Edmonton·First Person

My baby's name is Joy. After two miscarriages, my pregnancy was anything but joyful

Determined to protect her heart, Elizabeth Tadman-Kickham's fourth pregnancy was clouded by fear and devoid of the celebration that baby — and mom — both deserved.

I was trying desperately to protect my heart but ended up torturing myself

After two miscarriages, Elizabeth Tadman-Kickham struggled to find joy during her pregnancy with her second child, Joy Margaret. (Natalie D'Aoust/Natalie D'Aoust Photography)

This is the experience of Elizabeth Tadman-Kickham, an Edmonton mom who struggled with pregnancy loss while creating the family of which she dreamedFor more information about CBC's First Person stories, please see the FAQ.

I found out I was pregnant with Joy two weeks before what should have been my due date for the second pregnancy that I'd lost. Standing in the bathroom, staring at a positive test, I began to cry. 

"I'm too scared," I told my husband. "I can't do this again."

Two kids, one dog. That had been the plan after we had our daughter Stella in the summer of 2017. When we found out that I was pregnant again two years later, we were excited. 

There were some early warning signs that perhaps the pregnancy wasn't progressing as it should, but we were reassured that I probably just wasn't as far along as I thought. 

Hand in hand, Mike and I walked into the ultrasound clinic for my eight-week scan. My only worry was that I'd pee my pants after drinking all the water recommended for the appointment. The ultrasound tech came in, snapped some images and then left to have them reviewed. 

Elizabeth, pregnant with Joy, poses for a family portrait with husband Mike Kickham, their daughter Stella and the family's chocolate Labrador retriever, Beatrix. (Lauren Dary/Lauren Dary Photography)

She did not turn on the screen. After many ultrasounds with Stella, we knew this wasn't a good sign. 

When the radiologist delivered the news, my response was a guttural sob, deep and primal. Hot tears streamed down my face as Mike led me out of the clinic. 

I miscarried at home two weeks later. 

The following spring, just as I was starting to feel like myself again, I found out I was pregnant for a third time. I gave the positive test to my little toddler and told her to take it to Daddy. We were thrilled but nervous. Anxious to jinx anything, we kept the news quiet. 

It took me many weeks to build up the courage to go see my doctor. The idea of losing another baby sent me spiralling into a panic attack. And because of the pandemic, I had to attend all medical appointments alone. 

On the day of the ultrasound, it took all of my strength to walk into the clinic. The weight of the world lifted off my shoulders when the technician turned on the screen and showed me my teeny-tiny baby, healthy heartbeat and all. Once again tears streamed down my face — this time, tears of relief. I sent Mike images marked "baby" and the video of the heartbeat we had so longed to see just months before.

Pregnant again, filled with fear

My happiness only lasted until I got home. 

"The notes on the scan indicate that there is an issue with the size of the gestational sac," came my doctor's voice on the phone. I went down a rabbit hole of Google searches that led me to understand I was going to lose this baby. My follow-up ultrasound was booked for the next week. 

I spent those days lying in bed, rubbing my belly and pleading with the universe, with this baby, to please let me be the exception. When the week was up, I willed my legs to take me up the stairs to the clinic. 

She did not turn on the screen.

"I'm sorry, there is no heartbeat," the radiologist said. I returned to the car, hysterical. I miscarried at home four days later. 

Six months later, there I was again, standing in my bathroom, pregnant for the fourth time, filled with fear. 

We told no one.

I wanted to be excited but how could I trust my body? Every slight cramp sent me into a panic and I was certain it was just a matter of time until I lost this baby too. My doctor graciously ordered me multiple emergency ultrasounds to help ease my mind. Each time I entered the room, those words — "I'm sorry there is no heartbeat" — swirled around in my head. 

I was trying desperately to protect my heart. With each milestone reached, I moved the goal posts for when I could relax. Twelve weeks. Twenty weeks. When I can feel the baby kick. I was pregnant with Joy, but I couldn't enjoy it. 

And then there was Joy, shown here held by mom Elizabeth, with sister Stella and dad Mike. (Natalie D'Aoust/Natalie D'Aoust Photography)

When I would go to bed at night and count those little kicks, the guilt would sink in. This baby deserved all of the love and attention that my pregnancy with Stella had received. All the baby bump photos, all the blog posts and all of the anticipation. 

"Don't congratulate me until I'm holding the baby in my arms," I nervously told friends and family after we'd finally shared the news. 

I thought that by preparing myself to lose her, it might not hurt as much. I know now that all I did was torture myself. 

In July 2021, two days after her due date, I gave birth to my beautiful baby girl, Joy Margaret. Mike and I sobbed as I held her tightly in my arms for the first time.

After everything we had been through, our Joy was finally here.


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Elizabeth Tadman-Kickham is a mom, wife, mediocre volleyball player and sporadic blogger from Edmonton, Alta. She is currently on maternity leave from her role as a municipal communications and marketing specialist.

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