‘I was sitting on the couch watching cartoons. I felt two POPS inside my stomach. I was completely freaking out.’: Bereaved mom says ‘grieving mommas are the strongest women I’ve ever met’

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Disclaimer: This story contains graphic details and images of child loss that may be triggering to some.

“Eric and I met in high school. Eric had a not-so-secret-crush on me, but we remained friends during our time in high school. We went our own ways after high school. Eric went to the University of Nebraska on a wrestling scholarship. I stayed in state and went to New Mexico State University.

Eric reached out to me the summer before his last year of college. He asked me on a date. We quickly fell for each other that summer. Within a year, we were married and expecting our first baby together.

Courtesy of Evangeline Montoya

My second year in college before I was with Eric, I had an unplanned pregnancy with someone who chose not to be involved. Being that this pregnancy was not expected, I was drinking and partying regularly before I knew I was pregnant. Around three months pregnant is when I found out. I was so scared for my baby’s health due to the fact I was drinking and not taking care of myself. I felt so guilty. But I went on to have a very enjoyable and healthy pregnancy along with a healthy and beautiful baby boy.

Our first year of dating was long distance. During Thanksgiving break, I went to visit him in Nebraska. We weren’t planning for a baby. But because we were in love, we weren’t worried about using protection. On Christmas Eve, Eric proposed to me, and on Christmas Day we found out I was pregnant. Like my first pregnancy, it was healthy and uncomplicated. Our son Asher James was born as healthy as can be.

Courtesy of Evangeline Montoya

Going on 4 years being together, we decided we wanted to try for another baby. In my mind, I always wanted all boys. I loved being a boy mom, but Eric wanted his little girl. At the beginning of 2020 we started trying. Having two surprise pregnancies, I wasn’t sure how this one was going to go. ‘Was it going to happen right away?’ I asked myself. I tried not to get my hopes up the first month. But a few days before I was supposed to miss my period, I decided to try one of those pregnancy tests that say they can be done before a missed period. I took the test and it was negative. I wasn’t too bummed out. I knew it might be because it was still too early.

I waited a couple of days then took another one. This one was also negative. I was a little disappointed, but I told myself it wasn’t that big of a deal since it was still a few days before I was supposed to start my period. I came back a little while later to look at the test again. To my surprise, there was the faintest line. ‘Is this really positive?!’ I took the test to my husband to see if he could see the line. He agreed, there was a faint pink positive line!

Courtesy of Evangeline Montoya

We were so excited, but we were still skeptical since we could barely see the positive line. I took a few more tests and they all had a very light pink positive line. A week went by and I didn’t have my period. That’s when we agreed I most definitely had to be pregnant. We couldn’t believe it; we didn’t think it would happen on our first try, but we still didn’t want to get our hopes up before I saw a doctor. I scheduled an appointment with a midwife. My office didn’t schedule me an appointment until I was about 8 weeks pregnant. At the time of scheduling, I was only considered 4 weeks pregnant. I wanted to feel excited, but I was anxious to have my pregnancy confirmed.

Courtesy of Evangeline Montoya

Little did I know, a worldwide pandemic was about to take over and everything was about to change. As you probably know, America completely shut down and our new reality of social distancing was put into place as COVID-19 began to spread. My doctor’s office called to let me know my first appointment was going to be over the phone. I was totally disappointed because I was looking forward to going in and getting the confirmation I was pregnant.

So, I had my first appointment over the phone. I gave my midwife all my medical history along with my pregnancy history. She seemed confident I’d have a low-risk pregnancy since my first two pregnancies went so well. At this time, she scheduled me for a dating ultrasound for 12 weeks pregnant. So, it was another few weeks before I could hear my baby’s heartbeat and confirm there really is a living baby in there!

My first trimester was hard on me. Although I hadn’t confirmed my pregnancy with doctors, I sure felt pregnant. I had morning sickness, but it was more like all day nausea. I was also extremely fatigued. I didn’t experience this with my boys. This led me to think I was pregnant with a girl. My mind and heart changed about wanting to only have boys. I started getting excited and dreaming about having a baby girl. I pictured us in matching outfits. I pictured me doing her hair and putting pretty bows on her. At this point, I couldn’t imagine NOT having a girl, but it would still be a few weeks until we were able to know.

Courtesy of Evangeline Montoya

Around 12 weeks pregnant, I had my first ultrasound. Everything looked healthy. I heard and saw my baby for the first time and I was in love and so excited! My next ultrasound wasn’t going to be until 20 weeks, which would be an anatomy scan. That’s when we would be able to see the gender. My husband and I decided we couldn’t wait that long so we scheduled a private ultrasound at 15 weeks so we could see our baby’s gender.

At 15 weeks, everything changed. I had another telehealth appointment on a Friday. I told my midwife that everything seemed to be going well. My nausea was starting to go away and my appetite was coming back. She realized this appointment was supposed to be an in-person appointment, so she set me up an appointment with the first available provider on Wednesday.

