October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. Until recently I’ve been telling people that I lost a son. I don’t say it much, mind you, because it is not something that easily comes up in conversation. However, when the conversation did warrant this very personal revelation, it started with the words “I lost my son.” But that is a lie. I never lost him.


I’m not here to talk about what went wrong in great detail. I’ll just tell you the facts. I was 21 weeks pregnant with a very loved and very wanted baby. He was a result of many years of “unexplained” infertility. He was our first baby. I got an ultrasound. He did not have any lung development. He never would. He would die. We could either induce labor naturally in the next week or let him be born any time after 22 weeks. If the outcome were the latter he would be required by law to be hooked up to an ECMO machine. ECMO is a short-term solution, and it came with a price. Blood thinners are essential to running ECMO, and at the time we were told that the machine would cause daily catastrophic strokes and mini heart attacks, and our son would suffer. They would have to leave our son on this machine for 100 days, and then he would die. Doctors and Specialists were flown in to counsel us. Priests were consulted. Prayers were delivered. Scientific studies were cited. Facts were explained. The doctors, specialists, priests, and the scientists cried with us. Either way we were going to have to endure the greatest loss imaginable. Either way, the decision ultimately was mine. I chose the former to spare him pain. It did not spare mine.

I lost.


I lost, but I did not lose him. In fact no one has ever been so present in my life and my world than that baby. Where did this terminology come from, “We lost a baby” or “We lost a pregnancy?” I understand that it is a benign way of summing up complicated and horrible situations. It is polite and relatively safe. I’m not going to use those words anymore, however, even though the losses are plenty.

Initially the losses were greater. I lost the ability to feel true, deep, maddening, and life altering grief. I used it all up in the months following his birth. I lost my emotional reserves. I lost the ability to look at my handsome husband and not wonder if my son would have grown up with his smile. I lost the ability to tolerate anyone looking over my shoulder. Is it because my beloved husband had to look over my shoulder at the perfect boy on the ultrasound and then again over my shoulder when we held our lifeless baby in our arms? I lost the ability to even explore why I have that peculiarity.

I lost the ability to start my day without anti-anxiety medicine. I lost the ability to ever get into any kind of debate on either side of the pro-choice or pro-life argument. What do I have to contribute? In my heart and mind I stand-alone among the shades of horrible and tragic grey, therefore, I lost my political voice. I lost my faith for many years. For the first three years motherandson2I lost my appetite. I lost 30 pounds. I lost my temper. I lost my ability to stop exercising after an hour or two… or three. I lost the ability to ever go blindly and blissfully into any situation. I lost my ability to relax. I lost my naiveté. I lost my confidence.

I lost my mind.

The losses continued. I lost the ability to look at little boys in strollers, playing t-ball, driving their first car, or holding a girl’s hand without feeling an actual, physical pain in my heart. I lost the ability to accept a compliment. When someone says something nice to me or about me I immediately feel guilty or uncomfortable. I lost the ability to have anyone hug me for too long before I become anxious. I lost the notion that I was worthy of such things.

I lost my joy and felt nothing but fear when I did get pregnant again. I lost my ability to bond with my first daughter while pregnant. Every kick inside me was blocked out. I didn’t even feel labor pains. I lost the ability to feel actual physical pain. I lost the ability to breastfeed, because I couldn’t hold her that close to me. I lost those precious moments. On 9/11, holding her as a tiny newborn, I lost the tight grip on my personal grief and grieved for others. I lost my fear of holding her. I lost track of time and held her for 3 days. I lost the notion that I somehow didn’t deserve yet another baby and got pregnant with my second daughter. I lost my mental block and felt her kicks. I lost my mental anesthetic and felt the labor pains this time.

More time passed and I lost the guilt over having these two, perfect, precious, little girls in my life. I lost my personal conviction that I didn’t deserve them. I lost my compulsion to engage in restricted eating and over exercising. I lost my resentment toward God. I lost my son’s blanket to my mother who used it as comfort during her battle with cancer. I lost my mother. I lost that continuous voice in my head that reminded me that everything bad that has happened to me was deserved. I lost my confusion as to what my purpose on this earth was: I lost all doubt that it is to be a mother to my two girls. I lost my belief that I am not a good person deserving of love.


So when I said “I lost my son.” I was wrong. I misspoke because I didn’t have the clarity that I do now. He is and has always been with me for the past 16 years. How can you lose something that is in every fiber of your being? How can you lose someone who is uniquely responsible for the trajectory your life has taken and all the blessings that have come with it? How can you lose someone who, for better or for worse, determined where you are right at this moment? Webster’s dictionary defines “lost” as “unable to be found or no longer able to be held, owned, or possessed.” I have lost many, many, things in my life but I can now, for the first time, say unequivocally:

I have not lost my son.
Anissa Bourgeacq
Anissa moved to Johnston in 2016 after living in Iowa City for more than 20 years. She has two girls, Faith (16) and Fiona (10). She and her husband, Patrick, have been married for 21 years. Anissa is a registered dietitian and works for Sanford Health. For fun she loves to clean, organize, read, and binge watch Netflix. Her vices include watching the “Real Housewives” franchises and doughnuts!


  1. Wow, Anissa. This is wonderful, and tragic, and heartfelt… I held my breath while reading it. So well written. I’m so sorry for what you experienced (I almost said ‘your loss’ there… old habits, I guess); I can’t imagine the pain. Thank you for sharing your story. <3


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