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Challenge: Pregnancy and Infant Loss

Making Meaning from Loss

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When I look at my wedding photos, I see baby Charlotte. I was twelve weeks pregnant when we got married. We were so excited about all the good things in our lives. We had just moved back from the West Coast to be closer to family and everything was lining up. We announced our pregnancy to our friends and family (we were given the go ahead) at our wedding after party. It is still hard for me to look at those photos and not feel a sense of loss.

My husband wanted to do the Nuchal Translucency Ultrasound. I assumed I was thirty-two and couldn't imagine there would be any issues. I remember hoping to see if it was a girl or a boy. As we started the scan, the ultrasound tech excused herself and said she needed a doctor. I could not process the information they were giving us. We got rushed down to a genetic counselor who explained what a cystic hygroma was and said they suspected from the ultrasound Trisomy 18. They offered different options for testing. We opted to do a chorionic villus sampling of the placenta.

I was at work when I got the call. The baby had trisomy 18. She would likely not make it much longer. They explained if by some miracle she made it to birth, she wouldn't last very long. There was fluid in her head and her heart. I couldn't bring myself to go home to an empty house. I stayed at work. My husband had been very positive while we waited for the results. I could tell by everyone's faces in the doctors office. I knew the news would be bad. We had already discussed our options and had decided to end the pregnancy if the results came back and supported the doctors diagnosis. I called my husband to tell him the grim news. He also stayed at work. We couldn't face each other.

This decision will impact me for the rest of my life. There is not a day that goes by that I don't think about Charlotte and the decision we had to make. Thanksgiving was coming up so no one could do the surgery until after the holiday. I was sixteen weeks pregnant. I cried and vomited nonstop before going into surgery. The anesthesiologist reminded me he would give me the appropriate amount of drugs and to not ask for anything more. I got read the riot act and I couldn't even tell you what he was saying to me. He was an asshole. All I wanted was my baby. I don't even like taking medication. I hadn't even said a word since I got there except to cry on two nurses shoulders.

My parents had come up to support me. My father couldn't even stand in the room to hear discharge instructions. My mother said, "At least we know you can get pregnant". Please, if you are out there, please do not say these things. Please do not leave the room because the discharge instructions are too hard for you to hear. Please hold your loved one's hand. Please hug them.

The months that followed were the worst. I sat stone faced on the couch. I couldn't move. We had nicknamed it "depression couch". My husband's drinking increased. We were drowning. We spent our wedding money on rent. I couldn't move my legs to go back to work. I honestly cannot remember those months. My mom was struggling with the abortion I had and told me she wanted to talk to a priest (my parents are very religious). In that moment, I felt alone. Part of me felt silly for feeling so sad. I was often reminded that I was still early on in the pregnancy. At what point are we allowed to feel sad?

I don't know if I made the right decision. I will never know. I will struggle until the end of time not knowing if what I did was right.

We had our rainbow baby in January 2018. Every time baby Jack hits a milestone I think of his sister. I hate that I cannot speak of her. It feels like after you have your rainbow baby you are supposed to forget about the life that came before. I hope some day this will change. I hope by sharing our stories we will be able to talk more about the babies that meant something to us. I was afraid of losing our baby Jack and I did not do any pregnancy announcement or any photos. I was afraid of having more photos to remind me if something bad happened. I wish someone had told me to take the photos. I regret having nothing to remember Jack's pregnancy by.

My husband and I will still talk about baby Charlotte from time to time. It is still a sensitive and sad subject. I decided change my career and go work in the hospital where I had my surgery. The nurses that let me cry on their shoulders inspired me to work in the ultrasound department and be there for other women. I wanted baby Charlotte's life to mean something and to make a difference. It is hard some days to face similar things but important to support other mothers who need a hug or someone to hold their hand.


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