Thursday, June 15, 2017

In memory of Elle Jay ~ 6.15.16

Grief is a tricky thing. It often has a mind of its own and works mysteriously, appearing to be more mischievous than anything at times. It can hit you hard and all at once; it can fester just below the surface, close enough to creep up and rear its ugly head in moments you let your guard down; or it can be stuffed down deep, hidden from anyone to see, tucked away in a place almost as though you've locked it up with a key. I thought I was ready to take on this significant day in good stride. But once again grief showed me who's boss. I woke up this morning feeling like a heavy weight had been dropped on my chest. Right over my heart. I literally felt like my heart hurt and I was not ready to get up and start the day. I would never choose to start the day cranky and angry, but I've learned I must accept these feelings and let them wash over me in order to get passed them, and in hopes to find peace once again. Today it's been one year since we lost our baby girl, Elle Jay, and this is the story surrounding her short-lived but largely-loved life. 

My husband Jason and I got married in August of 2015. We both wanted kids and being that he’s a few years older than me, we had a “we’re not getting any younger” mentality about it; so we stopped using forms of birth control the month we were married and decided ‘let’s just see what happens.’ Life got busy, six months flew by, and without making calculated attempts, I found myself “late” and then pregnant, much to my surprise. I really couldn’t believe it at first. I remember thinking I didn’t “feel” pregnant, not that I even knew any specific feelings you’re supposed to have that soon. Not completely trusting the at-home tests, I even made an appointment with my primary doctor to get tested and hear the official words from her that yes, I was pregnant.  
So here I am pregnant, a little bit shocked and very excited, of course, but also nervous of what could happen. I was always trying to keep myself in check until we reached what I called the “safe zone”, also known as the second trimester. I didn’t know as much then how truly common miscarriages are, but I had an inkling that it could happen early on and I wanted to prepare myself for the possibility of it, as if somehow knowing it could happen would it make it less hard if it did happen (which I realize now is so NOT the case).
I started telling immediate family and a couple of my closest friends when I was only about 6 weeks along, knowing I wouldn’t be able to hide it—I’m a horrible liar—plus we were excited! I also made them all swear they wouldn’t tell anyone until I made an announcement, and I knew it was too early for that. By the 9-10 week mark it was becoming harder and harder to keep it a secret though, between morning (all-day, really) sickness, two upcoming bachelorette party trips I’d committed to in Florida and Nashville, and even my quickly-approaching 30th birthday. It was getting difficult to pretend to drink at parties and apparently I wasn’t doing a very good job of disguising it. So usually when it became awkward or obvious that I was totally sober in instances everyone else was drinking, I told those around me the truth and everyone was always so sweet and excited for me.  

By mid-May, I was 3 months in; I’d had 2 ultrasounds that were perfectly normal, and I’d been tested for chromosomal disorders that came back normal as well—which had also allowed us to find out the sex of our baby…a GIRL!! It was finally starting to become more real that this was really happening and I was starting to feel more safe and secure. By this point I had bought the book What to Expect When You’re Expecting and started filling out a pregnancy book, tracking everything happening to me and our growing baby girl.
Once I passed the 14-week mark, I felt it was safe we put out an announcement we were expecting via social media, relieved to finally share the news with extended family and friends.  The news was well received of course, and things were looking up. The morning sickness had subsided once I got into the second trimester and I was feeling like a pretty normal human being again.
Fast forward 3 weeks. Jason and I have a stupid fight one night about something I can’t even remember now, and he leaves for his weekly soccer game; we’re both not in a great place. Something I regret to this day. I went and grabbed crappy Mediterranean food from down the street and met up with an old friend who needed help for a bit. Later that night we worked out our little quarrel and went to bed.

