‘Stay with me!’ My body was septic. I’d never carry our child. ‘There’s a baby at the hospital. Do you want him?’: After losses, couple foster to adopt, ‘He’s the redemption to our pain’

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Disclaimer: This story includes mentions of child loss and may be triggering to some.

“Good stories take time to unfold, just like storms need time to weather before the sun can shine its light again. There is so much uncertainty waiting for the next page of our lives to be written, but I’ve learned in my short time here on this earth, I am not in charge; God is the one writing my story, and I just have to be present for it. When I look back on the last 34 years of my life, I see a lot of heartache. It’s hard to turn back on those chapters of my life because there are many I like to keep closed, but there is also so much good written in the lines of my story.

Of course, the beginning of my story started 34 years ago, and I could tell you about all of those broken chapters too, but I believe my life really began to unfold almost 10 years ago when I met my husband. I was 24 years old, raising a two-year-old, and working two jobs to support us after leaving a very abusive relationship with my daughter’s biological father. He chose to not be part of her life after we left him, so I was raising her on my own, believing I was not worthy of true love. It comes from years of abandonment and rejection from the people who should have loved me the most. Justin came into my life at a time when I was just beginning to discover myself and who I really was. I was renting my own house, paying for my first car, working double shifts as a waitress, and juggling all life was handing me while trying to be the best mom I could be to my daughter.

Justin had reached out to my best friend, asking if she would hook us up. I was so hesitant at first, but we started randomly running into each other around our hometown, and I thought it was a sign I should let my guard down. He continued to intensely pursue me, and even though I was afraid of getting hurt again, something just felt right about him. When I introduced him to my daughter Addison and allowed him to build a connection with her, I melted right into the idea of spending a life with Justin. He loved her so big and treated her as if she were his own daughter, which amazed me because he did not have any kids of his own.

Courtesy of Amy Bowser

We fell in love right away. Driving home from date night at the casino just a month into our relationship, he had a song playing in his truck on a CD he had made for me. It was by Billy Currington, ‘Let Me Down Easy.’ He grabbed my hand, and I suddenly blurted out, ‘I love you.’ He hesitated for a moment and softly replied, ‘I love you, too.’ It was one of the best moments of my entire life because I knew we were going to live a great life together. Justin showed me what it meant to be truly loved. Our relationship moved fast after that, and we moved in together just after a few months into our relationship. People questioned and judged us, but we only knew the strong connection we had, and we were willing to take the risk to see where life would take us.

Courtesy of Amy Bowser

I had been waiting my whole life for a love like this. Justin is the sweetest, most affectionate, compassionate and caring man I have ever met. He is a man of little words but loves so big. He has a hearty laugh and knows every deep, dark thing about me, yet chooses to continue to love me and each of my flaws. After 3 years, we got married and had the most beautiful wedding. We were the ‘it’ couple and people would always tell me they wished to have a relationship like ours. I knew how lucky I was; it was a dream to marry someone like Justin. Addison had already been calling him dad and it felt right to have Justin adopt her after our wedding. We had not heard from Addison’s biological father in 3 years at this point, and once our attorney contacted him to sign over his rights, he obliged without argument. It was a chapter in our lives we happily closed because we knew Addison belonged with Justin, and although they do not share the same DNA, he is more a father to her because of the way he loves her.

Courtesy of Amy Bowser

We had already been trying to get pregnant before we got married, so a year after our wedding when we still were not pregnant, we decided to seek help from an infertility clinic. Justin has a low sperm count, so we were given the option to do Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) where they basically separated all the good sperm from the bad and place it in the uterus to facilitate fertilization. We were so disappointed after each IUI did not work. There were weeks where I would make a 3-hour commute twice a week just to get bloodwork done to find out where my hormone levels were.

I was poked and prodded at and was injecting myself with hormones to increase our chances of conception; I was an emotional wreck. I would cry at a car commercial and was waking up at 4 a.m. to make the drive to the clinic before work in the dead of winter. Meanwhile, friends and family were getting pregnant just looking at each other, and I found myself in a dark place, envious of their ability to get pregnant on their own. We wanted a baby so badly, and we did not understand why God was not allowing us to have one. It took a toll on our marriage because I didn’t feel like Justin could understand what I was going through, emotionally or physically.

