I have put off writing this for a while because I wasn’t sure if I really wanted to share my journey. To be honest, I know being open is praised right now, but I like the idea that some things remain private. However, as my story started to unfold in September 2019, hearing and reading other people’s experiences really did help me through the process and see that there was light at the end of the tunnel. It opened my eyes to the idea that sharing really can help someone, even if that person is you.
Okay. So here goes. Deep breathes. This is going to be a long one.
Brice and I took our annual trip to Switzerland during the summer of 2019 to see his family. During the trip we asked his parents to watch Eleanor so we could go to one of our favorite places, Gstaad. It is so beautiful, with all of the mountain views, easy hiking, and crip Swiss air. I also love that it has very comfortable hotels and exquisite shopping. It has everything we want in a destination. We stayed at a beautiful hotel, Le Grand Bellevue, and had the most magical time together. We were on a high when we arrived back in Dallas (even with Eleanor being a COMPLETE terror on the airplane ride home). And low-and-behold, a few weeks later we were blessed with the news that we had a little Swiss souvenir on its way.
I can’t tell you Eloise’s story without telling you the story of how I found out I was pregnant with Eleanor. It was not joyous news. Nothing like a Hollywood film or perfectly staged Instagram announcement. Truthfully, I didn’t think I was ready to be a mom. I wasn’t ready to give up my old life and be unselfish (which I think is required of a parent). I wanted the life I was living to continue exactly how it was. I still remember back to the day I found out about Eleanor. I was on a photoshoot with Ashley and we were talking about babies. I reiterated how I didn’t know if Brice and I wanted them and how we had just had a conversation saying that if we didn’t have them, we would be okay. We loved our time together, our wild adventures traveling, and being able to do what we wanted, when we wanted. Life was good and we didn’t want it to change. However, it was in that car that I realized, “Ashley, I am late.” I was never late so I started to panic. We had just gotten back from a trip to Peru, and while we had been “careful,” we were also living up that holiday life. After the photoshoot I went to CVS and picked up six boxes of pregnancy tests, two tests in each box. I went home and reluctantly opened the first one. I held my breath and took it. It lit up with the words, “pregnant” before I could even put it on the ground. I frantically opened another, and another, and another. I ended up taking 10 tests before I realized, maybe they aren’t all broken, maybe I truly am pregnant. PREGNANT!
It was two days after my wild and crazy 30th birthday party. I was 30. I wasn’t supposed to be pregnant. I had my life planned. I had trips I wanted to take and ideas of how I wanted to live. How could this..oh no, here comes the anxiety attack. Lay down. I can’t breathe. Call Brice. And that is what I did. Laying on the wood floor in the hallway of my house, paralyzed with anxiety. I called Brice AT HIS WORK in the midst of a full on anxiety attack. I couldn’t even get the words out. All I could get out was, “I.CAN’T.BREATHE.” As you can imagine he was very concerned and said, “he was on his way home.” And asked if I needed an ambulance? I fought out the words, “No! I am pregnant!” And then the tears. How could this be? WHY? He was just as shocked as I was but had to remain calm because I had enough emotion for the both of us.
I ended up going to our family doctor that day to see if they would do blood work and confirm. In my mind, the 10 tests still weren’t enough to prove I was pregnant. I didn’t do bloodwork, I guess a urine test was enough. The doctor came in and said, “congratulations. You are pregnant.” Alone, sitting on the chair in this tiny room I started bawling. The doctor, obviously confused, looked at me with shock. I still remember what he said, “Are you okay? You are married right?” Yes. “You are 30?” Yes. Then why are you so upset? I still to this day don’t know why those factors were supposed to make me all of a sudden feel better and diminish every ounce of fear and emotion I had. But he was right. It was time to accept this. It took a month for me to wrap my head around the news. I cried off and on. I had dark thoughts. And the anxiety and questions never really went away. What kind of mother would I be? Am I truly ready to raise another human being? Whether I wanted this or not, the baby was coming.
So now you know how I found out about Eleanor. It wasn’t sweet. I didn’t get to surprise my husband with exciting news. He was robbed of that experience. So this time with this little Swiss baby, I was going to do everything I couldn’t do for Eleanor. I bought Eleanor the very expensive, “Big Sister” dress. I had the camera set up to catch his reaction when he walked through the door. I had her ready to surprise ‘Papa’. It was all ready to go. And then he arrived. It was the reaction you would want your husband to have. We all laughed, hugged, and celebrated. We were thrilled Eleanor would be getting a sibling. This time was different. This time we were excited. This time it was right.
And then the following week happened. I always said, “If I had a miscarriage, I would be okay. It is a baby that would not thrive or have a full life. Better happen when it is a few weeks old than live a life that wouldn’t allow it to truly live.” I was that person. I truly believed that is how I would be. I thought I was tough. This broke me. At the first signs of what was happening I walked over to Brice while he was getting ready to go to work and told him what I thought was happening. You never truly know until you get results. Bleeding can happen for numerous reasons during a pregnancy. However, I felt it. In the deepest part of my heart. I knew, this baby wasn’t going to make it. My initial reaction was exactly like I told myself I would always be. I told Brice, “It will be okay. The baby wouldn’t thrive. It is better this is happening now.” He was shocked at my reaction and mentioned that he was in fact, “very sad about it and it was okay if I was too.” I wasn’t. I was strong. I was who I needed to be. I would be okay. I was talking myself into feeling this way. But if I let myself truly feel how I felt on the inside, I was scared. I was sad. I was angry. I didn’t want to go there. So I didn’t allow myself to.
