What ‘This is Us’ Got Right About Pregnancy Loss

I have to admit that the when I first heard about NBC’s hit show ‘This is Us’ I had no intention of watching it. When a friend told me that there were triplets involved, and one of them passed away in the first episode, I knew it would just be too close to home for me.

After all, I’ve been the woman who had three babies growing inside of her at one time. I’ve been the woman saying goodbye to one of my triplet sons all while fighting to keep the other two babies safe inside.

However, this is where my story took a different turn. In the show the family has two surviving triplets and ends up adopting a third baby as well. My husband and I walked out of the hospital with nothing but three little memory boxes. We went home with no babies to care for, no joy in our hearts, and not much to say to one another. To say we were shells of our former selves just wouldn’t do that pain the justice it deserves.

I have now watched every single episode of ‘This is Us’ and I have to say that I am pleasantly surprised with the way they have portrayed pregnancy loss. This week one of the main characters suffered the loss of her baby early on in pregnancy. The episode carefully illustrated the pain of both the mother and father of the baby. Since my loss over seven years ago, I haven’t found many television shows or movies that have done a great job of even scraping the surface of the emotions and experiences surrounding pregnancy loss. I am so thankful for a hit show that is not only willing to tackle this tough topic, but one that didn’t shy away from the depth of the situation.

I firmly believe that every single pregnancy loss is different. There are no two stories that are the same. No two people feel the exact same emotions or deal with their pain in the same way. However, there are a few things that I think the show manged to portray in the most beautiful and accurate way.

Sometimes telling your family and friends is just too much. When Kate loses her baby in this week’s episode, she avoids calls from her mother. For me, the love of my family and friends became the thing that truly rescued me from the most devastating experience of my life. Seeing the pain in my family members’ eyes was at times the hardest part though. I just wasn’t strong enough to see them or help them through their pain. I was often left feeling devastated with the pain I had caused my family. They would probably tell me I’m crazy for ever thinking that, but at the time they couldn’t have convinced me otherwise.

The guilt is heavy. Kate verbalized her belief that she did something to cause her baby’s death. I too have wrestled with the responsibility of my children’s passing. I often replay the events surrounding losing my triplets. Did I walk too much at the store the day before? Was it because I was slightly overweight? Did God think I couldn’t handle three? The self-blame is a very deep and dangerous place for a mother to go after the loss of her child. The thoughts are often irrational, but grief knows no logic.

Reminders are everywhere. In the show, Kate associates the shower curtain with her baby’s passing. Her fiance throws it away hoping to avoid seeing the painful reminder every day. Sometimes the strangest things trigger these painful memories. For months I couldn’t walk into our bedroom without remembering every detail of the morning I delivered my son right there by the bed. In the months that followed there was always something to remind me of my loss. The crying baby at the store, the pregnancy announcement on my social media feed, and the empty crib sitting in the corner often made it feel like my heart was breaking in two all over again. Even though my boys have been gone for years, I still experience reminders that cause the pain to come flooding back in an instant.

The struggle between the couple in the show really hit home. Kate disregards her fiance’s pain in a seemingly uncaring way. I love that Toby stood up to her and expressed the depth of his grief. His words were firm, but loving. Probably one of the hardest parts of losing our boys was the fact that my husband and I processed our grief very differently. He threw himself back into work and trying to provide for our family. Often I felt as though he didn’t care or hadn’t experienced the same loss as myself. It took him actually saying the words “I know you lost your babies, but I lost my babies too” to actually make me understand that he was in just as much pain as me. I suddenly felt less alone and way more understood. A man cannot experience the physical side of losing a baby, but they very much feel every other aspect of the grief.

One of the most important parts of pregnancy loss that the show touched on was the impact of connecting with someone who has “been there.” Kate is able to talk with her mother who also lost a baby. Their conversation illustrates the importance of feeling understood. My mother also suffered pregnancy loss and I found her to be the best person to talk to about my loss. I knew that the advice and words of comfort she had to offer came from a place of experience. Somehow knowing that someone managed to survive the grief gave me hope. When I didn’t know how to put one foot in front of the other, her story reassured me that I could go on.

I applaud the writers and actors of ‘This is Us.’ They began an important conversation that will help increase the community of support for parents experiencing loss. I hope they will continue to address this topic in an open, honest way. Pregnancy loss is not something to be ashamed of or to be avoided in conversation.

If you have been affected by pregnancy loss I urge you to tell your story. It is often difficult to know what and when to share, but if your story provides comfort to even one grieving parent it’s worth it. I like to think that my babies lives, no matter how brief, will have a lasting impact in the lives of many others.

 

 

 

Jaxsen and Asher’s Story

It has been seven years since I held them in my arms and said goodbye. The pain still stings like it did that day, but our lives have continued with their memory always in our hearts. Losing our triplets fundamentally changed who I am. They taught me more in their short lives than I would have learned in a lifetime without them. I live my life trying to honor their memory by being the kind of Mom and person that they would be proud of.

I originally posted this on my family blog website on August 8, 2010. 

I absolutely cannot believe I am writing about another loss. I am so hurt, confused, and devastated. Our third and fourth born sons were born on August 5th, 2010. Jaxsen Troby at around 7ish and Asher Jo somewhere around 8-8:30.
I woke up August 4th at 5 am with cramping. Throughout the day I called the Dr. and nurses several times as my contractions became closer together, about 3 minutes apart most of the day. Of course with the “nothing we can do” thing, they told me drink lots of water, absolutely flat with feet up, take tylenol to sleep. I told myself all day that the worst was not happening. At 1:30 in the morning I accepted that it was.

