I always knew I wanted children, but never really thought about it much until I got married in June 2006. Then it was like a light bulb went on, and I knew that I wanted to do with my life was be a stay-at-home mom. My biggest fear was that I wouldn’t be able to or would have a hard time having children. When I got married I was 20 and halfway through college, and knew I needed to finish before having a baby. It was hard having to wait, but after a few months we decided to not prevent and finally in June 2007 I was so excited to discover I was pregnant.
I loved that baby instantly, and I spent those first few weeks assuming everything was fine and dreaming about him or her, but on August 1st I woke up to bleeding. I was so scared and had my mother take me to the ER. They did an ultrasound where I saw a gestational sac that measured 5 weeks: a little black circle inside all the fuzzy gray on the screen, a sight I will never forget. I should’ve been 6 weeks, and that same day at the hospital I passed all of the tissue and knew my baby was gone.
I had never experienced real grief before, and I didn’t know what to do with the overwhelming emotions. I kept seeing the picture I’d had in my head of what my baby would’ve looked like, so I painted a picture of her on my computer. For some reason I’d had the name Eleanor stuck in my head, so that’s what I thought of as her name, and I also saved the stuffed Winnie the Pooh I’d bought a few days earlier for her.
I figured it would take me awhile to get pregnant again, so I was totally shocked when the very first month, the day after my birthday, I found out that I was. I was scared that I’d have another miscarriage, but I was kept very busy with school, work, and activities, and went in at what I thought was 13 weeks for my first prenatal appointment. The nurse couldn’t find a heartbeat, and I panicked, but she sent me for an ultrasound and as soon as the tech put the wand on my stomach I saw the shape of a little baby with its heart beating away. I began crying; I’d never been so relieved or happy. It turned out I had a retroflexed uterus and was only 11.5 weeks (which I would’ve known if I knew anything about menstrual cycles back then).
I had a completely uneventful and healthy pregnancy, enjoyed every minute of it (while I wasn’t worrying), and on June 17, 2008, my son was born. He was healthy and perfect in every way. That was the happiest day of my life, and after he was born I felt like I finally knew myself and had found my niche in life.
When my son was 5-6 months old, I started wanting to try to have a second baby. It was frustrating having to wait once again, since I hadn’t gotten a postpartum period yet. It finally came at 9.5 months (which in retrospect is amazing) and then I had to struggle with my cycles being completely long and out of whack. I’d never been as shocked as when in June 2009 I found out I was pregnant again.
I was so excited and couldn’t wait to experience everything all over again. I had good early HCG betas and strongly believed my first miscarriage had been a fluke. I went in for an ultrasound at what I assured them was 6.5 weeks, and I knew something was wrong as soon as the tech put the wand in and had to search all over to find that little black gestational sac, measuring 5.5 weeks. They brought in the head radiologist and obstetrician to tell me not to lose hope yet, but I knew that my baby was gone. I had to wait a week for the miscarriage to begin, and after a few hours of heavy bleeding and cramping the intact placenta came out while I was in the bath. I had to gather it up and throw it out. It was a horrible experience. That was August 4th, 2009. Since I had a stuffed animal for my first baby, I got one for that third baby, too. There had been a picture of a specific stuffed rabbit in my head, and I found one just right. I also later decided to think of that baby as William, since it was a name I loved and wouldn’t be able to use.
The grief wasn’t as hard to handle after that second loss, but each month that went by and I wasn’t pregnant, I felt that grief all over again. It was so hard to watch people around me get pregnant with no problem and get to keep their babies, and it was so depressing to see the age gap that would be between my children getting larger and larger. It was a very hard time for me. I tried so hard and kept close track of my body and my cycles, but I slowly began to realize that I couldn’t make myself get pregnant and that I needed to relax about it more. After six months with no luck I was beginning to feel concerned about my long cycles (they were 35-40 days long) and made an appointment with an OB. It was a joke. He said my two miscarriages were flukes and laughed at my concern about my cycle length. I begged him to help me so he gave me a prescription for Clomid. But I didn’t want a prescription, I wanted to know if there was something wrong with me. I didn’t fill the prescription, and instead made an appointment with a CNM who was much more responsive to my concerns and ordered some tests. They were pretty normal, and so then I felt ready to try the Clomid.
