Meet MamaBird Marci!
Marci reached out to Three Little Birds in the summer of 2022, just as we were opening the Healing Nest. She wanted to donate copies of The Baby Loss Guide by Zoe Clarke-Coates to Three Little Birds, in memory of her daughter, Hope. She donated 100 copies of this book and it was distributed to visitors at our Open House in July, as well as given to all new loss families that unfortunately join the nest walking similar journeys.
When we announced our Perinatal Bereavement Training Scholarship, Marci jumped at the chance to learn how to support families like hers. In August, she was certified as a Bereavement Doula and is awaiting the chance to support a family through the many calls of support Three Little Birds provides. This March, she is co-hosting our Specialty Support Group Offering which is for families who have had to terminate their pregnancies for medical reasons. Having walked this complicated journey herself, she knows first hand the stigmas and negativity unnecessarily hurled at families from medical professionals, peers and loved ones. Read more about Marci and her journey below!
GET TO KNOW MAMABIRD MARCI!
How did you feel when you found out you were going to be a parent?
In 2017, after lots of testing and several rounds of IUI, we were blessed with a positive pregnancy test two days before Christmas. Our first born, Hannah was born that following August. I don’t think I comprehended the fact that she was mine and I was her mom for quite some time. Since we struggled with conceiving her, once she turned a year old, my husband Mike and I decided to not prevent pregnancy and to just try and keep the “whatever happens happens” mentality. To our surprise, we got pregnant fairly quickly! I was overwhelmed with shock, happiness and nervousness thinking about having two babies so close in age. I started spotting around six weeks and was sent for ultrasound where everything looked okay, just measuring small. Mid-January 2020 at 10 weeks, I was bleeding again and there was no heartbeat. “First trimester losses are common” “something was probably wrong” “was for the best” “you can try again”. All the comments don’t take away the haunting of that very still ultrasound and the feeling of emptiness of losing your baby. We didn’t know the gender, but I feel that she was a girl, our Baby B. It took about six months for me to be open to trying again. Having the thought of a sibling taken away from Hannah was what drove me to want to try again. July 2020, I was pregnant again! Excitement and fear kept me up most nights. In my mind, I just needed to get through the first trimester and our baby would be okay. I guess that’s why they say ignorance is bliss. We made it though the first trimester, but after a second round of routine blood work, the phone calls and need for more tests and scans started. Our world was turned upside down and there were impossible decisions to be made. I started calling her Hope after that first horrible phone call. I didn’t think I could feel any more sorrow than I did after losing Baby B, but this was a whole different type of darkness. We ultimately said goodbye to her October 22nd, 2020.
Tell us about when you learned Hope received a diagnosis.
It started as a call and anatomy scan because of neural tube issues. A week later, we went to CHOP for a treatment plan and an understanding of what would be needed at birth, but it just get progressively worse as the day went on - she had brain defects, heart defects, facial anomalies that impact eating and breathing, and an underlying genetic disorder that we found out about via amniocentesis. They couldn’t tell me she would survive the pregnancy or the birth. The only guaranteed the doctors could tell me was the list of surgeries she would need immediately upon delivery with no confidence that she would survive or improve her quality of life. Ultimately, I couldn’t bear to think about our baby struggling to survive inside of me and then going through so much surgery without a guarantee of life. There is this horrible stretch of time between finding out how sick your baby is and the day you end up saying goodbye. I have no memory of it. All I know is that I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I begged for her heart to just peacefully stop on her own. I didn’t want her to be in pain and I didn’t want her to have to fight anymore.
Tell us about Hope!
We named her Hope Ann. I started calling her Hope because she is our first rainbow baby (I now like to call her my rainbow in the sky). Ann is my middle name and I chose to share that with her since she only knew the sound and feeling of my heart. She was measuring tall like her daddy, was stubborn in the womb like her sister, and loved keeping me up at night with her strong movements. I didn’t get to meet or hold her. I have her footprints tattooed on my arm, her ashes kept safely in a beautiful butterfly urn, and was told she weighed 10 ounces. I cherish the 3D ultrasound I have of her, even though it was from that very sad day at CHOP. She has the cutest button nose in it and I like to think it matches her two living sisters noses. Her footprint shapes sure do!
How did your "village" support you through your loss?
My husband and I are fortunate to have family that we were able to lean on during both of our losses. Especially with all of the appointments for Hope, my parents were a huge help with caring for our oldest so we could focus on everything in the moment. It took a long time for me to truly embrace Hope’s death and to learn to trust my closest friends with our story, but I am grateful to have my select few who know every detail. I didn’t know about Three Little Birds until more recently. I only wish I could have had a community like this immediately after my loss, knowing how safe of a space they are for all baby loss.
Which Three Little Birds services or events do you like the most?
Three Little Birds doesn’t seem to miss a beat when it comes to providing opportunities for families to connect and celebrate our babies. It is very exciting to watch this organization grow and continue to provide ongoing and now new support sessions and events this coming year. I am hopeful to be able to attend more in person events and continue making connections.
What does healing look like for you? What has surprised you the most about this journey?
It has taken a lot of therapy and time for me to realize that the healing journey never ends. Each new event, milestone, accomplishment, etc, seems to be a reminder of what isn’t or what would have been. Grief and joy do coexist and being able to understand and accept that has been a huge part of my healing.
What inspired you to become a bereavement doula?
The day I was being discharged from the hospital, with my memory box and tissues, another woman was being pushed into recovery with the same purple box at the foot of her bed. Since seeing her, I have not been able to stop thinking about how many women go through this hell in a day, a week, a month. I was determined to be a part of something that helps ensure loss moms and families never have to experience baby loss alone. Even just one personal connection to someone else who has had an experience like theirs can be life changing. I want to be that person for anyone who has gone through a loss experience like mine.
What have you learned about yourself through all of this? If you could go back and be your own advocate, what would you tell yourself in those delicate moments of your loss?
I try to look back on myself and how far I have progressed from that initial darkness. I pride myself on how much I have survived and how I have learned to let go of guilt or shame. I am not the same person I was prior to my losses, and I am okay with that. I am grateful that I can tell my story, so another person doesn’t feel as alone through it all. If I could go back to my initial grief days, I would tell myself what I have told other moms in this situation: Everything you are experiencing is out of love and any choice you are making is in the best interest of your baby. You may be suffering, but your baby is not, and that makes you the greatest mother for your baby.
Now that you are certified, how do you want to advocate for others and honor your baby?
Now that I am a Certified Bereavement Doula, I want to advocate for all types of baby loss so that families know that Three Little Birds is a safe space to receive the support they need. I want families who have received life limiting diagnoses and traveled a similar path as mine to know they are welcomed in the baby loss community. For Hope’s one year anniversary in 2021 I raised money to purchase over 300 books to donate to various places in honor of her to help support parents in the grief journey. Three Little Birds was included in the donations, and I am eager to see how I can continue to honor Hope with their support in the future.