A few short months ago, I held the proof copy of my new book, “Making Angels”, in my hands. The sense of accomplishment upon completion was akin to giving birth to a baby. Writing the book had been a true labor of love for me. And it was a long, arduous process not unlike our journey to bring children into this world. I recently experienced an unexpected piece of closure in our story, and wanted to share my thoughts with you, as my emotions erupted in a way I never anticipated, and at a time when I thought I was long past feeling so broken hearted.
My husband, Kevin, and I lost our first pregnancy just over 15 years ago, on my 30th birthday. I was 18 weeks pregnant with our first child. As heart wrenching as that was, I remained hopeful that the next pregnancy would be better. Easier. Successful. To make a long story short, over the course of eight years, we survived the drama of seven pregnancies total, including four additional losses, eventually leading us to have two beautiful, healthy baby boys. Each and every time we experienced a loss, I wound up having tests and procedures done, either to evaluate the viability of the embryo or to surgically remove the fetal tissue that needed to be cleared from my uterus. This meant repeated Northside Hospital visits, most of which carried with them a negative association. The worst of our losses was when I delivered our little girl, Tess, at 22 weeks gestation. She was born alive and passed away in Kevin’s arms later that day. She was the last baby I ever tried to carry. On January 12, 2017 we should be celebrating her 11th birthday. Instead, there is only silence.
The antithesis of that incident was the arrival of our second son, who was delivered to us via our gestational surrogate. It was amazing and wonderful to see our child being born. The waves of satisfaction and joy and bliss that we finally had another child to call our own overwhelmed me. The love I felt for our new baby and the gratitude I could only hope to express to our surrogate was unlike anything I had ever experienced before. After our son’s birth, I was permitted to stay in the postpartum ward like all the other new moms. My time there was filled with all the business that is typical of having a newborn baby. Before I knew it, we were swept away from the ward and released to go home.
Now, at the age of 45, I returned to Northside Hospital to share the newest copies of my book, “Making Angels”. I couldn’t wait to offer my paperbacks, hot off the presses, to the doctors and nurses who had helped me. And most of all, I was eager to provide extra copies to the H.E.A.R.T.strings Perinatal Bereavement Office. After the loss of Tess, I felt like they were the only ones who understood what we had been through, and comprehended the severity of the devastation her loss brought into our lives.
But here’s the weird thing. As I drove closer to the hospital doors, I felt strangely at odds with it. I agonized over these emotions that were piling up within me. This should feel happy, I thought to myself. I had anticipated delivering these books ever since the final draft was produced, hoping to share my story with others in an effort to help them the way I needed help. But that warm, fuzzy feeling I expected was nowhere to be found. It felt awkwardly sad and the anguish brewing up within me poured out into tangible tears.
I pulled through the roundabout and over to the curb, and waited for a moment to exit the car. Aware of the tears tumbling down my cheeks, I remembered how I had been brought to this same location in a wheelchair, my arms absent of the baby girl I expected to bring home. I knew I had to pull it together. This was so embarrassing. I planned to connect with Carol Shutley, a member of the H.E.A.R.T.strings staff whom I’d gotten to know over the phone. Finally I walked into Northside Hospital ready to meet Carol. There couldn’t have been a more appropriate person standing before me. After a warm welcome from her I began to get choked up again. I explained that I was surprised to feel so emotional about my visit to Northside Hospital. Thank goodness for Carol, who gently explained to me that returning to the location where a baby was lost can be very difficult. In speaking with her about it, I realized that Northside Hospital was not only associated with all the pregnancy losses I had, but it was the last place I was able to hold Tess before she died. Even though I had been back to the hospital for the birth of our second son, I hadn’t taken the time to grieve then. I was too focused on the needs of our newborn and the concern for our surrogate mother. Because we had moved out of the area, I hadn’t been back to Northside Hospital for any other reasons.
Although experiencing this flood of emotions wasn’t what I had expected, I have concluded that it was a necessary part of my recovery and healing process. It was the closure I least predicted but was perhaps one of the most important things for me to do. If you have had a pregnancy/baby loss, I recommend investing some time to go back to the place where the loss occurred. Breathe it in. And then walk away. You survived it before, and you’ll survive it again. And that, I believe, will make you stronger.