Women who have known loss share their experiences with Pregnancy After Loss Support (PALS) almost every day—to feel connected and to know they’re not alone. Their stories are unique yet also intertwined in grief, joy and hope—hope maybe above all else. We call them our Courageous Mamas. Their stories give us chills and tears and all the feels. From time-to-time, we receive truly inspirational ones of unimaginable circumstances making their pregnancy after loss journey even more harrowing.
Meet Nicole. She’s been through it all, all while hoping for her rainbow baby (baby born after loss) while living through added hell in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria devastated the island, making resources, support and basic necessities scarce.
My name is Nicole. I’m 34 years old, from Puerto Rico, and married to an amazing man. Together we write, sing, and love playing the piano and guitar. We are parents to a Little Fox in heaven called Matías Leví and are expecting his little brother, Toby, in March.
This is my story of loss and—hopefully—a rainbow at the end of the storm.
We first found out we were pregnant in June 2016. Fast-forward 15 weeks later, and we found out our firstborn was going to be a boy. We named him Matías Leví. Nine months later (exactly 40 weeks and 2 days after his due date), on March 17, 2017, he went to live in Heaven.
That day was strange. I remember my maternity leave had already started a week before, so I was staying home by myself while my hubby went to work. But, that morning, I woke up at 7 a.m. with an eerie feeling that something was off. I could hear my inner self screaming: “Tell your husband to not leave. Tell him you want to go early to your appointment.”
But, I didn’t listen. I got down on my knees and prayed a little, a very desperate prayer changed with tears, and went back to bed. In hindsight, last time I felt him move was at 9 a.m. He had become really stiff and disfigured my belly; it lasted a few second and then it stopped.
My hubby came home early (around lunch), so I was glad to be going to our appointment ahead of time. I was excited because I had started feeling contractions during the day; they were getting closer and becoming constant. I thought: “This is it! He’s coming!” I never stopped to think if he was moving or not; I just assumed he was “crowded in there” (as many of us are led to believe), so he didn’t have much space to move.
At my appointment that day my world was shattered, “There is no heartbeat!” No warning, no prelude, no nothing. Just silence! Deafening silence. But, still I held on to hope and faith that God could revive my baby boy; that I was going to witness a miracle. Long story short (and 18 hours of intense labor later) on March 18, we said goodbye to our Little Fox.
The weeks afterwards I became crazy.
Wanting to give it another try became an obsession for me. How much time should we give ourselves to heal (physically and emotionally)? But the thought of going for it just consumed me. So we went ahead and kicked caution and concern to the curve. I got pregnant again in May.
Two days after the urine test, I started bleeding. The cold chill went down my spine one more time. I must have been about 4 or 5 weeks along, but my body didn’t agree with my plans and rejected the possibility. The doctor said it was a chemical pregnancy. Strike 2! Still, this did not deter me or make me want to become pregnant any less. We still kept at it. And, low and behold, another positive pregnancy test in June 2017.
Being pregnant after loss is no joke. It’s terrifying, nerve wracking, frightening in many levels and extremely trying.
My sister is scared for me; many acquaintances and co-workers will tell me everything is going to work out this time; my Pastor told me “lightning doesn’t strike twice in the same place” (which is a scientific improbability), and I just feel overwhelmed. I wish most people wouldn’t say anything. Or, maybe I just need them to listen and be there for me, now more than ever. For the most part, at the beginning after we lost Matty, I felt like a complete failure. Like, everyone was counting on me to deliver our first child, and I failed them all. What if I failed again? How was I going to face myself? Face them? Face reality with empty arms a second time?
We did announce. Little by little. A friend here, a family member there, my boss, Facebook; we wanted to be careful and cautious. But we also thought that this baby boy didn’t deserve to be hidden; he deserved to be as celebrated, as welcomed and as wanted as his big brother. Because, at the end of the day, he’s not his brother; he’s his own little man. Not a replacement, not a shadow, not a stand-in.
First thing I thought the morning after the positive test was: “ARE YOU CRAZY!? WHY WOULD YOU PUT YOURSELF THROUGH THIS AGAIN!?” I wasn’t happy with myself; I was terrified. I thought that maybe… perhaps… I was being selfish and life was going to find a way of punishing me for it. But, then again, I have to live with myself and the decisions I make, every day. And, for the love of this baby, I was and am willing to put it all on the line. Although, I never thought it would be this hard.
