The above images may be difficult for some to see. They are for me. But the difficult-ness has become different with each year that passes. I wouldn't say that it has "worn off", rather that the appreciation for the lives lost has become greater and my extreme grief has mostly transitioned into a weird joy-sad-joy rhythm of feelings. I can only say "joy" now that I was able to truly grieve our lost babies and I know I'll be seeing them again one day. I know they are with our Lord, their maker, and He is far better a parent than I'll ever be. Those truths bring me peace and comfort.
When we were trying to conceive for the first time, it took us a while. In fact, we were about one month away from our first official fertility appointment before we found out that we had in fact become pregnant on our own without any help. I have PCOS and other autoimmune conditions that my reproductive endocrinologist suspected might make conception difficult for us. But thankfully, the Lord blessed us with our first born son, Wyatt. He was born at Mercy Hospital in 2011 back when Birth Photography wasn't a thing yet.
(Gotta love the ever-so-flattering post-c-section glow I was giving everybody!)
When we decided we were ready to have another child, we figured it would probably take just as long as our first pregnancy took so we got right to it. Little did we know that conceiving would become easier for us after having already conceived the first time around. Our little Collin only took a few months of trying and we welcomed him in 2013 at the OU Children's Hospital in Oklahoma City. And we DID hire a birth photographer that time! It was also a much different birth experience in that Collin was my first VBAC baby as well as my first natural, unmedicated birth. I attribute so much of my VBAC success to my amazing support system I had in place with my midwife and doula!
We were happy and content as a family of 4. We had discussed trying for another but we weren't sure about it. We knew we wouldn't be needing to really have that conversation for another year or so. But, life often throws curveballs , and we became pregnant again in what we suspect was July, 2014. I was still nursing Collin at the time and my cycles had not yet returned from being pregnant with him. We knew there was a tiny, itty-bitty chance that we could conceive without any protection but, because of our difficulties in the past, didn't actually expect that anything would happen when I still hadn't had a visit from Aunt Flo yet.
We had our first ultrasound in late August and the baby was still so small (as he/she should have been) but without a heartbeat. We were not super concerned about this because we went through that with Wyatt, too. And his heart beat was fast and strong at our next ultrasound appointment. But this pregnancy would be different. The next ultrasound revealed no more growth and no heart beat. I already knew what that meant- no one had to explain it to me. I decided to miscarry naturally and on my own. I felt I needed to go through that "birth" in order for the loss to not be so ambiguous. I felt it would be better for my overall healing and coping after-the-fact. It did. Thankfully we were able to have the baby's remains cremated and hold our own little funeral for just my husband, myself, and our Pastor. We keep our baby's remains in our home with us and I much prefer that than having him or her buried somewhere where we are not.
We became pregnant again at the beginning of 2015, once again, unexpectedly. By now we were thinking that this conception stuff sure has become easy for us. But unfortunately, we would go on to miscarry that baby as well with the similar "baby-is-there-but-no-heart-beat" scenario. Once again, I miscarried naturally. That experience was much different and we were unable to salvage any of our baby's remains. That still haunts me a bit. But I am glad I went through it the way I chose to so that it would help me heal more wholly in the long run.
As you can probably imagine, the thought of conceiving again was pretty terrifying. We went on a rest period and really took some time to heal from our mysterious and painful losses. We did our due diligence with my Reproductive Endocrinologist and soon enough, we were able to conceive again. And this time, our baby stayed with us!
So where exactly did that put me, mentally, with the remainder of my pregnancy?
Well, for starters, it wasn't easy. I was pretty nervous for a while and I was actually diagnosed with a subchorionic hemorrhage with him which put me at an increased risk for miscarriage. I was ordered to take it easy and rest/stay off of my feet as much as possible (modified bed rest, essentially). I prayed and prayed and prayed that the Lord would not have me go through another loss again.
Once the hemorrhage finally went away, I was able to breathe easier. Feeling his little flutters and kicks made everything feel more certain and real and it was at that point in time that I really felt able to start preparing and planning for my 2VBAC.
