Owen's Story Part 10: Trigger Warning Pregnancy Loss, TFMR

Yesterday, I read an article that talked about how fetuses send cells to help their mother’s body stay healthy during pregnancy. The article also talked about how those cells remain in the mother for the rest of her life. Just like the baby is made up of the cells of its parents, the mother carries the cells of her children long after delivery. I hope this is the case. I hope that Owen is still with me in some small, cellular way, even though his body is gone. I miss him every day. Some days are easier than others, some days are harder than others. I’ll never stop wanting my baby. 

A co-worker talked to me about her mother-in-law who gave birth to a stillborn baby. She never got over that lost pregnancy--even now as she’s entering her 70s. It’s always fresh for her. I think it’s a universal feeling for any mother who loses a child. You were responsible for them. You felt them kick and move inside you. Your body changed to birth and care for them. You aren’t the same person you were before that pregnancy. Their little existence seeped into every aspect of your life. Forever different, never the same. 

I wish that we could have given him a strong, healthy body. I wish we could have had him. I wish that he stood a chance. I’ve found myself watching his ultrasound videos over and over again lately. I feel like I’ve gotten to know him better by doing this. The clips are only 20 seconds long, but they’re seared into my memory. I still kiss his photos goodnight, sing to him, and talk to him. I hope that somewhere, somehow, he can hear me and feel my love. 

He’ll always be my first child. The child that made me a mother. The child of my dreams. It’s strange to think that if I get pregnant again, that baby won’t be my first, even if it lives a long, healthy life. They’ll be my second-born. The second baby to live inside me. In a way, it’s comforting to think that my future children will grow in the same place inside me that their older brother did. Justin mentioned the other day that it’s like Owen got the seat warm for them. I hope that warmth is still there for his siblings to feel. 

One thought I’ve had over and over again throughout our journey with Owen is where I stand with the pro-life, pro-choice movement. Before my pregnancy, I was pro-choice. However, I didn’t realize just how devastating it is to make the choice to lose a child. How crippling and agonizing that decision is--especially in a late-term situation. I didn’t view fetuses as living people until later on in a pregnancy. I think I viewed the process in an informed, but disconnected way. I always told myself that I would never choose to abort a child, but I, of course, supported other women who did. 

I also didn’t realize that a termination for medical reasons like Owen’s is technically an abortion. 

Then it happened to me. 

I felt connected to my baby in a way I never could have imagined. I knew he was a living person with a personality that was already developing and showing during his time inside me. I talked to him, sang to him, and touched my belly often so we could be closer to each other. However, I lived in Utah. A state that allows terminations/abortions, but with strings and cruel consequences attached. A state with legislators that didn’t fathom that someone like me and Justin could be in this situation. Painting all parents who abort or terminate as cold-hearted, selfish, lazy parents who never wanted their baby. Parents who flippantly decided one day to end their baby’s life. 

That wasn’t us. 

And I’m sure that isn’t the case for most of the other parents out there who have had to terminate or abort a pregnancy after 16 weeks. We loved Owen, prayed for Owen, hoped for Owen, and planned for Owen. But that wasn’t enough. He would have died inside me or outside of me right after being born. We tortured ourselves going through our options, trying to decide which choice would be the kindest to him. What would be a better way to die--before being born or choking and suffocating after being born?  No parent should ever have to make that choice, but we were grateful we had a choice, even if it was limited by state laws and regulations. On top of this, our baby’s life wasn’t recognized by the state because of the choice we picked. In their eyes, they gave us a choice, but we chose incorrectly. Owen will never get a death certificate like other babies that were naturally terminated/miscarried after 16 weeks, delivered stillborn, or died shortly after birth. We were required, however, to handle his remains by either cremating them or burying them because he was alive. At the mortuary, they told us that the state saw him as “Alyson Adams’ fetus”, not my baby. Not “Owen”. Not the kicking, stubborn guy who was alive when we walked into the hospital for the termination, and dead in a Tupperware box when we left. 

So in the State Legislature’s eyes, what was Owen? Was he a person or a fetus? An individual that needed to be buried/cremated to honor his life or a thing not worth recording because of how he died? Their laws regarding terminations were contradictory and heartless. The state wouldn’t even allow me to stop his heartbeat before the termination took place--even though it’s a commonplace practice in less conservative states. I was being punished for terminating him because his heartbeat meant he was a living person and could potentially feel pain. Owen was being punished. They were the ones that wanted him to suffer through his termination. They didn’t love him or know him. They just saw him as a bargaining chip. A way to make parents reluctant to abort or terminate. A way to eliminate and complicate the most difficult choice any mother would have to make. Even an induction at 23 weeks would have still counted as a termination according to them. They would have rather had me birth him full-term, choking on air, turning purple and blue, organs failing, and dying in my arms. To them, that’s more humane than ending his suffering before it began. That was the only “right” way I could do things. They provided choices, but they tried their best to make the choice for me. Even though he was my baby and it was my body. They were playing politics with his life. The fact that our state-provided insurance would not cover my medically required termination was just further insult to injury. One last dig they could make in response to us having the right to choose what we thought was best for Owen.

With all this in mind, I would say this experience has made me more pro-choice than before. I’m angry for myself and my baby. I’m angry that his life didn’t matter enough to allow me to end it with as much love and care as possible. I’m angry that I was made to jump through hoops and navigate red-tape during the most traumatic month of my life. I’m angry that I was punished for loving my baby and that my baby was punished for not having a healthy body that could live outside of mine. I’m angry that much of the dialogue around abortions and terminations villainizes the women put in situations where they have to make that heartbreaking decision. I’m angry that it’s a political issue where people don’t seem to realize that termination and abortion rights go hand-in-hand. If abortions are made illegal, so are terminations for medical reasons--like Owen’s. A termination is an abortion. 

If you’ve gotten this far in my journal, I hope it has made you angry too. Even if you still consider yourself “pro-life”. Things need to change. There has got to be a better, kinder way. The “Pro-Life” movement as we know it today doesn’t actually care about life or babies. They just want to take away a mother’s right to choose. Any mother, in any pregnancy situation, should be free to choose what is most comfortable and safe for herself, and her baby--without shame or additional hardships from those who aren’t in her situation. 

You might be thinking that you would have done things differently than I did or that what I did was wrong; but, you weren’t me, and Owen wasn’t your baby. Can you truly say you know exactly what you would have done if your baby had been given the same lethal diagnosis and you received the same test results and medical care? 

To be honest, you’ll never know the answer to that until you get put in a situation like ours. However, if you think you would have chosen something different, that’s fine. That’s the whole point. What worked for me, might not work for you, and vice versa. I’ll never know if I made the “best” choice, but it felt right for me, for Justin, and for Owen. It was a loving and informed choice. I’ll always have questions, doubts, and regrets about our decision, but I’m thankful every day that I wasn’t forced into a delivery scenario that would have left me more traumatized than I already was or put my baby in a situation I wasn’t comfortable with.

I also hope this gave you the chance to know Owen and what he went through. What we went through. To know how loved he was and still is. To know that he existed, he kicked and crossed his legs, he sucked on his thumb, and he played with his umbilical cord. To know that he liked clementines, sour candy, ramen, spicy food, and French fries. To know that he got mad when the ultrasound techs pushed him around too much, even if all of this was only for a tiny window of time. To know that his life was the happiest five months of our lives. 

