1) What is your personal experience with infertility/miscarriage?
For us, our first pregnancy caught us by surprise. It almost felt unfair to me that it could be that easy. We had just bought our dream home, found out we were expecting our first and after years of supply teaching I finally landed my permanent job at a great school! I constantly felt like it couldn’t be that easy. I wasn’t even sure if I was ready for this next step, so I struggled with feeling “good” in my pregnancy.
After the initial first trimester worries, I sort of shut off and went about my usual routines, slowly but surely warming up to the idea that in a short amount of time we’d have a new little life that would change ours. My anxiety around labour and delivery was at a high, but I faced these challenges head on by actively participating in my prenatal classes, asking my doula questions, and knowing that somehow everyone gets through it and often does it again! In November we found out that the crib we ordered was delayed and I panicked, thinking nothing would be ready for the baby if the crib wasn’t in the nursery. Now I think that was the first message from the universe that would later save us some heartache in the midst of our grief by making our journey a little bit easier on us.
In early December, I was at dinner and cried with my close friends that I was scared our relationship of 12 years was never going to be the same. I referred to it as “mourning the loss of Jon and Andrea”, not ever expecting I’d be mourning the loss of our daughter. I was afraid our relationship was going to change, and in the end it did, but I realize now it has been, and would have been, for the better.
At our 20 week scan we learned the OB wanted to monitor the growth of the left kidney, as it appeared to be a case of hydronephrosis. A problem that can often correct itself in utero. We set a date of January 3rd for 2pm. I joked with my husband how he’d get the best birthday gift because we were getting an extra chance to see our babe before the due date.
The usual Christmas flurry of activities happened and New Years rolled around when we finally got to sit down and relax. This was the first time I said aloud that I was excited for the next few weeks to come and go --I felt ready to meet this baby. The next day we did some errands and it wasn’t until later that night that it dawned on me I hadn’t felt the baby move.
At this point I was unsure if I had just missed it or if something was wrong. Looking back, intuitively I knew, but tried to give myself the benefit of the doubt. Around 5:30am on January 3rd, just before Jon headed off to work and after a night of not sleeping, I asked him to come to the hospital with me. There was one down the street and though I hadn’t planned to deliver there, I thought if nothing was wrong it would be silly to go out of our way.
The rest of that day was a blur. The first OB kept tapping the ultrasound screen and repeating “no heartbeat, no heartbeat”. I didn’t think I’d last if I had to continue dealing with this woman, so I was thankful that at 7am, after waiting 2 hours for a more extensive ultrasound (where the tech said absolutely nothing and made no eye contact with me) that there was a shift change. The nurses and OB who I had that day were sent by our little angel to look after us, I am sure of it. They couldn’t have made the awful situation any easier, and in some ways even joyful for us and our families.
With the change in shift, our new care team came in to speak with us. The doctor reiterated that there was no sign of a heartbeat and the baby had passed. He let us know that the cause was unknown and would acquire any prior notes from the office I had been attending for my prenatal check ups. He let us know that at times, upon delivery he may find that it was a cord related accident (around the neck, a knot in the cord), or placenta/fluid related. He also noted that many times, babies will be delivered and there will be no obvious signs or reasons for their death. He informed us we could do an autopsy if we wished, but many stillbirths are classified as “unexplainable”. This was the case for us.
The team went through my options, and I couldn’t bear the idea of going home and coming back, so at 35 weeks gestation I asked to be induced right away. They warned me it could be several hours or things could move along quickly -- it really would just depend. At this time, my “angel nurse”, would check in and remind me of how things may be different then what I expected of a “normal birth” or would clarify things the doctor told us. She was the first one to let us know that the baby’s colouring would be darker than we’d expect and that was normal in these cases.
Next came the phone calls to our families. These are moments that are seared in my memory forever. I’ll never forget watching my husband break down when talking to his sister, or hearing the sobs from my brother and brother in law. It was gut wrenching. I also couldn’t shake that this would ruin Jon’s birthday forever. I immediately felt guilty, and couldn’t wrap my head around why I had to do this to him.
In the moments leading up to my delivery, I asked to know gender as we had wanted it to be a surprise. I wanted to know who I was going to meet and save that “surprise” for a subsequent labour to make it feel different. I wanted to add an excitement to something I could only imagine would be extremely difficult for us when the time came. We had two names picked out (a boy and girl name) and when we found out we’d be meeting a little girl we knew what her name would be, Kinsley Margaret Gleed. A name we both loved, and a middle name after a special grandma who I knew would be with her wherever she was.
I am thankful (and think in some way it was Kinsley looking out for me) that the labour was fairly quick. It’s one of the few moments I could make sense of because I was in awe of my strength and the way our bodies just naturally do their thing.
We also asked for Kinsley to be taken to a room away from us, as I didn’t want the first time our families to see us as parents be harder than it already was. Each family member was given an opportunity to spend time with her if they wanted and I’m thankful that everyone who was there did. If I was being told I was brave for going through everything, that was the bravest moment I’ve witnessed on their parts. That was the beginning of my gratitude for the experience.
