Most people don’t wake up and say, “hey, maybe I’ll start a blog about perinatal loss”. This is a club no one wants to belong to… a topic no one really wants to talk about let alone consider it happening to them. After all, pregnancy and the possibility of babies is something a lot of people with a uterus want regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity or relationship status. Sure, it’s not for everyone and let’s face it, not everyone should take on the role of bringing another human into the world because it’s a tough job.
From the moment you hear those words, “you’re pregnant”, all kinds of things start going through your head. Sometimes those things are positive and sometimes not so much. Regardless, you usually run the gamut of emotions & thoughts including excitement, shock, fear, anxiety, worry and elation. It’s almost like all at once, you start thinking of every way your life will change, what this little being will be like, who you will tell and all the things you need to do next. It’s exhilarating usually… Sometimes that’s a welcome feeling and sometimes it’s not but either way, if you decide to continue with your pregnancy and attempt to bring you little one into the world, you become a different person on some level, almost instantly.
So in addition to you being totally freaked out (or excited, or numb, or whatever emotions are coming up for you), you are likely also in the midst of living your very adult life (teen pregnancy is a whole other thing so right now, I’m talking about chronologically grown folx trying to have babies). This may mean a job (or multiple), school, jobs & school, volunteer or community work, social life stuff, etc. It’s a lot to juggle and ALL those things will be affected by this little baby you’re planning to bring into the world. Like a responsible (even if only sometimes) adult, you start making adjustments… Maybe to your eating first because: pregnancy = restrictions on yummy things like heros (I’m from Bklyn y’all, that’s what we call ‘em), tuna & other fish, hot dogs, etc. Then maybe to your fitness routine if you have one, then maybe your conversations with friends & family start changing because now they “know”, then you make changes to your budget & spending because: babies = expensive and you are still trying to LIVE and have a kid (or kids), then your online searches change and you start saving all things baby and maternity, then you question whether you need a bigger place… a bigger car… those are just the voluntary changes. I’m not even going to go into the forced changes where your body & that little human dictate what your taste-buds crave, how often you sleep, your mood day to day and how your clothing fits (or doesn’t for that matter). There’s no way you can stay the same person as you were before getting that confirmation that you’re going to be a parent. I’d say around month 4 you really start adjusting & accepting the idea that this will be your new role and bracing for the physically tougher road ahead.
You got this though! You’re a boss! Your black girl magic is sprinkling all over the place and you are confident that with your awesomeness, your sister-circle, bae, your support network, your stable job and/or career goals and finances, you’ll make this work. Why? Because that’s what black women do! We shoulder all the things and more often than not, make it LOOK effortless. People are constantly wondering how we hold it all together and still show up melanin-rich and magical wherever go. It’s strength, right? It’s the “strong black woman” who always saves the day, handles business and ultimately is taker of no sh*t whenever she makes the decision to do so. Shine on sistah… you deserve ALL the applause, ALL the admiration, ALL the respect.
But then something happens… in the midst of your new relaxation (maybe) because you’re out of your first trimester, things dramatically change. Maybe you start bleeding, maybe you start cramping, maybe you start leaking, maybe you just don’t feel right or maybe you feel fine but when you get to your next appointment, you learn that the little one(s) didn’t or isn’t going to survive. Maybe this happens at home, maybe it happens in a hospital, maybe you’re out & about but all at once, your world comes crashing down and you realize that before you really got to say “hello”, you’re preparing to or actually saying “goodbye”.
