After years of struggling with infertility, I was so grateful that it was finally my turn. I was pregnant with a perfect and miraculous little girl. Despite my excitement, I knew the struggle was far from over, and I was filled with anxiety. I was so desperate to be a mother, and this felt like my only chance.
We had spent all of our savings on IVF. After grueling months of invasive tests, terrifying needles, and painful procedures, we were told that our embryos were degrading quickly and unlikely to survive long enough to freeze. So, when our transfer was successful, it felt like a miracle.
I reminded myself each week of the statistics, watching my chances of losing my baby dwindle and feeling the hope grow within me. Despite no concerns at any of my check-ups, I struggled with vivid dreams of loss. I often woke up to a heartbreak that was strong and tangible.
When I began to experience cramping in my 20th week, my anxiety heightened. I couldn’t shake the feeling that something wasn’t right. But, I was unsure whether it was my worry taking over, or a genuine medical issue.
I made an appointment with my doctor to be sure.
I saw my baby on the ultrasound, flawless and healthy. When I was told that everything was perfectly normal, I was filled with relief. I allowed myself to be reassured and fought to bury my building anxiety. Cervical incompetence was something I researched often; I studied the statistics carefully. I told myself not to let a less than 1% chance infringe on my happiness, and I prayed harder than I ever have before, begging for God to take away my fears and protect my child.
By the day of my anatomy scan I had successfully buried my worry beneath a veil of hope. I was allowing myself to feel only excitement. As I sat in the waiting room relishing in her kicks and wiggles, my biggest concern was not getting a clear picture to proudly display on our refrigerator. But when the ultrasound technician noted a vague concern and asked me to wait while she called my doctor, I felt the dread rise within me.
She returned with a nurse and the look on their faces spoke louder than any words they said.
They tried to encourage me to stay calm. However, something within me broke as I realized that it was too late. I was going to lose my daughter, my precious miracle, the baby I loved from the moment I first saw her as a six-celled embryo.
I left the office in an ambulance, painfully aware of the fear in the EMS worker’s eyes. She told me that I was fully dilated and my daughter’s feet were in my cervix. She began making preparations for the possibility of delivering my baby en route. As I arrived at the hospital, I was met by family, still hopeful that something could be done. They urged me not to give up, to keep praying, and to stay optimistic for my daughter. But I knew what was coming, and I retreated within myself.
I couldn’t bear to let myself give in to any more hope. During delivery I refused pain medicine, partly because I wanted to remember every moment I would have with my baby, knowing our time together would be so short, but also because I felt like I deserved the pain that was to come. I told myself that if she had to suffer, I should suffer too.
Each week I could keep her in meant a chance at her survival, and I was so torn between wanting the pain to continue on indefinitely and just wanting everything to be over. Every passing minute felt like an eternity. Ultimately, my body held on for one more day. My daughter was born perfect, but too young at 20 weeks 5 days. We chose the name Miriam; she was our wished-for child.
In the weeks that followed, I hated my body for failing her.
I was filled with so much anger. Anger at God for giving me the gift I wanted most, just to have it cruelly ripped away. Anger at the doctors for not catching it in time. And anger at myself for falling in love and imagining a future with a child that I so naively thought would get to come home with me. I found myself overwhelmed with guilt and regret for not trusting my intuition more, struggling with a lingering question: would she still be here had I been given the resources to save her when there was still time?
I was filled with so much emptiness. There were times I thought I would never find a way back to myself. I spent my time fighting my way through the days, clinching my heart up tight, and desperately hoping that one day I would find joy again. And with time, I did.
While I initially thought the anger would never end, time has surprised me by transforming it.
I now find myself accepting that I did the best I could with what information I had. I have had to discover a new version of myself, working to look at my body with kindness and admiration, knowing I would have done anything to save my baby. Those precious moments we had together are ones that I cherish. And while the world can be cruel and life can be hard, I am able to see some light again.
Through my experiences, I have seen first-hand how isolating infertility and loss can be. I anticipated my journey to motherhood to be a time of hope and excitement. Instead, it was filled with years of loneliness and heartbreak. I often found myself immersed in a whirlwind of pregnancy and birth announcements, longing for community but desperately avoiding it; making attempts at being happy for others, while grieving for myself.
I was afraid to make others feel uncomfortable, afraid of being given yet more unwarranted advice on how to conceive, and feeling a great sense of shame as my body failed to accomplish what seemed to be so easy for everyone else. Through time I have found a community of kind and generous women to offer support and empathy through the ups and downs of this journey, alongside family members who continue to acknowledge the life and value of my daughter.
Because as important as it is to honor the children that are among us today, it is also important to honor the children that we will never have the privilege of seeing grow up. I grieve Miriam’s absence. But I also celebrate the miracle of her existence, as short as her time here on earth was.
–Guest submission by Hannah Govan