Denard: Farm dog brings healing when needed most

Like so many couples, Courtney and her husband experienced miscarriage when trying to grow their family

Courtney and her husband Rob experienced two miscarriages in 2015. A year later, their healing journey continued with a new farm dog by their side.

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So, we have this farm dog and her name is June.

June came to us just a few short weeks before Christmas in 2015 and like all special animals that eventually take up space in your heart; she arrived exactly when we needed her.

I remember the day clearly. I remember where I was standing in my bedroom and how I was leaning against my dresser when a girlfriend called and said, “I found these two dogs for sale. I want to get them. I’ll have one and you guys have the other.”

I remember telling my friend yes immediately, which was a surprise even to me. I had never liked dogs, never wanted a dog and basically spent my days trying to avoid dogs wherever possible.

But I said yes because I had news of my own that I needed to share and it wasn’t good.

Mother’s Day 2016 was tough but June was always close by with a smile.

Earlier that year, my husband and I decided we wanted to start a family. We’d been together for nine years and married for five. We’d done a lot of travelling and back home on the farm, our succession plan with my in-laws was in place.

Life seemed pretty stress free and since we weren’t getting any younger we figured 2015 was a good a year as any to have a baby.

I had it all sorted in my head. I even timed it perfectly to coincide with the end of harvest. A November baby we would have and when I got pregnant right away, I was thrilled, maybe even a little smug, that my plan was falling into place so easily.

Looking back now, I think it was that unshakable certainty that everything was going to work out that left me so unprepared for what happened.

I find it difficult to express the level of shock I went through when I realized I was losing the baby. I didn’t know what to do, I didn’t know whom to tell and I didn’t know whom to not tell if that makes any sense.

All I remember thinking was why didn’t anyone inform me that this might happen.

I thought about this as my husband and I sat in the emergency room for hours waiting to be seen by a doctor but miscarriage, as it turns out, isn’t always at the top of the triage system, especially in an underserviced small town hospital.

Eventually out of sheer exhaustion, we decided to go home. I knew there was nothing the doctors could do anyway so back to the farm we drove. Back to the cows, back to the chores that still needed to be done and back to a life that no longer included our November baby.

June was the star of the couple’s birth announcement in 2017. A few months later, a healthy baby girl was welcomed into the family.

The second time my husband and I decided to get pregnant, I had done my reading.

I now knew that miscarriage is the most common complication of early pregnancy, the rate being 10-25 per cent among women who know they are pregnant. I knew that weeks zero to six were the most risky and that by week 12, the risk can fall as low as five per cent.

When we got pregnant with our second baby, we told everyone right away. I knew there was a chance of losing this baby too but I could not handle another round of sad and awkward phone calls that started with “we were pregnant and now we’re not” and ended with “well, at least you weren’t that far along.”

This time the baby was due in June.

About six weeks into my second pregnancy, I started experiencing a lot of pain and I mean a lot. I went to my doctor who told me to my face that I was “just anxious” and everything was fine. I did not agree.

A quick ultrasound, however, proved that the baby was healthy and growing so this time we drove back to the farm feeling relieved, still scared out of our minds, but also relieved.

The pain didn’t stop, though, so over the next weeks, I tried to manage as best I could telling myself everything would be okay. I spent a lot of time pacing back and forth alone in our farmhouse holding a hot water bottle while my husband worked night and day harvesting corn.

I experienced terrible morning sickness during my second pregnancy and this might sound strange but it was actually comforting. It meant I was still pregnant.

The morning my girlfriend called to happily ask me if we wanted a new farm dog, I had zero nausea. None. It was there one minute and then suddenly it was gone so after I told her we would take the dog I confessed that I didn’t think I was pregnant anymore.

I was panicked. I was terrified. I was in my second trimester.

The doctors told us we experienced a missed miscarriage, which happens when the pregnancy stops progressing but your body doesn’t show any signs.

Funnily enough, that was one of the terms I hadn’t come across in all of my research on reproduction. I mean, how could I have missed that one?

For a second time in one year, my husband and I left a hospital without a baby

Little did I know it at the time, but a certain farm dog was about to come into our lives and play a big role in a grieving period that I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy.

We decided to name her June after the month our second baby was supposed to be born. To some it might seem like that would be a sad reminder, but here’s the thing about pregnancy loss, you don’t need to a reminder to be sad. It’s always with you.

Bringing June home and into our family just before Christmas that year helped us get through some of our darkest days. Yes, my therapist and an online miscarriage organization called Tommy’s helped a lot too but that dog saved me.

She made me get out of bed to go for walks around the farm and she made me feel less alone in what I can only describe as the most isolating experience of my life. And June was still by my side a year and a half later when we got pregnant for a third time and went on to deliver a healthy baby girl thanks to some amazing doctors and modern medicine.

In the middle of the constant appointments and endless anxiety that came with my third pregnancy, June was a reminder that sometimes the most unexpected things in life turn out to be some of the best things. In our case, it just so happened to be a farm dog that a friend bought for us on one of the hardest days of our lives.

In Canada, and around the world, October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month with a special day of remembrance observed on Oct. 15.

According to Statistics Canada, up to one in four women will suffer a miscarriage and every year, there are more than 3,000 stillbirths across the country.

If you, or someone you know, have been touched by pregnancy and infant loss, there are resources available through the Pregnancy and Infant Loss Network out of Sunnybrook hospital. More information can be found at www.pailnetwork.sunnybrook.ca.

Further resources can be found at www.October15.ca and www.Tommys.org.

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