It is such an honour to share the story of Carla and Gina, from San Diego, California and their son Luca D’oro. I have followed this beautiful family on Instagram for quite some time, and feel privileged to have a space to them in this blog series.
It’s Sunday morning, November 10th. I always thought weekend mornings were going to be so full of life and noise. This silence is not what I expected.
I met my wife six years ago. I met her and I knew that was it. At the time, I didn’t think I was in a place to receive it, but she came swooping into my life ready to show me what love was. We quickly (insert lesbian u-haul joke here) became a family of five when we merged our fur kids together. It was Gina and I and the three dogs, and life was good. Our weekend mornings consisted of coffee, a carload of dogs heading west, and playing at the beach.
We got married. We bought a house. We travelled. We lived. We loved so hard that we wanted more. Even though we weren’t completely ready to give up our relatively carefree life for the responsibility of a human baby, we felt we had so much love to give.
As lesbians looking to have a family and conceive their own children, we faced the first set of hurdles. We didn’t have any men in our life interested in readily donating their sperm, so we decided to look through various sperm banks, trying to find a donor who’s characteristics and personality traits, on paper, were as close to my wife’s as possible. In the meantime, since I was going to carry, we started going through the initial tests to check on my reproductive health. We were lucky that our insurance covered half of the procedures for inseminating. Each cycle cost $1350 for the doctor’s fees, and another $600 for one vial of sperm. My uterus looked good, all the tests came back indicating we were in a position to conceive, even though at the ripe old age of 36, I was considered to be of advanced maternal age. Sigh.
We finalized our pick for the donor of our child, and got giddy to start the next phase of the journey with transvaginal ultrasounds (yee haw!), ovarian stimulating hormones, more ultrasounds, trigger shots, and ultimately, the insemination.
I remember the excitement that day of the first IUI. This was it! We were going to be starting our family. This could be the day our child was conceived. In this sterile room with fluorescent lighting, my legs in stirrups and Gina at my side, our new life was going to start.
Now for the two-week wait of thinking every twinge is conception happening. Googling every possible symptom I had and finding out it could mean I was pregnant. Turns out, pregnancy symptoms are identical to PMS symptoms. Crap. We bought pregnancy tests, waiting for the two weeks to finally be over and on the 14th day we tested.
One line. We weren’t pregnant.
It’s hard to understand when you want something so bad, and you think you are doing absolutely everything in your power, when you have spent so much time preparing, and it doesn’t happen. Especially pregnancy. When it feels like every woman around you is pregnant, or has a baby in their arms, it’s hard not to take it personally.
We tried another cycle. Negative again. The stress was overwhelming. We had heard from other couples that trying to conceive was such a rollercoaster. We decided to take a break. We escaped the West Coast and headed to NYC for some fun with friends. We let go of some stress and pumped ourselves for the next cycle: ultrasounds, clomid, ultrasounds, trigger shot, insemination.
And at 2:30 am of a Saturday in July, I peed on a stick and watched as the second pink line appeared. We were pregnant. This was going to happen. We were going to be mothers. Our family was going to grow. We were going to show this little person of ours the world.
Month after month I grew, and we excitedly announced to our friends on National Coming Out Day that we were going to be welcoming a child into our family. The outpouring of love and support from our community was so beautiful. Our village was so excited that this kid was moving in.
And we were going to have a little boy! We were so happy, just awaiting his arrival. I practiced yoga, ate well, went to breastfeeding meetings, took birthing classes. Our son was coming into this world with two mamas, and we were going to be his.
At 39 weeks and 1 day, our beautiful Luca D’oro was born. And everything turned horribly wrong.
I was rushed into an emergency cesarean, and when they removed him from my womb, he wasn’t breathing. The doctors resuscitated him, put him on machines to help him breathe, and soon found out he had no brain function, and determined he would never be able to breathe on his own.
I was so sick from a complication with the cesarean, that I couldn’t meet Luca until I was well enough myself. And when I was finally stabilized and able to meet him, they removed our son from all the life support, dressed him in the clothes we expected to bring him home from the hospital in, and placed him in Gina and my arms. We held onto him while he passed away. He died amidst my pleas for him to stay. I asked him not to go, but he couldn’t hold on.
And when he died, all the dreams we had for him, for our own life with him, died too.
At the end of the hospital stay, the nurses rolled me outside with a bouquet of flowers and a teddy bear in my hands. They helped my wife get me into our station wagon, the station wagon we had bought for our growing family. The car seat I had installed weeks before was in the back. As we drove home, I looked at it in agony. We arrived home to all of his things ready for him. I looked at his cloth diapers, clothes, blankets, all of his things that we had been collecting, that our friends had been giving us for his arrival. I screamed these guttural primal screams for my son. I screamed for the child I had carried for nine months who was supposed to be in my arms. I wondered if the neighbors would call the cops on us for the screams that were coming out of our house; sounds I had never made or heard before. But they didn’t.
I lay in bed sobbing for days, for what felt like weeks and maybe months, with this enormous scar on my belly and this huge piece of me missing. For the rest of my life, I will only ever have those moments in my memory of him moving inside me, and of kissing him as he passed away in my arms.
Luca D’oro, our golden light. He has been gone eight months now, and the pain is as fresh as it was that moment I had to say goodbye to him.
Gina and I are baby-loss mamas, and we learned that both fortunately and unfortunately, we are not alone. We belong to a small statistic of women. Many of us have no idea why our children died. They just did, and we have to live with it for the rest of our lives. So many of us were getting ready to begin the novel of our child’s life, and instead, every page got ripped out of the book before we even sat down to write it.
Still, we are mothers. I held Luca in my womb for nine months. We held him in our arms as he took his last breaths. He was. Ours.
As we wonder what the future has in store for us, and we figure out how to maneuver this world without our son, we remember him every day. We do what we can to honor him and keep his presence known in our lives, and in our community. Baby loss is not a comfortable topic for anyone. Babies aren’t supposed to die, and thankfully, most people don’t ever have to endure the pain of losing a child.
But we exist out here in the world. And our stories must be told. Because even in the midst of this deep and painful grief, there is still joy in what we looked forward to, what we had, and what this beautiful little boy has meant in our lives.
This post was originally shared on Mutha Magazine.
This post is shared as part of the #LGBTBabyLoss Blog Series. To read more, or to submit your own experiences, visit the LGBT Baby Loss Blog Series homepage here.