Our Struggle with Pregnancy Loss

“I want a brother or sister.”

Words spoken so innocently, so genuinely.

Words that stabbed my heart in a way that he, of course, could not understand.

We were in Buffalo visiting Vinnie’s family. It was also my parents’ first trip to his hometown. We were all together in the van, on our way to drop my parents off at their hotel for the evening.

The car went silent.

There was an unspoken, collective feeling of sorrow.

“Oh Baby Boy, if you only knew.”

I remember when Vinnie and I first decided we’d try to get pregnant. It was shortly after Mason’s second birthday. We knew how much Mason needed a sibling, and we both so desperately wanted to share the experience of welcoming a baby into this world alongside our partner – a milestone we’d both been cheated out of reaching with our late spouses.

It happened pretty quickly. We found out early August, on my mom’s birthday, that I was about 4 weeks pregnant. We were so excited and couldn’t wait to share the news. We told our parents right away, even though it would be several weeks before my first prenatal visit. We also told Mason that Mommy had a baby growing in her belly, a concept he couldn’t quite grasp, but was excited about nonetheless. I remember him lifting up my blouse and asking, “Where is it?”

Five weeks went by and it was finally time for our appointment. Vinnie and I waited anxiously for the ultrasound to begin. The technician explained that she would be checking some of my anatomy before looking at the baby. Everything seemed okay at first, but once the baby was visible on the screen, her facial expression changed.

“Unfortunately, there is no heartbeat,” she said.

We were then ushered to another room where we would discuss options with the doctor. She recommended I undergo a D&C since my body wasn’t showing any signs of starting the miscarriage on its own. We received this news the day after Vinnie and Erica’s wedding anniversary and the procedure would take place on Ralf’s birthday.

Unbelievable.

I was so fearful of the anesthesia and something horrible happening, but I trusted my doctor’s judgement and went forward with the plan. While I was being prepped for surgery, I had multiple nurses offer me condolences for my loss.

“If they only knew,” I thought.

Just a couple days after that, feeling awful both physically and emotionally, we decided to evacuate because of Hurricane Irma and the uncertainty of the storm’s path. Vinnie didn’t want me dealing with the added anxiety of being stuck in a dark, scorching hot house for days. We secured our home, loaded up the car with the essentials, and headed to Alabama to stay with my brother and his girlfriend. All while Mason was sick with a cold and very high fever. It was, to date, the most stressful and challenging time of our relationship.

Six months passed and we decided to try again. It took a little longer this time, but I got pregnant within two months. We were scared but mostly optimistic. I told myself I wouldn’t get too excited until we officially heard the heartbeat. Vinnie and I both lit up when we saw the flicker on the screen.

One-hundred seventeen beats per minute. Loud and clear.

All signs pointed to a viable pregnancy. Although we knew we still shouldn’t get our hopes up until reaching the 12 week mark, we couldn’t help it. We had names picked out. We were making plans for the nursery. We just knew everything would be fine and this would be our rainbow baby.

We decided we wanted to get married before the baby’s arrival.

One week before our second prenatal appointment, we announced the exciting news to our parents and our siblings. We also told them that we wanted to have a very intimate wedding in just 2 months. Everyone was ecstatic and the nuptials were planned in less than a week. Flights were booked. Hotel reservations were made. The venue was contracted. Everything had seemingly fallen into place.

Then, one evening, I started to bleed. I called the doctor’s office first thing next morning and they said I shouldn’t panic because spotting during the first trimester is usually not a cause for concern. I begged them to squeeze me in at some point that day so that we could have some peace of mind, given all that we’d both been through. They agreed. We arrived at the clinic and the technician asked me some questions before performing the ultrasound. I knew what was happening as soon as I noticed that the flicker we’d seen during our previous visit was no longer on the screen.

“Are we missing a heartbeat?” I asked.

“Yes,” she replied.

The dam broke. So many tears.

To top it all off, this happened on Vinnie’s birthday. I remember thinking to myself, “What kind of cruel joke is this? Please tell me how this isn’t supposed to feel personal at this point. How much more will we be asked to take?”

The technician left to give us a few moments to ourselves and then once again led us into another room to wait for the doctor. At this point we were both breaking the news to our parents.

Vinnie looked at me through tear-filled eyes and asked, “Do you still want to marry me?”

“Of course I do.”