It moved my ovulation from day 20-25 down to day 18, and I finally got pregnant again. It had been nine months since my last miscarriage, and I believed with everything I had that that baby would be okay after all I’d been through, even as my HCG betas came back at worrisome levels. I made it to that 6 week ultrasound, and immediately saw that familiar empty black sac measuring 5 weeks. I had never felt as desperate as I did laying on that table with that tech and a radiologist telling me not to lose hope. But I knew once again my baby was gone, and a few days later on May 25, 2010, the miscarriage started.
I was somehow able to get through that grief easier—maybe because I was so used to it by then, or maybe because I knew that I just had to keep going. Once again I had a specific stuffed animal pictured in my head, so I found a matching one for that fourth baby, and decided to call them Amie after a melancholy song I’d been listening to a lot around then. I still have my positive pregnancy test tucked into the ribbon of that stuffed animal, too.
This wasn’t right. I was only 24, so how could this be happening to me? I knew something was wrong, and now I had three miscarriages under the same circumstances to back it up. I found a highly regarded Reproductive Endocrinologist in my area and by God’s blessing they could get me in the very next week due to a cancellation. I had a wonderful appointment and loved my office and the staff. My doctor even called my son by his first name instead of some impersonal medical term, and he assured me that he would get my son a little brother or sister. I felt like I had finally found people who cared and would do everything they could to help get me answers and a baby, and it gave me an incredible renewed hope. I had to take a few months off to have all kinds of
diagnostic tests and procedures. I had blood work done to check for clotting disorders, antibody disorders, MTHFR and something else I can’t remember the name of, chromosomal disorders for my husband and I (they took out so much blood for that one that I passed out in the lab), they did a sperm analysis, I had a hysterocystogram, and I had an endometrial biopsy. I wanted them to find something, anything, to give me an explanation and something to fix. When everything came back normal, my doctor diagnosed me as having poor egg quality. By the time I was ovulating, my eggs weren’t good anymore and if
fertilized the baby wouldn’t grow. It was a hard diagnosis to hear, but it helped greatly to have an explanation and my doctor assured me that with medication I could ovulate on time and get a good egg. In August 2010 I was started on a higher dose of Clomid and I felt so optimistic and hopeful, but after two rounds I still wasn’t pregnant.
By that time it seemed like everyone who had a child my son’s age (or younger) were having another baby. All of my friends from my nursing group, friends from high school and college, and a few family members. It was so hard to be around and hear about that it could make me depressed for days. I’d struggled with depression as a kid and knew how to cope, but I didn’t know how to cope with situational depression. I hated those dark times where I felt hopeless, but I kept going knowing I would bounce back up eventually. I had to try to avoid anything baby-related as much as possible to keep myself on an upswing as long
as possible. It was a slow process to learn to relax and be patient and not focus on what others had but I didn’t, and it wasn’t a lesson easily learned. I tried to be thankful for what I did have, and knew that it could always be worse.
After the two unsuccessful months on Clomid, my doctor started me on injectable hormones—the highest level of fertility medication. With this change I felt hopeful once more, and I got pregnant on that very first injectable cycle! I wanted to be happy and assume everything would be okay, but it was very hard. For the most part I did well taking it one day at a time and getting through each step. My early betas were outstanding and my symptoms were noticeably stronger than in the past two pregnancies, but I was still crying in fear when I got to that 6 week ultrasound. When my doctor put the wand in I saw that black circle again, but this time it had a little gray circle inside—a yolk sac. My doctor said that meant there was something in there, and he was very happy with that ultrasound. I felt strange not being able to feel the complete relief I’d hoped yet. I needed to see that baby and a heartbeat first. A week later I went in for another ultrasound and immediately I saw my baby on the screen. A little white kidney bean blob inside that black gestational sac with just the tiniest luttering area in the middle—a heartbeat! I cried, I was so happy. My doctor called it a “Rock star baby.” That picture, that one little moment, will always be in my memory. I finally began to relax and believe that everything would be okay and we would finally have another baby.