I love you forever, Owie. 

Hugs and Kisses, 


Owen's Story Part 9: Trigger Warning Pregnancy Loss, TFMR

On Thursday, October 21, we met at Wasatch Lawn with our immediate family to put Owen’s ashes in the ground. It was a beautiful day with warm weather and a clear blue sky. Up until we left that morning, I felt numb. Not sad numb, but oblivious numb. I didn’t want to think too much about what would happen in only a few hours. It was too hard. While Justin was in the shower, everything hit me. I fell to the ground and cried for Owen. I told him over and over again how much I loved him and missed him. How sorry I was for him. How angry I was for him. 

Before the placement service, Justin and I were able to pay for Owen’s handprints and footprints we had ordered. They were so tiny. His hand would have barely wrapped around my pinky finger if we had chosen to be induced instead of going ahead with the D&E. Because they were only able to salvage his left hand and foot, they mirrored them on the print so we could also have his right hand and foot included. It was the only look I ever got at his body that wasn’t through an ultrasound monitor. 

We walked over to the memorial garden and met family members there. We placed flowers and small pumpkins around his headstone, made small talk, and waited for everyone to arrive. 

Greg, the Funeral Director, brought out Owen’s ashes in a teal bag. He gently placed the bag on the ground and pulled out the bronze urn he would be kept in. It was beautiful. He then took out the burp cloth I had sewed for Owen and wrapped inside the burp cloth was the smallest bag of ashes I had ever seen. That bag was all that was left of my baby that had felt so big inside of me. It was my first and last look at Owen. My little dude. All of our hopes and dreams reduced down to 2-3 tablespoons of ashes. 

We watched as they securely screwed on the urn lid and lowered him in the dirt. 

Justin had been working on a speech to give at Owen’s placement while I was at therapy the night before. After Owen had been placed, he came to the front and began to speak. My mom held me tight while he spoke. Justin began to cry, so I left my mom’s arms to place my arms around him until he had finished. It was beautifully written and filled with all the tender love we had for our baby. 

We’re here today to put Owen’s body to rest- his little body that just didn’t form right for whatever reason. But his body is just one part of who he was and is. 

One reason this has been so hard is that normally when a person dies, there’s a number of comforting thoughts that someone can turn to - be it from the realms of science, religion, spirituality or philosophy. 

But when you lose a little growing baby halfway through a pregnancy, you’re left in a very uncomfortable gray area. Were they conscious? Could they feel pain? Was there a spirit attached to that body already or perhaps waiting in some celestial DMV for their number to be called? There’s no obvious answer for any of these questions, and even the answers you might settle on just create more questions. 

But even without answering any of those questions, there are still some things I know for sure about Owen. 

First, Owen was Alyson’s first baby. She cared for him long enough to know what kind of foods he liked - McDonald’s French fries, ramen, and sour candy. She felt his kicks. She took such good care of him, by taking care of herself and her blood sugar. It doesn’t matter whatever else might be true, Alyson’s bond with Owen was very real and no one can take that away from her.


Second, Owen existed in the form of all our hopes and dreams and imagined futures for him. From the time we found out we were pregnant, we couldn’t stop thinking and talking about what they would look like and what they would be like. While all those thoughts existed only in our heads, they were still very real to us. There were a million different ways he might have turned out as a person. Losing him has felt like losing all those possibilities. 

Third, I know that Owen is a loved member of both the Adams and Ludlow families. Obviously, anyone else’s relationship to him wouldn’t have been as profound as that of his parents, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t any less real. We’ve felt your love for him and for us in everything you’ve done for us the past few weeks. 

I’ve also thought about his great-grandparents who have gone before him. Some of whom are also buried in this same cemetery. Some for whom this would be their first descendent to join them up in heaven. I’d like to imagine that any of our sweet grandmas are taking care of Owen for us right now. 

Fourth and finally, Owen was a great teacher. He taught us to take nothing for granted in life, because you just never know when something like this will happen. I think he taught us to be better spouses to each other and to to be better parents to his little brothers and sisters, whenever they might come along. He’s taught us so much in such a short amount of time, and for that we’ll always be grateful. 

At the end of the day, I don’t know for sure if Owen is mostly down here (in the ground), up there (in heaven), in here (our hearts) or a mix of them all... but my hope is that he’s at least somewhere he can hear this, so I can let him know that he’ll always be “our little dude.” We’ll always miss him and we’ll always love him. 

Once Justin was done speaking, it was my turn. For the week leading up to the service, I had tried over and over again to come up with something I wanted to say. Each time I sat down to write, my mind went blank. I decided it would probably be best to speak directly to Owen while I had the chance to be close to what was left of his body. I don’t remember what I said, but I remember wanting to tell him how much we loved him, wanted him, and missed him. It was the first time I had cried in front of someone other than Justin, my mom, and my dad about Owen. In a way, it was therapeutic. I have a hard time crying in front of other people, and it was nice to finally let it all out for everyone to see.

After I finished talking to Owen, I gave a quick prayer. The grounds crew brought over a bucket of dirt and we all took turns grabbing a handful and placing it on Owen’s urn. Then we watched as the grounds crew covered him up the rest of the way with the remaining dirt. Our baby was buried. 

The drive over to my parents’ house after the service was different than what I had expected. I felt light and optimistic. We finally had closure and our baby wasn’t left waiting in limbo anymore. 

Owen's Story (Part 8): Trigger Warning Pregnancy Loss, TFMR

On October 10 we had our follow-up appointment with Dr. Jones--our regular OBGYN that we had been seeing up until our MFM appointment where we found out about Owen’s condition. It was hard. There were pregnant mothers and recent mothers in the lobby with us while we waited for our turn to go in. That was supposed to be us. We’d be close to 25 weeks with Owen if he was still alive. When we got to our check-up room, I kept looking out the window and fantasizing about jumping out of it. I had a lot of those thoughts since his termination. I knew I would never do it; I couldn’t leave Justin or further traumatize my class of 2nd graders, but it sounded nice to be done. To be with my baby.

I had to talk to Dr. Jones about how my body had been recovering. 

Is your milk coming in? Yes. 

Is it painful? Not anymore.

Do you want to do anything with your milk? I’m wearing a tight sports bra and hoping it will dry out soon. 

What about your uterine/cervical bleeding? It comes and goes. 

It will probably be like that for a few weeks. Have you had cramps post-procedure? Yes. 

That’s your uterus going back to its pre-pregnancy size. 

Are your cramps mild, moderate, or severe? Most of the time they’re mild, but I’ve had two instances where they’ve been severe. 4 Advil tablets seem to help. 

What did the MFM doctors tell you about future pregnancies? It’s highly unlikely that we’ll have another child with this condition, but there’s a placenta test we can do at 11 weeks if we want to double-check  and they can get us in at 16 weeks--instead of 20 weeks--for an early anatomy scan next time. We’ve talked about maybe trying again in February or March of next year, but it all depends on how I recover from this. 

What post-care supports have you connected with? Justin scheduled a therapy appointment for me tonight. 

Are they a specialist in pregnancy loss? No. We were just looking for where I could be seen the quickest. 

I had a patient before you who lost a baby at 18 weeks. I’ll see if I can pass on her therapist’s information to you since they were a pregnancy loss specialist. Thank you. 

