An Alternative Motherhood

April 13, 2017

I was approached about writing on the topic of “motherhood” and at first, I felt like a fraud. You see, I am a mother, but one without a child to show. So, you can see how that may make me feel a bit weird...

I was never that girl who dreamed of her wedding day or having a slew of kids, but I was the kind of kid who just lived and seized opportunities as they came. I allowed myself to dream, work really hard and take some chances, even when they scared me to the point of paralysis. I owe a lot of that to my parents, who allowed me to see things a different way and allowed me to be my most authentic self, even before I knew what that meant. I write this as an adult woman who is finding her most authentic voice and being, through the experience of soul-crushing loss.

I found out I was pregnant on March 8th, 2016 and was really excited. I showed my husband the weird plastic apparatus and said, ”Look!!” and he responded with, ”Uh, what am I looking at exactly?” I laughed and responded with, ”We’re having a baby!” He smiled like you’ve never seen a proud man smile. Our life was about to be so very different but little did we know, it was going to be a different one in terms we could never have expected.

From the get go, I was very adamant that nothing was to be put on social media; I wanted to keep my pregnancy as private as possible. You see, I was 37, which in the medical field is deemed as a “geriatric pregnancy”- can you fuckin’ believe that!? I knew that things could happen and I didn’t want to put all these posts about being pregnant and then have something happen and have to address it with the world. So, my husband and I asked our families to please be respectful of that one wish.

I had what my OB called a “low-risk pregnancy,” everything seemed fine and normal and no reason to be overly cautious. I am a highly active person, who eats very healthily and I take very good care of myself; what did I have to worry about, really? So, I kept doing what I normally did and followed doctor’s orders on everything else. I felt strong and happy... Now, I also know, very naive. 
 

On November 1st, I was 38 weeks and I hadn’t felt my daughter move very much that day so I went to Thayer Street and got a cookie the size of my face and a big sugary drink. When I’d ingest a large amount of sugar I’d feel her move around. I figured I’d get her amped up to feel the kicks which would put my nerves to rest. I didn’t though, so I called my friend and said, ”should I be freaking out right now?”. She advised me, as a mother of two kiddos, to call my midwife just to be sure. My midwife asked me to go to triage at Women and Infants Hospital to get some tests run. They ran a non-stress test, did fetal monitoring and ultrasounds all which were fine. The doctor told me all my amniotic fluid was up under my left rib, which happens sometimes. Also, my placenta was anterior, which means it is between the baby and my stomach, which made it difficult for me to feel kicks in the first place. She said towards the end of pregnancy with very little room in there and having an anterior placenta it can be very difficult to detect kicks. I told the doctor our next midwife appointment was in two days and she said to be sure to go and fill in my midwife. 

Thursday, November 4th, my husband and I went to see the midwife and get our second to last check-up before our girl arrived. She said I was measuring well and the baby’s heartbeat was strong. She said, ”I think you’ll probably go late, Mia, just by looking at the way you’re carrying...” I had heard that quite a few times and totally prepared myself for the idea of a late-arriving bundle of joy. My husband and I went out for a celebratory Ginger Ale, seeing we were one appointment away and five days from my due date. We talked about how we wanted to parent, the things we’d teach her, adventures we would take as a family; again, we were so happy and yet so naive.

Monday, November 7th, I had my last official midwife appointment and I couldn’t believe how fast time had flown by. I met my husband at the office and I knew immediately that he could tell I was having a bout with anxiety. I was so anxious to hear my daughter’s heartbeat that day. Our midwife came in, said hello and chit-chatted for a while. She got out her doppler and listened for a heartbeat. She kept saying,”there it is” then quickly would say,”oh, that’s YOU- haha…” She asked if I had eaten that day and insisted on bringing me some juice and cookies to spike my blood sugar. I scarfed them down to get the sugar in my blood stream as fast as humanly possible. She went to get the other room set up to use the ultrasound machine, which she deemed as “better machinery”.

