time for another child. So, with the agreed understanding that this would be our last time, we set out to expand our family. With our usual plan of blood thinners, a cerclage and bed rest, we were able to get our daughter, Jamilyn, here in December, 2012. However, soon after, and after the passing of my father, we would find out once more we were pregnant (surprise)! And after a very tough pregnancy of our usual plan, plus thrown in there selling a house and moving, and now having an infant and a new kindergartener on top of that…let’s just say it was a little bit stressful. Our son, George Barry (named after my father), arrived in February, 2014.
Our family was now complete, with 3 beautiful children and 6 baby angels watching over us (and mama got her tubes tied…there was no way I could go through the ups, downs, emotions and physical difficulties of another pregnancy)!
We had moved to the Front Royal, VA area in mid-2013. After having George, I decided that I needed to move the support group closer to our new home. So, I moved the support group, H.O.P.E. Pregnancy & Infant Loss Support, along with us. We have now been meeting in Front Royal for over a year now!
Since moving to Front Royal I have discovered an urge to do more. I have started on a journey to become certified as a Baby Loss Family Advisor and Loss/Bereavement Doula through Sherokee Ilse of Loss Doulas International, as well as StillBirthday. The training is extensive and long and hard…but so worth it to be able to offer these services and help and support to the many women and families suffering loss. Currently I am working with local hospitals and care providers to orchestrate a new local bereavement program so that no woman goes without the care and support she needs and deserves.
It has become my life’s passion to HOPE…to Help Other Parents Endure pregnancy and infant loss. So many women are not given options and all the information they need to make informed decisions that are right for them and their loved ones. I want to change the world of pregnancy and infant loss on its head and make it more openly acceptable to speak about loss and our children. I want to help get staff training they so desperately need to help these families. I want to help families experience their loss with the least amount of regrets possible and to come out the other side knowing they did all they could do and be able to cherish the mementos and time they had. And, if you are here because you are facing a loss, or have experienced a loss…I want to help YOU!