The Journey of Suraida Nanez-James

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Even though this story is not about our daughter Evelyn, she has been a big part of my healing journey.  Evelyn was our first pregnancy and was what I called, “text book”.  As a biologist, it was so cool to see, feel and go through all this awesomeness because I loved to read and research why things were happening and how she was growing.  Nerd alert! As a woman, I must admit it was a little odd to have another person growing inside you.  I loved ALL of it! God had blessed me with this gift.  Evelyn Mercedes James was born September 21, 2011, and she was perfect!

Fast forward about 3 years, and I was pregnant again with twins this time!  We were so excited and ready for a new adventure.  I figured everything was great, and I started to wonder what these little ones would bring to our lives.  Then at an appointment, the doctor started to ask lots of questions. The sonogram of the twins was showing they weren’t the size they were supposed to be. They had stopped growing. My heart sank, and I started to cry.  Part of me wanted to believe there was a chance they were fine, and the doctor was wrong.  The other part of me knew it was true, and that I’d never get to hold them.  I cried even harder when the miscarriage happened.  I was sad and depressed because I wanted my babies back.  I was angry because it was not fair.  I was ashamed because maybe I did something wrong. Maybe I ate the wrong foods or was not in the best shape.  I went crazy analyzing everything I ate, drank and did.  I even felt guilty for being sad because I knew of mothers who had lost their babies after they were born so somehow I should not feel this way.  I had never experienced this before, and I didn’t even know how I was supposed to feel. I felt alone even though I had support from my husband, who was also grieving, and friends and family.  I did find hope in knowing God was holding me and was now holding my babies, but the pain and sadness were still there.  Hope and Emmanuel would have been five years old this May.  

In 2015, Grace Elizabeth was going to be our rainbow baby.  This pregnancy WAS going to be different, and I tried to stay positive.  I remember Evelyn talking to my belly.  She was so happy to be a big sister.  Then, it happened again.  Grace Elizabeth had stopped growing.  All the emotions and thoughts from my first loss came rushing back, except this time I was also consoling my baby girl who did not understand why her baby sister was no longer in Mami’s belly. She was devastated and so were we.  But Grace Elizabeth gave her sister a message of hope and a reminder of a promise we hold onto everyday.  Evelyn saw her sister in her dreams.  She was sitting on Jesus’ lap.  When I asked what Grace looked like, she smiled and said, “Like me, except her hair is lighter.” I know I will hold all my babies someday when I go home. Grace Elizabeth would have turned four years old last November. 

No matter how common miscarriage may be, it never makes the loss easier.  It is still a loss of life.  They were my babies, and I miss them everyday. 

The Journey of Aimee Wroblos

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My first childbirth story is quite traumatic. I had my first birth where my placenta was retained and I lost a lot of blood because I also tore. I ended up going septic 2 days later and had to go to the hospital without my baby there. It really messed up our breastfeeding plans and made me feel like a terrible mom. They threatened to call CPS every time my husband brought my baby to me to breastfeed so I had to start pumping. I was there in the hospital for 2 days and I cried the whole time for my baby boy. This is where my postpartum depression started.

My son and I still struggle with our relationship almost 4 years later. I felt like I was drowning most days because my pump at home didn't work, breastfeeding wasn't working, and my baby was always crying and upset. I felt like a failure. CPS ended up getting called because people thought my son was too skinny. He was failing to thrive and I almost had him taken away. I had to start supplementing with formula and that was the hardest thing as a new mom. At 4 months old, I ended up stopping breastfeeding completely.

We struggled with thrush and his tongue/lip ties for 4 very long stressful months. My husband would come home from working a long 8-12 hour shift depending on his hours and I would give him the baby and he would have to take him for the rest of the night. I needed a break, I didn't know what to do to not be frustrated and angry. I ended up pregnant with my daughter when my son was 4 months old. My postpartum depression carried on until I was about to have my daughter.

When my son turned 1 year, we had finally come to this place where we better understood each other and It was so much easier. My midwife helped us a lot, being a young mom with a baby boy. She gave a lot of resources to help me get through it. I ended up seeing a postpartum doula that helped me work through my issues before I had my daughter so it would no longer carry on.