I made the necessary phone calls and consultations with my birth team. I re-hired my previous Doula and Birth Photographer. I found an AMAZING Obstetrician since my midwife I used in my first VBAC was no longer in a hospital setting (I couldn't deliver out of hospital due to other health conditions that made me high risk). After all of those plans were in place and my rockstar birth team had been established, I was able to dive back into my birthing books and practice all of my relaxation and visualization techniques. I imagined how my ideal birth would go. Where I would be when I went into labor. How this birth and baby would be so different due to the circumstances laid upon us. I visualized his birth going smoothly and peaceful without any complications. I pictured him being born on a day that wasn't the same date as our first miscarriage anniversary.
My previous two children were born early, so I had assumed based on history that this little one might be early as well. Sure enough, I went into labor about a day-and-a-half before the anniversary of our first miscarriage. That really rocked me mentally. I had to overcome that fear and accept that he may be born on that same date. This may not seem like a big deal to some people, but for me, it was. I really wanted 9/28 to be dedicated to our third conceived, first lost child. I was worried I would forget if our living child took over that date and I never want to forget our other, very missed babies!
My husband was so great. He reminded me that God was in control and whatever day Elias was to be born, it was for a real good reason. We needed to trust that. He was right. I grieved the possibility that he may be born on that date and rolled with the punches. I worked hard to get Eli ideally positioned for a smoother labor and birth. I did the Miles Circuit. We walked. I bounced and rolled on my birthing ball. We swayed together and I did some yoga.
Eli was slowly but very gently moving into a better position. I am beyond thankful for that as it meant that I didn't have to experience harsh back labor. It wasn't until about 24 hours later that labor would really start to pick up and I would need to call in my support team. We all suspected that Eli would be born in the next few hours based on how I was progressing. I labored at home and in the tub (can I get an AMEN!) for a long time. As fate would have it, Eli wouldn't be born on 9/28 after all! We decided we would aim to get to the hospital a little earlier this time since going through transition to pushing (or sucking in) in the car ride last time wasn't a very enjoyable experience.
When we got to the hospital, I was about 7 cms along. With more help from my doula and the supportive nurses in the room, Eli entered into this world on 9/29/16- two years after our first miscarriage- in a very smooth and peaceful manner- just as I had imagined. I couldn't believe I was actually able to reach down and bring him to my chest myself. I doubted I would ever get that moment, even though I had envisioned it and dreamt of it all along.
So how exactly did my two miscarriages help me prepare for Eli's birth?
They helped me truly realize and accept that I have zero control. Once I was able to really accept that, I was able to relax and I chose to enjoy the rest of my pregnancy.
Intentionality became even more important when it came to visualizing my birth. I imagine how I would labor- when my baby would come- and how he would be born. Almost everything I visualized happened. To a T.
They taught me how to heal wholly (as much as one can) from tragic and ambiguous losses. Losses that made no sense. Losses where no answers were given. I needed to heal in order to conceive and carry a baby while also being emotionally healthy so that my pregnancy could be healthy.
My losses inspired me to be more brave and ask any questions that I had to my doctor or support persons without worrying how I would sound. Before my losses, I would have thought some of my questions or concerns would have been silly. They made me stronger.
I was able to know beforehand just how special and significant Eli's birth would be and was able to REALLY welcome him into this world and hold on tight. With his other brothers' births, I was of course excited and overcome with joy, but this time I appreciated birth on a much. different. level.
I included my partner more than I ever had before. I needed him so much more on a mental and emotional level. I leaned on him hard for my pregnancy but also my birth. I truly believe this was a huge reason why everything went so well. We worked together and he experienced birth with me. Not just the physical birth, but alllll of the emotional woes that come with it. Ladies, include your partners in all aspects if he is welcome to it. The bonding and intimacy that blooms from the birth experience is truly indescribable.
They made my desire for birth photography even stronger. I had been a fan of birth photography since 2013 but when you finally realize and appreciate just how significant ALL births are, you are determined to make that investment to ensure that your birth is documented as well as your baby's first moments.
Now, as a Birth Photographer myself, I take that same appreciation and sincerity and apply it to how I approach all of my clients' births.
If you have experienced a miscarriage or loss and need to talk it out, I am happy to help. Feel free to email me any time: firstname.lastname@example.org.