For the last two weeks we have been sharing about our pregnancy journeys, what our experiences were, and how they changed our lives. Today I will be sharing about our third and most recent loss, which happened two years ago, October 23, 2016. So if you missed the first two blogs, you can read about our first pregnancy here and our second one here.
After we were through the woods with our ectopic pregnancy, God had already begun to help me look at others differently. Like I mentioned in the previous blog, I began to pray for the pregnant women I saw around me, and by doing so, I gradually began to feel genuinely happy for them. After all, I didn’t know everyone’s story, I had no right to be envious. Everyone has different struggles in life, and I had to learn not to compare my struggles with someone else’s blessings in the same area. Because the truth is, not everyone will have trouble having children, but everyone will carry a burden of some kind. Some people have had rough childhoods, I never experienced that. Some people go through serious marital struggles, we haven’t had that problem. Some people battle cancer, experience war, have a mental illness, go through financial struggles, or any number of other hardships under the sun that I haven’t gone through myself.
Envy only points out the good things in everyone else’s life, making you dissatisfied with your own, when in reality, if you had to trade all the good with all the bad, you probably wouldn’t want to trade your life with anyone else’s. God was opening my eyes to my many blessings while helping me see other pregnant women from a different perspective.
In the year following my ectopic pregnancy, my faith in God became stronger, and I was beginning to find more satisfaction in my relationship with Jesus. I still wanted children, but I was surrendering my timeline. I was also starting to surrender the possibility of not having biological children (which is a long process to complete!).
Then, almost a year after our second loss, I got pregnant again! Brandon and I were full of mixed feelings of joy and worry. Because of my history of having an ectopic pregnancy, my OBGYN gave me an early doctor’s appointment to make sure this one was implanted safely. Brandon and I went together this time to get the first ultrasound, and to our delight, the tech had no problem finding the tiny gestational sac right in the perfect spot. It was so early, we couldn’t even see the baby in it yet, but we were SO relieved!
At our next appointment, we both got to see our baby and hear the heartbeat together for the first time. We took that ultrasound picture with us on our road trip to San Antonio and back so we could use it to announce our pregnancy to our grandparents in Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas.
Everyone was so happy for us! It seemed like our time had finally come! Every passing day, the statistics grew more and more in our favor as we made our way closer to the second trimester. The majority of miscarriages happen in the first trimester, and after 13 weeks, the chance of having a miscarriage goes down to less than 1%. So once we reached 13 weeks, the relief was complete! We were in the clear!
My belly began to show, and I had to buy maternity clothes. Every week I read about what the baby’s new developments were. I started looking up carseats, cribs, and toys. One week, my development app told me that the baby could hear loud noises and be startled by them, and Brandon started talking and singing to my belly every day, hoping the baby would recognize his voice when it was born.
I had all the symptoms! Crazy pregnancy dreams, food aversions and cravings (I couldn’t stand sweets, which is SO not like me!), leg cramps at night, I was hungry every two hours, and I even felt the baby kick every time I sat down at my desk at work.
When we scheduled our gender appointment, we started planning a gender reveal party! We were so excited that we had thought of a fun reveal that we hadn’t seen done before. Our plan was, after our appointment, to take the envelope with the gender in it and go with our families to the Build-A-Bear store at the mall (including Brandon’s parents who were flying in from Trinidad and Tobago). Brandon and I were going to make a bear, give our parents the envelope, and then go outside while they dressed it as a boy or a girl. Then, they would bring the bear in its little box-house for us to open!
Then, one day, while I was out shopping with my mom, I started having some new worrisome symptoms. I didn’t know at the time that my water was starting to break. Since it was a Saturday, I had to call the weekend doctor on-call. When I told her I was passing clear fluid, she asked me how much it was and then said I could wait until the morning and to call back if it didn’t stop. The next morning, I got up and it had gotten worse, so I called and left a message for the on-call doctor and waited for a response. We waited a few hours before deciding to just go ahead to the emergency room.
