My pregnancy started like most pregnancies do: with a positive home pregnancy test. As we stared at the little plus sign on the stick in my hand, my husband and I were overjoyed with the idea of adding to our brood. What name will we give this new little one? Do you remember where we stored the bouncy seat? How should we tell everyone?
We decided to wait until the proverbial 12 weeks had passed before telling our children the good news. After all, we had already seen our little bean’s heartbeat on ultrasound and knew the odds of a miscarriage were greatly reduced by that time. So, the day we completed Week 12, we announced our pregnancy by handing out slips of paper which each contained a clue:
Mom and Dad have a surprise for you.
God has blessed us, yes it’s true.
A wonderful gift is coming our way-
A new brother or sister for you in May.
A thunderous cheer resounded! My children rushed to smother me in hugs and kisses as they gave witness to the joy they felt. A new baby! I looked around the dining table and imagined another amazing little person sitting there with us. A smiling, chubby-cheeked, wonderful little person. It was going to be so hard to wait until May!
The excitement in our home grew steadily along with my belly. Every day after school, the children would ask: “How’s the baby today? How much longer until it’s born? How big is it now?” I loved their curiosity and their love for their unborn sibling. To quench their thirst for everything baby, we decided to take them with us to our 16-week appointment just before Christmas. We crowded into the exam room at my doctor’s office and smiled at each other as the Doppler placed on my belly announced the life within my womb with a loud whoosh-whoosh-whoosh. We left that visit with Merry Christmas wishes from the staff and an appointment card for our 20-week ultrasound.
The holidays passed, and the date circled on the calendar finally arrived – January 10, 2013, aka ultrasound day! I dropped off my children at school with promises to have lots of pictures of the baby when they returned home that afternoon.
My husband met me in the waiting room where I sat proudly cradling my ever-expanding tummy. After what seemed like an eternity, my name was finally called. With great anticipation, we made our way into the darkened exam room happily chatting with the technician who almost off-handedly asked, “Do we want to know if it’s a boy or a girl?” We smiled as we told her no, knowing that she would be surprised by our choice. “We like the excitement in the delivery room,” we replied. I felt almost giddy as she applied the ultrasound wand to my beautiful belly. Here it comes!! The moment we’ve been waiting for! I can’t wait to show the kids the pictures! The big ultrasound screen lit up the room, and we grinned as we saw the precious little profile of our baby, but then….
“I’m so sorry. There’s no heartbeat.”
The silence that followed was deafening. The silence of the ultrasound machine that should have been pulsing with the sound of our daughter’s heartbeat. The silence of the room as the tech quietly left to share the news with my doctor. The silence as my husband and I sat staring at the screen which showed the perfect outline of our baby’s beautiful features. We sat there silently pleading, “Please move. Please be ok. Please don’t leave us.” Silence as we nodded our understanding that we would have to go through labor and delivery the next morning. Silence as we drove home to break the devastating news to our other children. The silence of the delivery room as I gave birth to a perfectly formed, tiny little baby – 10 perfect fingers, 10 perfect toes, that sweet little mouth and the perfect little nose. The silence of family and friends who struggled to find the right words to comfort us.
Our daughter had come into the world silent and still, but we were determined that her precious life would have meaning. We decided that we wanted to support others who experienced the loss of a baby, and so we created Anna’s Grace Foundation. By raising awareness about the frequency of baby loss – about 1 in 4 pregnancies – and by offering assistance that allows families to focus on healing instead of burial expenses, we hope to break the silence that surrounds baby loss. October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, and so I’m breaking the silence and telling the world: I had a daughter who was stillborn, and her name is Anna.
Monica is the mom of seven children – five still with her and two in Heaven. She is married to the man of her dreams who has laughed and cried with her as they navigate this thing called life together. Originally from Chauvin, LA, Monica moved to Baton Rouge to attend LSU and never left. She worked as a maritime lawyer until her second child was born at which time she decided to become a stay-at-home mom. She co-founded Anna’s Grace Foundation in 2013 after her daughter Anna was stillborn. To find out more about the foundation, please visit their website HERE.