I remember it like it was yesterday. Finding out I was pregnant. Initially, feeling anxious and disappointed. Wondering how I’d tell my parents. I said I’d be married for a year at least, travel a little, and get to know my husband in the husband capacity. But here I was two months in and I’M PREGNANT. As quickly as I could acknowledge those feelings I immediately reminded myself: I was married, I was 30, I had a career and it was O.K.! So what, I wanted to travel, I’d bring my baby along. Tyrell and I had dated for almost 7 years, I knew him just fine. There was no better time. I was happy. Scared to be happy, but happy nonetheless.
Tyrell felt the same as I initially did and he hadn’t quite snapped out of that feeling as promptly as I had, but onward and upward. I started looking up the potential due date and making my first doctor’s appointment. Wondering if it would be a boy or a girl and thinking of names that started with the letter “S”. Determined to keep it going Sharon, Sanya, and Shari!
By the time I was 12 weeks, I had gone to my first doctor’s appointment, she informed me about the genetic testing and how I could learn the sex of the baby at the same time. Even though most of us won’t admit it, as important as the genetic testing is, a lot of us who do it are more stoked about finding out the gender earlier than the typical 20 weeks! I digress. When the results came in my sister was the only one who knew. We planned a small gender reveal for the same day because I absolutely could not wait to find out!
A baby girl! I was over the moon. I’ve always pictured myself a girl mom and things were falling in to place just as I had planned! At my 16 week appointment, my doctor informed me that I would need one additional appointment. Since I had a LEEP procedure years ago she would need to check my cervix to make sure it was long and not shortening. Having no idea what exactly that meant I said ok and scheduled it on my way out. Carried on with life as usual.
It was the day before Thanksgiving in 2015 and I was at the salon, by this time I’m showing and just about everyone knows I’m pregnant. I was working on a project moving somewhat heavy objects and climbing up on the ladder to change bulbs. I distinctly remember one of my stylists saying to me, “Shari! You shouldn’t be doing that, you need to take it easy”. I replied “girl, if a woman can walk miles and carry a basket on her head while pregnant, I’ll be just fine”.
I never went back to work pregnant.
On Thanksgiving day I was home with Tyrell and my step kids. I cooked an entire feast as it was our first holiday together. My family, all but Sanya (my sister) were in Jamaica, where I’d be joining them, for my cousin’s wedding. I was on my feet all day cooking and then cleaning up. I went to bed early because I was catching an early flight to Jamaica the next morning. When I woke up I was having terrible pain in my stomach. Having had bad experiences with gas in the past, I got some mint tea and thought I’d be fine. With all the dairy the evening prior, being pregnant, maybe it just didn’t sit well. I left for the airport and noticed the pain was coming rhythmically, it wasn’t moving around, like gas, so I started to worry. After calling Tyrell, then my mom, we decided that getting on a flight wouldn’t be the best idea. I went to the hospital close by just to make sure everything was ok. After putting the monitor on me for 15-20 minutes the doctor and nurses concluded that I was not having contractions and instead was experiencing round ligament pain. Sent me home, told me to take two Tylenol and get some rest.
The pain eased, but never stopped.
After a few hours of relaxing, I was feeling somewhat better and decided to join my family for some Black Friday shopping, as I walked the mall the pain increased. At one point I remember doubling over and needing to take breaks. Trusting what the doctor had told me and never dreaming of what was to come. I thought, this round ligament pain is kicking my butt and pressed on.
In the wee hours of the morning, I was awoken by pain, feeling like I needed to use the restroom I got up and tried. Nothing. Tried two or three more times, and nothing. I asked Tyrell to go to the store to get me some stool softener, I had never been constipated before but I assumed that’s what was happening to me. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Ten minutes after my husband left a felt a gush of water come down, I jumped out of bed and ran to the restroom. As I sat down I felt something push out and I screamed. With my stepchildren upstairs soundly asleep and Tyrell gone to the store, no one could hear me. I called Tyrell and screamed, “she’s coming”!
I sat on the toilet waiting and sobbed.
By the time he got back and called 911, they instructed me to lay on the floor. It took me some time to get up because I wasn’t sure if she’d come out if I moved and something was hanging out and I didn’t know what! I remember looking up at Tyrell as he walked around our bathroom with his hands on his head crying and repeating “no, no, I don’t want this”!