We had no thoughts that this could be serious. We were a little worried, but we were even laughing and joking with each other on the way to the hospital, thinking that whatever was wrong could be fixed. I was 18 weeks and 3 days pregnant. Brandon and I were so confident that we were, statistically, past the threshold of danger, that we genuinely didn’t think we had a chance of losing this one, which was the reason for our relaxed attitudes (although Brandon was more worried than I was).
It was Sunday, our gender appointment was on Wednesday, Brandon’s parents were flying in on Thursday, and our Build-A-Bear outing was on Saturday. I was looking forward to the week! But we were unaware of how differently our plans would turn out.
When we got to the ER, we were taken back to be examined. The ER doctor was cheery and nice, and two new employees were following her around as she trained them. They smiled and made conversation with us as we answered a bunch of triage questions.
The doctor did the exam quietly and then left the room. When she came back, she said, “I hate to tell you guys this, but you’re miscarrying, I’m so sorry.”
Brandon immediately burst into tears, and I just laid on the table and stared at her. Wait, what?! We were actually going to lose a third baby?! And at 18.5 weeks?! We were totally blindsided, and our hearts sank as she continued talking.
The doctor went on the explain that I had already lost a lot of my water and that I was 4 centimeters dilated. I was in the middle of labor and didn’t even know it. When I asked if there was nothing we could try, she said that my progress was too far along to do anything. One of the doctors from my OBGYN came in and confirmed what the ER doctor had said. I was about to deliver our baby five months premature.
Brandon left me in the ER to go tell the news to my parents who were in the waiting room. He didn’t even say anything as he approached them. He just shook his head and started crying. Then, he also had to let his parents know, who were still out of the country.
From the very beginning of the pregnancy, Brandon and I had given our baby’s life into God’s hands. Throughout the pregnancy, I consistently prayed, “God this child is yours, and I’ll trust you no matter what happens.” Our first two losses had taught me to trust God more, not less. I had come to realize that I was FAR from in control of my child’s life. Worry and fear were not what God wanted from me, and as a result, my time being pregnant with Elizabeth was one of my happiest seasons of life. Our faithfulness to God was being tested big time. We wanted to show God that we really meant what we prayed.
We were soon taken up to the labor and delivery wing where I was admitted into a room. The nurses and staff were so kind and compassionate, and they explained to us what to expect. I had not been to a birthing class or anything yet, so I was not mentally prepared to go through the labor process! I asked one of the nurses what our baby would look like, how developed would it be, and she said, “Oh, it’ll be a baby! It’s skin will be translucent, so it will be pretty red, but it will look like a baby.” I asked a lot of questions, and the staff were very patient with me.
Finally, we were allowed to go get lunch in the cafeteria, so we went down and ate lunch with my parents, my brother and sister-in-law, and Brandon’s brother. It was so surreal and weird, just sitting around with our family and eating lunch like it was a normal day. After lunch, we all went back to the hospital room together where we had a precious time of prayer. Surrounded by our family, we all held hands, and each one of us offered up a prayer, including Brandon and I. We felt the heaviness, and we were so thankful to have family with us to help carry our burden.
Through tears I repeated my usual prayer, “God, I told you from the beginning that this child was yours to do with as you pleased, and Lord, I give our baby to you today and every day.” We had a lot of people praying for us that day.
After a few hours of waiting, my contractions began to intensify until they reached a 10/10 on my pain scale (and the only other thing that has ever reached a 10/10 is a kidney stone)! Brandon held my hand, pet my face, and told me I could do it when I told him I couldn’t. The morphine didn’t help the pain, it just made me nauseous and dizzy. Finally, the doctor told me I could push, and our baby was born!
It’s hard to explain how a person can feel excitement when they’re giving birth to child they know will die. But it’s true. My first emotions were happiness and joy and pride at seeing my baby! I thought, “Oh my gosh, there it is, that’s my baby!” Its arms and legs were still moving. Brandon cried as he stood by my side. As they were putting our baby in a blanket, we asked, “Can you tell if it’s a boy or a girl?” The doctor looked and said, “Ummm…I think it’s a boy.” We were so surprised! We thought for sure we were having a girl! Later on, the autopsy would reveal that our baby was, indeed, a girl, but at this early stage, it was hard to tell from the outside.
