Stephanie Lynne Photography and Films
Grieving a Pregnancy Loss – 6 Years Later
Six years. It’s hard to believe it has been 6 years since I said hello and goodbye to my sweet Ava girl. I figured it was a good time to reflect on the loss and the effect it has had on us (specifically me). Grieving a pregnancy loss is a deeply emotional and difficult experience for anyone who has gone through it.
Time Heals After Pregnancy Loss
It is true when they say there is nothing that helps except for time. Right after we lost her, life felt impossible. The simplest things felt monumental. Getting out of bed was an accomplishment. What I learned very quickly is that grief is a process that is unique to each person, and there is no right or wrong way to grieve. It’s safe to say my husband and I grieved very differently. Not just during the loss of our sweet Ava, but the loss of our other two babies, too. The intensity and duration of grief may vary from person to person and can come and go in waves. Oh, how it comes in waves. Even six years later, the waves come crashing in some days. But, most days it either just feels like a small breeze in the air or tiny waves coming in. There are so many things that remind me of that day and her, but dealing with those waves has increasingly become easier as the years pass.
Learning We Lost Our Baby
I’ll never forget the day we learned Ava was gone. Everything felt normal leading up to her loss. Although I had suffered a first-trimester loss just before this pregnancy, I was feeling confident. We were well into the second trimester. I thought we had passed the “safe zone” and I was finally allowing myself to get excited. Even after secondary infertility and then our first-trimester loss, I thought I would finally have my third child.
It all started on a Monday night. We were getting ready to go to sleep and I told my husband I just felt something was wrong. I wanted to listen to the heartbeat for peace of mind before going to sleep. He thought I was being paranoid. I mean, we had just heard the heartbeat the day before, so I don’t blame him. But this night, something just felt different. In hindsight, I guess it was mothers intuition. Anyway, something was telling me I needed to hear her heartbeat that night. I grabbed the doppler and put it in the same spot I had just heard it the day prior. Usually, being almost mid-way through the second trimester, I would hear the heartbeat right away. The sound of galloping horses was the best sound. But, this Monday night, we didn’t hear it. We tried for an hour and those galloping horses never came. My husband finally convinced me that it was likely a faulty doppler and that we could try again in the morning. I reluctantly agreed. I woke up the next morning and tried again. With great disappointment, I still didn’t hear those “galloping horses.”
“I’m Sorry Stephanie – I don’t See Any Movement”
I immediately text my midwife and asked if she could see me. She originally said she would come to my house, but then later asked me to meet her at the office because something came up. It’s better that I met her there. She first tried her doppler. At that point, we both hoped I was just being paranoid and did in fact have a faulty doppler. But, when she used her doppler and we couldn’t find any sound, I immediately knew. I knew this was the end. I had no hope. She was the sweetest midwife and tried to keep my hopes up as she got the ultrasound machine. She put fresh gel on my stomach and as she pressed down with the wand, we both saw it. The most beautiful baby, but no heartbeat and no movement. I cried and cried. How was this happening to me? “I’m Sorry Stephanie – I don’t see any movement.” I could tell she was just as shocked as I was. She saw me through my first loss and was now seeing me through this devastating second loss.
At this point we both knew it was over. My husband was at home with the kids and I called him devastated. As soon as he heard my tears he knew what it meant. What do we do?! She said it was best that we went to the hospital to get a second opinion and confirmation with their ultrasound equipment. So a great friend quickly drove to my house to watch my kids so that my husband could come with me to the hospital. This is where they confirmed the loss. She was really gone. How did this happen?! What did I do?! How did my body fail me again!? I couldn’t stop the tears. Because we were so far along I knew we would be delivering this sweet baby. I was of course devastated, but also honestly just couldn’t wait to meet her, hold her, kiss her, and get the much-needed closure.
Saying Hello and Goodbye to Our Baby
Saying hello and goodbye to your baby on the same day is something no parent should ever have to go through. Thankfully, I had a pretty painless labor and delivered relatively quickly after the induction. I guess when you are induced and they know the baby has already passed, they give much stronger doses of induction meds than they otherwise would. I didn’t know what to expect when I saw her. Obviously heartbreak, but it was a weird feeling. I was also excited to meet her, just as I was when delivering my other two babies up to that point. She was perfect. The most perfect micro premie baby. It’s amazing how they can be fully formed and so tiny. It’s much different than when you are envisioning the different “sizes” of your baby each week in relation to fruit or something.