We went over to the other room which was dark with the exception of the glow from the monitor. The technician was very cold and had the screen faced towards her, which irritated me greatly. My husband could feel my frustration and asked her nicely if she’d turn it to me, so I could see what was going on. In what felt like slow motion, the technician slowly looked at the midwife who looked up with the biggest fattest tears in her eyes. They seemed suspended in her ducts until she said the four words that would haunt me forever: “THERE IS NO HEARTBEAT.”

And there it was, the instant in which our lives changed forever, and very much not on our terms. All I could get out between sobs was, "I don’t understand. We were so close… two days away…" The sobbing was guttural, emanating from the deepest depths of my now barren soul. 

As much as I knew, in that moment, that my life was now completely different, I would not let it destroy me or my marriage. My husband and I picked ourselves and our shattered hearts off that cold, dark tile floor and headed over to triage, once again. 

Once at the hospital, we talked with our midwife on duty who put it to me like this, "You have to give birth to your baby, you can do it now, or tomorrow… but you need to do it soon." In that moment I had to flip a switch and realize my “birth plan” was now null and void. There’d be no water birth, no doula talking me through each stage of labor or bouncing on an oversized ball through contractions. My husband said once I realized what I had to do, that I went into complete and utter warrior mode, I had a job to do and that’s all it was now: a job. The door was slammed on my image of labor ending with bliss. My heart and my hope were broken. 

We went home for a bit to regroup, to call our families and to take all of the baby stuff out of the car. The car seat, the little blankets, the baby bag with a coming home outfit that I picked out… all hidden away. I went upstairs and I took a hot shower, rubbed my big belly and said my goodbyes as the water washed away my endless tears and sobs. I snapped a picture of myself to document what the saddest, most broken version of myself looked and felt like. I gathered my things and we went back to labor and delivery. 

I was given meds to induce me and shortly thereafter my water broke which felt worthy of celebrating at the time, and then I remembered the reality, as I stood there with soaking wet feet. I labored through the late hours and by morning I asked for an epidural. The combination of heartbreak, mental anguish, and physical labor was, well, too much- I needed to numb one aspect of the pain.

On Tuesday, November 8th at 11:30 am, I went into active labor and started to push, again, I felt some sort of hope. Maybe they were wrong, I remember thinking, maybe she’s okay in there... I was in the presence of such lovely women who were so kind, mindful and loving during this process. My wonderful husband held my hand the entire time and reminded me that it was going to be okay. My midwife said, ”OK, Mia, we are at the last push, you’re doing great...” I took a second before my last push to look at these special people who all had a hand on me. In this moment I had a significant spiritual experience which prompted me to tell them, “there’s a lot of love in the room”. I felt deeply connected to these people, this moment, my body and the greatest power… love. I took a deep breath, grabbed the sheet that was wrapped around the end of the bed for me to pull on, and pushed with every ounce of energy I had left, and felt relief... pride... and then… silence. I did it, my body was so powerful and yet somehow, had failed me. The room was so eerily quiet, no crying baby or celebrating after all that hard work. The range of emotions that washed over me was profound and overwhelming; how could I be so proud of myself and so incredibly sad at the same time? 

I held my daughter- I saw her sweet face, her perfect little face. She fit into my arms like she was made to be there and as I held her I said, ”Wake up, Rosalie, just wake up. It’s okay….it’s okay.” I couldn’t believe after nine months, I was finally holding her, and feeling the weight of her small body made it real. My husband held our daughter, and it was probably one of the most beautiful sights my eyes have ever seen. She was his and he was hers, all for too short of a time. The chaplain from the hospital came up and blessed our sweet babe with lovely words and her calming presence. I am forever grateful for that moment of peace and that someone else got to see her and recognize her existence. 

The weeks to come were just plain awful. I can’t describe it any other way without being honest. We left the hospital empty handed, heads down and just broken. How did this happen to us and why? We got home and it was different now; the light that had once shone brightly from the nursery had fallen dim.

