“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.
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.