Two weeks later, on December 7, 2010, at 9 weeks 1 day, I went in for another ultrasound before I was to be released to regular prenatal care. I saw a fuzzy gray blob inside the gestational sac with what looked like a little arm bud sticking out. But no movement, not much more growth, and no more heartbeat. I wanted to scream and disappear. I was so in shock and overwhelmed that I couldn’t even believe what was happening. They scheduled a dilation and suctional cuterage for three days later at the hospital so they could remove the baby and run tests to figure out what had gone wrong.
I went in early Friday morning, December 10, 2010, still feeling numb about what was happening. I felt a little better about the surgery after learning it would be ultrasound-guided, but I’d never been under anesthesia before. I sat in a little room with my husband and listened to nurses and anesthetists and an anesthesiologist talk to me. I got an IV, was given a relaxant, and was taken to the OR. I remember them transferring me to the operating table, asking me to lift my hips so they could take off the hospital shorts, putting my legs into boot-shaped harnesses, and two or three nurses standing above me telling me they were strapping my arms down because sometimes people will lift their arms while under anesthesia. I remember dreaming about dogs, which was weird since I don’t like dogs, and waking up slowly almost an hour and a half later to a nurse asking me if I wanted my glasses back on and a sip of water. She put my glasses on and put the straw in my mouth, but I couldn’t figure out how to swallow the water. It took awhile for my brain to be able to get my muscles to work to swallow. I was very groggy and things were hazy, but I remember the OB standing at the end of the bed, writing in a chart, and telling me everything had gone well. They sent me home with some Tylenol with codeine and instructions to lay down and take it easy for a few days.
I felt so empty inside, and it was hard to believe that my baby was actually taken out of me because I hadn’t seen it happen. I hadn’t been ready for my baby to be taken away yet. My doctor told me it had probably been a chromosomal fluke, and I wanted desperately for them to know what had happened. I knew an explanation would provide closure. By that fourth miscarriage I noticed that I went through the grief process much faster, but it was much harder that time because of the circumstances. Sometimes I felt so desperate I didn’t know what to do, had bad thoughts of running away or getting a big knife from the kitchen, and for the first time I felt true anger at God. One evening I ended up in the bath tub crying and the only way I knew to calm down was to write, and so I wrote a short letter that is a terribly painful, jumbled thing to read now. I just wanted my baby back, and I didn’t know how to heal this time. I wanted to quit life and make everything go away so I wouldn’t have to feel that pain anymore. While writing that letter I started feeling like my baby was with me, hovering right over my shoulder, and it brought me enough comfort to get through to the next day.
It helped to physically move on, and then finally I got the test results and found out that my baby was a boy and had Tetraploidy, meaning his sex chromosomes were XXYY instead of just XY. It was the cause of 2% of all first trimester losses, and not something that would ever have any greater chance of recurring. Before finding out the baby had died, I’d had two names stuck in my head that we hadn’t considered before, and so we named him Michael and I bought a silver box with an angel on it, engraved with his name and the date he was taken out of me. I put his ultrasound pictures and other mementos I had gotten from
family. After I had my answers and his box on my dresser alongside my three stuffed animals for my three other little angels, I felt like I could move forward.
