New Year’s Day of 2022 started off as a normal day. My husband and I ran around to five open houses trying to find the home we’d start a family in after months of getting clobbered in an absurd housing market. On this day I was seven weeks and six days pregnant, but hardly anyone knew. After a busy afternoon, we sat down on the couch to relax. I started to have some pretty severe cramping, worse than any I’d ever felt before. But there was no bleeding, so we were still okay, right?
But then it came. It was a Saturday night so my choices were to risk getting Covid in an Emergency Room or wait until Monday morning and beg to be squeezed in at the OB’s office. We made the decision that felt best for us but it was the longest, most stressful weekend of our lives. Come Monday, I was seen first thing, but by that point there was nothing left on ultrasound to even reflect that a pregnancy ever existed, just elevated HCG levels on my lab work. And as much as that hurt, it hurt less than it would have to see our baby up on that screen without a heartbeat.
I took a pregnancy test when I got home from the doctor’s office and it was still super positive. I just wanted to feel like I hadn’t made the whole thing up and that he or she was real for that short time. January 1st, 2022 was the worst day of my life, and given the timing of it being New Year’s Day, it truly felt like a terrible omen for the rest of the year. I couldn’t wait for 2023 already and 2022 had barely even begun. I just wanted to start over.
One month later, I rechecked a pregnancy test out of boredom and it was faintly positive. Still? Jeez Louise. But then my period never came. A week later I tested again; a much darker positive this time. Could we be pregnant again already? We made an appointment for a few weeks later, and on March 1st, 2022, although it was early, there was already a healthy heartbeat on ultrasound. This does not eliminate but does significantly diminish the risk of having another miscarriage. We both cried in the office. That baby would soon become my joyful, loving Little Luther.
Miscarriage is common, especially at my age, but it’s seldom talked about. And pregnancy after a devastating loss is extremely anxiety provoking. With each ultrasound comes immense stress instead of just the joy of seeing your baby grow into more of a little person with the passage of time. Is this even real? Then your belly grows and you start showing. Maybe it is real? Then they start kicking from the inside. It must be real. But if they don’t kick when you want them to, it throws you into a panic. I had to Doppler my belly each night before bed just to hear the baby in order to fall asleep. You bet your ass I ordered my own Doppler off the internet.
We perform D&Cs and D&Es at my job, and every Friday at work I would really struggle to care for those patients. Hearing them cry broke me and brought me back even knowing I was already pregnant again. I empathized more with them than I ever wanted to be able to. They would cry in my arms and they’d have no idea on the other side of them I was crying too. After I started to show more, we tried to hide me from the rooms of women experiencing loss to not make them feel worse about what was happening to them. Sometimes I wished I could hug them and tell them I understood what they were going through and that the baby I was carrying came easier than for some, but not without a tragic loss for me too.
On October 9th, 2022, I got to kiss the feet of the Rainbow baby that had been kicking my bladder for all those long months. I labored for 23 hours and 59 minutes, and towards the tail end the baby’s heart rate would drop significantly with every contraction. The sound of that monitor haunted me for weeks to come. None of this would feel real until I physically held him in my arms. I couldn’t lose him at the very end, not after everything we’d gone through this year.
My husband was a champion in the delivery room. If the staff was distracted, he’d watch the monitor like a hawk, ask me if I felt a contraction coming, and then he’d gather their attention to get ready to help me push every single time. They wanted three pushes per contraction, but I grew up an athlete, so I thought, “F that, let’s make it four or five. I would rather die of exhaustion than not do everything I could to save this kid.” We found out at the time of delivery he was a little boy all along.
Luther came out blue and it took an entire minute for him to make a single sound. The nurses vigorously rubbed him as he laid on my chest until eventually we heard the tiniest little squeak. I’ve since watched the video on repeat. I could have sworn that 60 seconds felt more like an hour.
When something is taken away from you so abruptly, you lose your ability to trust a good thing even when all the evidence is staring you in the face. Sometimes it still doesn’t feel real, honestly, even when he takes a tummy-time nap right on top of me while I simultaneously scroll through every single picture of him that I have in my camera roll.
Being a mom is the hardest but most rewarding adventure I’ve had in my 35 years of life. The road to get here was rocky, as it is for most. For those who have also struggled with loss or infertility you are not the minority and there is nothing wrong with you. Not every destination is a straight line away. I hope 2023 is your year.