This post goes out to all the women warriors battling infertility, pregnancy loss, child loss as well as anyone who wants to be a mother that hasn't been blessed... just yet.
Ive been working on this blog post for quite some time... every time I sit down to write it I become instantly overwhelmed. My birth experience was tramatic that left me with a shitty case of PTSD. Its taken me a year to get the courage to hit 'publish' and leave my heart raw and exposed for the world to view. Im a pretty private person when it comes to the social cyber world...but I think sharing more of who I am tells a better story of where my jewelry comes from. A lot of great art comes from a place of pain and sadness and I would like to say my last two collections are proof of that.
I can’t even believe my second son’s first birthday is here! Today! I feel as if I just gave birth to him a month ago! The speed at which time travels post baby is incredible isn’t it? Koa is my little firecracker. He is intense, courageous and moves at the speed of light. Bringing him into the world wasn’t much different. It was hard….the hardest thing Ive ever done! One thing that really helped me get through my own losses was reading other women's stories and how they braved through their own fertility battles. Women warriors that even through all the heartache, still pressed on hopeful, positive and brave in the land of baby loss. I didn't feel brave...not once in all my fertility struggles. I felt completely raw and broken. This has been some of the toughest, darkest times in my whole life and I honestly can't even believe Im here to type this at all. I nearly didn’t make it with my last delivery...but we will get to that later.
Almost 9 years ago, I gave birth to my first son, the light of my life, Halen (pronounced like Van Halen:) I had him naturally but my hospital experience was not ideal. They forced formula on me, kept wanting to take him to the nursery and made me feel like an idiot for my preferences of keeping the baby with me and nursing exclusively. But all in all, we both were safe, happy and healthy. The moment I saw him, the pain didn't matter. I was so in love. Halen gave my life meaning, a bigger purpose. I will always be grateful to him for that. He made me a mother, the most important job of all. The relationship with his father didn't work out but we have found a place where we can peacefully co-parent. Not long after, I met my husband, got married and he joined me at Lux Divine! We decided to wait until Halen was 3 before we would try to have a baby together. We never could have imagined the journey that lay ahead of us. We didn't think there would be any issue. After all, we both had children from previous relationships and they all were healthy. I did have an ectopic pregnancy with two embryos(twins) that was life threatening in 2005. To save my life, the embryos had to be taken out. It really sucked but I was young and got over it pretty quickly. My Ectopic pregnancy was so so rare, I didn't think anything like that could ever happen again.
We decided not to worry about it and relax...it would happen right? It took us a little time to get pregnant but we did..and we were so excited! Now that I look back I can see how absolutely naive I was. I expected everything to be perfect. As we prepared to leave our house for our first appointment I remember how relaxed I felt. Nothing would be wrong, our baby would be fine. We were so excited to finally see the little miracle that was making me so sick. I get really bad morning sickness...but it was a small price to pay for a baby. I will never forget that day and all the stupid little details. Funny how we remember certain days that hold pain in our heart so accurately, every little detail...but we can't remember what we ate for breakfast...
We went in for our first sonogram at 8 weeks. I will also never forget the doctor’s face when she looked at the screen. She flipped the screen around to me...pointed to a roundish looking gray spot and said
“This is your uterus and here is the sac, but nothing is inside it".
"What do you mean nothing is inside it?"
"This pregnancy won't result in a baby...but the good news is you've had a baby before and you CAN get pregnant. This is so common. Just try again in a few months".
My body wouldn't release the pregnancy so I had to have a D&C to remove what could have been. They tested some of the tissue but the test was inconclusive. Most women have at least one miscarriage during their childbearing years... its to be expected. One in four pregnancies results in miscarriage and 1 in 8 couples struggle with infertility. Thats a lot!
We left the sonogram room. I tried to keep it together long enough to make it to the car but it was too late. The tears were coming despite fighting them with all my might. I threw my body in my husbands arms in the elevator and cried...harder than I ever had. I was quite shocked at how upset I was. Im one tough cookie and it takes a lot to shake me...this did....to the core. I felt as if I had been punched in the stomach. Each breath was painful to take. My heart had never felt broken like that before. We made it through that difficult day and after several months I began to heal. I found hope again...next time, next time it would happen. This couldn't possibly happen again. Even though it was so sad to us, my husband and I became closer as we mourned and healed together. Unfortunately that wouldn’t be the last time we miscarried.
Over the course of two years we kept having reoccurring miscarriages and the doctor had no answers as to why. I was tired of seeing the face she would give me when she would see a blank screen. It was a face of pity and I hate those....and this journey became full of them. Confused as to why we had so many issues, she referred us to a fertility specialist for some testing and really, our journey began.