The Journey of Amber Stanley

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Back in 2009 I found that I was pregnant with my first child, I was elated. After an incredibly difficult pregnancy she was delivered 10 weeks premature by emergency c-section. She was very healthy, all things considered, and shortly after she was sent home. Four months later, I found that I was pregnant again (while on birth control!). I had no time to heal, or learn how to be a mother or truly bond with my daughter the way most mothers do. Just six days before my daughter’s first birthday, I was once again delivered by emergency c-section. My son was healthy, and well at first. When he was a week old, he fell dangerously ill, was rushed to the best children’s hospital in the state. He underwent emergency surgery at 3 weeks old. He was on a ventilator, with wires and tubes. Between the hormones, the pain, and the guilt of missing my daughter’s first birthday I was a mess.

Though as most women in that position would do, I pushed it down as far as I could. I quit my job to focus on my children once he was sent home healthy at 6 months old. Slowly I felt like I had somehow lost myself, and something was wrong but my husband and our families all told me it’s normal, it will pass. It’s baby blues, it’s hormones, it’s not that big of a deal. I found some solace in friends I had made online in Facebook groups and games, though not enough to hold myself together. More and more often I sent the kids off to be with a grandparent, crying all the way home and all night because I wanted them there but I felt I was failing them somehow. At one point my kids were only home on the weekends, because I just could not do it. I couldn’t explain it, couldn’t justify it, and had no idea how to fix it. Months and months went by, months turned into years. Before I knew it, my kids were 3 and 2 and spent more time with their grandparents than me. My marriage was falling apart. I was a failure in my mind, and thought everyone was just far better off without me to hold them back. My kids deserved more than what I was offering. I could not explain how I felt, the words escaped me every time I tried. 

In the morning hours of March 2012, I broke. I attempted to end my own life. Had it not been for a neighbor seeing me slouched over the way I was through a window I would not be here to write this or to tell you how I overcame it. After my attempt on my own life, I sought treatment and got the help I so desperately needed for years. I was told it was severe depression, which had started as postpartum and gone untreated for years. I went to counseling, took medications, and over time got better. Got me back, and my kids got the mother they deserved. Had there been a program near me that made awareness of the mental health battles for mothers more well known, maybe I would have gotten better sooner. Maybe I would not have done what I did.

Since 2012 I have improved our lives 10 fold! I started a new career which I love, I welcomed my third and final child in 2015. He was born healthy and at term and has the most wonderful big sister and brother. 

You know your body and mind better than anyone. Don’t let someone else dismiss your pain, your struggles, your needs, or your grief. However it is expressed, as mothers we face battles every day. Armed with sleep deprivation, headaches, crying and sick children, our own healing bodies, plus the additional stresses of work, home, cooking, and so much more. We mothers are the strongest, and most fierce humans on the planet. We face trials and battles most don’t even see, but you don’t have to do it alone. 

The Journey of Sarah Bethel

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The concept of sharing my mental health journey is pretty intimidating. I don't really know how to start, so I'll at least introduce myself.

I am Sarah, twenty-six, married, mother of two, employed full-time, small business owner, and have struggled with both postpartum anxiety and postpartum depression. 

My journey with postpartum depression started when I was about 10 weeks postpartum with my second baby. It didn't happen all at once, but over the course of several weeks I began to feel increasingly more sad, stressed, confused, distracted and it became overwhelming... I remember feeling distinctly not like myself and feeling like something was wrong, but my many attempts to research 'postpartum depression' proved disappointing. What I was experiencing didn't seem to really fit to the most common definitions and expectations of what postpartum depression should look like. It might have been my own skewed perception of what I thought was happening vs what was really happening- as only now that I am finally finding my way out of it, do I feel like I can say with certainty that I was depressed- but I felt like my experience was just different. So, during those delicate months when I was struggling the most, there was an added burden of feeling like there were no answers for me and there was no where to turn for support. I was breaking down at the smallest of upsets, and I didn't know what to do. And I told myself a lot of the lies that I think other women that endure this challenge also tell themselves. Most often and most sincerely it was "I have no reason to be sad- my kids are beautiful and healthy; I have a great husband, home, and job; so many others have so much less than I do. I am being ungrateful if I am sad." 

