Briona McKinney (34), Lochlan (Locke) (5), Dempsey (2) years old, Kitto (would be 3) and Nessa (was due May 25, 2018).
Briona shares -
"I'm a teacher. I was 10 weeks pregnant. It was a Friday and I was helping one of my students, when I felt a gush of wetness down below. When I went to the bathroom there was blood everywhere. I called my doctor to tell him what was happening. He told me that if the bleeding did not stop or got worse to go to the ER. I worked the rest of the day and even went to happy hour with coworkers after work, pretending like everything was fine. I was in complete denial or shock. I went home and told my husband that the bleeding hadn't stopped and I went to the ER. I knew something was wrong, as if the signs hadn’t already told me, when the ultrasound tech turned the computer screen away from me and took pictures in complete silence. After the ultrasound we waited in a triage room with our 2.5 year old. The doctor came in and told us that our baby was measuring 6 weeks 3 days instead of the 10 weeks that we thought we were and that baby didn't have a heartbeat. 4 days later I went into labor while at home. Contractions started quickly and 3 hours later I delivered our baby. We dug a hole for her in the ground in our front yard and planted her with a new tree that we were going to plant. We named her Kitto after my husband’s maternal grandmother.
I was 17 weeks pregnant with our 4th child when I started bleeding slightly. The bleeding happened and ended very quickly, not like before, so I wasn't concerned. I called my midwife the next morning, hoping that she would write me a letter of restriction for work since I had bled a little bit. She asked me to come into the office to see the OB that was in the office. He did an exam and could see that I had bled but I wasn't actively bleeding. He got the ultrasound machine out because he said he wanted to look at my placenta to see if there was a previa or abruption. He put the wand on my abdomen and went right to the placenta. He said that everything looked good. He was going to turn the machine off when I asked if we could look at baby. He said, "Oh your baby is doing great, but sure we can take a look."
He moved the wand over to baby. He stopped and I knew right away there wasn't a heartbeat. He said, "Briona, I have to be honest, but I am not seeing a heartbeat." He stayed motionless for what seemed to be forever before apologizing again and turning off the machine. He asked me to get dressed and told me he would come back in to talk. That was the first of many traumatic events that would follow in the coming days. After going to the hospital to receive confirmation that our baby wasn’t living, being escorted down back hallways of the hospital, and meeting with doctors to hear our options we were emotionally and mentally tapped out. The physical pain came two 2 days later I went through the horrific preparation of a D and E where seaweed sticks were hammered into my cervix and I was given drugs to induce labor.
I spent all night in excruciating labor, showing up to the hospital before the nurses because I couldn’t bare another minute or pain. I was so thankful for the pain relief because it allowed me to focus on my baby and my body, say goodbye, and reach some level of peace before going into surgery. We named our baby girl Nessa.
6 days after surgery I registered and began training to be a birth and bereavement doula through Stillbirthday. I am currently completing my final projects and can begin helping women and families through loss. I promised Nessa in the moments before she was taken from me, that she will not be forgotten and that through me, she will change lives. While I don't yet know where this journey will take me, I know that Nessa and I are meant to help support others during their times of unspeakable grief.
I grew up dancing. I danced a summer with the Milwaukee Ballet and a summer with the Joffrey Ballet and was a competitive Latin ballroom dancer throughout high school. I started my college undergraduate career as a dance major. As an athlete, the condition and appearance of my body has always been very important to me and necessary in order to perform at the level I was expected to perform at. Spending thousands of hours in front a full body mirror your entire childhood, adolescence, and young adult life, definitely has an effect on how you view yourself.
Even after being pregnant 4 times, having a vaginal delivery, a cesarean, and two losses, I still hold myself to the standards that I had when I was dancing 5 days a week. I am very conscious of what the scale says and have a range of weight that I like to stay in. If I go above that range it causes me a lot of anxiety and I work really hard at getting back in the range as soon as I can. Admittedly I’m pretty hard on myself. I know this. I also know that my body has changed since having children and I am okay with that. It’s amazing what our bodies are capable of and I love my body for doing what it was made to do.
I nursed my oldest son until he was 3 years old and I’m still nursing my two and a half year old. I have donated thousands of ounces of breastmilk to babies in need and I nursed newborn twin girls for a mom that was hospitalized after giving birth. I am comfortable being naked around my kids and don’t cover up or make them close their eyes. I think it’s important for kids to see their parents comfortable without clothes on. It has led to many conversations about body parts and consent.
When I was pregnant with my first child, right away, I started taking pictures of my growing belly and posting them on social media. I was so amazed at what my body was capable of and I wanted to document and share my journey with anyone who was willing to join me. I noticed somewhere during my pregnancy that an older, relative by marriage had unfriended me on Facebook. I reached out to her to ask if I had done anything to warrant the unfriending. She responded that I was not the first woman in the world to be pregnant and that I needed to stop acting like it by posting pictures of my belly.
After that, I questioned the happiness I felt in my growing belly and baby. I confused my pride an amazement as being selfish and conceded and had a really hard time figuring out my truth, my purpose, and my journey. For awhile, I stopped sharing my story. For awhile, I stopped sharing pictures and updates out of fear that my posts were annoying and offensive to others. I have not spoken to this person since, but I have dreamed of what I would say to this person if given the chance.
I KNOW that I am not the first woman in the world to be pregnant. I KNOW I am not the first woman in the world to lose a baby. I KNOW I am not the first woman in the world to be induced at 42 weeks, or to have a vaginal delivery, or to have a breech baby, or to have a c-section, or to nurse a child until he was 3 years old, or to have seaweed sticks forced into my cervix, or to bed share, or to question my purpose in life. I KNOW THIS (screaming)!!! I KNOW I am not the first, but I am ONE of MANY women who deserve to share their story in support of women everywhere!
I decided to participate in this movement for so many reasons. First, for myself. There are times that I have felt alone in my journey as a mom and this helps me feel connected to something bigger than me. Second, for my 2 children, Kitto and Nessa, who deserve to be celebrated and remembered and for Lochlan, Dempsey, and any future children who will grow up questioning and struggling with the many challenges in life. I want them to know that it’s okay to question and it’s okay to struggle because in those moments they will learn who they need, what they need, and when they need it in order to feel at peace and become stronger than the day before. And Lastly, I want to be a part of a movement that is changing lives, that is putting kindness out into the world. That is celebrating women, celebrating their journey, celebrating the love and the pain and the exhaustion and the joy that goes along with motherhood. If my story can inspire someone…If I can help someone through a loss, a sleepless night, a bad day, a crisis… ALL of this will have been worth it."