Loss, Trauma, and the Walk Between Life and Death

“Stay” 2016 
Ink, acrylic, pen by Olivia Shapley
October is SIDS, Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month… In lieu of honoring this month and in memory of those experiencing loss, here is my story.
I apologize in advance for the length and scattered tone of this article. I have so much pent up frustration about this I can’t allow myself to dedicate article after article explaining my story that everyone seems to want to know. It constantly makes me feel angry and bitter. Instead, I have chosen to write this in length and let it be how it will be. I am allowing this naked truth of words to get it out. I’m using it as a tool to process all the feelings that I have about announcing the new baby that my partner and I have on the way… and all the in-between’s that made this story. I tried writing this many times. I just have not been able too. The last time I tried writing this article I was in a very different place. I was in my 3rd trimester and it seemed like my partner and I were going to have a healthy baby to full term. I experienced a form of birth trauma I wasn’t expecting which complicated my feelings and ability to process everything that has occurred.

How I got to where I am today starts in New York. I was working for a successful artist and my partner and I had decided to try and get pregnant. Long story short, my job didn’t exist anymore and we couldn’t afford to stay in New York; another story in itself that I won’t discuss today.

I was 35 at the time and I didn’t know if there would be another chance for us. I feel like I could have waited a lifetime to be ready. Having kids is always something a driven women has to weigh and internally battle. Society doesn’t support women having babies and a career. I also don’t come from a privileged family where money has been easy so I’ve had to rely on myself, to drive me to where I am today. I always knew if I was to have a child I would never do so in New York City. I couldn’t. It felt wrong to do that.

I remember when I new I had conceived. There was this metaphysical connection to the other world I can’t explain. It was like my crown chakra had expanded and there was another entity present, one that was kind, strong, and ready for this world. She told me her name was Freya.

It was decided. Freya it was. She was arriving and we would have to make a safe space for her to arrive.

I can’t speak for my partner but I feel like we had the chance of briefly being happy. We packed up and left New York as soon as we could afford to do so. My partner was unable to find steady work there due to the job market and our rent was rumored to be going up. We were already barely making it, unable to get a monthly MTA ticket or sometimes even buy the groceries we needed.

I had my online side business at the time, Keven Craft Rituals and we needed to find a home base and figure out where we wanted to be… We had to drive across country, buy a car, and stop and see family because we didn’t know the next time it would happen. We re-routed a few times and then finally arrived at my in-laws family's lake cabin near Spokane, WA.

I was not able to get any prenatal care since I had lost my insurance and Cobra was out of the question. While traveling I had no permanent address. Without an address it wasn’t possible to get on Medicare. I quickly learned that this would be super complicated. I was lost in the system.. When I should have been able to check-in with my health and my babies health. No-one would give me anything but a pregnancy urine test, and I had had issues getting a clear at-home result. I had all the symptoms of a normal pregnancy, food aversions, super fatigued and nauseous. A woman knows her body and they say they know when they are pregnant. Something just shifts. It is unlike the descriptions you hear before you make the journey from maiden to mother.

My belly continued to grow and I was having mixed signals from my body and my pregnancy tests, which I continued to take on my own. I was under immense stress and I had read that it was possible for stress hormones to mask the standard urine tests. I continued to have irregular spotting but something was happening to my body. We had no home, a limited amount of cash and a ticking-time bomb baby on her way.

We did what anyone would do. Looked for work and weighed our choices for a quality of life we would enjoy and a great place to raise a family. Spokane, Seattle, Portland, etc. Unfortunately the work either of us found wouldn’t support a growing family, and the work I found in Portland as a finisher was going to be difficult and toxic- not really safe for a growing baby. The salary was not enough to cover rent even in a bad part of Portland, so that really wasn’t far off from where we were in Brooklyn. Portland was out. Basically the same story for everywhere else we found with larger paying jobs. We liked the PNW so we continued on.

We stayed afloat by maxing out credit and getting help from family. We ended up having to leave the cabin and found a former commune/eco-village in Dexter, OR. We had a dog and a cat living in a tiny 100sq foot loft space and no real prospects for the month we stayed there. Then one day, this commercial, historical house came on the market for rent. It needed a ton of work but you could really feel the possibility. I was sold when I walked in. I heard whispers from the past for us to save it, bring in new energy and re-establish the space for the arts and community. It seemed like a great fit for an urban, live-work space where I could both raise my child and run my business. We were out of money and we had to make a decision. Eugene it was.

Luckily with the help of the Eco-village I was in a place long enough to be able to apply for Medicare and get fast tracked because of my pregnancy. I found a walk-in city clinic where I was given the standard urine pregnancy test, asked my symptoms, and then told I probably had a tumor. I was not examined or given any other options. I called every walk-in clinic and the catch 22 of the system is you need a positive urine or blood test to get an ultrasound ordered. Planned parenthood tried helping but they were also stuck within the system.

I finally got into a Women’s Clinic under the guise of an annual pap that the city clinic had ordered. I was 15 weeks pregnant when we found out at some point we had lost the baby. We didn’t know when, there weren’t really any signs that the baby was gone.

Never go into a walk-in clinic in Oregon with no insurance. The fee is $250 and they pretty much don’t do anything but ingest you into the system. We tried this once and they did nothing to help and told me I would have to go to someone else.

The ultrasound confirmed nothing other than I had a functioning fertility system with no tumors, no cysts, and my blood tests all came out normal. The only conclusion was the high amounts of stress and lack of care likely contributed to a miscarriage. Or, maybe there was a tumor that dissipated on its own. They said it was possible my body re-absorbed the baby or I had lost the baby earlier on and then had an extended chemical pregnancy. They really didn’t know and that was all the information I was going to get.

You can imagine after 15 weeks of thinking there was a baby… and coming home one day to realize there is no baby… There was a strange sense of relief because it had been both tragic and traumatizing. I finally had an answer and the system hadn’t been there for me when I was in transition. I felt like I had failed myself, my body, my baby, my partner… and all while trying to build a family and a better quality of life. I’m not even sure how well I had coped with the miscarriage. I learned that this happens often and tends to be an un-shared issue for many women. It’s a difficult topic to discuss for both sides.

Fast forward a few months and my cycle had returned and synced back up thanks to the Lunaception methods I had practiced for years. I had Medicare still set-up from the first pregnancy which carried through to my new pregnancy, which at the time I started writing this article I was currently at 17 weeks.

We had been in our live-work space for a few months and I was in a mental haze. I wasn’t sure what had really happened and I was in some dark depression, although hiding it from others. Out of nowhere we had a positive pregnancy test. I quickly took advantage of my insurance to make sure everything seemed ok. I should divulge that I am highly afraid of needles, doctors and all forms of surgery. I’m super sensitive to medication so most of the time I treat holistically and at home. I chose to use the system and make sure things were on track. The pre-natal blood work was excellent and they heard a strong heartbeat. I was back to growing too fast that I couldn’t fit into any of my clothes, this time with a confirmed baby on the way.

I’ve struggled with telling people because I feel like although my miscarriage was not unique, I have yet to come to terms with the people and events that have affected me getting to this point. We’ve had little sleep and barely any sanity but it appears we may have made it through whatever that complicated life transition was about.

Stay tuned for the rest of the story and the arrival of our little one…

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