The 1 in 4 Project: Kerrisa
I've had several people ask if I was going to participate in my own project. Being both behind and in front of the camera can be difficult. So I decided to do a little bit of everything for mine. I also have a really hard time trying to condense our story so it is long. Really long. Even though some of you may already know our story, I still welcome you to read and watch and listen. This was not an easy thing for me to do, but I do think its important. <3
I have experienced three pregnancy losses and each one of them was a vastly different experience, both in terms of the medical/physical aspect as well emotional.
I became a mom at the age of 22, single and in college, and, although it was wildly unexpected and none of it was easy, it was biggest blessing of my life.
I began dating my now husband in 2011, when my son was just over a year old. Our relationship progressed rather quickly (I wasn’t into playing games or dating just for fun with a child in tow) and we moved in together. We got engaged in early 2013 and planned our wedding for the following summer.
At the end of August in 2013 I found out I was pregnant. My due date was calculated to be within a week of the wedding I was in the middle of planning. I was angry. I felt like my entire life was over because this was going to ruin my dream wedding. I know how ridiculous and dramatic that sounds, but its honestly how I felt. Though I had no plans to, I found myself thinking about termination more than once. I was selfish, and fully acknowledged that even at the time, but that doesn’t make those feelings invalid. I started spotting a little over a week after I found out. I went to the doctor for an ultrasound and they couldn’t tell me for sure if I was going to miscarry, but said “it looked like it was heading that direction.” The bleeding increased over the next couple of days and I ended up miscarrying while out to lunch in the toilet of a public restroom.
I felt an immense amount of guilt over the entire situation. I was essentially convinced that my desire to not be pregnant was so strong that I caused my own miscarriage. I was appalled that I had flushed my baby down a toilet without a second thought. But I suppressed all of these feelings, I pushed them back into my inner most conscious, and then I proceeded with life as usual, like nothing ever happened.
Once married, we had planned to get pregnant quickly. My son was 4 by then and that was already a larger age gap than I ever envisioned. But month after month went by and it didn’t happen. I felt some of those feelings that I had buried start to creep back out. I felt like I was being punished for my attitude towards the previous pregnancy. But again I tried to push these feelings away.
After trying unsuccessfully for a year, we decided to see a fertility specialist. Two weeks after my first appointment I was pregnant. I didn’t receive any treatments, there were no diagnoses or procedures. It just finally happened. While we were overjoyed, it was not an easy pregnancy from day one.
The instant I found out we were pregnant all those feelings and experiences that I didn’t allow myself to feel and process came back to haunt me. Every little cramp and my anxiety went through the roof. When I experienced spotting at 12 weeks, I panicked. I would have nightmares that I woke up in a pool of blood. The excitement and happiness of finally being pregnant was overshadowed by the fear of losing the baby. But as I got farther along, those feelings gradually lessened.
On August 4th, 2015, I woke up to my worst nightmare. Laying in a puddle, at sixteen weeks, my water had broken sometime during the night. Our midwife came over immediately and confirmed that my water had in fact broken and I hadn’t just peed. We didn’t know how or why, so we headed to the hospital. Although the birth center technically is not supposed to take you until you are 20 weeks (you are supposed to go to the ER instead), my amazing (homebirth) midwife pushed and got us in. In the twenty minutes between my house and the hospital, I went from asymptomatic to febrile with intense pain and light headedness. I almost passed out in the hall trying to walk to the room they had ready for me. They discovered I had a uterine infection, which typically progress very very quickly to sepsis and can be deadly. The only treatment is to deliver and empty the uterus so it can heal. They wanted to induce me.
I refused the induction initially. They had just done an ultrasound and confirmed my baby still had a heartbeat. I knew induction meant my baby would not survive. I also knew there was no chance of survival if I didn’t induce. My baby was going to die regardless. I also knew that refusing the induction meant putting myself in further danger. But in that moment, I was not willing to make a decision that would advance the process of my baby’s death.
We had been placed in a high risk delivery room all the way at the end of the department in the corner, an attempt to offer us privacy as our situation was vastly different from the rest of the patients. But the floor was busy and I was forced to listen to the heartbeat of the baby on the monitor in the next room the entire night. I didn’t have any monitors connected to me, they never checked my baby’s heartbeat. The rhythmic beating that normally calmed my nerves when I was particularly anxious about miscarrying was now a constant reminder that I was indeed losing my baby.
My condition worsened throughout the day and into the night. No one could get an IV in me so 12+ hours after arriving I still had not received any antibiotics. By midnight my fever was up to 104, I was in intense pain, and showing signs of sepsis. The hope that I was holding out for diminished and we revisited the suggested induction. It was the hardest decision I have ever made. At midnight on August 5th, I received my first dose of cytotec. I was freezing and shivering so intensely the whole bed was shaking, yet my body was burning up.
The cytotec kicked in almost immediately. They offered me an epidural. I refused. I wanted to stay as true to my original birth plan as possible, even though I knew the end result would be tragic. I needed to be in control of my labor, to have one piece of my plan go the way I wanted.
At 7:32, our son was born. Seven inches and 4.2 ounces of perfection. We named him Hudson Barrett.
