Our Story

Our Story

Part 3 of 3

Life Without You

Preston and I opted to have our baby’s remains put in the new cemetery plot for the hospital network. While we knew our baby was gone, we felt that having a final resting place for our son suited the harsh situation we were facing. We were thankful we had that option and looked forward to finding closure visiting the plot with the service promised.

I contacted the cemetery the Monday after my procedure to get information. They gave me a cookie-cutter response, and when I asked when my son’s remains would be sent to the plot, they instructed me to call the hospital and speak with them.

I was connected to a woman in the nursing supervising station who assured me I would be contacted when my son’s remains were sent to the plot once it was finished. This option was brand new and was still getting finalized at the time. When I hadn’t heard in a few weeks, I called the supervising station again and they told me that she “wasn’t who I should speak with” and connected me, a mother who just lost her baby, to a nurse in maternity

You read that correctly.

I reluctantly tried to leave a message with that nurse with no returned call. Not that I was surprised. Why on earth would an L & D nurse have the time to speak to a woman wondering where her baby is? They have babies to deliver. I, on the other hand, did not.

I followed up with the hospital weeks later and asked to speak to this mythical maternity nurse apparently in charge of this plot. The woman who answered told me I couldn’t speak with her because she was “busy with a mom that is in labor, awaiting delivery!”

Gut-punch. 

I hung up, feeling my heart start to race in frustration. Why would no one answer my calls? Why would no one call me back? Why would I be calling about a cemetery plot for pregnancy loss and someone would think it’s okay to talk to me about a baby being born?

I want to say that I called the hospital every day, and that I was “that mom” that asked to speak to the manager and did everything I could to ensure I would know the second he was sent over. But I didn’t. I was grieving and trying to get back to my normal routine, which helped tremendously. But, I also trusted what people told me. My entire pregnancy, I relied on the professionals that were dedicated to doing their job and trusted their word. 

A month later, I called the cemetery to find that our baby had been sent to the plot and buried a month prior along with a bi-annual service, and no one had contacted me.

My son had been buried for a month. And no one told me.

That weekend, defeated and hurt, Preston and I swallowed our pride and went to the cemetery. After more phone calls, we were finally told where we could find the plot at the cemetery 30 minutes from our home. We stopped to pick up flowers and quietly made the trip.

The large cemetery spanned for miles up a hill. Snow was melting from the unusually sunny February day. Our shoes squished in the slush as we made our way to the “infant section.” 

As if searching for the plot of your miscarriage isn’t enough, walking through an infant cemetery is, to put it lightly, brutal. Small graves, small spaces in between. My heart ached. There were too many. 

We began the task of scouring the ground for the plot that “belonged” to us. While we were looking, a mini-van drove up. The automatic doors opened, and out spilled a family with many small children in primary-colored jackets with security blankets and stuffed animals in tow.  Their mother, slinging a diaper bag on one shoulder and holding a toddler on her hip called to the crew, “okay guys, say hi to your brother.” A little girl ran up to the tiny grave and touched the stone. A little boy ran around in the open grass, too young to understand where he was. I choked back a sob.

We continued to walk up and down the rows, holding our breath for the moment we would find the plot and our son would be found. His only presence on this earth outside of my own body.

The plot wasn’t there.

Months passed. Again, I had to step away. More calls made. More frustration. More pleading to the hospital to do better by the women and families. They tried to make up for lost time by having a special private service with a Chaplain in Anthony’s honor. We were going to be moving across the state by then. Too little, too late.

It wasn’t until I called one more time to check before we visited on Father’s Day to find that the grave had been marked. Again, no one was notified. I was told 15 other babies had been buried there. That’s 15 families, mothers, fathers, siblings, grandparents that weren’t given closure.

Throughout this experience, I begged for someone to listen to me, but no one did and I will always wonder why. The people I trusted, the medical professionals, strung me along with low-impact reactions when most moments warranted more.  

No one listened when I worried about his low heart rate at his first ultrasound. 

No one listened when I worried about the lack of development. 

No one listened when my symptoms stopped. 

