This particular essay is near and dear to my heart as it comes from someone special in my life: my aunt. I walked this troubled road, and all the associated heartbreak, with her and I am so proud of her for putting down the clay (she’s an artist!) and rattling the keys to bring us her story.
First, I didn’t want a baby.
Then I wanted a baby, but not now.
Then I desperately wanted a baby.
After more than two years of actively trying to conceive, a miracle happened. I was finally pregnant.
When the initial shock wore off, I was flooded with a wide range of emotions…you name it, I felt it. Eventually, joy and love filled my heart, and visions of a happy family danced in my head.
Then, on June 14, 2004, I became one of four.
I woke feeling a buzz of excitement and anticipation. My ten week appointment was that afternoon, and we were going to hear our baby’s heartbeat. Since this was a major milestone in my pregnancy, David and I agreed that he should come with me. You only get one chance to hear your baby’s heartbeat for the first time.
My doctor, whom I adore, arrived full of happiness and excitement. After a round of Q&A about how things had been going, she brought out her Doppler device, and we got to the important business of the day. After several minutes of moving it around my belly, she wasn’t finding what she wanted. She called for the ultrasound machine to be brought in. After trying to find the heartbeat through my belly, she asked if she could try using the vaginal wand.
It didn’t take long for a cloud to pass over her face. Her eyes filled with tears as she said, “This isn’t good.” She showed us on the monitor where she should be seeing the flutter of a heartbeat. There was nothing but stillness. Our baby was gone.
In an instant, my world was shattered. How can one go from feeling the height of joy to the depths of despair in only a few short minutes?
She sent us to another clinic with more sensitive equipment for a second opinion, but if what she suspected was true, we would need to decide if I wanted to wait for this to pass naturally, or have a D&C.
The radiologist confirmed what we already knew. Our baby really and truly, without a doubt, was gone.
I spent the rest of the day and into the night sobbing uncontrollably. David, feeling helpless and not knowing what else to do, held me in his arms. I fell asleep on a tear stained pillow, wrapped in his arms and in his love.
The next day we each did our own research into WHY this might have happened, and WHAT we should do. We both came to the conclusion that it was nothing I did or did not do, and that waiting for something we knew was coming, but not knowing when it would happen, would be the utmost in torture. A D&C would bring a quick ending to this, like quickly pulling a band-aid off a wound.
I wondered how I would ever recover from this. Was it even possible to be lifted from the despair I felt?
Over the summer, as I healed physically, and functioned mentally, we began the journey again. Now that I knew I COULD get pregnant, I was hopeful it would happen soon. After months of disappointment, we decided to take our quest for a baby to the next level with infertility treatments.
With a diagnosis of ‘advanced maternal age’, I was prescribed large doses of drugs to stimulate my ovaries. I KNEW this was going to work, but three failed artificial insemination attempts left me disappointed and broken once again.
Our next step was IVF. We knew the odds were not in our favor, but we gave it a shot. We got three lovely embryos, and I was CERTAIN this was going to work. And it did!
And then it didn’t. Only a few short weeks later, my blood work was telling a different story. This time, because I was only about 6-1/2 weeks along, we let nature take its course.
I was devastated, but with visiting family and my niece’s college graduation, I had to plant a smile on my face, instead of curling up in a ball of sorrow like I wanted to.
After weighing our options, we decided to give IVF one more try. I knew this was going to be our last attempt. It was getting harder and harder to survive the emotional upheaval. We tried. We failed.
As I was trying to come to terms with never being a mother, and trying to picture what my life would be like without a child, SURPRISE! I was pregnant once again!
Now, this one was God’s own miracle. This one had to be the one.
I spent the next weeks full of ‘cautious optimism’. I wanted to believe this would work. I wanted to believe this was the one. But in the back of my head, I knew what could go wrong. Having been here twice before, I was forever robbed of feeling the joy of an expectant mother.
At 6-/12 weeks, I saw the flutter of a heartbeat on an ultrasound. Hope welled up inside me. Two weeks later, that flutter was gone, and hope left with it.
Another D&C. More tears. More frustration. More anger. More heartache.
In the aftermath came a new understanding. I was not going to be a mother. I was not going to hold my own baby in my arms. Not only did I have to navigate the unspeakable heartache of losing three babies, I also had to grieve the loss of a dream. I’m not sure which grief is worse.
It took many, many months, if not years, before I came through the fog. Some days I did very well; others the wounds were as raw as the very first day. I struggled. I blamed myself…had I not been so selfish and waited so long to try having a baby, perhaps the outcome would have been different.
I knew the path forward was a choice. I had to CHOOSE to be happy. I had to CHOOSE to make a different life than I had planned. I had to CHOOSE to become numb to the pain. I also had to CHOOSE to forgive myself. Once I did that, It became easier to move on.
But the pain can creep back in unexpectedly. And I’m not proud to say, as I watched my dear niece, Hilary, struggle through many of the same things I had been through, rather than opening my arms and my heart to her, I pulled away. Out of self preservation. I could have been a source of strength to her, and instead I sheltered my heart.
It’s been sixteen years since I became one of four. I’m proud of the life I have created. I am thankful for all the blessings God has given me. I have chosen to use His gifts to forge a new path. But I often wonder……what might have been.
Meet The Author:
Lisa J. Ammerman is an artist and business owner, living in Omaha, Nebraska. She and her husband, David, have been married for 34 years, and they share their lives with a Brittany spaniel, Rudy, and a cat, Lily. When she’s not creating whimsical art dolls, vignettes and Christmas ornaments in her home studio, Lisa enjoys reading, watching movies, oil painting, and bass fishing with her husband.
To see Lisa’s art, visit her website: https://apieceoflisa.com
Or follow her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/APieceofLisa/
And Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/apieceoflisa/