We spent the next year doing all sorts of testing, some invasive and not all that pleasant. But we couldn't give up now. The failure was fueling our fire. We first tried hormones to help me get pregnant… We did that for 6 months with no luck. It was stressful and our love life quickly became about ovulation cycles, tracking, hormones, etc. Not so sexy!
With all the lack of luck I should say. We made the tough decision to jump into IVF(Invitro fertilization) vs. IUI(Intrauterine insemination). The odds of IUI working for us weren’t great and we didn't want to waste money on something that didn't have great odds for us. I'm not sure just how many cycles we began and had to cancel due to my increasingly rebellious uterus and hormones imbalance. The doctor tried all sorts of combination of hormones which took months! But We finally got it right, made it to the egg retrieval( ouch!), and did genetic testing on our fertilized eggs. We had 12 eggs to start out. After fertilization 9 made it to day 3 and out of the 9 only TWO were viable. It sort of explained our problems...we just don't match up well even though they couldn't find anything wrong with either of us or our chromosomes. We put those two(boys) babies on ice to give my body a chance to detox and heal... and oh man did I need healing.
IVF was honestly the hardest things I have ever done in my life. The amount of medications I was on was just plain insane. I hated putting synthetic hormones and chemicals in my body. They made me feel terrible and overly toxic. I didn’t feel myself. With each canceled cycle, I became more depressed, more isolated and felt completely alone. My relationships suffered because I had changed. My life had been consumed with everything fertility. I resented all the pregnant women around me at the time and all of a sudden it seemed like everyone was having babies but me! I felt guilty to complain since I had Halen. Some women don't have any children...I am a mom already. None of that helped how I was feeling. I bottled up all my feelings in a pretty little box and shoved it into the deepest part of my heart. I could hold it there for a little while at least. The emotional aspect of this journey was absolutely exhausting. I had reached my breaking point and any strength I had left in me was completely depleted.... I snapped...
One night my husband came home from work to find me curled up on the floor in tears...it had all come unraveled. I was hysterical. All my bottled up feelings burst out of me like a broken river dam. I couldn't stop crying. I had no hope left. I was defeated and done with the whole process. I felt guilty for wasting years of my child’s life focusing on having another baby. Whenever I am sad or upset my husband always tries to "fix" it. I think all men do that...but sometimes guys, we just need to be sad. Instead of trying to make me peel myself off the floor and "think of all the good things we have" like I was accustomed to hearing, he joined me. Sat on the floor next to me. Held me... and said "Im so sorry your in pain. Im here and I love you. We can cry on the floor for however long you want to, we have nowhere to be". I don't think I have ever been more in love with my husband. It was exactly what I needed. Someone to just let me feel and feel with me. Someone to allow me to be broken and hold my pieces together. I will forever be thankful for my husband " joining" me that night. My heart healed some that evening and the next morning I found my lost hope and we pressed on... hand in hand, more united than ever before.
We finally got the courage to do the embryo transfer in April 2015, 5 years after we first started trying to get pregnant. I was convinced it wouldn't work. We arrived at the fertility center for the transfer and I was handed a Valium to relax. You have to be completely still during the embryo transfer and it did really help! We went into the very tiny room that looked just like any other sonogram room in a OB's office. My husband got shoved into the corner and we held hands. We laughed as we made fun of how high I was and all the stupid things that exited my mouth. I tend to be very inappropriate when Im nervous...actually, thats kinda me all the time. My husband was positive and hopeful. My doctor walked in with her nurse and the Embryologist. He told us that during the de-thawing, the first embryo didn't make it and we only had the one left... Ron was pretty devastated. For some reason it didn't bother me in the least. At least we have the one. One is all you need. But I was still so convinced this wouldn't work and was already planning my next IVF cycle in my head. Now that I look back, I think I was just protecting myself and preparing for another loss. How could it possibly work our first completed cycle?
Weeks later, I went in for my pregnancy blood test. I only had to wait 4-5 hours for my results but that time dragged on and felt like an eternity! When my Dr. finally called, I couldn’t believe what she was telling me. I was pregnant and my beta numbers were off the charts! We did it!!!
She said my numbers looked strong and we would keep testing my betas to see if they were at least doubling. And they were! My betas were high and strong and continued to grow! I kept myself and my heart guarded and expected the worst my whole first trimester. I couldn't possibly take another loss. I would die, I was sure.
