MY ANGEL, SKY

by Marsha S

To fully understand my story, you have to travel through my pregnancy journeys. Each experience helped pave the way to the next.

In November 1990, my husband and I got married. We were both 25-years-old and wanted a family -- but we wanted to have some "couple" time together first. After waiting about two years, we decided we wanted to start our family. It took us three months to become pregnant with our first daughter Sabrina. We found out we were pregnant November 1992, and she was born on August 28, 1993.

Our first pregnancy was fairly normal. The only concern the doctors had was that I was not gaining as much weight as they would have liked. I stopped working in August, three weeks before my due date (August 18, 1993). I had only gained 19 pounds. In the three weeks I was off before Sabrina was born, I gained another 10 pounds. I had been through 5 ultrasounds (one in March, two in June, and two in July) to monitor the baby.

Finally, 10 days after my due date and nine hours after being induced, my daughter Sabrina was born. She was beautiful and weighed 7 pounds, 11 ounces, and was 19.5 inches long. I was 28 years old. After giving birth, I was crying and upset. My husband and I swore we would never have another child. It was such a traumatic experience. But we knew we'd have more children.

My first miscarriage, second pregnancy, happened one year later. In June 1995, we found out we were pregnant on Father's Day weekend. I had taken a home pregnancy test and saw the '+' sign. I then proceeded to go to the lab to have my blood tested. I did this without my doctor's consent, as I have a friend in the doctor's office and called her and she called the lab and got me in. We were so excited, we told our family on Father's Day.

Monday came and I went to work and started to spot. I was very nervous and called the doctor's office and they said to come in. I left work and went to the office where they proceeded to take blood. I was informed the next day that my HCG level was at 161. For those of you who aren't familiar with this, HCG is the pregnancy hormone in your blood. When you go in to get your initial blood work, the HCG level will be tested. Most women don't ever know about this because they have not had any problems with past pregnancies or the HCG level is high enough to not be concerned about.

My doctors said that I should come in again and have the level checked on Wednesday. I was still bleeding. After having blood taken, I found out that the HCG levels were falling. When HCG levels fall, there is no way to bring them up so if this happens, you are miscarrying. I continued coming in and having levels checked until they fell below 10, which they did about a week later.

I continued to bleed for about a week, just as I would have had with a period. My doctors said that is exactly what was happening. I was experiencing what doctors say so many women experience: being pregnant, without knowing it (but I did know it) and then having their period and miscarrying. -So I had my first miscarriage in June 1995.

My second miscarriage, third pregnancy, occurred in January 1996. This was just 7 months after my first miscarriage. I decided to try to conceive right away after my first miscarriage and got pregnant soon after. I started to spot a little and went to the doctor. I was very nervous, since this was the sign of my first miscarriage occurring. At six weeks, I was sent to have a vaginal ultrasound. We could see my baby and the heart beating. I was very relieved.

But two weeks later, the weekend of the Super bowl, I went in for another ultrasound due to continued bleeding. The baby's heartbeat had stopped. I was scheduled for a D and C because my doctor said that the baby was too big to pass on its own. I was so disappointed. This was now my second miscarriage, third pregnancy, and my hopes for a brother or sister for my daughter Sabrina, were beginning to seem as if they were just hopes. I went in for the D and C, a painless procedure, physically. Emotionally, I was tired and upset. This was all out of my control and that made me angrier. I was more determined then ever to become pregnant again and have another child.

My fourth pregnancy occurred in February 1997. It had taken us 10 months to become pregnant this time. We had started to try to conceive immediately after my last miscarriage. I went in for my 18-week ultrasound in May. I was so excited! I figured this was it -- I was finally going to have another child after trying for almost 3 years and having had 2 miscarriages.

I took my mom and my daughter to the ultrasound appointment. We were in the room and the technician was doing the scan. We asked her what it was and she said a boy. I couldn't believe it! I was finally going to have my dream, one of each! In that split second I felt so complete, whole, thankful, joyous, and shocked! But, when the ultrasound technician was through with her scan, she asked me to see the doctor. Now, I had been through enough that I knew this wasn't good.

