ONE in FOUR
October is Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Month. This month is for those that experienced a stillbirth, miscarriage, SIDS, or other causes at any point during pregnancy or infancy. Families around the world are devastated each year and in 1988, President Reagan declared the month as a time to recognize the unique pain and grief for families and parents after this tragic loss. This week’s post is meant to share a mother’s story and bring awareness to our readers. One in four mothers experience a miscarriage during pregnancy.
It is not something we tried for or planned for but it happened and a little over two months ago I was pregnant again. I missed my period so after much procrastination and denial, I called my doctor’s office to schedule an appointment and they had me visit the lab first for a human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) blood test. The test measures the hormones produced by the placenta in your body. If you are pregnant, HCG is detected in your blood and urine. Natural thoughts when the doctor confirmed where HOLY SHIT. I know it might sound crazy; people have multiple kids all the time. It was hard for me to wrap my head around it since these little humans take time to develop a routine and a comfort zone. Once you are in it, shaking it up to make a new one seems hard to comprehend. Oddly enough everything was happening around the exact same time as my first pregnancy. My due date would have been 4 days off from my first child. Needless to say this pregnancy was flooding me with memories and emotions of a very happy time in my life.
My first pregnancy was textbook so as I was scheduling the eight-week appointment, I was expecting everything to be the same. I could remember leaving my first visit with an ultrasound photo and a smile plastered across my entire face. Walking into the waiting room brought back the excitement and calmed my nerves. At prenatal appointments, they have you pee in a cup and weigh you before you appointment. The urine sample was of course positive and I sat in the exam room waiting for the doc. He came in and we caught up from the past few years. We reviewed quick delivery options and processes for a second pregnancy. We also reviewed the "geriatric pregnancy age" requiring an extra glucose tests among other things. With all that being said, I could almost jump out of my body with excitement when I laid back and he pulled the ultrasound machine over. I felt the warm goo on my belly and the pressure from the applicator. I heard nothing…..this was totally different from my first pregnancy where I heard the heartbeat and saw the fetus.
The doctor was extremely reassuring and ordered me a more extensive ultrasound in the radiology department. He explained my date of conception could be off which would put me at an earlier stage in the pregnancy. Being early could mean the baby is (too small) to see without a transvaginal ultrasound. This type of ultrasound is where they insert a probe into your vagina in order to get a clear picture of the fetus, cervix and placenta. My appointment was scheduled for a few days later, the ultrasound technician was very nice and said got just what she needed for the doctor. She was extremely professional the entire time and then asked me to wait in the back room for the doctor to review the images.
I sat for what felt like an eternity. I tried to peek at the screen during the procedure and was not able to see much. Around fifteen/twenty, minutes had gone by and I received a notification from MyChart on my phone. MyChart if you do not know is the app you can download for schedule appointments, test results and urgent/non urgent message board to your nurse/physician staff. Something told me not too look but curiosity got the best of me and I read the results before the doctor could even call the nurse back. I read the report stating there was an intrauterine gestational sac corresponding with a 7 week and 3 day pregnancy. This time line didn't match for where I should be measuring, something was wrong. The next line stated no definite fetal pole or cardiac activity. It was recommended I have a repeat ultrasound in 7 to 10 days. I immediately broke down as the nurse walked in with the doctor on the phone to confirm the results. She reassured me that we would complete an ultrasound in the weeks to come and to not give up hope.
As I had mentioned at the beginning of this post it was a few months ago which puts us back to summer. I had taken two vacations all during this time. I am a firm believer in the unwritten pregnancy announcement rule and that is you don’t say anything until you are at least 12 weeks and into the “safe zone”. I tried my best to keep this quite and hide it from everyone including my family and close friends. I couldn't make sense of what was happening myself let alone explain it. I didn’t have one sip of alcohol since the day my period was late and you never realize how much you are called out for for not drinking until you are around a group of people. I am incredibly lucky to have a best friend that went above and beyond during this time to make a sign on her phone and would approach the bartenders and waitresses at restaurants to “ask them a question” just to make sure I was given a mock tail. She made sure they didn't announce any virgin drink orders and I was less anxious because of it.
