Our Journey through Miscarriage to Parenthood | The Joy and the Pain

Wife leans on husband's shoulder in a grove of trees in Tuscany Italy

Anyone who has met me knows that I love photography. Photography is fun but a much richer and deeper aspect of my business is meeting, getting to know and connecting with so many amazing people.  Andrew and I are invited into one of the most intimate moments in so many couple’s lives and we don’t take that lightly. Connection is a two way street though and my hope in everything I do in my business is to not only get to know you but allow you to get to know us and our family.  Everyone knows about our two little boys and how much fun we have together.  But what most people don’t know that even though we have two little boys here with us, at this point in time we had four other babies that we never had the chance to meet. Andrew and I don’t take any day with our boys or each other for granted because we know how fragile life can be.  In my experience, not many share their stories of  miscarriage but it is so much more prevalent than most of us realize.  My hope in sharing our journey through miscarriage to parenthood is that it will be an encouragement to others and to let you know that my door is always open to be a listening ear and a friend to those experiencing loss.

couple stand in field in Tuscany Italy with man kissing girl's forehead

Hesitating to Start a Family

I wasn’t sure I even wanted to be a mom.  Having kids seemed to me like removing a piece of my heart and placing it outside of myself into another tiny little person that I loved so deeply to run around, alone and unprotected.  What if someone hurt my little person? What if I lost that little person?  That’s why the thought of having kids terrified me.  I wasn’t worried about the work or the sacrifice but I was afraid that I might lose something I loved so deeply.  My mom had two miscarriages before she had me, her first baby, and that made me worry that I would miscarry myself. I definitely did not want to have our own journey through miscarriage to parenthood like my parents did.

Husband kisses wife on forehead while standing in a field in Tuscany Italy during miscarriage

Gabriel

After we had been married for three years, Andrew was ready to start a family… and I was not.  He listened to my fears and was so kind to let the conversation die down for another year.  That year went by and after seeing a good friend of mine get pregnant and have a baby, I really started to think about it.  I had been processing through my fear all that year so it was only a few months before we got a positive pregnancy test.  I was excited and terrified.  Andrew was just SO excited.  I remember telling a couple of close friends that we were expecting and they were excited but also cautioned me to guard my heart; getting a positive test didn’t necessarily mean I’d be bringing a baby home in 9 months.  I was cautious but we were very optimistic.

I was only 6 weeks along when I got the inkling that something wasn’t right.  The doctor confirmed I had been pregnant but that I no longer was.  I didn’t know how to process the news.  I remember going home that day and staring at Andrew and he staring back at me like we were shell shocked.  I wanted to shout, “I knew this would happen! This is why I didn’t want to get pregnant in the first place!” Andrew hadn’t really thought that something like this was possible.  He’d never heard of anyone having a miscarriage so the news hit him like an 18 wheeler.

Husband and wife have anniversary photo session in Tuscany Italy during miscarriage

Over the next couple of weeks and months Andrew and I cried, processed and prayed together.  I was not prepared for the feelings of grief and loss.   How is it possible that I could love someone so much whom I’d never met and who had only existed for 6 weeks?! “Am I crazy for being this sad?!” I asked myself.  After doing some reading and research I realized that there is something so precious about the physical and emotional bond between mom and baby.  Also the grief over unmet expectations, strollers and high chairs purchased and then put into storage when it all ended.  We decided to call our first little one Gabriel because it means “God is my strength”.  And He was our strength over the next handful of months.  I told Andrew, “I don’t know what I’ll do if we have a second miscarriage, there’s no way I’ll be able to handle that.”

Months went by and I watched as one of my sister in laws and friend after friend announced their pregnancies.  I remember one wedding in particular where a family, guests of the bride and groom, brought their newborn baby girl.  When it came time for the Father Daughter dance, the bride and her dad danced for a short time until the DJ invited all other dads and daughters to the floor.  I watched as this new dad brought his little baby girl to the floor to dance with her and I lost it.  With tears streaming down my cheeks, I did my best to hide behind my camera and fade into the shadows, all while continuing to try to photograph and act professional. As we left the wedding that night, I cried all the way home.

