Portrait Photographer | Los Angeles | Southern California 

Laura LaBerteaux

Dear Mama- Allie’s Story

This is the first time I’ve shared my whole, complete story. Raw and unreserved; the unabridged version. Three and a half years ago I lost my sixth child at 19 weeks, halfway through my pregnancy. I was shocked and gutted, at the doctor’s office with only my three year old with me when the doctor could not find a heartbeat. Infant loss was not new to me. Thirteen years prior, I experienced the loss of my second child only an hour after he was born at 34 weeks. The experience was so different though. Adam had a congenital defect known as Potter’s Syndrome in which his kidneys failed to develop. I knew he would not live long after he was born and I had time to prepare and grieve and savor the just over three months I carried him before he was born. With Adam I was able to have hospital newborn pictures, hand and footprints, and even a lock of his hair was collected for me. I was able to hold him at the mortuary and say our final earthly goodbyes. With Emerson however, other than ultrasound pictures, the only tangible thing I have of his life, that he really existed as his own person here on earth, is a recording of his heartbeat in a brown plush teddy bear. It has become one of my dearest keepsakes.

The whole experience really made me question my faith.

When I lost Adam, I received what I thought was personal revelation that although I had to go through this horrible trial, I would learn and grow from it and wouldn’t have to experience something like it ever again. I felt that so deeply in my soul that I didn’t fear with my third, forth, and fifth pregnancies that followed. So when my sixth pregnancy ended in a missed miscarriage I was devastated. I wondered if the convictions I had felt about other things were possibly not real as well. I questioned everything every step of the way. If I had to miscarry this baby why couldn’t I have just done it in the comfort of my own home? Why did I have to be so far along that a less risky D&C procedure could not be performed due to my baby’s already large size? With a history of five C-sections, no doctor would induce labor and my only option was to wait until the last possible moment that would be considered safe for me to see if my body would labor naturally. Eighteen days. Eighteen days I carried a baby that was no longer alive inside of me. Up until the day I walked into a woman’s clinic and underwent a D&E, a procedure usually reserved for second trimester abortions, to deliver my baby. Alone. Due to patient confidentiality I had to go through pre-op, the procedure, and recovery all by myself along with the few other dozen women who were there to terminate unwanted pregnancies. No family was allowed outside of the waiting room. It was sincerely the loneliest and darkest I’ve ever felt in my life. I was not given the opportunity to see or hold my baby outside of the womb. I am grateful that my husband and I were able to find a local mortuary willing to pick up Emerson’s remains and have him cremated. There was a simple comfort in that. And then, when I thought I was on the other side of the whole horrific experience, and could begin to heal physically, I suffered complications from the procedure including a perforated uterus and spent the next two days in the hospital. I could have easily died if not for the quick actions of my husband and sister-in-law. 
Yet when I finally did come out on the other side I found myself wishing I had died. The hurt and pain and grief was unbearable. I couldn’t eat without being sick and every breath I took seemed difficult. When I could sleep I had nightmares. I pushed my other children away. I honestly thought to myself, “what makes these kids so special they get to live?” I had read or heard other mother’s stories about how infant or child loss made them cherish the moments with their living children even more but I found myself in a different place. I didn’t want to be closer to my kids because what if something happened to them too? I didn’t want to feel that hurt, pain, and loss again. But I also resented them and the fact that they were here and Adam and Emerson were not. It just didn’t make any sense to me. What I wanted was a rational explanation and there wasn’t one. For a long time I seemed to just live in a fog, completing daily tasks but not really living. I found things to distract me and take the focus off being a mother. Was I depressed, yes. But mostly I was consumed with gut-wrenching, soul shaking, painstakingly painful, grief. And anger. So. much. anger.
I remember telling my therapist the first time I saw her, about a year later when I realized I needed more help than what I had in me, that I was afraid I would never be the person I was before I lost Emerson. She told me that I wouldn’t be; what I went through changed me. I was a different person but that was okay. She diagnosed me with anxiety and PTSD and helped me work through my daily struggles and cope with triggers-outside stimuli that prompted recall of my traumatic experience. I needed time to learn how to embrace, understand, and accept this new person I was becoming

Trying to move on

I was grieving but I also wanted to get pregnant again right away. I wanted to physically move on. I was so worried I wouldn’t be able to because of my complicated delivery with Emerson. I waited the advised three months and then after a year of trying, I conceived my first daughter after having six sons! I should have been elated! Ecstatic! But I was scared, and not just of losing her. I feared through my whole pregnancy that I wouldn’t be able to bond with my daughter. I worried that I was more in love with the idea of having her than I would be with her. However the moment I saw her I loved her even more than I already did. I loved her something fierce. And then she underwent an unexpected stay in the NICU healing from a collapsed lung and jaundice. Again my world fell apart and I thought, “This is it. This is all the time I’m going to have with her.” A huge realization hit me. Isn’t this all the time we have with any of our children? Each moment, each day, any one of them could be the last. And I didn’t want to spend them worrying, or fearful, or not fully living in the moment. I wanted to be happy. I brought home my healthy baby girl 10 days after she was born and was determined to be a better, more present mother.

Dear Mama,

Healing doesn’t happen overnight. Like grief, it is a wheel. Constantly changing and shifting and repeating. It’s about learning and growing. There are things still just too painful to process at times. Baby showers I miss and pregnant friends I avoid. I still get angry. Still question, “why me?” Yet I’m trying to be more compassionate towards myself and less angry at life. I remind myself that not everything happens for a reason. We are mortal beings experiencing an imperfect life. There are things I have control over and things I don’t. I’ve gained a different perspective about life. I’m learning to love myself the way my husband and children see me. The way the rest of my family and my friends see me. I’m learning to make the best of what I endure on this life journey. Through self care and with the help of positive affirmations I remind myself of the beautiful, wonderful things around me! Because if I’ve learned anything so far, it’s that life truly is a gift. And I’m grateful for it.

October 25, 2019

  1. Terry Parson

    October 29th, 2019 at 4:40 pm

    Allie, I am so sorry you have had so many emotional challenges! You must be a VERY strong woman. Our love, thoughts, and prayers are with you!

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Laura LaBerteaux