Mom to Baby August, Lost December 22nd, 2009 at 8 weeks
and Baby February, Lost July 22nd, 2010 at 11 weeks
I can’t say I am one of those women who have always wanted to be a mom. In fact, before my husband and I got married, we often envisioned our lives together as free and roaming the world. That all changed on Christmas Eve of 2008 as I held my cousin’s newborn baby in my arms. Somehow this tiny little girl reached deep into my heart and pulled a string that I didn’t even know existed. I wanted it and I wanted it bad. At first I tried to ignore it. After all, I had put a lot if effort into dreaming up a life without children. But babies seemed to be following me everywhere. Babies on Fischer-Price commercials. Pregnant women pushing their bright red shopping carts in Target. Babies cooing in radio ads for the local hospital. Even women clamoring to be the next to hold the baby during a wake. Yes, I had Baby Fever.
Despite my newfound baby-mania, I thought it would be a while before I held my own little one close to my chest. I had just graduated college, and my husband was still in school. In June of 2009 I left town with my parents for a family vacation while my husband stayed home for school. I got a phone call from him while sweltering in the back of a van crammed with bags, coolers, and road games for my 5 year old niece. He had landed a job that exceeded any pay salary we would ever have expected before he graduated. We would be able to start our own family!
One night in August of 2009, as I sat in my pajamas ready for bed, I took my last birth control pill. I ran my finger over all the empty, clear plastic shells, knowing that this was the beginning of a new chapter in my life. A sense of inexplicable, foreboding sadness filled my heart. It should have been my sign of the struggles that lay ahead.
Since we were “not preventing”, but not really trying, I assumed it would take us several months to get pregnant. That’s why in November, when my period did not show as expected, I really didn’t think much about it. After all, my cycle before had been super short, so I didn’t think much of this one being a little long. I decided to take a digital pregnancy test just in case, but not hoping for much. I waited until I heard the door close shut behind my husband and the keys turn as he left for school before I got out of bed. Half asleep, I dug a nearly forgotten about test out of the depths of my linen closet and peed on a stick. I glanced through bleary eyes at the display window and saw a little hourglass pop up on the screen. I shrugged, placed the test on my nightstand, and went back to bed. I knew I had to wait a few minutes, but must have fallen asleep. When I looked back at the clock, I realized ten minutes had passed. I lazily reached across the bed and grabbed the pregnancy test.
PREGNANT. I jolted up in bed in disbelief. I must have stared at it for two minutes in utter shock before a smile snuck into the corner of my lips and dragged them from ear to ear. I hopped up and threw my skinny jeans on (after all, I wouldn’t be able to wear them much longer) and got ready to go to a nearby party store. There, I bought a bouquet of balloons and met my husband at class. When he came out and saw the pink and blue balloons, he shouted from across the campus “ARE YOU SERIOUS?!?!?!” He ran and picked me up, twirling in the air. I felt like a glamorous Hollywood starlet. He proclaimed to the world, “I’m going to be a dad!” I’ve never heard him so proud.
It wasn’t long after that day before the dread started sinking in. I think I knew deep down that I was going to lose that baby. At first I had hesitations about telling people. However, I kept reading about all these cute ideas about how to tell people you’re pregnant, and everybody in my family had told before the urine dried on the stick. I vividly remember the feeling that the more people I told, the safer my baby would be. Every time I got that sickening feeling in my stomach from anxiety, not morning sickness, I told somebody. I would pray to God and plead with Him that he could not take my baby because I would not be able to face all these people again. It’s amazing what we can do when tried.
My constant worry for my baby’s well-being turned me into an obsessive toilet paper inspector. Every time I used the restroom, I searched for the tiniest spec of blood. When I found just that – a microscopic dot of pink on my toilet paper – a week before Christmas, my heart sunk. I anxiously went back to my office and told myself I would wait one hour and check again. I desperately tried to keep busy despite it being the slow season. Exactly one hour later, right before it was time to leave, I went to the restroom again but this time I found nothing. Relieved, I decided to go on with the Christmas shopping I had planned to start that evening. As I browsed through the aisles, looking for the perfect stocking stuffers for my husband, my mind kept wondering back to that tiny pink spot, wondering if it had started again while I was not so blissfully unaware.
More spotting did not show until Saturday evening, while my husband and I were in the middle of our Christmas shopping. Although heavier than the day before, it was still extremely light so I reassured my husband that everything would be alright and we continued shopping that evening and finished Sunday morning. Sunday evening, with gifts and wrapping paper scattered all around us, my back started aching. I finished cutting one last piece of tape and told my husband that we were going to need to take a break and that being on the floor was starting to take a toll on my back. I got up to stretch out and to use the restroom. This time I discovered bright red blood. Panicked, I cried out for my husband and we rushed to the E.R. On the way, I called my mom to tell her what was happening and, despite the heavy lead that was in my stomach, reassured her that everything was going to be okay. The whole ride there I kept reminding myself of all the women I’ve heard who have bled during pregnancy and had healthy babies in the end.
