On January 16th, 2017, while at home brushing my teeth, we lost our baby. I was nine weeks pregnant with our third child. We were so excited. I took a pregnancy test on New Years Eve and we were thrilled!
We didn't know it was an ectopic, that our baby was growing in my fallopian tube. I had seen my midwife just the week prior and had a physical exam. We couldn't find the heartbeat but was told that's normal at this stage, especially since I had a "tilted uterus." We left thinking everything was fine, though I had a nagging feeling it wasn't.
I was scheduled for my first ultrasound just thirty minutes from when it ruptured.
What began as a sharp pain, had me vomiting and losing concsciousness within minutes and I collapsed on the floor. It was a Monday, a holiday, my husband just happened to be home instead of his job over an hour away. He called 911 and when paramedics and firemen arrived minutes later, I barely had a pulse.
I was rushed to Tacoma General Hospital, where I crashed twice more before receiving six units of blood (my full blood volume) and was stabilized enough for emergency surgery to stop the internal bleeding.
It was an absolutely terrifying experience. I was well aware that I was dying, I remember telling my husband that I was "trying so hard to stay but I couldn't," as he was rushed out of the trauma room. A kind nurse named Jill, stayed at my head, holding my face and telling me what was happening, that I was receiving a main line into my artery to get the blood in faster, that I was going into surgery, that I was going to be okay. The tears just streamed down my face. The pain was excruciating and as I was wheeled into surgery all of the blood that had bled out into my body was suffocating me, I could barely breathe.
I woke up in recovery, alone, in so much pain and with no voice from having tubes down my throat. I tried to get the nurses attention and when she came over, I managed to whisper "my baby?" She held my hand and said, "No, I'm so sorry, your baby's gone." The tears just came and came and came. My heart ached and I felt so alone. I had so many tubes and alarms attached to me, I was so confused. My surgeon stopped by recovery and explained the procedure, what had happened, how much blood she removed from inside me, how lucky I was to be alive. I thought of my kids at home, my two year old and 13 month old. So many feelings all at once. I was in recovery two more hours until I was wheeled into my room and could sob with my husband.
The next several days were spent in the hospital recovering and trying to gain any strength back. I was recovering from a major surgery but also the blood loss made me feel horrible. My medical team called it "cement boots," which was so accurate. Every little step and movement was so exhausting. I had no strength and could barely move for days. Just bringing a straw to my mouth took so much effort. The emotional impact was also crippling. I felt an enormous sense of grief and loss, more than I would've ever thought possible. My heart ached, my body felt empty and I felt like a failure. I was angry that this little life didn't have a chance, doomed to die from the beginning because of where he was growing. I was grateful to be alive, grateful for all the people that had come to my aide, grateful for the circumstances that gave me a second chance, but I was still so sad. I was mourning the loss of my baby.
We met with a grief counselor the following day, while still in the hospital. She gave us resources and advice on how to talk with our kids about what happened. She asked questions. She told me to ride the waves of grief, to feel the feelings. She gave me a tiny pin with a ribbon and two tiny feet. It broke my heart to look at it, that I was a mom who had lost her baby and needed this pin now. She hugged me and held me as I sobbed into her chest.
I decided that day to name our baby. Merrick Louis Natali. I wanted to talk about him and not say "the baby." It made him feel real and so much didn't feel real. It was comforting but still hard for me to say outloud.
The next several days and weeks were filled with heart breaking and heart warming moments. Going home from the hospital days later and seeing my kids for the first time was incredible. My two year old and I sobbed and held each other. My little girl was beginning to wean herself from nursing but my milk had come in with the loss of Merrick and she began nursing again. On one hand, it broke my heart that my body was producing milk for a baby that died. On the other hand, it was comforting to nurse my daughter, to have those moments where I felt needed and connected so closely to another person. It was healing and I believe she knew I needed that.
One moment, I'd be okay. Wanting to try to walk to the living room and eat a meal, visit with friends who were coming by. The next moment, I'd be in tears, so confused by the grief washing over me and so angry that my body felt so weak I couldn't even parent my other two kids or cry without pain. It was such a roller coaster.
I began receiving flowers, notes, meals, cards, texts, emails and messages from so many. Coworkers, friends, family, neighbors, We were surrounded by love and support. Our dog was walked, freezer full, new books and toys for our kids, house cleaned, we were totally taken care of. It was amazing to feel so cared for and loved yet I felt so alone and isolated.
My two year old began asking the hard questions, like "Why did the baby die?" and "Where do things go when they die?" which were difficult for us to answer but also forced us to talk about it in a blunt, real, way. Our answers were simple, we didn't know why he had died. We believe that when things die, they go into beautiful things here that we can see, like a flower, tree, sunset, stars, a butterfly, that helps us remember them and happy memories. He began using Merrick's name immediately and pointing out amazing sights of beauty, like clouds and rainbows, saying "there's the baby, mom. He's okay." His empathy was astounding. He'd gently rub my "owies," give them kisses and tell me how sorry he was that the baby died and that I was sad. This bouncing-off-the-wall two year old would sit still for hours cuddling and talking with me, being gentle with my healing body. We reassured him constantly that I was okay, he was worried about leaving me, even for a trip to the grocery store with his daddy. We told him I was okay, we were all safe, I would be sad sometimes but that's okay too. One day he looked at us and said, "Oh mom, I know. You're okay!" with a huge smile and hug.
During this time, I also began receiving information that people were donating blood in my name. A text or Facebook tag or a voicemail from people local and far. First it was one person, the week of our loss. Then two more the next week and then one more and then another... The realization that people were helping others because of what I had experienced was amazing. I could feel my heart warming and healing and immediately knew this would be my cause. This is how I would honor Merrick. I would share my story everywhere and hope that people would donate blood. Without receiving the donated blood, I would've surely died. It saved my life. It gave my kids their mom. My husband, his wife.
In sharing my story, something else began happening. I began hearing from people who had experienced infant/pregnancy loss themselves. Some were close friends and coworkers, whom I had no idea had such experiences. Others were strangers, friends of friends of friends. They began saying they were inspired by me, they were thankful that I talked so openly about my grief. They said they felt so alone and were using words like "brave," and breaking the "taboo." This all came as such a surprise, I'm not one to NOT talk about my feelings or experiences but I began to understand it makes some people feel uncomfortable, how losing a baby so early can impact you so much. Well, it does. And that's okay. I felt like I had a purpose, this trauma had some small glimmer of hope, positivity and reason.
My hope is that someone reading or hearing my story will feel less alone in even a small way. The feeling of desperate loneliness was the most prominent emotion after my loss. We were surrounded with people, both friends/family and professionals, yet I felt so alone. I hope others know this is okay, it passes and you are not alone. I see you and I hear you. Your baby will not be forgotten.
We are approaching Merrick's due date, August 10th. It's been a time I have been both dreading but also wanting to focus on doing something for others. It's hard not to think that I should be preparing to meet him and hold him in my arms. It's hard not to relive some of that trauma and think about the "what if's..." but I am choosing to talk about him, honor him and remember him by giving back and helping others. It's part of healing my heart and moving forward.
Please join us this month in remembering and honoring our Merrick Louis Natali. Donate blood, it DOES save lives. I'm here as proof. My kids have their mom, my husband has his wife because people like you donated. Please. Encourage your friends and family to donate. Share our story and share your story and be kind to others. Be present. Enjoy the moments. For Merrick.
#formerrick #babymerricklouis #pregnancyloss #griefjourney