By Gracie’s Mommy
My Gracie was my first pregnancy. I had so many hopes, dreams, and wants all tied up in her. She was going to give my life meaning and bring my husband and I even closer than we had ever been before. She was going to make me a mother, something I didn’t know I wanted so deeply.
The day we found out Gracie was not okay, all of my dreams for her and us came crashing down. I’ve never been so sorrowful in my life. Choosing to let her go without ever meeting her is a choice that I will carry with me for the rest of my days. Am I still a mother if my baby has passed away?
Immediately after losing Gracie, I fell into a deep depression. Part of it was postpartum, but mostly it was because I could no longer feel my daughter moving around in my belly because she wasn’t there. She was gone forever and that seemed impossible to accept.
Despite my depression, I felt desperate to get pregnant again, and when I say desperate, I mean it. I would’ve done anything to have life inside of me again. I hoped my husband felt the same, but I was so desperate that I didn’t care what he had to say. I knew what I was feeling was unhealthy on some level, but again, I didn’t care.
Fortunately, my husband was supportive of me. If that meant waiting many years to get pregnant again so I could begin to heal from our loss, then he was for it. If it meant trying to conceive as soon as possible, then he was for that too. I chose the latter because my desire and need to be a mother was all consuming.
At my six-week checkup with my OB, she advised that I was not emotionally stable enough to be pregnant again and suggested I wait a few cycles. Through my tears I asked if waiting would have any physical benefits or if it was just emotional. She said that physically I was ready to start trying as soon as I wanted, but she would really prefer I wait until my grief subsided. I couldn’t imagine a day when my grief would ever subside. I decided to listen to my heart and start trying as soon as I ovulated.
Although I felt desperate, deciding to try again was not a decision I took lightly by any means. My chance of recurrence of spina bifida for all future pregnancies would now be around 5%, as opposed to the .01% Gracie had. Someone might say, “You have a 95% chance your next baby will be fine,” but going from a .01% chance to 5% was a huge jump in my mind. Getting pregnant seemed like taking a giant risk of having to end another wanted pregnancy. I feared what a second loss would do to me as a person. Would I completely lose any sense of who I was? Would my husband still love me? These were questions I didn’t know the answer to, but a baby was worth the risk to me.
The day Gracie’s remains arrived at our house (we terminated eight hours away) was a very difficult day. I hugged and kissed that tiny box like I was never able to do with her in life. We planned to bury her at my parents’ house, and plant a tree in her memory.
My husband flew with me to California as I clung to Gracie’s box. We cried together before facing our parents at the burial. We both wrote letters to her and buried them with her instead of speaking. It was a beautiful ceremony, but also extremely draining and trying.
My husband decided we needed to get away from our sadness and go on a mini vacation. He booked a hotel on our favorite beach. This was exactly what we needed. We sat in the sand and he read while I watched the dolphins in the distance. My body and my mind relaxed for the first time since our loss. It was truly peaceful.
A few days later I just felt pregnant. I didn’t voice my feeling to anyone because I didn’t know if being pregnant was something I wanted so badly that I would do anything to make myself believe it. I just didn’t want to disappoint myself or anyone else.
Three weeks after that vacation on the beach, I couldn’t suppress my need to take a pregnancy test. I used the test and laid it on the sink. I paced the bathroom like a caged lion, talking to myself. I tried to tell myself that this was too early to test. Why was I getting my hopes up? It took three cycles to get pregnant with Gracie, there was no way we got pregnant on our first try this time.
The test took longer than any I had ever taken before. It was digital, so I waited and waited for the beep. Finally, beep. For a moment, I couldn’t bear to look, but then I couldn’t take the suspense anymore.
There it was, that beautiful word: Pregnant.
I immediately collapsed and broke down. I cried hard and said, “Oh my god” about a hundred times. I was relieved, but my relief was followed closely by pure fear. There was no going back now. I was either going to let this baby go, he/she would leave on her own, or I was going to meet this baby in eight months. All possibilities were terrifying.
I took a picture of the test and met my husband for lunch. He had no idea I was even thinking about testing. We sat down to eat and I told him to check out this picture I had taken earlier. He looked at the positive test and lost his breath. He looked at me with a huge smile and started clapping. We hugged each other tightly as it sunk in that we were taking this road again; a scary, winding, long road to parenthood.
After lunch, I drove straight to the store and bought a gender-neutral newborn outfit. I’d never bought anything for Gracie, and I wanted everything about this pregnancy to be different. At home I tried to hang it up, but couldn’t let it go. I imagined a chunky pink little baby filling in the outfit, and I held it as if my new baby was wearing it. I cradled and rocked the outfit and cried my eyes out. Would this baby ever wear this outfit? I hoped with all my heart that he or she would.
I’ve taken my folic acid and prenatal vitamins religiously. I refused to take any of my own medication for my painful stomach condition, because I wanted this baby to have every chance in this world to thrive. I had severe Hyperemesis Gravidarium with Gracie, and although this pregnancy has been very hard on my body, I was not as sick. I never complain, though, because I have a little life in my belly again, just like I wanted so deeply.
At 13 weeks, we saw the same perinatologist who diagnosed Gracie. They were so kind to us and understanding of our choice for her. It’s like they knew we were a complete mess worrying about the health of our new baby, so they were very honest and communicated well with us.
The second we saw our little baby show up on the screen, we both cried. I had fallen head-over-heels in love with a second baby, one I may have to decide to never meet depending on his or her health. They measured every body part at that appointment, and said they found no signs of spina bifida. I can’t express my relief at hearing that. This baby was okay so far. All of my dreams were coming true.
And he was a boy.
A boy. I had been hoping this baby was a girl so I could live all the life dreams I had for Gracie and I through her, but a boy changed things. He made it official that this pregnancy is completely separate from the loss of Gracie. He is his own little person and he is beautiful.
At 17 weeks, we learned that our son is “perfectly healthy.” I had never known what it was like to know my baby was healthy until that moment. I am uneducated in ultrasounds or fetal anatomy, but I could easily see the difference in his brain and his spine compared to Gracie. His skull was full of brain matter and his spine was clearly visible.
This is really going to happen. I’m going to meet my son at the end of this journey.
I am now 6 months pregnant with baby Dominic. The day I passed 19 weeks 5 days (the gestational age when I lost Gracie), I entered completely new territory. There are still many days when I wonder if something else will happen to keep me from meeting my son. It’s still hard for me to imagine actually giving birth to a healthy, live baby. My body has never proven it can create a healthy baby, so sometimes I give into my grief and depression. I feel sometimes alone in my fears and sadness, but share in my happiness. Other days, I have begun to heal and am elated when I feel him move. It’s a melting pot of many emotions, but worth every minute to me.
I like to imagine the day when I can lay my son’s warm little body on my chest as his cries subside and he connects with me. I imagine my husband holding his son for the first time with tears running down his face. Despite our tragedy, these are images I refuse to let go of because I will always have hope.