I was elated on March 29th, 2015 when I peed on the stick and two lines appeared. I wasn’t expecting my period for at least five more days but that day, I felt like peeing on the stick. I didn’t expect it to come back positive. It was only the second time my husband and I had tried to conceive that year and I didn’t feel any symptoms of pregnancy but there I was, staring at a positive pregnancy test.
This would be our fourth pregnancy and I prayed I would get to bring this baby home. We lost our daughter to miscarriage in 2010 but despite having a healthy baby 18 months ago, I was still nervous I would lose this child as well. As I announced my pregnancy instantly, at only 3 weeks 4 days, I was anxious yet excited. Knowing all I do about miscarriage, I knew that if we were to lose this baby, I would need all the support I could get.
As my pregnancy progressed, everything seemed to be going well. I felt a huge sense of peace. Peace that I can’t really describe, I just knew everything would be okay. I knew “I” would be okay. I explained to my husband that I didn’t really know what that meant. I told him that I don’t know if my sense of peace meant we would bring this baby home or if it just meant that I knew how to work through the loss.
With each pregnancy, my body struggled to produce enough progesterone. I believe that is why my daughter Ruby died in 2010 but I will never know for sure. With this pregnancy though, my progesterone seemed to be fine, until about week six. I asked for a repeat test which my midwife reluctantly ordered and it revealed I again, had low progesterone. Supplementation with progesterone is controversial and my midwife was unable to convince anyone to prescribe the proper amount. I found a clinic willing to work with me and started progesterone injections.
All was going well. We saw our baby at that six week appointment with a strong heartbeat of 122. I had mild symptoms of pregnancy. “I feel too good,” I explained to my husband. He assumed I felt so good because I had no issues during my first pregnancy. I wasn’t sure and hoped I was just being blessed with no nausea or fatigue.
Week seven arrived and I had yet another ultrasound. This one was to date the pregnancy and confirm proper growth. We saw our baby again with a heartbeat of 133 but the baby didn’t grow much. The baby only grew a few days. The midwife assured me all was well and was positive. She explained that ultrasounds are subjective and there is room for error. I, on the other hand, became anxious. Would we lose this baby too?
I decided to hold off on appointments until at least week 9. They were following me closely at my request. Pregnancy after a loss is a very different experience and I was so thankful my midwife was willing to see me as often as I needed.
I didn’t notice when my baby’s soul left me. I didn’t feel any different. The only sign my baby’s departure gave me was an increase in milk supply. I was still pumping for my 20 month old (at that time) and I wondered what the increase meant. With Ruby, I knew the moment she left my body. Since I didn’t feel a presence leave me, I just chalked up the increase in supply to a hormonal shift in my favor.
I had an appointment scheduled for 9 weeks 5 days. My husband would not be able to attend with me, and I was very nervous about going alone. I asked a fried to go with me for support; both of us feeling that we would see the heartbeat and feel relief.
The moment the midwife displayed my uterus on the screen, I knew. The baby had not grown. The baby was silent. My baby was dead. Again.
Grief did not set in right away. I began focusing on all my options and ensuring I advocated for this tiny being within me. This baby deserved to be treated with dignity and respect and I ensured that was going to happen.
I told our closest family and friends that our baby had died. I was not going to announce this miscarriage, until the baby had been born. I scheduled a D&C for the following week. I wanted to give this baby some time to pass on their own. This was a far different experience than my first where I could not bear to have a dead baby inside me and was begging for a D&C. This time, I felt serenity.
I felt my womb was a sacred space, holding death yet bearing life. I was honored to keep this baby within me and I wasn’t sure this baby would come on their own because of that peaceful feeling. As much as I didn’t want my baby torn apart through surgical removal, I felt that was going to be my only option for all we requested.
It was imperative that I learn the sex of this baby. It wasn’t as imperative to know if there was anything wrong genetically but if we learned anything, we thought it might be helpful. The only way to ensure we had everything for testing, was to have the D&C and even then, there was a chance the doctor would not find placenta for testing. I was relieved yet scared when this baby did not come on their own.
My mother was very concerned that the midwife was wrong and that the baby was still alive. She was worried I had planned a procedure that would remove a living baby. I assured her that I knew this baby was gone but I will have another ultrasound just to confirm. As much as I didn’t want to do this, I went in for a confirmation ultrasound.
But here is where we decided to do things differently. Families experiencing pregnancy loss in later gestation have the option of photographs. We would have nothing so we asked a photographer to enter our sacred space as we confirmed the loss of this baby. It was amazing and I am so grateful to have someone capture that deep grief and sorrow.
Our baby was born on May 11, 2015. The baby was born via surgical birth in an operating room. Our baby was born like all other babies are born. Though my baby was dead, it did not change the fact that my baby was born. This baby’s father was present at the birth. Oh how we wished we could have held our baby in the palm of our hands, studied the features of their body, seen their tiny hands and feet, and said goodbye; but that was not meant to be.
The doctor assured us that he found placenta tissue for testing. Once we confirmed that, the baby’s body was turned over to the funeral home. The baby would stay there, until the communal burial .
Two weeks later, we learned the baby was a boy. Augustus Jude (Gus) would be his name. The final peace I would feel was from Gus’s diagnosis. There was one. I was surprised to learn that Gus had a fatal condition call Full Triploidy. Gus had a triple set of chromosomes. INCOMPATIBLE WITH LIFE.
There are cases of Triploidy where babies have survived, some into adulthood but Full Triploidy is not compatible and Gus would have passed away either during pregnancy or at birth. The condition also puts the mother at risk of severe illness or death. I am thankful we were never faced with that condition. Gus was laid to rest on May 29th. We had him commended to God on May 30th.
So here I am. I would be sixteen weeks pregnant. Instead, I am six weeks postpartum. Six weeks post-loss but I am not sad. I am honored. I was chosen.
I was chosen to carry a very special child; a person who was not meant to be born. A person, whose short, in-utero life was meant to inspire others, help others, and to help me. He was conceived through love, loved and held every moment of his life, and he has helped me to cherish those moments we had together. I am his mother. I will always be his mother. I love you Gus.
Elizabeth Petrucelli, SBD, CCCE is the author of All That is Seen and Unseen; A Journey Through a First Trimester Miscarriage and “It’s Not Just a Heavy Period; The Miscarriage Handbook.” She is a childbirth educator, birth & bereavement doula and owner of Dragonflies for Ruby; an organization dedicated to serving families through the loss of their baby. When she is not educating birth professionals on pregnancy loss, she is an advocate who raises awareness for first trimester loss. She lives in Parker, CO with her husband and two living sons.