It was March 5th. Doug had recently started traveling for work each week and he was back for the weekend! One of my very best friends was visiting and we all had just run the Fresh 15 race. The day was so fun. I don’t think I stopped smiling (except for that last mile of the race…)
We planned to hang out at the race and eat on the patio, so I ran home to change into some dry clothes and grab a few things from the house real quick. Doug and I had decided to start trying for baby number 2. I knew that if our first shot at it had worked, I would get a positive pregnancy test in the next couple of days. The chance of me getting one that day was slim to none (even if I was to be pregnant) because it was so early. When I walked in to change, I saw the pregnancy test in the bathroom and I said “what the heck”. I left some very concentrated urine in a cup and went back to the race to have fun thinking nothing of it. Later that day after we got home, I suddenly remembered what I had done and ran to the bathroom and took a test. Sure enough, that little pink line appeared! I screamed with excitement and was lucky to share the happy moment, not only with Doug, but with my best friend from West Virginia. When we lived in West Virginia, Heather had been with me through my first miscarriage, and I had been there with her as she struggled with conceiving her son. So this moment was extra special to share with each other. We talked about it all day and just couldn’t believe how fast it happened. I kept saying “this is the best day ever”, but in the back of my mind there was more. I had a very uneasy feeling about it. Something just told me not to get my hopes up. I was determined to fight those negative thoughts.
It was a constant daily battle to combat those feelings. Everyone around me wanted me to let them go, but I just couldn’t. I spent so much time with God expressing how I felt and praying that I was so wrong. Unfortunately, with every doctor appointment, more of my hope was lost. I was monitored early on because of a previous loss at 11 weeks. From the start, there were red flags. My HCG did not double correctly, low progesterone, large yolk sac, and baby kept falling more and more behind in growth. Despite it all, we decided to remain as hopeful as possible. My biggest symptom this pregnancy was exhaustion and headaches. I would fall asleep on most days by 8:00 pm. Doug was gone most weeks for work. I felt discouraged in so many ways. I felt I did not have the energy to give Aisley what she needed. I was terrified I would not get to meet my baby. I missed Doug. I could not talk to my mom. I was leaning solely on God to get me through. Some days my smile was fake and I held back tears. Some days I was overcome with joy and hope. I did my best.
We went to the doctor almost every week. Some weeks we left more hopeful than others, but the 12 week appointment seemed to suck the hope right out from under us.
Baby was measuring too small and my fear of a chromosomal abnormality was now a real fear of the doctors. They took some blood for a test called Panorama that would look at the fetal blood to see if there was a severe chromosomal problem, and we were sent to a high risk doctor in Dallas the following week. Ironically, we left Dallas with more hope than we had ever had. He thought perhaps we just had a small baby because there were no clear abnormalities. We also learned that we were having a BOY! Our next hurtle was getting that blood work back.
I remember telling Doug that day that I felt so happy about everything for the first time and I did not want it to end. One day later, I found myself crying on my knees as we learned our Panorma test was inconclusive. Still no answers, and another red flag. Everything thus far had pointed to a fatal chromosomal problem. The slow rising HCG, the large yolk sac, the slow growth, and now the low fetal fraction (inconclusive test). They recommended we take the test again. A week later, we got the same result. Inconclusive due to low fetal fraction. Two genetic counselors called me that day. They recommended another detailed ultrasound to see if I was suitable for amniocentesis.
It was during this ultrasound that I knew for sure in my heart something was wrong. His little brain was not normal. He only had a two vessel cord and there was more. There was nothing that anyone could say at that point to change my mind. Only a miracle from God. Two days later I was in Dallas getting amniocentesis and meeting with a genetic counselor about the possible fatal chromosomal abnormalities that my baby boy might have. At this point, God’s peace was all over me and we were able to smile as we saw our baby boy alive for what could have been the last time. The doctor pointed out multiple heart problems on the ultrasound and I knew it might not be long before we lost him.
I rested for two days and Monday I got the call. Our sweet boy had Triploidy, a rare condition in which he had a complete extra set of 23 chromosomes in all of his cells. In most cases, Triploidy is incompatible with life and most babies with this condition do not make it passed the first trimester. I was not shocked to hear this. This was the exact condition I thought he had, even though the doctors and genetic counselor thought it was something else. That morning, my baby update app told me that baby could possibly hear my voice now, so I held my home doppler to his slowed heart beat and cried as I told him I loved him. I told him it was okay to let go. It really did feel like I was telling him bye.
That next morning, I felt different. I felt like his soul had left me. I went in to the doctor to check his heart. Like I suspected, he had passed away. I was empty but I had peace knowing he was in Heaven. I was just so exhausted. Rest was coming. The next day, at what would have been about 17 weeks pregnant, we headed to the hospital to say goodbye.
On June 8th, after 12 long hours, the tiniest, Amos John Shoffner, was born sleeping. It was overwhelming as his little body was just too fragile to hold. Although he was 16.5 weeks when he passed, he was much smaller due to his condition. We could see his perfect little feet and hands, his little nose, even finger nails and the start of eyebrows. It felt so unfair. Five minutes later I was in surgery to prevent bleeding too much. After I came out, we said goodbye to his little body one last time, but he is forever in our hearts and part of our family.
During this whole experience, I kept asking God why. I would plead and beg and cry. I would thank him and praise him for the time I did have with him and for all of our many blessings in life. I never felt closer to him despite the pain. Then one week, I just couldn’t do it anymore. I couldn’t ask for a miracle anymore. I couldn’t cry for something different. I could barely muster the strength to pray. I felt lighter. I felt carried. At some point, God just picked me up. If I was walking in the sand, He would be my footprints. I’ve never felt more cared for in my life. God has show up in so many ways. Those around us have held our burdens. We have felt so much love. We named him Amos John on behalf of what he has taught us through this. Amos means “carried by God” and “burden bearer”. John is after my Dad who is the strongest man I know. God WILL carry you. God WILL take your burdens. It just might not be the way you had hoped, but it is always sufficient. I know this now more than ever.
See you in heaven, Amos John.