I experienced what I can only describe as waves of sadness. I would have anywhere from an hour to several days of sadness without a break, but would then have a day or a couple of days of my 'normal'. I would feel happy or at least happy-ish... but I would then begin to feel confused about why I wasn't always normal/happy. I would begin to really question myself and my abilities. I would try to 'logic' my way out of feeling sad, and then I would be even more overwhelmed when my 'sad days' inevitably returned because I was devastated that I couldn't talk/work myself out of it. And, like most, I felt a continuous burden for everything to be perfect. My house was a wreck and I felt horrible because I was sure it was all my fault. My kids got sick and I felt horrible because I was sure it was all my fault. My work performance wasn't what I thought it should be, and despite the reassuring support and positive feedback from my supervisor and peers, I felt horrible, and so on and so on.

I finally feel like the veil of sadness and depression that has held me hostage for about the last year is lifting, and I am so grateful to be feeling like myself again. I am trying not to draw this story to an end too abruptly, but I also don't know how to sum up a year+ of mental health struggles into a relate-able and reasonably sized post. I feel like I could go on and on about the challenges I faced and how daunting the whole experience was. I could exhaust you with the long list of things I told myself that started with "I'll be happy when...", and could share the number of measures I took to try to fix myself. But at the end of it all, all I really did was take it one day at time. I celebrated the small victories, tried to incorporate more self-care into my life, and soaked in as many of my kids' smiles as I could to heal my soul, bit by bit.

 My goal was to share at least a small snip-it of my experience in an effort to validate others struggling with perinatal mental health and hopefully offer some encouragement. I hope to reassure you that you are not alone and that you are going to be okay.

The Journey of Mandi Bever

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I was such a great mother until I became one. I thought I knew all the right things to do as a parent until I became one myself and realized it was all a crapshoot. I had done all the research and made all the choices for the natural birthing and attachment parenting experience I wanted; midwife, unmedicated labor and delivery, delayed cord clamping, skin to skin, breastfeeding, cloth diapering, on and on. I minored in Children’s Studies in college, I provided parent-training in graduate school. I felt like I knew everything I needed to know about parenting.

Then I became a mother and realized that no matter how much “knowledge” we have, nothing can compare to experience. I knew, in theory, that I’d be breastfeeding every two hours. But living that was so very different. It was utterly exhausting. I was so sleep deprived I felt like I was going mad, but there was no “sleeping when baby slept,” my anxiety was much too high. Was my baby breathing? Did he spit up and block his airway? I didn’t know what was normal and what wasn’t, I just knew I was not getting enough sleep and it was so very hard.

The sleep deprivation snuggled right up into anxiety & held hands with depression. I was sooo irritable. My husband could do nothing right and I was utterly resentful of him and how little it seemed he could do for our tiny eating machine. He got to leave the house without fear of how the baby would be. He got to have a life outside of parenting, even if it was work. I needed a break so bad, but the baby needed ME. I didn’t have family close enough to help or friends who I understood. I was effectively alone.

I remember the exact moment I was knew something wasn’t right. I think I had gotten my menstrual cycle back and that was when shit really hit the fan. I told my bestie, 1300 miles away, that I understood why mothers drove their minivans into the ocean. I felt so isolated. Trapped. Desperate. The swings of my emotions were mind-boggling. Here was this tiny human I’d grown with my very own body that I loved so much and so desperately needed a break from. Here I was, all alone in this unbelievable experience. What was I supposed to do?

I called my OBGYN's office, but they refused to see me because I'd had a midwife. My husband even visited their office and was also turned away. My primary care doctor wouldn't see me because my issues were "pregnancy related." Finally, my husband got me an appointment to see his doctor. The nurse had me complete a short questionnaire with maybe 16 questions that was supposed to screen me for depression, anxiety, ADD, and OCD. I had symptoms of 3 out of 4 these disorders, according to this ridiculously brief questionnaire.

When the doctor arrived, he was full of absolutely incorrect ideas like babies get teeth at 9 or 10 months & that's when I'd stop breastfeeding and then I'd feel better. (I breastfed for 2.5 years.) All the same, he prescribed me trazadone with the added benefit, he said, that it would make me sleepy. I knew I couldn’t take a medication like this while cosleeping with my baby, which was the only way either of us got any sleep. I never took the meds. 

