Today my story about Jaxon and my second trimester pregnancy loss is featured on pregnancylossjourney.com.
The timing seems fitting as today is my three year anniversary of starting my blog, 31chances. On November 22, 2014, I was recovering from a D&C two days prior from my second loss where I had been pregnant with twin girls. I remember sitting on the couch on Thanksgiving morning with the dog snuggled by me and I started writing. There was so much grief and so many painful memories haunting me every day. I had to find a place for all my pain to go and I let it come out through my finger tips onto a key board. It’s not easy to share this story, but I’ve learned that by being brave and sharing my story, it makes others brave too.
Here’s my story – Pregnancy Loss at 15 weeks.
My baby Jaxon – I Remember you Everyday
The trouble with pregnancy loss is that the grief and memories of it never really go away. It isn’t a short-lived, painful event that can be dismissed with the words “pregnancy loss” or miscarriage” with an assumption that recovery occurs when the event is over. It is the death of a baby and the sudden un-doing of hopes and dreams for that child. And it is the sudden realization that the love that came so quickly and grew so huge, now has nowhere to go in the confusion of heartache, grief and very likely depression. Sometimes the pain fades to a softer grief when we allow time and healing to take over. Sometimes the trauma gets stuck and comes back to visit on important dates, or when we are reminded by the weather, or a smell, or a word, or a name, or a place, or a walk through Target’s baby section, or a pregnancy announcement, or a baby shower invitation, or a song, or a butterfly, or maybe even in a moment of silence it all comes crashing down.
I remember all the time. I remember every day that I made a baby named Jaxon.
My husband and I went through our first round of IVF in December 2012, three months after we were married. We found out soon after the holidays that we were pregnant. It worked! Could we really be this lucky? Our first try? We were so grateful and a bit terrified. At 38 years old, I had waited long enough. I was finally going to be a Mom.
Every time we had an ultrasound and got to see the heartbeat we were just so in love. My favorite memory was an ultrasound at nearly 12 weeks where we got to see so much detail of our growing baby and his cute little movements. He was perfect.
At about 13 weeks we announced our pregnancy to everyone. EVERYONE. How quickly we spread the news and happiness to all those nearest and dearest to us.
However, the joy of sharing the news and the relief of transitioning to my second trimester of pregnancy was so cruelly short-lived. I started having problems right after 13 weeks and by 15 weeks he was gone. We lost Jaxon on March 23, 2013, two days before my 39th birthday.
About a week or two before losing Jaxon, it all started with sudden bleeding. Very, very heavy bleeding. It was terrifying and there I was alone in a bathroom stall at work and I could not understand what could possibly be happening. When I was able to get myself together, I called my husband and I called the doctor’s office. After going over all of my symptoms over the phone with the nurse, she thought it might be a subchorionic hematoma. What the heck is that? What does this mean? Will my baby be ok? An ultrasound later that day revealed a healthy baby but we could also see the source of the bleeding and the nurse was right. It was a subchorionic hematoma. We could see a large dark spot in the ultrasound next to the placenta where the bleeding and clotting was taking place. I was told that this is not that uncommon in pregnancy and usually they heal on their own without impacting the pregnancy. I was sent home and instructed to take it easy and that it should heal in 2-3 weeks. For a couple of days, it seemed like my body was healing and the bleeding seemed to be slowing down. I was hopeful that I was on the mend. I remember very distinctly on that Wednesday, just a few days before this all came to a crashing end, that I had an appointment with my OB. It was great timing, as I really wanted the check-in and hopefully reassurance that the baby was going to be ok. By the time I had the appointment I was experiencing a stronger, burning pain throughout my uterus but the doctor did not seem too concerned. She did not do an ultrasound but listened to the heartbeat and the sound, as usual, was lovely to hear. But that night, things took a turn for the worse. I can remember it so clearly because I was in so much pain. I’ve never been so incapacitated by pain before. I could not move and I could not get out of bed. I knew I could not walk. There was pain pulsing through my lower back and lower abdomen. It was terrifying. In hindsight, I should have gone to the hospital with that much pain. But having never been through anything like this, my instinct was to wait it out at home. I just couldn’t let myself think it was getting worse and if I went to a hospital I would have to admit to myself it was getting worse. But I did wait it out and the pain did subside. I thought I was in the clear. By Thursday night, I was experiencing pain again. Not as severe, but it was bad enough that I couldn’t sleep through it.
This lead up to some wonderful birthday plans for my 39th birthday. My husband and I had planned a weekend get-away for just the two of us at a Bed and Breakfast about 2 hours away from home. I felt well enough Friday to get packed and ready to go and we decided to go forward and enjoy our weekend. I figured as long as we were taking it easy and just relaxing, everything would be fine. We enjoyed our drive along the coast and made some fun stops along the way to check out some produce stands, and jam and candy stores and take some photos.
At the Bed and Breakfast, my husband surprised me with a birthday balloon and flower bouquet. We were off to a great start and I had a lot to look forward to on Saturday where we had plans for a massage and dinner at a fancy, ooh la la restaurant.
