#misCOURAGE story by Betsy,
I love hearing stories from inspiring women. From birth stories to infertility struggles to adoption stories, I leave each read feeling inspired and in awe of what women face and overcome. After reading a couple of stories and talking with my husband, I decided to share the story of our son Lane.
February is a weird month for me, it’s as if my brain is split in half the entire month. One side is celebrating the life of a man who forever changed my world and heart, my husband Samuel. The other side is mourning the life I never got to know, my first born son, Lane. First off let’s start with that gem of a human, Samuel. Our ‘love story’ is always hilarious to me and depending on who tells it, can be quite entertaining. The short version is that we met in college, as idiot college kids, secretly dated (yes secretly) for about 3 months and then grew up. One day, I will tell our child how important it was for both of us to grow the hell up before we committed to one another, but that’s for another time. Once we grew up apart, 5 years later (and let’s be real, do you ever stop growing, rhetorical question, answer no) our story truly was our own magical life. Growing and loving with another human is something I can never truly describe or understand at times but it’s wonderful, insane and challenging all in one. Our first year was spent having fun and being us. Countless nights of spending money we sometimes didn’t have because we could and learning just how hilarious the other person was on a regular basis. The second year was spent learning to communicate, which in my opinion is KEY in a marriage. I also began an uphill battle with anxiety. Initially it was the anxiety of something happening to my husband. I grew in constant fear and worry he would leave me or something would happen to him.
Anxiety was something I felt significant shame in having and it wasn’t until I had support from others who struggled with it, that I truly knew I wasn’t alone and there were answers. Our love for the Lord is not only the base of our marriage but the foundation in both of our lives. But knowing anxiety is also a chemical and brain issue (I am not a doctor, insert actual terminology here) helped me lean on the Lord and seek help from professionals. God can in fact get you through all things, and has proved this for me multiple times, but I have learned through leaning on professionals that God was key in helping me fight through my anxiety daily. All that to say, when the decision was made by both of us as a family to start our own little family, my anxiety was slightly high. I may say this more than once but as women, we do not share enough about the struggles of starting a family. Our story is one small piece of the tragedy that is having a family but SO MANY other brave women have faced unimaginable hurdles to get that precious family. One thing I have learned in my experience with sharing my struggles and being open to other women is that we are not alone.
Initially, we got pregnant within the first 6 months of trying. I remember squinting at the line and repeatedly saying to myself ‘is that it?’ Sam will be the first one to say, my secret keeping skills from him are nonexistent. I spoil every birthday present or trip and hell even shopping purchase because I feel this huge sense of guilt. Added bonus, telling him everything and having his face light up with happiness (or anger in reference to the shopping bill) truly does bring me joy I never knew. Naturally, the moment I was squinting to see the test, he was walking through the door from work. How in this entire story am I just now mentioning Norman, our beloved dachshund?! Thank goodness he can’t read. Norman was aggressively losing his mind as Sam shouted out ‘hey babe I’m home.’ I stopped for a second and contemplated putting all my energy in telling him a cute way and then abandoned that within 5 seconds. Instead, as he was trying to comfort Norman, I simply say ‘I think he is freaking out because he is going to be a big brother.’ It was in those celebratory moments my heart began to grow into a mother. The excitement and fear all rolled into one was truly unexplainable.
At our very first appointment, my anxiety was a bull in china shop, nervous sweats, overactive farts and just all in one MESS but then we heard the heartbeat. In that moment, it was as if my anxiety floated into the deep dark sea never to be found again, like the old lady’s heart diamond in Titanic. I would love to say that the anxiety stopped just because I am awesome, but what I left out was the 6 months of counselling I went to prior to this day. I left out the constant tears I shed and the numerous homework breathing techniques I did to ensure I was coping with my anxiety and working through living with it. I am so grateful to my counsellor for how she not only changed my mind, but my heart in believing I could overcome this hold it had on me. At 8 weeks, when I got the statistic from my doctor that we are out of the ‘scary part’ with a strong heartbeat, I felt like a new woman. We told our parents and I sent out hilarious photos of Norman reading a fake book announcing to all of our family and friends that we were in fact pregnant. I felt alive and excited, sure I had a moment or two where my anxiety was slightly high but it was like a new Betsy had been born. Then it happened.
We went to our 12 week appointment, sat in 3 rooms and had 4 people tell us he was gone. The joy I experienced hearing that beautiful heartbeat for the first time was replaced with the sound of a white noise from a fetal monitor. The image of that ultrasound may be forever in my brain. The tears I saw my husband shed for the first time in our marriage will never go away in my heart. It was like a slow moving car crash you can’t do anything about. Think Grey’s Anatomy slow motion when anyone of importance dies on the show. My heart literally broke that day in August. In a span of 2 hours we learned that not only did we have a son but he suffered from Trisomy 23, a chromosome disorder is caused by an alteration in the number or genetic structure of chromosomes. Oh added bonus, I needed to have a procedure called a D&C (I’ll let you look that up if you want) within the next 72 hours because I was too far along to do it on my own. I had never had surgery before, never been under anything, literally only accompanied my other not so graceful sisters to the hospital. It was the most painful 2 hours of my life, or so I thought. Sam and I had taken different cars to the appointment and I remember driving home thinking ‘what if I just never went back home’. The next two days were a blur for me. Constantly crying, never wanting to face the real truth and always wondering why. The morning of the surgery our parents were with us and in the room before they wheeled me out we all prayed. As they wheeled me away from the ones I loved, I was wailing. To this day I can’t believe that nurse wasn’t like ‘okay I’ll break the rules here honey go get your husband.’ I mean who lets people do that?! Hello did anyone see I was crying - how I can even be fit for surgery?! I cried to SO MANY STRANGERS that day. Why I am surprised by this statement is beyond me, I literally cry often.
In a flash of 4 hours I was home and ‘recovering.’ That word is hilarious to me, to this day I still think, how does anyone ever really recover from loss. That night, while eating tacos on the porch and watching the rain fall, I wrote out we lost our precious son. Initially I did this to be selfish. I knew we had told tons of people and couldn’t bear to face the ‘what happened’ comments when they realised I was no longer pregnant. I have never been more thankful I shared that post on my social media. It was the best decision ever. Not only did we receive an outpouring of love and support, but we had so many others share their own struggles. I have said this to more than one person but it’s a club. Not one you ever want to be a part of, but when you are, you’re welcomed by the most strong and loving women you will ever know.
Through this journey, I grew. It wasn’t always in the most positive direction but I grew in understanding loss and how I can cope with it. I grew in my marriage with Sam and learned that each experience, tragic or happy, brings us closer together. I am reminded daily of how much we grew in grief together and how special those memories will always be to us. Lastly I learned that being a women is challenging. Despite our social media post and daily blessings, we are faced with struggles often. Depression, anxiety, loss, the list goes on. The more we share with other women, I truly believe the more we lift each other up. Each word of encouragement or wisdom someone gave me pushed me further off the ‘island’ of loneliness and into a community of support. Find those women, love on those women, encourage those women. In the end your smile or hug or comment truly can help someone get through their grief.