The 1 in 4: Carmena Angels
Maya Angelou once wrote, “And when great souls die, after a period peace blooms, slowly and always irregularly. Spaces fill with a kind of soothing electric vibration. Our senses, restored, never to be the same, whisper to us. They existed. They existed. We can be. Be and be better. For they existed.” All that any of us who have experienced loss of a child want is for the world to know that they existed.
I was 33 when I experienced my first miscarriage. My husband and I were overjoyed that after a struggle with infertility we had become pregnant on our own. We scheduled our eight-week appointment on our 13th wedding anniversary, but at the appointment something looked off. I must have been off on my calculations, so we scheduled a follow-up the week after. It was there that we were informed that the baby was not viable. I was devastated. We scheduled my D&C and went home.
After my D&C, I struggled with how I was supposed to process our loss. To us, it was indeed a loss of a child. I didn’t know how to control it, handle it, move on as I was told I needed to do by many I had considered friends. Why didn’t they understand I couldn’t just “move on”? I had lost my baby. What about that did they not find deserving of grief? I became angry and took to vocalizing said anger via facebook – something I deeply regret – and other outlets. I needed everyone to know that my baby meant something, had a purpose, and existed, regardless of how short his/her life had been. Our baby was VERY wanted, and to us was no less a child than the child we held in our arms.
To cope, I felt that I had to replace that baby right away to fill the void I had developed. I convinced my husband that we needed to reach out to our reproductive endocrinologist right away. It was because of him that we had experienced a successful pregnancy with our son (prior to our losses, my husband and I experienced the struggle of infertility – hence the RE). So, off to Dr. Webster we went...
Three rounds of IUI and finally another positive pregnancy test. Immediately, my fears of the last pregnancy surfaced. I wasn’t excited the way I had been when I learned we were pregnant with our son, or even the baby we lost. Rather, I was extremely detached. But under Dr. Webster’s watchful eye, I knew we would be okay. My every two-to-three-day blood draws to watch HCG levels rise were always filled with good news. My early ultrasounds showed a strong heartbeat. Finally, we had reached 12 weeks…we were in the safe zone, which also sadly meant we no longer needed Dr. Webster’s care. We had another healthy baby, and all was right with the world.
I eventually let my guard down, and was excited to see my OB/GYN. On my first visit, my husband was with me. As per routine, we went for an ultrasound first. But this was no ordinary ultrasound. As the tech rolled the cold jelly-coated ultrasound wand around on my already protruding belly we hear, “That’s strange. Dr. Webster didn’t indicate that you were having twins.” I looked at her with a stern expression and replied, “That’s because we’re not.” Even seeing the ultrasound screen with my own eyes, I still argued with the tech that she was mistaken, we were not expecting twins. We had ONE healthy baby, not TWO.
After finally accepting the fact that I was pregnant with twins, my husband and I went home ecstatic. What a blessing! We began to plan for twins right away, buying a few things in twos, spreading the word to all of our family and friends. We had already entered the second trimester, so telling everyone we were expecting twins was safe at this point—at least that’s what we thought. But, we were wrong. Three weeks later we were once again given the news that our Twin Baby A’s heart had stopped beating. We were assured that the loss would not affect our remaining twin, and that my body would just “reabsorb” the remains of Baby A…it didn’t. With every ultrasound we went to checking on our survivor (our daughter), I would catch a glimpse of our second angel baby…the same size and features he had at only 16 weeks when his heart stopped beating.
On May 27, 2014, my daughter decided it was time to make her appearance. I was excited, yet scared at the same time. Delivering Lillian also meant delivering the remains of her twin. Under Louisiana law, since I had carried our twin “to term,” the loss was legally classified as a stillbirth rather than a miscarriage. We had to obtain a death certificate, and his remains had to be dealt with either through burial or cremation. We opted for cremation. My daughter’s first week of life was filled with cremation arrangements, and the stress that goes along with finalizing such a thing. I was detached from bonding with Lillian, although I loved her dearly and was very grateful for her survival. I had been bitten twice by the same bug back to back, and I was terrified that somehow she would be taken from me as well.
To cope with the grief I was yet again experiencing, and the feeling of detachment I still had toward my newborn daughter, I took to running. I began to train and ran my first race in November of 2014. It was after this run that I heard about the first ever Anna’s Grace Quarter Marathon. A race to celebrate my babies?! My babies who no one else seemed to remember or even acknowledge existed?! I was over the moon excited to be able to have a time set aside to acknowledge and remember my angels.
The race was amazing, cathartic. I ran with purpose that day. I ran on angels’ wings that day. I no longer felt alone in my grief as I watched others do the same. It was on that day that I fell in love with Anna’s Grace. I wanted to give back to the foundation that, without really knowing it, helped me in my healing process that day.
The Quarter Marathon is a very rewarding and therapeutic event for the families that participate, but Anna’s Grace is more than just a yearly race. It’s also a community of families who have experienced loss and are looking for an outlet to share their journey, connect with families who can relate to their pain, work toward healing and support others in need.
This year, the race will be held on March 25, 2017. In addition to the Quarter Marathon and 1 mile Fun Run there will also be a 5K. As a family, we have set a goal as a team to raise $1500 for this amazing organization. All proceeds from will be used by Anna’s Grace Foundation to assist local families who have experienced infant and pregnancy loss through emotional and financial assistance for burial and grave marker costs. Anna's Grace has helped 150 families in two years, including more than 20 families in the last two months alone, in the Baton Rouge area who have suffered the loss of a baby. As the word about Anna’s Grace continues to get out, the need for volunteers and contributors like myself is more abundant.
Please help us honor our angel babies and all the angel babies that came before and after them by donating to this amazing cause. Every little bit helps, and I can tell you first hand, that your money is in no better hands than in the hands of Anna’s Grace. The work this foundation does is astounding, and some of the most rewarding. I hope that you will help us continue to show other families that their babies mattered, their short little precious lives mattered. Please donate now, and come run with us on March 25.
Kelly is the captain of the "Carmena Angels" team for Anna's Grace Quarter Marathon -- representing the 1 in 4 pregnancies that ends in loss. You can visit her team page or make a donation here: http://annasgrace.itsyourrace.com/donate/team/CarmenaAngels
About Anna’s Grace Foundation Anna’s Grace Foundation is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization supporting families in the Greater Baton Rouge Area who experience miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant loss. Each and every day one of our neighbors, friends, coworkers, or family members will experience the devastating loss of a baby, and Anna’s Grace is there to provide emotional and financial support so that families can focus on healing. The Anna’s Grace Quarter Marathon is on March 25, 2018. For more information or to register, visit http://www.annasgrace.org/registration.