Is there anything I can prescribe to help you? I’m already on fluoxetine. Justin called my primary care doctor and got my dosage upped from 20 mg to 40 mg right before the termination. 

We can get it upped some more if things get worse for you. That’s what we’re here for if you need it. 

You did everything you could to have a healthy pregnancy. You managed your sugars, you went above and beyond. This wasn't caused by your genetics or your diabetes. This really was genetic lightning. I know. 

You two are so strong. You’re going to make it through this. ...Thanks. 

I’ve decided I hate it when people tell us we’re strong. We’re not strong, we’re traumatized. We’re barely holding it together at any given point. You think we’re strong because we aren’t getting emotional or crying in front of you. You don’t see what goes on when we’re alone or when you leave our apartment or when you get off the phone with us. You don’t see even a fraction of our pain or sadness. If we seem strong, it’s because we have no other choice. We don’t want to be strong. We shouldn’t have to be strong. It’s not a compliment.

I cried on the way home from the appointment and shut myself into Owen’s room to be alone. 

I had gone to therapy for the first time later that night and my therapist, Brittany, told me that everything I had been experiencing was valid and part of the grieving process. My anger, my sadness, my thoughts of dying to be with Owen, my struggle with having an appetite, my guilt, my crying, my insomnia, my grief caused by my breast milk coming in, carrying around Owen’s blanket. It was all normal and natural for someone in my situation. After our appointment it felt like a weight was lifted off my chest. I went out to the car where Justin was waiting for me, feeling sad, but a different kind of sad than before. A more hopeful kind of sadness. 

Before I went to bed, I saw that my mom had posted this poem she had written for Owen on his obituary page: 

For dearest Owen and mom and dad ❤️,

If we could visit heaven—even for a day,

Maybe for a while, our pain would slip away.

We’d fold our arms around you and whisper words of love,

Hoping, too, we might receive peace we’re so in need of.

And when our visit’s over and our time together through,

We’d hold you closely once again and kiss you softly, too.

No matter how we spend our days,

no matter where we go—

Our yearning to be near you will forever ebb and flow.

As morning dawns turn into nights and moments into years,

Our love will be reflected both in happiness and tears.

We’ll feel you in the summer breeze and when the cool winds blow,

When clouds drift by and raindrops fall, we’ll cherish each rainbow.

A lifetime is a long time for broken hearts to wait,

But for now you’ll be our angel baby, waiting by heaven’s gate.

We love you all so very much Alyson, Justin, and sweet Owen. Your sadness is our sadness, and one day your joy will be ours, too.


grandma Tiersa and grandpa Mark ❤️

Owen's Story (Part 7): Trigger Warning Pregnancy Loss, TFMR

The mortuary called us back on Wednesday and said that Owen would be cremated on Thursday and we could be there to see his ashes go into the ground as soon as Tuesday the next week. It was comforting to know that soon he wouldn’t be in pieces in a box in a mortuary refrigerator, his little body waiting to move on. We ended up asking if they could delay the placement of the ashes until Thursday next week so my dad could be there with us. They also told us that they were able to get great prints from the left hand and foot they were able to salvage. I ordered prints of them that I could keep and give to relatives. It was nice to have something of his that we could hold on to. 

I began having panic attacks regarding our decision to do the D&E. Had we made the wrong choice? Would it have been better to be induced or go as far as we could with him and deliver closer to his due date? I felt guilty that I never held him in my arms, kissed his face, or held him close to my heart. I never cuddled him or swaddled him in a blanket. I never told him to his face that I loved him. There were moments where I could feel a phantom baby in my arms and I would stare at my arms, empty without a baby, longing to be holding him. I kept seeing family and friends post about their successful pregnancies or upcoming deliveries. I tried not to be jealous, but I couldn’t help it. I tried to tell myself that the emotions I was feeling weren’t necessarily a bad thing--they were a sign of my love for my baby and showed how much I wanted to be his mommy. But that didn’t help much. I just wanted my baby. I just wanted Owen. 

To cope with my emotions, I decided I wanted to give away some of Owen’s last ultrasound pictures to my mom and Justin’s mom. I wanted him to exist outside of our home and for people to see him. I felt like the rainbow fish in that children’s picture book that gave away its shiny scales to help other fish look beautiful. It was hard to give away those photos because they were so precious to me, but I didn’t want them locked in a box forever, where no one could see them or enjoy them. It felt wrong keeping him all to myself. I framed my two favorite ultrasound pictures of Owen and put them on our TV stand. Sometimes, I got lost staring at them, and other times, I held them close so I could kiss his little face through the glass--his cute attached earlobes, his button nose, his chubby cheeks, his little hands. It’s not the same as being able to kiss him, but it helped. It helped me express my love for him in a tangible way and I hoped that my love was able to reach him, wherever he may be. 

I also started to think toward the future and having our next child. I felt guilty looking ahead--like I was trying to move on past Owen. I worried that I would confuse how I felt about my next child with the baby I lost, that I wouldn’t enjoy the pregnancy, that I wanted to have another baby to rebound from my last. I wasn’t sure when I would be ready to try again. Everything with Owen happened so quickly. Justin and I were only trying for a month when we found out I was pregnant with him--we felt so lucky and like it was a sign that we were supposed to have this baby. But, what if we weren’t able to have another child for a while? What if I miscarried? What if my next baby had complications too? How much more could I handle before breaking completely? I was anxious to be a mother again, but afraid I wouldn’t be strong enough to go through the worst again. 


Owen was cremated on Thursday. At least he wasn’t stuck in a box in the mortuary refrigerator anymore.


I started to notice that I would have a good day and then a bad day in a repeating cycle. I had two good days back-to-back and thought I was finally through the worst of it, but I started to struggle again on Saturday night. Justin and I were watching a new show on Netflix and one of the characters was pregnant. She had an ultrasound appointment and it reminded me of my appointments with Owen. When I took comfort in his strong heartbeat, thinking everything was okay. That we had a normal, healthy baby. Then, during the character’s ultrasound, the doctor couldn’t find her baby’s heartbeat. I froze. Justin had to turn off the TV. I tried to get on my phone to distract myself and ended up on Facebook. I saw a friend post about her pregnancy with her baby boy and how happy it was making her. Owen made me so happy. I was so excited to be his mom, and all the hard parts of pregnancy didn’t mean a thing to me. I told myself over and over again that it was all going to be worth it. Then I saw a post in a miscarriage support group from a mother who delivered had 23 weeks, just like me, except she chose induced labor and her baby passed away. He looked so tiny. So small. He had fingers, toes, and a cute little face. Owen would have looked like that, except for his short little arms and legs. I lost it. I couldn’t hold it in anymore. I sobbed for my baby. I missed Owen. I wanted to be pregnant still. I wanted to hold my baby. I wanted to cradle him in my arms. I wished things had gone differently. 

Justin comforted me the best he could, but I ended up shutting myself in the nursery. I needed space to cry it out. I talked to Owen. I looked at ultrasound pictures of him. I held his blanket tight. Once all the tears were gone, I finally felt brave enough to watch the ultrasound videos of him again. It was nice to see him happy and alive, back when he still had time. 