The doctor walked in with a look on her face that suggested she knew very well that there were no comforting words she could offer. We discussed options once again. She felt I could “successfully miscarry” this time without surgery, with the help of some medication, since my body was already starting to reject the baby. We decided to take that route because we were in horrible debt from the previous D&C due to my hospital deductible being so high. We picked up Mason from school, went home to quickly pack our bags, stopped at Walgreens for my medication, and headed down to Miami so that we’d have help with Mason while we endured this horrible process.

While I have to admit that I didn’t feel as much physical pain as I’d anticipated (perhaps because of the additional pain meds I was prescribed), the emotional trauma of seeing our unborn baby at the bottom of a toilet bowl, and watching Vinnie fish it out to place it in a receptacle that we would have to return to the doctor’s office, is indescribable. The “specimen” was sent off for “fetal testing” that never occurred because apparently it did not arrive to the lab in time. We never got a clear answer as to who messed up – the clinic or the lab. Regardless, the point is that we never got any kind of closure or explanation.

As difficult as it was, Vinnie and I made the decision to focus our energy on our upcoming wedding. It was an emotional ceremony and a beautiful day filled with so much love. But I know that in our hearts we both silently acknowledged the absence of one special participant.

Trying again is off the table, indefinitely. We are working on our own well being and making sure we each get to a really good place, emotionally and physically, before deciding what we are going do. I know we would love another baby and to give Mason a brother or a sister, but I also know that we can’t continue to experience  so much pain. Maybe, in time, we will find the courage and our perspective will change, but for now we are at peace with the way things are.

We’ve also learned just how committed we are to getting through anything together, as a couple – and that’s a blessing I will never take for granted.

A Love Without Limits

Mason is finally asleep and I am very uncomfortably lying next to him in his Lightning McQueen bed. What a challenge bedtime was tonight! He is currently obsessed with legos and was building a firetruck with Vinnie as I told him it was time to go potty and then night-night. He threw a huge tantrum because there was one tiny little piece missing and he didn’t want to leave the truck unfinished. We tried reasoning with him and explaining it was already late and that we’d look again in the morning because the piece was nowhere to be found, but in true “threenager” fashion he dropped to the floor and screamed bloody murder for the godforsaken lego piece. (Can you tell what a huge fan I am?)

I was left with no other choice but to pick him up kicking and screaming and bring him to his bed. At first it was that defiant, exaggerated, and – for lack of a better word – bratty cry that small children often use when they don’t get their way. After a solid half hour or so, though, it turned into a genuine sob. He cried as if he’d lost the most important thing in the world to him. His cheeks were covered in his salty tears and his little squeals of agony were absolutely heart wrenching. So much so that the disciplinarian in me took a backseat to the nurturing mother that could not stand to see her baby in so much pain. I pulled him close, told him I was sorry he was so sad, and cried with him. Then I held him until he finally calmed down and closed his eyes.

He won’t remember this moment when he is older. Hell, it’ll probably be forgotten in the morning when he wakes up. Lord knows that legos are not worth that kind of heartache and that’s a lesson he will inevitably learn as he faces real challenges in his life, as we all do.

The truth is, it wasn’t about the lego for me. That little white snap block will turn up somewhere in this house and all will be right in Mason’s world once more.

What I was really thinking about in those moments was all the things I won’t be able to protect him from as he grows up. I hope he lives a wonderful life and that future struggles are minimal, but many things will be completely out of my control.

And then I thought about my mom.

What she must have felt witnessing me go through the darkest moments of my life and not being able to make it all go away. Watching me bury my husband with a huge pregnant belly and all the difficult changes I had to endure in such a short period of time thereafter. I know she would have traded places with me in a heartbeat to spare me from the pain I was feeling.

But she couldn’t.

There was nothing she could do other than to be there, listen, hold me as I cried, and support me unconditionally as I started to move forward with my new life. I hope, from the very bottom of my heart, that she knows that was enough and that the gratitude I feel for her during that time of my life is second to none.

And I hope one day Mason will look back on his life and remember a mom who’d do anything for him – even if it meant helping him build the same lego firetruck a million times to see him smile.

 

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Photo taken by Melissa Perez of Simply Captivating

For My Forever Hero

As many of you know, the anniversary of Ralf’s passing is approaching.

A few weeks ago, his father spoke at a firefighter symposium in Miami. When he told me about it, I expressed wanting to contribute somehow, but wasn’t sure what I could do. Then, the idea for this simple video came to me.