The next morning I’m woken up extra early to abdominal pain and an upset stomach. At first I’m thinking it’s gas cramps and/or something I ate making me sick (like that crappy Mediterranean), so I let my work know I’ll be coming in late and I get back in bed to rest. Every hour that passed that morning, though, the pain became worse and soon I notice a spot of blood when I’m in the bathroom. The blood concerns me but at this point I’m convinced I’m just really sick with some sort of flu or maybe food poisoning. By this point, my husband had already left for work and I’ve tried calling the OBGYN’s office, only to get their machine, because they aren’t open yet. Two hours in, the cramps and pain have continued becoming more intense. The next trip to the bathroom I see a lot more blood and I become immediately alarmed. So I call the emergency number at the office and they page the OBGYN on call. A quick conversation on the phone with him and he tells me not to panic, that this could be normal but I should come in to get checked out, so I set up an appointment. Within the next hour, the pain has gotten so unbearable that I can barely move from the bathroom and I’ve started throwing up on top of it all. I’m pretty much terrified now, sick with worry, and my husband rushes home because I’m not in any shape to drive myself to the doctor.

The whole way to the doctor I'm crippled over in pain, and while stepping into the elevator, I feel a rush of fluid start running down my legs. My husband and I see blood and he runs ahead to the doctor's office to alert them of what’s happening while I slowly make my way there. They rush me into a room and check the baby and tell me she's still alive but I need to go right to the hospital, which is luckily connected to their building. After being wheeled into the delivery wing and poked and prodded by a number of doctors/nurses/attending physicians, I find out all morning the pain I was having were contractions and that the rush of fluid was my water breaking. This meant my body was preparing to go into labor...way too soon. And since my water broke, there was no longer anything protecting our baby, and no way to reverse that. They gave us a few horrible options of how to proceed, none of which I wanted to hear. Since it was a Catholic Hospital, they couldn't do anything to move the process along because that could potentially harm the baby, even though they told me there was no way she could survive outside the womb at this stage.  The only way they could act was if my own health became in danger. She was still alive, but it was only a matter of time. So we waited.  At this point I don’t think I was ready to face the hard facts of what this all meant. It was as if my mind went into cruise control, not ready to let my heart accept we were going to lose her.
They monitored me and our baby closely and checked on us all throughout the night. The last time I remember the nurse coming in to check, our sweet little girl  still had a heartbeat.
Early the next morning I delivered her on my own. Jason called the nurses in, but by the time they cut the cord and got ahold of her she no longer had a heartbeat. We decided to name her Elle Jay, since “LJ” had been her nickname when she was in my belly. The nurses cleaned her up so we could hold her and say our goodbyes. Shortly after they put me under for a D&C procedure to retrieve the placenta. And a bit later a gentleman from a funeral home nearby came in to discuss end of life options and services for Elle Jay. 
Needless to say, it was an awful, traumatic experience. Running back through it now I still can't believe all of that actually happened to us, and that it’s been a whole year since it did.  
In the beginning, I was in shock. I don’t think my brain was ready to process what happened. It felt like it had been an out-of-body experience; it couldn’t have really happened to me. I tried my best to get back to life as usual. To find a new normal. I think I got so focused on moving forward for a while that I was subconsciously trying to block all my feelings out. But, living as if it didn't happen could only keep the pain at bay for so long. Eventually it caught up with me.
And then for some time the pain was unavoidable and overwhelming. At that point I tried to face the grief head on, the best I could and decided I needed to start seeing a counselor. I was lucky to find a lady with a lot of experience with this kind of loss. She helped guide me through the storm of emotions and armed me with tools to better handle the hard days.  I learned it’s okay to feel anger and sadness, to accept how I am feeling on any given day, without having shame for it. And also not to worry about making others uncomfortable by talking or not talking about my loss. I am the one who should take control of the situation and tell others how they can support me or what I need from them. Most of all she helped me learn to communicate better with Jason; to acknowledge Elle Jay with him and find ways to honor or celebrate her. Leading me to be in a much better, stronger place. In fact I'm planning to plant a tree in her memory later this year, so we'll have a place to visit that we can acknowledge and celebrate her. 

