October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month so I felt it appropriate to share my story to help raise awareness and to help families struggling with loss find a sense of peace. We are not alone in our grief and we stand together in our healing.
My husband Matt and I became pregnant with our fourth baby back in May and miscarried at the beginning of August. I was eleven and a half weeks along in my pregnancy. We waited before telling all our family and friends (something we never really did before) so only our immediate family members and very close friends were even aware of our pregnancy and loss. Losing our baby has been the most difficult experience of our lives and while the wound has healed the scar remains.
This is our story.
All That Remains…
My pregnancy with my fourth baby was uneventful and exciting. I had just become a certified Hypnobabies instructor and I was looking forward to not only teaching the course to expectant moms but being a student once again. Using the hypnosis techniques and cues with my third pregnancy was amazing. I felt so connected to my baby and I couldn’t wait to experience that again with my fourth pregnancy.
I felt so confident in my body’s ability to nurture my growing baby that I let nature do what it needed to do. I waited to see a midwife because we were between insurance carriers and I really felt no rush. I felt great. I was tired for a few weeks in the beginning and had very little nausea but by about week 8 I was feeling great. Almost like I wasn’t pregnant at all. I felt lucky and excited and soon we started telling our family and close friends.
3 days into my twelfth week of pregnancy I noticed a tiny clot when I wiped. I still felt fine and figured I would pay attention to any other signs if they came up. I went to the restroom again and noticed a little more pink. Of course I started my early pregnancy Googling and was slightly reassured when I found out a little spotting was pretty normal early in pregnancy especially after a night of intimacy which it had been. My family and I made a trip to the grocery store and as we were walking through the aisles I felt more discharge. I went to the restroom only to find it was closed for cleaning. I told my husband Matt we should hurry home so I could keep a closer eye on the situation. I texted my midwife I used with my third pregnancy and she reassuringly told me to take it easy and get some rest. We hurried home, put groceries away and got ready for bed.
On my last trip to the restroom I noticed more blood. I tried to stay calm but I was very scared. I wasn’t sure if we should go to the hospital. I didn’t want to go for fear of hearing a doctor confirm my fear. We decided to stay home and hoped and prayed the bleeding would subside by morning.
Matt left for work at about 6:15 the next morning. He gave me a kiss goodbye and told me to keep him updated so he could come home in case I needed to go to the hospital. He left and I couldn’t fall back asleep. I hadn’t slept very well that night because I was cramping. I’d wake up and practice my hypnosis cues to calm myself down and minimize the pain. But it was morning now, and I knew I had to face this. I went to the restroom at about 7:00 a.m. and the blood was undeniable. It was heavy and bright red. I called Matt and told him to come home. We needed to go to the hospital.
I texted my mom to come over to stay with the kids while we went to the hospital and she rushed right over. I was scared and crying. Matt wasn’t home yet but he wouldn’t be long. I stood in front of my closet knowing I needed to find something to wear but the cramping was making it hard to focus. Then, I felt it. My water broke. I remembered the feeling because I felt the same surprising burst with my oldest and youngest babies. Only this time it felt almost violent.
I was scared and ran to the bathroom because I could feel my baby slipping out. I called out for my mom and told her he was coming out. I was sobbing. What I had feared all night was too real. Too real and painful. My body impulsively pushed my baby out despite my protests. I cried to my mom “The baby came out! It came out!” She tried to be reassuring and said it may still be inside and told me to go lay down. Matt arrived to find me sobbing on the toilet. My children stood around me as I cried asking what was wrong. All I could think to say was the baby was sick. He picked me up and took me to our bedroom to get dressed and go to the hospital but I knew my baby was gone. My mother stayed in the bathroom. I knew what she was doing even if I didn’t want to wrap my head around it. Then she called for my husband. I paused for a second trying to decide if I could take the step into the hallway to face them. I had to. I stepped out of my bedroom and saw my husband’s face after seeing his tiny baby. I bolted for the bathroom to see it myself. My mother begged me not to but I just had to see my baby. He was small, much too small for over 11 weeks. I knew something was wrong. I was hysterical. Inconsolable. Empty.
We went to the hospital where they drew blood then performed an ultrasound. The doctors and nurses were so compassionate and caring. I was grateful for them. I wondered how many women they must see go through this. Before we were discharged the Physician’s Assistant came in one last time to give me the blood and ultrasound results. I wasn’t surprised by either. She referred me to an obstetrician and gave me a brief description of what I could expect in the next few days. Then as she stepped out of our room she said, “I’m sorry for your loss”. There it was. The first audible recognition of what happened. We lost our baby.
We came home and the next few days were a blur. I couldn’t distinguish what happened from one day to the next. I remembered my baby and wondered very briefly what my mom had done with it. I wanted to know and didn’t want to know at the same time. What would I do with it? Could I bring myself to see it again? I couldn’t say what day it was that Matt told me my mom and mother in law had kept it for me. They had wrapped it up and placed it in a tin box which they placed in our deep freezer. I think we were all at a loss for what to do but I’m so grateful they did this.
The baby stayed there for a few days. My mind couldn’t complete a thought as far as what to do with it. I considered planting it with a tree or flower in our yard but the thought of possibly moving into another house and leaving it behind or the plant dying was too much to bear. I needed another option.
I asked my mother in law to call funeral homes to see if they could cremate the baby even as tiny as it was. Unfortunately because of how small and underdeveloped it was I wouldn’t get much if anything back.