The hospital did not waste anytime in reacting. They immediately whisked me to the back and performed a pelvic exam. Afterward the doctor told my husband that my cervix was tightly shut which is a great sign. Following the pelvic exam, they took me back to the ultrasound room and I asked if my husband could come with me, to which they agreed. The tech told me that she was very sorry I was having to deal with this, and quietly proceeded through the ultrasound. Every silent second that passed was excruciating proof that this was not going to end well. Very suddenly she exclaimed, “Well, there’s the heartbeat!” She sounded almost as surprised as we felt. She turned the screen to where my husband and I could see, and I instantly fell in love. On the monitor was my little baby, barely more than a blob with a bright white center beating away. Tears sprang into my eyes. She went on to say something about the rate being a little slow, but still well within normal ranges, but I was still stuck on the word heartbeat. I was going to be one of the lucky ones!
The hospital sent me home with a diagnosis of a “threatened miscarriage” and put me on 48-hour modified bed rest and pelvic rest. They gave me the typical instructions to call my OB for a follow-up and return to the ER if I filled up a pad or more an hour. Despite the comforting sight of seeing my baby’s heartbeat, I was still a nervous wreck. I called my OB to see if they could squeeze me in for another ultrasound just to be safe. The nurse told me that the OB reviewed the ultrasound and thought that would be unnecessary. My baby looked great on the ultrasound pictures from the hospital. I spent the rest of Monday lying on the couch. My best friend came over to tend to my every need and to keep my mind off of things. That night after she left, I lay in bed with my husband talking about the course of the past couple of days. I was abruptly hit with an overwhelming since of grief and whispered, “Goodbye baby.” I broke down into a fit of tears and explained to my husband the sense of doom I had been stricken with. He comforted me and told me that it was all going to be alright. I still think it was at that moment my baby grew wings and flew.
Tuesday morning I began to lose clots. I called the OB, frantic, and the nurse scheduled me an ultrasound in four hours. I called my husband and asked if he could come home from work to take me. Sometime during the hour commute my husband took home from work, I began to have moderate cramping. When he got home, we decided to watch television for a while to kill some time during which the cramping got worse. I told him to finish watching his program while I tried to get some rest in bed. In bed, the cramps turned severe and began to come in waves. The pain seemed to radiate from my abdomen and down my legs. I was in excruciating pain but never called for my husband. I felt like the world’s largest wimp for not being able to tolerate some cramps. With later research I realized that I most likely had been going into labor. It never occurred to me that it was even possible that early in pregnancy.
When it had come time for my ultrasound appointment, I could barely walk because of the pain. My husband kept asking me what was wrong and I kept muttering that I was cramping. I really had no better way to describe it. When we got to the office, we found that they were running behind. I sat there in pain for nearly thirty minutes, watching pregnant women all around me rubbing their bellies as happy as could be. I prayed that would soon be me in a couple of months. About five minutes before they called my husband and me back to the ultrasound room, the pain subsided and I felt some hope. However, it was short lived. My ultrasound didn’t even last five minutes. The technician placed the wand back on the machine and told me there was no longer a baby there, and I had experienced a complete miscarriage. I sat there completely silent and felt the tears fill my eyes as I stared at the blank screen. The technician leaned over and gave me a gentle hug, telling me that she was so sorry and she said, “And during the holiday season at that.” I realized at that moment that I would not be pregnant for Christmas.
Apparently the Christmas season is a bad time for a woman to lose their baby. After my ultrasound my husband and I were informed that there was currently no doctor in the office. We had to wait in the waiting room for over forty-five minutes before the only OB still in town came back from a delivery. I watched as pregnant women came and went with tears running down my face the entire time. Finally we were taken back to the physician’s office where we met my OB, a very quiet and petite woman, for the first time. She expressed her sincere sympathies, passed me a box of tissues, and said all the right things. She also told us we were clear to start trying right away.
On the way out of the office, I told my husband that I needed to use the restroom before we left. When I finished, I looked down in the water and to my horror found a pinkish-grey sac that had been ruptured. I could clearly see the contents of the sac. I stood there staring in the toilet in utter shock. My first thought was to shout for my husband, but then thought there was no need for him to see it. Then I though I should call for the nurse but then thought, my baby is dead. There’s nothing else they can do for me now. I quickly pulled the lever down and watched all my hopes and dreams spiral down the toilet.
