How I dealt with loss during my pregnancy
Pregnancy is supposed to be the happiest time of your entire life. Unfortunately for me, I’ve had a big pit in my stomach (from sadness) because our dog passed away and we weren’t ready for it. It’s been so tough, and I’m having a rough time with it. However, I did want to share my story about what happened and how I’ve dealt with her loss during my pregnancy, which has been a tough burden to bear.
Most of you that know me and follow me on Instagram (here), know by now that my sweet pup Harlowe passed away unexpectedly. It’s been a month today, and I’m filled with all sorts of emotions about it. It’s also been difficult not to feel guilty about her loss while being so excited about this new little life I’m building inside of me right now, and being mindful that what my body feels, that little baby will likely feel to some degree. Because this has been on my mind so much, I wanted to do a proper post about it. Life is unpredictable and that leaves so many ‘what ifs’ to contemplate as you’re making decisions for whatever is next for you.
You truly never know what can happen, but this was wholly unexpected for my husband and our family, and I wanted to write about what my personal experience has been dealing with a loss of this size during my pregnancy, now that my pregnancy is finally out in the open. I also have been getting a lot of questions about what happened to her and while people that ask care, it's difficult to replay again and again, so I’m hoping that by having one place where this story lives, it can in essence help take some of the burden of me retelling it time and again off my chest too.
I’m not going to go into as much detail to spare anyone the images I am left with, but here is a shortened version of what happened.
I was initially planning to be on vacation that day with my husband, and I had already gotten the day approved for it. As a result, we decided to do a staycation at our place and work out, walk Harlowe, make dinner, and then inadvertently, we actually had one of our baby appointments that day that we were thrilled about. I went to the gym to workout, came home and went upstairs to say hi to Harlowe, because I assumed that since she didn’t run downstairs to greet me, she must be lazy and tired on the bed. Harlowe normally greeted you by running (thundering) down the stairs to do zumies, or she was lazy and was on our bed like she owned the thing. I found her in the room unresponsive, we rushed to the vet and they were unable to resuscitate her. Within 20 quick minutes, our world turned upside down. Apparently she had cancer of the heart that was 100% undetected and could only be found with an ultrasound. She had just had her yearly checkup where she was deemed fully healthy and we were told she would ‘live forever,’ which has stung. The typical signs that most dogs exhibit when they have this sort of thing is sluggishness, lack of eating or drinking, etc. Harlowe had gone on a walk that day, had a full bowl of food, and was and had been her normal self, so there was no reason for us to have cause or concern about her well-being. Apparently, from what the doctors told us, had we known about this, the only other options would be to either wait for this to happen, or put her through cancer treatments that would essentially ruin her quality of life, and be tough to watch. My baby would NOT have wanted to go out that way. So I’m glad that she was able to go in her own time, quickly, and at home with her loved ones.
Needless to say, we were devastated. We also had to cancel our baby appointment to look after our first baby, Harlowe. The vet we rushed to, Sage Hospital, was honestly so wonderful with us, I cannot thank them enough for their hospitality during such a difficult time. Not only did they rush her to the back to try CPR when we arrived, but they allowed us hours to say our good byes to her in a private room afterwards and were thoughtful when they had to tell us that no, she did not make it. They also offered us an option for burial, and printed her paw print with a poem for us to frame in addition to sending us wild flower seeds to plant in the garden in her honor. We also received a note indicating there was nothing else we could have done, giving us some peace in the outcome of her untimely passing that was signed by the doctors and vet techs there that day. While nothing can truly take that pain away from you, knowing that they gave her the care she deserved and were so mindful of how hard we clearly took it, will forever be appreciated.
There is no easy way to deal with loss, but it’s been harder on me and I feel a big sense of guilt knowing that another baby is coming in and she won’t be here to greet them upon their arrival. We always talked so much about how Harlowe will be the funniest big sister one day because she is just such a ham. We chose our new lot for our house right on a park because of Harlowe. That park is almost done now, and it stings a little bit every time I walk past it and realize she won’t ever get to enjoy it.
However, the only thing I’ve been trying to be as mindful of as possible, is the fact that I do have some control over how I feel; I cannot change the outcome of what happened and drowning in what-ifs will not help. If I feel sad, then damnit, I cry. If I forget what happened for a few minutes and then remember and feel guilty, I know it’s nothing to be ashamed of, life moves quickly and I have to eventually move on. But more often than not, I’m left feeling a bit empty about her passing when I’m home alone or I walk in the door and don’t see her little bod at the top of the stairs waiting for me. I used to tuck her in every single night, and I haven’t yet moved her bed away from my bed, because I’m not ready yet. I think that is another lesson that I’ve learned throughout this. When you deal with loss, especially when pregnant, you have to mourn in your own way, at your own time, being mindful of your own mind and body and what feels right to you. Not everyone will agree with me, but that’s how we’re handling it until we’re ready to move those things to another room.
Having Harlowe gave us such a sense of purpose, that it’s encouraging to think what we’ll feel like when this baby makes its way into our world. I cannot honestly imagine how much we will love this little bod, and I have peace in knowing that Harlowe taught us so much about how to love, care for, and grow and nurture a being, that we should be OK in the end. I have peace in knowing that there was nothing I could have done to prevent the outcome, and that I happened to be home, and not at work, on vacation, or far away when this happened. And I know that Harlowe was the most loved dog we’ve ever had, and had the best life possible with so much love.
We’ll continue to grieve at our own pace, but we’ll have comfort in knowing she’s in a better place and always with us, with no pain, no discomfort, and a big puppy smile.
To close out this post, I dealt with, and am still dealing with this loss by mourning at my own pace, being mindful of what my body is feeling and allowing myself to feel what I need to feel to move on, and I have a sense of peace in knowing that there was nothing else we could have done to prevent the outcome.
Death is not an easy thing to deal with at any time in life, and I know this will be a difficult thing for us for a long time to come. However, hopefully by sharing my story and current outlook, this may help someone else going through something similar now, or you remember it if you are ever placed in a similar situation in the future.
God Bless all - and please throw a prayer up for Harlowe today while you’re at it.