I got to say “hello” to my daughters and the very next day, my wife and I had to say goodbye. The day we found out we were having daughters is the very day we found out we were losing them. Our daughters Aviva Monroe and Jora Nirali were born on the 7th day of June, 2017. They were born at 16 weeks 5 days… I was a little over 4 months pregnant. We thought we were “in the clear” because I was finally out of the first trimester and finally not feeling sick as a dog on a daily basis. We had just started officially telling people outside our primary circle about our pregnancy and were in the process of planning our baby shower. Maybe you’re wondering what happened? If you’re reading this and like every other mother of an angel, I’m sure you are. I started leaking. About a week before I gave birth to our beautiful daughters I noticed some watery discharge. People told me it was normal including the nurses at the doctor’s office. I wasn’t having cramping or bleeding so, no cause for worry according to everyone. Then we went for an ultrasound on June 6th and they told us one of our daughters barely had enough fluid around her and the other was pressed against my visibly opening cervix. Both babies still appeared to be fine for the most part. Heart rates, measurements, movements basically normal. Jora who’s sack ruptured was positioned at the top of my uterus and couldn’t move much. We could see her struggling a bit on the ultrasound. The doctors admitted me and gave us three choices; go home and wait to miscarry there, stay and be induced next day, or have a D&E at a more local hospital. Every question we asked to try and save our girls or even just one of them yielded a “no” or an “unfortunately…” answer. The sorry’s were coming left & right and I was simply hysterical. We contemplated overnight hoping something would change with the daylight but it didn’t. We chose option B to bring our girls here in the most loving way possible for us. We held our daughters all night long and all day after they transitioned. They were born alive and moving. We both got to see that and kiss them while they were alive (and just maybe could feel our love). Aviva & Jora lived for five hours from 9pm-ish to 2am-ish. I’ve never felt so much love and adoration for anything in my life. The hardest thing in the world was handing them over to the nurse after the funeral home director came for them. I had been holding my babies for hours and then, I had to leave them with a stranger… a nice stranger, but a stranger nonetheless.
I was completely dismantled. When I thought I couldn’t cry anymore, the tears flowed even heavier and I literally felt like I might die right there along with my girls. My heart was and is still so broken and I swear pieces of my heart and soul left my body that day and transitioned right along with them. There are holes in my heart and in the very fibers of my being that will never be filled again but rather, stitched together to prevent hemorrhaging. I told a select group of friends what happened. I was devastated and oddly… embarrassed about losing my girls. It felt like a failure in a way that I couldn’t keep them inside me, that I didn’t force the doctors to see me when I was having the leaking, that I was so excited about being a mom but now had nothing to show for it. I have pretty much been able to do whatever I have put my mind to, I’m in good health, I’m stable… so why didn’t this work? Why didn’t I succeed in this journey of motherhood? What was wrong with me? I’m supposed to be able to do it all…
Full blown grief & loss sets in. Bereavement times a thousand. ALL the questions about ALL the things, ALL the research, ALL the tears, ALL the stages of grief, then… all the stories. All the 1 in 4 women have miscarriages stories. All the, “oh this happened to me…”, “oh I lost a baby too…”, “my mom lost a baby before me…”, “we’re trying too and have lost a few…”, “it was very early so we don’t talk about it…”, “I was full term…” Losing babies was so common even in my little corner of the world and I didn’t even know. We had never heard of (p)PROM’s – Preterm Premature Rupture of Membranes but afterwards, we saw just how common and just when it normally occurs (between weeks 16-20). We had no idea about this and we prided ourselves on being pretty informed because of our experience with fertility treatments. In all our research, there were very few black women or couples talking about perinatal loss. We didn’t come across any LGB or T/GV couples discussing it either. At our support groups, we are the only couple who looks like us. Despite that, the common denominator is grief and loss of our angel babies. Now I’m an angel mom to two new angels.
I started this blog to help give voice to the experience of black mom’s of varying kinds who have suffered perinatal loss. Black women shoulder a lot and often don’t see themselves represented when looking around for support. I want to help be that support by sharing my story, writing about my experiences as a black woman who has suffered infant loss two-fold, and highlighting topics that are not talked about in our community through a melanated lens. I am in my journey of healing and it is ROUGH!!! Like seriously the hardest thing I have ever had to do in my 35 years of life. I see this blog as a way to honor my daughters Aviva & Jora, as a way to honor the experiences of black angel moms, and as a way to make space for us, by us to cope with this challenging phenomenon. I don’t have all the answers and I can mainly talk about what works or doesn’t for me but I’m open to sharing that with you all and I hope that you’ll join me on this journey of healing. Share, comment or ask questions to enrich this conversation… I’d like to have together.