Oct 17 2012

Grief Relief – Multiple Losses

In honor of pregnancy and infant loss awareness month, in conjunction with our three-year anniversary, we are launching the “Grieve Out Loud Grief Relief.” Read about Grief Relief here.

Today’s submission is about multiple losses. Here are some things you could consider including in your piece.

What kind of losses did you experience? (1st tri, 2nd tri, stillbirth?)
Time between pregnancies/losses?
Any medical explanation of losses?
What keeps you motivated to keep trying?
Are you afraid to try again?
What eventually brought you a live baby?
What advice do you have for RPL (repeat pregnancy loss) families?

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E-Mail Submission Guidelines are as follow:

1) All submissions are to be sent to with the subject “Multiple Losses.”

2) Copy and paste your original piece into the body of the e-mail. No attachments please.

3) Please include a one paragraph bio including your name, your baby’s name, type of loss, and blog URL if applicable.

4) All submissions are subject to editorial review and may be edited for clarity. We may only utilize a small portion of your work.

5) Submissions due by 11/01/12


May 5 2012

Much More Muchness

I had a lot of apprehension about turning 30 last year (September 2011). It wasn’t a vanity or ageist thing, it was a me thing. I wasn’t happy with where I was in life. It felt like there were still so many things left to achieve, one of which was motherhood, something that was ripped away from me on September 18, 2009 when our first child was stillborn at 37 weeks.

In the years to come I had to learn how to incorporate grief into my everyday life. It was a painful transition and my muchness was something that became completely masked by the darkness. I missed my muchness, but it seemed hopelessly lost forever.

On September 1, 2011 I announced my first muchness challenge. During those 30 days some huge milestones were reached including: attending my first baby shower since my own, my husband’s birthday, our son’s 2 year mark and my 30th birthday. (Unfortunately due to technical issues most my original posts were lost).

Participating in the challenge made me see my life different. Instead of living days or weeks or months or even years in advance, I learned to find the beauty in today. Live for now, not the past or the future.

In the end my muchness beat out the darkness. Found the strength to survive another year without my son AND survived turning 30.

Exactly 30 days later (well, 31 because it was Halloween), we found out we were expecting another baby!!!!! And just like that, I had another shot at finding my motherhood muchness.

We’re currently 30 weeks pregnant and ready for round two of Finding my Muchness: Motherhood Addition.

I am very excited to share this journey (and baby) with you. Pregnancy after Loss is an unnerving roller coaster just like grief. Every day brings on new challenges and what better way to stay focused than to fill my days with MUCHNESS?!

My new challenge will begin May 6th, 2011. You can find my journey at julie.findingmymuchness.com
For more information on baby Buttercup visit my personal blog at Tales from the Womb

 

Want to take on your own Muchness Challenge? For information on how to join please visit findingmymuchness.com


Jun 9 2011

When Another Pregnancy Isn’t an Option

So many of the families who experience pregnancy/infant loss have a strong desire to fall pregnant again. “The sooner the better” becomes their day-to-day tagline. We feel it is important to share stories from families that cannot try again. This particular story comes from our own Team Member, Susan F. It is one of our submissions from our Giveback Project.

Thank you Susan for pouring your heart out to us. I know this piece will help families dealing with a similar situation.

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“I was asked to write a piece for this project a couple months ago and I just did not know where to start – I think about it everyday and things really start sounding good, but then when I have the chance to start actually writing, my mind draws a blank.

Let me start by introducing myself. My name is Susan, the mother to four angels; Jordan Donise born at twenty-seven weeks, Alexander Michael, born at twenty weeks, Alisia Noelle, born at twenty-three weeks and Gabriel Ryan, born at twenty weeks and my one miracle daughter, Madyson Leah, born at thirty-eight weeks!  Those are the only children I will ever have.

Last November, I made the heartbreaking decision to have my tubes tied (tubal ligation) and put an end to the chance of another pregnancy. I knew deep in my heart and soul that for my own well being and to those around me that I could not go through losing another one of my babies. I have learned to live with the grief that surrounds me.  Anyone meeting me on the street for the first, even second or third  time would never know the pain that I have had to endure or the thoughts I have almost every day.

