When Being the Number 1 Isn’t Great: My Story {Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month}

I have to admit, I can be quite competitive. I grew up playing multiple sports, so striving to be #1 has been my goal many times. Now, although I have this competitive streak, I can safely say that I am not a sore loser. Instead, more of an upbeat kind of gal who tries to look at the glass half full instead of half empty. In life and especially in sports, being number one is always followed by some sort of celebration.

Today I will share with you what happens when being that number one is not a time to celebrate, but instead heartbreaking. I will share what happens when that glass is neither half full nor half empty but has shattered into a million pieces, when your survival is not celebrated, but when you find hope after loss.  

Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month

October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. 1 in 4 women in the United States will experience and suffer the loss of an unborn child, and although we have a day (Oct 15) and a whole month dedicated to Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness, losing an unborn child is often too difficult to talk about and often considered taboo. 

Why do so many women feel as if they have to suffer in silence? I personally believe through my own experience, that the reason there is only silence, is because there are NO WORDS. There were no words that any of my family could have said that would have brought me comfort. There were no words that I could have formed to begin to express how I felt. My support system was all around me, but my support system had no clue how to offer support.  See this one.. to lose a unborn child… is different than the other awareness events this month. 

There is no big race, no commercials, no star athlete to wear a certain color, and your survival is not celebrated. In all honesty, how could it be? Instead there is only silence. 

I did not know that there was a Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month until after I lost my son, I felt as if I was inducted into a “secret club” that I never wanted to belong to. I survived being that number 1 not only once but twice. I am not only 1 in 4, but also the 1 % of women who experienced a rare condition called Placental Abruption.

Placental abruption is where the placenta partially or completely separates from the uterus and deprives a baby from oxygen and nutrients, after 20 weeks of pregnancy. 

It is not uncommon for the condition to happen suddenly. With no warning or major signs I experienced a complete separation. The specific cause of placental abruption often goes unknown.

“When a child loses a parent, they are called an orphan.
When a spouse loses their partner,
they are called a widow or widower.
When a parent loses a child, there isn’t a word to describe them.” –Ronald Regan 

The Beginning  

It’s a boy! Our 4th child was going to be another boy! We were excited and instantly began to think of names!  John, Jacob, Christopher…. we could not settle on a name that both my husband and I loved. Our first son is named after my husband and my father-in-law, so the family name was already taken. What were we to do?

We played the name game for a while. One night while in bed, almost asleep, it hit me. “That’s it!” I screamed with excitement, as I shot straight up. My husband half asleep and now startled, looked at me with puzzlement and asked, “What?” “Preston Nathaniel Allen,” I said. The name was a combination of both our grandfather’s names. My husband looked at me and smiled. He loved it! That night I went to sleep and dreamed of The Allen 5  becoming The Allen 6. My dreams, at 7 months pregnant, would turn into my worst nightmare.

The Devastation 

It has been 5 years and some months since I heard words that shook my heart and rocked my faith! “I am sorry, but your son is gone.” To say I shook and rocked is bit of an understatement, more like my heart experienced an earthquake. There had to be some kind of mistake! In my naïve and confused mind, this can’t happen to a woman who had already had three successful pregnancies!

I looked up from the table and I saw my precious baby boy, lifeless. I could not help but stare at the screen as I prayed with all my heart for some sign of life.

I don’t remember anything anyone said after that because I closed my eyes tightly and prayed with everything I had for there to be a miracle. I somehow thought that if I prayed with all my heart that it would revive Preston’s. The son whose heartbeat I had heard and whose kicks I had felt, the son we had already named, was gone. The room got extremely cold, and darkness surrounded me.

After delivering Preston, I held him close, rocked him, and sung him a lullaby, It would be the last time I would see him on this side of heaven. The hardest day of my life was leaving the hospital without my baby. Upon leaving, I received a beautiful white box. It would be weeks before I even remembered to open it. Who knew a little white box would bring me hope?  

My heart was split so deep. Everything, and I mean everything… I thought I knew crumbled down before me. My thoughts, faith, and emotions laid in rubble from this devastation for months. I tried desperately to dig through the destruction. I tried desperately to get back into our family routine.

I could not put the pieces back together again. I could not even pray. There was nothing anyone could do. I felt like Humpty Dumpty; I had a great fall, and all the king’s horses and all the king’s men could not put me back together again. 

Hope and Support 

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18

It amazed me how quickly people expected me to move on. I knew what they were thinking. Well at least you have three children. But I could not let go. I attempted to pray, but the only word that would spill out was WHY?

Pain tucked me in at night and was there to greet me each morning. One morning as soon as I opened my eyes, there it was again, pressing heavily on my shattered heart. Hello my friend, I thought, for pain and I had become very acquainted. The words that followed shocked me. Oh God give me strength! It was the first time that I prayed since that day. In that simple prayer, I heard instantly – and I mean instantly – in a whisper, There no hurt that my love cannot heal, no darkness my light cannot shine! 

Wave of Light 2017

In that moment I realized that although I had felt so far from God, God had not been far me. He met me in my darkness. He met me in my brokenness. He was right there in the midst of all that. He had never left my side, like a loving Father who waits patiently for His child to wake up from a coma. Without me even being capable of acknowledging Him in this moment, He was still my life support!

No, all the King’s horses and all the King’s men could not put me back together again, but the King could, and piece by piece the King did!

We held a memorial for Preston, in which 210 balloons with his footprints were released in the air. Those 210 balloons represented the days I carried him.   

There is not a day that goes by that I do not think of my son, and some days are much harder than others. The should haves and the what ifs constantly play in the back of my mind, but through this horrific loss, I also gained. To hear myself say that even now sounds strange.

Remember the beautiful white box? It was a memory box filled with keepsakes of Preston for our family, from an organization called H.A.L.O (Hope after Loss Organization).   I held the box close and squeezed it tight. Five years later, there are many nights I still take Preston’s memory box out and hold his blanket in my hands while hot tears flow down my face, but there is something that is different now. Instead of tears and pain, there are tears and hope.

Giving Aided My Healing 

I have gained everlasting friendships from being a member of H.A.L.O. They offered support that no one else around me could. I was not alone! It was relieving to be around women who understood. Although each one of  us prays that no other woman ever has to understand, each year the numbers grow, and each year H.A.LO is there with many events, such as Wave of Light.

H.A.L.O not only comforted me but also inspired me. So each year during Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month I host Shower of Love Shower of Hope. This is a community baby shower that blesses the babies who are here and are in need. In a way it is the baby shower I never got to have.

Donations are collected all month and given to our local Pregnancy Center, who gives them to mothers who may not have or can not afford support. H.A.L.O. also donated $1,000 to the Pregnancy Center in Preston’s name. This in not only in Preston’s honor but in honor of all the sweet babies who were too precious for this earth.

Preston taught our family many things. He taught us to love harder, to laugh louder, and to appreciate each day that is given to us. 

By the way the name Preston Nathaniel  means God has given. 

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