Shortly after, we left Corpus Christi and moved to North Dakota with my husband’s job. I was even more isolated, knew even fewer people. I was devastated to be leaving behind the mothering community I was just developing thanks to Heart to Heart Babywearerers and La Leche League groups. I knew I needed something to quite literally keep me alive in North Dakota, so I began leading a babywearing group like the one I’d left behind. Helping other struggling mothers and helping normalize their experience was exactly what I needed. The relationships I developed there still touch me deeply five years later because I needed them so much. 

I knew I still needed help and managed to find a naturopathic medicine doctor shortly after our move. I worked with her for months, tried homeopathic remedies, supplements, etc., but wasn't feeling as much relief as I desperately needed. I was still having dark thoughts, anger, despair, irritability, nursing aversion, exhaustion without being able to sleep. My husband had established a new doctor for himself and set up an appointment for me. This time I was prepared. I had found a postpartum screening questionnaire online and had determined from fellow breastfeeders that Zoloft was generally regarded as safe while breastfeeding. My son was a year old at this point, but here I was, finally medicated. 

I started to feel better really quickly. After a short period of time, I told my husband that I felt like I was finally able to be the mother I wanted to be. It was one of the most difficult decisions for this uber naturally-oriented mama to get on medication. But my only regret was that I didn't do it sooner. I am now such an advocate for taking meds when you need them. If it is what will keep you alive, it is so very worth it. The issue with meds is that they must be paired with other methods. For me, it was counseling.

By the time I made it to counseling, we had moved back to South Texas. My son was now two. In the move, I had unintentionally stopped my medication and my mental health failed big time. My marriage suffered tremendously. It’s fair to say that my husband became a scapegoat for what I was experiencing. All my anger was directed at him and my depression attributed to him because he was the only one who was there. I demanded we attend counseling or get a divorce. I’m so grateful he agreed to attend counseling with me.

Counseling was so valuable for myself and my marriage. It was a necessary part of my journey. While we were attending counseling, I was diagnosed with premenstrual dysphoria disorder. My husband has been instrumental in helping recognize this pattern. For me, the one experiencing it, when the darkness hits it all feels so very real and I lose rationality. In those moments, I legitimately wanted a divorce from my husband because the stress of our relationship became unbearable. I couldn’t deny any longer that I needed to be on medication again. The wait was long to see a psychiatrist, so after months of kicking around ideas, I finally got in to a new primary care provider who would prescribe me meds. This time, a low dose of Celexa and it has been amazing! 

A part of me wonders if premenstrual dysphoria disorder is what I had all along, but I don’t think it matters, ultimately. What matters is that I was suffering and I kept on to find what would work for me and when whatever solution was no longer enough, I continued onward to the next thing that could help me. It has really been such a beautiful journey. As absolutely miserable as I was five years ago, the joy I feel on the other side is just as consuming.

Motherhood has forced me to keep a close eye on my mental health and to learn to ask for help when I need it. The best thing I can be for my son is joyful and present. Taking control of my mental health with the help of meds is what allows me to be what I need for myself and what my family and friends need from me. I am so grateful to have survived this tremendous darkness that my life’s work has become to help other women, particularly mothers, to overcome their darkness as well.  

If you are living on the dark side of mental health, please, please reach out. You are not alone. There are so many of us who understand and want to support you. You CAN get through it. A life you love is waiting for you.

The Journey of Stephanie Futch

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Everything started in January 2016. I was beyond excited I called my two best friends and spilled the beans "I AM PREGNANT!" From there the plan was hatched, I was FINALLY going to surprise Blake. Let me tell you this was the hardest secret and I still don't know how I was able to keep it from him for so long, but I made our youngest her "Not the Baby" shirt and made a onesie for our newest Futchling that said "I"m the Baby" (a play on the Not the Momma from the TV show Dinosaurs). It finally came time to surprise him, and it was the best.

With all my other pregnancies I lost weight, but this little nugget was by far the worst when it came to morning sickness. It was more like all day couldn't even stand for long periods of time sickness. Looking back it should have been a sign. We had a couple doctor's appointments and an early sonogram, we got to see and hear the baby's heartbeat. When we had the sonogram done we loved seeing the little peanut but unfortunately they also found a tear, so I was on restriction.

The next couple of weeks were beyond tough, I was so sick. So sick that I laid either on the couch or in bed, I couldn't stand for more than a couple of minutes without getting really dizzy and nauseated. It was the absolute worst morning sickness that I had ever had. My poor kids and husband had to take care of me, the house was a disaster and I couldn't cook anything because everything made me nauseous. One day something sounded and smelled delicious and a couple hours later the thought of it would make me sick. Being on restriction and being so sick put a huge strain on Blake and I, it was a bad time for us.