Wife leans on husband's shoulder in a grove of trees in Tuscany Italy

Peanut

Summer and fall came and went. Then in January, we got pregnant again.  This time we were much more cautious and careful about who we told.  We had planned a trip to Europe before I had gotten pregnant and realized that I’d be in my first trimester when we went.  I read up on all the foods I should avoid, ways to stay safe being pregnant while traveling, etc.  Before we left on our trip, we had an early doctor’s appointment and found that the baby had a heartbeat! We were so excited and figured that was a good sign.  We had an amazing time in Europe, traveling to Germany, the Czech Republic, Switzerland and Italy.  While in Italy we hired Facibeni Fotographia (who was amazing by the way!) to do an “anniversary shoot” for us on a hillside in gorgeous Tuscany (as you can see in all of these pictures!).  I was about 10 or so weeks along and had been feeling pretty tired and nauseous (all the good pregnancy signs) so we felt it was “safe” to ask the photographer to take some pregnancy announcement pictures… pictures that we never got the chance to share… until now.  The week we returned home I was about 12 weeks along but had some signs that something might be amiss.  When we went in for a sonogram, I remember the technician being so quiet. During our last sonogram only weeks prior they’d let us hear the heartbeat and showed us the screen.  This time she was silent.  I barely held it together during the exam.  And because we didn’t have a scheduled appointment with the doctor, the best thing they could do was fit us in between appointments and we ended up waiting an hour for them to come into the room and tell us the baby was gone.  How could this happen? I was almost at “safe zone” of 14 weeks?  What are the chances that I’d have two in a row?

mom and dad hold fisher price camera for pregnancy announcement that ended in miscarriage

A Time of Questioning

I fell hard after loosing our second, nicknamed Peanut.  I had grown up being taught about God and reading the Bible, and had decided from an early age that I wanted to have a personal relationship with God. I had even experienced Him in such real ways that I could never explain away His existence. But after my second miscarriage I started to doubt His character. I pored through the Bible looking for answers and found that when God created the first man and woman, He gave them the free will to do what they wanted.  When they chose to disobey God, sin entered the world and with it, death, pain, sorrow and things like aging, cancer, sickness, natural disasters and genetic defects. These hard things affect us all because we live here on Earth.  I was so encouraged by Romans 5:3-5 in the Bible where it says, “And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope.  This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” Honestly I was at a crossroads where I could choose to believe my ever changing emotions and my circumstances or God and His Word that never changes. Our second miscarriage was my fork in the road in my relationship with God.  I may never fully understand why tragic things happen but I did choose to trust the heart of the God that I’ve known since I was a girl.

Broken Genetics

Over time, my heart began to heal; the color began to return to my world. But now I wanted a baby more than almost anything else. I wrestled with questions like would I ever be a mommy and hold a baby in my arms?  Was my body broken?  It was at this time that I remembered a very brief conversation my dad had with me before we got married.  He had mentioned that my mom had a genetic condition in which 50% of her pregnancies would fail and that it was possible that I also had that same condition.  When I brought it up to my doctor she agreed that we should test for that, and sure enough, the results came back that I had it.  At least we had an answer as to why we kept miscarrying.  That didn’t stop us from continuing to try, yet this time, months passed and and I wasn’t getting pregnant.

Fisher Price camera held for pregnancy announcement that ended in miscarriage

A Permanent Reminder

Mother’s Day came around and we were asked by a well-meaning man at church to hand flowers to moms who came in for the church service that day.  Andrew graciously bowed out of the obligation; I couldn’t go to church that Sunday… the day that they’d talk about moms. Nope.  “Puddle clean up in pew #3!” No thanks. Instead, Andrew and I drove to Rochester for a date day.  I had been talking about getting a tattoo for a while and on that day, we found a tattoo parlor that was open and I “pulled the trigger” and got one that Mother’s Day. When I was in Bible college, I used to write the Hebrew word “hesed” on the inside of my left wrist. Hesed is often translated into English as “faithful love”, “kindness”, “mercy”, etc.  and that Mother’s Day, I needed a permanent reminder that He would always be faithful to love me, even when it didn’t feel like it.

Syracuse photographer shows off tattoo on her wrist with the Hebrew word hesed

Toby

After a handful of meetings with fertility specialists over the following months, we were able to conceive a third time on our own.  I was a nervous wreck.  I was SO worried that this baby wasn’t going to make it either.  I remember being about six weeks along and again seeing some signs that things were not ok.  I had a photo session scheduled that morning but ended up having to ask my clients if we could pause for five minutes while I took the doctor’s phone call and they were so kind and understanding.  Our doctor got us right in for an appointment and my sonogram showed that the baby had a heartbeat! I was so glad that everything was ok for the moment but the following weeks crawled by.  I was exhausted and nauseous most of the time but when I didn’t feel lousy, worry would haunt me.  At 12 weeks we did a genetics blood test to see if there were any abnormalities with the baby and everything came back negative.

