Two Empty Spaces – Donate a Post by Jennifer Swartvagher

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May 16, 2013 by Katia

I’m so happy to share today’s post from Jennifer at Beyond the Crib with you, because it’s a wake up call for us who are quick to judge. There’s a common thread between a lot of the posts I receive for Donate a Post. Sadly we’re incapable of grasping the emotional reality of those going through miscarriage, until we’ve experienced it ourselves. We say things that we think are comforting, only to be appalled by ourselves later. We think thoughts that we’re ashamed of once we miscarry or when confronted with posts like Jennifer’s.

Jennifer is a mother of eight who lost two babies at the later stages of her pregnancies. Her post goes to show that no matter how blessed you are with children a mother’s loss is still a mother’s loss, a constant imprint on her heart. I would love to read your comments.

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After I lost Bennett, I would wake up and reach down to touch my belly, thinking he was still there. Then I would remember and realize I must have been dreaming. I should have been counting down the days until his birth, instead I was counting the days since I last held him. As the snow melted and spring started peeking it’s head in, I remembered how I was looking forward to spring. Spring meant he was coming, my sweet boy. I couldn’t wait to go shopping and buy a closet full of blue. It’s had been almost 8 years since I had brought home a baby boy. I missed what could have been – Hotwheels, football at the park with his brother, and slimy things he would want to bring home to be his pet.

I have always wanted a house full of little boys. I love raising my oldest son. He brings me such joy. He has always wished for a brother on his birthday candle. He loves his six sisters, but there is something special about having a brother. He was finally going to have his wish come true for his ninth birthday. There was a very good chance Evan and Bennett would have shared the day.

Three months later, we were expecting again. By 25 weeks, Elijah was gone. I can still hear the doctor as turned the ultrasound machine from my view, “Your baby does not have a heartbeat.” In all honesty, I was prepared for it. I knew it could happen again. You lose that innocence of pregnancy once you lose a baby.

I will never be able to get the image out of my mind of Evan carrying the casket out of the church and placing it in the hearse. He was so proud to carry his brother. I was so sad, but more so for Evan.

I kept saying I would never get pregnant again during Elijah’s pregnancy, even if there was a tragic ending.  I felt incomplete. I needed to know that my body, that has done this 7 times before, could bring a healthy, living, breathing person into the world. My body had betrayed me.

By springtime, I was pregnant. With two losses under my belt, the pregnancy I had longed for was now my greatest fear. I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop.

24 weeks into the pregnancy, my water broke. I couldn’t do this again. Every time they checked the fetal heartbeat, I prepared for the worst. The baby held on for five days until I developed an infection and I needed an emergency Caesarean section. Luckily, my micro preemie, Linus, after spending three months in the NICU, was my take home baby.

There are two empty spaces at our dining room table. Whenever we go out and I am counting heads, it always feels like someone is missing. I still get sad when I think about never holding my boys again. I’ll never know what their hair and eye color would have been or what their voices would sound like. When I look at my sons, I wonder if their brothers would look like them. My heart breaks a little when I see brothers close in age to Bennett and Elijah.

I believe my boys chose me so that they could be born and their souls could go to heaven. I am grateful that I was given the gift to carry them and birth them straight to heaven’s door. I will be a better person because I carried Bennett for 21 weeks and 6 days, and Elijah for 25 weeks.

I am the mother to ten beautiful children, eight on earth and two who fly with the angels.

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Jennifer Swartvagher blogs at Beyond the Crib about her life and her adventures raising eight children, ranging in age from 17 to one year. The journey beyond the crib doesn’t end when the kids are out of diapers, and no one judges us as hard as we judge ourselves. Beyond The Crib’s goal is to help other moms (and dads) see that we are all in this crazy world of parenthood together. Find her on Twitter @BeyondtheCrib.

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12 thoughts on “Two Empty Spaces – Donate a Post by Jennifer Swartvagher

  1. what a heartfelt post, crying like a baby at the end! I’ve been so lucky not to have suffered from this but I have many friends who have and as you say you can’t understand fully unless it’s happened to you. xxxxxxx

  2. What am amazing post. I am personally so fortunate, but I know so many people who have suffered this loss and it is clear that there are just no words. I sit here crying as I write this, thank you for sharing.

  3. carmenw503 says:

    I’m touched. My mother lost two babies when I was younger. I have never understood it until just now. I don’t know if they were boys, girls or a boy and girl. She has eight of us so she would have had ten. Thanks for posting; it takes courage to live while missing a part of you but I know you take comfort in the fact that you have healthy children who bring you joy. Take care and God bless.

    • Jennifer says:

      Thank you. I am glad I was able to offer some insight into what your mom experienced. I hope that someday my children will read my words and be able to understand what I went through. I am sure the losses are such a blur for them.

  4. Jennifer says:

    Thank you, and thank you to Katia for letting me share my experiences with her readers.

  5. Meagan says:

    “You lose the innocence of pregnancy once you lose a baby.” So true. After losing my very first baby, I’m envious of women who get to be excited and joyous about their pregnancies. Thank you to this writer for sharing her story and I’m so sorry for her losses.

  6. Chris Carter says:

    Oh this just makes my heart ache! Bless yours… I have a friend who lost her baby and the book she made has a caption that says “Born to Heaven”. I love how you put it- “I am grateful that I was given the gift to carry them and birth them straight to heaven’s door. ” I am so sorry for your loss… precious babies of yours.

  7. “You lose that innocence of pregnancy once you lose a baby.” That kind of says it all for me. I hope that one day soon I can have the “problem” of feeling anxious about a post-miscarriage pregnancy. I feel robbed and cheated of my innocence, but I am comforted to know that even a woman who has had 8 other happy pregnancies will still feel this loss. It’s a terrible feeling, but knowing it’s normal makes it easier to bear.

    Thank you for sharing your story. I am sorry for your losses.

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What makes a happy new year? 
This is my story, but I suspect, it might also be yours. 
Lately I haven't been writing much. Forget writing, I can't even produce an entertaining Facebook update. Why? Because selecting the right words requires an effort and I don't have any effs (for effort) left to give. First I stopped posting to my blog, then my blog's Facebook page and eventually my own Facebook profile. I'm making an effort but I find it draining. Who knew that posting funny updates on your profile is not so easy? 
Nothing dramatic is going on in my life. Work's been extra busy with some newly added responsibilities and stress, bedtimes are still long-ish and my sleep is still often interrupted, but it's not nearly as often as before. My "me time" is limited and starts late. The emotional energy I invest in my work, the nature of my sleep and the limited time I spend on myself leave me with little energy to spare. Any energy I have left and then some is invested in my kids.

My kids, whom you all know I adore and admire, are daring, often reckless and very young and inexperienced. Sometimes I'm surprised at the extent of their lack of caution and I'm always, always disproportionately worried. I know that because I'm unlike the other mothers around me. I come from a family of worriers and anxious people. My neural pathways always lead me to a dead end - literally. I catastrophize and imagine the worst outcome. For years I've been able to rationalize and talk myself out of useless, time consuming and energy wasting internal struggles with often imagined worrisome scenarios, but now that words are burdensome and my energy is dwindled, I can't. 
I'm entering this new year happier and more optimistic than I've been in awhile. Yesterday I went to see my doctor. After a lot of internal turmoil and thoughts about cancelling my appointment I came in and blurted out: I think I'm suffering from some form of anxiety. His very calm and matter of fact-ish reaction ("like everyone else in the 21st century") wasn't dismissive, but reassuring. Self care sometimes means looking deeper. 
I wish everyone a happy new year of good mental health. It's the basis for everything.
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