I went back out with Justin and kissed Owen’s photos goodnight. I talked to Justin about our plans for Owen’s placement on the upcoming Thursday. We decided that Justin would share a few words and then I would end our time there with a prayer. I didn’t know what I would say in my prayer or if there was anything I wanted to add to Justin’s speech--how do you even begin to put into words how you feel about the loss of a baby only you knew? We didn’t have any shared memories of Owen that we could reference with family, we couldn’t ask others to talk about him, I was the only one who felt him and got to know his little personality. Even Justin’s experiences with Owen were in the periphery of the pregnancy. He didn’t even get the chance to feel one of Owen’s kicks. He was too small. His legs were too small for anyone else to feel. 

Monday was a hard day too.

Owen's Story (Part 6): Trigger Warning Pregnancy Loss, TFMR

Sunday started off okay. We watched a new TV show we found on HBO Max called “Ghosts”, ate lunch—tried to stay emotionally afloat. About halfway through the day, I felt like I was drowning. I couldn’t stop thinking about Owen and how much I wanted him with us. I had a hard time speaking and moving. I tried to distract myself with my phone, putting up Halloween decorations, planning for Justin’s birthday in a month, writing lesson plans, and watching videos. I eventually made my way into Owen’s nursery and found some ultrasound pictures I had been meaning to frame and hang on our wall. As I put the pictures in the frame, the tears started to fall. I missed Owen. I missed my baby. After I hung the frame, I collapsed into the wall, sobbing. Justin held me until I was done crying. We also decided to put one of his 3D ultrasound pictures in a frame on our TV stand. It was the one where you could see him sucking on his little thumb. I loved that picture, it’s how I would always remember him. 


On Monday, we began scheduling appointments for the following week and sorting out billing. We found out that the procedure would cost $7,000 with the uninsured discounts the hospital gave us because our insurance (through the state of Utah) refused to cover the termination. I also made calls to get my therapy appointments for the next week pre-authorized by my insurance company and I scheduled a post-termination follow-up appointment with my OBGYN. The MFM office called to check in on me and so did our genetic counselor. It seemed like we were stuck in an endless loop of sending phone calls and receiving phone calls. I tried to go to Target to distract myself. It was the first time I had left the house alone since the termination. It was terrifying. I made it to the store and began looking around. In a way, it was nice to be in an area where no one knew who I was or what I was going through. It was nice to feel invisible. However,  I felt so fragile and vulnerable; I was afraid I would crack and have an emotional breakdown at any moment. I guess one thing I’ve learned about grief after losing Owen, is that grief is a lot like standing at the edge of the water on a beach. There are moments where you feel fine, like everything is okay. Your feet are dry and the water is receding. Then, the grief creeps back in and before you know it, the tide has brought the water up to your knees and it pushes you over. As I was looking through the clearance jewelry section at Target, I suddenly felt like I was drowning. I could hear babies crying, I saw parents holding baby boys, I walked by a baby onesie, and I instantly thought about my baby boy that was gone. I mindlessly wandered the store, lost in my emotions, trying to process how I was feeling. I wanted to hide in a rack of clothing and cry. 

You really never know what someone else is going through. Even if they’re out shopping at a Target, looking fine on the outside. 

Justin and I had made a list of activities we could do that would distract us during our 3 weeks at home. One of the activities we came up with was to recreate one of our first dates. We would make a blanket fort, order food, and watch some of our favorite Disney movies from when we were kids. We decided we wanted to do this after I got home from the store. Justin built the fort using sheets from our bed, we ordered Dominos, and watched Robin Hood. It was a good distraction from the sadness of the day. We talked about how we could make blanket forts and watch movies with our kids in the future. Owen wouldn’t be with us for that though. 


On Tuesday, we went to Wasatch Lawn to arrange for how Owen’s remains would be handled. My mom had done some research for us and found out they have a cremation garden that a lot of parents who have lost babies during their pregnancy or right after birth like to use. I didn’t want to wear maternity clothes to the appointment, so I tried on my jeans that I had bought right before I became pregnant with Owen. They fit perfectly. I couldn’t decide how I felt about it. On one hand I was relieved that I wouldn’t have to buy new clothing because of how much my body had changed during the pregnancy, but it was also depressing to realize that it was like my body had never been pregnant. When we got to the mortuary, we walked through the garden and saw all the tiny granite headstones. They were the perfect size for someone as tiny as Owen. It was hard to accept that one of those would be his in a few days. It felt strange to be only 26 years old and putting a baby in the ground. 

Most of the plots were already sold, so we chose one of the last available spots at the front of the garden. It was close to another baby who died on the day he was delivered. Jason, the man who was helping us, asked if Owen was our first baby. We told him he was. There was an awkward pause and we walked back to the mortuary in silence. They took us downstairs to discuss our options for Owen’s remains. Since he was so little and a baby, they cut a lot of the costs for us. We picked a bronze urn for his remains to be stored in and arranged for the burp cloth I sent him with to the mortuary to be wrapped around the urn once it was in the ceramic container under his little headstone. The funeral director, Greg, mentioned that after looking through Owen’s remains, they thought they found a foot and a hand that were still intact enough to be used to make prints with. I felt bad for the person who had to sort through his pieces to find them. We weren’t expecting to have anything like that from this pregnancy, so it was a small blessing to have that option. As terrible as it was to be at the mortuary, it was the only place we had been in the past few days where I was referred to as Owen’s mother. The mortuary employees referred to me as his mother, the paperwork had me listed as his mother, and I was able to sign documents as his mother. It was validating and comforting. I was his mother. I am his mother. He is my baby, my son, my child--even if he died before he could be born.  Everything I had done up until this point was because I was his mother. I would always be his and he would always be mine. 

After discussing costs and payments, we had to plan what we’d like his headstone plate to say. We decided on: 

Our first baby

Owen Adams

October 8, 2021

Since Owen didn’t have a death certificate, the mortuary offered to publish an obituary for Owen on their website that could be used in the future for genealogical purposes. It was nice to have something official that others could find that showed he had a life and existed, even if it was for a short time. A lot of what we wrote in the obituary came from my Sunday Facebook post, it read: 

We lost our sweet baby, Owen, on October 8, 2021. He was born with a rare genetic condition that's known as Thanatophoric Dysplasia Type 1 (lethal skeletal dysplasia). We didn't find out he had this condition until we were 21 weeks along and he passed away at 23 weeks. We loved him with all our hearts and will never forget the time that we had with him. He loved to suck his thumb, play with his umbilical cord, cross his legs, and was always so stubborn whenever we went in for ultrasounds. He'll always be part of us and our family--a big brother in heaven looking over his younger brothers and sisters. We are so happy to be your parents, Owen, and forever grateful for the 5 months we had with you. We can't wait for the day when we can see you again and hold you in our arms.


Owen's Story (Part 5): Trigger Warning Pregnancy Loss, TFMR

We went back to the MFM office on Thursday for part two of the termination procedure. Using a speculum, they placed absorbent laminaria in my cervix to begin the dilation process. It was painful.

Afterwards, we went downtown to celebrate our anniversary a day early by getting chicken sandwiches at Pretty Bird and visiting Memory Grove--where we had our wedding reception. It was one of our last peaceful moments together as a family. In order to prepare for the termination surgery the next day, I wasn’t allowed to eat after midnight and I could only drink clear liquids up until 2 hours before the termination. I was upset that I couldn't feed and take care of my baby up until the procedure. We were both going into it hungry.  