We hit the 12-week mark! That meant we got to see the baby again and hope the tear healed itself. I was so excited to see the little one that was causing me so much grief. I REALLY needed to see him/her to help remind me why I was going through everything. Blake took off work for his lunch and met the kids and I at the doctor’s office, I remember sitting in the parking lot listening to N'SYNC on XM's 90's channel while waiting for Blake. We all walked in together ready to see the baby.

We set up the boys in the waiting room with school work and took the girls into the room, Blake and I took the girls into the room with us. The technician was doing all her normal things and I remember telling Lizzie, who was getting antsy, "just a second honey, when she's all done you can see the BABY!" But instead of letting us see the baby our technician told us we needed to head over to the doctor and she would go over the results. "CRAP!" I thought, I just knew my tear had gotten worse and they were going to have to admit me or put me on bed rest. So I called my friend and asked her to come get the kids and called my mom and told her something was wrong and she needed to come to the doctor’s office.

Our nurse called us back, so while the boys stayed in the waiting room again Blake the girls and I went into the room. The nurse came in and explained that our doctor was not there today and that would could come back tomorrow or she could tell us what was going on. Blake and I looked at each other, there was no way we would be able to wait till tomorrow. So we told her to go ahead and just tell us.

Then it happened. My whole world broke. I completely shut down.

The nurse said "I'm very sorry but we couldn't find the baby’s heartbeat."

I vaguely remember my mom coming in what felt like moments after the nurse told us, Blake had to tell my mom why I was a sobbing mess in the chair. My mom though. The rock that she is, she took the girls and the boys downstairs to meet Jamie. She told Jamie what happened and Jamie went into damage control, she took all four of my kids to her house where she had her six kids. While my mom was taking care of the kids my doctor who wasn't "there" but was coming in to be on call for the night came in to talk to us. I don't remember much of what was said during this time, I do remember asking if we could know if the baby was a boy or a girl. We had done the blood test but opted to not know the gender, our plan was to have a gender reveal or to find out when they baby was born. The nurse told us we lost our little boy. Our little Joseph passed away the week before, the sonogram tech measured him at eleven weeks and two days. Our doctor gave us our options and said we could come back the next day to have another sonogram to see for ourselves, which we did and confirmed what we rationally already knew. He was gone. We scheduled the D&C for the following Monday.

Sunday we went to the Dix's house for a birthday party, the kids played with their "cousins" while Blake and I just sat and talked with our family, I still to this day don't think that Jamie, Harvey, Ashley and John know how much we appreciated the normalcy before the chaos, the support, the everything they did. After the party all the kids went back to Jamie and Harvey's to spend the night. Blake and I went home where I just cried all night curled up in his arms. We watched Food Network until I finally passed out, early Monday morning.

I wrote the following in 2017:

