On suffering and loss

Hi friends,

I’m going to be honest with you – I don’t remember much about any of my college classes that were Gen Eds. Probably my biggest takeaway from any of them was from a class dealing with suffering and loss. We learned the importance of never comparing one person’s grief to another’s. From that, I realized that I had a tendency to be a selfish person and sometimes tried to overshadow other people’s problems with my own under the guise of relating with them.

This class had such an impact on me that I started doing the opposite. I started diminishing my own problems and thought they didn’t really matter. Well I am here today to share that your story matters, and so does mine.

We are blessed with two beautiful and absolutely precious children. I wouldn’t trade either of them for the world! But neither of them came without their struggles.

When Jeremy and I got married, I had a perfect little timeline in my head of when we would start having kids. I  knew that it was totally normal to not get pregnant right away, but I was always told that at a year, you needed to go to your OB to talk about the possibility of infertility. I’m not really sure why 11 months is totally okay, but 12 months all the sudden passes into rocky grounds, but we were just past the 12 month mark in May of 2016. I had asked a friend for OB recommendations so I could make the dreaded call after our vacation in Puerto Rico in early June. Thankfully I was able to call them for other reasons – the day we got back, I found out that I was pregnant with Chloe.

Around that time, a handful of others were also struggling with infertility, but I never thought it was my place to say something because I was still in that awkward time when it was before a year, so it wasn’t considered infertility yet, but it was still a struggle. Even at 13 months, I didn’t think it really counted. I had never seen a specialist, never was medicated, and was able to get pregnant on my own. But those 13 months were still really hard. Each negative pregnancy test was so hard to see. It was hard to have hope for the next month. It was really hard when people made comments like, “Janelle, I thought you always wanted to be a mom. When are you going to get pregnant?” Well goodness, if I knew, I’d let you know.

I wanted to talk to people about it, but thought that if I reached out to others who were also struggling that they would be annoyed that I had only been trying for 9 or 10 months when it had been years for them. So when I finally got pregnant, I shoved that part of our story away and pretended like it didn’t really matter.

My pregnancy with Chloe and even the first few months after her birth were so full of anxiety. It took us much longer than I was hoping to get to this point and I was so scared that she would be taken away from me. When I was pregnant, I would sometimes drink cold water or eat candy to feel her move again when she had moved just five minutes prior. After her birth, I would often lay a hand on her stomach to make sure she was still breathing in the middle of the night. Somehow that anxiety went away when we moved her to her own room.

We knew we wanted more than 1 kid and I liked the 2 year age gap. We found out that we were pregnant in April of 2018 and were so excited! We had just put in an offer for the house that we’re living in now and immediately started planning for baby’s nursery. I started compiling some baby names I liked, and calculated the due date to be around New Year’s Day. I even jokingly was hoping for the baby to come on or before Dec. 31 so that we could count them as a tax deduction for that year instead of having to wait a year.

I immediately started brainstorming for ways to tell people we were pregnant. I found an adorable shirt on Etsy and decided to order it for Chloe. The 18 month size would have been absolutely fine for her with when we were planning on telling others, but for some reason, I decided to order the 2T instead. I still can’t explain what made me to it, but I did.

About 5 days after finding out that we were pregnant, I started bleeding. I called the OB’s office, but since I had never actually had an appointment with them (we had within the last 4 months moved to VA and I didn’t have a need to have an appt yet) they basically said tough luck and that they couldn’t see me, but told me I needed to go to the ER.

Let me tell you. It’s no fun having to tell you parents that you’re pregnant and having to explain why you’re crying when it’s supposed to be joyful news. It’s no fun having your husband have to take the day off work to take you to the ER. It’s no fun sitting in the ER for over 4 hours waiting to be seen. It’s no fun having the Dr leave your door open and having people you know see you crying in a hospital room. It’s no fun being told there was no sign of pregnancy in your blood work.

I had heard the term “chemical pregnancy” before but never really looked into it. It is basically a miscarriage within the first 5 weeks. It affects many women, but most of the time they think their period is just a little late, so it’s also called a missed miscarriage. There are days that I wish I had never taken that pregnancy test so I wouldn’t have known about the baby we lost, but I’m glad I knew. I’m glad I was able to love on our child even if only for a few days.

A few days after my miscarriage, the Etsy package with Chloe’s shirt arrived. While it was a sad reminder of the child we wouldn’t get to hold in our arms, it gave me hope for our future child(ren). I started praying for our future child(ren) which I hadn’t done much of before. I prayed that Chloe would be able to wear that shirt before she outgrew it. I prayed for a healthy child.

About 3 months after my miscarriage, I found out that I was pregnant again. It’s crazy – after suffering a loss, I somehow had such peace about this child. I didn’t worry throughout this pregnancy and I haven’t worried (that much) so far in Ben’s first 4 weeks of life.

But I again diminished my own story. I didn’t think that my miscarriage “counted” since it was “only” a chemical pregnancy. It’s not like we had announced it to anyone yet, and it’s not like I was showing. I didn’t feel like I could really connect with others who had miscarried because I only knew about friends’ miscarriages because they had already passed the 13 week mark and started telling people. I thought they might think that my story didn’t matter because we were only at 4.5-5 weeks. Doctors hadn’t even confirmed the pregnancy. If we had an ultrasound, we wouldn’t have been able to see the baby yet.

To make matters worse, my first appointment with a nurse to confirm my pregnancy with Benjamin, she asked me how many prior pregnancies I had. I told her about Chloe and about the little one we lost in the beginning of May. She told me, “If you want me to put that in your file, I can, but chemical pregnancies aren’t really medically significant.” If I wasn’t so mad at her, I would have cried. I felt like she just told me that that loss I was feeling wasn’t really justifiable or that I shouldn’t be suffering from it.

At that point, a few friends and family members knew that we had suffered a miscarriage, but I didn’t know how to bring it up when I was having a bad day and wanted to talk about it. It’s hard being like, “Hey, can we talk about the baby I lost a few months ago?” Especially because a lot of times, I didn’t even know what to say. I wanted to feel supported and loved, but it’s hard for that to happen if you don’t tell others you’re struggling.

I went back and forth about doing anything rainbow themed for Ben’s newborn photos because I felt like I would be a bit of a sham. I hadn’t told a lot of people our story and didn’t want to do it for attention or pity. So I’m hoping that if nothing else, someone who is going through a hard time will read this and know they’re not alone. So my encouragement to you is to talk! Talk to your friends, family members – talk to anyone you need to if you’re going through a hard time. Sure, there will likely be people who can “one up” your story, but that doesn’t make what you’re going through any easier. Your story matters. My story matters.

Please note that I am NOT a newborn photographer!! I did get some cuter ones of him that I’ll share later. And it was also a last minute decision to do anything rainbow themed, so the fabric is not what I would have picked if I had more time.

To read Ben’s birth story (he came 4 weeks early!) check out this blog post!






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Harrisonburg, Virginia