Today’s story of perseverance comes from Courtney Otis-Keys and her experience with pregnancy loss.
Trigger warning: this story includes talk of pregnancy loss and miscarriage.
Mom to three healthy children ages 7, 5 and 4.
Briefly describe your experience:
Our children are super close in age. So, we decided to add another to our crew during the Covid shut down. I got pregnant November 20, 2020. This baby would be our last and I was so excited to enjoy and love-on this little boy. I never felt like I got to enjoy my other babies because I was pregnant, sick, and had three kids under three. It was hectic!
Everything in my pregnancy was pretty normal, meaning I was sick and tired. I went in for my 16 week check up and expected just a normal check up. I'd done this a million times between my three other pregnancies. However, the doctor couldn't find the heartbeat and I knew by her face that something was wrong. She took me to a different room with big ultrasound machines. They were able to confirm that my baby had died, probably around 14 weeks, judging by the size of him.
It's kinda nightmarish to look back on that whole week. I had to wait two days to get D&C and that was just as traumatic. Then, I felt I was really messed up for pretty much the rest of the year, my miscarriage was in February of 2021. I was very angry and bitter, which was not a feeling I was used to. I started drinking pretty heavily and was taking a lot of pills. I couldn't cope with it at all. We never did find out why I miscarried so late.
Who or what helped keep you grounded when you initially found out about losing the baby? What about currently?
My mom and mother-in-law were so supportive during the initial week of my miscarriage. My MIL came over and got the kids so my husband could pick me up from the doctors office. When I came home she had cleaned my entire house. My mom flew up the next day and stayed for a whole week to help me through the D&C and help with the kids. Both my mom and mother-in-law had also been through miscarriages and stillborns. We had a lot of conversations that really helped me get through it and understand I wasn't alone. I also posted on my instagram page about our loss and I received such an outpouring of love and support. I still cry when I think about it. People sent me flowers, food and treats, and so many messages from other mamas who have struggled. I actually messaged a couple of my real and internet friends quite frequently throughout the year for support and encouragement, as they had gone through the same thing. Obviously, my husband was there with me every step of the way. He really let me grieve on my own time, took on more responsibility with the kids and house. Because at the time, I couldn't manage. It was a super hard year for us. And hard on our marriage.
How did you balance the needs of your family and yourself while still allowing room for coping with the loss of your baby?
I wasn't managing my family life at all. I learned to actually use a babysitter, which is something I had never really done before. I made date night with my husband a priority. We hired a house cleaner for the whole year. Plus, my husband really stepped up with responsibilities, which of course, gives me mom-guilt but I'm trying to just let it go. All these things were able to get us through our year of hell.
What advice would you give to parents in a similar situation (or really any parent who is dealing with uncertain challenges)?
My advice for other families going through this is to ASK FOR HELP. Let people know you aren't okay. You will be surprised who shows up. Also, take it easy. Really breathe-in your family and try to find ways to be grateful. Honestly, the best thing is time, which sucks because that won't help initially but time really does heal all wounds. I never thought I would recover and yet here I am happy, thriving, and enjoying life with my other children.
What has this experience taught you about resilience?
I don't know how much this taught me about resilience. I was in a really dark place for almost an entire year. I did start therapy and that helped. Honestly, I was wallowing and lost in grief and anger. I got pretty hooked on pills and drinking. It took a HUGE fight with my husband to wake me up. I realized I had let everything go and needed to start making changes or I was going to lose what I DID have. So, I guess I did gain some resilient habits. I was able to pull myself out of the dark, with help from my family and therapist, and get back to my healthy - not always happy- life.
What is something you wish others understood?
I wish others understood that although we never met this baby, he was still my baby. I grew him in my tummy and dreamed of our life together. Also, the support of total strangers made me realize how many other families have to go through this. So be kind. Try not to ask insensitive questions about when people are going to have more kids or start their family. They could be going through multiple miscarriages and you don't have any idea.
Update on you and your family
This isn't a sad story! My husband's and my relationship is stronger than ever. I think going through hell and coming out the other side has really shown that we are as invested in each other as we ever were. I don't feel as angry as I was. I still feel sad sometimes when I think about how different our lives would be. But, I look at my beautiful children and think "this is enough." We are all happy and healthy and I'm so grateful for it. It's more than enough. I actually feel like going through such a trial has made me stronger. This last year, especially, I feel so much more content and actually get excited for the future. I had missed that feeling. My self-confidence is at an all time high - I'm a badass. I went through a late miscarriage, plus a year of tough things, and I'm still here. I'm still a great mama and wife and working hard every day.