Growing up, I wanted at least two kids, a boy and a girl. Yes, I have that, but not the way I always wanted. Yes, I have had five beautiful babies, but that is all I will ever have. I have had to learn to live with knowing I won’t ever be able to be pregnant again when everyone around me seems to be getting pregnant.

I seem to be at the age where everyone has decided to start having babies or talk about it. I agree, it’s hard to be happy for someone that is pregnant and that can go on and have a successful pregnancy. I also agree that sometimes life just is not fair when we cannot have healthy babies, but someone who is sixteen and could care less about a baby has one.  I ask myself everyday why did I get dealt these cards? Did I do something in a past life to deserve this?  Am I really that bad of a person and I just don’t know it? But, on the other hand, I know that I didn’t do anything. I cannot change what has happened to me, but I can make a difference in what does happen to me. I can take each day and enjoy it the best that I can. My family deserves that.  I deserve that.

After we lost Gabriel, I knew that the only thing I could do was to get my tubes tied. It was a gut wrenching decision. I cried every night. Because of insurance reasons, surgery kept getting delayed, and it just made my grief all that much worse because not only did I just lose my child, I was starting to lose my relationship. My fiance and I grew apart. I didn’t want him to touch me, I was so scared to get pregnant again and have to go through yet another loss. I finally came to terms with everything and KNEW that my life wasn’t over, I could learn to live with the cards that I was dealt. Sure, I still think about wanting another baby, but know that I cannot.

My life is not over, not by a long shot.

I know each of you are thinking, I want another baby, I cannot wait six, or even three months to start trying, I want to be pregnant NOW.  You will probably always have those thoughts, but they do not have to consume you and do not let them!

Take time to grieve the baby you lost, renew old friendships, put more effort into new friendships, enjoy finding out why you fell in love with your significant other all over again, and most importantly take care of YOU!!  It’s not the end of the world if you cannot get pregnant right away, maybe it is your body saying you need to heal from the loss of your child before you can really enjoy the pregnancy of your next child.  Yes, I know that is one of those phrases everyone hates to hear, but you want to be able to enjoy your next pregnancy not worry each and every minute and let the best times pass you by! And if you are like me, and have chosen to not have anymore kids, it does get easier, each and every day.

Yes, I still think about wanting another baby, and always ask myself if I did the right thing, but deep down in my heart, I know I did.  My daughter is eleven now, getting ready for middle school, I owe it to her to not let my grief get the best of me. There are still some days that I cry for what will never be, but there are other days where I am thankful that I have had the chance to see my babies and be able to kiss them goodbye.”

Susan F.


Jan 22 2011

TTTC

Trying to Try to Conceive – By Kristine Brite McCormick

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I ran a congenital heart defects nonprofit working with pregnant women and women trying to conceive so I feel well versed in the things I need to do before even trying to conceive. I guess you could say I’m trying to try to conceive. That is I’m getting my mind and body ready. I approached Grieve Out Loud and asked if I could write about it here so that I can hopefully help others in the same position and meet other moms that are TTTC (Trying to Try to Conceive, of course). As a baby loss mother, I know full well that sometimes things go wrong. Things don’t always just work out. The scary statistics and stories you read about really do happen.

But, I also know that babies live. I know I can only do my best for my next child. I know that my first daughter’s heart defect was probably not my fault, but that doesn’t mean I should research and do as much as I can to get my body in to shape before getting ready for our next child.

Most of the things I’m getting in order before trying again have to do with risk factors for congenital heart defects. I’m basing these on studies and current research. If you know of anything that a woman should do before having another baby, please chime in with comments.

Preparing Physically

I’m overweight. This is a risk factor for not only CHD, but other birth defects. Personally, I’m just going to set a goal of losing 30 or 40 pounds so that I feel better and cut my risk. I think it’s important to be gentle and set realistic weight goals. So, yep, I’m losing weight just to get fat again (with a preggo belly).

Getting in shape is something I plan on doing. I want to feel my best while pregnant. I’ve suffered from Postpartum Depression (even more fun when there is no baby) and know that I’m at a higher risk for prenatal depression. Setting up an exercise routine now should help.I’m taking folic acid. Studies suggest you take folic acid all the time while trying to conceive. Some studies say to take folic acid only for about three months before getting pregnant.

