(Does anyone else think of the similarly-titled 1991 Gloria Estefan hit when seeing the title of this post?)
There are two things I did not expect about my first post since announcing a hiatus from writing. First, I didn’t think it would take me six months to come back. I thought I would be inspired to write again sooner. Second, I could not have predicted the circumstances that would bring me back here. As I discovered when I first started this blog five years ago, writing is a therapeutic outlet during a dark time in my life.
Back in May, I announced I was taking a break from writing because I was overwhelmed with attempting a new venture on top of the demands of my career. I didn’t share it then because it was too soon, but now I can! I had the opportunity to partner with a career coach who has an established coaching practice and started coaching a few clients of my own. Since then, I have signed up clients who are actually paying me (!!!) to coach them through their career struggles. I’ve met some amazing, inspiring people, and it has been so rewarding to help them. Finally, I felt like I was taking action and moving forward in a positive direction again.
In July, life took another positive turn. Sven and I found out that we were expecting our first child in March. It was unexpected and unplanned, but we were so excited. I know I had been very open on this blog about my ambivalence towards having kids, but I can tell you the second I saw the word “Pregnant” on the stick I peed on, I hugged Sven and immediately knew this was a very special gift. Unfortunately, too many people we know that desperately want to have children have had struggles to conceive, and we did not take this for granted. She had chosen us to be her parents, and we felt that instant love and protectiveness for her.
Like any expectant parents, Sven and I worried about miscarrying, and we agreed not to tell a soul – not even our parents – before we reached the 12 week mark. We passed that milestone with flying colors – everything perfect, low risk for abnormalities – and we found out we were having a little girl. We started telling our families and closest friends, and finally it felt more real when we could be more outwardly excited about it. I thought about making an announcement on this blog, especially since I had written so much before about not being sure about wanting kids. After all, I had a lot to express about how my feelings did a complete 180 once I was actually expecting. Something held me back from writing though, maybe I was just still too busy juggling everything going on in my career, or maybe I was superstitious, as I did not do any social media announcements, either.
At the 20 week mark – halfway through – it had been a healthy pregnancy. My morning sickness was minimal, I was still able to Flywheel at my normal level, and I was finally starting to feel like my bump looked cute! Our 20-week ultrasound was supposed to be our last before she was born. This is typically the anatomy scan, where you get to see some pictures of the baby looking less alien-like and more baby-like than before. Like most parents, we expected it to be routine and were excited to see how she had grown. It did seem routine until the end, when the doctor told me I needed to schedule a fetal MRI for the next day because they were unable to locate a key structure in our daughter’s brain. He reassured me that she was otherwise perfectly healthy. Despite this reassurance, Sven and I were crushed and scared, and we cried ourselves to sleep that night, unable to reassure each other that the MRI would show that everything was okay. I’m not sure I really slept at all. The next day, our biggest fears were confirmed – the key structure in her brain was definitely completely missing. The implications of this anomaly were devastating, and we were forced to say goodbye to our dearest little girl one week later.
There is no adequate way to describe the level of heartbreak and pain we experienced – a living nightmare. We were broken, crushed in a million pieces, destroyed, overwhelmed with grief and hopelessness, confusion, anger and guilt over things we could not control. What we could control, however, was making sure we did everything we could to honor and dignify her short time with us, to always remember the joy of expecting her, and this gave Sven and I so much comfort and a little bit of healing. In that final week, we talked to her about her family here on earth and who she would meet in heaven, like my dad and our grandparents. We stayed in bed one afternoon and sang to her (in our completely tone-deaf voices), which was one of the most bittersweet memories we created. We did a maternity photo shoot on the Jersey Shore right outside our beach house, so we would always have tangible memories of her being part of our family, thanks to the talented Alicia Swedenborg. Her positive energy was a beacon of light during our darkest hours. The hospital gave us her hand and footprints to take home with us, and we also asked them to put them in a clay mold – her tiny hands and feet are so cute. We chose to have her remains cremated and took them home with us in a beautiful golden heart, but her soul remains a part of us forever. It amazes me how the human soul’s natural reflex is to heal itself even when it is most shattered.
This was only three weeks ago, so the wounds are still fresh and healing process is only just beginning. Sven went back to work last week, but I am so lucky to have an understanding workplace and benefits system that allows me to take eight weeks off with full pay, so I am not returning until late December. (Planting seeds to a follow-up post about the implications of the election as it pertains to women’s rights and funding for Planned Parenthood. As difficult as this has been, I am so grateful for the multitude of healthcare providers that treated us with the utmost care and compassion, and that we are privileged enough to have access to such care, that I cannot comprehend how much more difficult this would be for families for whom this would have been illegal, unaffordable, or uninsurable. But I digress…too soon.) My closest friends have been incredible – if you are reading this, you know who you are – truly, I am so grateful for your strength, support, and knowing exactly what I needed to hear and to have when it was impossible for me to even function. I know it could not be easy to know how to cope with a friend who is going through the unthinkable. Your love brought warmth to my heart when it otherwise felt so cold.
Finally, my biggest source of strength and healing has been Sven. I’m not just saying this because this blog is about “my so-called perfect marriage,” or that I feel I have to put a positive spin on a dark situation. There is no positive spin. I wish this had never happened, and I wish this on no one ever. The conversations Sven and I have had to have with each other during this time are conversations no couple should ever have to even comprehend. But through the ugly crying, sobbing so hard we were nearly unable to breathe, we took turns telling each other that we will get through this because we are an unbreakable team, that we are stronger together, and that we will be okay because we have each other.
Together, we will come out of the dark, forever scarred, but ever stronger.
Here are a few of our most favorite treasured photos from our maternity shoot with Alicia: