If you missed parts 1 and 2 of Jenn Hepton’s story, we recommend reading part 1 first and then part 2 before the piece below. Also, trigger warnings abound for child loss, stillbirth and pregnancy termination.
At 39 weeks and 5 days, I woke up with the most intense pain.
Was this labor?
We went to the hospital with our bag and carseat after speaking to a nurse and our birth doula.
We parked the car and walked up to the delivery ward and all I was thinking was: I am going into labor and delivering our baby…finally.
The nurse on-duty walked us into a small room where I saw a heart monitor…and our world changed, again. After three nurses and a doctor came in, we heard the words that would break us into a million pieces, one more time.
“Jenn, this is where her heartbeat would be…there isn’t a heartbeat…she is dead.”
My world collapsed again.
I have no idea how soon after I heard the news, that I realized that I had to deliver my dead daughter because I went into complete survival mode. I asked for all the drugs and wanted this to be as quick as possible, but at the same time I wanted to remember it all, knowing that this possibly would be the only time I would experience childbirth.
The hospital took us to our deliver room which was away from everyone else. Loey was born and pronounced dead at 16:16 May 28th, 2017. We stayed in that room for three days. We changed her. We held her. We slept with her. We kissed her. We took photos and videos knowing they would be the only physical memories we’d have of her.
When we left the hospital I didn’t understand how everyone else was still living their lives and how the world stopped for me but not for anyone else. I went home to recover physically and grieve.
I didn’t leave the house for a month.
I needed to take the time to rest, cry and fall. This broke me in so many ways and it was the support from my husband, therapist and friends that got me through this time. You may wonder how I made it through; I honestly do not know. There were days when I didn’t think I would. I remember clearly that every NEW thing I did without my daughter ripped me apart. I leaned into my husband, my closest friends and my therapist. I found groups on social media and read other heartbreaking stories. I was once again dancing with grief and sadness. I went through PTSD therapy and I became a life and loss coach, supporting women after pregnancy loss to find joy again. This is how I remember and heal.
We sold our home knowing we would never be able to feel happy there. We moved into our “grief den,” which was a 2-bedroom condo and tried desperately to live. In this desperation, we knew that this couldn’t be it. We started the discussion of surrogacy. I think it was my human soul trying to survive and reaching for something, but we made an appointment with a fertility clinic and surrogate agency 5 months after Loey died.
We went through a fresh egg retrieval with an egg donor which resulted in 7 eggs, 2 of which grew into healthy embryos. We interviewed 3 surrogates and finally found our beautiful surrogate. I know deep in my heart that Loey had everything to do with this match. We got pregnant in July 2018 and we began the journey of pregnancy after loss part 2.
This time I wasn’t pregnant and I had to trust our surrogate with our dreams and hopes. I felt anxious, scared, out of control and excited. There were times when I had to disassociate from our pregnancy because I was so fearful of not being there to control every aspect, but I was with Loey and knew in my heart of hearts it was actually out of my control.
It all is.
We can do so much but after that we have to find the strength and faith to trust.
In the meantime, I was coaching women who were going through their own journey of infertility and loss as I was going through this incredible journey as well.
We are incredibly lucky to have our surrogate family. They understood our anxieties and were always there to listen. We went to Boise for every ultrasound and then one day we were packing for the delivery.
How did 9 months come and go?
It wasn’t until we were in the delivery room that I had a panic attack because the last time my heart and soul walked into a delivery room we had lost our daughter. I left and cried hard. I had to let my body feel the trauma and sadness. I had to let it feel so that I could create a new experience, narrative and dance.
Our son Milo was born on March 28th, 2019 and it was like I stepped into heaven. It was like Loey and our twins had opened the gates to pure joy and happiness and I was speechless.
I held him in my arms and didn’t want the moment to end. I didn’t want this incredible dance of joy to end. It took us 10 years to dance like this and here we are.
My journey has been long and it has been full of joy and grief. I look back and think, how the hell did I get through it all? I think it was because I knew there HAD to be joy and hope. That if I chose to not give up that the dance of joy would find us. It wasn’t easy and as I hold Milo today, I will never say it was worth it because the pain of losing a child is unmeasurable and never worth it, but I can share that I am dancing in his joy every second of every day.
With love, Jenn xo