Birth Stories

A Fertility Journey: Melissa Harness, Angel No. 5

This story was written by Melissa Harness, who has suffered through five miscarriages. She has carried eight pregnancies, given birth to three healthy children, and lost five angels. She wants to tell her story to “give a voice to all those that have suffered in silence behind closed doors … who have hid their tears and tried to put a smile on their face when they just want to collapse.”

“We need to normalize loss and grief, ” Melissa says. “We shouldn’t be hidden away or forced to deal with this. We all grieve differently and we need to openly support each other in these times of loss.”


I said positive affirmations. I had more people praying for us than I can even count. This baby defied all the odds. You were so strong. We were told we would lose you so many times, but each time you proved that wrong. Each time my love grew stronger and I knew you’d make it through … until the day I knew you wouldn’t.

At our ultrasound appointment, we heard a tiny heart beating 119 times a minute. The moment the sound came on, I burst into tears. I couldn’t even hold the phone steady to record video for Eddie since he was unable to get off work. The nurse so kindly took my phone and helped me. I was overwhelmed with joy. The sweet sound of your beating heart made it all worth it. Loss after loss after loss. After three losses, we had Bryson, so we know it’s possible to conceive a healthy child. But why all the losses. We were told to come back in a few weeks for a repeat ultrasound. The yolk sac was still measuring large but maybe it would go away in a few weeks. We waited … the waiting is horrible. You dwell on the what ifs, you push yourself to remain positive and go about your normal life. Be a good mom to the other kids, be a good wife, go to work, put a smile on your face, but inside you’re a wreck. Loss changes you. Each loss has changed me differently. I proceeded to our repeat ultrasound on Monday, May 6, 2019. I had Bryson with me. Eddie had to work.

Melissa and her three children.

I purchased a baby giraffe with a heartbeat recorder the day before the appointment. Eddie hadn’t had the opportunity to hear our baby’s heart beating due to work conflicts. They pointed out the baby and were able to pick up a beat here and there, nothing consistent. I knew that moment that something wasn’t right. We made excuses, trying to hold on to the hope we had been given. This was an abdominal ultrasound … I’m early … my bladder wasn’t full … The sonographer was either picking my heart beat up (not sure if that’s possible), or picked up the last few beats of our baby’s heart as he/she faded away.

Onto the repeat ultrasound. As we waited an hour after our appointment time, we were finally brought into the dimly lit room where the fate of our baby would be revealed. Ugh, my stomach was in knots. I sat Bryson on the chair next to the bed. I undressed from the waist down and covered up with a sheet. Early ultrasounds are usually done vaginally. I looked forward to a clearer picture of our baby, and I grabbed the recorder so I was ready when we listened to the heart. My heart was beating so fast, my eyes fixated on the screen as I waited. Nothing. The blood flow was showing up, but not inside the uterus. There was no flicker. She tried and tried. She gave me a smile and told me the doctor would be in. I feel sorry for those girls. It must be so tough to see those things. I didn’t shed a tear. I knew it was coming. The doctor came in holding my chart close to her and told me, “I’m afraid I don’t have good news.” I told her we expected this at some point. We were instructed to head to the birthing center to discuss our next steps with the midwives. We were greeted with the familiar faces who had helped me through Bryson’s birth, and had been there for our last miscarriage a year ago in March. Hugs. They helped. I still was in shock? Maybe? I hadn’t cried yet. A script for Cytotec was called in, and I was instructed on what to expect. The next few days were not going to be easy. I walked out to my car and called work to tell them I’d need to take off and get through this at home. Severe cramping, backache, heavy bleeding and passing tissue was not going to happen at my job. Not to mention the emotional trauma of going through this. As I prepared to leave the hospital parking lot, I caught a glance of my pregnant belly … ugh.

You were there, then you weren’t anymore. I put my hand on my belly and cried. I didnt think I’d ever stop. I cried for the pain my heart was feeling. I cried because I heard your heart beating. I cried because I just didn’t understand God’s plan. Why??!!! Why give us hope just to take it away!? Bryson kept asking, “Mommy, what’s wrong? Why you cry?” I just kept telling him, “I’m OK.” But I wasn’t. I texted Eddie. No words can describe the feelings you go through. Finally, after we settled in at home, and decided to start the process. Mom picked up Carter and we got Bryson some toys to distract him. I went into the bathroom and stared at the three little white pills that would bring this journey to an end. I cried more. I can’t believe it’s over. Just like that your gone. Another loss … my new number is five. Five angels in heaven. I used to look back on my patients’ charts and feel so bad when I would see a mama pregnant six, seven, eight times and (with) maybe one child … how could they go on? How did they do it?? Here I stand … eight pregnancies … three children … five angels. I took a deep breath, said a little prayer asking God for peace and comfort and inserted the pills.

