For me, it feels releasing and comforting to share my personal experience at this time. The fact is that an overwhelming amount of women and families have experienced a pregnancy loss at some point and many have experienced several. Each and every individual journey is completely different. It has been a longtime practice for me to share stories of loss without comparisons flashing in my mind. For example, my second pregnancy (about eight years ago) was an early miscarriage at six weeks along and it was devastating and shocking. I went through that process naturally at home and it was both physically and emotionally taxing on me. But then I would hear a story of the mother who had to be induced and push out a stillborn baby and in my mind I would say “oh that would be way worse” and I would ease my pain by telling myself that since mine was so early and underdeveloped, it wasn’t so bad. I continue the practice of recognizing and dismissing any judgements or comparisons that may enter my mind and really practice holding a space for others with an open heart and mind. I have recently had many acquaintances and some being really close friends and even relatives reach out to me and share parts of their stories of pregnancy loss. I sense that we collectively indeed have a desire to share our stories about a subject that has been viewed as too painful to share. I also find it a true honor to hear other people’s stories as well. It is a privilege and honor to hold a space for another person in sharing their most authentic self. I am sharing our story here and a part of me feels nervous because I do not want to come across like I’m a “supermom” with super strength and the process has been easy. Truly the process isn’t ever even done, it is ever evolving over time.
For my first loss, I had always minimized it as an early loss and that it had never evolved to anything more than a piece of bodily tissue the size of a lentil bean. When I was filling out the paperwork at the OB/Gyn office just last week, I even contemplated leaving that miscarriage right off my chart completely. But after this recent pregnancy loss, my perspective has most definitely changed. I have been pregnant seven times and I have five children living on Earth and two children living in another realm. I feel like a mother of seven now with all of my being.
The intention here is to assure every woman out there who has ever experienced a pregnancy loss, whatever your journey has been thus far, that you are indeed, without a shadow of doubt, a mother. And, although it may be challenging to grasp in our physical world, being a spiritual mother most certainly does not make you any less of a motherly being.
This is our story…
I had completed about three months of morning sickness and extreme nausea. I had been vomiting sometimes six times a day and so I believed my pregnancy was progressing healthy. There was one day I was driving down our narrow street and I had to pull over with all of the kids in the car to be sick on the side of the road. Another day, I was hurling in a parking lot when I dropped of the boys at the OWC for wakeboard training. Each time I experienced the horrendous nausea, I also sent gratitude at what my amazing body could do and reminded myself that it was all worth it. On the morning of my sonogram, I woke up excited to greet the day and it was also the very first day in months that I woke up and I did not throw up! I also didn’t feel too nauseous. To my surprise, I even took out the garbage without being sick. I reminded myself that I was officially in the blissful second trimester. The second trimester is also the famous marker for many people to make announcements of the pregnancy if they kept it secret. It is a huge sigh of relief for most people because a majority of miscarriages will happen before ten weeks gestation. I had gone out a few nights prior to celebrate this milestone with baby’s “take home outfit”… however, I just couldn’t find one that was perfect enough for our special unborn baby. I did however initiate a conversation with someone from Etsy to make a custom one of a kind white baby onesie that said “Gift from God” on it in a gold font.
At the doctor’s office, I had just finished filling out all of the paperwork and I anxiously awaited meeting my new doctor. Back at home in Canada, I had the same doctor care for me and see me right through all of my other pregnancies. We had recently started an immigration process to the US and so here I was in a new country with a very different medical system and very little support nearby, outside of my immediate family. But I felt comforted that a recent friend from here in Florida had recommended this doctor and he appeared to have good reviews and years of experience. Besides, I had very smooth deliveries with all of my other children and I felt quite confident in my body and what to expect. After the blood work and physical examination, it was time for the sonogram. The last thing that I said to the doctor as I sat there in my examination robe reaching for my clothing was, “this is going to be the best part”. He sensed my excitement for the viewing on the sonogram and instantly smiled at me with reassurance “yes it sure is”!
I had already confirmed permission with another staff member to pile the whole family into the sonogram room. However, I sensed that the technician was somewhat apprehensive about having seven extra bodies in the tiny room so I carefully arranged all of the children out of the way behind the chair and explained to them all to give her the space she needed to do her work. I whipped up my shirt to expose my belly and before she put down the device she explained that if she couldn’t get a good picture she may need to proceed with a vaginal device. In my mind, I thought “no need, everything will show up loud and clear and vibrant”. The moment that she placed the device on my belly there was the sac and the baby clear as day, just as I confidently suspected. Renzo instantly said “huh, I don’t see anything” and I immediately responded to him, still with every ounce of hope and excitement, “oh I do!” But just as fast as those words left my mouth, they instantly stopped short because I knew something wasn’t “right”. The baby was not moving. At all.
Mostly, I stared at the screen, but I also glanced at the technician a few times as she prodded and stared into her screen. The room was completely silent for several minutes. As I stared at the screen at the motionless baby, a lot of things passed through my mind. What does the technician see? Did the baby have a noticeable disability? …I told myself that I would welcome whatever God had given us and I would love it and we were a strong family that could persevere through anything. Anything would be a gift. I also told myself that even if the odds were slim, I would carry that baby in my womb and deliver it right up until the end. Finally, the technician put down the device and explained that she could not find a heartbeat. She instructed me to go ahead and prepare for a vaginal sonogram and went to get the doctor for confirmation. When she left the room and I undressed I told Pat that he could leave with the kids. I assured him that I would be just fine. He absolutely did not want to leave and so he stayed there with all of the kids. We were all completely quiet as we waited for the doctor.
