Overcoming Pregnancy Loss: The Story Of Gabriel Morgan
The early weeks of 2013 brought bitter cold, South Dakota windchills and a wave of relief. After three previous miscarriages, two boys born from another relationship, and only one kiddo born in this marriage, I was finally pregnant again. Days passed by, and though I was anxious and worried about how the pregnancy was progressing, it seemed things were going smoothly. For the first pregnancy out of seven, I wasn’t sick, and was excited that I could probably give my baby more nourishment than the others had received because I had been so extremely sick with them. Maybe that would be the key to having one last successful pregnancy.
My Journey Of Pregnancies and loss
My first miscarriage happened after my first son. It had been very early and resulted in a D&C (Dilation and Curettage) Procedure. I remember being furious that the nurse kept calling it an abortion. I knew it was technically called a spontaneous abortion, but the word abortion was just too raw, and this was definitely not something I had chose to happen. I went on to have another son, but after that one, I had another miscarriage at about 10 weeks and was in the hospital for three days with some mysterious infection. I was heartbroken since everything on the ultrasound had looked so good. It was unclear as to whether the infection had caused the miscarriage, or the miscarriage had caused the infection, but it was really painful.
In 2010, we were blessed with a third son (our first together) and so very happy! After a couple years we thought we would try for one more baby and hoped it would go well. I soon had a miscarriage (my 3rd miscarriage) at 12 weeks, again after a normal ultrasound. The three boys had been so excited to open their Valentine’s cards with the ultrasound pic, and here I was sitting in the bathroom, holding everything in my hands. I was heartbroken.
We had waited a couple of years and decided we would try one more time. That’s what brought us 2013. I held my breath every day, and though I wasn’t sick, I was mentally and emotionally drained. I felt crazy and my usually stable emotions were all over the board. I had been on half a dose of anti-depressant to regulate my pregnancy hormones with the son that was born in 2010, but since then it was discovered just how dangerous that drug was to developing babies. In hind-sight, knowing what I know now, most of the issue was from the treatment of someone in my life. The treatment, blame, and confusion ended up getting so bad, I contemplated calling it quits on life. I really didn’t want to, I loved my children more than life itself, and was so excited about this precious new life forming inside of me. I kept trying to stay on top of everything and move forward to my due date. In April, we felt far enough along at the magical 12-week mark that we took an adorable picture of the boys’ smiling faces holding “big brother” signs and posted it on Facebook. The congratulations came pouring in from friends and family afar that had witnessed our multiple miscarriages.
I held my breath, scheduled an ultrasound, and waited to see our newest little one. The doctor who had delivered two of my kids and handled two of those miscarriages, was so happy to see that all looked well. He told us he couldn’t be more optimistic about this pregnancy. I went home and breathed a sigh of relief. We were a third of the way there.
At around 20 weeks, we went into for a normal checkup and to hear the heartbeat. My world once again came crashing down when no matter what the nurse or doctor did, a heartbeat wasn’t heard. They said they wanted a vaginal ultrasound down just in case, and we headed over to the hospital. I knew in my heart the baby had died, but still held out hope for a miracle. We went through the ultrasound and I got exceedingly frustrated when the technician wouldn’t tell me anything. I had seen enough healthy heartbeats on an ultrasound I knew I would be able to tell, so I demanded she turn the screen towards me, so I could see for myself. Sure enough, the tiny chest cavity was still. There was nothing happening. They were able to determine the baby had died at 16 weeks.
I don’t even remember what happened at that point. I’m guessing we had to stay in town (we lived an hour away) and meet with the doctor to develop a plan of action. I remember when we did go to the doctor, and I listened to them describe labor and delivery, I kept saying “I can’t have this baby knowing there won’t be a cry”. I just didn’t know how we were here again, at 20 weeks. It didn’t seem real, but like a nightmare that wouldn’t end. This baby was supposed to be here. He or she helped me decide to stay on this earth. How could this be happening!!
They couldn’t admit me to the hospital for a few days, so I had to go home knowing that I was carrying a lifeless child. It was torture. The next two days I cleaned my house like crazy, hardly stopping to sit or eat or drink or sleep. I made detailed lists for the grandmas to know what the older boys needed to do during the days, did chores on our farm and stayed as busy as possible. I don’t even think I cried during those days. I was completely numb.
The day I was admitted, I went into the room and the nurses came into start my IV. I was so dehydrated, the nurses had to try 18 times to get an IV started. They felt horrible, and I just stayed upbeat and happy to help them feel better. We soon started the medicine to start contractions and the waiting game began. I didn’t feel much, so waited the whole day, and finally that night they said they would stop the medicine so I could rest, and then hit it hard in the morning with a different medicine.
I slept and had horrible dreams and nightmares and didn’t get much sleep. The next morning, they started a different medicine and it hit me like a ton of bricks. The contractions were fast and furious and I wasn’t progressing. My doctor kept a close eye on me and finally I passed the perfect little boy. The doctor let me sit up and look at this beautiful little flawless child. His eyes, nose, ears, mouth, hands, feet, fingers, toes, genitals, tummy…everything; was so perfect. He was slightly swollen from being in the fluid for a couple days since passing, but he was so adorable. I gazed in wonder at this little boy and rejoiced knowing he was home with my Father. My doctor said he needed to make sure I cleaned out and that he would make sure the little guy was brought back in when they were done getting his hand and footprints and weight.