Syracuse wedding photographer H Hawkins Photography stands in a field for her maternity pictures

I remember making it to week 14 and starting to breath a little easier.  We had made it into the second trimester!  The rest of my pregnancy went by without a hitch and our little Tobias Timothy was born 10 days early.  Tobias means “God is good”, and He IS good, through the happy and the painful moments and our journey through miscarriage to parenthood.  The next morning when Andrew brought Toby into our hospital room I started to cry.  All my hopes and dreams for a little one was here, sleeping soundly beside me.  The months following his birth were so sweet, so redeeming as I’d just look at him with tears streaming down my cheeks and thank God for him.

Mom, dad and little boy sit in field for family pictures by Syracuse wedding photographer

 Andrew and I had talked about how many kids we wanted and we both agreed that three would be so much more fun than two but that four would be the perfect number for us.  I was 30 when we had Toby and we didn’t want to me to be too much older than 35 when trying for our last baby since we had read that the risks go up significantly after that age.  We figured that having a 50/50 chance during my prime years was risk enough.  So we didn’t wait too long before trying again, assuming we’d miscarry a few more times before holding another baby in our arms.  Toby was 9 months old when we were shocked to find out that we got pregnant the first month we tried.  I was actually pregnant and feeling nauseous during our photo session with Rachel Jean Photography in the three family photos above but no one but Andrew and I knew.

Syracuse family photographers share pregnancy announcement after their miscarriages

Josiah

After all the sadness and grief as well as joy that we had experienced leading up to this pregnancy, I had decided to appreciate each day that I was pregnant.  In my first pregnancy I was blissfully happy.  In my second, I literally pretended that I wasn’t pregnant.  I figured if I didn’t get attached emotionally to the baby then it wouldn’t hurt so badly if I miscarried.  I was wrong.  I think the grieving process was harder the second time because I hadn’t taken the time to process through my emotions in each stage so by the time I miscarried, I had to process them all in one huge tidal wave. Not the healthiest of ways to process emotions!  I admit that when I got pregnant with Toby that I again, pretty much tried to “emotionally ignore” the fact that I was pregnant.  But as we headed into the “safe zone” with Toby, I realized that I had missed out on those 14 weeks to celebrate his life because I was too busy pretending he didn’t exist.  So when we got pregnant a fourth time, Andrew and I vowed to celebrate each and every day we were pregnant.  Whether we ended up having to say goodbye to them or not, we’d cherish the time we had with our little one.  This pregnancy was smooth sailing from positive pregnancy test all the way through to my labor.  As the nurse checked us in she said, “I think you’ll have this baby within the hour”.  When I heard this I started to cry.  “I get to meet my little boy today… I didn’t think I’d actually get to meet this baby.”  As they laid him in my arms for the very first time I felt doubly blessed to have been given two little boys.  We named him Josiah meaning, “God will save” after the young king of Judah in the Bible.  In 2 King 23:25 it says of him, “Before him there was no king like him who turned to the Lord with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his strength…” and that is exactly what we hope can be said of our little man.

Syracuse wedding photographers share journey from miscarriage to parenthood

They will forever be my little photo subjects.

Baby brothers hug each other after their parent's journey through miscarriage

A Third Miscarriage

I weaned Josiah when he was a year old, and Andrew and I decided it was time to try for another little one.  We geared ourselves up mentally and emotionally to enter this “trying” season again where we had to prepare ourselves to say goodbye to more little ones.  In March of 2020 I knew that I was pregnant but it ended within a week as quickly as it had started.  I took a few hours to be sad but because it was so short, I didn’t find this miscarriage to be as traumatic.

Sprinkle

The very next month we got pregnant for the sixth time.  After our getting a positive pregnancy test, we were excited.  We again fought hard to celebrate every day we had with “Baby Sprinkle” as we called him/her, not knowing if we’d ever meet them.  It was that month that COVID-19 started to hit New York City and I learned that Andrew was not going to be allowed to come with me for my 8 weeks doctor’s and sonogram appointment.  With all my other babies, this was usually the appointment that told us whether our baby had a heartbeat or not.  I pleaded with the office and the nurse to allow Andrew to come in. I told them the stories of my other miscarriages. I pushed my appointment back as far as I could hoping that policies would change as we entered the end of May and Phase 1 of reopening the state and that they would let Andrew come with me.   In the end, I had to go in alone.  Gratefully it was my doctor herself, instead of a technician, that did the sonogram.  I was 8 weeks and 3 days along the day of my appointment and as the doctor looked at her screen, she confirmed that Sprinkle was measuring at 8 weeks and 3 days exactly but that there was no heartbeat.  I just sat in silence as the heaviness of the news pressed in on my heart. “Everything has been going so well”, I said. “I’ve been tired and nauseous, right up to today”.  Sprinkle’s heart must have stopped within 24 hours of the appointment. I did find that it was a blessing that it had stopped before my appointment because if it had stopped a day after the appointment, I might have gone right along thinking everything was fine when it wasn’t.

