36-year-old Shweta Jacob knew she was ready to start a family three years after marrying the love of her life, Sheehan. She’d had enough time to bond with her husband, focus on her career and pay off her loans and debts. The couple had just bought their first home and was excited to begin filling up those bedrooms.
When Shweta became pregnant in 2006 she was elated. She told everyone and was able to share her pregnancy joys with many of her friends who happened to be pregnant at the same time. At her 20 week ultrasound, her baby girl, as she had found out, was healthy, active and strong. Years prior, Shweta and her husband had decided that if they ever had a daughter, her name would be Maya. Sheehan even made a promise list of things he’d always do for his daughter throughout her whole life, in anticipation of meeting his little girl.
Then, at Shweta’s 23 week doctor’s appointment, the nurse could not locate a heartbeat. Shweta was immediately sent for an ultrasound. After much confusion and commotion, her doctor finally confirmed what she already knew: there was no heartbeat and her baby had died. Shweta broke down and felt as though she was somehow to blame. The doctor called Sheehan and he rushed over from work, walked into the office and heard Shweta’s apologetic sobs.
The doctors knew Maya needed to come out as soon as possible so they induced labor and Shweta went home in shock and called her family.
Shweta remembers, “My mom was at work at the time. She runs out, rushes home, packs a bag and gets in the car…driving four hours from Ottawa, in the dark and in winter, all alone, to be with me.”
The next day, Shweta went into labor and delivered her baby girl. Both she and Sheehan already knew Maya was the perfect name as it meant illusion and seemed appropriate.
“We held and kissed our baby and cried. The day before, I had been a happy pregnant woman. Then, I was the mom of a stillborn baby. Going home empty handed from the hospital.” Two days after giving birth, as Shweta was mentally preparing for the aftermath of informing family and friends, she realized her bra was soaked and her milk had come in. She says, “I remember wrapping my breasts in ice packs willing them to stop lactating. It was such a horrible crushing blow. Why didn’t my body understand what had happened?”
While her friends were out buying cribs for their nurseries, Shweta was buying an urn for Maya’s ashes. Going to the cemetery and seeing her baby girl in a tiny coffin was extremely painful and Shweta remembers watching them put her baby in the incinerator as her husband flipped the switch to ignite the fire for the cremation. “I can still feel the heat of the flames on my face, and remember the smell. I collapsed to the ground in uncontrollable tears.”
Shweta remembers going into a dark depression and says as she was emerging from it, she noticed her husband was becoming withdrawn. Sheehan no longer had to stay strong for his wife and was able to let go and fully grieve.
In the aftermath of Maya’s passing, Shweta dealt with many emotions and reactions from her own community. In an attempt to console her, people would say things such as ‘You’re still young, try again’, ‘it’s because you argue too much with your husband’ or ‘is it because you’re so tiny?’ This last comment left her wondering if it was her fault.
Perhaps she wasn’t built to bear children or maybe it was that warm bath she took during her pregnancy.
She says, “Hearing these comments I wanted to SCREAM! I wanted to hit someone! But I never did. I would silently nod, walk away and cry.”
After coming out of the darkness, both Shweta and her husband found they were pregnant eight months later. With much trepidation, they tried to remain upbeat and positive for pregnancy number two. Midway through the pregnancy, they learned that the baby, a boy this time, would have Down syndrome. That did not sway their determination to become parents. Then they were told he had a heart defect and brain malformation and that he would likely not survive to term. A week later, the baby had passed away and labour had to be induced. She couldn’t believe this was happening all over again.
“I remember after giving birth I was holding my mom’s hand and I said ‘Mama, bass. Please no more,‘ said Shweta. “I can only imagine how painful that must have been for my mom. Being so helpless and having to watch her youngest child go through so much pain.”
They named their son Noah and had to repeat the steps for his funeral, as they had for Maya. After much genetic testing, and being told there was nothing wrong with either Shweta or her husband, she became frustrated. There was no wrong moment or action. Shweta had simply endured two rounds of bad luck, as the doctor called it. There was no guarantee that it couldn’t happen again.
Many people gave her advice and opinions and for the most part, friends and family were supportive and understanding. However, Shweta remembers one instance that made her withdraw even further into herself.
“I was telling a friend about how down I was and she said ‘you know Shweta, it’s been three months now. It’s time for you to get over it.’ I felt like I had been punched in the stomach. I felt so stupid. Why was I burdening her with my problems?”
This roller coaster of emotions made Shweta realize she needed a break. She began to avoid certain social situations, quit Facebook and only spend time with close family and friends. She says, “I felt like all of my friends were joining the “mommy club” and it was as if my membership had been revoked.”
Feelings of envy and anger overtook Shweta and after Noah’s loss, both she and Sheehan knew they needed a distraction.
Sheehan and Shweta bought another house and proceeded to renovate it from the ground up. This project was the perfect team building exercise. After getting renovations underway and giving themselves some time to heal, the couple decided to give it one more try. After hosting a Canada Day barbeque, with their friends, family, and lots of food and drinks, Shweta realized a few short days later she was pregnant.
She approached her third pregnancy with caution and determination. Going on partial bed rest for the latter part of the pregnancy helped her steer clear of stressful situations and Shweta made a conscious decision to enjoy her pregnancy, regardless of the outcome.
At 38 ½ weeks, doctors decided that she should have a c-section and six and a half pound Mia was born.
Mia is a source of happiness and inspiration for Shweta, Sheehan and their families. She says they feel like they have won the lottery. “I hope she always feels loved and appreciated,” said Shweta. “I hope she looks back on her childhood as happy years with parents who loved her.”
“I hope she is smart, strong and kind. I hope she knows that she can always count on her parents to be there for her. I hope she’s not afraid of failure. I hope her days are filled with laughter. I hope one day she thinks of me as her friend, but first and foremost I hope she thinks of me as a loving mother.”
Shweta says she has no plans to conceive again. She is happy with Mia being an only child who can get her undivided attention and resources.
She often hears many judgments and opinions in her South Asian community at the thought of intentionally making her daughter an only child however Shweta admits that she is not prepared to go through the gamble of another pregnancy.
“Not a day goes by that I don’t think of Maya and Noah, and trust that they are watching over their baby sister. I want to give her everything I couldn’t give them. I want to make her happy for them. I appreciate her so much and never take her for granted. I am very thankful for her, and consider her to be a gift.
She and my husband are my number one priorities and I love my little family.”
Shweta, Sheehan and Mia live in Toronto and spend their days enjoying every moment of each other’s time.
You can read Shweta’s blog here: www.switchingitup.wordpress.com