I have constant insomnia laced with panic and anxiety. So many horrible thoughts pop randomly into my head. I become a nervous wreck if I don’t feel him move and constantly debate within myself, “What is decreased movement? What is too much movement? Is there a fair or neutral amount of movement?” Then again, all you can do is hope that this time things will be different; embrace lunacy and let yourself enjoy the moment, even when fear is also riding the roller-coaster with you in the back cart.
On top of that, we’ve had to deal with all the craziness brought about by Hurricane: lack of water, zero electricity for over 100 days; the stench and fumes of diesel and gas from neighboring generators, scarcity of resources, poor options of food… the list goes on. For me, it was three intense months of not having much and trying to keep myself sane. People may think: “Oh, you’re exaggerating!” I’m not!
We had to make long lines to get cash from ATMs, ridiculously astronomical lines to get gas for the car; my hubby lost his job, getting to the supermarket and having to settle for options that were less than healthy (plus, I don’t have a place to refrigerate whatever I buy), wasting money on food that is going to rot in less than 12 hours… etc. We lived off a can for weeks. One salary, too much fast food, not enough appointments and a high-risk pregnancy. Those numbers just don’t add up. Thankfully, in December, we got a semblance of normalcy when the electricity came back. Still, my beautiful Island is not what it used to be. There is still so much work to be done.
Back to the now…
We’re due on March 20 this time around. It’s the same month, almost same date, as Matty. Doctors will induce us at 39 weeks. I just want this baby to be here already! But, there have been many positive things that make things a little easier; since he’s also a boy, he gets to use everything his brother left him (which is a whole lot). I couldn’t bring myself to give anything away or return the stuff we had; I held on to hope that someday, someone would use them. It was too difficult to think of parting with his things, and I’m glad we didn’t because his brother gets to inherit it all. I know Matty would have wanted it that way.
In the coming weeks, I plan on pacing myself just so I feel like I’m doing something, but not go as far as overwhelming myself. I need to keep my mind busy, so as to not go down “the rabbit hole”.
If I could give loss-mommas who are currently pregnant, any advice, I’d say this:
Go crazy, momma. Embrace the journey! You’ve been through hell and back. You deserve this. You are not being selfish by wanting to mother another baby. You will not replace or forget your angel, so don’t allow those thoughts to take a hold of your heart.
Let yourself celebrate; embrace the joy and the excitement. Go bonkers and ignore fear; it is not your friend. It’s a traitorous thief. If you see that adorable onesie… BUY IT! Don’t give a HEY! Stay in the here and now.
Change doctors and hospitals if you need to. Don’t explain your rituals if you don’t want to. Cry, laugh, believe and remember you are strong, bold, brave, amazing and admirable. Pray hard, get angry with God and face him, let it all out and then let peace take its hold. Read, write, draw, sing, sow… do whatever you need to in order to face the anxiety head-one. Give yourself grace and mercy.
Go to L&D as many times as you need to (who cares!? You’re the one paying the deductible). Forgive yourself! Forgive others! Commemorate, celebrate and hold up your banner to defend your child’s/children’s legacy; you are the imprint they will leave on this earth. They were here, they were real and they will always matter. You and they are deeply loved.
Hang in there, mommas.
I haven’t perfected the art of relaxing (I doubt I ever will… maybe when this baby is about 47 years old), but, I do have friends I can count on (people who really, truly understand and are willing to receive my crazy messages and be there to weather the storm with me), a medical team that is aware of my situation and is taking all the necessary measures to give me extra monitoring and satisfactory health care, and I try to read as much as I can; the Bible, devotionals, PAL success stories, etc. I no longer try to avoid the possibilities, but I try not to linger on them or allow my mind to run wild.
Each day is a battle that can and will be won if we can focus on one thing: “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” (Matthew 6:34, NLT).
Update on Nicole and family:
Matty’s little brother, Tobías Leví (Toby), was welcomed into the world, ahead of his due date, by an incredible thrilled family. We thank her to sharing her story with us, and we send our congratulations to their family.