No one listened when the ER ultrasound tech couldn’t find the heartbeat. 

No one listened when I tried to contact these “professionals” the week before our diagnosis. 

By the time I felt heard, it was too late. No one could save him. This, and many other reasons, are why I felt compelled to create this online community; so that women and families going through loss felt less alone, but also to cultivate conversions about loss and the silent pain that comes with this journey.

Do you know how difficult it is to call a hospital – multiple departments, multiple people just doing their job (and most of the time, their job is not to answer phone calls from a grieving mother) – searching for your “leftover tissue?” When in reality, I was searching for my son. I knew he was sitting there for months on end, and I wanted him out of there.

Can you imagine losing a family member, trusting the funeral home with their earthly body just to find out that they buried them without letting you know? The funeral happened, they were lowered into the ground, and you weren’t invited?

I want to be clear that I know my son is in heaven. This grave he would be put in; it is not where I will feel him. It is not where I believe he is. It is not where his soul lies. It’s merely the only other home he has had on this earth, besides the one I made for him. And, let’s be honest, little man, mine was so much better, right? It had sour gummy worms and chocolate chip pancakes.

I always knew his story would be more than just a statistic. More than just some “leftover tissue” or “products of conception,”or “worst period ever.” He is, and always will be so much more. It is amazing to me how someone could be a part of you for such a short time but have such a permanent hold on you.

He is and always will be my Anthony. My baby. 

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Our Story

Our Story

Part 2 of 3

“The worst period ever”

Friday

That night, I felt more cramps, and the bleeding increased. I got off the couch to make my way into bed and ran straight for the bathroom. Suddenly, blood was coming at an alarming rate along with intense cramps. From 9:00 PM until around 1:00 AM, I was bleeding non-stop, passing two large clots and shaking from the shock and blood loss. Funny, I never remembered any period of my life being this bad.

I spent that night on a sleeping bag with old towels and a puppy pad under me, my dog Stella curled up in the crook of my legs. 

___

The next morning, I had a text on my phone from my mom telling me she and my dad were on their way from Cleveland. I also had a missed a phone call from my NP to confirm the miscarriage. When I called my NP back, instead of a greeting (and an explanation of why I hadn’t heard from her all week), she told me I had a miscarriage and that I should stop eating. “Um, I’ve had 3 sips of coffee, can I still drink that?” “No,” she said, “you’re going to have a D & C today.”

 I was confused because I had already passed so much blood and had pretty bad pain the night before. Wasn’t I close to being done? She had no idea the night I just had…maybe if she had asked how I was first? (Just a thought!) Nonetheless, she needed to speak with my OB to make sure I still needed the procedure. “Don’t eat until I know,” she said as she hung up the phone.

I think it’s important to note that I called my doctor’s office immediately on Monday morning to follow up after my ER visit in Cleveland. After a lot of back and forth simply asking to speak to this same NP that called that morning, I was given an excuse every day of why she couldn’t make it to the phone. My information from my ER visit was never sent to my doctor’s office, most likely because of the confusion with my last name,  just like I knew would happen. And the worst of it all, I spent a full week not knowing if my baby is okay.

45 minutes, 2 defeated phone calls to my parents and Preston and no food later, they called back to say, yes, we did need to do the procedure, “today.” 

“Okay, I can do that. But can you please answer some questions I have first?”

My NP sounded annoyed as I asked the questions I had been waiting to ask for a week. I had been left in the dark and experienced one of the worst moments of my life, the least someone could do was answer my questions. I learned later her shortness was due to her wanting to get me scheduled that day so I didn’t have to wait the weekend. Lucky me?

___

“Name, birth date, D & C.”

Friday

They got me in at 1:00 PM and just as Preston and I rolled up to the hospital, so did my parents. I had never had any surgery done before and with the lack of what to expect, I was nervous. I got signed in and follow a nurse to a pre-op room.

Once I got undressed and they took some information from me, they let Preston come back. A woman, I think her name was Katie, was very kind in explaining everything a  few steps at a time. In fact, everyone was fantastic that day.