My mom, my daughter, and I went into the doctor's office. My doctor said that there was some type of extra skin fold on my baby's head. I was in shock and I thought he had said it was under his chin. I thought that maybe he is just a chunky kid. My doctor said to call a hospital in our area and get another scan -- a more detailed one.

I went home and called the hospital right away. I got in for the scan in the afternoon. I went in and when the technician was finished, I met with the doctor. This doctor told me that my son had hydrocephalus (water on the brain) and possibly Dandy Walker Syndrome. According to this doctor, my son would be severely retarded. Needless to say, I was in shock! I calmly asked if I could use their telephone to call my husband. I couldn't get in touch with him so I called my mother-in-law. I just broke down and started wailing into the phone. I was crying uncontrollably and was so crushed.

I still remember that day very vividly. I was devastated. Someone had come in and pulled the rug out from under me, pushed me off a cliff, thrown me out to sea without a life raft. I was in a black hole and had nowhere to go. My mother-in-law tried to calm me down and talked with me about it. When I was through with my phone call, I talked with the doctor. He said that if I chose to complete the pregnancy, he could help me. If I chose to end the pregnancy early, he could not because the hospital was a Catholic hospital and they did not do those types of procedures. I went home feeling ashamed and angry. I felt dirty and low. I felt pathetic and lost.

When I arrived home, my husband was waiting for me outside. I came into the house and was crying to my mom and sister "What am I going to do?" I then retreated to my bedroom, and my husband and I just sat there and cried. Writing this down at this very moment I am crying all over again. It is a terrible thing to have to choose the life of your unborn child. You may expect to do this for your parents but never for your own child. To this day, it is still a very sad thing for me.

My husband and I chose to end the pregnancy. We went in to another hospital, a women's hospital, in the area. They did yet another higher level of ultrasound. That doctor gave me an even worse diagnosis. They thought they saw a hole in his heart. And, according to the doctor, it was severe retardation. I know doctors are not G-d but sometimes they seem to be as close as we can get. We trust them with our lives. I just couldn't believe it but I knew that three doctors would never just tell me these things for no reason. We met with a genetic doctor. We went over our options and researched the diagnoses made to that date. We decided to do the procedure.

From the moment I found out that my son was not going to be with me, I disconnected myself from him. I didn't want to feel him kick; I didn’t want to look at my tummy. I was so upset with myself and with the situation. I was not angry with my son, I was angry at G-d. I never asked "why me," but I did want a reason why my son ended up this way. I went to bed at night rubbing my stomach and apologizing over and over to my son why I made the decision I did. To this day, I feel the need to justify this decision. But I feel that this is my cross to bear.

I went to the hospital and was induced. I was given Valium and the doctors did an amniocentesis to check if he had Spina Bifida or Down Syndrome. He did not have either of those conditions. They did a cortoscentesis, checking his umbilical cord blood to see if we were compatible, and my husband and I both were. Then they gave my son a shot through my stomach that made his poor little innocent heart stop beating. As I said, I was on Valium, but I remember that moment in the room when I looked across at my husband and I just thought to myself, "I am murdering my son."

I delivered my son on June 12, 1997 after 10 hours of labor at 5:55 a.m. I felt him fall between my legs and hit my thigh. I told my husband, "He's here," and the nurse came in and took him away. The nurse cleaned him up and brought him to me with a hat on and a white bib with a cross on it. I held my son and we named him Sky, short for Skyler. We had wanted to name him after my husband, but my husband said, "absolutely not." I felt horrible about this too. I felt as though we were saying that he was not good enough to be named after his father because he wasn't here. But it was not his choice. None of this was.

We baptized him and the hospital took a picture of him, which I have. He was so perfect on the outside. I remember looking at his body, his penis, his toes, his hands, and his face. He looked so normal. All his problems were on the inside and I did not want to look at the back where the extra skin was. I wanted to remember him looking okay. He was 1 lb. even and was very purple in color because he was so early. He actually looked bruised and fit into the palm of my hand. I eventually gave him to the nurse and had to have a D and C done because the placenta was not coming out on its own. We were discharged later that day and I had requested that an autopsy be done.