I stopped drinking caffeinated beverages to prepare. Caffeine zaps your body of iron so it’s recommended to stop before getting pregnant. If you can’t stop, start weaning yourself. Many doctors will let their patients drink a limited amount of caffeine while pregnant.

I’m going to the doctor for a check up and for tests. This one is self explainable.

Preparing My Life

My husband and I are going to make sure we have an emergency fund and are relatively secure financially. Again, we’re not going to go overboard. We’ve set gentle and realistic goals.

I plan on interviewing midwives, doulas and doctors before starting to try. I know I’m going to need a provider I really know and trust.

Preparing Mentally

This is by far the hardest. Like many of my fellow baby loss mothers, I have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and am absolutely terrified something will happen again. I’m not even sure how to work through this at this point, but I know I’m going to seek help and talk about it.

I’m reminding myself that sometimes, they live. That I can do this. I’m finding my support system and reminding myself to be extra gentle.

What have I missed? How are you trying to try to conceive?

Kristine Brite McCormick blogs about her road to a second child at www.raintorainbow.com. She’s preparing to try to conceive her second child in Fall 2011.


Nov 10 2010

A Timeline of Tales – TTC After Loss

Welcome to Part II of our TTC After Loss series. For information on Part I please click here to familiarize yourself with the setup.

This week we continue sharing and comparing real answers to popular questions surrounding TTC. Please remember that everyone’s bodies and stories are different. Don’t worry if your personal answers to these questions differ from what is posted. We are posting these simply to shine light on the average numbers and give hope to those who might be struggling with questions.

How long are your cycles?

We asked thirty women how long their cycles (first day of period to beginning of their next period) were and the average was twenty-nine (29) days. Over half of these women have the typical twenty-eight (28) day cycle.

But fear not, sneaked inside these numbers were women with thirty day (30) plus cycle days. Don’t feel like a freak of nature if you have long cycles. Even though us long cyclers might have to wait a little longer, there is nothing wrong with you — your chances of conception are no different than short cyclers.

When do you ovulate?

Given the same thirty women as above, the average day of ovulation is cycle day fifteen (15.)

Of course, this number does not work for everyone. Some women ovulate as early as day eleven (11) and as late as day twenty-two (22.) As mentioned in Part I of our TTC after Loss piece, ovulation kits and fertility monitors can help a lot of women watch for and prepare for their big O (ovulation.)

Stress, sickness, travel and other factors can interrupt ‘regular’ ovulation by a few days, even weeks for some. Frustrating yes, but not unheard of.

When do you start (pregnancy) testing?

I start as early as six Days Past Ovulation (DPO.) I know better, but there is something strangely comforting in peeing on tests for me.” Grieve Out Loud founder – Julie

It’s true, there is something to be said about early testing. A lot of women commented that they start as early as the day after ovulation. Women also commented with “If I have tests in the house, I’m going to use them.”

But seeing negative tests – or Big Fat Negatives (BFN) collect in your waste-bin isn’t exactly easy on the heart. The Two Week Wait (2WW) is what you will hear from your doctors. Fourteen days is waaaayyyy too long for most though.

Some women have reported faint positive tests as early as nine DPO, but the average is 10-14 DPO. Note this is just on average, you might be able to test earlier, or wait longer. It really depends on your average Luteal Phase (LP.) If your LP is normally 12-14 days, test on the last day of your LP.

If you are on Fertility Friend they have an awesome Chart Gallery you can search.

How do you handle your BFN’s?

Disappointing, but I just tried to tell myself that it wasn’t our time yet.” – Holly

This was a very difficult question to ask these families. Finding out all your efforts and hope has failed another month is very hard. You are not a failure. Your partner is not a failure. Be gentle to yourself.

Personally, I have what is called a “Period Party.” Have a few extra glasses of wine, eat handfuls of sushi (and chocolate!) — whatever the case may be. It is sad not to achieve pregnancy, but remember there is always next month!

What if we’re still not pregnant?

TTC after Loss has a way of slowing down the entire universe. Sometimes three or four cycles can feel like three or four years. Keep your hopes high, because the journey is not always smooth.