I somehow managed to get through the Christmas holiday (with the help of good wine) with most of my sanity intact. We had planned to start trying as soon as my body healed. On New Year’s Eve, My husband found out that he lost his well-paying job. We were devastated. We knew this would set us back even further on our goals to have children. I watched as my best friend moved into our future nursery and my heart broke even more.
In spring of 2010, my husband found another job and things started looking up for us again. We were finally to the point to where having a baby wouldn’t completely financially break us, or at least we could manage until he graduated. By May I had lost the restraint to wait until my period was due before I started peeing on things. I decided to take a home test on 9 days past ovulation. I placed the test on the sink counter, and ran into the other room with my husband. We stared at the clock for exactly two minutes, and slowly walked hand-in-hand in the bathroom to check and see how many pink lines had popped up on the test. There were two! He wrapped me in his arms and we stood there holding each other. We talked about how we were excited, joyous, nervous, and scared.
We decided that we were going to keep it our little secret at first. We knew what could happen, experienced that pain, and did not want to go through the torment of “un-telling” everybody again. At 6w3d we went for our first ultrasound hoping for the best but expecting the worse. Once again our baby showed up on the screen, its little heart pounding away. The technician turned up the volume and my husband and I fell silent, lulled by the thum-thum-thum. This time the heart rate was a fantastic 145 beats-per-minute! They printed out a couple of pictures for me which hung on my refrigerator the entire pregnancy. I also took them to show my parents and sister. We decided we weren’t going to tell anybody else until we were out of the first trimester. After all, we had seen the heartbeat once before, so we knew that didn’t mean we were entirely safe.
I had moments during my pregnancy where I would be overwhelmed with fear. My husband would reassure me and talk to my belly telling our baby to hang in there and grow a whole lot. He would kiss my belly and put his ear to my belly, pretending the baby was talking back to him. He would put our dog up to my belly so she could give our baby kisses. We would lie in bed at night, reviewing all the baby names we could find. We only looked at the boy names because we were convinced this was our son. He would stand behind me in front of the mirror and rub my belly. We were surprised at how fast my bump showed up. We kept being told that it was all bloat at this point, but my belly was firm and round.
We had our next prenatal appointment at 10 weeks. As always, my husband was right by my side. He never let me be alone during any of it if I didn’t want to be. I fidgeted the entire appointment until the OB brought out the fetal Doppler. She gave me the speech about how 10 week babies can be elusive creatures, but if we can’t find it that we would do an ultrasound to make sure everything was all right. After a few stomach gurgles, and jokes from my husband about how I sure have a lot of wind in there, she found the heartbeat. It was even faster than before at 165 beats per minute! She let us just listen to it for a while, and I felt the tears well up in my eyes again. That sound could never get old. Our OB proceeded to tell us that we were essentially out of the most nerve-wrecking part of pregnancy, and had less than 1% chance of miscarrying again. We were elated! On our way out we scheduled an NT scan in exactly one week, and as soon as we walked out the door I dialed my mom to let her know the good news.
During that week we told my husband’s family and a few more people. We started shopping for car seats. I bought some more maternity clothes. We priced cribs. While cruising through a yard sale a woman approached me, looking at my stomach and asked me if we were expecting a baby. We proudly said yes. This was really going to happen! A few days before the NT scan somebody asked me if I was nervous. I replied right away with a solid “No!” I was excited! I was going to see my baby again and this time, it would be moving around waving little arms, kicking little legs, and turning its head. After all, what was to be nervous about? We were in the clear!
The day of the NT scan I was a little over 11 weeks along in my pregnancy. As my husband and I sat in the waiting room we saw an old high school friend of mine. She kept walking in and out of the waiting room, and the nurse called me up to the check-in window several times. I never got a chance to share with her the good news, or to see if she had any of her own to share. I sat with my hands folded on my belly, twiddling my thumbs. My husband and I casually talked. I asked him if he thought the sweet tea I drank would be enough to get the baby moving a lot for the ultrasound. He asked me if we were going to get print outs to take home to show his mom. We discussed how we hoped we didn’t have the same ultrasound tech that gave us the bad news with the first baby. Sure enough, when we heard our named called we looked up to see that very technician. My husband and I exchanged a knowing glance. I told myself that I was being stupid, that the technician had done nothing to cause my first loss and to think something was going to go wrong this time because of her was ridiculous.
As the ultrasound technician squeezed the gel on my stomach I told her that this was my first abdominal ultrasound, and how surreal it was. She continued to explain that I might have to do a trans-vaginal one if the baby was at a bad angle. As soon as she placed the wand on my belly, I saw a mass on the monitor but I couldn’t make anything out. The tech remarked, “Oh my… the baby’s in a horrible position.” I joked about how it was already being uncooperative, and we all chuckled. The technician jiggled my stomach with her wand and my husband and I laughed as the whole screen waved on the monitor. Still, the baby did not move. I frowned realizing the sweet tea must not have worked and it was apparently still sleeping. The technician told me that we were going to have to do the trans-vaginal after all and told me to go empty my bladder while she excused herself from the room.