We went through the IUI process 5 times before we finally received a positive pregnancy test. We were elated when we got the call from our clinic and told our families right away. I remember laying on the floor with Addie at 17 weeks pregnant, and I felt our baby kick for the first time. Justin placed his hand on my stomach with tears in his eyes because he could feel the fluttering. It was such a special moment for the both of us. We spent our nights laying in bed discussing baby names. We began to get the nursery ready and announced to all our friends we were expecting. In my heart I felt as though I was carrying a baby boy, however, I would not make it to the ultrasound gender reveal because I went into preterm labor at 19 weeks.

Courtesy of Amy Bowser

I had been feeling crampy and there was tightening in my stomach, but I just figured it was Braxton Hicks. I called my doctor and asked if she would see me because I was afraid of going into preterm labor again, as I had lost a baby when I was with Addison’s biological Dad, but she assured me I just needed to drink more water. Sure enough, I was right, and my water broke later that night when I went to the bathroom. I fell to the floor and sobbed because I knew we were going to lose our baby. I was in the hospital for 3 days with very low amniotic fluid, but our baby was still alive. We were told our chances of making it to the viable point in pregnancy was low, but we held onto so much hope. I went home on bedrest, but after 2 days I knew something wasn’t right, so Justin drove me to a hospital out of town where we delivered our son, Brody Lucas.

It was the most grueling pain I have felt after delivering him without any medication. I sobbed the entire time while Justin sat next to me with his head in his hands. He just kept crying out that he had lost his son. It was so difficult to see him this way. We held our boy together and sat in awe of how much he looked like his dad. When I was finally released from the hospital, Addison said, ‘Mom your belly looks like it grew.’ We had to deliver the most painful news to our innocent daughter and it was then it finally hit me we had lost Brody. There were days after this where I couldn’t pick myself off my bedroom floor. I would cry myself to sleep every night, just wishing to have my son in my arms. I couldn’t look into his nursery, and there were days when I couldn’t even look at my husband because I was so angry with him for not grieving with me.

Looking back, I don’t know how we made it through this season of our lives, but just as storms need time to weather, we needed time to heal. We had our sweet boy cremated and started sharing our story in a blog I made in 2015. It became the platform to heal immense pain, and it also became the voice for others because in sharing my life with others, it made them feel less alone in their own struggles. Justin and I spoke at a conference in front of 200 doctors and nurses to share our story and how important it is for medical personnel to recognize every loss of an infant as significant, no matter what stage the baby is at in pregnancy. We spoke at child memorial events and even began a small non-profit called the ‘Wooden Wing Project’ in honor of Brody. We hand-carved and painted wooden wing ornaments to be given to local hospitals for parents of child loss. We put so much heart into our work, it became cathartic for us in our grief journey.

A year after losing Brody, we decided to try to get pregnant again with IUI. Justin was so hesitant, but the follower in him let me take the lead, and I convinced him to give it one more try. I told him the reward of having a baby to bring home and raise together would be worth the heartache we had gone through. We got pregnant on the first round, and my levels were so high I was told I could be carrying twins. At 6 weeks I began hemorrhaging, so I rushed to the clinic to get an ultrasound where I found out I was carrying twins and saw the baby’s heartbeats. I was assured sometimes women spot in twin pregnancies, and it was nothing to worry about. At 10 weeks, I was passing clots the size of a quarter and found myself in the hospital, only to be told once again the babies were just fine.

Courtesy of Amy Bowser

I was passing out and in so much pain every night. Neither Justin nor I slept because we were so worried I was going to miscarry. It seemed like every day there was something new wrong, so needless to say it was difficult to enjoy the gift of my pregnancy. At 12 weeks, I was put on bedrest, and at 13 weeks I was told my cervix was starting to open. I was seeing a high-risk specialist at the time, so I felt like we were in safe hands and my doctor would do everything necessary to help keep the babies safe until it was safe to deliver. At 15 weeks I was leaking fluid and Baby B’s sac was almost completely empty. We were given hope for Baby A, but were told Baby B would likely not survive without amniotic fluids. I spent 3 days in the hospital to be monitored and because labor did not ensue, we were sent home. I had no barrier to protect me from infection after Baby B’s sac had erupted, so I was told I could go into septic shock if any bacteria got in my uterus.

