‘My friends joked, ‘What if you’re actually pregnant?’ We laughed. At 19, my body was creating a life without my knowledge.’: Young woman details unexpected pregnancy, loss

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Disclaimer: This story includes details of child loss that may be triggering to some.

“The morning of May 2nd, 2020, I woke up uneasy with a strange feeling in my gut. Finals were approaching and my boyfriend Jimmy and I were headed to his apartment in Philadelphia, where we both attend college. This is where we met each other, although it’s pretty ironic since we grew up in the same hometown all throughout our lives. While Jimmy drove, I clenched onto a paper bag, throwing up my morning meals. Jimmy looked nervous because I was unexplainably throwing up, but I knew for a fact that what he was thinking wasn’t true.

Courtesy of Victoria Cole

Once we arrived at the apartment, I called up my two friends who lived nearby to laugh at the situation. I didn’t think much of it until they asked me when I had my last period. They decided to stop by Jimmy’s apartment to bring me a pregnancy test. An hour later my friends arrived, and I immediately went to the bathroom. The pregnancy test required a few minutes to show a result, and in the meantime we were all making jokes. My friends said, ‘What if Victoria was actually pregnant?’ Using the phrase ‘what if’ as though it would never be possible.

But it became my reality in seconds after the word ‘pregnant’ popped up on the test. I wish I could say it was planned, and excitement filled me when reading that test, but that’s not how my story goes. At 19 years old, never in my life had I felt such a heavy amount of fear consume my entire body from just one singular word. It’s a feeling I had always imagined, but never actually wanted to experience.

Courtesy of Victoria Cole

I used to say to myself, ‘I’d never actually go through with an unplanned pregnancy.’ I was someone who loved being irresponsible, partying until all hours of the night, being obsessed with my everlasting youth, and fearing the boringness of adulthood. It’s funny to look back and think about how easy I thought everything sounded, much easier said than done. To realize, in those moments, there was an actual baby growing in my stomach scared me. I didn’t like the idea that in the past five weeks, my body was creating a life without my knowledge. My body was doing something my mind hadn’t realized.

Out of pure fear and hesitation, the first thing I planned on was taking an abortion pill without ever mentioning my pregnancy to our families. I contemplated my choices, such as the surgical procedure, D&C, but it scared me with its invasiveness and the reality of what would actually be happening, although it would be quicker. The pill was simple, but known to be painful and long lasting. Without delay, I made an appointment at the closest Planned Parenthood. In the days leading to my appointment, I sat there denying what I was actually going through. I finally decided to call my mom and tell her the news. Initially, my mom was not thrilled and like any mother would do, she explained all the ways in which I could have avoided this situation. To my surprise, it only took her a brief session of rage to finally recognize the current circumstances calmly. With every hour that passed, my mom would call me again to include a few more reasons from the last conversation, a discussion surrounding why I should keep the baby.

Slowly, I grew more and more accepting of the pregnancy. Jimmy and I started to imagine what our life would be as a family. The one thing that really made me want the baby was realizing it could be a girl. I loved imagining our own little girl, and thinking about teaching her all the things I wished I had known earlier on while growing up. And because of that little excitement, including the surprising amount of support I received from friends and family, I decided not to go through with the abortion.

Courtesy of Victoria Cole

From that day forward, my excitement grew. It was excitement I should have felt from the very beginning, but it came a little later. Hearing my baby’s heartbeat seven weeks into the pregnancy gave me a feeling I’ve never experienced. I was finally becoming a mom. I was going to become someone so much more than who I once was. Someone was going to look up to me, and someone was going to be writing about me in their first grade ‘who is your hero’ assignment. Even though waking up every morning for the past three weeks and immediately throwing up wasn’t exactly fun, the thought of our baby growing each day allowed me to throw up with a smile at least. Looking in the mirror wasn’t the same anymore because I noticed my whole body changing. Each week I’d watch in excitement as my belly slowly grew.

Courtesy of Victoria Cole
Courtesy of Victoria Cole
Courtesy of Victoria Cole

Finally, it was revealed we were having a baby girl. My dream was coming true. She was going to be powerful, talented, athletic, brilliant, and beautiful. It was my 20th birthday and results came back indicating she was going to be healthy, with a less than one percent chance of having any type of disability or disorder. I was finally in the second trimester, meaning my daughter was permanent. I could finally say, ‘I am going to be a mother at just 20 years old.’ The worst was over, the acceptance and joy was finally here to stay forever while we looked forward to December 25th, when she would be arriving.

I really wish I could stop there. I wish I could say, ‘My life went on perfectly, I gave birth to a healthy baby girl, and it was the best decision I have ever made.’ But the truth is my journey only just began. At my next ultrasound at 14 weeks along, I was told my little girl no longer had her heartbeat. I take back what I said—finding out I was pregnant was not the worst feeling I’ve ever felt, this was. My doctor previously told us, ‘Your little girl is healthy and you’re healthy.’ I thought there was no way in hell I’d be this unlucky.