I had a hard time sleeping that night and woke up the next morning in a daze. I took a shower and talked to Owen one last time, one on one. I told him that I loved him and that we always had wanted him. I told him how happy this pregnancy had made us and how much we would miss him. I told him that he would always be my first baby and I would always be his mama. I would make sure we told his siblings about him and that he would never be forgotten. I apologized to him for the decision we had to make and sang “Baby of Mine” to him one last time. As I got ready throughout the rest of the morning, I made sure I took notice of every kick he gave and looked at my baby bump each time I passed a mirror. Both would be gone by the end of the day. 

We finished getting ready 30 minutes before my parents would come to pick us up and take us to the hospital. We sat on our couch in silence, trying to wrap our heads around what was about to happen. My dad came to the door and asked if I was doing okay. I couldn’t get a sound to come out of my mouth, so I shook my head no and we hugged and cried together in the hallway before we walked down to the car. I was only allowed one visitor to come back to the surgery wing with me due to Covid precautions, so my parents waited in the lobby as Justin and I followed our nurse into our temporary room. Justin's parents were out of town. 

The nurses assigned to our team had all been made aware of why we were at the hospital. I gave them a burp cloth I had sewn for Owen and asked if they could send him away to the mortuary with it so he wouldn’t be sent there on his own without something from his parents. Their eyes filled with tears and there was a long pause. After an hour of waiting in our room, an IV was placed in my arm for the anesthesia. We were asked where we wanted his remains sent and signed mortuary paperwork. A nurse named Marisabel came in and gave me the pills I would need to take before surgery. She asked if we had any other children and we told her that Owen was our first. She stomped her foot on the ground in anger for us. Then she asked how many children we wanted. We told her 3. She said that we would definitely have our 3 children and that we would get to be parents some day. Once she left the room, it was time for us to head upstairs for the procedure. 

After going up one floor, I had to say goodbye to Justin. He wouldn’t be able to come into the operating room with me. I was actually happy that this was the case because I was worried that he would be traumatized by seeing and hearing what went on while I was under. The nurse pushed me further down the hallway, left me in a nook, and I waited for my turn to be operated on. I tried to say goodbye to Owen again, but all I could do was cry. The anesthesiologist stopped to talk with me and made sure I knew that I would be knocked-out for the whole procedure. He was going to make sure I wasn’t awake for any of it, which I really appreciated. After he left, I started to feel sick. I wasn’t sure if it was because they made me take 6 pills on an empty stomach or my nerves. A couple nurses had to run down the hallway and grab me a garbage bin to throw up in. The sound of it echoed in the hallway. Throwing up didn’t help much though, I still felt terrible. 

I noticed that one of my termination surgery nurses had an RBG head covering over her hair. I complimented her on it and she looked me in the eyes and said, “We gotta keep doing the good work.” I was grateful to have her on my team helping me and Owen--helping make my choice for my baby a possibility. 

Finally they wheeled me into the operating room and moved me onto the operating table. Ironically, my milk started to come in while I was on the table. There were two wet spots on my chest, and soon there wouldn’t be a baby in my belly to drink that milk. Before I knew it, I was out. 


I woke up an hour or so later in the recovery room. I couldn’t move my body, but I saw that my hands were on my belly, like they would have been if I was still pregnant with Owen. I’m not sure if the nurses placed my hands there for me or if I instinctively put them there as I was coming to. My belly felt different though. It wasn’t round and firm. It was deflated. I couldn’t feel my baby’s kicks or sense him in there at all. He was gone and I was alone. While I was waking up, our surgeon called Justin and told him everything went perfectly. They were able to clip Owen’s cord before he was taken out and the process was straight-forward with no complications. Justin met me back in one of the temporary rooms on the main floor of the hospital and fed me Lorna Doone cookies until I was coherent enough to stand up and walk around. They made me go to the bathroom to make sure my bladder was okay and then removed all the stickers and IV’s from my body. The anesthesiologist did a great job with whatever medications he gave me, because I was still pretty out of it for the rest of the time at the hospital and until we got home. 

By this point, my parents had been waiting in the lobby for 6 hours. One of our nurses helped us out to our car and we headed home. My parents asked if we wanted to grab something for dinner and I told them I wanted to go to Cafe Yugo. Their ramen was one of Owen’s favorite foods when I was pregnant with him. Back in my first trimester when I was so sick, Cafe Yugo ramen, McDonald’s french fries, clementines, and sour candies were my “safe” foods that wouldn’t make me sick. While we were waiting for our food to come out, the mortuary called me. They said they were about to pick up Owen’s remains from the hospital morgue and asked us for our baby boy’s name. I told them it was Owen Adams. They asked if he had a middle name and it was then that I realized we had never thought to give one to him. I guess it seemed strange to give one to him since he was so little when we lost him. 

My parents dropped us off at our apartment and I finally cracked. The haze I was in from the drugs was starting to wear off and I realized my baby was in a plastic box somewhere across the valley, alone and without me. He was gone and never coming back. Gone gone. I sobbed as I tried to eat my ramen. I didn’t want him to be without me or me without him. I wanted my baby. I wanted to hold him and love him. I wanted to walk into his nursery we had been preparing and see him quietly sleeping in his crib. However, the only evidence I had that Owen was ever in my body was the cluster of small stretch marks that started to develop on the left side of my stomach during my last few weeks with him. I walked over to our bedroom mirror and saw that I didn’t look like a pregnant mother anymore. I ran my hands over my belly, but nothing was there. I was able to bend over without problems and walk around without my pregnant waddle. It felt wrong. 

Justin wrote me a letter while I was in the operating room and shared it with me when we got home. I had forgotten that it was our anniversary. His letter read: 

Dear Alyson, 

With our five-year anniversary coinciding with the hardest day of our lives, I wanted to take this opportunity to make sure you know how much I love you. 

I thought I loved you when we got married 5 years ago. But that love is nothing compared to how I feel for you now, after everything we’ve gone through together. From late-night tears of sadness to crying from making each other laugh so hard. You’re truly the most amazing person and I can’t imagine anyone else I’d rather be with through the ups and downs of life. I’ve been so impressed with how strong you’ve been through this whole ordeal--even when you haven’t wanted to be. You’ve been such a good mother to Owen for these past months, and I have no doubt that you’ll be an absolutely amazing mother for other children down the road, whenever they may come. 

I’ve always said that everything happens for a reason, but that you get to decide what that reason is. My hope is that our reason for this will be a newfound and deeper appreciation for the life we have together--cherishing the good moments even more because we know how hard the bad times can be. And I know we have so MANY good moments ahead of us. And I can’t wait to see them with you. 

Happy (or not so happy) Anniversary!

Love, Justin

We woke up the next morning like it was any other morning. There was a lingering sadness, but we had made it through this experience together. Justin mentioned that maybe we were past our “loud” grieving (crying, sobbing, etc.) and into a quieter stage of grief. Justin called the mortuary and we scheduled a time on the following Tuesday to finalize our plans for Owen’s remains and to figure out where we would like his remains to be placed. The mortuary we decided on was at the same cemetery where many of our relatives were buried--Justin’s Grandpa John and Grandma Carolyn, my Grandma Kathie and Grandpa Dwight, my Aunt Celeste, my Uncle Eric, my Uncle Robert, my Grandma Joy, my Great-Grandma Margaret, my Great-Grandma Lida, my Great-Grandpa Ted, my Great-Great Grandma Catherine, and more. Even if Owen wasn’t going to be by our side, he would at least be close to other family members who had already passed on. In a way, the thought of that made our separation from him seem more bearable. Later in the day, we decided to post on social media and let our friends and family know that Owen was gone. We felt so much love and support that as we read through the comments that were left on our posts, we couldn’t help but cry. 