I walked out and sat on the couch awaiting my worst fears. Eddie and I watched TV, talked, tried to pass the time. After only a few short hours my back started to ache. Soon after, the cramping started. It became more intense. I couldn’t sit still, a heating pad wasn’t helping, so I went into the bathroom to sit in a tub of warm water. As I undressed, I felt something warm trickle down my leg … I heard drops hit the floor. My hell was beginning.

I sat in the bath for quite some time. It eased the cramping and pain. When I stood up to get out, another gush as I lowered myself to sit on the toilet. Large clots had fallen out. To look or not to look. I was scared to see my baby, formed … forever imprinted in my memory. Just clots and nothing more … that’s all I saw. I cleaned myself up best I could and got dressed. We went to bed soon after. I was up and down numerous times through the night. One big gush soaked through my clothing and onto the bed … a reminder this morning of what will never be.

Melissa and family.

I got up and showered again. More gushes, more clots … more feelings of sadness and confusion. With the others I had D and Cs (dilation and curettage) … I went to sleep, I woke up and besides a small amount of spotting, it was over. It was hard emotionally but nothing like this. I opted to go this route. This was my choice. I had an assignment (optional, luckily) due last night. I couldn’t do it … I couldn’t even think straight.

The process continued until my uterus was completely empty. The fullness in my belly that I so eagerly embraced was now fading away slowly. My breasts hurt. I know what’s next. No one prepared me with our first loss. My milk came in. A few days after our loss, I woke up to find my T-shirt soaked. My body knows I had the baby, but it doesn’t know they passed. My body is still trying to produce milk and nourish my baby. I relive the trauma of my loss as my body takes the steps to care for my little one. I’ll go through this again. People have asked me so many times, “When will you stop? When will you say enough is enough and quit putting yourself through this!?” To you, this is my answer: “We have Bryson. We know what God can do. We believe in miracles. We have one running around our house right now. We aren’t giving up. Our journey has taken a long time and been so very hard, but if we are meant to have another child it will happen.”

Rainbow baby, Bryson.

I’m just focusing on breathing today. Trying to take in what has happened and move forward. Trying not to let this lost feeling consume me. Trying not to feel broken in this mess. A friend recently told me that the God of the Mountain is also the God of the Valley … so very true. I will lean on him in these times of frustration and sadness. We aren’t meant to understand … you just have to have faith. I sit here on the couch writing this … using this as my therapy to work through the loss of my baby. I’m searching for a tattoo in memory of all the babies we have lost along the way. When I find the right one and it’s the right time, I’ll know. For right now, I just have to breathe and trust in God. Thank you to everyone that has been a part of this journey with us. We can’t thank you enough for all your kind words, prayers, thoughts and so on. We will get through this, too. One day at a time. Fly high sweet angel, mommy and daddy will see you again one day.

Written by Melissa Harness

Uncategorized

Finding Myself in Motherhood: The Transition Away From Work

My whole heart

If you had asked me two years ago if I thought I’d keep working after our second baby was born, my answer would have been a resounding, “Of course! I’m not the stay-at-home mom type.” I never thought there was anything “wrong” with being a stay-at-home mom, I just KNEW that wasn’t the path for me. I would have told you that I valued my autonomy, independence, and work life too much to give it up. I would have had the certainty of a politician, and I’d have been overly confident in my decision.

Fast forward to today and I’ve been a stay-at-home mom for seven months and I finally (read: barely) feel like I’m settling into this new role, which is why I’m writing this post. Writing this all down is an attempt to hold on to the fleeting feeling that I have settled in comfortably to this life I’ve found myself in. If you’re a parent—and even if you’re not, even if you just care about something deeply in this world and put forth an immense amount of effort every day to do the best you can to care for it—you’ll understand why I want to hold onto this feeling. Not every day is punctuated by the perception that I’m doing a good job in this life. Some days are littered with frustration, irritability, and fear that I’m completely screwing up our kids.

Berry Picking

As I reflect on the last seven months, there are a few key things that stand out as absolutely essential to thriving in this role. These are my non-negotiables, if you will, and must remain a part of my focus if I want to excel and be the best mom, wife, friend, daughter, PERSON, I can be. These are MY essentials, and they may not be yours. I encourage everyone to find what it is that will help them be their best in their own lives.

Realizing I’m not the only one making sacrifices.

This is a big one. And it’s the ONLY way for me to avoid the monster known as resentment.

