Joanna’s Story

After two years of trying to conceive (TTC), a PCOS diagnosis and a 6-week pregnancy that ended in miscarriage, Bill and I conceived Joanna in July 2014. We had just put in an offer on a house and were making plans to move, when I noticed my BBT (basal body temperature) hadn’t dropped – a sure sign of pregnancy. A positive test in hand (ok, it was three), I told Bill excitedly one morning that we were going to have a baby!

Lots of mixed emotions hit us, hoping this baby would “stick.” Baby J, as everyone lovingly called Joanna since we didn’t know her gender until birth, did stick. She experienced a lot of fun in her first trimester. A work trip to California, where I began to have morning sickness. An anniversary vacation to Disney World, where I suddenly loved vegetables I hadn’t liked before, and where we got Baby J Mickey ears to create our Facebook announcement. Baby J especially enjoyed grilled cheese sandwiches and guacamole (not together) during the first trimester.

The second trimester began and we told the world. Our hopes and spirits were high. As I transitioned into maternity pants, I was still not over my morning sickness. 17 weeks in and it finally started to disappear. I was certain Baby J had to be a girl, with morning sickness that hung around so long. The second trimester held a lot of fun too – ultrasounds to see our baby’s face, we began painting the nursery, baby showers were planned. Baby J even got to see Carrie Underwood live at the Concert for Valor in DC. Baby J was a fan of BBQ pulled pork and macaroni and cheese at this point, and left me craving ham.

Just before Christmas on December 22, I had a regular 4-week check up with my OB. I was 24 weeks and 6 days, and I mentioned that I was noticing decreased movement. The doctor noted my concerns but said that Baby J had probably just changed positions and that the heartbeat sounded strong. So we went home to Pennsylvania, resting assured that all was fine, and celebrated Christmas with family. On Christmas Eve night we even heard Baby J’s heartbeat at my parent’s house on my fetal Doppler. The last time we would hear her heartbeat.

Upon our return to Virginia, I was having trouble remembering the last time I had felt Baby J move. Thinking back, it seemed like it was on Christmas Day, but with our traveling and visiting and celebrating, I was not making mental notes. When I couldn’t get Baby J to move, my mind was frantic. What was going on? We went to the hospital December 28 in the morning. We were quickly taken back to Labor and Delivery where a nurse attempted to find Baby J’s heartbeat and couldn’t. They whisked me back to another L&D room where a doctor from my practice did an ultrasound and found not only a lifeless baby, but that my fluids were nearly gone, the uterus collapsing around the baby.

The immediate devastation and heartbreak were unbearable. They left Bill and I alone to grieve, to cry, to be together, to make phone calls. At first we just cried. The absolute heartbreak I saw on my husband’s face that day and the next were almost more than I could take, on top of my own grief, pain, guilt. We called our parents, mine were able to come immediately and arrived Sunday night to be with us that night and the next day.

Monday we went to the hospital to be induced. Labor lasted 12 hours, and Baby J, Joanna Rose, was born at 8:07 p.m., December 29, 2014. After I delivered we got to hold her. She was perfect in every way. 1 pound, 1 ounce. 10 tiny, adorable fingers, 10 toes. She had my nose, my chin, my ears. She had her daddy’s long feet. We loved on her tiny self for a while. My mom and I both sang to her. We made prints of her hands and feet. We cried. Sobbed. We left the hospital the next day with empty arms. Empty car seat. Broken hearts.

My mom stayed two weeks to take care of us. We had Joanna cremated and made a special memory box where her ashes are kept, along with special cards we have received, dried petals from flowers that were delivered to our house, my hospital wrist bands, pictures from Christmas (the last of my baby bump), her blanket and her little hat. Two weeks later at our follow-up appointment, the doctors said that there was clotting in the placenta and that was the cause of Joanna’s death.

She is missed every day and we are just plodding through life without her. But in all, God is [still] gracious.

Safe and Sound, The Civil Wars and Taylor Swift
(Joanna’s Lullaby)

Just close your eyes
The sun is going down
You’ll be alright
No one can hurt you now
Come morning light
You and I’ll be safe and sound

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