Owen's Story (Part 4): Trigger Warning Pregnancy Loss, TFMR

That same week, we also went to a birthday party for one of our nephews. I thought it would be good for us to be around family and kids. Mostly because I have a tendency to run away from uncomfortable situations, and because I also wanted Owen to have a chance to be around everyone who loved him before he was gone. 

At first, I was fine, but as I watched my siblings interact with their kids, my heart began to sink. I wouldn’t get the opportunity to carry Owen on my hip, to soothe his tears, to watch him play with cousins, or to joke around with him. I was jealous that their pregnancies had all gone how they were supposed to, and that their children were happy and healthy. I kept imagining what it would be like if Owen were there. What would he be doing? What kinds of games would he like to play? Would he be shy or outgoing? Who would be his favorite cousin? Would he cling to us or go off on his own? Would he like caramel ice cream or cookie dough ice cream? Everything came to a head when the grandkids got in a picture together. Even though Owen was alive inside of me, he would never get to be in that picture. His cousins would never know him and everyone outside of our family of two would forget him eventually. It would be like he never existed. It was painful to walk away from where they were taking the photo. I wanted Owen to be included, but it wouldn’t make sense for me to stand there with all the kids.

I couldn’t decide how I wanted everyone to treat me. My brothers and dad hadn’t seen me since we told them the bad news, and I could tell they weren’t sure what to do or say to show that they were worried about us. Everyone was trying to gauge how I was doing the whole time we were there. I wasn’t sure if I wanted people to pretend like everything was okay or if I wanted them to walk on eggshells around me. I guess uncertainty should be something I’m comfortable with now. Aside from when I was crying, I felt empty most of the time, like a shell of myself. I still don’t know how I’ll ever be completely okay again. 


On Wednesday we started the first day of the termination procedure. We drove out to the MFM office in Murray and met with a nurse and the doctor who would be performing the D&E. They asked if we had named him and we told them his name was Owen. They wrote it in quotation marks on the paperwork for the doctor. Those quotation marks really bothered me. His name was Owen and will always be Owen. It wasn’t a nickname I gave him or an imaginary friend’s name. It was my child’s name. My son’s name. 

We had to sign paperwork that the state of Utah requires--the nurse actually apologized to us as she had us sign document after document since most of it didn’t apply to our situation. The wording on it was specifically intended for elective terminations/abortions. It’s almost like the state didn’t even realize that people like us would be in this terrible situation where we were terminating our baby at 22 weeks not because we wanted to, but because we had to. Despite this, it was still considered a "late-term abortion." (Only 1% of all abortions/terminations happen after 20 weeks, and most of them are wanted pregnancies. https://www.kff.org/womens-health-policy/fact-sheet/abortions-later-in-pregnancy) They also told us that since we were terminating the pregnancy past 20 weeks, the state required us to have a mortuary handle Owen’s remains instead of the hospital. However, they still wouldn’t grant us a death certificate for Owen because we were terminating. (The state of Utah does not provide death certificates to terminated babies at any stage in a mother’s pregnancy because they technically count as late-term abortions, but if the mother delivers naturally with no induction and the baby dies, if the baby is still-born, or if the mother miscarries, they will provide a death certificate past 16 weeks.) They were forcing us to acknowledge that Owen was a living baby with a soul by making us bury or cremate him, but in the same breath, telling us his life really didn’t matter enough to be documented because my body didn’t kill him naturally. It was cruel. We were forced into choosing how and when Owen would die. We felt we were making the most-loving choice for him by ending his suffering before it began, and not having his only moments outside of my body be gasping for air and choking. When I pointed this out to the nurse and doctor, they were just as upset and confused by the state laws as I was. I was angry for my child, but there was nothing I could do about it. 

After signing the paperwork, they had to watch me take a progesterone blocking pill to soften my cervix for the procedure the following day. Progesterone is what strengthens the cervix during pregnancy and since they were going to forcefully open my cervix on Thursday, they needed it to be pliable so it would be less painful for me. Once I took the pill, there was no going back. The process had already begun. We talked about the big procedure on Friday where Owen would be taken out of me. There were risks involved--they could accidentally puncture my uterus, my cervix could be damaged, I could have placental remains left inside me that would come out during the following week, and my blood sugar would need to be closely monitored since I was technically going through labor and I would need to fast until the procedure. I asked about the risk of pieces of Owen being left inside me since they would be breaking apart his body and sucking him out during the procedure. The doctor said that it was highly-unlikely and that they would have an ultrasound on my belly during the entire procedure to make sure nothing was left behind. 

After leaving the office, we had to go over to a different building to get a Covid test in preparation for Friday. Ironically, I had been feeling cold symptoms since Monday and I had a coworker out with Covid. It was like someone in the universe hated me and wanted to kick me while I was already down. I cried in the car as I tried to spit in the sample tube. I just wanted my baby. I didn’t ask for any of this to happen. I didn’t want any of this to happen. I couldn’t change my mind, I couldn’t go back, we were locked in to the next three days of the termination. 

Owen's Story (Part 3): Trigger Warning Pregnancy Loss, TFMR

On Wednesday we got a call that they could squeeze us in for a last-minute appointment to get a second ultrasound with a different doctor so we could verify what they saw the week before. Overall, the appointment was a lot better than our first appointment at the MFM clinic. The ultrasound nurse took some 3D photos of Owen and we got to see his cute face--he was sucking on his thumb. He was stubborn again during the ultrasound and they had to push him around to get the images they wanted. Once the nurse left the room, I felt a ton of movement from him in my stomach. I think he was very put out by the experience.

We then had the doctor come in to go over our ultrasounds with us and do some more of her own. She took over an hour examining the new ultrasound pictures to make sure all the measurements from last week were correct. His head, hands, feet, and stomach were all the right sizes for 21 ½ weeks of gestation, but his arms, chest, and legs were still behind by 5-6 weeks. His ribs were also short and they didn’t connect in the middle like they should. His thigh bones were curved like old-fashioned telephone receivers. However, his skull wasn’t clover-shaped like they told us the week before. We finally had a tiny ray of positivity. Because of these measurements and observations, she told us he still most-likely had Thanatophoric Dysplasia Type 1 (also known as TD Type 1, a lethal condition), but we wouldn’t know for sure unless we waited for the test results to confirm the diagnosis. When I asked about the possibility of dwarfism or Down-Syndrome (both share some common features of what she noticed in Owen), she said it wasn’t very likely; but again, we wouldn’t know for sure until the test results came back. She also told us that even if we had gotten genetic testing done earlier in the pregnancy it wouldn’t have made a difference. Skeletal dysplasia doesn’t show up on those kinds of tests. The nurse and doctor complimented us on how well we were handling things, but we had already been through the worst the week before. We were numb to the bad news. Traumatized and miserable, but numb. 