The procedure where I was cleaned out was essentially a D&C while I was awake and was completely unimaginable pain, but I knew it was necessary for my health. After it finished, they brought my little boy back in. He was in a little blue blanket. I just sobbed over him, sang Jesus Loves Me to him, and talked to him. I named him Gabriel Morgan, because he was my angel. I called our local mortician and told her that he had been born, but that I just couldn’t have him in my car with me. She said that she would come pick him up and take good care of him. She did all the arrangements and cremation at no expense to me and was patient while I ordered just the right urn.
I don’t remember how long I was in the hospital, or much immediately following the days after I returned home. However, God hadn’t forgotten me. He sent me little reminders that He was walking through this hell with me. I found a barn kitten barely alive. Her mom didn’t have enough milk and kicked two out of the four kittens off so the other two could survive. One died immediately, but the was able to save the little female kitten. She was emaciated, dehydrated and her growth would be stunted, but we named her Midget. She had a brush with death which tested my faith again but is still alive today. Taking care of her helped me heal and gave me something else to focus on.
A couple weeks after Gabriel was born, I met another mom on the internet named Shanterra. She had lost her baby boy, Noah Jabez, just a few days before Gabriel died. We became instant friends. We laughed and cried and remembered our precious babies. We shared pictures most would shy away from. We called them by name, acknowledging their important existence in our lives. We sent each other gifts and checked in with each other often during the milestones we would have had. Both Gabriel Morgan and Noah Jabez were due on the same day, which strengthened our bond. We shared faith, which was an important part of our healing and surviving process. Our friendship continues today, five years later, and we hope someday to meet in person. Even if we don’t meet on this side of Heaven, we know we will have sweet little faces waiting for us when we get there.
Life After Gabriel
I now have four amazing boys. I surprisingly got pregnant and was a nervous wreck for the entire pregnancy. I didn’t ever have an ultrasound with that pregnancy, not because I thought the ultrasounds caused the miscarriages, but because I couldn’t handle seeing another child and then losing it. I didn’t even buy any baby items until a few weeks before delivery, and even then, it was only a couple gender neutral items and a pack of diapers. This amazing little boy entered the world days late in February. He’s been strong and so far, advanced and such a delight to his brothers and me. I cannot imagine life without him in it.
If it hadn’t been for Gabriel Morgan keeping his mom here on earth, there are so many things that I would have missed. My kids would have endured unthinkable pain, and the world would have never had a Lyle Lee. My life is so incredible now, and far different from the way it has been for most of my life, and I’m so thankful for the little angel who was too perfect for earth. I can’t wait to kiss those little faces someday in Heaven, but I am in no hurry to get there. They will be waiting.
Because it is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Month, I want to share my poem I wrote in honor of my four littles that I lost. Each are so special to me and taught me so much. Especially Gabriel Morgan. And through him, I met one of the most amazing ladies, Shan. I wouldn’t choose to go through those losses again, but I’m thankful for the good that did come through those heart wrenching times. To the others that mourn, I’m here for you anytime. To hear your feelings, thoughts, their names, anything.
I remember the day we started planning
Oh the ideas we had for you!
And first month we had to wait,
Wondering, can it really be true!
And with the results of that first test,
Oh the tears of joy we cried,
We laughed, we hugged, and we imagined then,
The moment you’d come into our lives.
Even through all the little symptoms,
We rejoiced in the soon to be,
And praised God our Father,
For the gift inside of me.
And as the days passed one by one,
Our love for you grew and grew,
It’s amazing to think of what you meant to us,
Though we hadn’t yet seen you.
And then one day something changed,
Something that shook me to the core,
Something didn’t seem right,
But we prayed all the more.
We went in to the doctor,
Hoping for the best,
But our anxiety kept climbing up,
With each and every test.
The first day things were fine,
I was sick, but you were okay!
Oh how we thanked and prayed,
That things would stay that way.
The next day seemed that all was well,
But 2 hours later turned into the worst of our dreams
Unknowingly I held you in my hands,
Wondering what this all means?
More tests are taken and then we find,
The most shocking of all things,
You’re gone, that’s it, no reason,
Oh the pain that that news brings.
Our hearts are heavy and yes we hurt,
But we strive to trust in God’s plan,
He knows what’s best for us, for,
He made the Heavens and the land.
But still we ache most ardently,
For the one He took on home,
But we rejoice in knowing,
That in no way are you alone.
For there up in Paradise,
You are living free,
At the feet of Our Lord Jesus,
The Savior of you and me.
I pray that God holds you tight,
And tells you how strong our love,
Is for you, little one,
As you play and run above.
And so someday we’ll see you,
And what a day that will be!
Until then, remember now,
You’re always a part of me.
~Mary Beth Holzwarth
Mary Beth Holzwarth is the mother of four busy boys, 4H Dog Project Leader, and full-time student pursuing her Associate of Arts in Criminal Justice.
After her older two sons disclosed sexual abuse in 2009, she started her organization called Endeavor52. Through that, she educates adults, children, and professionals on how to keep children safe. She and a passionate group of professionals drafted Jolene's Law which established a task force in South Dakota that is now implementing a ten-year plan to create a paradigm shift in South Dakota to improve education, prevention, and response to child sexual abuse.
She partnered with other organizations to create the CSA Survivor Force to address media about child sexual abuse and now serves on the Advisory Board for the Center for the Prevention of Child Maltreatment.
You can reach her by email: firstname.lastname@example.org On Facebook. On IG: @lizzylasairfhiona.