TRIGGER WARNING: Infant loss and pre-maturity
Like many people, I’m a planner – authentically Type A. I typically developed a timeline for everything. So, what does one do when everything you have planned for literally falls apart? For some, it may look like losing out on a promotion that you have worked years to attain, while for others it may resemble having a marriage end that you thought would last forever. For some it was the global pandemic that put everything on hold and caused economic turmoil. For me, my world turned upside down when I found out I was having children.
I have always wanted kids, so naturally my husband and I were over the moon when we were greeted with a positive pregnancy test and then ecstatic when just a few weeks later, we found out that we would actually be having twins! We made it through a rough first trimester, full of morning sickness and bed rest, and entered the second trimester with a new excitement, knowing we were having twin boys😊. We even picked out their names; Daniel Wayne to match four generations of a DWB monogram and Mitchell William after my mom and dad. I started ordering things to make their nursery the train-themed room that I had dreamed about forever. Then, we had our anatomy scan and what should have taken 45 minutes actually took 3 hours. When the sonographer took us to a tiny consultation room to meet with the doctor, I looked at my husband and instinctively told him that something was clearly wrong… I just knew it.
The doctor came in and told us that unfortunately our sweet baby A (Mitchell) was not ok. He was going to be born with a bilateral cleft lip and palate and had some serious heart issues that would need to be addressed further by a cardiologist to determine the appropriate next steps. Swiftly, I had the sense of complete and utter devastation. I felt like I had failed.
How could one baby be fine and the other one was not?
What would our life look like now?
How am I ever going to explain this to him?
So many questions ran through my head. This was on top of the grieving and sense of loss that my husband and I each experienced in reflection of the “perfect” plan that we had imagined.
Our paths changed yet again, just a few weeks later, when an emergency room visit for extremely high blood pressure yielded the news that now, Baby A was no longer growing. At 26 weeks I was told by my doctor that I was at a high risk for either delivering a still-born baby or that I should prepare that he may not survive labor. I spent the rest of my pregnancy depressed, in and out of the hospital, at the doctor every other day for checks, and wondering if I would be taking my baby home to that train-themed nursery or sadly burying him.
At 31 weeks, I went into unexpected pre-term labor and gave birth to two very tiny, but very alive baby boys. The doctors told me that by them arriving so early, Mitchell’s life was saved. He needed to be out of the womb so that he could grow and develop. He was small, but he was very much alive! We spent the next 72 days in the NICU, and my plans shifted again.
Pre-maturity is not for the weak. There were many hiccups along the way, and I had to learn to step back and let others be in control, which is something that does not come naturally to me. By the time we left the NICU I took my “plan” and threw it out the window forever.
My babies are now six months old and thriving. Mitchell has made it through two surgeries and has the sweetest “new” smile. Daniel is the most supportive brother and seeing them together is better than any plan I could have ever imagined. Sure, our life is pure chaos, and we still have a long road ahead, but I’m so grateful for my little family and I’m so proud of how far we have all come.
I chose to share my story to show others that goodness can come from the hardest of times and that even when you think you are at your wits end, you will find the strength to keep going. So today, with whatever it is you may be going through, remember that you are amazing, incredible, and we all believe in you.
My Tips For Handling The Loss Of Your Plan:
- Address your situation and allow yourself the time to process and grieve. You are allowed to recognize that this is not how things were “supposed to go.” You are allowed to mourn the things you missed.
- Lean into losing control. In many situations, we have to take a step back and realize that the situation is no longer in our hands. Whether that is putting it in the hands of a doctor like we did, a higher power, or even just with someone who is better suited to handling the situation, it isn’t easy, even if it is what is best at the time.
- Embrace your new strength. I’m a firm believer that sometimes things go so against our plan only to make us develop a strength we never knew we possessed. If you can make it through the hard times, you can make it through anything!
- Find a new inner circle. Identify people who are going through your same situation. They will be able to relate and offer valuable feedback that others in your life simply will not be able to, regardless of how close they are to you.
- Remember that everything happens for a reason. You may not be able to see it now, but someday even the most troublesome times will make sense.
Written by Heather Bethel