The doctor entered the room and respectfully suggested that Pat leave with the kids. She proceeded to do the vaginal sonogram and of course up on the screen there was our motionless baby again and I stared deeply at the screen. I felt a huge panicky wave of guilt coming from my unborn child. It was as though she felt vulnerable for being exposed there up on the screen and “facing” me, her mother. I could feel her guilt and she was saying repeatedly that she was so so sorry. But my eyes were still peeled to her little body and how could I ever be angry at such a wee little formed baby? I reassured her that she was always most certainly welcome in my womb. “It’s okay” I told her in my soul, “it’s okay”. The doctor stood at the screen as the technician held the device inside of me. He half reluctantly pointed to the screen and prepared to confirm the news. I could the see the years of experience and strength in his body language and his voice as he returned to his job as a medical physician. He confirmed the news, which I already knew. “This is baby’s head” he said to me. I nodded and he nodded back respectfully for I sense that he knew that I was already aware of that. “This is the chest” he continued and again I nodded back. “There is no heartbeat” he confirmed. The technician pulled out the device and he moved next to me as I sat up. He looked at me and said in a very genuine and sincere manner, “I am so very sorry”. I looked at him right into his eyes and I said to him “it’s okay”. In that moment, I meant it, just as I had said it to her a few moments prior in my soul. It’s okay. Up until this point, I had not shed one single tear. He put his hand upon my shoulder and he looked me back straight into my eyes and he said to me “No. No it’s not okay” he continued, “it is okay to cry” he said. And as soon as he gave me permission to cry, I did. I immediately burst out and sobbed deep hard tears.
I left that room and sat with him in his office and continued to cry as he explained my different options and advised that I go home and give it a day to think about it. He walked me right outside to return to my vehicle and family. Pat and I felt a bit lost as we aimlessly drove around the unfamiliar streets of downtown Orlando. It was well past lunchtime, but we went straight home and nobody said a word about being hungry. We explained to the kids in a very simple manner that the baby had died in the womb and there was a lot of silence and intermittent crying.
In my mind, I was hoping and praying for a natural miscarriage at this point so that I could spare Pat from the extra financial burden and for the piece of mind that I carried her all the way through. During the next 24 hours, I spoke with Pat, close friends and medical professionals. Since I was passed the first trimester mark, I was nervous about the risks of miscarrying naturally at this stage. We flew our wonderful nanny in from Canada with her teenage daughter for support (what a blessing she truly is for our family!). Two days later, I followed up again with my doctor. Physically, I did not feel pregnant any longer. My stomach had deflated a bit and the nausea was quickly easing up. I was not throwing up anymore or getting short with the kids. I didn’t have night sweats and I even slept on my stomach, which a pregnant mother would instinctively never do. We asked our doctor, hypothetically, if it were his loved one in this scenario if he would recommend the surgery and when he said yes, my mind was pretty much made up. We headed to the Triage at the Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and Babies. I randomly burst out crying as we checked in and I was quickly seated with a physician within a short amount of time. I was relieved to get another sonogram to confirm what I already knew.
This sonogram experience was much different because I knew what I would see. I cranked my neck to look at the screen and the nurse gently said “oh, would you like to see?” She tilted the screen and I relaxed back into the chair and gazed at her little body. She looked very different. She looked transformed from the first time I laid on eyes on her only 72 hours prior. She looked peaceful. And I know that this may sound a bit silly for some because obviously I could not physically see it, but I even felt like she had a peaceful smile as she lay there still. I couldn’t keep my eyes off of her and at one point I saw a little perfectly formed foot very distinctly in the screen. I really thought she looked beautiful and at peace. I felt her thank me for welcoming her into my womb. She explained that she felt very content and safe in there. In a lighthearted way, she giggled at the overwhelming amount of love she felt from the very intense Team Cooligan family. She felt each time a sibling placed their hand on our baby bump. I felt that her soul had certainly left the body and I also felt at peace in my own heart with my decision to move on with the process under a controlled medical environment. I personally felt that it held the least amount of risk for my body and I have five other children and a husband who were counting on me. I received another very piercing message from her as I looked at her peaceful body. This message was strong and it was clear. She said “take care of yourself Beautiful Mother”. And it was most definitely not “mommy” or even “mama”… it was coming from an old and mature soul and she was referring to me distinctly and as mother.
When you hold a newborn baby in your arms, they are in an immature body that relies on you for physical survival. Truly all infants, toddlers and children are wise and pure souls living inside of a tiny body. Yes, holding a warm and squishy newborn infant in your arms is a magical feeling and I really was looking very much forward to experiencing it again. But this experience has been quite magical and enlightening in a very unexpected way. Sure, it’s easy for me to say, as I have five healthy and beautiful children at home to help me through this. I have a very supportive husband who happily paid for the best care Orlando had to offer. I also have an amazing nanny that happily hopped on a plane in less than 24 hours notice to help us in our time of need… But look, there I go judging and comparing and justifying again! As I stated earlier, this is an ongoing practice of mine!
Here is the picture that I sent my mother moments before we all eagerly entered the sonogram room. We were all full of overflowing love and hope in this picture. And I assure you, we still are…
This story was presented from the newest member of the Team Cooligan family, her name is Bex Victoria Cooligan.