We surprisingly made it to our 12 week sonogram and our "graduation day" from my fertility doctor. It was time to begin my prenatal care with a regular OB. It was bittersweet. I decided to choose a new OB instead of going back to my first OBGYN who handled my miscarriages. I felt going back to a place I had so many losses was bad juju somehow. I also didn't know If i could go back into her office without it bringing up feelings of grief. I surly didn't want to cry at every appointment and something about her office always made me loose my shit. But I just about had a nervous breakdown before every appointment anyways. I had more sonograms than a typical non high risk pregnancy so I was an emotional mess most of the time. My morning sickness was intense and it lasted throughout my whole pregnancy. Throwing up became the norm. It was so debilitating that I had to take a break from Lux Divine almost my entire pregnancy. I felt like I had lost a piece of myself. Creating and being an artist is who I am and I wasn't exactly feeling like me during this time.
My pregnancy dragged on slowly as I continued to see this new dr(who totally sucked btw) up until 30 weeks. My delivery was approaching and I just couldn't imagine this lady I felt so disconnected to delivering my baby. So back I went to my first Dr. The BEST decision I have EVER made was going back to her. This decision probably saved my life.
I walked back into Dr. Hyman's office( yes I know, Dr. Hyman...too appropriate for an OB:). She was surprised and happy to see me...pregnant too! I started crying the moment I saw her. She sat me down and said "we got this, your 30 weeks... now lets just focus on your delivery. Your almost there".
We decided to to a scheduled c-section since my son's size was bigger than my hips would allow and I had placenta Previa. Thank the Lord! My first son almost didn't fit and he was only 9lbs and this one was 10! I was so nervous for the cesarean. We were now days away and my stomach was in knots. I was busy getting everything ready, food prepping, washing baby clothes for the 20th time and making sure to prepare Halen too. We didn't make it to that planned C-section day. Of course not...
Two mornings before the big day, I woke up at 4am to use the bathroom (like I did every hour on the hour) and to my surprise, I was bleeding… a lot. We woke up Halen and headed to the hospital. We didn't say much of anything for most of the ride. I was trying to remain strong and didn't want Halen to see the tears streaming down my face. I was a mess inside. We didn't make it I thought. We called my doctor and she met us at the hospital. We arrived and the baby was checked immediately. They found a heartbeat on the doppler but he was stressed. The weeks leading up the the birth were very painful. I was constantly having very intense contractions but did not progress to a regular pattern. My doctors kept telling me this was normal and to call if they became regular. It was nothing like my pregnancy and labor with Halen. I was expecting it to feel the same…but it didn’t! I had no idea I had been laboring this whole time! My contractions had been painful but irregular for at least a week by this time. We later found out that this completely exhausted my uterus and a vaginal delivery would have been extremely dangerous. The nurse checked me and I was 5cm dilated. My doctor came in a said " you can try to go natural if you want...I have to give you that option, but I wouldn’t advise it“…I said "no way" and into the OR we went. I wasn't about to risk anything now.
The OR room was cold and so very bright. I didn't expect it to feel so sterile. I immediately starting shivering. My main nurse prepped me and asked me to sit on the operating table. I was shaking. I couldn't stop. My nerves were out of control. She prepared me for the spinal and told me to give her a big hug so I didn't move. I looked in her eyes as the tears pooled in mine. She asked me If I was okay and ready. I was trembling... from both the freezing cold and my nerves.
"Im... really scared" I said.
"I know hunny" she reassured me.
…and in the needle went. I have no problem with needles so the spinal was easy for me. My husband wasn't let into the room until I was all ready. The anesthesiologist gave me something to calm my nerves. I was so paranoid I would feel it and kept voicing my fears. They put up a screen so I couldn't see anything and then my husband and doctors came in. There were so many people in the room. Two doctors, two anesthesiologist, two nurses for me, 4 nurses for the baby and a pediatric doctor. Whoa... Talk about overwhelming!
Dr. Hyman asked me if I was ready to go.
I said "No, I think I can still feel everything"
...even though my whole lower body was completely numb and I couldn't feel my legs...but somehow I was convinced I would be that one person who could feel it. So silly. My husband sat down next to me, kissed my head and held my hand. "Were gonna meet our son in a few minuets" but I was not thinking about that. I should have been but I was too fearful in that moment.
All of a sudden I smelled something burning.
"Hey, who's making popcorn in here?...oh shit, you started huh? Thats my skin burning huh? Gross!"...
"Jessica, your gonna feel a big tug"
umm...that was an understatement! The most intense pressure Ive ever felt and...
"Happy birthday big boy!".
Just like that, I had a son. A beautiful, strong 10 lb 4 oz boy! They held him up so Ron could see him. I didn't for a reason I will never know..or maybe I did see him but was too high to notice. I have no idea. The moment he cried, I felt relief for the first time in 5 years.
