Hi friends, I recently shared my story on Love What Matters and realized that I have never shared the full story of our journey here, so if you are new here (HI!) This is a good place to start 🙂
After 12 years together and 10 years of “unexplained infertility” I was finally ready to get a 2nd opinion. The first time I went to see a fertility doctor all of my tests came back normal, so I assumed it would be normal again and we would just have to come up with a plan from there. The testing started off that way, then I went in for the last test which is called an HSG (hysterosalpingogram exam), to check for any issues with my fallopian tubes. I will never forget laying down on that cold operating table and the doctor saying bluntly, “Your tubes are completely blocked. You only have a 1% chance of conceiving naturally. IVF is your only option.” I was devastated.
After a few months of letting that sink in, I received an even bigger blow when my fertility doctor told me I would have to completely remove my tubes before I could even attempt IVF. This would mean that I would have zero possible chance of conceiving naturally, and would essentially put my entire future dreams of a family in the hands of a fertility doctor. Not to mention the heavy financial burden which we found out would not be covered by insurance. After months of praying, IVF consultations, 3rd opinions, and many hours watching IVF journey videos on YouTube, my husband and I decided to move forward with the bilateral salpingectomy to remove my fallopian tubes and then IVF. We were confident with our decision, and once I finally got over the shock of it all, I had an overwhelming sense of peace which then led to excitement. I was finally getting one step closer to starting our family!
The tube removal procedure went great, and 6 weeks later it was time to go in for my egg retrieval. I was anxious but had this hope deep down that I just couldn’t shake. My husband and I arrived hand in hand, excited and expectant for a successful outcome. They retrieved 50 eggs on the first try! I was in shock because just the day before I was told to anticipate around 15 eggs. The first thing that came to my mind was that God was showing me that we were on the right path. If I ever had any doubt before, this was the assurance I needed that our family was coming soon. We decided to do a frozen embryo transfer which would allow my body a few weeks to heal before injecting myself with all the hormones again. The transfer was seamless!
We had to wait 10 days before they could do a blood draw to confirm my pregnancy, but we knew in our hearts that we were pregnant. So much so, that we set the closing for our new suburban family home the same exact morning. We went from the doctor office to the closing table… it was an amazing day to say the least. Since IVF kind of takes the surprise out of a lot of things, I decided to do an at home test and surprise my husband and my mom the day before the blood draw. The surprise for my husband ended up backfiring! I wrapped 2 tests in a onesie and woke him up from a deep sleep to tell him. I was crying so he initially thought something was wrong, then when he saw the pink and blue test he thought we were expecting twins! My mom’s reaction went a little more according to plan. We acted like we were just going to take a photo, then on “3” we said “I’m pregnant!” We were so overjoyed and I was so excited to finally share the news that our baby boy was on the way. We had all waited on this day for so long. From the time I was a little girl my dream was always to be a mommy one day.
We had to go back in to the fertility doctor three times to draw my blood and confirm the HCG number was rising to officially confirm my pregnancy. From that point on, for 39 weeks and 4 days to be exact, everything about my pregnancy was perfect.. that is until it wasn’t.
In hindsight, the number of times I heard the word “perfect” makes me sick to my stomach. Why couldn’t have something have been a little wrong? Then maybe they would have taken a closer look. Then maybe they would have seen that something wasn’t right. Those thoughts will haunt me for the rest of my life.
The 9 months I was fortunate to carry my son, were the happiest, most blissful months of my entire life. We spent every moment preparing for his arrival. We moved from our high rise condo in Downtown West Palm Beach, FL to a 4 bedroom / 4 bath in the suburbs. We took every baby prep class that our hospital offered. We bought all the things he could ever possibly need or want.. and then some. We hired a doula to make sure everything went as I planned. They say you will never feel 100 % ready, but we were ready!
April 8th, 2019 I was 39 weeks and 3 days pregnant. I woke up that morning feeling somber, which was odd considering I had so much joy the entire pregnancy and this was the week of his due date. We went into Labor & Delivery to check on him. The first nurse put the monitor on my belly to check for his heartbeat and quickly started frantically moving it around. She called for another nurse who also tried to find it, then when she couldn’t she said that they would bring in a sonographer because “sometimes it’s hard to find”. My heart immediately sunk, but my mind could not even begin to process what was happening. The thought of something being wrong, much less, him not being alive was the absolute last thought in my mind. I didn’t even know it was possible for a healthy baby to die at full term. The sonographer came in, placed the wand on my belly, looked right at me with disappointment in her eyes and just shook her head.
The hours and days following were a blur. My mind couldn’t even begin to process that I would still have to deliver my baby boy. How could I possibly do this? I couldn’t catch my breath or grasp that this was my reality. I felt like I was on a rollercoaster and couldn’t get off. I just wanted to disappear and wake up from this nightmare that I was now living in. I was angry, and sad, but mostly I was confused. None of this made sense. He was just alive and well at my last check up only a few days ago. Not only that, but he was “perfect.”
