What I want you to know about losing a pregnancy at 19 weeks

What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here. Today’s guest post is by Sarah Stewart Holland.

I recently lost a pregnancy. I was 19 weeks and at the ultrasound we found out the baby didn't have a heartbeat. Suddenly, I was faced with all these decisions and I wanted women who chose a different way to grieve that they are not alone.

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In my mind, I had already heard a nurse or a doctor or my midwife tell me my baby no longer had a heartbeat. Due to instinct or mother’s intuition or plain old anxiety, I had rehearsed that moment a thousand times in my mind.

However, I never went beyond that moment. When my therapist suggested I walk through the “what ifs” as a way to cope with my anxiety, I balked. That moment was painful enough and imagining beyond it seemed like an exercise in futility.

When the nightmare in my head became a reality in my life, I was faced with decision after decision that I had never imagined.

First, I had never imagined giving birth to the baby if something went wrong. When delivery was presented as my only option, I went hunting for an alternative. Yet even when a surgical option presented itself, I wondered if I was doing the right thing.

In the past few weeks, I have met women who experienced pregnancy loss in the second trimester and heard the stories of many more.

Not a single one chose surgery.

I heard story after story of women delivering the baby they lost. I heard story after story of women holding the baby, taking photos with the baby, naming the baby. The doctor informed us the hospital had a program with our local funeral home in which they would bury the baby and hold a memorial service.

It seemed every mother but me chose a path I had no interest in taking. I know grief is an intensely personal journey and no one told me I was making the wrong decision. However, in a wash of emotions and hormones, the voices in my mind told another story.

Was I a bad mother because I didn't want to hold my baby? Was I choosing a harder emotional journey because I didn't want to name my baby? Would I regret not finding out the baby’s sex or seeing it when I had the chance?

One mother told me her baby “deserved” a delivery. What did my baby deserve?

Here’s my own personal truth that I want to scream from the mountain tops. My baby deserved to live and no delivery or photo or name or burial can change that. For me, the tragedy is that this little life will forever remain a blank page, a question mark, a whisper and attempting to fill in the details will not change that.

Do I think those who chose differently are making the wrong decision? Of course not. Would I have made a different decision had I been 29 weeks or 39 weeks instead of 19? Absolutely.

However, I wasn’t. I was halfway between a few cells and newborn. It’s gray and it’s complicated and it’s difficult. I feel like I lost more than a pregnancy but less than a child. A dear friend put it best. It was the death of a dream.

So, I say this as much to myself as to anyone else facing these impossible choices, do what you have to do. You are not alone. I chose surgery. I chose not to hold my baby. I chose not to find out the sex of my baby. I chose not to name my baby. I chose to have my baby cremated and scatter the remains after a small private memorial service.

In my grief, I chose a different path and all I can do now is walk it with peace.





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