I was thankful to finally have people that cared in my corner. Unfortunately, it all felt a little too late.

Katie gave me some forms to sign and asked me to take off my jewelry. This included taking out my belly button ring, something I hadn’t done since I got it on my 18th birthday. “Oh well, I guess I was going to take this out anyway when my belly got bigger…” I thought.

Katie pulled out a final form and her demeanor changed. “This decides what you would like to do with the leftover tissue from today.” I scanned the form with check boxes next to these heartbreaking options

“leave at hospital,”

“death certificate,”

“burial.”

Burying my son.

As I sobbed, she comforted me and gave Preston and I time to decide. She also mentioned that a new addition to this form was to put the tissue in a mass plot in a local cemetery for the pregnancy losses from the hospital and surrounding hospitals. We decided on this option.

All day, whenever I met a new member of this team of people performing the procedure, they had me say my name, date of birth, and why I was here. So all day, I repeated my name, my birth date and the letters “D & C.” It didn’t hurt any less every time.

I remember them putting a green mask on my face, and the next thing I knew, I was in a new room with a nurse asking if I was okay because my blood pressure was high, as if I knew a reason for anything that had just happened. 

Once I was cleared, they let Preston back to see me. Apparently, I still had 70% of the tissue left, so I was glad this wasn’t all for not. I went home that night, and it was all over.

Well, kind of.

___

“The day they took my baby from me.”

The day of my D & C was harder than the day we found out we were miscarrying. That was the day they took my baby from me.

I wasn’t alone for 2 months and that day, I felt more alone than ever.

Except, I really wasn’t. The amount of support and love I received from people, especially once I shared my story, blew me away. I had researched miscarriage even before Preston and I started trying to conceive and all you heard was people saying the wrong thing. People sent texts, phone calls, messages on Facebook, gifts. I couldn’t believe it. The love people had for someone they had never met was incredible. It made me love those people even more.

This was a nightmare of an experience and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. However, the peace I felt, and still feel, that our Anthony is safe with our grandparents and lost loved ones is so strong. He was no longer in danger with me. All he ever knew was the love his father and I had for him and the home I made him. The hurt I feel that he is gone will live with me for the rest of my life. I know I will see him again and meet him someday, but I will never understand why I wasn’t meant to meet him in this life.

Part 2 of 3.

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Our Story

Our Story

Part 1 of 3

Two days after Christmas, I was rolling meatballs in my mother’s kitchen. 

I let my mom sit down after entertaining my family for the past few days on our visit to Cleveland. My parent’s house was full for Christmas and unfortunately, it didn’t feel like Christmas at all. My brother and his family weren’t able to come in and my sister had been in the NICU with her newborn daughter. I was sad to have pieces of our family missing, but smiled at the thought of my own little family finally coming together – I was 9 weeks and 6 days pregnant.

I was washing my hands after finishing the meatballs to look around and find a rare moment; I was alone. My sister-in-law, four nieces, nephew and my mom had all retreated elsewhere from the kitchen. I took a deep breath and sighed into a smile as I dried my hands in the unusually silent moment.

And then, I felt it.

I hurried my steps as I walked to the restroom. “Think about every time you’ve gone to the bathroom thinking it was this. It’s not this. It can’t be this.”

Sure enough, there, on my bright pink underwear, was blood.

Surprisingly, I didn’t panic. In all the moments throughout my 9 weeks and 6 days of pregnancy where I imagined this fear coming to life, I pictured panic. I pictured screaming. I pictured pain. But that day, I felt nothing. I had a flashback to my first period happening in this very bathroom. What did I do then? What should I do now?

“MOM.”

My mom burst through the door and I cried, “Mom, I’m bleeding. What do I do?” over and over again. She hugged me and her voice cracked as she apologized over and over, “oh honey, I’m so sorry, I’m so so sorry…”

This is where I began to mourn a loss that hadn’t even happened yet. Mothers just know.

My husband Preston had just left the house. I picked up my phone to call him, “I’m bleeding. You need to come home.” 