Some women lose their fertility or even worse, the ability to carry a child after their loss. If after six cycles of perfectly timed intercourse has passed without your Big Fat Positive (BFP) it might be time to consult your doctor. If there is an infertility problem, you might want to check out a Reproductive Endocrinologist (RE) and begin fertility treatments. Please note there is a huge difference between not getting pregnant and having infertility problems. Fertility treatments can be a very serious and expensive route to take. Sometimes families try for years and years before seeing a RE. Make sure you are timing intercourse properly before assuming you have an infertility problem.

A good rule of thumb is this, so long as there are no medical reason(s) standing in your way — the way you conceived before will be the way you conceive again. Don’t run to a RE after two months of trying. Let things happen as they will. We know the wait is hard, but we’ve all had to do it. Be strong and positive.

But I just can’t wait! Who can I talk to in more detail about this whole TTC after Loss journey?

You aren’t alone friend, there are plenty of places to help you get through it.

We are currently putting together a Pen-Pal list for parents who are TTC again. You can talk one-on-one with someone who has conceived after loss naturally, through IUI, IVF, FET, and adoption. We also have a group of women who are in the waiting period of TTC, along with actively TTC (me included.) For more information or to get set up with a Pen-Pal .

Other great sites include Glow in the Woods’ ttc | pregnancy | birth after loss board and Faces of Loss’ Forum.

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Don’t give up hope folks. TTC after Loss can be a lonely, stressful, mind-altering journey. It does not have to be though. Let us help you get through the rough patches and share the good times with you.

Next we will be moving onto the well-awaited Pregnancy after Loss! Learn more about how long it takes to achieve pregnancy after loss, the emotions surrounding the BFP, when it is time to share the news, preparing for birth after loss and much much more!


Oct 24 2010

Tips from Within – TTC after Loss

A few weeks ago we created a Trying to Conceive (TTC) and Pregnancy after Loss Questionnaire. Over twenty-five wonderful women in the babyloss community participated in this questionnaire, giving us their heart-felt tips, tricks, truths and more. Over the course of several weeks we will be sharing some of the popular questions and answers in hopes to help you on your journey.

Whether you are in a waiting period, thinking about trying again, pregnant, or about to experience birth after loss please join in!

(Note: We are not medical experts. Please follow the advice of your medical professional.)


When did you first realize you wanted to try again?

I knew from the moment I held my daughter in my arms that I had to try again. I didn’t know when we’d actually be ready to do it, but I knew I had to have the experience of giving birth and holding my baby in my arms again.”- Grieve Out Loud co-founder, Heather M.

Nearly all twenty-five participants answered this question the same: As soon as possible. Very soon. Right away. Immediately. One mother knew she wanted to try again very soon while she was still carrying her daughter.

Point is, if you are having intense feelings of a new pregnancy — you aren’t alone. We all feel it.

How long did you wait to try again?

I heard to wait three months, six months and nine months. We waited seven and very glad we did… gave myself time to grieve Cara.” – Laura

We don’t have a clear answer to this, but on average the census is three months. It’s very important to listen to your doctors as we are not medical experts. On a personal note, my doctor advised us to wait three cycles which did not add up to three months.

Allow your mind, body and soul to heal. Emotions run wild after any type of loss, we urge you to be gentle on yourself and not make trying again become a race against others.

How did you discuss trying again with your partner?

Keep the lines of communication open. You need to talk to each other about your feelings. Be there for your spouse. ” – Sara

Whether it is brought up in a casual conversation or by your doctor, deciding to try again must be a mutual agreement. One cannot be rushed into anything, especially TTC. While men might keep their pain hidden, that does not mean they are not grieving. Make sure you are both ready and able to make the next step together.

What is sex like now?

Come to bed, I’m ovulating. – Lindsay

Lets be honest here, TTC sucks. But TTC after loss sucks even more. It’s hard to let loose and be spontaneous when we only have a 12-24 hour fertile window to act on. Plus, what’s sexy about egg-white cervical fluid? And forget all the questions floating around your head. Will this be it? How many more times do we have to do this? Just try to shut your brain up, get busy and remember you’re burning calories too!

Some suggest going on a vacation or rent a hotel room for a night or two. Some suggest just letting go, and it will happen. You just have to do what is right for you, even if it involves a margarita or three.

Are you using anything to help you conceive?

