Laurenne is a dear friend of mine who has been married to her husband Steve for 14 years and together they have 3 boys; Max (11), Vinny (10) and Giancarlo (8). Laurenne also has a stepdaughter Gabriela (22), whom she has helped raise since she was 4. A new addition to the family is her pug Rocky and he has quickly become her favorite child. This year I have seen her flourish in her new business endeavor and find herself in way that is uplifting and inspiring. This is her story, in her words, that she is sharing.
A Note From The Author…
Dear Reader-I want you to know that I have had over 4 years to deal with my grief. It was not an easy battle, I was lost and literally drowning in grief that first year. I remember being paralyzed, unable to move forward or dream of a future after the future I dreamed of was crushed. My community & my faith got me through those dark days. Please be gentle with yourself during this time and do not compare yourself to anyone else’s journey, grief doesn’t have a time limit.
Back in 2016, I was really loving life. I was juggling the mom thing pretty well, volunteering at church regularly, I had an amazing Mom Tribe to do life with and really had no cause for complaint. Yet, on a date night with my husband, I found myself confessing that I deeply, deeply desired to have one more baby.
I explained to him that my grandma, my mom, my aunt, they all had four kids and something unsettling in my soul was telling me I needed to have four as well. And before we finished the evening I got him to agree to try! After 2 tries, we were pregnant! I found out in May, and was looking forward to welcoming a New Year’s baby after the holidays. That summer went by slower than most seemed to though, I was too hot, too uncomfortable and too tired to do much. As fall began to near, we planned for school to start and to move my daughter to college out of state.
Then, on August 9th I had a routine 16 week checkup that was anything but routine. It’s weird to look back on now, because leading up to that appointment I was so apprehensive. I had just gotten over some illnesses and I couldn’t get under that ultrasound wand fast enough to guarantee everything was fine. I even told my husband that morning “to please have his cell phone on in case they couldn’t find a heartbeat.” I told him he must be available if I should need him, to which he rolled his eyes, said everything will be fine, and kissed me goodbye for the day. Off to the Doctor I went, with my friend’s daughter Maddy with me. I was watching her for the day as a returned favor; she was going to love seeing the baby on the screen. At check in I was nervous and even cried a bit while we scheduled out my upcoming 20 week ultrasound. When the nurse asked why I was crying, I couldn’t explain, I just told her I was excited we made it that far, but I felt nervous and sad.
In the room, my sweet doctor greeted me and I caught her up to speed with being sick. As she moved the ultrasound wand over my belly, there was my sweet babe on the screen, a perfect little nugget. Almost perfect. No heartbeat. I could see her expression as she tried to move the wand over and over.
I finally broke the ice- “No heartbeat?” I said. “No, I don’t see one. Let me get a second doctor to confirm.” I’m not sure if I said it out loud, but “I knew it” crossed my mind. Then sadness, rage, confusion and disbelief flooded in. The second doctor confirmed and my doctor started to try to console me while I tried to keep myself from breaking down in front of the sweet 4 year old who was still sharing the room with me. My doctor came in and out of the room several times while I tried to call Steve- which of course he didn’t answer. I called our daughter who was with him and immediately yelled at her to put her father on. She knew it was bad. He knew it was bad. I said no heartbeat; I need you to come here
. Then I texted my family to let them know. Finally Steve arrived. I sent Maddy home with Gabi so I could hold my husband and finally have the breakdown I was keeping so neatly tucked inside. Now that he was here our doctor asked what we wanted to do, surgery or delivery? What kind of question is that?!
I sent a text to some of my friends, asking them if they had ever gone through this, or knew anyone who had and asked them what I should do. Steve and I weighed out pros & cons of each option with the doctor while I waited for responses. I just needed someone to make this huge decision for me. My Mom called me. Get the surgery. Have it taken care of so you can wake up and have it be done and start healing and moving forward. Fine, a decision. I started to go over OR Dates with the Doctor and then made sure she knew I wanted an autopsy done. You see, this wasn’t my first pregnancy lost in the second trimester. It was my second. I survived this same loss over 13 years before this. I chose the surgery then because it was the only option I was given. I woke up to no answers and suffered through months of grief after.
So my reasoning for wanting an autopsy done was that if this was my second loss, there was clearly something medically wrong with me. I must have a genetic issue or something. Maybe both babies were girls, since I had viable sons in between.
