It’s me, yourself, five years from now. Strange, right? I’m writing to you because I know something that you need to know. Knowing shortly before it happens will not lessen your pain, but my goal is to help, because I know that you like to have ALL of the information on any given topic to sift through in your mind as you simultaneously feel your way through.
You are 24 weeks pregnant. You have been concerned and have been letting your doctors know. You have called and gone in and been told not to worry. The trusting side of you has been reassuring the anxious side of you that things will be okay. Things are NOT okay.
Do I have your attention now? I know you are busy, teaching Kindergarten and preparing for a baby.
The baby. Your Brayden. I do not want to be the one to tell you this, but I would rather tell you in the gentlest way possible than let you hear it from a doctor you have never met, while he looks at an ultrasound screen turned away from you as he tells you the worst news of your life to date.
The baby has died. There is not really much I can say to reassure you. I’m so sorry. Yes, this is devastating. You can scream.
What happened? The short version is that your doctor shifted care to another doctor who missed critical information about your health. One day you will forgive them both, especially since the second doctor is no longer practicing in the medical field.
This will get much worse before there is a semblance of getting better. You have undiagnosed very early onset severe pre-eclampsia, and have had a concealed placental abruption. The symptoms you are experiencing are NOT normal pregnancy symptoms.
Tomorrow, after work, you will go to your prenatal appointment that you requested to be moved up by a week. This one small change will likely save your life. You will meet with your doctor who will use three different Dopplers trying to find Brayden’s heartbeat. You will hear your heartbeat and think that it is his. Your doctor will not tell you what she knows, that Brayden is gone. You will be sent to the hospital down the street for an ultrasound there.
The ultrasound technician will be quiet. You will be right in your feeling that something is wrong. Your heart dropping when she leaves and comes back with a doctor is an accurate response. He will tell you what I have told you, but in his words: “This is what we call fetal demise.”
You will be sent to a bigger hospital. You will receive top-notch care for this very scary event, induced labor to give birth to your soon to be stillborn son. You will be asked questions and with hands shaking, you will sign papers. They will tell you the risks of the things they have advised you to do because they have to, not to scare you. But it will scare you.
Matt will miraculously take care of you in the midst of himself finding out that he, too, has lost his already-loved first child. You will both be amazed and devastatingly saddened when you see and hold your sweet baby boy.
Yes, you can still name him Brayden. I know his name was a secret. You don’t need to save the name for another baby. This IS your baby. He is your son, and you will both parent him for the rest of your lives.
Later, when you have finished ordering and combing through not only all of your medical records but even medical journals, too, you will come to the conclusion that both you and Brayden were exceptionally unlucky. Your previously low blood pressure masked one symptom and your care providers in a busy practice missed others.
You will go through dark periods, I wish I could say just one. But there will be several, grief taking over like waves leaving you raw and exposed when they are done with you. Each time, you will learn more and more about how to climb back to a place that feels more peaceful. You can never go back to the true before, but the you who existed before will start to shine through when you least expect it. Your friends and both of your families will carry you through your lowest times.
You will blame yourself, but will later begin to forgive yourself, because all you knew at that time was all you knew. You will become a fierce advocate for yourself moving forward, and an even bigger advocate for your two rainbow babies.
Rainbows. You will have two. Your arms that will soon feel so empty will be filled with two warm bundles of light and smiles; first a girl and then a boy. Be kind to the amazing people in the loss community that embraces you; there are some who do not get a rainbow after their storm of loss.
When you hold your newest rainbow baby in your arms as he sleeps, your mind will wander upwards to your angel who sleeps among the stars. He never seems that far, though, as you will see signs of his love nearly everywhere you go.
This experience will not be what you had envisioned, but it is your experience. Life has still given you this precious boy, just not in the way you originally imagined. Mothering Brayden will shape you as a mother and as a person. You will one day look back on the pain you are feeling with only love, compassion, and understanding. And you will go much easier on yourself than you ever had in your ‘before.’