We went to a funeral home, had prayer cards made, and purchased an urn for his ashes. We did not hold a service. I just couldn't do that. I didn't want my daughter to have to go to one. I was also embarrassed and sad. I didn't want to face anyone or anything.

We received the autopsy results and they were worse than what the doctors had told us. It turns out that my son was missing his entire cerebellum. It just never formed. So, he only had 2 out of the 3 parts we have in our brain. That's where all the fluid was and the doctors and ultrasounds could never have known/seen this. My doctors said this was extremely rare. They couldn't find any documentation on this. I was relieved, but more saddened.

The genetic doctor gave me risks of this happening again if it was (a) a fluke, 3% just like the rest of the population has for these things happening; (b) a recessive gene that my husband and I had that just happened to link up, 1 out of 4 chance happening again; or (c) a trait that I passed on to my son, 50/50 chance. Moms pass to sons and dads pass to daughters. That means if it was a trait/gene that I passed, my daughters could be carriers of this trait, but would not be affected by it. But if my husband passed a gene/trait to my daughters, they would be affected by it. I left the genetic doctor really no better than when I started. I mean, I didn't know why this happened, I didn't know my odds of this happening again because I didn’t know why this happened. I only knew what my son was missing; I had no idea why he was missing these things.

Well, I waited the requisite two cycles to start trying again. My biggest frustration is that I had been pregnant 4 times and had only one child here with me. I was very sad about my son, but I was determined to have a sibling for my daughter and a child for my husband and me. If God was saying no to me, then I was going to keep going until he said yes.

My fifth pregnancy took seven months to conceive, but in March 1998, it happened. I had a slight amount of spotting in the beginning. I was very nervous about it but I just pushed it to the back of my mind. I had not only miscarriage to think about but now I had to worry about genetic defects. I would not let it run my life but boy did it run my head. I never let on that I was really scared to death it would happen again.

My ultrasound was set for July 20. I remember going to the same hospital that offered to help me if I chose to keep my son but said it could not help me if I chose to end my pregnancy. Going into that room again scared me. I think my heart skipped a few beats. It was all too familiar. I took my sister with me. They scanned me and my first words were, "Is everything okay in the baby's head?" She asked me to wait because she was scanning. She finally said yes, "Everything looks great."

I just couldn't believe her. I was stunned. I was asking her to check and check again. She said it was okay and that I was having a girl! I went to use the bathroom and just started to cry! I was relieved yet I was sad. It just brought back memories of my son. I felt guilty. I walked out of that hospital very happy and with a load off of my shoulders.

I gave birth to my second daughter, third child, fifth pregnancy, on December 10, 1998. She was quick. I arrived at the hospital at 3:15 a.m. ready to deliver but had to hold on for my doctor to arrive. I had her at 3:48 a.m., 33 minutes later. She was 8 lbs. even and 21.5 inches long. I was so scared when she came out. She was very quiet. She was sucking her thumb and she was blue. They had to give her a little oxygen and I was just holding my breath. She was okay though. I just remember hearing her cry and my husband holding me and I just started to cry.

The doctor thought he was hurting me but I said it was my thoughts of my son that made me cry. I was happy for my daughter but I was sad for my son. He understood. That pregnancy was the closest I have had to a textbook pregnancy. I measured well, gained weight fine (40 lbs.) and no problems. If she hadn't followed my son and all that went with him, it would have been a worry-free pregnancy. Believe me, though, there was a lot of worrying.

My third miscarriage,sixth pregnancy was 7 months later. I found out I was pregnant in July 1999. I went in at 12 weeks to hear the baby's heartbeat and we couldn't find it. My doctor was not too concerned. My pelvis had tilted and he thought that might be why. I knew that the doctor should be able to hear it but he said not to worry. So I went in on my own the next week, 13 weeks now, and the nurse couldn't find it. "Not to worry," they said.

Well, I was worried. I called the office when I got home and set up an ultrasound for the next week. I left a message for the doctor that if he had a problem with this, call me. Well, he did call me but said it was okay if that's what I wanted, but he didn't see the need. I went in to hear the heartbeat the day before my scheduled ultrasound. No heartbeat found. I just knew it wasn't there. I went for the ultrasound the next day and the baby had stopped growing at 8 weeks. My doctor was shocked; he had no idea. My HCG levels were great, and the baby looked good at the 8-week ultrasound. He said it must have died that day or the day after the ultrasound. I was scheduled for a D and C the next day.