I remembered going to the restroom in the hospital right before we left . As I was sitting there I felt my body pass a large lump into the toilet bowl. I knew it must have been the placenta. I thought how I wished I had been as brave as my mom and reached in to take it out but seeing all the blood was too hard to deal with. It was too raw a reminder of what had happened. I wished I kept it because I could have had it preserved the way some mothers choose to when they encapsulate their placentas. Then it hit me. Maybe I could find someone to preserve my baby like a placenta. But who would do it? Do people do this? Would it be too morbid a request? Am I crazy for thinking this?
I remembered a doula/midwife named Pati Garcia I had met a few weeks back and feeling some kind of connection to her. We had only said maybe a few words of hello and goodbye but there was something about her in her “Partera” baseball cap that spoke to me. I had contacted her before for my resource list for my Hypnobabies students but we had never met or spoken. I looked for her website to see if she did placenta encapsulation and was relieved to see she did. But would she be willing to do it? I sent her an email with my request. She soon replied for me to text her and after a few messages and a phone call she agreed to help. We decided to meet later that same day.
I was nervous about telling Matt about what I had decided to do with the baby. I wasn’t sure how it would be received. I should’ve known he would be completely supportive. He thought it was a great idea (even if he didn’t fully understand it). We dropped the kids off with my mom and headed to Pati’s.
Her apartment was just as I imagined. Cozy, earthy, smelling of incense, and what looked like a square scarf hanging on the wall with a large drawing of the female genitalia in the center. She very politely asked us to remove our shoes and invited us in. We hugged as we said hello and I couldn’t help but break down in her embrace. All I could think was I hope this would bring me the peace I needed. Pati invited us to have a seat and we talked about what we were hoping to get from this process. I honestly wasn’t sure. I just knew I wasn’t ready to let go of the baby and keeping it in the freezer felt wrong. I hoped this would feel right.
She went into her kitchen to get a few things ready. She came back with some sage and a lighter. She told us she would start by smudging us. I have to admit, I wasn’t sure what that meant. I had never experienced a smudge or even heard that word before. As she lit the sage and the ribbon of smoke swirled around it I found myself fully accepting the experience. I stood there with my arms out inhaling the herby smoke and closed my eyes to let myself go into a state of hypnosis. I wanted this experience to go deep into my subconscious so I could recall it when I needed the memory of it. She then smudged my husband. Again he amazed me. He was so receptive and supportive. It was obvious that his pain and loss were in need of an outlet and some relief.
We then followed her into her kitchen where she had prepared her dehydrator. I held the small tin box my baby lied within. I knew we would have to take it out but I froze at the thought of opening the box. Then Matt took the box and started opening the bags the baby was sealed in. This was the first time I would be seeing the baby again since the morning I had birthed this tiny being. And tiny it was. I remembered the baby looking pinker with the beginnings of what would eventually be an eye. When I saw it again it scared me a little. It was darker. I turned the tiny flesh over to find the eye to make sure I hadn’t imagined it. I saw it and just held it in my hand. I cupped my tiny baby in my hands and prayed. For what, I don’t know. I just prayed. I gave thanks for having this little life growing inside of me even if it had been for a brief time. I could faintly hear Pati’s voice telling me to release the baby’s spirit into the world until it was ready to come back to me. Then I placed it on the tray of the dehydrator. She grabbed a bottle of Agua de Florida and anointed my head, hands and feet as well as my husband’s. The scent was powerful and precious. It was such a humbling experience to know I was handing my baby over to a woman who had recently experienced her own pregnancy loss and was treating my tiny baby with such a great deal of honor and respect.
I think Pati was surprised at how small the baby actually was. I knew the baby must have passed weeks before. It was far too small. Perhaps if I had gone to a midwife sooner I would have learned of the baby’s passing. But what would I have done then? What would the midwife have wanted me to do? While the experience of losing my baby has been devastating I’m grateful for how it happened. My body let go of my baby when it was ready. And now my spirit, with Pati’s help, could do the same.
She returned my baby’s remains to me the following day in a small clear box wrapped in a gold gossamer bag. I looked at the little flecks floating around and sticking to the walls of the clear box and felt at ease. Now I could keep my baby. Not as a novelty but as a memorial. To the pregnancy, to my baby, to the pain, to the deeper connection between my husband and myself, and to Pati.
Pati and I sat and talked for a few minutes about the baby and how in her experience a baby at the gestational age of 11 weeks is more definitively formed. She confirmed my suspicion that the baby must have passed weeks earlier. I told her about an article I had read a few months earlier about how women often blame themselves for their miscarriages and how having read it allowed me to release any guilt I may have had. Miscarriages are as common as pregnancy and birth. They don’t happen because we overexerted ourselves or we fought too much with our husbands or yelled too much at our kids. They don’t happen because we were too negative or ate something a book told us we weren’t supposed to. I couldn’t have prevented losing my baby. I took care of myself and my growing baby. But somewhere along the line, nature decided the baby wasn’t ready for the world. And I accept that. I don’t blame myself or anyone else. I wouldn’t change a thing about my pregnancy prior to losing my baby. My body did what it could for this baby but the ingredients weren’t all there.
So I gave my baby’s spirit back to the world in hopes that we will meet again one day. I will keep my baby’s remains for as long as my spirit needs to hold onto them. I will heal a little more with every passing day and some days will be harder than others but they will always get better. Pain may be inevitable but life is a gift. I’m grateful for my children’s laughter and their tears. For my husband’s unconditional love and unfaltering support and our disagreements. For my family who would drop anything to be by my side. And for friends who will always listen and never judge.
For now, all that remains is a family as it should be with three wild children, two patient parents and an angel looking over us all. We will eventually have our fourth baby and it will grow and I will feel it kicking and turning inside me. And life will be as it should. I am not incomplete, nor do I feel a void. My baby’s spirit is with me, and I will always have proof.