Miscarriage is a heartbreaking reality for many women in this country, with at least 10 to 20% of pregnancies ending in loss, according to the Mayo Clinic. However, that number is likely higher, as many miscarriages occur before a woman learns she's expecting.
Stillbirth, a term used to describe a miscarriage after 20 weeks of gestation, is less common, but is believed to impact 1 in 100 pregnancies, or 24,000 babies, each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Kendal Taylor, a Colorado native currently based in Alabama, has suffered three losses -- two miscarriages and a stillbirth -- and now aims to raise awareness of these issues and provide grieving parents with resources. Taylor, who has a background in nonprofit work, maintains The Hopeful Creative, a lifestyle blog, where she's kept readers abreast of her parenthood journey. Now pregnant for the fourth time -- she's due to give birth to a baby boy later this month -- Taylor shared her story with "Good Morning America."
Like most, our journey to starting a family began with the cheerful wonder of all the possibilities to come. So when heartbreak took over where joy was meant to be, it knocked us off our feet. We thought we would bring home babies, but instead we came home with empty arms and grieving hearts. When we found out we were expecting, we certainly weren't expecting this.
Our first pregnancy came as a surprise because it happened quick. Nonetheless, we were thrilled. However, just as quickly as it began, it ended a couple short weeks later. It left us devastated. Nothing prepares you for working through a miscarriage, and we were faced with apprehension in our desire to get pregnant again.
A few months later, we found out we were expecting. We were excited, but with that came a new layer of anxiety that we hadn't felt before. I was on edge at anything that seemed like it might pose a problem: a cramp here or there, a day of relief from morning sickness or getting an ultrasound and not seeing what we should.
Though it never completely left, that anxiety quieted to the background as my husband, a member of the U.S. Army, deployed to a war zone when I was in my second trimester. But before I knew it, I was about 24 weeks pregnant and realized I should start planning a registry and buying our sweet girl more than stylish outfits and matching bows for her hair.
By that time I had been feeling her kicks and movements at least a few times each day. It was exhilarating! I wished my husband could be there to participate in the excitement. Hearing about it on FaceTime just wasn't the same as feeling a little foot kick for yourself. Despite this, being able to talk daily was a blessing.
I'll never forget the knot in my stomach that wouldn't untangle itself when the doctor told me it's normal for me to have gone without feeling my baby move for an entire day at 25 weeks. Despite this, I went in to be checked anyway. The silence that signaled the absence of fetal heart tones was the loudest noise in the room. The Doppler slid over my belly, but detected nothing but my own racing heart.
The 20-foot walk down the hallway from the exam room to the ultrasound room felt like miles. My eyes brimmed with tears and dread crept into every part of my being as I avoided eye contact with the happy mamas having a normal appointment that day. All I could think of was my first loss, when the ultrasound confirmed that the bleeding was in fact caused by a miscarriage. Through my fear, I grabbed desperately at any shred of hope I could reach, thinking that maybe the Doppler had it all wrong, that we could chuckle in relief after we saw her heartbeat flickering away. Instead, I was met with a still screen and the words that broke me: "There's no heartbeat."
The anticipation of giving birth, knowing there would be no happy ending after the pain, was devastating.
A couple hours later I found myself in Labor and Delivery preparing to be induced for what would be a stillbirth. My husband and I were about to face the hardest moment of our lives, while nearly 8,000 miles separated us. During this time I had to work with the Red Cross to get his chain of command officially notified. This was necessary so that he could hopefully come home on emergency leave. I had already shared what was happening with him, but we still needed to get through the red tape of the Army if we wanted him home.
About 10 hours after the induction of labor process started, I gave birth to our sweet Paxton Grace. A fully formed little beauty, she was 12 inches long and weighed just 1 pound, 9 ounces. The labor and delivery nurses were a blessing. They helped take pictures of her for me, and even made a mold of her hands and feet. This gave us something tangible to remember our girl with. And I was able to hold her for as long as I wanted. Despite the pure exhaustion I felt, I stayed up all night holding onto my little babe and staring at the precious face I would soon have to let go of. When the funeral home came to make arrangements the next morning, it took every fiber of my being to muster up the strength I needed to set her down and let them take her. Being faced with this situation is so wrong that unfair doesn't even begin to describe it.
A couple days later, my husband made it back to the States and was able to hold our precious Paxton Grace. It felt so wrong that saying hello and goodbye to her occupied the same moment. That day I had to say my final goodbye as well, which presented a new challenge. Leaving the hospital was hard, but I had been able to cling to the fact that I'd be able to see her again. This time though, it was final. Words will never do justice in describing the grief that comes with letting your child's body go. No moment would ever be the right time to leave. We would never be ready. But ready or not, we couldn't stay in that room forever.
In the days, weeks and months following Paxton's stillbirth, I went back and forth between two extremes. I either wanted to get pregnant immediately or never wanted to conceive again. I never wanted to replace our daughter, and I knew that no baby ever would, but I also wanted to experience the joy of bringing home our children and being able to raise them.
In our situation, there are no indications as to any issues that would make carrying a pregnancy to full term impossible. Unfortunately, miscarriages just happen. And the cause of our stillbirth was due to an extremely rare condition called amniotic band syndrome. ABS is not genetic, nor is it likely to present in a subsequent pregnancy. Medical professionals don't know what causes the amniotic bands to form, so they say there's no indication that another pregnancy would be sure to result in loss. My husband and I started discussing the possibility of another pregnancy.
Despite my deep desire for it, the thought of another pregnancy was terrifying. I told my husband over and over that my heart couldn't take another loss. I wish so badly that I could inform you it didn't have to, but it did. We experienced another very early miscarriage in our third pregnancy.
There was nothing uncommon about this that would indicate fertility issues. It was just another case of “bad luck." While it was encouraging that there were no issues present, I cringed at this statement. Luck is success or failure brought on by chance. From the medical standpoint, we had simply hit all the bad statistics. From our standpoint, we were grieving three little lives that we wouldn't get to share in. Naturally, we began to question if trying to get pregnant again, knowing heartbreak could result, was something we were ready for.
Today, we are pregnant with our fourth baby -- a boy -- and are anxiously clinging to the hope that God will bless us with the opportunity to raise this sweet little one of ours. He's due later this month. I'm working to remind myself that regardless of the outcome, this little life -- just like the others -- is a gift. We must cherish every precious minute that we get with him.
While we have experienced healing from our losses, we have acknowledged that this grief is just something that will always be part of us. We're finding the beauty and joy in life, because it can still exist. But we're also comfortable with the fact that we are always going to struggle with the pain of losing our children. And that's OK, because they are worth remembering and longing for.
<em>Update: Taylor gave birth to her son Barrett James on Oct. 16 at 4:03 a.m. He weighed 7 lbs., 4 oz. and measured 19.5" long. Noting that Barrett is "healthy and right on track," she gave readers an update on her life as a new mom:</em>
We couldn't be more in love. It's so surreal feeling to be on this side of pregnancy. The happy side. The way it's meant to be. The awestruck look on my face when they placed him on me after I gave birth mirrored the overwhelming feelings of disbelief, relief, and joy that I felt.
When I look at Barrett, I see how much he looks like his sweet big sister, Paxton. My heart longs to have her and our other babies here with us. I'm choosing to continue stepping forward in joy each day, remembering that life will always be bittersweet from here on out -- and cherishing the gift that it is to be able to share in our children's lives, in whatever way that plays out.
Getting to raise Barrett is such a gift and an adventure that we are ready to embrace arms wide open. Life brings us sorrow, but there's always joy to be had and hope to cling to.