Our story starts off much like anyone else’s. Jason and I, Tandy, got married in September 2000. We had some fun as a couple for a few years before deciding to start our family.
Jason and I had no questions or worries of how that was going to happen or how many children we wanted; three for sure, possibly four. Back then, we thought, “people get pregnant and the end result is a baby,” no worries.Also, I had always wanted to adopt too, so we talked about that as well.
In early 2005, we were overjoyed to find out I was pregnant! I enjoyed this new experience ten-fold, even though I was sick well into month 6. Other than that, we had fun. We enjoyed my belly growing and the movements. We were scared about becoming parents, but isn’t everyone? We had our son, Benjamin, September 2005 and we dove into parenthood head on. I loved being home with my new baby boy. It fit me.
Then came the time to add to our family. In August 2007, I found out I was pregnant AGAIN! We were so excited to have a little brother or sister for Benjamin. As with my first pregnancy, I found myself extremely sick. I was given medication this time to help stave off the sickness. I was admitted to the hospital and given fluids, so things were going smoothly again. We tried to find out what we were having at our 20-week ultrasound, but baby wouldn’t let us. I called baby a she. She was very active and loved music, especially in the car. It was almost like she was dancing. I loved those times.
At the start of my 36th week, we had a birthday get together for our nephew. That weekend is burned into my memory. We had a fun filled weekend swimming and playing, but I noticed baby was being way over active. We drove our nephew home the following day and as we left, his mom asked when I was going to “pop”. I said 4 weeks! On that trip home, I noticed I hadn’t felt the baby move for a while, so I sat in the front seat, concentrating on my baby. Whew! I finally felt a tumble. That night I came down with the WORST case of heartburn ever. I cannot explain it, but it was awful.
The next morning, I looked in the mirror and just knew something was wrong. But I still didn’t go to the hospital. Benjamin and I played trains and cars. I finally took a bath and called Jason. I told him I hadn’t felt the baby move and I think something was wrong. He said no, everything is fine but, he would meet me at the clinic to be sure. When we arrived, they sent us straight to the hospital telling us we should have gone there first. That was the longest drive of my life. We got there, scared out of our minds. The nurse took me back to hook me up to the Doppler. I heard a heartbeat… but knew it was mine. She said not to worry because she wasn’t good at this. I grabbed her hand and took it from my belly. I told her it was ok, I knew the baby was gone. She left to get an ultrasound machine. We had to wait for the ultrasound tech to confirm our baby had died. They asked me if I wanted to go home and get a few things or just get checked in now. Umm, yes, I want to be checked in NOW. If I go home, I will never come back. You are asking me to do something so horrible, so awful, so unbelievable. I was really not comprehending what they were saying to me. I felt a horrible guilt. I let this happen. I let my baby die.
The next day,April 01, 2008, I delivered a beautiful 5 lb. 11 oz., 19 in. baby GIRL. We always knew our daughter would be named Mary after my Grandma. We decided on Mary-Alice after both our grandmas. She was perfect. She just wasn’t breathing. We had to leave her there. I cannot tell you how desperate that situation was. How empty my heart and arms felt. I was pushed out to our minivan in a wheelchair because I had just given birth, but no balloons, flowers or baby carriage came with me. The flowers came a week later at the funeral. So what do you do with that? We had to learn how to live our lives as grieving parents. We have pictures, hand, foot and face molds, and a lock of her hair. I buy little trinkets for her all the time and display them in our home. We don’t get to see her grow. We are missing out on her whole life.
We moved through the unexpected death of Mary-Alice and tried to have another baby. I got pregnant again in January 2009. At our first OB appointment, we learned there was no heartbeat. I had miscarried. I always thought this baby was a boy, so we named him Jaden.
After our 2nd loss, I think I knew something was wrong with me, but the doctors kept telling us, ‘No, you are fine. You’re a healthy 30-year-old woman. You have a baby boy at home and you will have more babies. These things just happen’. I didn't believe that, so we decided to try adoption! I was thinking we’ll do that first and then maybe try for another biological child. We started the process August 2009, did the training, classes, and made ourselves available. We waited for over a year. I became impatient and the things the doctors had told me were ringing in my ears, ‘You can have another! You are healthy!’ So, I got pregnant again. This time, we were scared from day 1. The positive test was not joy, it was FEAR. We went to our new doctor and were told that I was high risk and would be treated as such. At every appointment, I was scared to death, but the doctor would find the heartbeat and I would hear just a loud little thump. That was Music to my ears.No one knew I was pregnant. We just weren’t ready to tell people. I had the 20-week ultrasound on Mary-Alice’s 3rd birthday. At this appointment, we found out I was having a girl. As if my fear wasn’t enough, we were having a girl. I bought a few little things,tried to be happy, and Benjamin helped us pick out names.
When I was 22.5 weeks along, on Monday April, 11, 2011, I was finally going to get to see a specialist. The nurse tech hooked me up and started taking pictures. I noticed the heartbeat flicker wasn’t there, so I asked if everything was alright. She said she was going to have a coughing fit and ran out of the room. Jason wasn’t too panicked yet. I was really trying hard to believe it wasn’t true. I wasn’t going through this again. The nurse came back and told us that no, there was no heartbeat. Yes, our daughter had died. AGAIN. I was so angry. I tried to believe it wasn’t true. Why would God allow this to happen to us AGAIN? What horrible things had I done to deserve this? I am going to have to deliver another baby girl whom I cannot see grow, whom I can’t keep. The doctor told us that it could take two days for the inducing pill to work. I told them no. I can’t be doing this again. I have my son’s preschool graduation to attend on Wednesday. I can’t be here delivering his sister….AGAIN. The doctor retracted a bit, told me he didn’t believe my body would take two days and we should start the inducement. So there I was again going through labor for another daughter. The sadness and anger really was indescribable. She didn’t wait two days. She came that evening at 8:00 pm., all 9oz of her.