If someone told me to eat dirt every Tuesday of the month to get pregnant I would have.” – Grieve Out Loud founder, Julie

Move over old-fashioned way, we’ve entered the digital age! There are lots of ways to take control of your fertility. A friend of mine sent me her copy of Taking Charge of Your Fertility and it literally changed my life. Once you understand how your body works, timing intercourse can become a lot easier on you both.

Charting is a very easy and integral part of TTC. Buy yourself a basal body thermometer and become best friends with Fertility Friend. It is amazing to watch your cycles play out before your eyes.

Ovulation Predictor Kits (OPKs) were also mentioned by some. You can pick these up nearly anywhere and are generally a little pricey, but if you shop online you can find some really great deals (some including pregnancy tests as well.)

Other women mention the need for medication or vitamins such as clomid, metformin, progesterone and soy isoflavones. Of course, women dealing with In Vitro Fertilization (IVF), Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET) et cetera have their own list of meds to follow.

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Next we will be exploring the time-line of how long it took these participants to conceive, the emotions involved in negative tests, early weeks of pregnancy achievement, and much more!


Aug 11 2010

The Raw Truth August’s Submission

Each month we will be publishing a personal, in-depth pregnancy and infant loss story under the title “The Raw Truth.” Releasing the intimate details of our pregnancy and birthing stories is a very important part of the grieving process, and for some it is not easy to share. This month we feature a story from Grieve Out Loud Co-Founder, Heather M.

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The Whole Story
Submitted by Heather M.

Our family’s story began on May 8, 2004, the day Nathan and I promised to love and cherish each other for the rest of our lives. As I made my vows to him, I hadn’t the faintest idea how our lives would change just over five years later through the birth of our daughter, Madelyn. In fact, neither of us envisioned ourselves as the “having babies” type. Our plan was to work hard, retire early, and enjoy the extra money we wouldn’t be spending on things like daycare, diapers, and college funds.

A few years into our marriage, I began to reconsider my stance against having children. Some of our friends started having babies, and I wanted that sweetness in my own life. Nathan was still no where near ready to even consider the idea of children, but he did let me get a cat. I enjoyed the new, furry member of our family, but she did little to squelch the desire that had sprouted in my heart for a child.

In late August 2008, I thought for a few brief days my wish had come true in the form of a surprise. My usually very predictable menstrual cycle was late, so I decided to take a pregnancy test. To my surprise a second line, albeit faint, appeared. I went straight to Google to see what I could find on faint lines, and everything I read said a line was a line. I was scared to tell Nathan as I knew this wasn’t something we had planned, but I was beyond thrilled.

That dream all too soon slipped from my fingers the next morning when the test was no longer positive. Several tests later, I came to terms with the fact that I wasn’t pregnant. I still don’t know if I ever was – I later discovered that the brand of tests I was using is notorious for making people think they are pregnant. I’ve even read stories of men getting positive tests with this brand!

Regardless of what happened, I was crushed. Yet something positive was born of the experience: spending a day thinking we were going to be parents changed both of us. Nathan realized that he wanted to have a baby after all, and we decided we would start trying to do just that after I finished my Masters degree in December 2009.

In January 2009, our plans were once again interrupted, as I discovered I was pregnant. While it was a surprise, we had been careless with prevention, so we weren’t nearly as shocked as we had been five months before. My previous experience made me cautious: I tested again every single day, multiple times a day, for over a week. Yet this time, it was different. Instead of disappearing, the second line got darker with each passing day. I went to the doctor for a blood test, and it showed that I was indeed pregnant with a due date of October 8, 2009.

My first trimester was easy enough, although I was constantly worried about miscarriage, eating the right foods, and following the pregnancy manuals I had collected to give my baby the healthiest start I could. I had an ultrasound at 7 weeks that showed everything was as it should be, but that the baby was measuring as due October 11 instead of October 8. Being an avid cycle charter, I knew this could not be correct. However, ultrasounds can be wrong by up to a week either direction, so no one was concerned except for me.