My husband Chad said something to me recently that really resonated: “It’s healthy to change your mind.” Although he wasn’t referring to my decision to quit working, that’s what it made me think about because, truthfully, I knew I wanted to leave work long before I finally bit the bullet and quit. I felt the tug at my heart and the call of my family to be with them as much as possible, but work was such an enormous part of my life, and I was so scared at the thought of giving it up. So scared at changing my longstanding belief that I would always remain in the workforce, even through motherhood.

Unlike a lot of people, I loved my job at CrossFit. I loved the company, and I believed in and stood behind its mission. Of course, this didn’t make leaving any easier. I had been employed by CrossFit for more than six years, and my job offered flexibility, autonomy, community, even workout space. I had an unrivaled benefit package, worked from home, made my own hours (mostly), and adored (most of) my co-workers. Quitting seemed stupid, but that didn’t change the fact that the desire to do just that was growing everyday.

When I tell people I left the workforce to stay home with the kids, almost always their response is something along the lines of, “Wow, you’re so lucky you can do that. That’s so special.”

Living in coastal California, where housing—and everything else—isn’t exactly cheap, I started to realize how lucky I truly was. And I started to wonder, was this luck? Or rather a result of extreme sacrifice on the part of Chad? Turns out, it was the latter.

Ellis, Chad, and Isla

Depending on your desires in this life, you’ll either view my decision to quit working as “lucky” or as having made a huge sacrifice myself in giving up my career. I view it as both. Chad selflessly encouraged me to leave my job for months before I actually did. He saw the stress I was under, which was mostly produced internally, and he watched me crumble at the feeling that I was being pulled in two different directions.

It wasn’t until our nanny unexpectedly quit that I decided to take him up on his longstanding offer. In doing so, I shifted the burden of our family’s entire financial stability completely onto his shoulders.

Chad is a helicopter pilot. He works for CalStar and has an awesome schedule that allows him to have every other week off. Only now, his “off” weeks aren’t really off weeks. In the past two years, he has built an impressive real-estate portfolio that has allowed him to produce cash flow through purchasing properties in other parts of the US. Additionally, he is working in various roles with the company, Cash Flow Tactics, which helped him discover this new way of creating income. Even further, he cashed in on every privilege he was able to for the time he spent in the military—9-and-a-half years, and 4 tours overseas—which included financial benefits and other perks. He’s essentially created streams of income from nothing, coming in from all different directions.

Chad’s sacrifices to date include: the total freedom of his off week, the ease that comes with knowing we have a double income, and countless hours that he could be spending doing things he loves—surfing, hanging out with the kids and I, traveling. I’d also argue that he literally gave up some of his brain space because I know from being around him that financial freedom and security consume large parts of his mind nowadays.

While we still get a lot of family time because we are diligent about it, Chad has undoubtedly immersed himself in his new role: the sole financial provider for our family. And that is some heavy shit.

Chad and the kids—BEACH DAY

In recognizing and acknowledging the sacrifices he’s made, I’m able to practice empathy for him and his position as well as my own. In addition to all he does, he is still an extremely involved father, and helps me around the house everyday, which does not go unnoticed. Shout out to my husband, he’s amazing.

Learning to meditate.

I am a person of routine. I like order, predictability, and schedules. I like when things go as planned and I’m generally not super spontaneous. Well, my life is an illustration of none of that right now. Literally, not one single thing. Three and 1-year-olds are not orderly or predictable. They couldn’t give a shit about your “schedule,” and they are probably the most spontaneous beings there are out there: “We’re going here?” “Great!” “We’re going there?” “Let’s go!” Literally, they are game for anything.

I’ve learned over the past several months through mindfulness meditation that our consciousness shapes our reality. Just my saying that I’m a person who likes routine literally destroys any chance I may have at being someone who can roll with the punches. So I had to change my mind.

Ellis and I

Using an app called “Waking Up,” I’ve found meditation helpful in bringing me back to the present and acknowledging who I am today, in this moment. If the day goes as planned, great. And if it doesn’t? There’s a phrase that is used often in mindfulness mediation: Begin again. Ellis didn’t take his nap on time? I aim to to regroup and roll with it. Isla is having a full-on toddler meltdown when I’m just trying to take her to do something fun for her? I try to compose myself before comforting her, and begin again. And sometimes I don’t begin again until I’ve already lost my temper. And then I just begin again once I recognize that. It’s been a truly magical saying when spending lots of time with our two littles. This shift in mindset is necessary for me to maintain sanity and truly enjoy the moments I get with my family.

