Hope After Loss :: My Personal Story of Love and Loss

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March 14, 1997 was an ordinary Friday. I remember thinking that morning that Easter was rather early that year, March 30. This particular Friday was a teachers’ professional development day, and we had all gathered in the theater to watch a video pertaining to our professional development. The “culture of poverty” was our PD for the day, designed to help us understand the impoverished children who may walk through our doors. 

The chairs are usually pretty comfortable, but that day, for some reason, I could not find comfort in those theater-style chairs. I squirmed and was generally restless, which I attributed to being fifteen weeks pregnant. Our video lasted about two hours, too long to sit and be uncomfortable. My back ached as if I had been doing manual labor for quite some time. 

Then, as the morning progressed, it became apparent that my body was rejecting the precious baby that we had hoped and prayed for for so very long. Our daughter was nine years old and had already picked out names. We had placed our hope in many procedures and people; experts in infertility. We were anticipating what we considered to be the completion of our family. We had considered adoption until I conceived this baby, and once I conceived, we pulled our name from adoption agencies. 

I called the doctor and told his nurse what I was experiencing – the backache that she said is actually back labor, the leaking of fluid which was the amniotic fluid, and the tremendous heartache for which she had no words. In a matter-of-fact way she said that I should come in to have an ultrasound.

I replied, “I had an ultrasound last week.” She then replied, “Oh, yes. I see that now. Um…everything seemed fine last week according to this ultrasound. Well, come on in anyway.”

My husband and I made the quiet drive to the doctor’s office and were greeted by my obstetrician. He was very doctor-like, talking all the while about the statistics of just how many babies are miscarried, something I refused to listen to. Once the ultrasound began, I was praying harder than ever that our baby was there, as perfect as the week before.

The doctor meticulously moved the ultrasound wand around my belly, which was already hard and bulging. Several times he mumbled something or simply said “Um…,” which I interpreted as “I don’t know” or as “I don’t understand.”

Finally, he said the words we were dreading: 

“Your baby is not viable.”

After that, I don’t remember much. My husband told me later that the doctor informed him that I would need a DNC. When I asked the doctor what had happened, he just said, “Failure to thrive.” The doctor also told my husband that given my age of thirty-nine, he was not completely discouraging us from trying to conceive again, but that our chances of conceiving and carrying a baby to full term were greatly diminished given the fact that we had lost this baby. 

I had the DNC and spent some time away from teaching to recuperate physically and emotionally. In the weeks following the DNC, I dreamt of our baby – a boy with curly blond hair full of life and words. Of course, he had to have plenty to say, or he would not be part of me! 

Easter took on a whole new meaning for me, as I heard words of hope for those who had gone before us. But I never thought that I would be thinking about losing a baby, a parent maybe, but not a baby. In fact, my mother-in-law was battling cancer, and I thought she would be the one to die, not our baby. 

My husband and I decided that our family was complete and that we would not try to have another baby. Our hearts ached for the baby who was not to live outside of me. Occasionally, we would talk about what he would have looked like and about his personality.

As time passed, I yearned less for the baby who was gone, but I never forgot him. 

Then on August 8, 1997 my mother-in-law passed; another devastating loss in our family. We grieved her death and resumed living our lives under the shadow of two losses. Our stance remained that we would not have another baby – period – we were done!

As has often been the case, what we decided was not to be. On June 3, 1998, Ethan William Oswald was born to the Oswalds without any fertility interventions. He was perfect, healthy, and our hope after a loss. His sister celebrated his birth as enthusiastically as we did!

Having a baby at 40 was challenging, but it was such a blessing to have a child after losing one. After Ethan was born, I became aware of women who did not have a baby after losing one, and my heart ached. I wanted them to experience the same hope that I had after losing our baby.

Today, this baby is a young man of 23 years. I told him, “You were almost the first boy to be named Hope.” He has blond curly hair and is full of life and words. 

This story is dedicated to Madelyn Kate Lambries, infant daughter of Matt and Ashlyn Lambries, September 7, 2021 – September 19, 2021.

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Sharmen Oswald is a South Carolina native and wife of thirty-seven years to a retired Army National Guard veteran and policeman. In addition to wife, Sharmen fills many roles: mother to four grown children (the last one in college), teacher librarian to middle schoolers, past caretaker of aging parents and teacher of Sunday School. She has two degrees from the University of South Carolina in Library and Information Science and a degree also from USC in English Literature. One of her passions is seeing students connect with the “perfect fit book”. She also loves to read aloud to people of all ages and stages, including the elderly. Gardening, storytelling, writing and photography are what she enjoys doing when she is not teaching. In addition to humans in her family there are also Hugo and Heidi, two rescue dogs, and Simon, a rescue FIV positive cat. Sharmen belongs to the Foothills Writers Guild and Pegasus Poetry group which she meets regularly by Zoom.

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