I share this not to make anyone sad, but rather to hopefully drive home a message that needs to be heard. If it inspires one member of the fire service – or one nagging and loving spouse, parent, or family member – to push for further education of the risks our firefighters face and to fight for the protections that they so deserve, then it has served a purpose.

Trust me, I’ve been there. You don’t actually think it can or will happen to you or the people closest to you.

Until it does.

How I wish that we’d known more, sooner.

As they say, when we know better, we do better.

Let’s work towards that.

,
Maeghan

 

Our Last Supper

Three years ago tonight, Ralf and I shared our last meal in our home together. Spaghetti and meatballs from one of our favorite local Italian joints – Ferrari’s.

I remember it well.

I asked if he would be okay with this dish yet again – because it was a frequent craving throughout my pregnancy – and he agreed. We had it delivered and then we sat next to each other at our kitchen counter, like we so often did. Now when I look back at this moment, I specifically remember resting my head on his shoulder and releasing a sigh of enjoyment as I devoured that first meatball.

“I don’t feel so good,” he said, with a mouth full of pasta.

“What do you feel?” I asked.

“I don’t know. I just feel off,” he explained.

“Yeah, you’ve been studying way too hard. You need a break.”

The promotional exam to become a lieutenant was just one week away. We were so close. He would be through with all the studying, his stress level would drop, and I’d have my husband back. We would finally be able to fully enjoy my pregnancy together. The maternity photo shoot was scheduled. He’d be able to join in on the baby shower planning and help me complete the registry – all of which I’d been doing without him because he was so preoccupied with preparing for his test. He would be building baby furniture and we’d be putting our son’s room together.

Finally.

Just seven more days.

I went to sleep much earlier than he did because, of course, he had to hit the books. Being the extremely light sleeper that I am, I woke up when I felt him climbing into bed hours later.

“Where are you?” he said, as he reached for me to pull me close.

“I love you so much, Maeghan. You really have no idea.”

This was not part of our regular bedtime routine. Sure, he told me he loved me regularly, but this time it was different. His tone of voice was serious, as if he needed to make sure I heard those words that night. It was as if he knew it would be the last night we would share in our bed.

Seven days later, he missed the exam because he was hospitalized awaiting his biopsy.

Eleven days later, he was removed from life support after his tumor unexpectedly ruptured and crushed his brain stem.

Three years later, I love and miss him just the same.

Death and Divorce: Comparing Apples to Oranges

My husband is gone.

Not gone like he stepped out to pick up some milk at the grocery store.

Not gone like working the night shift.

Not gone like on a fishing trip with his buddies.

Not even gone like staying elsewhere for a while as we try to figure out whether our relationship is still worth fighting for.

Gone like…gone….

To read full article, click here.

An Unexpected Bond

A few weeks ago, my mom sent me a text saying that she’d been cleaning out her filing cabinets and came across some really nice pictures of Ralf and me. She asked if I would like to see. Then, she took pictures of the pictures with her phone and sent them my way.

There we were.

Just 18 years old, freshly graduated from high school, filled with hope and anticipation for the future that we already knew we wanted to build together.

So in love.

So happy.

And, completely clueless of what was to come.

Mason sat next to me on the couch as I scrolled through the images. In his precious little voice he asked, “What you watching, Mommy?”

I returned his question with another question.

“Mason, who are these people?”

“Mommy and Daddy in Heaven,” he replied with a shy smile.

“That’s right, Baby.”

I took the opportunity to talk to him about his father. I explained to him, as I have many times before, how much we loved each other and how excited we were to have a baby. Mason listened intently as I told him, yet again, the story of how his Daddy in Heaven was a fireman who drove a black RAM and knew how to operate a big boat.

Then I explained that Daddy in Heaven was called to be with God while Mason was still in Mommy’s belly. He loves to hear about how the doctors took him out of Mommy’s belly, how his Yaya placed him on Mommy’s chest for the very first time, and how she fell in love instantly.

He smiled so innocently, paused reflectively, and said something I was not quite prepared to hear.

“I want him to hold me.”

My heart dropped into my stomach.

“Oh, Sweetie. He wants to hold you, too. And I believe one day he will.”

I pulled him in close, squeezed him tight, and reminded him – for probably the millionth time that day- just how much Mommy loves him. Then, a few minutes later, the front door opened and in walked his Daddy on Earth. Mason screamed in excitement and ran into his arms.

And he was held.

