Our Pathway to Parenthood: Johanna's Gift
* This personal story of loss has been generously shared by Kim and her husband Stephen, who were both members of the Butterfly Run support group that ran last summer.
This story starts in February 2021, my birthday is approaching and my husband and I feel ready to try for our rainbow baby, just 6 months after marrying. I got the best gift I could ask for, a positive pregnancy test. This pregnancy felt different, and November 13th felt inevitable.
After a month though we started seeing spotting again, almost exactly like our first pregnancy loss. I remember speaking to our little being, saying “you are keeping us on our toes, aren’t you?.”
It took everything to not fear the worst, all while working with the medical system to have my pregnancy match my wants. I pushed back against the need for a 6 week ultrasound, fearing a repeat of our first loss after four ineffective ultrasounds over the pregnancy’s 7 weeks.
At the end of March our doula put us in touch with an amazing midwifery, who instantly put my mind at ease. We agreed to an ultrasound; I was so nervous and hopeful. Within seconds the technician announced a heartbeat. Tears, relief, joy, and proof that this pregnancy wasn’t like our last. I was able to settle in and breathe.
The next few months moved on smoothly, I had recently started a new teaching contract, my baby bump started to appear, and we started sharing the pregnancy with family and friends. We celebrated Mother’s day, then Father’s day as we approached 20 weeks.
I remember clearly being so excited and living like this is really happening. I bought my husband a "super dad" mug, we celebrated with family - the pregnancy was perfect.
Four days later the heat dome hit, the hottest temperatures I had ever lived in. My discharge seemed wetter, but the midwives and I assumed it was the heat. On Wednesday I noticed minor cramping, slightly more than a back ache. Thursday it got stronger, and more frequent. We rushed to BC Women’s Hospital at eleven that night.
With our midwife beside us we heard a heartbeat, it was strong; we were relieved knowing this had to be a good sign. After checking my cervix she informed us that I was dilated 4 cm and was in labour. Nature was taking its course and there was no stopping our baby from coming.
We were devastated, in shock, how could this be? There’s a heartbeat. But, the next thing we know, we are spending the following 20 hours in the most difficult and heartbreaking experience of our lives.
At 2:48pm our little one entered the world. I was able to have her on my chest as she slipped away. The labour was almost seamless and if it were 20 weeks later we would have been holding our first living child. Sadly, it was just too soon for her to enter the world and as quickly as we welcomed her we simultaneously said goodbye.
We named her Johanna, in honour of my father John, who had passed away almost two years prior to Johanna’s birth and death. I chose to donate her breast milk as a part of my healing in the early days after losing her. The comfort in that is Johanna’s gift gave another baby a stronger start to life with such rich and fatty milk.
We were very fortunate that our midwife had shared about the Butterfly Run Organization while we were still in the hospital. Upon arriving home, I discovered that the grief group affiliated with the Butterfly Run was about to start on July 8th. Stephen and I were able to get in and it was a support that gave us a safe place to land so soon after our loss. We connected with other families finding themselves in similar sad situations having to navigate through life in grief. I never want to have to recommend this group to anyone and yet, for those who need it, I highly recommend it.
I cannot thank our midwives enough, as well as the nurses at BC Women's Hospital, the social workers, friends and family who were there exactly when we needed them. Every contribution has been the light in a dark and devastating experience. Though we hurt, we will continue on our journey to be parents.
It has been almost 6 months and November 13th was Johanna’s estimated due date, exactly 9 months from my birthday. In these last 6 months there has been a lot of heartbreak and grieving. Both my husband and I got her footprints tattooed with a rose that represents her birth flower. We continue to find new ways to honour her life and the impact she has had on us. She continues to be a gift to us and the world. We are stronger as a couple and I know she is preparing the way for her future siblings.