A few hours after I got off the phone, I noticed some very light pink spotting. It was after the offices were closed, so I called the on-call provider to see what I should do. The provider on call told me it could be normal, but to go to the ER if it became heavy bleeding like a period or if I experienced any cramping. Monday came and it ended up being a holiday, so offices were closed. I called the on-call provider again and told them each day the bleeding had gotten a little bit worse. But again, I was told to go to the ER if it was heavy bleeding with cramping.

This was so concerning for me. I couldn’t sleep not knowing what was going on. Wednesday finally came and I had my scheduled appointment. They did an internal exam and took some swabs to make sure the bleeding wasn’t from any infections. The midwife also said she didn’t see any bleeding coming from my cervix or vagina. This led her to believe the bleeding was from inside the uterus. But she also said there wasn’t any ‘active bleeding.’ We heard my baby’s heartbeat which gave some temporary relief to my anxiety, but she still wasn’t able to give me a reason as to why I was bleeding. I left feeling upset and anxious. I was upset they wouldn’t schedule me an ultrasound to see where the bleeding was coming from.

However, I did have an ultrasound that same day with the private company to find out the gender. That ultrasound was short and only intended to see the gender. Later that evening, we met our family at the park for a gender reveal. My husband and I were so excited! But deep down I had this anxiety that kept me from completely enjoying this experience.

Courtesy of Evangeline Montoya

With our family gathered around, we popped our confetti cannons. Pink confetti went into the air. We cried with excitement. We got our baby girl! My heart was so happy. Now more than ever wanted to find out what was going on. The next day the bleeding was gradually getting worse. I experienced a small blood clot the size of a dime. I called the on-call midwife once again. I explained the bleeding during the past week, and she decided to order an ultrasound for the next day. Finally! I told myself. Before we got off the phone, she told me what the other on-call doctors had told me: go to the ER if I experience heavy bleeding.

Courtesy of Evangeline Montoya
Courtesy of Evangeline Montoya
Courtesy of Evangeline Montoya

Later that night, around 11 p.m., I went to the bathroom and I had a gush of bright red blood. It was more than I experienced all week. I was so freaked out. I told my husband I was going to the emergency room. There wasn’t much they could do at the ER, except check for a heartbeat and check if I was dilating (which would indicate I was having a miscarriage). I was there until around 2 in the morning. I prayed there would be a heartbeat, and once I heard it, I sighed with relief. The moments before that were heavy with fear and anxiety. I also wasn’t dilated so they sent me home, again with no answers.

I woke up early for the ultrasound. I was extremely exhausted and just feeling down about the uncertainty. The ultrasound tech checked out my daughter. She said my daughter looked like she was growing normally and she looked healthy, but my placenta was low lying. I was so happy she was okay. She also told me I had something called a subchorionic hematoma. She described this as a bruise or scab inside the uterus; it was causing the bleeding, along with my placenta that was causing irritation. She told me both of these usually resolve themselves as pregnancy goes along and she didn’t seem to be too concerned.

Courtesy of Evangeline Montoya

I left with relief of finally knowing where the bleeding was coming from and knowing my baby was healthy and growing. I bled until between 17 and 18 weeks pregnant. I went to the bathroom every day with anxiety not knowing how much blood I was going to see this time. One of the times I even passed a clot the size of my palm. Of course, I called my midwife, her nurse had told me it could be the hematoma passing through. I went into a rabbit hole on the internet researching stories of other women who experienced what I have been experiencing. Most said they went on to have healthy pregnancies.

Monday, July 29th was my 20-week anatomy scan ultrasound. I was excited to see my daughter. I was also hoping to hear if my placenta had moved to a better position and if the hematoma was gone. Unfortunately, because of the position my daughter was in, we weren’t able to see my placenta. It looked like she was growing right on track. I was so happy to hear and see her. Then the bad news came. I barely had any amniotic fluid surrounding my baby. The fluid was at 3 centimeters when I should be 7-20 centimeters.

My husband tried to stay positive for us, but I was filled with fear and worry. Wednesday evening, Eric went to the gym. I was home with our youngest son Asher. We were sitting on the couch watching cartoons when Asher wanted a snack. We got up and walked a few feet to the kitchen. While standing at the refrigerator, I felt two POPS inside my stomach and then a gush of liquid in my pants. I was in shock and disbelief. I knew that was my water breaking, but I was also thinking maybe it could be blood like before. This time I was actually hoping for blood. I went into the bathroom and saw my underwear wet with a clear liquid. This had to be my water breaking.

I immediately called the on-call provider and they told me to come in immediately. I couldn’t control my breathing over the phone and I was completely freaking out. My husband came home right away and my grandma came to pick up our son. I was crying in fear of the worst. We went to the hospital triage where they confirmed it was my water that broke. However I wasn’t in labor, so they sent me home but told me it was possible I’d go into labor overnight.

