Nine Months

Dear Leah,

It is March 21, 2017. Today you would be nine months old. Nine months have passed since the nine months that I carried you came to a devastating end. Some days the pain of missing you is as raw and crushing as it was last summer, while other days it all feels like a bad dream.

It is surreal to think that, for half of this time, the body you and I shared for nine months has been home to your brother. Just as I “knew” you were my daughter from the early weeks of our time together, I had been certain since the beginning of this pregnancy that the newest member of our family was a boy. This was confirmed at the second trimester anatomy scan several weeks ago. Seeing him on the ultrasound screen filled me with a tumultuous mixture of relief, hope, sadness, and longing. I love him as I love you, but any semblance of joy I feel now is simply different. It’s a joy that is, and will always be, invariably tethered by grief.

While the kicks that he generously gives me throughout the days fill me with reassurance, they also make me ache for you. As my belly swells and his movements grow stronger, I think of every birthday, Christmas morning, and family photo that he will be a part of—and that you will be absent from—if he makes it into the world unscathed. Each day I look at your photos and wonder if he will look like you, and I also wonder if I will be comforted or disconcerted if this is the case. It pains me to think that he will spend the first years of his life completely unaware of the sister who came before him. If he joins me in this life before he joins you in the next, I promise to tell him all about you and the unfillable space you hold in our family.


People tell me that this new baby and pregnancy are completely distinct and separate from you, but this simply isn’t true. Every week I compare my changing body to the photos I took while I carried you. Because of you, I am far more likely to call my doctor or run to the hospital for reassurance if I fear something is amiss, rather than draw comfort from the generic wisdom that the female body’s natural capacities and the power of positive thinking can guarantee a baby’s safe arrival into the world. Simply put, it is easy to assume that things will always work out for the best if one has never experienced the worst. Because of you, I know that I and the people I love most are not immune to tragedy.

Last week I had a dream about you—the first and only dream I have had about you since the nine months that I carried you. Some time had passed since your birth, and you were still alive, still in the hospital, and still on life support. I was at home when I received a call from the doctor saying that they were going to remove your ventilator, and I should come say goodbye. My family drove me to the hospital, and I was desperate to get to you as quickly as I could. When we arrived, they became distracted in the lobby, and couldn’t hear me begging them to take me to the NICU. I finally started sobbing and screaming: “I have to see Leah! There’s so much I need to tell her before I say goodbye!” When I awoke, my face was drenched in tears. I have thought about this dream every day since—about all the things I wanted to tell you and show you, but never got the chance to.

Contrary to the platitude that time heals all wounds, each day I feel my loss wound swell larger as I continue to navigate life without the vital piece of my heart that died with you. It has been nine months of a lifetime in which my soul will continue to ache for you—the much-loved, much-missed girl who first made me a mother.

All my love and a kiss,

Your Mama

Guest Post: Elijah’s Story

I am honoured to share the following guest post by fellow loss mama Lisa Addis.

It was a Wednesday. I was putting the finishing touches on the swing I had purchased for my second and much-loved baby boy, Elijah, who was due to arrive in just twelve days. After a tiring but otherwise healthy pregnancy, my boyfriend and I were beyond excited to finally meet the newest member of our family.

Like most expectant mothers, I had been keeping busy with preparations for my baby’s arrival. It was late in the day, nearly midnight, when I suddenly realized that I couldn’t remember the last time I had felt him kick. I decided to warm up a bath and relax, hoping it would wake him up…but I still did not feel any movement. Slowly, the worry began to creep up on me. I changed my strategy and started walking around the house and talking to him, but still he did not move. Finally unable to suppress my fear, I messaged my family and asked for advice. They tried to console me with the words that are often said to women during their final weeks of pregnancy: “Babies always slow down at the end as they get bigger and run out of space. Don’t worry! Everything will be okay.

Wanting to believe they were right, I calmed myself down and went to bed. But then Thursday morning came, still with no movements from Elijah. Fearing the worst, I broke into sobs and called my mother-in-law to take me to the hospital. On the drive there she kept trying to reassure me: “Everything is okay! Nothing is wrong.” But little did we know that everything was wrong.

Upon arriving, I was admitted to the Labour and Delivery unit. Terrified, I lay still as the nurse strapped the fetal monitor to my body. I so badly wanted to hear Elijah’s heartbeat…but she couldn’t find it. She told me not to worry, and proceeded to ask me routine questions while I cried. 

Soon enough I was being wheeled out to have an ultrasound. I remember fighting back tears and thinking to myself, “These things don’t happen, not my baby,” as the technician scanned my belly and the nurse held my hand. They asked me more questions, trying to understand if there had been any complications during my pregnancy, but everything had been fine up to this point.