She died 11 weeks into the pregnancy, and I couldn’t help but think about the past three weeks. I had been walking around with a big fat smile on my face, telling the world I was no doubt going to become the greatest mother for this little girl. No doubt, I was definitely going to have this child. And there I was, sitting on a chair looking at the ultrasound showing my lifeless baby with a silent beating heart. The crazy part was my mind realizing something my body hadn’t noticed. A missed, or silent miscarriage, is what they call it. Once again I was left with the same options: take the pill, have a D&C procedure, or let my body naturally flush it out all on its own. I was back at the beginning. The only difference being that there would be no life left to create.

Courtesy of Victoria Cole

I had no choice, I no longer had the option to decide if I wanted to have the baby or not. Life decided on its own for me and the choice was no longer in my hands. The new dreams I had replaced over my old ones were over. I didn’t know what to plan for anymore or what to think. I cried until my eyes literally ran dry. There was absolutely nothing I could do except shake my stomach to try and wake up my daughter. I thought I made the right decision, so why was I being punished? People told me, ‘You’re strong for going through with the pregnancy.’ People told me, ‘You made the right decision, it was meant to be.’ This was supposed to happen, life had found a way to surprise me with a gift I never knew I needed. But then it was all snatched away from me so quickly.

What did I have to learn from this? What awful thing had I done in my life to deserve such a punishing loss? The fear of being a pregnant 19 year old, and the loss of my own child at 20. I deleted every announcement I made of the pregnancy on all social media. I was ashamed to let people know I had failed. I already failed at being a mom before my baby was even born. Pretty much every soon to be mother is told, ‘Wait until you’re at least 12 weeks pregnant to share the news with the world.’ And I did wait until 12 weeks, so I also realized I’d be prepared to mourn in silence in case a miscarriage ever did happen in that time. If I hadn’t eventually announced it, no one would have known I had ever been pregnant, nor would anyone have known I lost my baby and was grieving alone.

Courtesy of Victoria Cole

Because I am young, I didn’t think I’d actually be unsuccessful in my pregnancy. But age does not play a factor at all. I never knew how so many women had gone through miscarriages until it happened to me. I never understood why so many mothers stayed silent after losing a baby. We feel comfortable to publicly mourn when family, friends, and even our pets pass away, but to express public grief for the loss of an unborn baby seems as if it’s too taboo.

After hearing the news on June 18th that we had lost the baby, I waited about a month for my body to finally pass it. For a month, I carried a lifeless baby around in my belly.

I had scheduled an appointment for a D&C procedure to remove the baby because of the risk for infection. Before my surgery, I was given an ultrasound to see if there was any evidence of the miscarriage taking place naturally. Seeing my baby for the last time, and witnessing the progress in her growth, made it harder for me to say my last goodbyes. I understand even though she was no longer alive, having her still in my belly made me feel better. I didn’t want the surgery at all. I didn’t want the risk of the doctors puncturing my uterus and never being able to have children again. But mainly, I just wanted my body to be able to do something it’s supposed to do for once. It wasn’t able to maintain a pregnancy and now it wasn’t even able to remove it on its own. I just wanted my body to do something right.

Courtesy of Victoria Cole

The night before my surgery, around 11 p.m., I felt cramps. I thought they would just go away again like they’d done over the past month. But this time, the pain grew worse and worse. The pain grew so bad I thought I was dying. These are called contractions. You feel them during labor, and you can feel them during a miscarriage. I felt a pop and blood poured everywhere. The pain hit its peak, and tissue the size of my hand fell out of me. I had basically just given birth in my bathroom at 3 a.m. to a lifeless tiny baby. It was a scene that mortifies me, but the worst part was the emptiness left behind in my body. You would think the loss came after hearing the baby was dead, but the real loss came after I no longer had her with me.

I was dealing with the postpartum but with no baby. It was all finally over. No longer pregnant, no longer planning for a baby shower, no longer about to become a mother, no longer sharing my body with another being. It’s just me now. Everything is back to the way it was, from trying to plan for my classes at college to focusing on my future career. I get to party with my friends and drink for my 21st birthday. I can study abroad, spend my money on whatever I want, and find an apartment fit for just one.

Courtesy of Victoria Cole

But none of that sounded fun anymore. My old plans no longer satisfied my wishes and wants. I lost my baby girl, the one who was supposed to make me into a better person. The one I was supposed to parent into being an even better person than myself. The one I was supposed to love in a way that everyone tells you is the greatest feeling. I lost my motherhood and I lost my child. I know that life isn’t always butterflies and rainbows, that life has a way of knocking you down so hard you can’t always get up. It beats the crap out of you when you’re least expecting it.

I’ve always believed that after so many wrongs life does to you, it has to offer at least something good. And the worse it does, the better the offer.

So I’ll wait for that offer, I’ll wait for that one good thing that may come out of this, but I thank life for the lesson I didn’t think I deserved, but will learn from. I thank my daughter, who will be protecting me from up above while I continue on living, wondering what she would have looked like. I thank her for showing up when I needed it the most. Addelyn was just too good of a person for this world.”

Courtesy of Victoria Cole

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Victoria Cole. 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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