I’m obviously not perfect. I am not always in the present moment, I don’t always have the patience to begin again, and I lose my cool often. But another lesson I have taken from meditation is that it is a “practice.” Some people say they can’t meditate because they think too much and they can’t ever stop thoughts from arising in their minds. The goal—the practice—of meditation is to recognize those thoughts and the fact that they’re occurring, and then come back to the present moment—that’s what you’re practicing. You’ll never stop having thoughts. So for me, raising the kids is a practice in which I’m always striving to be better and more present, mindful, empathic, and aware.

Maintaining my “job” brain and satisfying a passion.

When I decided to quit my job, it was really important to me to maintain some way in which I could still use my “job” brain. I wanted to be sure to keep my skills as a writer and an editor sharp, while also doing something I felt passionate about. While still working for CrossFit, I started a side copy-editing business as a way to make some extra money, and because I felt the urge to start something that was just my own. My entrepreneurial spirit was awakening.

I was really gung-ho about the business at first—Written Word Copy Editing at your service! But I soon realized that it wasn’t in fact editing that I was passionate about; it was CrossFit. I studied communications with a focus on media and journalism, and specifically writing and editing, at Cal State University Monterey Bay. Writing and editing are in my skill set, and I do enjoy making writing the best it can be, but I came to realize that the reason I enjoyed my job so much is because I love CrossFit. It was the content I was working with that filled my passion. So today, I do some writing and editing for businesses in the CrossFit space, but I found a new project that truly fills both voids: the need to use my learned skill set, and fulfill one of my passions at the same time. Enter The BIRTH Project.

My motivation

The BIRTH Project is the blog you’re reading this on right now. Here, I publish birth stories written by parents. The idea stemmed from my seeing many friends come away from their birthing experiences feeling defeated because things didn’t go as “planned.” Maybe they had c-sections when a vaginal birth was desired, maybe they ended up with an epidural when they were hoping for an unmedicated experience. Whatever the case may be, it was heartbreaking to see them feeling as though they had failed in some way. So I wanted to create a safe space to tell and celebrate their stories.

Today, The BIRTH Project has evolved into a space where I hold online meet-ups on topics around pregnancy, birth, and motherhood. Chad calls me an “information broker” and I love that. The project will grow organically, and at its own pace, since I am taking care of two small kids, and some days, I have zero seconds to dedicate to it. And I’m totally fine with that.

Always learning.

So that’s it. Those things, for me, have been the essentials to settling into this new life—so far. Everyday I find that there are more and more habits that support me in this new endeavor. The real goal is to be the best version of me—for my kids, my family, my friends, and myself.

When I started this post the goal was to write about the transition from working mom to “stay-at-home mom” (side note: If anyone has a better term than “stay-at-home mom,” please send it my way!) But as my thoughts unfolded, I realized it’s about so much more than that. It’s about how this simple transition from working to not led me to so many other, more profound transitions. It’s about how the pursuit of motherhood has led me to strive to be the best I can be everyday, and to realize and acknowledge my potential. Motherhood has taught me so much about myself already, and it continues to change my mind everyday about who I thought I was before I experienced it.

More berries!

Below are a few additional efforts I’ve recently taken as I navigate this life. These may appear to be honorable mentions, but I can’t express enough how they’ve helped me in this journey.

Reading: When I was working for CrossFit, I didn’t read for pleasure too much because I read articles, rulebooks, social-media posts, etc., all day long. I’ve fallen back in love with reading and it is a wonderful way to unwind and learn.

Choosing sobriety 90 percent of the time: My life is better without alcohol in it. Period. It’s that simple. It’s not to say I won’t have a glass of champagne on New Year’s Eve, or a glass of wine on occasion, but limiting alcohol consumption has proven very beneficial for me.

Cutting back on social media: I allow myself 30 min. per day on social media. I think it’s a great tool and I enjoy it. I also think it can be addicting and distracting, and take too much awareness away from our days. Our kids don’t remember a time when social media didn’t exist. We do, and I believe we have a responsibility to teach them how to live a full life without it.

Working out in our home gym: If you know me, you know I love the gym. With two small kiddos, it’s a real chore to get there everyday, so Chad and I have started utilizing our home gym and we are loving it. Feels like the day is three hours longer.

Podcasts and books that have helped me along the way as I pursue my best self.

Books: The Trauma Spectrum: Hidden Wounds and Human Resiliency, Like a Mother: A Feminist Journey Through the Science and Culture of Pregnancy, The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober: Discovering a happy, healthy, wealthy alcohol-free life, How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence, Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone

Podcasts: The Tim Ferriss Show, Finding Mastery, HOME Podcast, The Modern Mamas Podcast, The Tribe Life Podcast.