Emmett’s story begins on Jan. 24, 2016. It was my 35th birthday. It also was the day my husband and I saw those two little lines on a pregnancy test. After eight years of marriage and a lot of life happening in between (layoffs, health scares, cross-country moves), we were pregnant with our first child!
In late March, we went for our first ultrasound. Everything seemed perfectly fine until the tech told us to go upstairs and meet with our OB. It was then she told us our baby had developed something called a cystic hygroma and fetal hydrops. It was through some internet research that we found out that these are most likely caused by a chromosome issue, such as Down’s Syndrome or Turner’s Syndrome. We went from being perfectly elated to seeing our baby and hearing a heartbeat, to heartbroken and devastated in a matter of minutes.
Over the next few weeks, we decided to see if things would get better on their own. When we went for our next ultrasound in late April, things had, unfortunately, not improved. We met at length with a fetal specialist who discussed the ultrasound findings with us. He showed us just how big the cystic hygroma, essentially a large fluid bubble, had almost taken over the baby in the womb.
On April 26, 2016, at 12:50 a.m., Emmett John Michael was born sleeping at 18.5 weeks, all seven wonderful, beautiful ounces of him. The nurses wrapped him up in a teeny knit cocoon and hat to keep his body warm. They also made footprints of him that we could give to the grandparents and keep for our memory. We held him and took pictures for the next 18 hours, knowing this was going to be all the time we would ever have with him. When it was finally time to leave the hospital, that was one of the hardest days of my life to leave my baby and never see him again.
A week later I was bent over in excruciating pain. I went to the emergency room where they found my cervix was being held open by “retained pregnancy tissue” (don’t you just love the heartfelt technical term?) which was causing massive bleeding and an infection. I had a few choices: wait for it to stop on its own (not likely), go for a surgery and stay in the hospital for 3-4 days recovery, or have them do a quick procedure to remove everything. I opted for the latter because at-the-time I felt like the nightmare was just continuing. I was reliving the birth and death of my child all over again. I just wanted to be at home, moving on.
A local funeral home cremated Emmett at no-charge for us. They placed him in a beautiful little silver urn that we keep in our bedroom now. Our family also planted a hydrangea tree in our garden that has a large stone heart sitting under it. There have been times this summer where a gorgeous monarch butterfly comes and sits in it. That’s when we know our Emmett is still with us.
I never knew the days would get harder after leaving that hospital. The what-ifs, the moments that never will be. Holidays, birthdays, first days of school that we’ll never be able to experience with him. The heartbreak of looking down at my tummy, knowing that I should be a big pregnant woman right now nearing the end of my pregnancy, but alas, it’s flat and there’s nothing there to ever indicate I was pregnant.
My hope is that this blog will resonate with some other woman and her family out there, letting you know that you’re not alone. Miscarriage and infant loss happens in 1 out of every 4 pregnancies. But, you just don’t hear about it. People don’t want to think that babies can die. The sad truth is that they can. It’s heartbreaking but it does happen. Join me on this journey through living with grief after miscarriage and navigating the ups and downs in this unrelenting sea of emotions.
Who’s Missing Emmett
Below are the family members who have contributed to this blog to share their journey after Emmett’s passing:
Christina: Emmett’s mother was born and raised in a suburb of Milwaukee. She now lives in rural central Massachusetts with her husband Brett and dog Dakota. She graduated with a B.A. in Mass Communications and a Spanish minor from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and also has a Master’s Degree from Emerson College in Broadcast Journalism. She works as a nonprofit website consultant to charity organizations all across the U.S. and Canada. This is the story of her first child and pregnancy.
Liza: Emmett’s grandmother was born in Iriga City, Philippines to illegitimate parents. Her mother was a pharmacist and the eldest daughter to a retired Naval Officer. Raised by several family members, she came to the U.S in 1969. Years later, she would become a naturalized citizen. Due to her father’s time in the military, she moved often and attended several schools, finally graduating from Wauwatosa West in the Milwaukee area. Due to several personal hardships, she became estranged from her biological father at 17. Soon after, she lived with a paternal uncle and aunt who would legally adopt her. At 20 years old, she became a single mother to Emmett’s mom, Christina.