They wheeled me back to my room and told me the doctor would come soon to provide some answers. Words cannot express the excruciating feeling of waiting to find out whether my son was alive or dead. Some time passed before the doctor arrived. “I’m sorry,” he said, shaking his head. “There is no heartbeat. He’s gone.”

It felt as though I had been stabbed in the chest, and my heart shattered into a million pieces. Unable to believe the words coming from his lips, all I could do was scream and cry out in agony. I felt like I had stepped into a dreamworld as he proceeded to tell me I could go home and gather my things before returning to give birth to my baby boy, who would be born still.

I felt completely numb as we left the hospital and returned home. I packed Elijah’s bag, all the while thinking how surreal it was that I wouldn’t be bringing my baby home. I sat on the couch and stared at my belly, unable to understand how Elijah could be dead. How was this possible? Why was this happening to me and my son? Was it all my fault somehow?

When we returned to the hospital, the doctors, nurses, and social workers all came in to talk to me. I was advised about making funeral arrangements, something I couldn’t quite wrap my head around. No mother should have to think about her child’s funeral right before she is about to give birth.

My induction began and my labour started slowly, gradually picking up speed as Thursday night bled into Friday morning. Elijah’s father, grandmother, and aunt all stood by me as I gave birth to my beautiful son. When he came out I prayed that he would cry…I was simply dying inside, desperate to hear him cry…but he entered the world silently. They took him away and cleaned him off. That’s when I was told that there was a knot in his umbilical cord. They explained that there is nothing I could have done to cause or prevent it, and it cannot be detected on ultrasounds.


June 10, 2016

I was told that I could hold him for as long as I wanted. During those precious hours I talked to him, told him how much I love him, and kissed his beautiful face. I cherish every second that I got to spend with him, before they took him away from me forever. How do you say hello and goodbye to your child all at once? I cannot describe the pain of knowing I would never hold him again, see him smile, hear him laugh, or even know the colour of his eyes.

When I arrived back home, Elijah’s brother asked me where the baby was. I tried so hard to fight back my tears. I cleared my throat and said, “Elijah is in Heaven with God. He passed away.” I do not necessarily believe this, but my son does, and I wanted so badly to spare him the same unbearable pain I was feeling.

In the weeks and months that followed, my inconsolable grief for Elijah took me to very dark places. I felt suicidal, numb, angry, depressed, sad, and lonely—all at once. I felt like nothing in the world mattered and I could not go on in life without him. Eventually I went to counseling, and then a support group, where I connected with other loss parents who understood my pain. Gradually, I learned to live with the reality that is every parent’s worst nightmare.

Still, every day remains a struggle. Each morning I awake to a gaping hole in my heart and a silence in my home that should be filled with Elijah’s cries and laughter. I miss him every single day, and I will continue to miss him for the rest of my life. All I have is memories of my second son, when he should be here, safe in the arms of his family.

I love you, my sweet Elijah. You are everything to me.


After Leah’s death, the crippling agony of my grief was immediately accompanied by another all-consuming emotion: Fear. It is difficult to imagine that any parent who has lost their first and only child will not be plagued by worrisome questions as they peer ahead into the uncertain future: What if subsequent pregnancies end the same way? What if I never have a living child to bring home and care for? And, in my case specifically: Will I ever be able to conceive again?

You see, throughout the entire nine months that I carried Leah, I had been quietly wondering if this pregnancy was a complete biological fluke. This is because, months before she was conceived, I had become attuned to the fact that my menstrual cycles seemed to show the classic signs of a luteal phase defect. In a nutshell, the luteal phase is the time between ovulation and the beginning of menstruation. Most medical professionals seem to agree that a 12-16 day luteal phase is “normal,” with anything less than that potentially inhibiting fertility since it may not provide enough time for a fertilized egg to properly implant in the uterus.

I am not sure why it took me so long to notice that my monthly luteal phases were disconcertingly short at 10 days—and sometimes less. As mentioned previously, I had been using the Fertility Awareness Method as natural birth control for about three years. While most women who have read Toni Weschler’s classic text, Taking Charge of Your Fertility, do so in their quest for pregnancy achievement, I had been diligently charting my basal body temperatures and cervical mucus each day in my efforts to delay motherhood. In any case, as soon as I noticed this anomaly in my monthly cycles, I began to wonder what complications it might pose when I did eventually want to conceive. While I didn’t see myself becoming a mother for a few more years, I did some research on the issue and decided to start taking a Vitamin B6 supplement each day for good measure.

