Writing is cathartic for me. So here goes…

It started in September. Back up; it started before September. Let’s go back all the way to July 2013. We were in the midst of a move. We sold our house and “rented back” for a month. We were looking for a new house, but nothing was settled. We were on the brink of not having a place to live (except the option of putting all our belongings in storage and living with my parents). We pulled the kids out of daycare and were going the au pair route for the first time. Along with all the other imaginable chaos, we also needed a third car. To say I was stressed is an understatement.

We found a house, bought another car, and the movers were at our house. It was July — and hot. I wasn’t feeling well. I felt bad; I was standing outside just directing the movers. They were the ones lifting the heavy boxes, arranging the furniture, not drinking enough water. But there I was, couldn’t get enough water, needing to take a break and sit down. Two days later it hit me: I think I might be pregnant.

Wait, what? Back up…what? No, no, no. We were finished. We had the all-American dream: one boy and one girl. I got rid of my maternity clothes, we sold all the baby items. How could this be? Well, true it was. To be honest, we were SHOCKED at first. Totally shocked. We didn’t tell anyone. We barely even talked about it. Then we went to the doctor and saw the little blob that would be our third baby. And we were elated.

But things were different. Not so much physically, at first. But somewhere, deep down inside, I wasn’t settled. I didn’t want to tell people I was pregnant, which was a very different take on my past pregnancies. I didn’t want to shop for maternity clothes; I didn’t want to talk names. When I finally broke down and bought maternity clothes I only took the tags off as I would wear something–and sometimes I would wear the same outfit over and over before pulling the tags off a new shirt. This was uncharacteristic of me.

And I was bleeding. I called my OB, in a panic, only to be told it was “okay.” It was dark and sparse. It was okay.

Then second trimester started and I was still bleeding. It was still “okay” I was told, even though I was starting to worry. Wait, didn’t one of my friends just tell me she bled throughout her pregnancy? And look, there she was, holding her son. Maybe it is okay.

But finally I had enough. I called my OB again and asked for an appointment. Heart rate: check. Sonogram to check on the baby: check. At this point we had the results of the “old lady test” (as I liked to call it), the blood work to determine if the baby had a host of genetic defects they can detect because of my “advanced maternal age.” It was a boy. He was healthy.

But wait, something was amiss. The sonogram showed my placenta was covering my cervix, a placenta previa. Hey–it happens. People are diagnosed with this all the time. I was, however, referred to a high risk doctor. This pregnancy was now a high risk pregnancy. Why? Because I had two previous c-sections. And sometimes just sometimes these don’t correct themselves. Sometimes the placenta can’t move with the growing belly because it is attached to the scar tissue. And that’s worrisome. I heard words like “placenta accreta” and “high risk” and “you’ll deliver at a Level 1 trauma center because of the available blood for transfusions” and “possible hysterectomy.” But my doctor was very upbeat and had me convinced these were worse case scenarios. I left there concerned, but not overly.

Fast forward a week. As Hayden and I waited to see the high risk doctor, we were surround by anxiety. I could feel the waiting room’s inhabitant’s nervousness and uncertainty. But we were at peace. We were there to meet the doctor – have a “consult” and to be told what we already knew: we were dealing with a previa and that we’d be there every other week to check my progress.

In the room, pants off, sonographer entered, baby! On the screen, little bitty baby. Back out in the waiting room. Wait to talk to the doctor. In the doctor’s office; it’s bad; he’s concerned; he orders me back into the little dark room with a more experienced sonographer; he wants to see this in person. In we go; I hear “consider termination” and “you’ll hemorrhage and die” and “this is serious.”

I was 15 weeks pregnant. I already had a placenta accreta. I learned about incretas and accretas and percretas. I heard how IF I made it to 24 weeks I’d be lucky and the baby would be viable. But what kind of life, what kind of future would our baby have born at 24 weeks? Best case scenario, I’d make it 32 weeks and we’d schedule the c-section and the hysterectomy. See, hysterectomy was the ending to every scenario we were offered. There was no other option–to try to pull the placenta away from the uterus would kill me.

Second opinions. Calls from my original OB. Grave concerns. Placenta banding. Progression to an increta in four days. Grave concerns. Grave concerns. Grave.Concerns. Consult with a gynecological oncologist. He’s the best. He’s the most skilled. He’ll save your life.

We lost the baby on Thursday, October 17th. Baby Cole Alexander. We lost him. I was 16 weeks pregnant.

I had the hysterectomy that night. After five hours in the pre-op area, I was finally brought back to the OR. Two complete kits set up: one robotic and one to cut me open. Two “big ass IVs” as the anesthesiologist said: one in my wrist and the other in my carotid artery. These would be my lifeline when I needed a blood transfusion. Not IF, but when. Five hours later, my husband and parents got the good news: I made it through.

Silver linings…we’re all looking for them. Robotic surgery was a success. The blood loss and recovery time are drastically less than with a traditional incision. No blood transfusion.

Everything after that is “healing” right? The healing began. Our family, our friends, and our coworkers came through. The herculean effort of feeding us began. We didn’t grocery shop for over a month except to buy apple juice, milk, and coffee creamer. Every lunch and dinner was delivered by current coworkers, former coworkers, delivery men with shipments from distant relatives.

Perspective: that’s what I gained. This loss sucked. I lost my son. We lost our son. A son who will never grow up and chase his siblings around the kitchen island. A son who will never grow up, get married, dread calling his mother because of her nagging. But friendship. Friendship was the shining light through all of this. They called, they delivered, they visited. They brought the necessities and they brought the chocolate. Gift baskets full of salted caramels and chocolate covered pretzels. They brought their ears and their tears. They brought a shoulder to lean on and sometimes a story to share.

And love. Hayden and I are hurting. We are struggling. We are surviving this. We hold each other tighter. We talk more intently. We cherish the moments. Why something so horrible had to make us stop sprinting through the rat race of life, I’ll never understand. But here we are. And we’ll make it.

Jacob says that there is not a baby in my belly anymore. “But mom,” he’ll say, “we’ll see him again.” Yes, we will. I already do. I see him in my dreams and in my heart. I see his urn and mourn the loss of what could have been. But I also cherish the “what we have.”