Sometimes life doesn’t turn out the way we plan or even hope for, but we must be grateful for the unexpected blessings that come our way.

I know with all my heart that Ralf watches and rests in peace knowing that his son is so loved and cherished. Until the day he can finally hold him in his arms, just like he always wanted to.

I truly believe he will.

The Five Things Nobody Told Me the Day My Husband Died

You’d think that the worst part of becoming a widow is, well, the obvious: losing your husband. If and when you actually become one, though, you are forced to learn that the physical loss of the man you exchanged vows with is just the tip of the iceberg. All the really hard crap lies underneath the surface. I wish I could tell you that it can only get better from here, but I want you to hear the truth. I want to tell you the things that nobody told me on the day my husband died…

To read full post, click here.

Imperfect Love

I posted this picture on Instagram last night. It was taken by a friend on the night we celebrated turning 21 (our birthdays are just five days apart). The picture gained a lot of likes and comments, one of them being “true happiness” – and it made me realize that there was more to this picture that I wanted to share.

First of all, if we look incredibly happy – one too many vodka cranberries may have had something to do with it. (I mean, 21st birthday celebrations usually involve alcohol, right?)

Secondly, while it was mostly an epic night, it ended with Ralf and I getting into one of the worst and dumbest fights of our entire relationship. (Yes, once again, vodka cranberry. If you asked me today what the fight was about, I couldn’t tell you.)

Here’s the point I’m trying to make: there is no such thing as a perfect relationship. They simply do not exist. If that’s what you’ve been searching or waiting for, you will never find it. I promise you that.

We were truly happy – most of the time.

Then there were times that I wanted to wring his neck or that he wanted to throw me off of our second story balcony.

And now, I’m very happy in my relationship with Vinnie, but it isn’t always rainbows and butterflies. There are days when the very ugly parts of grief surface for each of us, and it takes a great deal of patience and understanding.

Don’t look for someone to love you perfectly. When you find someone who will love you despite your own ugly imperfections – that’s who you should hold on to.

The one who will still see your beauty and your worth even when they are buried under irrational, unwarranted anger brought on by too many vodka cranberries.

The one who will see past your irritability and depression caused by grief and wait for you on the other side with open arms.

And if you’re lucky enough to find that, remember that the length of your time together is impossible to predict.

So cherish it.

All of it – even the unpleasant moments. Because working through the hard stuff is when your relationship will have the potential to grow the most.

Fight and argue if you need to; air out your dirty laundry.

Then,  remember that you must always fight for each other.

💙,

Maeghan

 

 

Love After Life

We never met while you were here on this Earth, but I feel very connected to you. You were the love of the man who now holds my heart. Like him, I have suffered the loss of a great love of my life.

I completely understand how he yearned for you, cried for you after you left – and how a part of him always will. I understand how even now he can be having a completely “normal” day and suddenly see your eyes in the face of a stranger or hear your laugh in the line of a song and be swallowed up in grief all over again. I understand how he may feel guilty at times because his mind occasionally has trouble justifying his right to be in love and feel happy again, even though his heart of hearts knows that happiness is what you would have wanted for him. I understand that while his soul overflows with pride and gratitude every time he gets to witness and share in another milestone with Mason and me, that there is an underlying, eternal ache for all the missed moments that he should have had with you and Anthony. A pain that is ever present but that he has learned to live with because he’s had to.

I understand that I will never be you, because, how could I be? You were the only you there could ever be. And from what I’ve been able to gather from stories, pictures, and my own imagination, you were special and beautiful both inside and out. I understand that he doesn’t need or want me to be you, either. His heart has grown despite his suffering and has made additional room for me, with your space completely intact forever. As it should be.

You were you and left too soon. It was completely out of your control.

I am me, and I’m still here. And while it’s impossible to know for how long, I hope to honor your legacy by giving him all the love you planned to. I know that I can, because it’s the same love that I envisioned giving to Ralf until old age. But like you, he had to leave sooner than anticipated.

We move forward into this unpredictable life, but you are and always will be a part of our story.

So will Anthony.

So will Ralf.

And what a crazy, tragically beautiful story it is.

I hope we make you proud.

Widowhood and Hashtags

It finally happened. I’d read about it in some widow groups that I’m a member of, but had never personally experienced it myself. I’ve even had the audacity to think to myself, “Wow, these women know some really insensitive people!” And now, I stand corrected…

To read full post, click here.