I went home and did everything the doctors told me to do and thought just maybe I could make it to 24 weeks. Full term would have been best, of course, but we knew our baby would have a chance at surviving if I could just get to the viable point. After day 3 of being home on bedrest I started to feel really sick and had cold chills, but just chalked it up to the fact I am always cold. I felt nauseous most of the day, and by the time I got into bed, I was shaking profusely. My body was on fire, and I was starting to feel clouded. Justin rushed me to a hospital an hour and a half away, and I don’t remember much of the car ride because I was in and out of consciousness, but I do remember hearing him call out to me, begging me to stay with him.

When we got to the hospital, the doctors feared they would need a rapid response team because my body had gone septic. I had delivered Baby B with no recollection of the birth and was rushed to another hospital. I was put in the ICU where I was pumped full of fluids and blood transfusions. Baby A was delivered and born into heaven, but there was no time to grieve because some of my organs had gone septic and there were so many tests the doctors were running. It was to the point where Justin thought he was going to need to prepare our family members for the possibility I wouldn’t be coming home with him. I only know this because he told me when I started to finally come out of the sepsis.

I don’t recall much of my time in the hospital, and looking back I think it was a blessing because the pain would have been too difficult to bear. I spent a week there recovering and was sent home with at-home nursing care and a pic line in my chest where I had to insert antibiotics in twice a day. Justin was a wreck from all of the trauma he had witnessed, and I was just thankful to be alive. Once again, we were grieving differently, but this time we were more patient with one another. We just took it one day at time and allowed healing to happen on its own. Our losses made us stronger together as a couple and together as a family.

Eventually, we came to peace with the fact I would not be able to carry a child of our own, and we decided to become certified foster parents. Taking the foster care classes brought out a lot of buried emotions about the loss of our boys, but we pushed through, not wanting to regret the decision of quitting later on. We waited an entire year before we got the call for baby Z. It was in that year we had already reconciled with the fact Addison would be our only child and we were truly happy with where we were in life. When the home finder called us, she said, ‘There is a baby boy at the hospital. He’s three days old, and I thought of you. Do you want to pick him up and care for him?’

Justin and I went back and forth for hours discussing every what if and why not, and two days later we were at the hospital waiting to take home a child we had never met before. We paced the floors of labor and delivery for 3 hours before the nurse wheeled him to the window of the nursery and said, ‘Here is your boy.’ He was the most beautiful baby boy I had laid eyes on. The nurse who finally placed him into my arms was the same nurse who delivered my first-born son into heaven. The significance of that moment is not at all lost on me. I held my son in my arms and was in awe of the gift we had been given, even if it was only for a short time. We knew foster care came with the heartache of loving every child that comes into your home, knowing you may have to let them go. We cared for and loved Z like he was our very own. We soaked in every moment of his fresh newborn scent. We cried from exhaustion in the middle of the night during feeding time and laughed when he peed on us during a diaper change. We marveled at every milestone he took and prayed to God every night to keep him safe.

Courtesy of Amy Bowser
Courtesy of Amy Bowser

We have found ourselves on our knees a lot in the last two years with Z. Foster care is one of the most rewarding things I have done in my life, but this journey has not come without heartache, worry and uncertainty. There were times when we thought Z was leaving us for good. Bio parent visits would leave me in a panic because Z would get so distressed. I spent many nights crying myself to sleep alone in bed because Justin’s job requires him to travel for weeks at a time.

In many ways, though, Z has been the redemption to all our pain. He has become the light in all our darkness and has brought so much purpose to our lives. The start of his story met the middle of our own, and after two years writing the chapters of our lives on different pages, the lines of our story will finally be written together. Z was freed for adoption two months ago, and we petitioned for his adoption with our attorney. We have no idea when our official court date will be, but we’ve waited 2 years for this gift, so we’ve learned about what it means to be patient in the waiting quite well.

Courtesy of Amy Bowser
Courtesy of Amy Bowser

There is pain and heartache and brokenness intertwined into each line of my story, but the illustrations are painted beautifully with pages of divine love and radical growth and so much hearty laughter. It has been a long road to get here and, of course, life will continue to throw us off course, but I am just so thankful I get to live this life. All of this to say, hold on. Know it might be dark right now, but hope is waiting for you. There is promise written there, and God is working behind-the-scenes to unfold your story. He is in the waiting. And in the waiting, there is goodness. You have to believe that.”

Courtesy of Amy Bowser
Courtesy of Amy Bowser

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Amy Bowser of NY. You can follow her journey on Instagram, Facebook, and her blog. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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