By Xenia Pyne
I am a mommy to three beautiful children. My motherhood journey began when I found out I was pregnant with my first baby on December 30, 2014. I was 27 years old and living out of an extended stay hotel in our new neighborhood near San Diego. My partner and I were right on track with our goals of getting married, having our first baby, searching for and buying our first home in a new city, and starting new jobs.
Our ignorant bliss did not last very long into the pregnancy. At 20 weeks pregnant during the anatomical ultrasound, my husband and I found out that our baby girl had markers for trisomy 18 (also known as Edwards syndrome) – a condition that clinicians describe as not compatible with life.
Shortly after, I had a second ultrasound with a specialist and an amniocentesis to confirm the diagnosis. Our world shattered into the tiniest pieces right before our eyes and our dreams vanished into thin air. We had to decide to either continue the pregnancy or end it. There we sat with our genetic counselor, looking at her, feeling lost, confused, lonely, distraught, and wondering if she had ever lost a child herself.
My husband and I decided it was best to end the pregnancy at 23 weeks pregnant because of the unfortunate quality of life our baby girl would have to endure. I lived in the dark the following year, feeling lonesome, ignored, depressed, and angry. I did not want to be helped and believed it would be best to put this event behind me, forget, and move forward. That is what I did over the next seven years without having named our baby girl. No one ever asked how I was really feeling or remembered my loss with me.
Our rainbow baby was born in 2016 and she was exactly seven pounds of pure perfection and joy. We named her Vida Sierra, meaning “mountain of life” in Spanish. My arms and heart were finally filled to the brim as if she were my first daughter – at least I thought so. Being pregnant again had been terrifying and anxiety fueled my days thinking something would go wrong. The truth was that my rainbow baby was not my first daughter.
In 2020, I discovered I was pregnant again. On March 7, 2021, my water slightly broke from complications due to preeclampsia, and my son, Kaspian Leif Everest, was born via cesarean at 27 weeks. About an hour later, Kaspian died in a failed attempt to keep him alive. I realized at the exact moment when I learned of his death that my heart had never healed from losing our first baby. My world did not shatter again; it had always been shattered. Only this time, it felt like someone reached their hand through my throat and went straight for my unhealed heart to rip it out. I realized that my second daughter was not a replacement for the first daughter we had decided to forget.
Kaspian gave me an awakening as a mother. He has already taught me so many things about myself and this journey that I embarked on years ago. He has taught me what grieving means, the power of love, and the importance of support from family and friends. I recognize that I have three children and that I can honor my children the way I choose to and keep them alive while I navigate this new version of myself. Seven years later, I named my first daughter Paloma Terra – all thanks to her little brother, Kaspian. We are complete as a family of five.
Days after saying goodbye to our beautiful boy, I heard about Thrive Wellness Reno from a dear loss mommy, the term used for mothers who have lost pregnancies or children at any age. I wanted all the help at this point, even though I had no clue how I wanted to be helped. I knew I could not possibly go through this grief alone once again. I had to be honest with myself and accept that my mental health was struggling and that I had to overcome the fear of being shamed or being seen as crazy. I owed it to myself to seek all the safe places and resources possible to talk about my babies, feelings, and thoughts. My husband and living daughter need me – whoever “me” is now.
Thrive Reno’s weekly Perinatal Grief and Loss Support Group has gifted me a safe place to share my story with others who understand my grieving pain. It is a community where people do not make me feel odd or uncomfortable but rather heard and seen without judgment. I have met incredible loss mommies who provide the right kind of encouragement, empathy, advice, and ideas to honor our babies and friendship. I can rely on Thrive Wellness’ support group weekly and I am grateful for this privilege.
I am seven months postpartum now and some days are easier than others. I sometimes forget that I gave birth to a baby seven months ago until I look at my naked body. Every morning, my four-and-a-half-inch horizontal scar reminds me of my painful loss and it is there to stay for as long as I live.
Vida knows that that is where baby brother “popped” out and in her eyes, I am Wonder Woman. Being a parent to a living child with two dead siblings is the most challenging obstacle I face. Vida reminds me often that her big sister and little brother are here. The only difference is we cannot see them. I admire her innocence, truth, compassion, and ability to comprehend death in her capacity. Vida helped me see that she is also grieving her siblings purely and honestly, and I find beauty in how she honors her siblings in the light. My losses are not only mine, but they are my family’s too, and we can go through these tough times together. I do not have to do it alone.
I am uncertain if I will ever heal a hundred percent because a life without your child is cruel, unfair, and backward in the circle of life. I know that my life is worth living for my children and saying their names every chance I get keeps them alive. My family is my motivation to keep moving forward in a world with so many unknowns. My grief can be exhausting, days can feel heavy, and it feels like my hope tank runs out quicker than I would like it to, but I can choose to feel rather than live in numbness.
Finding joy in the hobbies I love keeps me sane day after day, and it makes it even more special when I incorporate my babies. The days I find myself outdoors in complete solitude, I look for the signs in nature that let me know Paloma and Kaspian are still with us. I order Starbucks under their names so strangers can say their names. I make jewelry with their names and wear them every day. We take Kaspian’s urn with us on vacation because he is our family and no one gets left behind.
My mental health now versus what it was years ago is not the same. I still need someone to hold my hand, but I am proud of myself for being here now. I went from not wanting to be helped to being helped by strangers who make me feel normal – whatever the definition of normal is.
To the mommy with empty arms, I see you, I hear you, I feel you, and you are not alone. I do not believe in things happening for a reason, although I strongly feel that our purpose is constantly evolving into complex puzzles. I promise you will find your purpose, though it may be next week, 15 years from now, or in a different lifetime. Remember, there is no rush. Our present purpose is to love and honor our babies even though we cannot hold them in our arms.
Please be gentle with yourself and know there is no timeline to heal from your devastating loss and there is no wrong or right way to grieve. Surround yourself with those who will cry with you in the dark and not force you to move on. Reserve your energy for those who are worthy of you. Set boundaries when you need them and let people know their toxic positivity is hurtful.
You are not broken and you do not need fixing, even though loved ones may feel the burden to make you feel better. We are perfectly normal grieving mothers who love profoundly and deserve our babies earthside. One day, you will smile and feel guilt, and that is okay. Know that you have a village ready to navigate the uncharted depths of the ocean with you and help you come up for air here at Thrive Wellness.
Featured Image Credit: Candice Vivien Photography