I’ll never forget the first time I saw the positive pregnancy test. At the height of the pandemic in July of 2020, we were shocked and ecstatic that our dream was coming true. After four years of trying, it seemed like a miracle that the opportunity to be parents was a sudden reality. I was only 6 weeks along, but we were on a high, calling family and close friends – we wanted to share the news with the world! Five days later, the bleeding started. And shortly after that, our hopes and dreams were shattered in pieces along with our hearts as I laid on our bathroom floor miscarrying our first baby. Our world was shattered, and our family was stunned. But despite our grief, we knew we wanted to keep trying.
Then in April 2021 once again a positive pregnancy test! We were cautiously optimistic, not wanting to get our hopes up too much. I had some bleeding on and off between weeks 6 – 10, but baby was happy and healthy. The first time I saw her heartbeat on the ultrasound, my heart expanded to be bigger than I ever thought possible. And the first time I saw her hiccupping and kicking away inside of me, I knew I was hopelessly in love. As the weeks went on, and my symptoms and our baby got stronger, the initial caution we felt was melting away to make room for hope and excitement.
When we reached the second trimester, we thought it was a big green light to relax and just enjoy this time together. We celebrated by hiking out to a waterfall, cooking our dinner over a fire, and sharing our dreams of our daughter with one another on the shores of the river – it was all so magical and we felt deep gratitude for this next chapter in our lives. We imagined what she would look like – what features would mirror me or her father’s, and what her personality would be like. We knew she would be a bright light. She was our rainbow baby.
At week 17 my baby bump started to pop, and although I was still working from home due to the pandemic, I felt ready and excited to share the news with colleagues at work. Everyone was thrilled for us – it was such a happy time. I started to settle into the reality that we would meet our girl, her due date on New Year’s Eve. Then something didn’t seem right. Intuitively, I knew something was a bit off so I went to the emergency room immediately. They said I had a UTI but baby was happy and healthy. As long as I took the antibiotics they gave me, we should have nothing to worry about.
A few days later, my water broke. We rushed to the emergency room, still in disbelief that it was indeed my water that broke, and held our breath dreading the worst. The doctor on call was initially convinced that I just experienced incontinence – apparently something common amongst pregnant people. I wasn’t experiencing any cramping or bleeding, my cervix was closed, and I otherwise felt ok. She suggested an ultrasound just to be sure. While we were waiting for the results, we joked that this would be a funny story to tell our family and friends, and one day our girl when she was older. When the doctor came back to see us, her face was solemn. “We confirmed that you are losing amniotic fluid, so we are going to rush you to see the OB on call immediately”.
Once we saw the OB, the rest seemed like a blur. I was in a fog – I didn’t want to accept this was happening to us. As we both sat in complete shock and disbelief, my husband asking a million questions about options, all I could think is that this was unreal – our baby was healthy, her heartbeat strong. Isn’t there some way we can save her? At this moment, the silent scream inside of me started – a scream so loud that it shook every cell in my body. But still, a scream that no one could hear, no matter how loud it was for me.
We were told to come back a few days later so they could measure the amount of fluid again – there might be options – we were still holding on to a sliver of hope. I kept talking to her, telling her how much we loved her, and for her to hang on. After all she was our rainbow baby.
When we went back in for the follow-up ultrasound, the look on the technician’s face told me what I already knew. There wasn’t anything we could do. She finally looked down at me and said “do you want to see?” and really I knew she was saying this was our chance to say goodbye. When the screen turned towards me and my husband we both knew. Our baby was healthy, but there was no fluid left to protect her, and she was struggling to move. She was being crushed by my organs and was suffering, plain and simple.
We returned to labour and delivery sobbing as we struggled to put one foot in front of the other; we knew what was ahead of us. The doctor confirmed that there wasn’t much they could do. We had a choice for her to pass away on her own, but there was no guarantee if and when that would happen, and in the meantime, the damage done to her development would be devastating and she would suffer. The other option was to deliver her that day – they could induce me. Looking back on this, I can recognize that this was our first hard decision as parents – how could we continue to let her suffer? This is a decision that no parent should have to make.
They told me I would go through labour and deliver her – I tried to understand what to expect, but I don’t think anyone could have prepared me for those moments. My husband beside me, despite being shattered and helpless, showed up as my rock and guide. The decisions we needed to make before we left the hospital. The feeling of her passing through me into the world, helplessly silent. The shock and disbelief that just a moment ago, she was healthy and happy inside of me. And now, the deep, endless emptiness that would consume my heart and body.
When she was born, we still didn’t know what we would name her. When the nurse handed her to me I was awestruck – she had my nose, and her father’s facial features. My hands and elbows, her father’s legs and feet. She was the most magical being I ever saw. She was us. My heart exploded in a million pieces, from both grief and undeniable love. In those silent moments I told her how much we loved her and how special she was to us, and always will be. Then after a simple, silent moment, a whisper: “Isla Rose”. To this day, I believe she told us her name – an intuitive whisperer. Isla Rose was born at 8:36 pm on July 25, 2021.
No parent should leave the hospital without a baby after delivering, but there we were, both unable to express how we felt, shocked and in disbelief. While I waited for my husband to get the car to begin our silent journey home, I looked up to an almost full moon shining brightly down on us. I knew it was her.
A few days later my milk came in. No one could have really prepared me for the helplessness I felt, my body desperately aching to hold and feed my child, me trying to self-express milk on the floor of the spare room sobbing and in immense pain. I thought there was no way back from this. I was forever transformed, but not sure how. I didn’t recognize myself anymore – I was a complete stranger to myself and those around me. That was the beginning of the darkest days of my life.
Turns out, I never had a UTI, and we will never know what made my water break early. I am fortunate enough to have received mental health support, trauma therapy, and support from my employer to put my life on hold for three months to begin to heal. Now almost five months later, I am strong enough to share our story, in hopes that someone else going through this feels less alone. I know how much hearing other family’s stories have helped me.
I don’t know what the future has in store for us, but I do know one thing; sharing our stories in ways that make us feel seen, deepens the love and connection we have with the community. We are now part of the worst club in the world but have been so inspired by the strength and support from the pregnancy and infant loss community. I am transformed and am still discovering the ways how. I have many moments and days where it feels like I’m walking on eggshells while carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders. But there are more smiles than tears when I think of Isla, and she shows me signs she is with me in moments when I need to be reminded of that most.
We love you sweet Isla Rose, and always will.