October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. Many moms in our TCMC know the pain of this type of loss all too well. This month we gather around these mamas and acknowledge and honor their little loves. TCMC writer, Trista Rakow, shares her story with us today about keeping the faith after her loss.
I’ve faced much hardship in my young life, but nothing compares to the grief of losing my daughter, Audrina. Having her die so tragically shook the foundation of my faith. During my 20 week ultrasound, Doctors told me Audrina had Thanophoric Dysplasia, a lethal death-bearing condition. They said it’s likely she would pass away at birth from respiratory failure.
I planned my entire pregnancy with one expectation; I would have one moment to look her deeply in the eyes and tell her how there’s nobody in the world who wanted her more than me. Unfortunately, despite my planning efforts, she died inside me while I was delivering her. Even rarer than her condition, I experienced a uterine rupture during labor. It almost took my life. Doctors were puzzled by this because I had no prior c-sections that would put me at risk.
My faith was put to the ultimate test. I questioned everything; why me? Why my daughter. Why did I almost die? Why couldn’t I have at least had one moment with her?
The one thing that held me together, the glue that kept me from shattering into a million pieces, was holding onto the gratitude of Audrina’s existence. As I held her lifeless body, I could feel her soul hovering close to mine, and I came to the realization that I would rather experience a thousand sleepless nights than having never have known her at all. I knew the pain was worth the cause, and I would do it all over again just to have her exist. My heart felt whole and empty all at one time. I stared at perfection as most mothers do, but the difference was I knew I couldn’t take her home. My heart beamed over my little bundle of joy, and I felt so much pride for creating something so precious and perfect. For four days, I stayed in that hospital room, memorizing all of her. My heart felt so full and beamed with joy for her creation.
Nothing felt emptier than the morning we had to say goodbye to Audrina. I’m not even sure how I convinced myself to walk out of that room. I felt like stepping out of labor and delivery and checking right into the psychiatric ward. I knew leaving meant stepping into a black hole. Getting through the minute, or hour or day felt very dark and unknown. The only way I could mentally walk out of that room was telling myself that her soul was safe with the God I believed in and having faith that her life was eternal.
Sometimes having faith means believing in things we cannot see. Some days, this felt so hard for a grief-stricken mother who longed to hold her child for just one more day. Life felt so meaningless without her. I often questioned why she had to be born and die right away. Why I had to live a lifetime being haunted by the wonder of who she would have been. I desperately wanted to know what she would look like with each passing month. So many nights, I sobbed into her baby blanket and clung tightly to her teddy. I knew life would never be the same.
I held onto hope despite the weight of my grief. I hoped that I would transform my pain into positivity, hoped that my heart would heal, hoped that I could have another baby someday, and hoped that I could go on and live life once again, in honor of Audrina.
Years passed by, and I became pregnant with a rainbow baby. Although this was healing to carry a new life inside me once again, I still felt empty. Deep inside my heart, I knew I would never be fully healed or feel entirely complete. Audrina would always be the missing link to our family. But I was very grateful for the rainbow of joy that was soon to come.
My pregnancy was very hard. It was challenging to have faith after losing so much. I battled post-traumatic stress daily. I felt anxiety, depression, and panic attacks that took my breath away. I didn’t bond with my baby as normal mothers do. I was terrified to get close and couldn’t stand the thought of losing another baby. The stakes were too high, and there was too much to lose. So it was easier to not have any expectations and to stay comfortably numb.
While I was about 30 weeks pregnant, I stumbled upon something very puzzling and almost miraculous. It gave me the faith that I had so desperately longed for. I had just gone to the doctor’s office a couple weeks ago. As a proud mom, I took a picture of my ultrasound photo in hopes of sharing it with my family. Then suddenly, while flipping through the pictures on my phone, I came to a chilling discovery. I realized I had captured not only my precious rainbow baby in the ultrasound, but a mysterious shadow of a baby appeared off to the left of it.
I stood there frozen in time. Staring at this mysterious face, in all its miraculous wonder. My logical senses tried to explain how it was possible. Maybe the angle, perhaps a reflection of something or someone behind me. But I knew in my heart, When I took the photo, there was nobody around. And the face I was looking at almost felt familiar. Like looking into the soul of the child I lost.
From that moment forward, I felt her around me, looking over the baby and me. I felt protected and less anxious about the delivery. It gave me great comfort to believe Audrina was looking over us. Our little Angel above, just stopping in to say hi, and I still exist. When I’m missing her most, I hang onto the joy of knowing she is mine and I hers, forever. Nothing can change that. Not time, not space. She just exists somewhere else. And when I feel empty, I look at her photo, and my heart feels full.