April 9th, 2019 after 24 hours of labor and 1 ½ hours of pushing I delivered the most beautiful baby boy, Preston Carter Anderson. He looked so peaceful, just like he was sleeping. After his birth we discovered the knot in his umbilical cord. They refer to it as a “true knot” which ultimately was the cause of his death. Some would even say, “We got struck by lightening.” We didn’t get to spend much time with Preston because I couldn’t bear to see his little body change. After about an hour of sobs, kisses and a few photos, they wheeled him away and that was it.. just like that my perfect baby boy was gone. Our dreams were stolen, and my faith was shaken to the core. How could God allow this to happen? In the moment I felt angry and forsaken, but it was literally the next morning after I woke up that God showed up in the most miraculous ways. From the beginning I was determined to make sure he wouldn’t be forgotten. I needed something good to come out of the worst possible situation. I quickly learned that the grief world can feel dire and hopeless. I struggled in so many ways following the days after his birth and simultaneous death. I am known to be a very positive, “look on the bright side” type of person and I struggled to just do the basics. I didn’t recognize myself. How was I supposed to go on living? Was I still a mother? Will he be forgotten? How can the world continue to spin when mine was just taken away?
I’ll never forget the way the community around us showed up. Through a friend of a friend, we were given the name of a local grief counselor who I hesitantly reached out to. I am usually not one to ask for help, but I knew I needed to talk to someone. I sent her a brief text and she replied asking our sons name. It took her a while to respond, but when she finally did she said that she had also experienced the same type of loss just 7 years prior. I immediately felt at ease and looked forward to speaking with someone else who can truly empathize with what I had just gone through. We connected immediately! I couldn’t get over how easy it was for us to talk and before we knew it hours had passed. We were wrapping up our conversation when she stopped and said she had to tell me something. She said that when I reached out to her via text and told her my sons name she couldn’t believe it. She said. “I don’t know how to say this but I have twin 17 year old boys and their names are Preston & Carter.”
I will never understand why it happened on this side of eternity, but if there was any doubt I wasn’t alone this was the confirmation I needed. From this day on I would receive one “coincidence” (which I would later refer to as a “God Winks”) after another. People would ask how I was able to continue on and I would say, “Its not me!” If God didn’t continue to show up I am not sure I would be here to tell this story today.
In the midst of our grief, God put it on my heart to hold on to hope and that my story wasn’t over. After about 4 months we knew that we wanted to continue moving forward building our family. We met with our IVF team again and transfer #2 was scheduled. It was another successful transfer. Our sweet baby girl was on the way! But just as soon as the excitement for baby #2 kicked in, so did the fear. We are told that once you reach the 12th week of pregnancy that you are “safe”. How could I ever possibly feel like I am safe when I was 39 weeks when my loss occurred? The first trimester was miserable. I was dealing with the worst nausea on top of raging hormones and grief. I would cry because I missed my son. I would cry because I was scared I would lose this pregnancy too. I would cry because I felt guilty for crying when I should be grateful. I had so many conflicting emotions that I didn’t know were possible to feel all at once. The 2nd trimester looked a little brighter. My nausea subsided and my hormones balanced out. I discovered what would trigger my anxiety and fear, and also what would bring me peace. One of the triggers was doing anything the same as I did in my first pregnancy. I wanted everything to be different, because I was scared that retracing any step would result in the same outcome. At this time, we were living in Florida because of my husband’s job. However, after Preston died I felt an overwhelming sense that we needed to go back home to Dallas, TX.
Within a month time frame of deciding to make the move back to Texas, my husband transferred his job, we put our house on the market and found a new home in Dallas. I truly felt as though everything was finally falling into place. As soon as we got back home we hit the ground running. We sold our home in Florida completely furnished so we had to completely start over in Dallas, all while 27 weeks pregnant. We were finally starting to get into our groove and embrace our new life back in Dallas after being gone for 6 years. Then just 30 days later the largest pandemic in modern history hit. We suddenly found ourselves in quarantine at home along with the rest of the world trying to make sense of this new reality. Then just a few weeks after Covid we had to cope with Preston’s 1st birthday. My friends thoughtfully surprised us with a “drive by” birthday celebration. They drove by one by one, honking their car horns and waving along holding up signs that read, “Happy Birthday Preston!”. It brought us such joy to know that we weren’t the only ones missing our boy. Our new neighbor came out, after hearing all the honking and asked innocently “Who’s birthday is it?”. My husband simply said, “Our son.. He passed away last year.”
The move had been a welcome distraction, but now I was forced to stay home which also meant I was forced to face the fear I had been trying my best to avoid. I did a lot of journaling to track what I was feeling during those last few weeks. The hardest part was going to the doctor appointments without my husband. He was my rock and safe place and now I had to go alone. The first one was scary, but thankfully I had an incredible medical team this time around and they allowed me to come in as much as I needed. My frequent bi-weekly appointments and seeing her on the ultrasound would calm my fears for the moment, but I couldn’t allow myself to get “too excited”.. just incase.
The days leading up to her birth were the most difficult. I spent a lot of time doing mediations, writing and going on nature walks because those are the only things that could bring me any sort of comfort. The day of her induction was surreal. I went to the hospital not being able to say with certainty that we would be coming home with our baby. No matter how healthy she was, no one could assure me that I wouldn’t have the same outcome.
On May 6th, 2020 at 37 weeks pregnant, we welcomed our beautiful, strong and healthy baby girl, Ella Grace Anderson. She has brought a joy to our lives we didn’t think was possible. She will never replace the hole we have in our hearts from the loss of our son, but she is the greatest gift we could have imagined. She will always know about her big brother Preston and we talk about him to her often. I truly feel like Preston is watching over her and it brings me peace to know that she will always have him as her guardian angel.
In fact, the verse God gave me for her was Psalm 91:11 “For He will command his Angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.” Her name means “ray of light” and I couldn’t imagine a more fitting description for her. She truly is our light in the darkness. Our rainbow after the storm. Preston’s little sister.