It's been a year. A whole year since waking up after getting maybe 2 hours of sleep and going into the hospital. Blake and I got there and checked in and waited for mom while we waited to be called back. After getting situated and mom braiding my hair my doctor came in to see me moments (or what felt like moments) before going into surgery. I remember mom knitting while Blake played on his phone and making jokes with me. I remember that but I don't remember much after being taken. It's been a year and I can still smell the OR and feel how cold it is in there. And then they put me to sleep. It felt like moments later to me but the nurse was calling my name telling me to wake up. I remember throwing up and the nurse being caught off guard, then I was asleep again because next I was being woken up by my doctor to telling me everything went well, well in her professional stance, but it meant he was really and truly gone forever. I think I was able to hold back my sobs until she left but I cried so hard I threw up again, and then I was asleep again, only to be awoken because they were taking me out of recovery. I remember being put in bed as Mom and Blake came back into my room, where I remember saying “he’s gone, he’s really gone” and then breaking down again before falling back to sleep. I don't know how long we were there but long enough for me to ask for my Dad who wasn't there and I was okay with that as long as he brought me Five Guys. I do not remember saying bye to my mom, I don't really remember the drive home or Blake walking me into our house. I do remember trying to go to the bathroom by myself and that being a mistake, and then getting into bed where I slept for even more. When I woke up my kids were home and being so quiet and wanting to check on me. I remember wanting nothing to do with anyone and just wanting to lay in bed with Blake wrapped around me, we joked that if I could have I would have been inside his skin. Wanting to be held by him this way would go on for months. I really thought that we'd be able to start healing and moving on after this day last year, boy was I wrong. Little did I know that just a couple more days and my life would be turned upside down again. I got the call from my nurse saying they had gotten the pathology back from my D&C, we had lost Joseph because my pregnancy was a partial molar pregnancy. This meant that for the next two months I would have to have weekly blood tests to make sure my HGC levels were going down and once they hit "negative" I would move to monthly blood tests for the six months after that. Because with a molar or partial molar pregnancy the “baby” can come back as cancer and they needed to monitor me to make sure I was in the clear. Meaning to me there wouldn't be much moving on, I'd have to relive what happened every time I went into the office to have labs done, my arms would start bruising from the labs being done. Okay I can do this I sort of told myself. But then over the next several weeks, starting with that Friday I started passing blood clots and had to go to the er, solo because Blake had to be home with the kids. Luckily after sitting there freezing and red splotchy faced for a couple hours Liz came to my rescue and sat with me for several more hours. They sent me home after a sono and being monitored and told I was okay and to take it easy. Sure take it easy until my next ER visit, which came two weeks later. I was in so much pain I couldn't move so we shipped the kids to parents house and Blake and I headed into the ER. We got checked in and let them know I had just had a miscarriage and a D&C done (at that hospital!) but I was in considerable pain. Once we finally got to a room a nurse walked in and said "abdominal pain is common in pregnancy, did you know you were pregnant?" I started crying because in my irrational emotional state I thought somehow I had gotten pregnant again, but I could not be pregnant if I was it would be really really bad. Blake luckily was there and on top of things and calmly explained things to her, the nurse learned something new that night. Then after settling down we were greeted by the doctor who was nice enough to walk in and say "congratulations did you know you were pregnant?" Again I lost it, I wanted nothing more than to be pregnant but no no sir I am not. At that point Blake was not happy, he let the doctor who also had no idea what a molar pregnancy was know what was going on. Well because he had no idea what was going on he ordered all the tests, I had a sono, X-ray, a chest test (I had heartburn but because I said my chest hurt they had to check me for heart problems) and a whole slew of labs. As it turned out I had several infections in my abdominal region and I would need several medications. On top of the maalox with numbing drink for my heartburn. When we finally got home in the early hours of the morning I threw up all over the driveway and I think Blake, but he took me to bed while he washed the driveway and did a couple other things before going to bed himself. Again I thought okay we are done now, that is until we got the call ON Mother's Day from another nurse who was calling to tell me I need more medicine and when asked why she told me because I was pregnant and needed it. I dropped the phone and hysterically told Blake what she said, Blake took the phone from me and very angrily let the nurse know what was going on and then hung up on her. Luckily my OB was on call that weekend so we called her and told her what happened and she told me to relax and she would look into it and  then she'd have Gina call me in the am. Then again I foolishly thought we were done. Until my follow up appointment from my D&C when my Dr said they had found something during the sonograms from the ER visits after my D&C, and because of it if need to have another D&C done. Unfortunately Mom was flying out a couple days before I was scheduled to go back in, so Blake and I went alone while Dad took the kids. Luckily that was the end of my ER visits, my numerous sonos, and I was finally down to my blood tests. From here I became a shell of a person for the next several months, I say that now because I had no idea then but I do not remember much of last year.

July started my monthly blood tests that would last till December. 2016 was a very trying year for me and my family. I remember skipping one or two of my blood tests because I just couldn't deal with going in again to be poked and dredge it up again. I remember thinking "if I have cancer I have cancer the blood test isn't going to change anything". When I got the call from the nurse after my final blood draw in December it was a huge relief. But still even now, in 2019, I fear the day will come and I will get a call saying my bloodwork came back and I have cancer.

I did not share my experiences with many, I felt like I didn't have a leg to stand on. There are women out there that have several miscarriages, women who can't get pregnant so who am I to complain, to hurt, to want help with my miscarriage? I already have four kids, maybe I was just being greedy. Even now I catch myself apologizing when talking about my story and hearing about someone else’s loss, because in my mind my loss was not as significant as theirs. The only people who knew about everything that was happening were my husband and parents, I even hid things from Ashley and Jamie as they were happening. I just couldn't deal enough with it myself and I couldn't share with others.