This is likely why I had grown relaxed in my charting habits shortly before Leah was conceived, believing that I couldn’t become pregnant even if I did have intercourse during my fertile window. This is also why I was equally relieved as I was surprised when I discovered I was pregnant. This relief would continue throughout the next nine months as my pregnancy progressed perfectly, all the while wondering if this would be my only shot at motherhood without the aid of costly fertility medications and procedures. I had never envisioned myself with a house full of children, so if Leah ended up being the only child I was able to conceive without medical intervention, I would have proceeded through life content with my family of three. Needless to say, when she died unexpectedly at the tail end of my complication-free pregnancy, my anxiety wasted no time before shouting its concerns from the depths of my mind, reminding me that I might never fall pregnant again so easily, if at all.

Admittedly, this anxiety was more consuming at the beginning of my grief journey, when my chaotic postpartum hormones, unable to make sense of my baby’s absence, were urging me to become pregnant again as soon as possible. But this instinctive urge faded as the weeks and months wore on, and I finally accepted that having another baby would not be a magical cure for my grief. Throughout this time, my husband and I devised a plan: We would wait until December, six months after Leah’s birth, before trying to conceive again, with the understanding that it was unlikely to happen right away. If six months of trying bore no fruit, I would speak to my OBGYN about possible next steps. In the meantime, I continued to take my vitamins and chart my cycles so that I would have tangible proof of my short luteal phases to present to my doctor when the time came. I also tried my best not to fall apart each time my period showed up ten days after my ovulatory temperature spike.


My first charted post-pregnancy cycle, with a crushingly short luteal phase of eight days

With nowhere to go but forward, I trudged ahead on emotional autopilot, adapting to a new routine, a new job, and a new life as a bereaved mother. During this time I settled into a strangely comfortable state of apathy, not feeling much of anything beyond the ever-present ache for my daughter. At least, that was the case—until two pregnancy announcements and one birth announcement, all unleashed within the course of a week, reignited my raw grieving emotions with the force of a thousand suns.

Maybe a stronger loss mama could have handled it. I wanted to believe that I could handle it. After all, I did not want these babies, nor was I even sure if I was emotionally ready to be pregnant again. Nevertheless, it all crashed over me with the devastating impact of a tidal wave—the visceral reminders of what I had, what I lost, and what I may never have again. Not since June had my hormones and emotions run so hopelessly amok: For an entire week I hurled pillows against walls, surrendered to uncontrollable sob fests in the washroom at work, and launched more f-bombs into the atmosphere than I had in the previous 30 years of my life combined.

In short, I was a mess. And I was so consumed by this tornado of emotions that I hadn’t even noticed day eleven of my luteal phase come and go, with no sign of my period in sight.

When this realization finally hit me, the fog lifted and I immediately snapped out of my funk. Eleven days! No, it wasn’t perfect, but it was something. It was hope. Maybe next month I could make it to twelve days, which would finally bring my cycle lengths to the lower end of “normal.”

And then day twelve passed me by, still with no indication that my period was on its way.

On day thirteen, I tried my best to stay grounded and suppress the flicker of wonder that had ignited within me: Was it possible? My husband and I were not actively trying to conceive yet, but we hadn’t been actively preventing it, either. I told myself to wait at least a week before jumping to any conclusions. After all, a twelve day luteal phase was nothing to sneeze at, and I would likely subject myself to unnecessary disappointment by taking a home pregnancy test so soon.

Yet I couldn’t shake the deep, consuming question that continued to echo in my brain all day at work: What if? After much internal debate, my curiosity ultimately trumped my caution. I stopped at a drugstore on my way home and didn’t tell my husband about my excursion. I was even able to wait until after dinner before retreating to the washroom to carry out my covert plan.

So many thoughts and emotions flashed through my mind while I waited for the results. I could vividly see myself, fourteen months prior, smiling as two pink lines confirmed my pregnancy with Leah. And then, almost as if I had stepped back in time, they slowly appeared once again.


December 2, 2016


I wish I could say that this reassuring result filled me with joy and excitement, but this simply wasn’t the case. Instead, I shed silent tears for the daughter whom I seemed to miss more than ever in that moment. I instantly thought about all the things that this new baby would get to see and experience if it managed to beat the odds and make it home—all the things I dreamed of doing with Leah, but never got the chance to. However, I also shed tears for myself, thinking about the nine months of emotional turmoil I was about to experience if this pregnancy progressed normally (which would be the best case scenario), as well as the utter devastation that I would feel if it were to result in another loss.

Was I thankful to see that my fears about secondary infertility were apparently unfounded? Yes, profoundly so. At this point I had interacted with too many loss mamas who had faced (and were still facing) fertility struggles to dismiss this glimmer of hope completely. But the brutal truth is that my grief and fear trumped my ability to feel the same joy and excitement that I did when I first discovered I was pregnant just over a year ago.