My husband cared for me as I healed my physical body and held me when I’d get hit with the reality of what trauma had just occurred. I could not have asked for a better person to be by my side than my husband. He took care of all the funeral arrangements with the help and support of our fathers. He chose the most perfect, beautiful spot in our favorite cemetery that is a ten-minute walk from our home. There is a large anchor that is about 50 feet from where our daughter is buried, the anchor is a sign of hope...I couldn’t have asked for a greater sign to be in front of me every time I go to see her.

When we get married we typically say for better or for worse, and we don’t think about the worse aspect of that line. I have been fortunate enough to be with someone who has seen me at my worst and loves me even more than before. I cannot even begin to elaborate on the extent of my gratitude. But, I also hope that by saying that, people remember that marriage is not about one day of wearing white; it’s about a lifetime of choices and moments that define a marriage.

Sometimes we forget why people, certain people, are in our lives. Maybe we’re just busy with life and work and forget. Those people came out of the woodwork to make it known to my husband and I that we were loved and supported. It was the most humbling act I’ve experienced in my lifetime. The conversations I had with my closest girlfriends and my mom gave me great strength, even if I didn’t know it at the time. People, scratch that, women, who empowered me to be my most authentic self in my darkest moments. 

My battle with anxiety got worse as I started to leave the house again; I didn’t want to run into people and have to explain why I had no baby. People who had seen me for the last nine months, imparting parental wisdom on me, giving me hugs and had told me “it’s going to get harder...” when I was having a seven-month pregnant hormonal meltdown, and counting down the days with me until my girl arrived. Running into them and not knowing what to say, how to say what I was unsure of, and how to make them feel better. It was a crap shoot that I had to throw myself into to only get stronger. I slowly, and I mean slowly, figured out little ways to remedy my fears, and the big one was to just say “it.” If I just said “my daughter died, she was stillborn” I’d get it out of the way, acknowledge it, and not let it fester in the depths of my soul. 

As I addressed my grief head-on, I knew I need to channel it somehow. I started to explore the arts again; I’ve been an artist forever and know it’s powers. I began throwing pottery again and it instantly made me centered and feel alive. I continued to throw and throw and glaze and create and I remembered how good I was at art. I started to think about what I was going to do about work again in the coming months, once I was up on my feet again. I knew that jumping back into doing events was going to be too much for me, I’m well aware of the energy output with that gig. So, I started diving back into the idea of the beauty and wellness realm of work which I was in some years ago. I worked as a makeup artist in NYC for many years doing TV, print, runway and lifestyle shoots. I decided I wanted to reinvent myself because I am a new Mia, a different Mia, a better Mia. I landed on my idea of organic airbrush tanning, which I could brand as I’d like and create my own vision. Funneling my grief and energy into a project felt so good and gave me a new purpose. I know who I am and I know I need a purpose in my life.

I started getting out “there” again. Going to the gym, going to get my morning coffee, going to have cocktails, being out and being seen. It was really hard but I sensed myself getting a little stronger each time I ventured out into the world. I got in contact with Sierra who graciously put me in touch with her good friend Sarah. Sarah had lost her son, Henry in 2012 and was very open and honest with her story and experience. I was so amazed by Sarah’s ability to be honest, hopeful and still keep her sense of humor. I was just so inspired to be a better version of myself and get livin’. Not too long after our meeting, I attended the Lady Project Summit where I ran into my new friend Sarah and some lovely women I had met the year prior. My energy shifted and the enthusiasm ignited my fire again. I was able to connect with these women and share my new business venture and there was a lot of synergy! 

I truly truly believe that being surrounded by other women who want to empower themselves and the women around them is the 9th wonder of the world. It is infectious and powerful. I have been inspired and encouraged by others to share my story, which ironically was what I was avoiding from the beginning of my pregnancy. But sometimes plans are just that, plans. Nothing solid about them and that's ok. 

I am grateful for all the wonderful women in my life who have supported me at my lowest, cheered for me at my highest and reminded me that I will always be Rosalie’s mom, no matter where she may be. 

And that, is a gift.