That Friday night we went out to dinner but then I noticed I was getting increasingly uncomfortable and the pain in my lower abdomen was building. We had to leave dinner early and head back to our B&B. I was in quite a bit of pain on and off throughout the night and by 6am, the pain was so out of control, I had to wake up my husband to take me to the hospital. I was scared and confused and the pain was so severe I could not stand up straight. I remember, it was so hard to move, to get dressed, to think. We were very lucky that the hospital was just a few minutes away from where we were staying and when we got to the emergency room, it was rather quiet and we were seen right away. However, we were seen by someone who was not an OB or pregnancy specialist and he was at the end of a very long night shift. He did not seem to be thinking too clearly at this point either, so that made our experience even more confusing. They gave me an IV of Tylenol. I told them it was not helping; I was still just in too much pain. They finally gave me morphine. The doctor wheeled over the ultrasound equipment and we quickly could see the baby. In that instant of seeing my baby moving and still alive, I was so relieved, but in a split second I was horrified and had to look away because he seemed to be frantically moving, like he was being pushed and bounced around almost violently. I will never forget that image. It haunts me to this day. The OB specialist was on-call and we had to wait for her to arrive. In the meantime I was asked all kinds of questions, had blood drawn and urine tested and we waited…and waited…and waited. Finally, several hours later the on-call OB arrived. And she was very sweet and helped calm my nerves. She checked my cervix and thankfully it had not dilated. The pain was under control due to the morphine. But what did this all mean? She did not have an exact answer but the diagnosis was “threatened miscarriage.” She encouraged us to go back to our B&B to rest, as recovery outside of a hospital setting is so much less stressful. We left with a prescription for pain medication and we were on our way. But I was exhausted and I knew this birthday weekend was over. No massage, no fancy dinner, no celebrating. I would be in bed until we felt like it was safe to drive home. And I did not yet have a feeling for when that would be. But I knew driving all the way back home was not safe at that moment. While my husband was out picking up the prescription, I could feel the pain coming back. I was there alone at the B&B in bed and scared again.
When I think back on this week and all the pain I was in, I know that at the end I was experiencing contractions. But it had been too early in the pregnancy to have gone to any Lamaze classes, or to have gained any understanding on what to expect during childbirth. I was lying in that bed realizing that the cycling pain must be contractions but I tried so hard not to believe it. I tried to will them to stop. I had to find a way to save my baby. I was there in that bed for so long hoping and wishing that it would pass and everything would be fine. But late that night the pain suddenly worsened and I had to go back to the hospital. My husband had fallen asleep so I had to wake him up which felt like an impossible task while in that state of pain. Once he was awake, I had to somehow get up again, but it was so hard to do. And I recall that in my husband’s state of panic, he kept saying things that seemed so irrational and unimportant to me. Saying things like “make sure to grab your jewelry” and “put your shoes on”. It even seemed unreasonable that I should have to get dressed. I literally needed someone to carry me. I could not physically function on my own. Nothing was important to me at that moment, other than to just get to the hospital. The pain washed over me so violently and I had no control. I vomited from the pain. Somehow my husband was able to get me out to the car. Those few minutes in the car were excruciating. My body did not want to be in a seated position. While in the car as we approached the hospital, I could actually feel my cervix opening. I knew I was going to lose the baby, but I could not bring myself to speak the words. Not even to warn my husband.
This time the emergency room was packed with people. While trying to get admitted, I was in so much pain, I could not speak. I was crying and moaning and had to point at the picture chart of how much pain I was in. As I pointed to the grimacing face #10 on the pain scale chart, I knew it was way beyond 10 but I had no words to explain. They put me in a wheelchair but they did not take us back to a room right away. So, I was stuck in that chair in the waiting room. I remember thinking how badly I needed to tell someone I couldn’t sit there. It was too painful, but I couldn’t speak. We had to sit there in the waiting room while I was crying and at this point screaming in pain. Everyone was staring at us. It was humiliating. I was terrified. My husband called my mom to let her know we were back in the hospital and all I could think of was, “get off the phone, I don’t want her to hear me in pain like this.” The contractions were so strong and I felt them switch from a cycle to a constant stream of excruciating torture. Finally, they took us to a private room and got me into a bed and undressed. They gave me morphine. We were there about 15 minutes. We were alone in the room. And I lost the baby. I don’t think my husband could have comprehended that losing the baby would actually happen. He was shocked and horrified when we did. While I felt everything, he saw everything. All I saw were the lights in the ceiling. I couldn’t allow myself to do anything other than to stare up. I didn’t want to see what had happened. But he did. He saw all the blood and he saw the baby. He ran to get help. But now it was over. He was so scared and he thought I was bleeding too much. He kept checking my pulse. I couldn’t feel anything anymore, other than continued contractions that would not stop but were a bit muted by the morphine. I couldn’t feel any emotions. I was alert and awake but everything went blank. Looking back at this moment, I couldn’t understand why we didn’t have any help. There was nobody there explaining to us what was happening. There was nobody there trying to help me breathe through the pain. There was nobody there to make sure we could put him in a baby blanket or put a little bitty hat on him. Nurses swiftly and briefly moved in and out of the room and all the while my baby was stuck with the placenta between my legs, again waiting for the on-call OB to arrive. My only thoughts were how I failed my baby and I couldn’t even hold him.