I’m not even sure how long we spent with Kinsley. I think back now and realize it wasn’t a lot of time, partly because of the fear I had of what would happen once the warm wore off from the bed lamp and time started to show itself, part was that inherently I knew she was already gone. The hospital had a photographer come and do a take a few photos, so we had something to look back on. I’ve looked at them only once and am unsure if I will ever be able to do that again. I find them extremely hard to share, although I’m so proud of how beautiful she looked. Jon took some time to be alone with her and I’m so glad he did as over the 8 months I got to know her and was almost able to make peace with what was happening as soon as I knew, but these were his first moments. I was too scared to be alone with her, so when I said goodbye I did so with Jon by my side.
I slept out of sheer exhaustion that night, but woke up several times and broke down. Jon was beside me every step of the way, and I knew in those moments we would be okay. The next week was a blur. We had to make decisions that thankfully we were supported in all the way through. My mom, a first time grandma, set up the meeting at the funeral home, our families brought us food, and a dear friend set up a care calendar. In our darkest moments all I could think about was how lucky Kinsley made us by reminding us we have amazing people and support in our lives.
2) How has it made your life worse? How has it made your life better?
I wouldn’t say the experience has made my life worse. It has presented challenges I never comprehended facing. It’s taught me to trust myself, my instincts and intuition, as well as to look at the world with a little more kindness and compassion. When you’ve experienced a deep seeded grief it certainly changes you. There’s the constant “what if’s” and I’d be lying to say if there aren’t bouts of anger and jealousy with each new birth announcement, pregnancy announcement, or shower invite that’s come across my path, but I’ve learned to honour those feelings. Emotion is okay and we’re human. The people who love me understand that I’m doing what’s best for me (even if it means they’re a little hurt or disappointed in the process.) Bursts of grief, I’ve come to learn, will probably happen sporadically as time moves on, but it won’t make my life worse. Recognizing, acknowledging and leaning into those emotions continue to keep Kinsley’s spirit alive and around me. She was real and she is a part of us. That will never change.
3) When & how did you realize that you were going to be able to carry on after infertility/miscarriage?
The morning after our delivery, my husband turned to me and said “I believe she chose my birth date for a reason. This is my way of staying connected to her”. It was the genuine honesty and beauty in this statement where I thought to myself, You’re right. If you’re choosing to look at this as a blessing, we’ll be okay. It felt like he had really thought it through, and it was in those words that I found the strength to know that it wasn’t the journey we envisioned, but she left us with a day that will forever be filled with celebration for her dad and her -- even if it’s in a quiet way celebrating through her dad. Our choice was to celebrate and not mourn those few hours we shared. She was our first baby and we were lucky enough to meet her. I truly believe this.
4) What have you learned through this experience?
That it’s okay to not be okay. That I can’t control the outcome of situations and can only do my best to stay authentic to me (Happy, Healthy and Mindful). That Fear and Anxiety don’t need to run my life, but they are emotions that can be validated and not hid from.
5) What do you hold on to for hope/courage/strength on your bad days?
I would joke often in the beginning that I was “taking a sad day”. Sometimes I just needed to stay in bed and wallow, cry, binge Netflix, and that was okay. Eventually I would get to a point and think, “If Kinsley was watching me right now, what would she think?”. I hold on to a lot of hope that I’m moving forward in honour of her, not without her. That she would want her parents to live a full life, filled with love, happiness and adventure!
6) In three words describe yourself before/during/after miscarriage (in miscarriage specific situations)?
7) In what ways has your experience with infertility/miscarriage changed you as a person?
It has made me more self-aware. It has taught me to trust my intuition and honour the feelings I have. It’s okay to look after yourself and put yourself first sometimes. So many times we worry about what others think, and there are times where you have to do what’s best for you. This experience has also made me and my relationship resilient. I don’t particularly like being called “strong” -- but I do find comfort in knowing I am resilient.
8) How have others responded to your infertility situations? Has it impacted your relationships? What are some things you’ve been told that have been helpful/harmful?
Some relationships have shifted, often I’ve come to realize, it’s more because people get into their own heads. As humans a lot of us have a hard time just listening and not offering solutions or advice. It’s the hardest thing to just say, “I can imagine this is hard for you” or “I’m sorry you are dealing with these emotions but I’m here for you”. Often the empty, “Is there anything I can do?” is hurtful, because you just expect the people you love to step up. There were so many people who surprised us, and some that let us down, but we’ve come to realize that it’s all part of the process. I can imagine that all of these relationships will change again as life moves forward.
A few times I’ve been told, “It’ll get easier when there’s another baby” or the “What do you mean you had to go through labour?”. That for me is the worst. It’s a realization that many people don’t see Kinsley as a person who was here, that we physically met and held. That we talked to, loved and had to give back. That the idea that in the future as our family grows, losing her will be any easier. I don’t think it gets easier, but I do think it gets more manageable. She’ll always be our first baby and a figment of our imaginations. A lifelong wonder and dream.
9) Tell us about you. What are your hobbies/passions/pursuits?
I am a middle school teacher -- and adore my job!
I love to dance (a lifelong hobby that I’ve picked up again after this experience).
One day I’d love to write a book about my experience in the hopes that it will reach someone who is living through an experience much like ours. Reading always helps me.
11) What is your favourite quote?
“Flecti Non Frangi” in Latin means “To be bent but not broken”