My Doctors face fell as she explained an autopsy could only be performed if I delivered. Well crap. Terrified doesn’t come close to how I felt. I have friends who have delivered still born, but I knew that was not a strength I had. It was a fear I never, ever, wanted to face. But in that moment I knew I had to. I felt that if there was a medical discovery made, it might save my sisters or my sons from ever facing this loss. I knew there wouldn’t be a guarantee they would find anything, and honestly, in that moment, I prayed to God that if I wasn’t supposed to know I would just trust in Him, but I had to at least TRY to know why. I also thought it may be worth it if it gave me a shred more closure then my first loss did. So it was set, I was to go home, pack a bag and return that night to be induced, for the first time ever.
At home our kids were waiting for us. Immediately they knew something was very wrong. We sat them in the living room and let them know that the baby had passed away. They wails and sobs that followed far surpassed my own. If I wasn’t mad at God in the hour’s prior- I was definitely mad now. Any mom can agree- do to me what you will, but get my kids involved and there will be no mercy. Now they were the focus and their grief surpassed my own for the moment. Then and in the weeks to follow, the right words to soothe them and the correct answers to their questions were hard to come by.
I cried as I packed my overnight bag, still in absolute shock.
We drove to the hospital as I sobbed- it wasn’t supposed to be like this. We endured an awkward check in- a certain nurse was not up to speed and I had to remind him my baby was dead so he would stop his questions that weren’t relevant. “Oh your THAAAT Woman. I’m so sorry.” He was obviously embarrassed by his questioning so I showed him grace. He escorted me to my room then marked my door with a sad looking leaf postcard and sent my nurse in.
Once in my room I refused to get undressed for a good hour. I guess I wanted some control in this situation, so instead I just paced the room. We called the Women’s Pastor from our church and told her now would be good for her and her husband to come pray with us. They had offered and we cautiously accepted. They arrived and after hugs asked us how we were feeling. We rehashed the hours before and the sour feelings of disgust and confusion I was feeling and then they started to pray. It was so beautiful and so comforting. Two things from their prayer stood out then and still echo in me today and probably will be meaningful to me until my last days. She said, “Lord, today is not a surprise to you.” I’m not quite sure why, but it brought me some deep relief and a sarcastic nod to my head. She was absolutely right. He knew. He knew all along. How on Earth could I control it- if He already knew? They also invited the Holy Spirit there. Another sarcastic nod came from me- thank goodness our eyes were closed- but I remember thinking- “oh that’s rich! Yes, please! Can we get a little God in here because I’m feeling pretty damn alone at the moment?” They finished and we wrapped up. It was time to get started. After a million blood samples were taken I changed, started my IV and the doctor came in to tell me about the medications that would start my labor. They weren’t very helpful on what I could expect, but said to not be in pain and to get an epidural (for my first time ever) because I was already suffering enough. Fine. I would get the epidural and see what all the fuss was about.
It was hard to get some rest that night, between the texting to let people know, the check-ins from my friend Kim (lovingly sent every 5 minutes) and nerves I was a mess.
In the morning I awoke to very tough contractions, which are so bizarre to watch when your belly is only half full. It was hard rocks forming in my abdomen that were hot to the touch. I also awoke to peace. Peace like something beautiful was about to happen. I was lighthearted and optimistic. The girl who couldn’t stop crying and was mad was gone. The Holy Spirit was there, I could feel it. But I was in pain. I told the nurse I will take that epidural when it’s convenient, and anxiety immediately washed over me again. Having never had one before, I was terrified. Steve was terrified. The cute Doctor (why are they always cute) pushed his cart in and Steve and I questioned him for a good 5 minutes before we started. I was SO scared. I turned, hugged my pillow, and he marked my back to prepare but he had to wait for a big contraction to pass because it was causing me to lean in the wrong way. As he reached for his needle, the contraction started to go down, I felt my waters break and I felt my baby being born with it. Relieved I waited for doctors to check and confirm. They discreetly handled the situation while Steve and I held each other and sobbed. I have never seen my husband cry like this. The doctor let us know she could see the cause of death, and asked if we wanted to know.
I was absolutely shocked- I got to know why?? And so Soon?!
The baby was a boy and he died of a cord accident.