I had another scan in my 13th week, when my OB was unable to find the heartbeat at my regular appointment. He said that it was still early, but authorized an ultrasound for my peace of mind. Thankfully, the ultrasound immediately showed our baby’s tiny heart beating as it should. Yet, once again, I noticed a few things seemed to be off. This ultrasound was giving us a due date of October 13, meaning our baby was measuring even more behind schedule. I also noticed the “black area” around the baby wasn’t as large as in other ultrasounds I had seen. I later learned this was amniotic fluid. Our baby also did not move even once during the ultrasound. However, none of these things were severe enough to cause anyone concern. I was again reminded that ultrasounds can be wrong by up to a week, and I was told that sometimes babies do sleep during the ultrasound exams. Nothing was said about the amniotic fluid – it must have not been low enough for the doctors to worry.

My next ultrasound, the one that changed my life, was at 19 weeks 5 days, on May 19, 2009. I remember being very nervous the previous night. Even though I was small, I had not been feeling the baby move. We had heard the heartbeat several times via Doppler, so we at least knew she was alive. I was also concerned because at my OB appointment at 16 weeks, my doctor mentioned she was much lower than most babies were at that stage in pregnancy. He wasn’t concerned, but pointed it out simply because it took him much longer than usual to find her on the Doppler. However, Nathan reminded me that everything was probably fine. We had made it past the first trimester, and the chances of anything going wrong halfway through a pregnancy were slim.

When we were called into the ultrasound room, all of my fears were diminished as soon as we saw our baby’s beating heart on the screen. But then the ultrasound technician stopped what she was doing to tell us she needed to go get a doctor. While hearing those words was a little unsettling, we just assumed she needed help with something.

The ultrasound technician returned a few minutes later with a nurse practitioner who took a quick peek at the ultrasound screen, and then proceeded to tell us that our baby was measuring 3 weeks behind schedule and there was basically no amniotic fluid. They told us we were being sent to the Perinatal Center, which is where people go with high risk pregnancies. They couldn’t get us in for several hours, so we had to wait. At this point I was beyond scared and in tears. They escorted us out through a private entrance so we wouldn’t have to walk back through the waiting room in front of all the other happy pregnant women full of excitement: the type of woman I had been not even an hour earlier.

After what felt like an eternity, it was finally time for our next appointment. It didn’t take long to confirm what we had already been told: our baby was too small and there wasn’t even enough amniotic fluid to measure. They also told us there was probably a heart condition, and I needed to go to a pediatric cardiologist once the baby was a little bigger to get more information about that. We were then whisked away to speak with a genetic counselor, who educated us on various fatal chromosomal disorders. The biggest cause of concern was the lack of amniotic fluid. In the womb, babies swallow amniotic fluid, and doing so helps their lungs develop. Without it, it was very likely our baby would need NICU care after birth, even if everything else turned out fine. We chose to focus on the small chance that she would be fine. We were told our baby could die at any time, we could carry her to term only to have her die afterwards, she could live, but with severe disabilities, or there was the small chance she could live and all would be fine. The chance that all could be fine was the only thing that kept us going through that day, and through the months ahead.

I was sent home and ordered to go on bed rest and drink lots of water for two weeks, at which point they’d do another ultrasound to see if the amniotic fluid levels had increased. If so, it was likely that I was leaking fluid. If not, then we’d know the issue was probably with the baby and not with me.

It was a long two weeks, but finally the time came for my next appointment. We were told things had not improved. They sent me back to work on modified bed rest, and made plans to see me bi-weekly until our baby reached one pound in weight, which is the smallest size at which they can save a baby outside the womb. At that point, we would have a few more options.

Over the next month we lived from appointment to appointment. We went to the pediatric cardiologist during this time and it was determined our baby had an AV canal defect, which is most frequently associated with Down’s syndrome, and not the fatal chromosomal defects. However, the small size and low fluid were not associated with Down’s, so neither us nor the doctors could make any sense of it.

At 26 weeks, our baby finally reached the weight of one pound. We were given two choices at this point: we could continue with the bi-weekly appointments and me on modified bed rest, or I could be admitted to the hospital where the baby would be monitored constantly. We were told that with so little fluid around the baby, the chances of her going into distress were high. If I were home, we wouldn’t know it, and she would probably die. If I were in the hospital, they’d do an emergency c-section and try their best to save her. After much deliberation, we opted for hospitalization, hoping to give our baby every possible chance at life. On July 3, 2009, I was admitted. While our friends prepared for their Independence Day celebrations, I began what would become an eight-week stay in the hospital.