I had immediately gone back to injections, and after that news I began to feel hopeful for the next time I got pregnant, although I didn’t feel like my heart was in trying to conceive anymore. After three more cycles I wasn’t pregnant again, and I was beginning to feel hopeless. It’s a very hard thing to know that your body doesn’t work like it’s supposed to. To know that you need strong medical intervention to have a better chance at having a baby who will actually grow and survive. I felt like such a failure. The one thing a woman’s body is made to do, mine struggled to do. The one thing that I had feared most when I got married turned out to be true. It’s so very hard to sit around and watch all the women around you have no trouble getting pregnant. To them a positive pregnancy test means they’re having a baby, and they can immediately share and be happy. To me a positive pregnancy test is just the first step towards having a baby. It causes fear, and I can’t get excited. I have to protect myself. And to see some women complain about anything pregnancy-related, about how horrible it is to be tired all the time, about how awful morning sickness is, about terribly uncomfortable they are and they want that baby out of them immediately—it’s a punch to the gut every time. They have no idea. Do they know what I would give to be in their position right now? For a long time I felt so bitter towards these women, and I felt so isolated.
After those three unsuccessful injectable cycles, I had an appointment with my doctor where I was surprised by him going over IVF with me. He thought it was my best chance and only wanted to give me one more cycle on injections before moving on. I was completely overwhelmed at the idea, the cost, the emotional investment it would be, and the moral issues with it I had to debate. That next cycle they found three big cysts on my ovaries and I had to take the fourth cycle off. It was hard to know a month would be wasted, but I knew in my heart I needed a break from all the ultrasounds, needles, pill suppositories, and appointments, and it would be good for me. And it was, I finally felt God gave me a peace and patience and acceptance, and I felt comfortable with the plan my
doctor had laid out for me.
In May 2011, for my last injectable cycle, we did IUI to increase our chances and avoid getting to IVF, and I got pregnant. I had great symptoms early on, but I still had been terrified to take that test. I immediately went to that one-day-at-a-time mindset. The very next day I felt like something was wrong. A few days later I had blood work done and my HCG came back at only 7. Already that baby wasn’t going to make it.
I didn’t know what to do at first. I had never been through such an early miscarriage before. I had never even been given any hope, and that made it easier to sort of shrug off and keep going. What was hardest at first was that I’d had a chance, and then I’d been dropped right back down into that miserable place I’d gotten so used to and was so tired of being in. We felt so frustrated and defeated and our hope was really shaken, but after a few days bleeding started and my doctor said he wanted me to try one more month on injections with a more aggressive approach, and I was okay with it. There was a small element of new hope in the different protocol, even though I felt like I wasn’t trying as hard as before.
Already into the next cycle I began to feel bad that I’d never let myself bond with that sixth baby. It started hitting me a bit harder then, and I felt better after
deciding to call that baby Sunny (because I thought that baby would bring me that feeling of sunshine after a storm) and got a happy yellow little stuffed animal. I just couldn’t believe it had happened. Why would anything have gone wrong again? After everything I’d already been through in the past two years, why? But I do know now there’s no point in ever asking those questions. You might not ever know the answer.
I have learned a lot through all of this, and know that it has made me stronger and more appreciative of what I have and will have. And I do know that one day we will have another baby and that I can’t give up. If I did then the last 27 months, 28 ultrasounds, and 68 needle pokes will have been all for nothing. I don’t know how much longer it will take and what else will happen, but I do know that God has seen me through everything so far and he will be with me the rest of the way too.
Update: (7/26/12) We continued doing injections the rest of the year with no success. My RE was okay to keep that up until we were ready for IVF if it didn’t work. I ended up doing 13 total injectable cycles. In January 2012 I had cysts and needed to take a month off, and he also called it quits with the meds then to wait for IVF. We ended up rushing into IVF for insurance reasons and had the egg retrieval February 20th. It felt like it was the path God had led us to, and it seems to have been right… Currently I am 24 1/2 weeks with a so far very healthy, rather wiggly little girl, and have faith that she will be our Sunshine. 🙂