I can say this waiting game was the most stressful time in my life. It was finally time for the repeat ultrasound, which showed growth…but not enough. At this stage, I should have heard a heartbeat and when the volume was turned up…all I heard was silence. I started to notice brown spotting which can be a completely normal part of pregnancy, but not this pregnancy. The same day I received the ultrasound follow-up results was the day I had a hard conversation with my doctor. I said I was at my wits end and I needed to know if this pregnancy was viable or not. I kept getting my hopes up and if that wasn't going to be the outcome of my story, I wanted to know sooner rather than later. I was now scheduled for follow-up HCG blood work 48 hours apart. The first levels were drawn and if 48 hours we saw a decrease, I would know my body was starting to miscarry.
I had high high hopes when I received the first quantifying result. The number was high and within the chart as it should be. Two days I spent telling myself…we got this, stay positive. 48 hours later those hopes were crushed when my bloodwork came back and the numbers dropped by a few thousand. I had felt it for weeks, something was off and something didn’t seem right. The pregnancy symptoms were real this entire time and while your head can tell you one thing, your heart and nauseous stomach can tell you another. The dreams of my child having a sibling blew away as fast as they came. I should have been 10.5 weeks pregnant and was only measuring 7.5. I was having a miscarriage.
The process of miscarrying is awful, no ifs ands or buts about it. There are numerous options that mothers are given. The first option is a D&C which is surgery to remove the tissue from the mothers uterus. The second option is to take medication, which would induce a heavy and very painful period. The third option is to let the miscarriage happen naturally. It was recommended that I do not do the D&C, while this is a quick and painless option, I had previously had a C-section and if I had hopes of growing my family at any point in the future the surgery could cause more scar tissue which was not recommended. At this point, I had stopped spotting, it was not recommended that I wait for my body to naturally miscarry which in the case I did not, could contract an infection and eventually require surgery. We decided on taking the medication as the safest and best option for me. I bled for nearly three weeks.
In compliance with taking the medication, I was required to complete weekly HCG blood tests until my hormone levels went down to 0. This helps reassure the doctor and patient that your body has been cleared of the miscarriage and not at risk of infection or complication. It took weeks for my body to stop bleeding and for my numbers to clear 0. I hated going to the lab, not only did it hurt getting poked each week but it was also a constant reminder of what happened.
After you experience a loss there is always that little thought in the back of your head asking the universe, did I do something wrong. You can tell yourself 9 out of 10 times that you didn’t but the thought and question will linger. I have to tell myself often that there is a reason why this pregnancy wasn’t viable. It’s a few months later and I still get sad, I still cry and I think about what would be happening if I had not miscarried. Along with hiding pregnancy during two vacations, I also attended a baby shower the day I started to spot and have been asked numerous times when I’m having another kid. The questions are always a real kick to the gut. I try my best to put a smile on my face and celebrate others good news while I take a quiet moment to myself to morn and grieve my loss. Not everyone chooses to share their experience and it could be your coworker, friend or family member that is silently healing from a miscarriage or loss. I am still healing emotionally and physically.
I chose to keep this piece anonymous since this story is still so NEW for me. I am still processing and grieving as anyone who has experienced a miscarriage does. I chose to share my story for the moms that have had a miscarriage, are having a miscarriage and will experience a miscarriage in the future. It takes a strong person to go through this process and no matter the support around you, nobody will truly know the way YOU feel and understand what YOU are going through. The process is not always fast, as this took months for my body to show doctors that I was having a miscarriage. It took time for my body to tell my story just like it will take me time to tell my story.
The feeling I will never forget will always be, I never knew it could hurt so bad to loose something you never knew you wanted.
- X0 -