Syracuse wedding photographers share their journey through miscarriage to parenthood

The following days and weeks were rough.  Nights were the worst.  When things quiet down and sleep evades you, there’s nothing to do but be alone with your own thoughts and broken heart.  I don’t know what I’d do without my sweet Andrew to be a shoulder to cry on in the middle of the night. He is the one who can read me the way no one else can, the one who won’t take, “I’m fine” for an answer. What added insult to injury was that my body wasn’t taking care of everything the way it should.  One week turned into two, which turned into three and by week three, the doctor was still saying I would need a D&C.  Because of COVID-19, I’d have to walk into the hospital alone where I had my two sweet babies, sit on a bed for a handful of hours waiting for my surgery alone and thinking about my loss, wake up alone and leave the hospital without Andrew or my sweet Sprinkle.  The thought of that put me over the edge every time.  There is just no way I’d be able to survive that emotionally. No way.  I had shared with a handful of close friends and family members and everyone was praying.  After my fourth appointment, the doctor said that she thought my body was just fine and that I wouldn’t need a D&C.  Such relief swept through me.  God in His mercy allowed this to pass.  He had shown us His presence and tender care in such tangible ways. Friends brought us meals, flowers, gifts, watched our boys, called, texted and just took such good care of us. In fact my sweet friend Kerri of Kerri Lynne Photography, the friend who brought me flowers also took these pictures of us in sunflower field last fall.

 

Mom and dad love their little boys during syracuse family pictures after miscarriageAs I sit here, processing, writing, reminiscing…  every day I miss the sweet babies that we’ve lost, but every day I kiss the sweet babies that God has given us a hundred times over, so grateful that I AM a parent.  Most days I wish I wasn’t so stubborn or that my heart would let go of the dream of having more kids.  If could let that go, I would be able to move past this season of life where we have to say goodbye to so many little loved ones.  But I’m not ready to give up.  I’m not ready to say goodbye to the sweet newborn snuggles.  I see how much fun Toby and Josiah have together and I want them to have more little ones to play with.   The heartache and grief we’ve experienced in our journey through miscarriage to parenthood over the past handful of years has been so hard, but the joy that our little boys bring us every day is so worth it.  And that’s how I weight it.  Is it worth all that?  At this point in time, the answer is yes.

The Anchor Holds

And through all of this, God has been faithful.  Faithful to show up, faithful through the pain, faithful in the good times, faithful in our journey through miscarriage to parenthood.  When the storms of this life crash around me, He is the anchor that holds.

Miscarriage is tough. So many families have experienced it.  My hope is that my story will resonate with even just one person.  If I can use my experiences to help and encourage others, then this will not have been a wasted trial.  If you know someone struggling with miscarriage, feel free to share this blog with them. There is comfort in community and strength in numbers.  If you ever want a listening ear or someone to cry with, I would love to hear from you.

Syracuse wedding photographers H Hawkins Photography walk away from camera with their two little boys after they share their journey through miscarriage to parenthood

 

 

  1. Gini Kepple says:

    Thank you for sharing Hannah. We too have seven in heaven – but oh the joys of having our children! I hope you can have your dream- but you sure have cute little boys! Love you girlie!

    • Hannah Hawkins says:

      Oh Mrs. Kepple, seven… wow. I actually have thought of you (and Hannah) often through this journey knowing you guys have been there so many times before. Love you and thank you so much for your love and support through the years!

      • Melissa Gill says:

        You shared your hard journey so beautifully.
        I’m sorry for your pain and loss. What a beautiful meaning behind your tattoo.
        We have three in heaven. Maybe our little ones are all up there playing together.
        Isn’t it interesting that it’s through the pain that God’s goodness and faithfulness shine brightest.
        Thanks for sharing your story.

        • Hannah Hawkins says:

          Hi Melissa, I am so sorry for the three that you have lost as well. But you’re right… God’s goodness and faithfulness does shine its brightest in those times. And those are the times that I look back and purposed Him more than ever before. Thanks for your encouragement and love! Hugs to you!

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