As an engineer, I love numbers and step-by-step instructions. The life I expected to live was going to take effort, but I could predict the next step.
Step 1: Work hard in high school, get as many scholarships as possible, walk out of college debt free
Step 2: Become a female engineer and break barriers for future girls to be leaders in a male dominated career
Step 3: Marry my high school sweetheart
Step 4: Buy a fix-it-up home to become a weekend DIY expert
Step 5: Add a puppy to our family
Step 6: Have our first baby (Olivia) and become a working mom
Step 7: Quickly add another baby so our kids could be close in age, guaranteeing a built-in lifelong friend
Step Unexpected: Get thrown into the deep end of grief after pregnancy loss
Our perfect plan took a turn I never anticipated. Instead of my second positive pregnancy test turning into our second baby coming home, it became a battle we had to face not only once but four different times.
Prior to our first loss, I was completely naive to the world of infertility and pregnancy and infant loss. It was never a topic of conversation in my mom friend group. We would openly share our happiness of pregnancy and complain about post-partum life. I never thought others could be watching my posts on social media having their hearts broken seeing a healthy baby they didn’t or couldn’t have.
I went into our second pregnancy with the same joy and excitement as the first time around. I arrived at my ultrasound ready to take home pictures but left with a very different outcome. “Maybe your dates are wrong. We will do a blood test to see how high your hCG levels are. If they come back too low you probably had a miscarriage. That happens in one in four pregnancies. Here’s a pamphlet.”
I had an ectopic pregnancy where this sweet little babe decided to attach to my left fallopian tube. I immediately went into surgery, and the doctor deemed it successful because they were able to remove the pregnancy and keep my tube intact, but there was nothing successful about it to me.
My baby was gone and my vision of life was shattered. I didn’t have guidance or other moms to talk to about whether it was appropriate to name my baby that only existed for a few weeks, but the name Isaac kept coming to mind.
Several months later we were given the all-clear to try to conceive again. Ectopic pregnancies happen in 2% of pregnancies, and it felt like there was no way it could happen again. We were blessed with a quick positive pregnancy test. Two weeks later, I ended up in the ER where an ultrasound showed my previously saved tube had ruptured. Emergency surgery saved my life but not the life of our pregnancy. I kept the name Mallory close to my heart without talking to others about her.
A year later we had our living son, Evan. It was such a different pregnancy than with Olivia. Not only was I constantly sick, but I was also in constant fear of what could happen. I lost my job three weeks before he was due. That meant transitioning from one to two kids, as well as me finding a new identity in becoming a stay-at-home mom. I tried my best to put on a happy face, but I was smiling through constant anxiety.
No Foot Too Small
2019 was the year I found the No Foot Too Small (NFTS) community in such a heartbreaking way when my best friend Kristine lost her son, Theo. I went to my first NFTS mom’s group as a support person for Kristine.
Until that point, I did not talk about my losses. I didn’t feel I had the right to complain or express my sadness about Isaac and Mallory. I was told by many well-wishing people in my life, “At least you weren’t far along. It could have been worse.” At this event, the incredible women validated my feelings, cried with me, laughed with me, and made me feel seen and heard. It was a complete breakthrough in my motherhood and loss journey!
In August of 2020, I had a positive pregnancy test and excitedly went in for the early monitoring bloodwork. The doctor called me to say the first test showed typical early pregnancy levels but the test showed the levels were back to baseline, or in other words, I was not pregnant. They said this was just a typical miscarriage.
Nothing is typical when it comes to loss.
Gavin became another unexpected part of our story, but this time I did not have to walk through the darkness alone. I met with the NFTS moms in a monthly virtual meeting and felt so supported by the community.
We were soon able to try again and got a positive home test result. After the first couple of blood draws, they brought me in for an ultrasound. I will never forget the quiet of the nurse and the faces hidden behind masks thanks to Covid. The doctor told us, “It looks like you have another ectopic pregnancy. This time it’s in your other tube. You should never try to get pregnant again because your tube will be damaged and put you at risk for another ruptured tube in the future.”
In that moment, my chances of having another baby disappeared and so did our last pregnancy, Kaylee.
Finding Community and Support
NFTS has been more than a group of women. They are the ones who encourage me to celebrate my angels in whatever way speaks to me, which means naming the pregnancies I had only days and weeks with. They make me confident to say the names of my angels and tell my story.
Blooms + Butterflies is expanding to Des Moines for the first time in August and is a great family event! NFTS provides so many ways to connect with others who truly get it and are waiting to welcome any loss parent with open arms to celebrate their angels. Please check out the Facebook page for information about upcoming events in Des Moines and many other locations.
Nicole Jennett is the owner of an engineering consulting company during the day, biological and foster mom around the clock, and proud Angel Advocate for No Foot Too Small. Her days are spent either building complex databases, exploring new parks with her children, or connecting with people and businesses about how they can partner with the incredible non-profit NFTS. Nicole’s faith keeps her grounded, her kids inspire her to find the beauty in every moment, and her angels keep her passion alive to normalize conversations around pregnancy and infant loss.