Just like that, everything changed. I went to my appointment with the doctor the next morning. He was straight forward with me. I had two options: terminate this pregnancy because the chances of having a full-term baby were unlikely or to continue with the pregnancy and at 24 weeks be admitted into the hospital for the remainder of my pregnancy. He believed I would have my baby preterm and needed to be in the hospital that way the baby could go to the NICU to have any chance of survival. He told me at 24 weeks is when the pregnancy was viable, and my baby could be saved. If she was born before that, they wouldn’t be able to do anything.

I left devastated. I knew I didn’t want to terminate my pregnancy. So, my only choice was to pray I stayed pregnant. However, it was the beginning of July and my due date was in November. I couldn’t wrap my head around all this. Since I had no fluid left, this was a risk to my baby’s growth since she needed this to help develop her lungs. I lay in bed crying in disbelief. I prayed my heart out to God. I begged and pleaded with him to keep my daughter safe, but later into the day, contractions began. I felt so much cramping, but I was still in denial that I was in labor. I went to triage and they told me I was going to be admitted into the hospital for the night. I was at risk of hemorrhaging and they wanted to keep me because labor could happen fast. But my husband and I were still in denial.

They stuck an IV in me and gave me fluids through it. Then they gave me pain medication. My mom brought me stuff from home. I had her bring me makeup because the next day was my birthday and I thought I’d be going home, and I wanted to look nice. I still wasn’t facing the reality my daughter was going to be born. The pain medicine wore off and I asked for another dose. The nurse recommended it was time for the epidural since there was a chance they might need to do a surgical procedure. We got ready for the epidural. I was sitting on the bed shaking uncontrollably. The Anesthetist told me she couldn’t do anything for the pain unless I was completely still. So, I took a deep breath and somehow remained still so she could give me the epidural.

Courtesy of Evangeline Montoya

I just lay there for hours. I started to talk to myself and tell myself I trusted God no matter what happened. I tried so hard to be at peace with the outcome. I looked at the clock at midnight. It was officially July 3rd. It was my 27th birthday. I was still hopeful that I’d go home pregnant and go on to have a healthy pregnancy.

Around 1:30 a.m., the midwife came in to check my cervix. She told me she felt my daughter’s legs. Moments after that, she told me my daughter was born. My heart sank. I was still in disbelief that my pregnancy was over. My husband saw her first and told me she was moving. He cut the umbilical cord. They wrapped her and put her in my arms. I stared at her and smiled. She was in my arms with her heart beating. She wasn’t struggling. She looked so precious and peaceful. She was beautiful. She was so small. Less than a pound. I knew my time was limited with her. I stared at her. I loved her so much. I never knew I could feel so much happiness and pain at the exact same time. This was my beautiful daughter. We named her Rose.

Courtesy of Evangeline Montoya

I held Rose in my arms. Tears ran down my face. I knew at any time God was going to take her heaven. I asked the Lord for peace. I told him I still trusted him and loved him even though I didn’t understand why this was happening.

Courtesy of Evangeline Montoya
Courtesy of Evangeline Montoya
Courtesy of Evangeline Montoya

After about 2 hours, her heartbeat faded. She was now with Jesus.

Courtesy of Evangeline Montoya
Courtesy of Evangeline Montoya

My journey wasn’t quite over yet. My placenta was stuck inside so it had to be surgically removed. I went to the OR shaking uncontrollably again. I was so scared. I was put under anesthesia and when I woke up, I felt so alone and scared. I was told I lost a lot of blood. I was in a daze for the rest of the morning. Later that day, I was able to go home.

My body ached and it hurt to walk. My husband and I went home. My feelings were numb. The next day I woke up crying. All the emotions rushed to me. My heart was completely broken. I wanted my daughter back. I was confused. How could this happen to me when my last 2 pregnancies were close to perfect?

I shared on Instagram that our daughter was born preterm at almost 21 weeks and went to heaven. I had overwhelming support from everyone. Mom after mom sent me messages telling me their story of loss. I had no idea how many women had experienced some type of pregnancy loss.

Courtesy of Evangeline Montoya

Suddenly, I was a part of this group of grieving mothers that I didn’t ask to be a part of. But what I quickly realized is this group of women were some of the strongest women I’ve ever spoken to. They are so compassionate and resilient. I found comfort in talking to these women as they shared their stories of loss and I shared mine. I never imagined to be in this group of women, but I was proud to call these ladies my sisters. We all experienced something we might never understand but we are all here for each other and only we understand each other’s pain.

As I reflect on my experience, my only advice to other women is to try and trust God. I did everything wrong in my first pregnancy but still had a healthy child. I did everything right in my latest pregnancy and it ended in loss. This taught me that this wasn’t my fault, and this was all part of God’s plan for me. As I pray day to day, I ask for peace. At this time, it’s been about a month since my Rose was born. I learned when you cry out to God, he answers. I learned it’s okay to express emotions and to accept the compassion others offer. Rose Montoya will always be a light in my life, and I am thankful for her existence.”

Courtesy of Evangeline Montoya

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Evangeline Montoya of Albuquerque, New Mexico. You can follow her journey on Instagram. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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