Photography credit to: Heather Bohm-Tallman
Wow… Where to begin this long story of the most terrible grief and the most healing love. This journey started in August of 2014 when we found out we were expecting our “bonus baby.” Our first two children, Annelie and Tripp, were difficult to conceive but Neriah Grace just happened. While surprised, I was in love from the beginning. From the start her pregnancy wasn’t like the other two… There were complications from 10 weeks on and a general sense of caution and unease. I knew had to enjoy every moment I had with sweet Neriah, I had to just love. Love was all I could give her. In November of 2014 my symptoms seemed to get worse and the weekend before Thanksgiving I felt quite ill. That Monday, November 24th, I went into labor at 17 weeks and 3 days. I begged and pleaded with the doctors to do something, but there was nothing to be done. Neriah Grace was born alive, in caul, kicking. We had all of two minutes with her before the Lord carried her home. Those two minutes changed our lives forever. The nurse brought in a pink and rosette Holy Sews Layette to dress Neriah. That also changed my life. Here was an outward sign that Neriah did exist… That she did matter…That because she had died, meant she had lived. It was something we could see and hold, on a day we felt we had lost it all.
After her funeral, I had reached out to Holy Sews to see how I could help and that’s how I met Regina. Her story of grief, love, and triumph was a big part of the glue that would hold me together over the next two years. She knew the road I we were on…
The following spring, we decided to try again. I wanted to end this season of my life on a positive note – not at a funeral. After all, lightning doesn’t strike twice in the same spot, right? Wrong… In July, we were thrilled to find out we were expecting again. The joy, hope, and love came flooding back. Like with Neriah I had another anterior placenta. It was always hard to find this baby’s heartbeat but this time there weren’t any complications. We made it to our 20 week ultrasound on November 2, 2015, almost a year after losing Neriah. By this point, I had enough ultrasounds to read the tech’s face and see her fear. Our brains weren’t prepared for what we heard next. Our sweet son, Bradford William was measuring 2 weeks behind, without fluid, and had calcification in his abdomen. We were broken. The prognosis was bleak but we tried to hold onto a little hope. We lost a lot of that hope two days later during the amnio. We could see his sweet heart was slowing down, his tiny body was tiring. That evening our midwife came over with a Doppler and confirmed what we knew was coming. He was gone. Blindsided with grief and knocked to the ground we went into the doctor the following day and shortly thereafter the hospital for induction. I wanted to experience his labor – he existed too – he deserved it. Bradford William was born perfect and sleeping at 20 weeks 3 days on November 5, 2015, less than a year after his sister. He was blonde and looked just like his older brother, Tripp.
By now I had been helping Holy Sews distribute layettes to NY area hospitals and was able to choose Bradford’s layette before going into the hospital – it was surreal. With Neriah we had a private, parents-only, funeral at our church but with Bradford we invited friends and family over to our house. It was surreal to sit there, for a second time, while our Pastor Lee and Brother Paul conducted the funeral for our baby we would never have.
By now, we were at the bottom of the barrel, grief stricken and angry. People handle this is many different ways, I guess. Many would give up and throw in the towel – my husband sure was ready to (I don’t blame him). Not me. The Lord had put some fight in me and I channeled it into my own research of multiple late losses and subsequent successful pregnancies. I visited with an optimistic Maternal Fetal Medicine specialist and a skeptical, but supportive, Reproductive Endocrinologist. There was a spirit inside me that still burned, and now I realize it was the soul of our rainbow baby, Kirsi. It was like she was telling me, “Hold on Mommy, I’m coming!” With a team of doctors we threw everything we could medically at this last shot of a pregnancy. Around Brad’s due date we conceived Kirsi. It was the most terrifying 9 months of my entire life. Enter again Regina… She had known my road of grief-in-loss and also knew my road of terror and anxiety with this pregnancy. She was a lifeline with a beautiful Southern accent.
After a relatively uneventful pregnancy, I woke up on November 28th and knew something was wrong. The Doppler a friend had loaned me showed a racing heart and later the same day, she was barely moving on ultrasound. Turns out I had developed an extremely rare intrauterine infection and with a few more hours delay we would have had another unspeakable tragedy on our hands. Kirsi came via emergency c-section two weeks early on November 28, 2016. We both spent a week in the hospital together while they dosed her with potent anti-biotics and then the day came they told us we could take her home. I couldn’t believe those words. It was the most surreal car ride ever. I felt victorious and triumphant. I will never forget the grief that came with loosing Neriah and Brad however, that night I felt like love had won. Now, as I write this, I have a healthy 16 month baby biting my toes and making a mess. Kirsi Hannah smiles all of the time. I am convinced God had a conversation with her, before sending her Earth-side, and told her to just to smile.
I never share my story to obtain any attention or pity… I simply share it to bring hope to another family that might be on the road we once were. It’s my hope that the our story of love, grief, and loss with Neriah and Brad and subsequent hope, love, and triumph with Kirsi may provide a little bit of light in a place I know can be so dark and lonely.