"Are you ready to meet your son?".
My son? Ive been waiting 5 years to meet you...and your finally here!!
They swaddled him up and placed him right on my chest. My heart exploded in a million pieces and was then reborn all in a few moments. What I can only describe as an intense wave of love that drowned my whole being.
We had spent so long trying to bring a baby into our family and in one quick moment, our infertility battle had been conquered and we had a beautiful baby boy. We fought really hard for him. For years I have felt his spirit. Something deep inside was the driving force and instinctually I couldn't have been more correct. He was MEANT to be ours...he just wasn't ready yet. This blessing was well worth the wait! I was in a world of newborn baby bliss and nothing else mattered.
Recovering from a c-section wasn’t exactly a cake walk but I had a pretty easy time. I was up and out of bed pretty quickly and nursing like a champ. I had already gone through so much pain...this was easy in comparison. My egg retrieval was more painful to me. The doctor let me leave the hospital after two days because I was healing so quickly. Yay... we left the hospital with our new little miracle to live our dream life. Pure bliss....
During my whole first week I kept saying how i didn't understand why people kept saying c sections are hard and the recovery is painful. I wasn’t feeling that at all. I think the years of fertility treatments built up my pain tolerance. Sure, I felt broken but I was okay. Made my family meals, went up and down my stairs multiple times a day and was not bed ridden.
About 5 days after my hospital release...one week after my delivery I had literally just said "c sections are great!, this is so easy!” I began to prepare a sandwich for my husband when I suddenly felt a gush between my legs. I honestly thought they broke my bladder in my c section and I was peeing! Looking back it's pretty funny that that was my first thought… I rushed myself to the bathroom and discovered that no, I wasn’t peeing myself, it was blood. Postpartum bleeding is normal and to be expected but nothing about this was normal. For a moment I thought it wasn’t a big deal. It will stop soon I thought. But it didn’t. I then started passing clots as big as golf balls...then tennis balls ...then grapefruit sized. I couldn't believe my eyes nor had I ever seen this amount of blood in person. I felt like I was in an episode of Dexter. It was coming out so quickly, like a faucet. I tried to clean myself up enough to reach my husband across the house. I was screaming for him but he couldn't hear me. We had some construction going on in our house that day and one of the workers heard me screaming and grabbed him. When he found me, the whole floor was covered in a pile of my blood and it was only getting bigger...quickly. "Should we call an ambulance?" ..." I don't think I can make it to the hospital on our own” I said. In that moment I wasn’t so concerned with my life, it hadn't clicked yet. The only thing I could think to do was to clean up the blood. I was so focused on scrubbing the grout! It was a brand new bathroom and that’s all I could think about. My white grout! Funny...Its crazy the way we react sometimes in an emergency situation.
The ambulance came pretty quickly. I had cleaned up a lot of the blood, flushed the clots and laid on a towel so gravity wouldn’t work against me…so the EMTs were not able to see really how serious this hemmorage was just yet. They put me in the ambulance and told my husband " just meet us at the hospital, we won't be putting on the sirens or be speeding. This isn't life threatening and she will be okay."...right buddy.
I kissed my husband goodby which I thought moments later in the ambulance ride might be my last time. The EMT kept asking me questions(lame ones I might add) and telling me to look him in the eyes. He was shinning his flashlight at me when I told him that I think more blood came out. He lifted the sheet and a bunch of blood clots gushed out. Our eyes both grew 10 times as we both couldn’t believe what we saw. He shouted a code to the driver and suddenly we were speeding with the sirens on. So much for going slow, right? I could hear the blood dripping off the gurney onto the floor of the ambulance. The EMT’s eyes got really big and looked absolutely shocked. You and me both buddy...
That ride was the longest 15 minuets of my life. I kept picturing my husband, left with my two babies to care for. I wanted to keep their faces in my head so it would be the last thing I would think of before I died. It suddenly clicked that this might be it. There was no way anyone could survive this amount of blood loss I was thinking. The ride may have gone by slow but the moment we arrived to the hospital, everything sped up pretty quickly.
They pushed me thought the ER doors and I kid you not, about 15-20 nurses and doctors were there waiting for me in the hallway. It was something out of Grey's Anatomy! They rushed me down the hall to a small room. Everyone yelling medical mumbo jumbo to one another. Nurses came at me left and right trying to get in as many IV lines as they could into my quickly collapsing veins. Out of the 8 they tried...only two stuck, and only one barely useable. I felt horrible almost immediately. I felt tired, I wanted to sleep. There were three nurses just trying to clean up the blood as it was coming. The whole room was a panic.