After seeing Owen’s face and knowing that his skull was forming correctly so far, I began to feel more open to delivering him closer to full-term, even if he would die. I wanted to hold him and see his face. I wanted to say goodbye. I wanted him to get a birth certificate or death certificate--depending on how the delivery went. Because of this, I didn’t feel as confident in my choice to go with a D&E, especially if we weren’t going to get definite test results in time like we were first told. My concerns with delivering him shifted from being afraid he would die in my arms to what if he lived? If he didn’t have TD Type 1, what type of skeletal dysplasia would he have? Would he have any quality of life if he miraculously survived delivery and he was able to breathe beyond his first minutes or hours? Would it be more loving on our end to ensure he didn’t have to suffer at all by terminating the pregnancy before he could be born? Would he resent us if we chose incorrectly? Would it be painful for him to suffocate and die after being born? I don’t think anyone understands how excruciating it is to have someone else’s life in your hands. Owen has no say in any of this. We have to use our best judgement as his parents, even if that judgement ends up being wrong. 

Our genetic counselor called us later that night with some price estimates for D&E and delivery in Utah. Since our insurance wouldn’t cover any form of termination, we would pay for it out-of-pocket. However, the hospitals have a discount system for uninsured individuals. They take 25% off the price and then if you pay in full before you are discharged, they increase the discount to 40% off the price. So, a hospital D&E would cost $7,000 with those discounts. The same would be true with a delivery as well. It was nice to not be so worried about finances no matter what our decision was. The test results would be back mid-week next week at the earliest, and in two weeks at the latest. We decided we wanted to at least wait until next Wednesday before making a choice. The test results might not be ready by then, but we could have more time to wrap our heads around what we would like to do and make sure we were truly making the right choice. In a way, it was a huge relief to have more time to make our decision instead of having to decide by the weekend. I wasn't mentally ready to terminate the pregnancy that soon. I guess I probably would never be ready for it. How could I be?


On Monday we finally heard back from our genetic counselor with our test results. Owen was positive for TD Type 1. His life expectancy if he was born full term was minutes or hours. He would have major, lethal physical complications no matter what we chose to do. We couldn’t put off the inevitable anymore and we weren’t shocked by the news. We had already been expecting and bracing ourselves for it for the past two weeks. In a way, we felt some relief because the doubt in our minds could finally go away. It really was the worst case scenario, there was nothing else we could do. 

We decided to plan on beginning the termination on Wednesday or Thursday since it was actually going to be a three day process instead of a two day process because of how big Owen was, and far along I was. We were hoping to start the three day process on Thursday so we could celebrate our 5-year wedding anniversary on Friday with Owen. We also didn’t want our anniversary to be forever tied to the worst day of our lives. The first day of the termination, I would be given medicine to force my cervix to open, then on the second day they would stick laminaria in my cervix to continue the dilation process. The last day would be the termination procedure at the hospital. 

I emailed student parents and coworkers, found a sub for most of the days I would need off, and began thinking of what my plans would be during the 3 weeks I was taking off. It was so hard to wrap my head around it all though. It didn’t feel real. I knew what was going on, I had seen the ultrasounds, but I had also been feeling my baby’s kicks and movements. I don’t think it had sunk in completely, and the entire day felt like an out-of-body experience. We were only 4-5 days away from losing Owen. A few nights before, I had cried to Justin about how scared I was for Owen and the procedure. I was scared of how much it would hurt to get my cervix dilated. I was scared about potentially waking up mid-procedure and seeing/hearing things I didn’t want to. I was scared for Owen. What if he felt his body being pulled apart? What if they weren’t able to cut his umbilical cord before the termination? What if he didn't agree with our choice? How would he feel towards me? Would I really be able to live with the weight of my decision to end his life before he was born? Would I always feel as guilty as I do now? I still felt this way deep down inside of me, but I think my brain was trying to protect myself. I couldn’t focus on all these fears and worries right now. I couldn’t handle it. I still had time with him before he was gone. 

Owen's Story (Part 2): Trigger Warning Pregnancy Loss, TFMR

 The termination procedure we felt most comfortable with was called a D&E (dilation and evacuation) and it would take two days. According to what I could find on the internet, the first day of the procedure would consist of doctors forcing my cervix to dilate since I wasn’t ready to deliver the baby. Then we would come back the next day, they would knock me out, stop Owen’s heartbeat, and vacuum him out of me in pieces. (Each time I think about this, I cry. It sounds terrible.) We also had the option of going into labor to deliver him like we would if he were full-term, but Justin and I both didn’t think we had it in us to go through the trauma of that and not have a baby to bring home with us. With both procedures, I would go through post-partum as if I had delivered him normally. My milk would come in, I would bleed, the hormones would kick in, and it would take a while for my stomach to go back to normal.

Going back to work on Monday was gutting. Justin came with me for the first hour while our school psychologist talked with the class. I also had to have a quick talk with the students about what was going on. I told them that my baby was sick and would have to be born early. I also said that he wouldn’t be alive for very long. Because I was doing this, I would probably be gone for a few weeks before I came back to be with them. One student asked me if I had asked God for help and another asked me if my baby was alive or dead. The day went by smoothly and I was able to fake it for the kids. I also had a pretty good night once I got home—it was the first semi-normal night we had had since our appointment. Right before we went to bed though, I started to cry thinking about what Owen could have looked like, what kind of life we could have had with him, and who he could have been. I thought about what it would have been like to hold him and breastfeed him. To wake up in the middle of the night to his cries. To see Justin care for him and play with him. We wanted him so badly that our future felt hopeless without him.

Tuesday was harder than Monday. I didn’t sleep well the night before because I kept running through different delivery scenarios in my head. I got a call from our genetic counselor and she had bad news. Utah law did not allow for clinics to stop Owen’s heartbeat before the termination. The best we could do is have the D&E doctor cut his umbilical cord so the blood flow was cut off from his heart before he was vacuumed out. However, they couldn’t guarantee that they would be able to do this because it was all a matter of how he was positioned inside me at the time of the termination. I wanted to scream as I was talking with her on the phone. There really weren’t any choices for us—we kept getting cornered into inhumane and difficult situations where we felt we were not putting the well-being of our baby first. I already didn’t want to terminate the pregnancy, and even more than that, I didn’t want his last moments to be painful or agonizing. She then told me that I only had until 24 weeks gestational age to terminate Owen with a D&E procedure. I was already almost 22 weeks along at this point. Our test results also wouldn’t be back for another week or two because they were having a hard time getting a large enough DNA sample from the amniotic fluid. We were doing everything we were supposed to in order to ensure this was the right decision, but there were so many things out of our control that made the process overwhelming.  

She also told me that our insurance (PEHP) would probably not cover the termination since a fetal termination (even when the diagnosis is lethal) is technically a late-term abortion. We could potentially pay up to 100% out-of-pocket to terminate the pregnancy before his delivery date or wait until 32 weeks (the acknowledged viability gestational age in Utah) at the earliest to be induced and be charged the insurance price for labor/delivery (about $10,000). On top of that, we only had 3 choices for D&E to pick from—each of them nothing like what we had expected or wanted for our baby.