My heart began to race as I called my doctor’s office. I was met with the voice of a nurse on call, exceptionally less concerned than I, even after sharing the information that would inevitably change my life. “Since it’s a Friday, you should probably go to the ER…but this happens a lot in pregnancies. It doesn’t mean anything is wrong.” 

This was the same contradicting calm I was met with when I had messaged the office a few days prior to share that my nausea had essentially disappeared. The “home stretch to the end of the first trimester” they called it.

Nothing was wrong. But it didn’t mean everything was alright.

“You’re still pregnant!” 

Saturday

Preston came home and went to our suitcase to get me new underwear. As I was changing, the reality of the situation hit me. Our baby was in trouble, and there was nothing I could do to save him. I crumbled on the floor as I tried to slip my legs back into my jeans in between sobs. “I’m not strong enough for this,” I cried, shaking my head. “Why is this happening to us? What did we do? I can’t do this.” He held me up as I sank lower to the floor.

Preston drove me and my mom to the ER. When we checked in, they had me put in my social security number. My maiden name popped up in their software because I had been there before in my childhood. I asked them to change it, fearing it would interfere with them connecting my results from the day to my doctor’s offices in Dayton. They reassured me they would change it at the end. The beginning of a long string of lies and miscommunication.

The ER was packed due to the flu that was taking over that season. Many people in masks sat waiting in the large room. I thought about how my doctor warned me against the flu while pregnant and the precautions I had taken to avoid it – I had done everything right. Why was I here?

We waited for 45 minutes before I was seen. They slapped a tag on my wrist and sure enough, there was my maiden name on my ID. I rolled my eyes. That’s not my name,I thought angrily. A nurse took my vitals and then drew blood to check my levels. She chose a random spot on my arm that I knew wasn’t the best choice, but hey, this isn’t my job. The blood was stopping and starting into the vile “huh. That’s weird!” she exclaimed as my arm pulsed. This hurt. That spot was the site of a 4 inch bruise leftover from the whole event that wouldn’t fade until weeks later. An ugly souvenir, and a fitting one.

As we waited for the next step, an ultrasound, my mom and I talked to pass the time. I even managed to laugh when something interrupted our conversation on the hospital intercom: Brahm’s lullaby played in light, child-like tones. Somewhere in this same hospital, a baby was being born. I cradled my stomach and cried.

When it was time for the ultrasound, they pulled out a wheelchair. “Is this really necessary?” I asked. Apparently, it was. They wheeled me, Preston following, to another end of the hospital to the obstetrics wing. It seemed like a horror movie – being Friday evening, a lot of the lights were turned off and no one was there. It was also exceptionally cold. I shivered for both of those reasons, and at the thought of what could be looming in this ultrasound.

The ultrasound tech emerged from an empty room and seemed nice enough at the start. She calmly guided me with what to do, even though this wasn’t my first rodeo. She did an abdominal one first (which was actually new to me), and seemed unphased when she couldn’t find anything there. Then it was time for the transvaginal one. The room was quiet as she muttered undecipherable comments under her breath. She seemed anxious, so I stopped looking at her and looked at Preston. The look on his face is something I will try to forget for the rest of my life. A mix of confusion, hope, pleading, pain – all of it, in the handsome face I love. My sweet husband, looking for his son. I closed my eyes.

Still, the tech kept on mumbling. I didn’t understand why it was necessary to speak when all that was going to come out of your mouth was a whole lot of nothing that would help us. We asked about the heartbeat, and she said she wasn’t “getting one,” but again, she seemed unphased. I asked her, “You can’t tell us anything though, right? Until we talk to the doctor.”

“No, uh, I can’t,” she said nervously, “you know, not until the doctor sees the scans and, uh…you know, stories like yours, they don’t tend to have a happy ending…”

I sat in disbelief. She left the room so I could go to the restroom to change. I sprang up, “did she just tell us we miscarried? Is that what just happened?” I couldn’t believe the lack of professionalism, the lack of sensitivity to this matter. 