Sanya was in Germany and I had been calling her on FaceTime when I wasn’t feeling well, because of the time difference she was the only person I thought would be awake. When she called back I was laying in the back of an ambulance with oxygen in my nose. I answered the phone crying and she immediately started to bawl. She didn’t know what was happening but she knew something was wrong. I looked down at my stomach and it was like I wasn’t even pregnant anymore. When we got to the hospital the doctor told us my membranes had ruptured. I was in full blown labor. Because she was only 21 weeks, just over a pound and her lungs were not developed there was nothing they could do to save her. I would have to deliver her, knowing there was no chance at survival.
It felt surreal.
In the days following I remember not wanting to wake up. It’s the emptiest feeling in the world, going home, with no baby, after being pregnant. My stomach still looked like I had just given birth and I started to produce milk. My ears were constantly ringing and I just felt like I was in a fog. From that day on, Tyrell never went back into our restroom. The grieving process brought us closer than ever, but it was tough to go through. Once a child is born you have to have some sort of burial. She was at the funeral home and we had to decide whether to bury or cremate.
I was supposed to be planning a baby shower.
My doctor’s office called to confirm my anatomy scan appointment for that Monday, I told them what happened and that I needed to cancel. They told my longtime nurse practitioner and she asked me to come in anyway. She sat with me, we held hands and cried. She’d known me for 12 years and knew my entire history. She didn’t want to speak too soon, so she didn’t tell me anything conclusive. Not knowing what happened was driving me crazy. When I went back to work, most of my clients didn’t know what happened. One client came in and rubbed my stomach! When I told her I was no longer pregnant, she was mortified, not more than I, but just about equally. I had to answer question after question about not being pregnant anymore. It was an inexplicable feeling of embarrassment. Like I had done something wrong and was having to explain myself time and time again. I eventually asked my coworkers when they booked my appointments please just tell the clients, so I wouldn’t have to.
After losing Shian, getting pregnant again was the most important thing to me! I started tracking my ovulation, taking my basal body temperature (BBT) and scheduling sex like a client at the salon. I wanted to feel whole again. We had a team of doctors who decided, in their words “to throw the kitchen sink at me”. We did blood work and found that I had a mutation of the MTHFR gene. I was also going to acupuncture to make sure I could carry a pregnancy.
Once I got pregnant my maternal-fetal medicine specialist decided on a cerclage, blood thinning injections and progesterone suppositories. At 11 weeks he placed the cerclage and determined that during my LEEP procedure (10 years prior) my cervix had been excessively cut and there would have been no way to carry a pregnancy without the help of the stitch. I was diagnosed with incompetent cervix. So at 21 weeks as Shian grew and the pregnancy got heavier my cervix thinned and opened and the body did what it was supposed to do and went into labor. The gush of water I experienced was my water breaking and when I felt coming out was the fetal sac starting to birth.
I was so ready for Shian, I wanted so badly to be her mom! I did everything “they” say not to do. I announced early. Her closet was full! I had purchased her crib and started decorating her nursery. I didn’t want to hear the cautions and the old wives tales.
I don’t regret that.
But, here’s what I would have done differently:
- I would have done more research and asked more questions about how the LEEP procedure could affect my pregnancy.
- In the days leading up to this, I had two separate gushes of fluid that I should have reported to my OB
- I would have called my doctors office and held for the on-call physician, and not gone to the closest hospital.
- I would have gone back to the hospital when the pain got worse.
If you’re a person of faith, you believe that everything happens for a reason and the way it’s supposed to. It’s my hope though that if you’re in this situation and you’re here reading this, it isn’t too late for you.
I have since carried two pregnancies full term with the help of the cerclage. In both pregnancies, I had to lessen my work hours and the length of time I was on my feet. My MFM Doctor informed me that black women are at higher risk for preterm labor just due the stress of our lifestyles. I heeded every warning and took it very easy and still my cervix funneled to the stitch both times, proving that the cerclage was indeed absolutely vital. I now have two sons, Slade (2) and Shiloh (8months). We often think about Shian, and what she may have been like!
My cousin made a beautiful shadow box as a keepsake that we’ve put in the boy’s nursery and will cherish forever.
If you have experienced miscarriage or pregnancy loss, you have my deepest sympathies. It’s a pain often looked over and discarded for lack of empathy. Just know like with anything it does get better with time. I pray that your journey, too, will end with the rainbow baby if that’s what your heart desires!