The first thing I said to anyone was ”This isn't good is it?" i asked someone.
"No, not really"
The trauma ER doctor came in and I could tell he had never seen this before. He opened the curtain and said "Oh my goodness! What happened?"
"She had a normal c section last week and started hemoraging at home" one nurse said.
"How much has she lost?"
"We don't know"
"Can you tell me how much you think you lost?"
"Maybe a pint or two?"
He had no clue what to do. After all, this was a postpartum issue. Hemorrhages usually happen right after birth in the hospital. Delayed postpartum hemorrhagse happen in 2% of all live births. Its so incredibly rare that my doctor has only seen it once in her 30 years as an OB. And it didn't end well. Great... He gave me an exam and tried to get the bleeding to stop but he couldn't figure out where it was coming from. He was at a loss and after 20 minuets he wanted to transfer me to the ICU for blood transfusions until they could get it to stop. He literally did’t know what to do. He said “I’m sorry, I don’t know how to help you other than give you blood right now”
They asked who my delivering Doctor was(who happened to be located in an office building across the street from the hospital) and they gave her office a call. Shortly after, my doctor arrived. She literally ran from her office to the hospital. I will never be so grateful that she got there in time...and that she cared enough to run her ass there!
She had them take me to an OR room. My husband just arrived. He stood next to me on the bed. Due to the graphic nature of the next part, Im going to leave the details out. The procedure she had to preform on me to get the bleeding to stop was the most tramatic and utterly painful experience of my life. No one should be awake for that. The torture continued for what seemed like an eternity. I couldn't even believe the screams that were coming out of me. She managed to get the bleeding to stop and shooed everyone but a couple nurses away. I laid there on the table, naked, covered in blood and trembling. her and Ron both held me tight and said "its over, your okay, its over now."
"Im going to send you back to postpartum, you can nurse your baby there and we will monitor you overnight". The bleeding had in fact stopped and we felt we could breath. Me and my husband hugged and cried once we got to our room. So scary to almost loose each other and it makes you realize just how precious life is. It can end so suddenly. I nursed our baby as they were getting ready to give me a transfusion to replace the large amount of blood lost. The nurses were checking my iv's and all of a sudden
"I don't feel so good..." and just like that I was out. All the trauma was catching up to me. I continued to go in and out of consciousness. I awoke to ron slapping my face and a nurse waving some smelly stick under my nose. "Jessica, Jessica...can you hear me?"... It was hard to come back around. I was so tired. I felt like giving in… like I knew i was dying and accepted it. I just couldn't keep my eyes open. The rapid response team came and filled up yet another one of my rooms. They kept telling me to stay with them. Staying awake was nearly impossible. But at that point they got the transfusion going pretty quick. Ron sat by my side, with our new baby, the whole night. When I woke up in the morning my transfusions had almost finished and I felt I had been brought back to life somewhat. Still weak but alive. My husband was there, my baby was there and I was going to make it.
We are so so blessed. I can't believe Im here to day to tell you this story. I was so close my friends… My doctor told me had we gotten there 30 mins later, this would have ended very differently. There is not a day that goes by that I don't relive these moments over and over in my mind. Hopefully over time I will heal and the wounds won't be so deep and exposed. That day I lost over 60% of my blood. I want to thank anyone who has ever donated blood! It saved my life and I will always be eternally grateful to whoever’s blood was in my transfusion bags!
When we were trying to find a name for this miracle Rainbow baby of ours we wanted something that had meaning. We looked up names that meant "warrior", we came across the name Koa and that was it. Rainbow baby had a name. His name now means more to me because of our experiences. He is a warrior for being the 1 in 12 embryos that made it. For making it to term... but not just him. Me too. I was a warrior for fighting hard to have him and never giving up. I was a warrior for surviving something that a majority of the time kills. My family are warriors for supporting us and making it through to the other side with us. It takes a village. It really does.
This journey has been so so tough. Filled with pain, heartbreak, uncertainty but also hope, joy and happiness. This experience had been my biggest life lesson. Koa was so worth it, in every way possible. I went through hell and back for him and I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. The love I feel for my children is overwhelming. I am so very grateful to God for finally giving us our blessing. We know it was hard to let him go from Heaven. He is truly a special spirit. Living our days in blissful baby land soaking up every moment with baby Koa and feeling grateful in his presence. I really feel that this whole experience was God's plan all along. Maybe to prepare me for his firecracker spirit...Im not sure. But Im glad it was my journey...because it led me to my beautiful rainbow baby who brings our family so much joy!