We were in Daytona Beach, Florida, on a surprise trip to celebrate my husband’s birthday when I began spotting. The first day I didn’t think much of it, I knew it could be common. As the spotting got heavier, and after a phone call with my OB-GYN back in Portland, on her recommendation we found ourselves in the Emergency Room. An ultrasound confirmed our fears – there was no heartbeat. The doctor explained that sometimes our bodies don’t immediately release the fetus, and it can be a slow process. My body gave no other indications, hence his suggestion to sit and wait.
After a restless night of sleep, heartfelt conversation and prayer, my husband and I decided as much as we liked the oceanfront hotel, where we wanted to be was home. He made all the arrangements, I bought supplies at the store and we began the long weary drive to the Pacific Northwest. The majority of hours spent in the rental car are a blur. Our original plan was to make our pregnancy announcement once we returned home and had all our family and friends under one roof for my husband’s birthday party. Instead, I made phone calls sharing news of the loss we were facing. We drove along, watching cities fly by, sometimes talking, often crying.
Through the hours, my pain increased and I grew more and more uncomfortable. My husband shared with me later that as the miles passed on the freeway his eyes were always searching for the Hospital, Next Exit signs. Neither of us could get the doctor’s words out of our heads.
We reached a hotel right off the freeway in Tennessee. It was there that my body let go of the life that had been created. Instantly I felt different; stomach flatter, less swollen. My heart broken. The reality hit me, I was no longer pregnant. Instead of being out to dinner to celebrate my husband’s 40th birthday, we were curled up in a roadside hotel saying goodbye to hopes and dreams.
Our plan changed and we continued north, making our way to Chicago. After more conversations with my Doctor, she felt confident that it would now be ok to fly home, so long as nothing got worse. We went out to dinner, wandered the streets, took in the sights. We didn’t talk much, mostly just held hands and walked along. Adrift. Untethered. Mournful. I admired the river and buildings, said I’d love to come back another time when I could enjoy all that the city had to offer.
We flew to Portland, returning home much different than when we had left. The matching baby onesies I bought to break the news to my pregnant sister got tucked away into my hope chest. I threw my husband a fabulous birthday party in which he was surrounded by our parents and friends and love. No big announcement to make, just a rousing version of Happy Birthday. Life moved on in the midst of grief and fear and faith.
10 years later and many of you know what happened next. We were blessed to get pregnant quickly and are now the parents to an all out beautiful, rascally, kind, curious 9 year old boy we lovingly refer to as AB.
My plans were never to run a marathon other than New York City. However, Chicago is calling me this year. 10 years later. It’s pulling me to come back. To see the beautiful streets, this time with eyes full of wonder and adventure. Less sadness, more joy. I will run for Every Mother Counts once again. I will run and fundraise because all proceeds go to improving access to safe and respectful maternity care. 303,00 women die every year as a result of complications during pregnancy and childbirth. That is one woman every 2 minutes. Up to 98% of these deaths are preventable. Distance is often a barrier for women to receive the care they need. Many women live miles away from healthcare facilities with limited access to transportation.
Even with the all the pain, I am grateful for so much of our story. Gratitude will propel me forward as I go my own distance, 26.2 miles though the streets of Chicago 10 years later. Loss becomes gain. One heart, two legs- full of strength, determination, faith, hope, and a will to do better for every mother, every where.