While in the hospital, our baby surprised all of the doctors and nurses. She never showed any signs of distress, and she moved much more frequently than most babies without fluid. She also seemed to be growing: she never regained the three weeks she had lost, but she never fell further behind either. Living in the hospital wasn’t easy, but I was able to find some advantages. The thumping of her heart was my constant background music, and I was given a gift of time to focus on nothing but my pregnancy and my baby.

In the eighth week of my hospital stay I was 34 weeks pregnant, and my weekly ultrasound revealed our baby had not grown much in the prior week. Since 34 weeks is typically the normal time to deliver babies in no fluid situations, they decided it was time to induce me. They gave me medications to soften my cervix on August 26, 2009, started me on Pitocin to induce contractions the next evening, and by the morning of August 28, 2009, I was in hard labor. I labored all day without making much progress. After begging and pleading for relief, they finally agreed to let me have my epidural, even though I was hardly dilated. My OB said that if I didn’t progress in a few more hours, he would come do a c-section.

Thankfully, the epidural relaxed me, and I finally started making progress. A few hours later, I was ready to start pushing, and at 10:22 p.m., Madelyn Rebecca was born. She was 15 inches long and weighed 3 pounds and 4 ounces.

The room was eerily silent as they handed her to the NICU team in my room. All I could do was pray that my baby would live. After about ten minutes, one of the NICU doctors told us things weren’t going well, and if she didn’t improve soon they would let us have her to share her final moments. Things didn’t improve.

It felt so surreal as they laid my baby girl in my arms for the first time. Her eyes briefly fluttered open to look at me, and then she closed them again, never to re-open. I couldn’t believe that at any moment, she would breathe her last breath. Nathan and I held her, cried, and then allowed the rest of our family to have that same opportunity. Several hours later the nurse took her so we could get some sleep, and they brought her body back to us the next morning so we could say good-bye one final time before I was discharged from the hospital.

Leaving without my baby was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.

The next week was spent making funeral arrangements. Instead of shopping for the stroller and baby bed we would have needed had she lived, we went shopping for a casket and headstone for her grave – something no parents should ever have to do for their child.

The night Madelyn was born, we signed papers authorizing the hospital to do testing on our daughter in an attempt to determine what went wrong. Initial test results showed that her chromosomes were perfect, which surprised all the doctors. Then, several weeks later, the hospital called with our autopsy results. It revealed several problems not seen on the ultrasound, and we were once again sent to a genetic counselor.

Based on the new information revealed through testing, our genetic counselor gave us a few possibilities, one of which was a recessive gene disorder called Smith-Lemli-Opitz Syndrome (“SLOS”). In order for this to have been the problem, Nathan and I would both need to be carriers. If only one of us was a carrier, it would not affect our children. We both tested positive, and we had our answer.

It was nice to have an answer, but it wasn’t the answer we wanted. When two people carry the gene that causes SLOS, there is a 25% chance in every pregnancy that both affected genes will be transferred to the baby, resulting in the child being affected with this disease. It isn’t always fatal, but it does always come with challenges, often both mental and physical. This greatly complicated our decision about future children.

We took several months to decide what we should do next, and then we learned about something called embryo donation. When people go through the process of in-vitro fertilization, they will often find themselves with more embryos than they need. These people are then faced with the decision of what to do with the remaining embryos. One option is to donate them to other families who are either unable to have children on their own or, as in our case, have genetic reasons for not doing so. I did a lot of research on the subject, and we decided this was the path we wanted to take for our next child.

In February 2010, I began calling fertility clinics, as I knew embryo donation programs often had long waiting lists. I was fortunate to find a clinic with no waiting list and very high success rates. In April 2010 I began my frozen embryo transfer cycle, and before the month was over I found out I was pregnant again, due in early January 2011. Several ultrasounds later revealed I was carrying a healthy baby boy.

We know our journey is far from finished. Every single day I find myself torn between love for both of my babies and the pain that still grips my heart at losing my first. Yet even when my pain is at its worst, I am grateful for the time I had with Madelyn. If given the choice, I would always choose this path, because she was in it, even if only briefly.