Mike drove me to the hospital, both of us begging God for it to be something else. We waited in the ER room for pain medicine for over an hour and then I proceeded to lay there waiting for almost three hours to be moved to OB. My contractions were less than a minute apart for over two hours. The worst pain I have ever experienced in my life. My cervix had been sewn shut and was literally ripping open with the babies trying to come out. I have no idea why they did not get me to an OR sooner to remove the stitches in the cervix. Finally we got upstairs to OB and the Dr. on call realized I was in unbearable pain and decided to take me to an OR to take out the stitches.

About that time Jaxsen decided he couldn’t wait and he was born, nothing could stop him not even “unbreakable” stitches. I was in and out of awareness for a while but still in extreme pain. I was moved to the OR and our Dr. came in to do the surgery. The last thing I heard was, because the cervix ripped we may have to do a complete hysterectomy. Terrifying. I woke up not knowing what the outcome had been. Thank God they were able to deliver Asher and get everything out and save my fertility for now. I had gotten a major uterine infection, the worst that we had prayed would not happen. The babies had to come out. I tried SO HARD for my babies. I have no idea why we were blessed with these three miracles just to have it all taken away. My heart is broken.

We were able to spend about an hour holding the babies after I recovered from surgery.

Jaxsen was beautiful, he looked a lot like Johnny. He was 5 oz. and 6 3/4 inches long. He had a perfect little face and adorable feet that looked like his Daddy’s. He reminded me a lot of Josey too. His middle name is Troby to honor my Dad and our family name. There is nothing more important than my family to me. The hospital put them in little outfits and they were just precious wrapped in their little blankets. I will miss Jaxsen forever and a part of us will always be missing. We will cherish him in our hearts.

Asher was also amazingly beautiful. He had different features than our other boys. A slighly turned up nose (so cute), and long feet like his PawPaw. He was 4 oz and 6 1/4 inches long. We had just come across the name Asher and it means happy and blessed, so I knew it was perfect. His middle name is Jo because it is mike’s mom and my sister Laura’s middle name. The two people who we felt like we couldn’t have made it through this without. Of course all of our family and friends have been amazing too. Asher will forever be loved an missed. Our fourth born son will always be in our hearts.

The hospital took pictures of the babies in their outfits and gave us memory boxes for the babies. They had the pictures inside along with the outfits, blankets, teddy bears they had put in their arms, and baby name bracelets. They were so kind and made one for Johnny although we do not have pictures or an outfit that he wore. Not sure why they didn’t do that when he was born. We will cherish the boxes forever. When I look at them I feel like I am still holding the boys in my arms, and my body aches for them.

I am writing this still in the hospital. We are hoping the infection is gone and we will go home today or tomorrow, so far we’ve been here 4 days this time. I don’t know why my two little boys held on for 16 more days than Johnny, but I will forever cherish that time with them. I don’t know how I will go home, except for the fact that I have a sweet little boy waiting for his Mommy to come back. One day I will tell him about his three little brothers and how hard they fought to be with him. Mommy and Daddy love our little guys so much.

Johnny’s Story

I originally posted this on July 31, 2010 on my family blog website. It is so hard to read this knowing that I would fight for our other two sweet babies for 16 days and ultimately lose them as well. Some days it feels like just yesterday that I held our sweet Johnny in my arms, and other times it feels like a lifetime ago. 

At 8:39 am on July 20, 2010 our son Johnny Louis Smith was born at home. As I write this it still doesn’t seem real.
I woke up with some discomfort at 14 weeks 4 days along with our precious triplets. I called the doctor’s office and waited for a call back. I delivered Johnny at home about 30 minutes later. We were transported by ambulance to the hospital. I cannot describe the emotions I felt as I rode in the ambulance thinking I was losing all of my babies. In the ER due to a nurse’s confusion, I actually thought I lost two of them. Our Dr. met us there. He gently took care of me and the baby. He then did an ultrasound and found two heartbeats safe inside. After about an hour I was sent to an OB room to wait, not knowing if the others would be able to survive such a traumatic event. I was given lots of antibiotics and other medicine. Mike and I chose to hold our sweet little boy and spent about 30 minutes with him in my arms. So glad we chose to do that. He was perfect, yes at 14 and a half weeks…perfect. My first thought was that he had Josey’s feet.

We hadn’t really decided on any names but Johnny just seemed right. Louis was my grandfather’s name so Mike thought it would be the best middle name. Letting go of him was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. I know he is in Heaven and I know God had a bigger plan for our second born son.

I spent the next 48 hours worrying and waiting to see what would happen. The placenta did not deliver with Johnny and never did. We were unsure for almost a week as to whether the babies shared a placenta or had separate ones. The Dr. is fairly confident that they each have their own, which is the best case scenario. I had severe labor pains the second night and they sedated me to calm my body. I have never prayed as I did that night. Begging God to let me keep my babies. When I woke up, we still had two little miracles safe inside.

I ended up having a procedure the following Tuesday (a week later) and surgery on Wednesday the 28th to help keep the babies inside. We had two ultrasounds a day to check on the babies and so far they seem unaffected. Very high in the uterus and strong heartbeats. I was in the hospital a total of 10 days. I am very happy to be home but we have a long road ahead. I am on complete bedrest indefinitely. Only able to get up to use the restroom and go to Dr. appointments.

We go on Aug. 9th to see how things are going. I pray for the strength to mentally and physically come through this for my babies. My heart is broken, but I must be strong. I have good moments and bad, but I know God will guide me through this. We love you baby Johnny, and you will be loved and missed forever.