As I write this, I am 18 weeks pregnant with Leah’s sibling. To say that the past four months have been an emotional roller coaster would be an understatement. First, there are the flashbacks. Goodness, the flashbacks. Within the first eight weeks I made two visits to the emergency room for reassurance scans, and each time I felt like I had been transported back to June. I was bombarded with visions of myself wandering into the same lobby and telling the triage nurse that I had noticed a reduction in my baby’s movements; being directed to the Labour and Delivery unit, where I broke down crying at the intake desk, trying to explain that I had come to the hospital in a moment of panic, and no I had not called my midwife yet; watching a team of doctors remove my daughter from my body and whisk her away, not knowing what was going on or where they were taking her; holding my beautiful girl to my chest while her body seized and convulsed against my skin, and crying out in agony as she breathed her last laboured breath in my arms. I continue to experience these intrusive flashbacks on a daily basis, and I imagine their frequency and intensity will only increase as I move closer to my due date.

Second, there’s the anxiety. I held out okay until week 6 arrived, at which point the dreaded brown spotting started. Now, brown spotting can be totally normal if it is merely old blood being shed from the uterus during the early weeks of pregnancy—but of course, sometimes it can also be an early sign of miscarriage. I count myself fortunate that it was harmless in this case, but I was still overcome by a wave of panic each time it re-surfaced over the course of the next two weeks. I was also fortunate enough to have far more pronounced first trimester symptoms than I did with Leah, including debilitating fatigue and nausea. I was thankful for these corporeal reminders that my body was seemingly reacting to this pregnancy as it should—until I experienced the occasional day where these symptoms seemed to disappear completely. Of course, this can also be a totally normal response to fluctuating pregnancy hormones—but sometimes it can signify that a missed miscarriage has occurred.

I did not experience a reprieve from my anxiety until I reached week 10. Against the recommendations of the medical community at large, I decided to rent a medical grade Doppler so I could listen to the baby’s heartbeat at home. I can honestly say it is the best decision I have made for myself and my self-care during this pregnancy. It arrived by week 11, and after two practice runs I became quite proficient at finding the baby’s heartbeat during each subsequent use. I now use it twice a day: In the morning before I leave for work, and in the evening when I return home. Not only do these daily sessions allow me to feel connected to the life that is growing inside me, but they also give me reason to pause, smile, and find assurance in knowing that, at least for the present moment, my baby is alive and well.


Leah’s sibling at 12 weeks gestation

Even so, I cannot speak or think about my future with this child in definitive terms. While I wish I could say that this pregnancy marks a happy ending of sorts for me and my family, the reality of being a loss mama is far more complicated than that. However, this does not mean that I do not love this baby tremendously. To the contrary—rather than plan ahead for things that may or may not happen, I spend each day acutely aware that this could be the only time I get to spend with this child, and I do not take a single heartbeat, flutter, or kick for granted.

As grateful as I am for this pregnancy, and despite being well into the mythical “safe zone” that comes after 14 weeks gestation, there are no guarantees that I will get to bring this baby home. As much as I am hoping for the best, I also know how suddenly and unexpectedly a complication-free pregnancy can careen towards the worst. Moreover, even if I do get to bring this baby home, doing so cannot suture the loss wound that Leah has left on my heart. Don’t get me wrong: Having a living child will certainly restore some of the joy and hope that disappeared from my life when Leah died. But I will continue to ache for my firstborn daughter each and every day, just as I do now.

I also understand that this development will inevitably change the nature of this blog. As a friend and fellow loss mama said to me not too long ago, the only thing harder than being pregnant after loss is not being pregnant after loss (assuming that the woman in question desires to have another child). I know firsthand the difference between being a pregnant loss mama and being a childless mother, and I can say without a doubt that the latter experience is far more difficult. While this pregnancy—like all pregnancies—may result in a heartbreaking loss, the imminent possibility that I may bring a living child home makes all the difference in the world. I thus recognize that sharing my pregnancy experience means this blog may become one more trauma trigger for loss mamas without living children, and especially for readers who know the pain of infertility and secondary infertility. For this reason, I cannot say that I am blessed to have fallen pregnant again so soon, when so many women struggle for years to conceive, and many others never do so at all. There is no way around the fact that this is devastatingly and infuriatingly unfair, yet it is the reality that many loss mamas are forced to live day in and day out.

In the meantime, all I can do is continue to write about what I am living, which for now is a chaotic mixture of grief, anxiety, fear, and—dare I say it—hope. Despite my aching loss wound and my trepidation about the uncertain future, I do count myself fortunate to awake each day with a heart that is filled to the brim with love for my two children—the one whose hand I hope to hold throughout the years to come, and the one whose hand I hope to hold again someday.