A few days later tests results confirmed what I already knew, I would be miscarrying this baby. I would go back in a few days to retest to make sure my levels were back to zero or I would need a DNC. Over those few days life was hard. I allowed myself to start to feel my emotions. One moment I would be fine and then it would hit me. I remember very distinctly, even as I write this tears fill my eyes, walking into the pantry and absolutely losing it. A cry that was from the deepest parts of my soul. It hurt my entire body. I tried to hide these moments from Eleanor. Although she was young, I didn’t want her to see mommy like that. However, as I stood hurled over and clutching the shelves for support, sobbing an uncontrollable sob, I felt a tiny hand on my leg. It slowly wrapped around my thigh and started to squeeze. Eleanor had found me and was comforting me the only way she knew how. In that moment, I knew I needed Eleanor to get through this. She was my angel and I have never been more grateful for anything in my whole life.
I had my last phone call with the nurse who said everything was back to zero and I could start trying after two to three normal cycles (which is two to three months). That would be November or December. I was sad about this because being told you have to wait for something, even if you didn’t want it that badly before, makes you want it terribly. It meant I had to wait to give Eleanor a sibling. That I had to wait to be normal again. And it reminded me of what happened. Of my Swiss baby.
Out of the heavens a trip to Thailand fell into our lap. I had always wanted to go to Thailand and this would be on a private boat (which would be new to me). The timing could not have been better. All of the above transpired in late September and we would be leaving for Thailand in October, a few weeks later. The entire trip was great. It was a nice escape from what we had just gone through and much needed time away together. Just the two of us. But one thing that kept creeping up was that I was feeling “off”. I can’t explain it other than to say, off. I didn’t want to eat or drink much and I was tired. I chalked it up to jet-lag. To be honest, we had been very aware of our situation and what the doctors orders were, “DO NOT GET PREGNANT UNTIL AT LEAST TWO CYCLES.” This was one rule we wanted to follow. And we thought we had.
Upon returning from Thailand I was feeling horrible. I couldn’t eat. Everything made me want to vomit. And when I would think of asian food, I did in fact vomit. I have never liked asian food so I didn’t know if it was from that or if I had a parasite. As the symptoms continued for a few weeks I made an appointment with my family doctor to check for a parasite. My mom had contracted one before I was born and my symptoms seemed similar to what she had always described. However, the night I had made the appointment I had a dream. It was so real and so “in your face” that I will never forget it. Someone in the dream shouted at me, in the loudest shout I have ever heard, “YOU’RE PREGNANT!” I immediately woke up. It was 3:30am. I never went back to sleep that night. Instead I stayed up wondering, could it be? How could it be? We took precaution. Why would a dream do this to me? However, my intuition was telling me the dream was right. I didn’t tell Brice, instead the next day I went to the store, bought a test, and went home.
I can’t tell you how many questions were running through my head. If it is true, how? Will I miscarry again because I didn’t wait until I had not only two cycles, but not EVEN ONE cycle? Is it even possible? Then I took the test. ‘Pregnant’. I took another. And another. Flashes of when I found out I was pregnant with Eleanor started happening. Although this time I knew that by test three, it was real. And there was that anxiety. I reached for the phone. I called Brice at work. I blurted out, “How is it possible I am looking at a positive pregnancy test?” His response, “Is it mine?” I know that sounds terrible. Honestly it was exactly the humor I needed. We both laughed. But also, how on earth could this have happened? We were careful. Very careful. The weeks following the miscarriage weren’t the sexiest of times. I retreated. I retreated away from everything. When would this have happened?
I called my doctor who had me do bloodwork to confirm my levels. The nurse, who I had previously promised to not come back pregnant before November confirmed it. My levels were so high I didn’t need to retest. I was around eight weeks pregnant. This meant, I got pregnant two weeks after the miscarriage. I remember the night. I still don’t know how this happened. I guess I am that 1% you learn about in health class. But actually, I am the luckiest girl in the world. This baby wanted to be here. This baby was meant to be here.
Brice and I went to the next few doctor appointments and asked the same questions, “Will the baby be healthy since I never had a cycle?” “Is this even possible?” “Is it a healthy egg?” The doctors all confirmed, it is indeed possible and the baby seems to be healthy. In my naive brain I didn’t even realized you could get pregnant without having a cycle. In medical terms, you are often times more fertile after a miscarriage than you are before. So here we are, 29 weeks and with another baby girl. She is my Mighty Mouse. She is the child I will welcome into the world in June. The one I get to introduce to Eleanor and the one I have the privilege of raising.
I feel like my story is a rollercoaster. I went from not wanting kids, to the shock of having a child, to losing a pregnancy, to wanting nothing more than to be pregnant with a healthy baby, to shockingly getting pregnant again. I see God in all of this. From those little hands that clutched me when I was at my lowest point, to the news that our baby girl, Eloise, was healthy and growing bigger by the day. To say that I am beyond grateful for my journey would be an understatement. It has made me the woman and the mom I am today. Mostly, I am grateful for that little Peruvian souvenir who knew, before I ever did, that I needed and wanted her more than anything in the world. And the same goes for my determined little Mighty Mouse, Eloise. Who held the flashlight to show me that there is always light at the end of a dark tunnel.
Here are a few photos from our trip to Switzerland and the last two are from Thailand. What a life full of adventure.