The doctor handed us our child, and we took turns holding her until we couldn’t feel the heartbeat anymore. I was worried she might be scared or in pain, so I talked to her so she would know I was there. When I first held her, I was in awe of this little creation! The nurse was right, she looked like a baby! She even had tiny fingernails and toenails on her hands and feet. In those first hours, the sadness of the loss was outweighed by the happiness of meeting my baby.
Assuming we had a son, at first we named her Solomon Brave. We texted our family and told them they could come visit us. I couldn’t help but smile proudly when my parents walked in the room and I held out my baby to them. She was 8.1 ounces and 9 inches long. The nurses oooh’d and aaah’d over our baby just like nothing was different about our situation, talking about how cute she was and saying who they thought she looked like. These sweet gestures meant a lot to us! The hospital went above and beyond with blessing us. They gave us a hand painted memento box to put our keepsakes in, including her footprints, a keychain, and a baby ring, all of which were donated by various groups. They also gave us a tiny baby hat and “sleeping bag” to dress her in (since she was too little to fit into the tiny baby clothes). Our hospital room was buzzing with activity as our family took turns holding her, the nurses came in and out to give us stuff and take measurements. The feeling in the room was bittersweet, and I felt both heavy and happy at the same time. After a while, everyone said goodbye, and it was just Brandon and I again.
It’s called heartbreak for a reason. You feel a crushing weight in your chest that brings you to tears. That night was the hardest, most painful night I had ever spent. The nurses let our baby stay in the room with us all night. They even gave us a bassinet to put her in. We just stared at her. We studied her face, her hands, her feet, we wiggled her nose and ears. I even opened her mouth to see what her gums looked like. I think we went to sleep around 1am, and I remember waking up multiple times and feeling guilty that I wasn’t spending more time with her, that I wasn’t holding her. Finally, the sun rose, and I can remember the orange light coming through the window and being overwhelmed with emotion. Brandon got in the hospital bed with me while I cried.
The doctor came in around 8am and said that I was going to be discharged soon. We said our last goodbyes to our baby, laid her in the bassinet, and the nurse wheeled me out of the room in a wheelchair. Of all the moments, this was the hardest for me. Leaving my baby behind, all alone in that room, broke my heart. I had gone into the hospital with a baby, and I was leaving without one. I remember feeling so conspicuous being pushed through the labor and delivery floor without a baby in my arms. I didn’t want people to see me crying, so I just stared at my lap as we got on the elevator full of people. The nurse pushed through the hospital until we reached the waiting room where she sat with me while Brandon went to go get the car. When Brandon pulled up, she gave me a long hug, and I got into the car, and we left.
Part of the pain was not knowing where my baby was going. Losing a baby born before 20 weeks is still considered a miscarriage, meaning that there are no legal requirements for handling the body. The hospital staff told me that after they did the pathology report, they would “respectfully dispose of the remains” unless we wanted to bury her. Which to me sounded like, “we’ll lay her nicely in a trash can.” They weren’t being insensitive or anything, that’s just what my thoughts were.
At first, we had the idea to donate her body to science, but the hospital didn’t know of any groups in need of a baby cadaver, and honestly, Brandon and I just were not mentally up to the task of calling around to medical schools and research facilities to see if they had any use for her. Once we made the decision to keep her and bury her, Brandon and I immediately felt relieved. It was like this panicky feeling in my heart calmed down. I felt comforted that I would know where she was laid to rest, and I could stop worrying about what would happen to her. The feeling of peace and relief that came over me convinced me that burying her was the right decision for us and would help bring us closure.
That first week was so emotionally intense! Both of our works gave us the week off, so we stayed at my parents’ house (we were living with them at the time). We were overwhelmed by all of the love and support we received from our friends and family. Visits, texts, calls, letters, baskets, dinners, flowers, jewelry, keepsakes, and lots of prayers! We felt so loved! Plus, it was a nice distraction throughout the day to visit with people.