I grieved Hudson’s loss in a much healthier way. I allowed myself to feel whatever I needed to feel at whatever moment I needed to feel it. I didn’t try to bury it. We were very public about our story. I planned every aspect of his burial, even custom designed his gravestone. I welcomed mementos and talked about him and my feelings whenever possible. These things are what helped me get through such a difficult time.
A few months after losing Hudson we got pregnant again. It was an very emotional pregnancy, and we had some hiccups along the way. Lorelei was born at 32 weeks, but proved to be very strong and quite the little fighter. She was able to come home after only 2.5 weeks in the NICU.
A few months later I again found myself pregnant. I know lots of people joke about whether we know how that happens, and some may even think we were being irresponsible. Honestly, none of that matters because its not their business. But I will say that after dealing with infertility and month after month going by while actively trying, there is a difficulty in switching your mentality to one of needing to be careful to prevent that.
I was instantly incredibly sick. I was diagnosed with hyperemesis gravidarum shortly into the pregnancy. I frequented the hospital for fluids and had to have iron infusions because my iron was so low. I spent the majority of my day on the couch or hovering over a toilet. I missed a lot of my daughter’s first year of life because I physically was unable to care for her. She was exclusively breastfed until my milk supply began to dwindle due to the pregnancy hormones and constant dehydration. We eventually had to rely 100% on donor milk after trying numerous formulas with no luck.
At the beginning of the pregnancy, my providers recommended I get weekly progesterone shots due to my history. I decided to forgo them for multiple reasons but cost and time commitment were some of the biggest. I also had received them with Lorelei and, because she was born at 32 weeks, I just felt like they didn’t work and weren’t worth it. This may seem like random information but it is pretty huge in relation to my story.
During pregnancy, I always have an “irritable uterus”. I start getting Braxton Hicks before I even get out of the first trimester, and they start earlier every pregnancy. While they can be worrisome, at this point I was pretty used to them and was no longer calling my provider every time it happened.
One day just shy of 19 weeks, I was having a particularly “crampy” day. I had been having what I assumed was my annoying Braxton Hicks for a couple hours, but on a whim I decided maybe I should start timing them. They were regular and getting closer together. I decided to take a bath, drink a gallon of water, and call my provider. When the bath and the water didn’t seem to ease them, they asked to come to the birth center but were not super concerned, knowing that I have a lot of contractions through out pregnancy. I went by myself, fully expecting to be sent home and told to rest.
However I didn't get sent home. They confirmed that I was in labor, my cervix was dilating, and at 19 weeks, they could do nothing to stop it. I begged them to try anyways, but they refused to give me anything. They reminded me that I was offered progesterone shots and I had refused them; that that was the only treatment they had for preterm labor this early and I rejected it. It was like a slap in the face. Didn't they realize that was all I had been thinking about since the moment they confirmed I was in labor? That this was my fault. That I could have prevented this and I didnt.
My husband joined me in the hospital and tried so hard with me to get them to try something, anything. To not just passively let this happen. Eventually we realized our efforts were in vain and I gave up. I lost all hope. I begged them to put me to sleep or give me drugs so I wouldn’t remember anything. I had multiple panic attacks where I couldn’t breathe for several minutes. We were so helpless.
Finn Everett was born the following morning, fully en caul, with the bag of waters intact and the placenta still attached. The nurses assumed he was already dead but then he started kicked away so we quickly broke open the sac. He kicked and wiggled and his heart was beating strong. But there was nothing they could do for him. I had to just sit there and hold him and watch him die.
While I feel like I am mostly at peace with Hudson’s loss, that I have successfully made my way through the grieving process, I haven’t made much progress at all with Finn’s. I don’t feel however that I am trying to bury it as I did with my early miscarriage. I’m simply just not ready. I think a lot of that comes from the guilt I feel. Finn still doesn’t have a grave stone. I made Austin handle every aspect of his burial because I just couldn’t. I hadn’t even looked at that memory book that the hospital put together for us until I started working on my story for this project.
Grief is such an odd and unique thing. It holds similarities across the board while still being so incredibly individual to each person, each experience, each day, each minute. I truly believe there is no wrong way to grieve, as long as you do grieve. Try not to resist those thoughts and feelings and just let them flow; let the grief in, let it dwell as long as it needs to. Because thats the only way to get through the it. To properly process it. To come out on the other side and be able to make some sense of the tragedy and say I’m stronger because of this. But that doesn’t happen over night and it can’t be rushed.
Be aware of that when interacting with someone who has experienced loss. Whether you have that shared experience or not, everyone processes in their own way and it can harmful to assume you know how that person is feeling. Don’t try to fix it. Don’t try to say things to make it better. You can’t. And you will probably end up putting your foot in your mouth if you try. Just listen. Be there. Meet them where they are and sit there with them even it means sitting in silence. It will probably be uncomfortable, but its worth it.
I'm not religious so I don't find comfort or purpose in that aspect where many people do. I will say loss can be extremely hard to navigate in the absence of faith, as that is what everyone seems to turn to in those moments.
I find purpose and comfort in my sons deaths through serving others, through projects like these.