Many thoughts and emotions ran through my head after hearing that but mostly relief that it wasn’t something genetic and thankfulness to God that He gave me an answer. In that moment, I felt peace from my first child as well. I had complete resolution from a baby that passed away so long ago. I felt confident that that child was also a son (because clearly I only make boys) and that he died in a similar accident. I was overwhelmed with emotion that only God could use something so painful and powerful to heal a wound I thought was good all this time. I didn’t even realize until then that the not knowing still haunted me so much.
As much as I questioned why I carried so far with this pregnancy and why it couldn’t have been an early miscarriage, I realized in that moment that if I hadn’t lost 2 pregnancies, both at 16 weeks- I never would have associated them together. I would never have delivered this baby and would never have gotten the closure I needed. These children were now so connected and I am confident they have each other in Heaven.
We got to hold our son. I asked Steve if we could name him Leo. It was the current name I was obsessed with while pregnant and being that he was born in August it seemed fitting. Of course Steve agreed. Leonardo Alexander. He was 12 in long, born at 10:27 in the morning of August 10, 2016.
He was larger than I expected. He was completely formed. As I held him in my arms I touched him all over, seeing that his 10 fingers and 10 toes and little chin moved just as a full term sleeping baby’s would. For a moment, I felt like God and I shared a secret- the entire time you are pregnant you are so curious what is going on inside- well God and I know what a 16 week old fetus can do and what it looks like. Privileged. I felt privileged and special to witness this. Finally, I placed Leo in his blanket on my chest. I breathed a sigh of relief, and I wept. All the 9 months us moms endure- it’s for that moment- the moment when they are on your chest and you feel their weight and every sacrifice prior to that was worth it. I was so grateful. So thankful I chose the path I did to be in this moment. God blessed me.
We took pictures, listened to Over the Rainbow that my best friend posted on my FB timeline, which ironically was also my wedding march song- and then we said our goodbyes. We decided to have him cremated since an autopsy was no longer necessary and now he was family, so not doing anything for him felt wrong.
We left later with a beautiful memento box made by my nurses with a baby bracelet, pictures they took, footprints and handprints, his hat and blanket. I was wheeled out the back entrance so I wouldn’t have to go past all the new moms in the lobby. A large bouquet of flowers in my arms, not a baby.
The days that followed were a bit of a blur, but I remember feeling so at peace. So content in the midst of being so terribly heartbroken. I had a son. His name is Leo. He was amazing and important and I have footprints. It wasn’t my fault. I didn’t have to endure an epidural, a labor or pushing. God took care of it all. Every single one of my fears was snuffed out completely. He held me in His arms, my creator showed me His creation. I have never felt so intimately known before.
That God could go before each turn and soften the blow, specifically for me. He loved me.
I grieved the loss of the child that I would never hold again, the pregnancy I wasn’t ready to be done with, and the future that I had planned that would never be. But I was shown & given so much in return. I witnessed my community and friends and acquaintances care for my family and I. I had meals for 2 weeks straight. I had my house cleaned. Every bouquet of flowers sent, every card and token received, all carried so much sentimental weight. They were extension of hugs and love. I wasn’t the only one affected by his loss.
I found comfort amongst other moms who have gone through this too. This loss, of miscarriage & still birth, there are many of us, yet we isolate and keep most of this pain inside for so long. When I went through my first loss 16 years ago, I had no one. I had barely left my parents’ home, just starting out with my husband and was alone a lot. I didn’t have hope. I didn’t have answers. Time just went by. I didn’t have faith and I didn’t have a community around me to lift me up. Its unfair that life demands you move on, especially with having kids that depend on you and society that has a time limit on how long we are supposed to grieve.
Now I share my story openly and try to help other moms going through this. I will be the first person to try to walk in the grief that follows with them. I know the waves that come. The sadness that drowns you and the anger that overwhelms you.
I am different now. I am more callused, yet in many ways more tender. My heart still hurts, but it’s starting to thaw and I can finally feel joy again, an emotion I was afraid would never return. We’ve celebrated a few of Leo’s birthdays as a family, its our way to honor him and miss that we never got to have him. My boys still talk about him a lot too. They also tell me often that they would still love another baby, but I am comfortable now with where I am at now. God did give me four children to love on this side of heaven, I really have all I need and more. Plus I have an adorable pug that is my rainbow baby and helps fill some of the void that has been left in my heart.
I do not know what lies ahead, I am pretty confident that another child is not part of our plan. I am also confident that life will bring more pain, because it always does and no one is exempt. But I know wherever my life takes me, God is one step ahead, and He will soften the blow.