In her piece in Yahoo! Parenting, she explains the overwhelming feeling she experienced when she learned she was pregnant with Max after delivering her first child, Olivia, just ten weeks prior. But as soon as she saw the ultrasound, everything changed.
“There he was, my gummy bear, moving his arms and legs to the soothing sound of his beating heart,” she says. “And just like that, I was in love.”
So when she wound up in her OBGYN’s office nine months after Max’s birth, she felt a similar love upon viewing the sonogram of third child.
But this time, the gummy bear in the sonogram image was tragically different. Sullivan recalls:
“All was good, and then we saw it, both of us at the same time. ‘What is that?’ I asked. ‘It looks like a gummy bear, doesn’t it?’”
As soon as the sonogram technician, Paula, saw it, her face dropped. It appeared that a baby — eight weeks old at this point — was growing in her fallopian tube.
“I desperately tried to search her face for a glimmer of hope, something to let me know that in the end, my baby would be okay, but there was nothing,” Sullivan remembers.
While Paula excused herself from the room to hunt down Sullivan’s doctor, Dr. Huggins, Sullivan resolved that she was going to keep fighting for her baby so long as he/she was alive.
But when Dr. Huggins arrived, he informed her that her plan just wasn’t feasible. It was an ectopic pregnancy, Dr. Huggins explained, and should the baby continue growing there, the fallopian tube could rupture.
Sullivan was heartbroken.
“I sobbed because I knew that my life would forever be ‘before loss’ and ‘after.’”
The surgery to remove the baby and repair the tube did nothing to soften the heart-wrenching feeling of losing a child. In fact, it became even more clear when a nurse reminded her that she should “think of the two healthy babies” she had waiting for her at home.
“I wanted to scream at her that the loss of one child is not redeemed by others at home — that the way a mother’s heart works is like having individual hearts for each child, and when one is broken, it cannot be made whole by another. It must heal on its own.”
But even though she is now blessed with another healthy child, she acknowledges that Charlie is not her third child, she is her fourth. And Sullivan will never stop mourning the loss of her third.
“The pain of losing a baby is a pain so heavy and unique, it’s hard for others to understand if they themselves have not experienced it — much like the love for a baby that can’t fully be understood until someone experiences that, too,” she says.
While she has been blessed with three beautiful children, her heart will continue to ache for the one that didn’t make it.