-Stephanie Futch

The Journey of Ashlea Dollgener

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My perinatal journey started in my third trimester. I found myself completely overwhelmed with sadness and uncontrollably sobbing for days at a time. My boyfriend desperately wanted to help but it was hard to accept help when I didn’t know why I was crying. This continued till I delivered my baby.

He was beautiful, still is. I love every second of being his mom. However, I spent a lot of night just crying over him. I was exhausted, healing from my c-section, alone during the days while my boyfriend worked. I felt like I was living in a box experiencing the same day repeatedly. The screening questions were far from how I was feeling. I was not suicidal, I still saw the funny side of life and I was sleeping well when I was able to. Because of my answers, I was dismissed as okay. However, I wasn’t.

After 6 months of praying that the feeling would stop, I sought help from my primary physician and the depression is gone. Now, I battle severe anxiety. I have a hard time driving because I’m afraid of an accident. I lose sleep over “whats ifs” and panic over any pain or unusual symptom. My family has done nothing but support me & help me get through this and everyday gets a little bit easier. 

The Journey of Jaclyn Kelley

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I had always dreamed of being a Mom, and on July 18, 2015 my dream came true. Our first born, Avery Michelle Kelley, was brought into this world on that very special day. She was a happy baby that hardly ever cried unless she was hungry or overly tired. She had many nicknames given to her by family including Boogie Bear, Little Love, Princess, Birdie, Monkey Feet and Wiggle Worm. She hated peas and being startled unexpectedly but loved her bottle, Mommy’s good morning song, and babbling to Daddy all about her day. Our precious angel was the most perfect baby we could have ever asked for.

On the morning of December 14, 2015, I had no clue that would be the worst day of my entire life. I woke up to start my normal Monday routine. I got ready for work, woke up Avery, and sang her good morning song to her as I watched her smile and giggle back at me. I got her ready for daycare and fed her as usual before heading out the door. On my lunch break, I was at the gym when I got the horrific phone call that my daughter was not breathing during a nap and was being transported to a hospital. As I rushed to the hospital, it was too late when I got arrived. My perfect, healthy, amazing, beautiful baby was gone just shy of 5 months old. Her daycare provider, the EMTs, hospital nurses and doctors had already done everything they could to save her life. 

Avery’s death was ruled SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). I had heard about SIDS happening to other babies, but it was nothing I thought would happen to me. I was the Mom that was constantly checking on my baby 24/7 to see if she was breathing. What makes SIDS so horrible is that it leaves parents with so many unanswered questions because it’s sudden and unexplained. They have tips for parents to follow to help “reduce the risk,” but nothing “prevents” SIDS from happening. Everything can be followed by the book and SIDS can still happen. Avery’s autopsy taught me absolutely nothing about her death. It basically said, “your daughter was completely healthy and we have no idea why she died”. I pray that someday there will be an answer to SIDS so that no parent must endure what we and so many other families have been through.

After losing our daughter, I struggled for a very long time and fell into a deep depression. After all, my whole world was turned upside down. Our children aren't supposed to go before us. It is not a natural part of life. It has been over three years since I lost Avery and not a single day goes by that I do not think of her, but what I can tell you is that my grief never goes away. It does get easier each day, but that's because I've learned to cope with the hole in my heart. 

I will tell you that I did not do this on my own. I was not afraid to seek help and take the necessary steps to do so. I met with a therapist and started exercising again. I have met several other amazing mothers who have lost children, as well, who have lifted me up on my absolute worst days. They are the ones I call when I feel like I cannot breathe from the weight of my grief. 

I have an amazing, supportive husband, and while suffering with the grief himself, he was so incredibly strong for me. We now have a crazy, perfect little boy (our rainbow baby), that keeps us on our toes and is constantly reminded of his big Sis in heaven. 

If I had one piece of advice for a Mom enduring Pregnancy or Infant Loss, it would be to reach out to others and keep your sweet baby's memory alive. I highly recommend finding a support group of women enduring similar losses to have someone to relate to, doing random acts of kindness in memory of your baby, exercising (endorphins are AWESOME!), finding a hobby to do when you are feeling down, and not being afraid to talk about your baby.