The first option was to deliver at a clinic in Utah. If we chose to do this, I could be knocked out and his umbilical cord could potentially be cut so he could die before termination. The drawback with this choice was the time limit we had to work within (two weeks to get everything sorted out—we might not have his test results back in time to verify what condition he has, and would instead have to use a second ultrasound as verification), his heart wasn’t guaranteed to be stopped, we only had until 24 weeks gestational age, and we didn’t know how much the procedure would cost with our insurance.

Our second choice was to go to Planned Parenthood. They wouldn’t be able to knock me out for the procedure, they also couldn’t stop his heartbeat, but we could save some money if we were worried about that (it would “only” be $4,600). However, they only offered D&E terminations until 22 weeks gestational age (which I was just about to reach in a few days) and we couldn’t use test results to verify our decision.

Our last choice was to fly out to a clinic in Boulder, Colorado. Colorado allows fetal heartbeats to be stopped prior to termination, but the procedure wouldn’t be covered at all by insurance since it counted as out-of-state care. We could wait longer for the test results to get back to us because they have a longer termination window than we do in Utah.

I came home the angriest I had ever felt since finding out about Owen’s condition. I was angry that the so-called “Pro-Life” politicians in my state were making it harder for me to treat my unborn child’s life with dignity and love. I was angry that I was being punished for something I didn’t ask for, didn’t look for, and never wanted to happen. We wanted to love and keep Owen from the beginning. If there was even a small chance he could have lived a relatively happy and long life, we would have done anything to make that happen for him. It just wasn’t possible. His little body wasn’t viable outside of my body. I couldn’t bear the thought of delivering him only to see his dead, misshapen body or to have him die in front of me, gasping for air. I wanted to remember him as my baby that I loved and felt kick inside me. My stubborn boy who would never cooperate for ultrasounds, who loved to play with his umbilical cord, and who made me so sick in my first trimester. I wanted to remember him and me at our happiest.

 On top of all of this, the state of Utah wouldn’t give us a death certificate to document his existence because he was being terminated. However, if I miscarried or naturally delivered him early after 16 weeks gestational age, that was totally fine in their eyes and would warrant him being added to state records. They were punishing us for making the most difficult and heartbreaking decision of our lives.

Owen's Story: Part 1 (Trigger Warning: TFMR Pregnancy Loss)

On Wednesday, September 22, Justin and I went to our 20-week appointment to learn the gender of our baby. Our nurse told us it was a boy, and we were so excited. We talked about names, joked about how he would be Justin’s football buddy, started to make plans for our gender reveal on Sunday, talked about how our only niece, Emi, would be disappointed he wasn’t a girl, and imagined what his life would be like. Our plan was to go to the Cheesecake Factory afterwards to celebrate. While we were chatting, we didn’t realize our nurse had stopped talking. She suddenly said that she was concerned about his arms and legs and left the room to get the MFM doctor to take a look at the images. We joked about how ironic it was that 6-foot 4-inch-tall Justin, of all people, would have a short baby. However, when the doctor came in, we found out that it wasn’t just his arms and legs that were off. His chest was below the 5th percentile and there wouldn’t be enough room for his heart and lungs as he grew. They also thought his skull was starting to form incorrectly. If we delivered him to full-term, the best-case scenario was that he would live for a few minutes or hours, and then die in our arms. They told us it was called lethal skeletal dysplasia and it was a coding error when his cells were first dividing—a total fluke. Our hearts stopped and the tears started to come. He then left the room, and a genetic counselor came to talk with us about our options. She said we could terminate or go full-term, it was our choice. She also recommended doing an amniotic fluid test before we left the office so we could narrow down the options of what was happening to our baby. Justin had to do a lot of the talking, but we agreed to do the test and the doctor came back in the room to get the sample. They stuck a needle through my stomach to my uterus as I was crying over the loss of my baby and from how painful the procedure was. I kept my eye on the ultrasound throughout the entire procedure. I watched as the needle came close to my baby, I didn't want them to accidentally hurt him. In the end, they pulled out two small vials of fluid. Then we had to go get a blood sample down the hallway so they could distinguish my DNA from the baby’s. We walked in silence as tears flowed down our faces, fogging up our glasses and falling into our face-masks. We left the hospital brokenhearted and lost.

This 3D ultrasound is the closest we got to see our baby's cute face. I love his little nose and fingers.

The next 24-hours were indescribable. I went from screaming to sobbing to silently crying to pacing around the apartment to staring off into space, losing track of time. We called our parents and cried on the phone with them. I sat in the nursery we had started to prepare for our baby and looked at the cradle that was ready for his due date in February. I held the blanket and burp cloths I had sewed for him when I first found out I was pregnant. I cried over the ultrasound pictures that we had and mourned the loss of my baby that wasn’t even born yet. I researched his condition, what a termination would entail, and desperately looked for stories from other women where they didn’t end up needing to terminate or the baby didn’t die after being delivered—there were none. I kept asking myself why this had to happen to us. I couldn’t come up with an answer. That first night, I got 3 hours of sleep.

Over the next few days, I cried so much that I kept getting bloody noses each time I cried. Our genetic counselor called us and asked what we had decided to do depending on how the test results came back in the next few days. Our choices were to stop our baby’s heartbeat and terminate the pregnancy so he wouldn’t suffer when he was born, or to let him be born on his due date but suffocate and die as soon as he was born. We were essentially deciding how our baby was going to die and what would be the most peaceful for him. It was our first and last choice we got to make as parents, and we decided it would be best to terminate the pregnancy. There were moments where we were able to feel at peace with our decision and moments where we couldn’t bear the thought of what was going to happen. I had to email co-workers and parents of the students in my class to let them know why I was absent for 3-days, what had happened to our baby, and why I would be gone in the near future. I set up a time for our school counselor to chat with the class and began planning my bereavement leave for when the procedure would take place. I tried to plan lessons for the following week and grade papers to distract myself. Family stopped by to bring us meals and talk with us. We decided to take a maternity/memorial photoshoot so we could have evidence that we were pregnant with this baby before he left us. We also planned a cruise to go on in December to give us something to look forward to once this was over and done with. Even with all of this, the emptiness, anger, and sadness never left. We were losing our first baby before we had the chance to meet him.

During one of my late nights crying in the nursery, I decided I wanted to name him Owen and call him that before and after he was gone. I didn’t want to have any regrets, so I also decided that I was going to make the most of the time I had left with him and still treat him like I would have if the pregnancy went according to plan. He was still my baby, and I was still his mama—no matter what happened. I made sure I ate three meals and snacks, kept my blood sugars in range, talked to him, touched my belly, and sang to him. For some reason, I also started to feel him a lot more than I had up to this point. I’m not sure if it was because I was stressed and it was impacting him, a blessing, me being hyper-aware of him, or a coincidence. I still couldn’t watch his ultrasound videos without crying though.

I started to put together a box of items from this pregnancy that were sentimental to me. Our first positive pregnancy test, pregnancy books I had bought, cards from family members, paperwork from the hospital, a binky I had bought for him, a “mama” sweatshirt I had ordered, and the burp cloths I had sewn. I kept out the blanket I had sewn for him so I could sleep with it at night, and I saved a burp cloth to send with him after he died so I could feel like I wasn’t sending him away with nothing as his mother. We also started thinking of what we would like to have done with his remains. He could be incinerated at the hospital, or they could give us his remains to cremate or bury.