When I returned to the room the technician was not back yet so my husband and I talked for a few minutes. He questioned why the baby wouldn’t move and I answered that it must really be sleeping. I told him that I must drank the sweet tea too soon before the appointment and that next time I would drink it at least 30 minutes before hand. The technician returned and we began the ultrasound again. The baby showed up on the monitor again, and this time I felt a huge relief. It was no longer a mass, but a great profile of a perfect little baby. The relief was short lived as I realized the baby remained absolutely still. Reading my thoughts my husband asked why it was so still. There was a long moment of silence and I began to think the tech didn’t hear him. The tech removed the wand and through tears choked out the words, “I’m sorry. You miscarried the baby.” I might as well have been shot with a bullet. My heart didn’t break, it burst. My husband threw his arms up in the hair and cried out, “Oh no.” A wail came from deep inside my chest and out through my lips. By then I had no control, I was a million miles away. The ultrasound tech wrapped me in her arms and rocked me back and forth. She kept repeating that she was so sorry.
When the technician left the room to get the doctor, I got dressed still sobbing uncontrollably. I sat down in the unforgiving chair next to my husband, leaning on his shoulder. My OB was out of town so another doctor came in and talked to us for a while. She kept saying how the baby was measuring a week behind at eleven weeks instead of twelve. I wanted to explain to her that I was only eleven weeks along and that they accidentally scheduled the NT scan a week early, but I couldn’t remember how to form words, much less sentences. She discussed the options we had of waiting to miscarry naturally or getting a D&C. My husband and I came to the decision together that I would opt for the D&C. At least this way they could test the baby to find out what happened.
On the way home from the doctor’s office we stopped by to grab a six-pack of beer. I chugged two of them as soon as I walked in the door and then went to bed. I couldn’t face the day a minute longer. The alcohol helped me sleep off and on, but the image of my baby resting peacefully on the screen kept flashing through my mind. I began to question everything. What if my baby was really just sleeping? What if its arm was blocking the view of the heartbeat? What if the machine was broken and took a still picture instead of live imaging? What if it’s something the ultrasound technician is doing wrong? I woke up convinced my baby was okay. After all, a mother’s instinct should kick in and tell her that something is wrong. I told my husband that I needed to get another ultrasound done. I think he knew all along that I was in some form of denial, but he went along with it anyway.
I spent the entire day before my second ultrasound praying. I told God that I had faith that He would save my baby. I promised to go to church more often. I vowed to teach my child His ways. On the ride there I heard “The Middle” by Jimmy Eat World, my lucky song, on the radio and thanked God for His sign that everything was going to be alright. Yet, the second my baby popped up on the second ultrasound, I knew I had no such luck. It was in the exact same position as before. The technician (who was the same lady as before) pointed out where the heartbeat would be if there was one. She showed me “the ring of death” that enclosed my baby. It really was over. Later that night I started losing clots, and I proceeded with the D&C the next morning.
The test results came back from the D&C as normal. My baby had been completely healthy. I could have found out the gender, but we decided against it. Knowing would only make it harder for us. I also had an RPL panel done as soon as my betas were monitored down to zero. I was told that I would have the results in seven to ten business days. After three weeks had passed, I called the OB office and spoke with the triage nurse. She told me that the results were in and that everything came back normal. I asked her if I needed to make an appointment with my OB and she said that was unnecessary. She informed me that my OB cleared us to try again immediately and to call back when I got a positive home pregnancy test. I didn’t think much of it and considered myself one of the unlucky ones who have multiple losses with no known cause. I would have continued to think this way had a family member not sent me an email stating that she was diagnosed with a genetic disorder called PAI, and that it may be the reason for my losses. I decided to call my OB office and make an appointment to speak with my doctor anyway. During my visit I found out that the nurse I spoke with on the phone had been wrong. I had two abnormalities show up in my blood work. I have two copies of the MTHFR gene, and the genetic disorder PAI-1. The OB wrote me a prescription for extra folic acid to combat the MTHFR gene, and I have an appointment to speak with a hematologist to come up with a treatment plan for the PAI-1. As hard as it is to accept that it was flaws within my body the caused the death of my babies, it feel good to have a plan. It gives me hope for the future. If I had not called my OB office back to set up that appointment, we very well may have lost the next one. Now, I feel like we may have a fighting chance. My husband and I are continuing to try and we hope to one day soon meet our take-home baby.
You can contact Angela at firstname.lastname@example.org