By Kim Hooper
I have a confession: For most of my adult life, I proclaimed that I did not want children.
Ironically enough, one of the major things that scared me away from motherhood was the fear of losing a child. Years before I got pregnant, I wrote a letter to my imaginary baby, explaining my apprehensions:
“The existence of you means that something—the loss of you—could destroy me. Obliterate me. There has never been something in my life with that capacity. I have always prided myself on strength, but you could bring me to my knees. And I’m not sure I’d ever be able to stand up again.”
Everyone told me I would change my mind about having a child and, begrudgingly, I came to admit they were right. I met my husband (Chris) and sat by his side as both of his parents died when they were in their fifties—his mom had Parkinson’s (according to most doctors; there wasn’t an accepted consensus), and his dad had a rare genetic type of ALS. Watching their declines awakened something in me: I wanted to live more fully, less fearfully. I wanted a family. In the face of death, I wanted life.
It wouldn’t be that simple though. First, I would have to come face-to-face with my greatest fear—loss.
My first pregnancy was ectopic, the embryo stuck in my left fallopian tube. I was rushed into surgery, and when I awoke, I’d lost my baby, my tube, and my faith in a fair world. This first loss was startling, shocking. Suddenly, I felt vulnerable to tragedy in a way I’d never felt before.
With just one fallopian tube remaining, I didn’t know if I’d be able to get pregnant again. So, when I did, I proclaimed myself the One-Tube Wonder. Surely, this pregnancy would be successful. But, see, that’s not how the world works. There are no “paid dues.” There is no fairness. Bad things can happen to any of us.
A Missed Miscarriage
Early blood testing in my second pregnancy showed the embryo was not viable. I had no signs or symptoms—a “missed miscarriage,” as if I’d made an appointment and failed to show up. It took weeks before I bled, before I physically parted ways with this life that almost was.
Chris and I went into our third attempt saying, “Third time’s a charm” or “Three strikes and we’re out.” We were trying to be cute, to maintain some sense of humor. Our marriage depended on some levity.
When my third pregnancy went past the first trimester, I thought we were safe. But again, I was fooled. I was left with this startling epiphany that any sense of control I’d had in my life had been an illusion. There is no “safe zone”—in pregnancy or in life. Sometimes, this realization panics me; other times, it makes me feel free.
I carried my son, Miles, for seventeen weeks before his heart stopped. We will never know the medical reason why. When the doctor left the room after telling us that our boy had died, I said to Chris, “This is going to fuck me up. I’m never going to be the same.” That was true—it did fuck me up. And I am never going to be the same. But I’ve learned that’s not a bad thing, to be changed. Loss is representative of love. Carrying Miles showed me a love I never had before. I can never regret that.
Carrying Miles showed me a love I never had before. I can never regret that.
It took me months to decide that I did not agree with “Three strikes and you’re out.” I wanted to try again. When my fourth pregnancy turned out to be ectopic—again—my doctor shook his head in disbelief. “This is just terrible luck,” he said. That was all there was to say.
Chris was ready to give up, throw in the proverbial towel, but I wanted to try one last time. I couldn’t help but think of that infamous definition of insanity—doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results. It didn’t make logical sense, given what we’d been through, but there was something bigger than me telling me not to give up.
On October 4, 2017, I gave birth to my daughter, Mya. She was born a week before her due date, after a completely normal, complication-free pregnancy. All of the clichés and song lyrics and tired phrases have proven true: She is the light of my life, she is my sunshine, she is the best part of every day.
She is the light of my life, she is my sunshine, she is the best part of every day.
Even though she is here, my four losses stay with me. Every day I enjoy with my daughter, I am profoundly grateful because, somewhere deep inside, I feel like my time with her might be limited. I document as many moments as I can, motivated by a fear that she will be taken from me. All parents fear losing their child, but for me, the anxiety is heightened.
I think people assume I’m “over” the babies that came before her, but I’m not. I’m still sad about those losses. Watching my daughter grow just makes me more aware of who they could have been—especially Miles, who existed in my head (and heart) as my son.
There are times when Mya whispers to a void of space next to her, as if she has an imaginary friend. I ask her, “Is it Miles?” And she says, “Yes.” I have no idea if she even knows what I’m asking, but I like to think she sees him. I like to think that even though she is an only child for all intents and purposes, she has secret siblings by her side.
I saw a psychic once in the midst of our losses, desperate for answers, and she told me, “You have a daughter coming. And the others will be her angels, watching out for her.” I don’t consider myself a very woo-woo person, but I chose to believe this.
One day, I will tell my daughter about the babies who came before her. One day, she will understand a little more about what her parents were willing to endure for the sometimes-terrifying, heart-exploding pleasure of knowing her.
Kim Hooper is the co-author of All the Love: Healing Your Heart and Finding Meaning After Pregnancy Loss. Learn more about the book at alltheloveafterloss.com and follow on Twitter and Instagram @allthelovetalk.
Q & A with Allison, Founder Miscarriage Hope Desk
How many miscarriages & how many live births?
2 ectopic pregnancies, 1 first-trimester miscarriage, 1 second-trimester miscarriage, 1 live birth. I was 37 when we conceived my daughter naturally.
Looking back, what, if anything, do you wish you would have done differently?
I wouldn’t do anything differently. It all had to happen the way it did.
What were you told was the cause of your miscarriages?
I was told it was “just bad luck.” My egg quality and quantity was horrible (FSH 19, AMH 0.06–that is not a typo), but they said that would cause me to have trouble getting pregnant, which I never did. The egg issues didn’t explain the ectopic pregnancies or miscarriages, especially the second miscarriage since my son’s heart stopped at 17 weeks. All testing during my pregnancy was normal. They intended to do additional testing, but according to our doctor, “the products of conception” were “lost at the lab.”
What do you truly believe was the cause of your miscarriages?
I think egg quality may have been related to my struggles. But it could have been “just bad luck.” I don’t think there are always easy answers to these things. I was told I would never have a healthy baby and I did, so some of this stuff is a mystery.
What advice would you give to someone going through recurrent miscarriage?
Trust your gut. Science is great, but doctors don’t know everything. You know your body better than anyone. And you know if you are ready/able to try again.