We waited for another hour before we started to get impatient. I approached the front desk and questioned if we could know anything. The nurse at the front desk tried to be cool and level with me and tell me about my “quants.” “You’re at 19,000, do you happen to remember your last numbers?” I was at 25,000 a few weeks prior. They were going down. He gave me a disappointed face and told me about support groups on pregnancy apps I could join.

Was my baby still here or were people already mourning him and I was the last to know?

After a few more hours of waiting, we spoke with a doctor that told me I had a subchorionic hemorrhage and a “threatened miscarriage.” I was told to be on complete pelvic rest, no heavy lifting, and to give myself plenty of rest. He went into details of what could go wrong, rightly so, as I needed to know and my head was already there. However, the details stopped after what the pregnancy would be like. He told me if I did miscarry, it would feel like “the worst period I’ve ever had.” When he left, Preston hugged me and said, “this is great news. You’re still pregnant!” Then why did I feel like someone just gave me a death sentence?

“Happy New Year”

Tuesday

Back at home in Dayton on New Year’s Eve, despite still being in the dark, I decided to be positive. I hadn’t bled since the day at my parent’s, I wasn’t in pain, and I was still pregnant. Preston and I ordered take out from a ton of places all over town. I sipped on Welch’s sparkling grape juice in a plastic champagne glass and wore a “Happy New Year” tiara paired with my yoga pants and t-shirt. “Take my 10 week picture, please!” I asked Preston, handing him my phone, forcing enthusiasm. When I asked him to take another one, he groaned. “This might be the last one I take, just take it.” He did. And it was.

Around 11:30 PM, I went to the bathroom and noticed some spotting. This was to be expected, but it bummed me out nonetheless. The clock struck midnight and it was 2020. We kissed, wished each other a “Happy New Year,” and went to sleep.

Wednesday

I woke up the next day with what felt like the first day of your period. I was tired, cramping, and bleeding. Not enough to be that “worst period ever” level, but enough to know that something was up. Preston took down all the Christmas decorations while I delegated from the couch (one perk to this “no heavy lifting” thing) and he bought a subscription to Disney plus. I sat on the couch watching Disney movies all day, using a heating pad to ease the cramps, snuggling my dog.

“The house don’t fall when the bones are good.”

Thursday

“So, I’m sorry, there’s just…nothing there. There’s no baby.”

The medical table paper crinkled under me as I took a deep breath. A breath I think I had been holding since the day rolling meatballs at my mom’s. I nodded, “okay.”

After some more apologies on her end, I asked what would come next. She said it would get worse within the next few days. She turned the screen to show us my empty gestational sac. Then it occurred to me, “so, where did the baby go?”

“Unfortunately,” she said, “it probably just dissolved into the tissue and was passed.”

I started to tear up “so, basically, I flushed my baby down the toilet?” I felt like I was going to be sick.

She told me again that it would get worse. When I asked her to clarify this time, she said the same thing; “the worst period you’ve ever had.”

She shared her condolences again, the first of many times this would happen in the coming weeks, and let us have a moment together. As soon as she left the room, Preston hugged me and, strangely, apologized to me. As he buried his head into my shoulder and cried, I heard “The Bones” by Maren Morris playing on the radio in the hospital. As I held my husband in the empty ultrasound room with my empty gestational sac on the monitor, I heard “the house don’t fall when the bones are good.” I closed my eyes and hugged him tighter. “We were meant to be parents,” I heard myself say, “we will be parents.” I said it as if I believed it myself.

As I pulled out of the hospital, I still hadn’t broken down. All I could, selfishly think about was what would happen next? What would this pain be like? What will my body go through? This was soon replaced by this overwhelming feeling; he needed a name. And it needed to be Anthony. I held on to this, and held on to the peace I was feeling. Even then, I knew this was a blessing and that he was safe, even though I still believe the safest place would have been with me.

That night, we watched Cinderella on Disney plus and I finally let myself cry. She sang “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes” and I pictured myself as a toddler singing this song (albeit, poorly) to a Disney Princess cassette tape. I wondered if I would ever see my daughter or son do the same.

“No matter how your heart is grieving, if you keep on believing…”

Part 1 of 3.

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