When the OB arrived, it turned out to be the same doctor from the morning. She was so sorry to see us there again. Finally, she was able to take the baby and clean him up. She gave him to us and I held him as long as I could. At the end of it all, with only a few ounces of perfection resting on my chest, I have never felt anything heavier sinking so deeply into my heart. The most precious, beautiful face I had ever seen. A cute little button nose and the littlest fingers and toes. And while my mind was still in shock in that horrific moment, I knew I had been given the biggest love I had ever known, and we named our son Jaxon Alan.
At some point later, a nurse came in to take Jaxon away. It was at that moment of him leaving my arms that I felt everything again. Every emotion. Deep grief, heartbreak, and gut-wrenching loss. This sweet little bundle was everything that mattered to me in this world and he was simply stripped away from me. This can’t be happening. My baby was gone. My mind could not accept this was happening and I screamed for him and reached my hands out for him. In that moment of horrific loss and realization that my baby was gone forever, I was forced to realize I had to have surgery. My body would not pass the placenta, so I had to have a D&C. I remember feeling relieved right before falling asleep in the operating room that the contractions and physical pain were finally put to an end. But soon enough I was awake again and afraid to fall asleep in the hospital bed. I knew that every time I woke up during the night I would have to realize over and over again in the dark that my baby was gone. I would wake up and see the shape of my husband illuminated by hospital equipment, lying in the cot across from me and feel his heart breaking too. And in the morning when it was light again, I was so struck and saddened by the feeling of my shrunken belly. There are no words to describe that kind of emptiness. I still couldn’t quite comprehend or believe what had just happened. But there was no time for that…there were too many questions to answer…
What should we do with Jaxon?
What do you want to do with his remains?
Can you go to the bathroom?
Do you want to have him cremated?
What funeral home should we work with?
Do you want to eat something?
Are you thirsty?
Will someone from the funeral home be able to drive to the hospital to pick up the baby?
Are you ready to get dressed?
Do you want him cremated alone or with other babies?
Do you want to talk to the hospital chaplain?
Would you like to take this book about miscarriage home with you?
My husband had gathered all the information that morning while I was resting but we had to act quickly before a decision was made for us. How are you supposed to make these decisions when you are still in such a state of shock and confusion? We wanted our baby and we wanted to be able to have him cremated. But before leaving, my husband had to contact one of our local funeral homes to find out if they could actually drive to this hospital (2 hours away) and pick him up. Thankfully they were able to do this for us.
The caretakers at the B&B packed up all of our belongings for us. My husband went back and picked up everything while I was still at the hospital. When he came back to get me, he let go of my birthday balloons and watched them float away as a gift to Jaxon.
The drive home was unbearable. How do I go home without my baby?
A few months later we were able to pick up his ashes. It was a heartbreaking yet calming experience. The man that we had worked with from the funeral home was named Alan. Which instantly gave me some peace, as that was my Dad’s name. Alan. And everyone called my Dad, Al. And we had named our son Jaxon Alan. We met Alan, the funeral director outside of a service that was just beginning. As my husband and I walked up to him, someone else was walking up to another man, saying “Hi Al.” I felt like I was surrounded by “Al” as the sound of his name hit me from all directions. I felt my Dad’s spirit washing over us right at the moment we were handed our son’s ashes. I couldn’t bring myself to share this realization out loud to my husband until we had been sitting in the car for a while together. But as soon as I started to tell him with tears in my eyes, he said, “Yes, I know, I heard it too.”
My husband and I decided to spread Jaxon’s ashes in the ocean near our home. I was out for a walk one evening and decided to take a short detour off of my normal route. It was there I discovered a giant rock with the number 13 painted on it right by the water. And I realized this was the place we needed to spread his ashes. My husband has a birthday on the 13th. Jaxon was supposed to be born on September 13, 2013. The number 13 just jumped out at me. So this was the place. It just felt right.
We decided to pick a song to play when we spread his ashes. There was a song that repeatedly played on the radio that summer and although we had not yet shared this with each other, it turned out both of us thought of Jaxon every time we heard it. It was “Gone, Gone, Gone” by Phillip Phillips. Still to this day, I cry every time I hear that song. My husband and I climbed up on the rocks and we waited for the best wave to come up and help take his ashes away. And it was all so perfectly timed with the water and the words in the song. So perfect in fact, that we felt our baby with us so strongly in that moment. After we let him go, we just stood there on the rocks holding each other.
It’s been over four years since we lost Jaxon, and I remember him everyday. His life was brief, but my love for him will last forever.
Please join me on instagram for support through pregnancy loss @mamalookup