Gone, but not forgotten. Quite possibly the hardest morning of my life. Although I had your dad with me holding my hand, I was afraid. Even though our sweet midwife was just a text away, talking me through it, I was afraid. Even though she told me exactly what would happen, and even though it happened exactly as she had predicted, I was afraid. Saying goodbye to someone you have loved but never met is not easy.
I waited. It was a Saturday. We had soccer in Omaha for your big brother. Your dad loved on me. Your aunties and grandma checked in on me. All of us anxious to know the results of the test. I knew. I had known for a couple days. But your sweet dad was so hopeful. He reassurance that we had a chance was helping me get through until I had evidence. The science to confirm what my heart already knew. That’s what we were waiting for.
The day. The day I woke up anxious for my first ultrasound. I could NOT WAIT for it. I was so anxious for more proof. I had proof. But this, for me, was a turning point. I could see you. I could hear your heart beat. I could tell more people about you. I could share YOU with the world.
But in my heart, I worried. I had felt disconnected from you for a bit. I hadn’t felt “pregnant” for about a week. I wanted this proof so bad because I think in my heart I knew. It was over. Just like that. You were gone and I think I already knew that.
We started to tell the rest of your family. I loved every minute of it. We have the funniest videos of your grandma and aunties and even great grandma finding out. So many people who had been praying for you and wondering if you would ever be, so overjoyed to have you enter their lives.
We got home from Canada. Oh my sweet child, I don’t think I have ever wanted to hug your daddy so much as the day we got back from Whistler. Our life with you was about to begin and I was so incredibly happy to be in his arms. We had made it safely home from our adventure.
We arrived! Boy was the ride up the mountain not your fave, or mine. Five weeks pregnant and winding roads are not a good mix. But we made it. Together, we experienced the beauty of that great land. We walked down to the river and felt the cold glacier water. We took the gondola to the top of a high mountain and looked down at all God’s goodness. We even saw a black bear!!
We kept you a secret from 125 other guests of the event. THAT was hard. My heart was bursting with joy and I couldn’t tell a soul! I was at a beautiful resort with work-paid-for food and beverage and I couldn’t partake or stomach half of it!
But my heart was happy. My world was content.
I told your dad about you. (After confirming with a digital test that actually said the words “pregnant.”) And then I burst into tears out of utter joy and fear. All I could say was “I don’t know how to be pregnant” and “How am I supposed to get through this trip?!” He laughed at me, kindly. He knew I’d be fine and that I could do it. But I think he was still in a little shock too.
I took a pregnancy test, for not the first time, expecting it to be negative and just another off cycle. When I saw the pink lines I thought, “Why are they so far apart? That’s not what the package shows. Surely, that’s not positive. Two lines, yeah, but they are so far apart?” I thought, “No. No way.”
As your dad and auntie bonded while I packed for Whistler and slightly freaked out about the test. No, there’s no way. I had just seen the doc a few weeks ago to talk about infertility. We hadn’t been trying really that month. I don’t think I’m reading this thing right.
I laid in bed and began my journal to you. We came up with the plan to get a digital test and if that really said “pregnant”, we’d tell dad. I told you how much I loved you and how excited I was to you have in my life.
And that was half your life. I only got to know you half your life. 30 days. For the first 30 days I lived my life not knowing. But you lived, sweet girl. YOU lived.
We created you. I don’t think we knew it. I don’t think we planned it. But we created you. Half of me. Half of him. One whole you. Day 1. I’m a human. He’s a human. Day 1, you were human.
And that’s her story. Bernadette Marie McNeese came into and left this world on August 11, 2019 at around 8:30 a.m. on a rainy Sunday morning in Omaha, NE. Shane held my hand and my midwife was just a text away, coaching me through it in the same way I suppose she would have coached me through her birth.
We affectionately called her Junebug, because she was conceived in June but recently gave her the name, Bernadette Marie. (We don’t know she was a she but if my maternal instincts about losing her are as on point as her gender, it is likely she would have been a girl. So we’re going with that.)
The name is one that’s been on my heart for a couple years. Saint Bernadette has always been one of my favorite saints thanks to a VHS cartoon movie about her life we had that I used to watch when I was younger. And a few years ago, while listening to “Saint of the Day” on Spirit Catholic Radio, I thought to myself…”Bernadette Marie would make a sweet little girl’s name. She’ll have my middle name and my mom’s middle name and my grandma’s middle name and we can call her “B” like my dad has always called me. Yep. It’s settled” and from that day on, my heart held on to that and believed that someday I would have a girl and she would be named Bernadette. And I told this to only one other person. Even before Shane and I discussed trying more actively for children.
When I was pregnant, I told Shane, and while he didn’t love the name, in my heart I often talked to her as Bernadette. It’s just a thing. (And I hate even saying this because I didn’t like hearing it before I was ever pregnant but it’s just some maternal instinct.) I really didn’t quite believe it for myself. That the bond between a mother and her child was that deep (which I suppose is silly because my own mom is one of the most important people in this entire world to me.) I guess some bitter, old not-pregnant lady in me didn’t want to believe that it was THAT great or THAT special or THAT surreal. But friends, it is.
But the reason I share this story with you, and the reason I do it in such a backwards way is two-fold.
Part one, because I have always believed in human dignity and life beginning at conception and been, dare I say, pro-life, but from the day I lost Bernadette, I had a whole new perspective on human life and human pre-born or unborn life. And while it’s a tough subject especially in very tragic circumstances and while we never really know one’s story or their heart, the truth is that every human child is just that from the day their daddy’s sperm meets their mama’s egg and the two become one living human cell. Wanted or unwanted. Planned or unplanned. That cell is officially human life.
Here’s what I find even more fascinating. The 40 week gestation period doesn’t begin at conception. It begins the moment egg is released in menstruation. Until I became pregnant, I didn’t realize that the “week” mark of a pregnancy actually begins BEFORE conception. We consider “pregnancy” even that period of time before the egg is fertilized. Which to me means that even the egg alone, is life. So how is a fertilized egg, not?
OK. That was a side bar. Bottom line. My baby was a baby from Day 1. A human one, I’m sure of it. And I’d like the world to know that, respect and agree with it. For no other reason than science.
On April 18, 2018 Gov. Pete Ricketts signed into law in the state of Nebraska LB 1040 which provides for the creation of commemorative certificates of nonviable birth for miscarriages that occur before the twentieth week of a pregnancy.
“Senator Albrecht’s bill helps Nebraska families recognize the dignity of their baby who passes away before birth,” said Governor Ricketts. “This bill not only affirms the pre-born baby’s dignity, it also provides closure to mothers, fathers, and families who are grappling with the pain and heartache of losing a child.”
I actually knew about this bill before I lost my own child thanks to Catholic radio. But the other day as we decided to name Bernadette, I recalled it. It was so easy to get and it has provided an opportunity for our family to talk more openly about the loss of our child, sister, niece, grandchild. What seemed like just a thought (although a human life) now truly feels validated as such. I am so grateful to live in a state that recognizes the dignity of human life and acknowledges Bernadette as a life lost.
(Pictured below is the Commemorative Certificate of Nonviable Birth we received from the State of NE. Also pictured is the onesie I bought in Whistler for baby Junebug. We used this onesie to surprise most of our family members with the news of the pregnancy. As we gave them each their souvenirs, I would say I had one more and then pull out the onesie. The reactions were priceless.
Shane and I continue to try for another baby but put our trust in God that if it is His Will, we’ll have one. Thank you for your love, support and prayers.)