The First Year of Grief After Pregnancy Loss
They aren’t wrong when they say the first year is the hardest. Obviously, the first week feels impossible, but each day it gets a little easier and easier. I learned very quickly that my husband and I grieved very differently and that was OK. I knew he was grieving, he just showed it differently than I did. It’s probably good he grieved differently. He could actually get out of bed and tend to the kids while I stayed in bed and replayed the loss over and over. Each week that passed it got a little easier though. I hugged my kids so tightly, I never wanted to let them go. At that point, I really thought maybe this was it for me. After 2 kids, 2 years of secondary infertility, and then back-to-back losses, I thought my childbearing days were over. I think that hurt just as bad. I always wanted 4 kids. About 2 months after delivering Ava, I told my husband I needed to try again. I couldn’t let it end on that note. He was hesitant, he didn’t want to risk it. I totally understood, but I told him, let’s try one more time. If we have another loss we will take it as a sign and I will find a way to move on.
Expecting Our Third “Rainbow Baby”
Within 4 months of our loss of Ava, I saw those 2 pink lines again. This time I wasn’t thrilled. Shocked, yes. But, after suffering a loss, it kind of rips the excitement away from a positive pregnancy test. Rather, you immediately feel terrified. Will it happen again? Will we be reliving this nightmare again? Thankfully the first trimester came and went and everything was looking great. But, I was the unfortunate statistic that had a second-trimester loss, so I knew passing that “milestone” didn’t mean much. Every day I was terrified I was going to lose him. My anxiety was through the roof. I listened to his heartbeat daily, and thankfully every single time I found it. We did have a scare at about 15 weeks. There was a lot of blood, and I was convinced it was the beginning of the end. Thankfully it wasn’t. It was a common pregnancy “hiccup” and it healed on its own. Finally, at 37 weeks and 5 days, I welcomed the most beautiful baby boy. Only 6 days after the 1-year mark of losing Ava. It was the most magical feeling. I remember I kept rubbing his face in disbelief that he was really here, and healthy.
Expecting Our Fourth Baby After A Third Pregnancy Loss
After about a year of the bliss of our third child, I convinced my husband that we should have our fourth and final baby. We were both hesitant given our past but agreed, we wanted to try. Thankfully within a few months, I was pregnant again. Unfortunately, I miscarried that baby, too, shortly into the pregnancy. I thought maybe that one would hurt less. I mean just 2 years prior I had delivered a baby that had already passed. Maybe a first-trimester loss after the loss of Ava wouldn’t hurt as much. I was wrong. It still hurt. The emotions are the same. The delivery and passing of the baby are obviously different, but the emotional roller coaster is the same, no matter how far along you are. We decided we would give it one more go. I truly couldn’t handle any more losses, but I desperately wanted a fourth baby. Thankfully I convinced my husband. Within a couple of months, we were pregnant with our fourth and final “rainbow.” And thankfully everything went smoothly. 9 months later we welcome the most perfect baby girl.
Waves of Grief After Pregnancy Loss
In my little girl’s nursery (now bedroom) I still have the blanket and tiny baby hat we got from the hospital after delivering Ava on a shelf. Some days when I see it, it’s harder than others. But, I also know that without losing Ava, I wouldn’t have my third and fourth babies. It helps knowing I have them. They bring our family so much joy and I obviously couldn’t imagine life without them. But there are so many days that I will be watching my kids play together and think “what if?” What if I did have those other babies. What if I didn’t lose Ava? I would have a (probably) overdramatic little girl. The what if’s are what get me. Knowing what could have been. And that will never get easier. Sometimes, usually after putting the kids to bed, I will find myself in tears. It can come out of nowhere and be triggered by the littlest things. I think a lot of my grief at this point is also dealing with un processed emotions of the sheer trauma that comes from delivering a still born baby and having to say goodbye. That trauma and grief I will carry for the rest of my life.
I Would Have Listened Longer, Held Her Longer
If I knew that Sunday we last heard her heartbeat would be the last time, I would have listened longer. I would have recorded that beautiful sound of the galloping horses. Something I will never take for granted after her loss. If I had known how hard the following weeks/years would have been after her loss, I would have held her longer. Thankfully I had a wonderful photographer come in capture my baby girl. Each year I take out her photos and look through them. And each year I smile and I cry. I smile because she was beautiful, she was ours, and she was perfect. And I cry because she isn’t here, and she should be.
Grief Never Goes Away After Pregnancy Loss
I’m learning grief never goes away. It comes and goes And that is ok. I never want to forget those sweet babies of mine. If you look at my logo and branding you will see that I incorporated all of my babies. I have 7 stars above the mountains. 4 of my babies I have earth-side and 3 that were my “what ifs. ” Each meaningful, and each worth remembering. Despite the waves of grief it brings. I will never stop sharing about my babies, especially Ava. I want her name to be remembered, and the short time that I shared with her in the womb.
A LITTLE ABOUT ME
Hi, I’m Stephanie
I’m your Colorado Springs Photographer. We probably have a lot in common. Besides being a photographer, I am an Air Force wife and mother to 4 children and 2 dogs. I am not a morning person and have a bad habit of staying up way too late. I start each morning with a cup of coffee and I think the outcome of my day solely depends on if I am able to finish that cup before it gets cold.