We held her and decided to let Benjamin name her. He named Amelia after a friend of his in preschool. We knew it fit her. We also knew something was wrong with me. Why couldn't I have anymore healthy children?Why aren’t these doctors treating me? Why did they let Amelia die? I knew that these things did NOT just happen. I knew I was not young and HEALTHY. I made it to Benjamin’s preschool graduation that Wednesday. Benjamin had told his teacher that his sister had just died in Mommy’s tummy and he needed a hug. As a mom, this broke me in two.
We buried Amelia that weekend on a cold Saturday morning, all too reminiscent of her older sister. I couldn’t do another big funeral. This time it was just us; my parents, sister, brothers, and nephew. After we buried her, I went to bed. I wanted to die myself. There is no handbook on losing a child, let alone two. It was a long time before I could wake up in the morning and not feel a gut punch and my heart sink again each time I realized it wasn’t a horrible dream. I had given birth to two baby girls that never took a breath of air. I started a Facebook page for stillbirth moms. Jason kept with his running. He ran his first marathon the year before and started running 5 and 10K’s as therapy.
We talked about the adoption process knowing that we were still in the “book” for birth-moms to find us. We thought we would give it until December. If a birth-mom did not find us by then, we just were done. DONE. The days and weeks went by and I cannot tell you how we made it through. I only know that we did, And do. This has changed my life. I have depression now that seeps into my life often and I experience really bad anxiety attacks. I do my best to keep it together for my son.
The Tuesday before Thanksgiving 2011, seven months after Amelia’s death, we got a call from our adoption agency. I was sitting in the car when Jason answered the phone. I could tell it was good news. I couldn’t believe it! A birth-mom wanted to meet with us! We set up a meeting on December 10. We were so nervous to meet this young lady. We had so much love for her already, whether she chose us or not. We loved her for carrying a baby to bless another family. Brave. After we answered the many questions she had for us honestly, she left the room for a few minutes. When she returned, she said, “Would you two be the parents of my baby?” TEARS! I cried. Jason said, ‘yes’. HA! So did I. We hugged and made arrangements to meet again with the agency to make birth plans. After that meeting we went out with her and her parents to get to know them. It felt natural. They embraced us. We embraced them.
Jason and I were still very cautious. We had already lost two little girls. We didn’t want to set ourselves up for another loss. In our state, a birth mom cannot sign over her parental rights within the first 72 hours of the birth and has up to 60 days to do so. After the document is signed, the birth mom is allowed ten business days after the birth in which she can change her mind. So basically, there was up to 78 days of waiting after the birth to know if this baby would legally become ours. We were cautious.
When this mother was ready to give birth, she invited us into the birth room with her. We were so honored to do so. She gave me the gift of seeing our daughter being born. It was the neatest thing I have ever seen. SO amazing. I watched this young lady go through the worst pain in her life to give life. I was in awe. A baby girl arrived at 8:08pm, almost 40 weeks to the day that Amelia had died. Courtney was born January 2012.
When we had Courtney with us in our hospital room, it was hard, because we knew down the hall was her birth-mom suffering. It was also scary, because we didn’t know if we would get to take Courtney home. We did an entrustment ceremony at the hospital. The birth mother wanted some closure and peace with her decision. She picked out some poems to read, we lit a candle together, and promised to love that little girl.
Boy, do we love Courtney and deeply appreciate her birth mom. We have an open adoption with her where she lets us know if she wants us to visit when we call. Time has helped her, like it has most grieving moms. Courtney’s birth dad and his family are very much involved in our lives as well. Our lives have been enriched with both birth families, which we call our Adopted Families. Courtney is so loved by so many people!
Stillbirth is still a very big part of our lives. We decided to do something, to get involved, because I just can’t sit back and let this happen to another family without a fight. No family should have to endure this horrible thing even once. Let alone TWICE. We started the Mary-Alice and Friends 5k , http://bit.ly/MaryAlice5K, This yearly race supports Stillbirth research and awareness. The whole thing came about because of Amelia. Stillbirth really isn’t that uncommon, yet people choose not to talk about it. We hope to break that silence.
Stillbirth is way under talked about. You feel so alone. People tell you that you can try again and while this is true, I will never get Mary-Alice or Amelia back. They died. I don’t think it will ever go away because there is no cure for lose. Check out Tandy’s Facebook blog: bit.ly/StillbirthSupport. Share this with your friends. Grief shared is grief divided.
Jason and I are not healed fully and we never will be. I have two holes in my heart that belong to our daughters who grow in heaven. Courtney and Amelia are close in age. One grows in Heaven, one in our arms. One day, I will finally get to meet my girls. This life is a drip in the bucket. Tandy
If you would like a Vita pendant in remembrance and honor or to open conversations, you can find it at: VitaArt.org/Vita-Pendant. They can also be personalized with a birthstone.