As far as wanting another baby, I've been back and forth between trying and not trying to get pregnant again ever since. I know people are always wondering, what’s next, and when. I tried to take a little time off right after, per the doctor's orders, but it's always been hard to avoid trying when I sense there could be some chance--right? And I often get trapped in the endless cycle of trying then waiting and hoping, then being let down when my period arrives. I realized months ago though that getting pregnant and having another baby wouldn’t replace Elle Jay or make up for what happened. And that the important thing is giving myself time to heal from losing her.
Looking on the bright side, this experience has strengthened my marriage and myself. It’s also connected me with a lot of other women who have had similar experiences or losses.  Connecting with others who can relate to what you’ve been through has got to be one of the most powerful ways of making you feel comforted and less alone.

For anyone who’s had a miscarriage or is struggling to get pregnant, I wish there were words of comfort I could give to take away your pain, help you heal faster or make your struggle go away, but I know from first hand experience that there isn’t an easy way, there aren’t always the right words to say and there is no time limit on how long it takes to heal. It breaks my heart to know the pain others like me are feeling, and know that there may not be a way to give everyone a happy ending to their stories.  I feel like saying “I’m sorry” just isn’t enough, and I don’t know what is the right thing to say, especially since we all handle grief, loss and struggle differently.
I guess if there’s anything I could offer someone going through a tough situation tied to pregnancy loss or the struggle to get pregnant it’d be a big hug, a reminder that you are so strong and amazing for enduring everything you have (GIRL POWER!), and to lend an ear for you to share however it is you’re feeling about your situation, good or bad or AWFUL. You are totally allowed to feel however it is you are feeling. Whether that’s frustrated, hopeless, depressed, exhausted, anxiety-ridden, etc. etc. I’ve found for myself that a lot of the time I just need to hear what I’m feeling is normal and justified. Sometimes I need someone to tell me what I went through was awful or traumatic and that I should be angry/mad/sad before I can let myself feel the sadness that’s been lingering there for awhile.  I shouldn’t be looking for validation from others, but it’s something I’m working on.

Every day is different but my faith is strong things will be okay and we'll be able to grow our family some day. Until then, I try to stay focused on living in the present as much as possible. Not worrying about what's to come, and finding peace with what's already past. So today I keep her memory alive by sharing her story. Love you Elle Jay!

If you are reading this and can relate or are feeling that you could benefit from connecting with other women who can relate to what you’re going through or have gone through, I’d love to tell you more about support groups that are out there, and put you in touch with someone that could help. Leave a comment or email me at


  1. You are so strong and so brave <3 All my love to you, your heavy heart and your sweet baby girl. xo Jesse

    1. Thank you for supporting me 110% my fellow fierce warrior! You're strength and compassion continues to inspire me and I'm so thankful to call you a friend. <3

  2. Oh Jill ❤️❤️❤️ Lots of love to you & Jason & Elle Jay. You do you & deal with everything one step at a time, one day at a time. There is no right or wrong way. Call me anytime you want or need to.

    1. That you Erika?! Thank you so much for your love and kind words. Sending lots of love, peach and strength back to you as well my dear. I'm here for you as well if there's anything I can do. <3<3

  3. Thank you for sharing your journey. While I haven't experienced this personally, I do know these heart breaking experiences have happened to a few of my close friends. Knowing you aren't alone can be educational, emotionally supportive and perhaps, oddly, comforting. It's incredibly important for women to share these moments that connect and bind us. I appreciate you.

    1. Thanks for your kind words, Jaxson! What you said is very true, knowing you aren't alone can be all those things and if sharing my story brings even one person some comfort than it makes my heart happy to have helped. <3

  4. Jill, I am truly sorry for your loss. Your blog was passed along to me tonight by a friend to help ease my pain. There are no right words for what you experienced, however please know you are not alone. Xoxo Emily

    1. Thank you for your warm wishes, sweet Emily. I hope you are able to find strength and comfort in all the love surrounding you and your family during such a difficult time. If there's ever anything I can do, let me know. <3 <3 <3