My sweet mom called around to cemetery after cemetery asking about burial plots for infants, and all we could find were places with adult plots for sale at random churches that had no sentimental value. Finally, Brandon decided to try calling the Historic Oakwood Cemetery in downtown Raleigh. We had been there on a few occasions on dates (I think graveyards are fascinating!), and we always loved going there because it was so beautiful! It’s like a park, people are always jogging or walking through it, and we thought for sure we wouldn’t be able to bury her there, but to our surprise they had two baby sections in their cemetery with available spaces! It might sound weird to some people, but we were super excited about it! It was the perfect place!
On Tuesday of that week, we got a call from my doctor informing us that the pathology report revealed that our baby was a girl, not a boy! That threw us for a mental loop! She had female organs on the inside, but the outside wasn’t as distinguishable (which I always thought was interesting since our gender ultrasound was just a few days away when we lost her). We felt like we had to reprocess our grief in some ways. It was almost like starting over. The love was the same, but you think differently about a daughter than you do a son. It was weird! We decided to name her Elizabeth Brave Talley.
The rest of the week included us visiting the cemetery to pick out which plot we wanted, doing all the paperwork, driving back and forth between the cemetery and the hospital to get the correct documents, and finally carrying her body in a little, beautiful, hand-painted white box with purple flowers on it to the cemetery where they would hold her until the funeral.
We really felt like we grew up a lot that week. Brandon and I talked about how strange it felt for us to be doing such serious adult things, like buying a grave, ordering a headstone, and planning a funeral. That’s not what 25-year-olds are supposed to be doing. It felt unnatural and, in a way, kind of isolating. This wasn’t a common life milestone for people in their 20’s. No one in our friend circle could relate. However, this caused us to cling to each other even more.
Then, on Thursday, we picked up Brandon’s parents from the airport. God’s timing is so perfect. Brandon’s parents were supposed to be coming in for our gender reveal party on Saturday, but we had a funeral that Saturday instead. We were SO thankful that they were able to be there for their granddaughter’s burial! If we would have lost her any earlier or later, they may not have been able to make it. God knows what we need before we do!
Just our immediate family came to the graveside service that one of our pastors was so kind to come out and do for us. It was a cool, crisp October morning, and the short service was simple and sweet. We were all in tears as we listened to Scriptures being read and the sermon being given. We all loved the thought of Jesus being the first person that Elizabeth saw when she opened her eyes for the first time. Matthew 19:14 was read at her burial, and we loved it so much that Brandon and I put it on her headstone, “but Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.'”
This was the closure we needed. Burying Elizabeth helped us feel like we took care of her somehow. She was safe now, we knew where she was, and we felt a peace about it. Then, after the funeral, we all still went to Build-A-Bear and made a bear for Elizabeth.
I have never in my life felt God so near to me as I did that first week after losing Elizabeth. Psalm 34:18 proved to be true, “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” The presence of Jesus with me was powerful, I can’t even explain it. I just sat at his feet and pressed into him, read his Word, and prayed and memorized the Psalms. The spiritual journey I started on that week has absolutely changed my life and my marriage. God was there with me, he sat with me in my grief and listened to me, and he spoke back to me clear as day through his Word. My spiritual growth between then and now will have to be saved for another blog because I think this one is long enough! But I want to end with a Scripture that ministered to my heart during that very first week. It meant so much to me and gave me so much hope, so I memorized it, and I want to share it with you.
“Your righteousness, O God reaches the high heavens. You who have done great things, O God, who is like you? You who have made me see many troubles and calamities will revive me again; from the depths of the earth you will bring me up again. You will increase my greatness and comfort me again. I will also praise you with the harp for your faithfulness, O my God I will sing praises to you with the lyre, O Holy One of Israel. My lips will shout for joy, when I sing praises to you; my soul also, which you have redeemed. And my tongue will talk of your righteous help all the day long, for they have been put to shame and disappointed who sought to do me hurt.” -Psalms 71:19-24