I went in for what I thought would be a routine D and C. When I awoke it was three hours later! My blood pressure was 87/12. I asked my nurse if I was still alive and he chuckled. I was weak and had lost two liters of blood. My doctor said it was so unexpected. Apparently, when the placenta was being removed, my doctor thinks that the placenta had grown into, and become a part of, my uterus. So when it was being removed, a hole was created in my uterus.

This is a condition known as placenta accreta; or sticky uterus. A balloon catheter was inserted to try to get the bleeding to stop. I stayed overnight at the hospital and the next day, my balloon catheter was removed and the bleeding was okay. I was relieved. My doctor had stated that if the bleeding did not stop, a partial hysterectomy would be necessary. At that moment, I was all for it. I was tired of this pregnancy thing and of losing child after child. When I got home, I was very weak and it took about two weeks to regain my strength.

My doctor had the tissue tested from my D and C. It turns out that my child had triploid. Triploid is when there are three sets of chromosomes instead of two. So my child had 69 instead of 46 chromosomes. And my child was a boy. I found out that it was maternal triploid, meaning that my egg didn't divide as it should have and the extra set of chromosomes was from me.

The doctor was frank and told me to rethink having more children. I was not happy about that. I didn't want a doctor, or my body to tell me when to stop having children Two months after my D and C I met with a high-risk doctor. He was very supportive and said he would be willing to take me as a patient if, and when, I became pregnant again. He was willing to work with the accreta. That was in October 1999.

In June of 2000, I found out I was pregnant again. I was very happy but also nervous. I cried when I found out because I was scared that I would lose this pregnancy, too. I had already told myself many times that no matter what, whether I carried to term, whether I miscarried, this would be my last attempt to have another child. I was 34 at the time. I would be 35 if, and when, I delivered full-term.

I had many ultrasounds throughout the pregnancy. I took extra folic acid and extra iron in case of blood loss during delivery. I took baby aspirin to thin my blood to deal with clotting. I refused the amnio because my Level II ultrasound looked good as well as the AFP results.

I asked to be induced and on February 26, 2001, my second son was born. We named him Peter III, after his father and his grandfather. I cried during labor because I was so scared to push. I just didn't know what to expect with the possible accreta and all. It was the best labor I had ever had. The water broke at 7:15 a.m., had the epidural at 8:15 a.m., and by 9 a.m. I was dilated to 10 cm and ready to push. Peter was born at 9:21 a.m. No tearing, no episiotomy, nothing. I hardly bled and my high-risk doctor said I could have sex two days later if I wanted! It felt like I didn't even have a baby, if you can believe that. He was 8 lbs. even and 21 inches. He was beautiful. I was very thankful for him.

Well, to summarize these things in a paragraph: I have been pregnant 7 times, have had 3 D & C's, have given birth to 4 children, 3 of whom are here with me. I have had 2 daughters and 2 sons, and have been pregnant with another son. I know the sex of 5 out of 7 of my pregnancies. My son Sky's condition is rare (told 1 out 3,000 chances of happening), my placenta accretta is rare (1 out of 2,500 chances of happening), and that my son's triploid was rare. I have to say that I am tired of being told that my experiences are "rare." How "rare" can one person be?

To be honest, when I first began having miscarriages, I was very sad about them. But when I had to decide the fate of my son Sky that really made the miscarriages pale in comparison. You see, I was one of those people who always said, "No way, not me, never will do that." I had said I would never get an abortion. By the way, I hate that word. I prefer the terms "terminate," "let go," or "release". I never had an AFP test with any of pregnancies until my last daughter, my 5th pregnancy. I vowed I would never terminate a pregnancy because of a defect. I was wrong. When put in that position with my son, I chose that route, for quite a few reasons.

My feelings range from feeling hypocritical, embarrassed, angry, deprived, cheated, depressed, spiteful, regret, sadness, murderous and happiness. Yes, happiness because my son is not here living with pain. He is our angel in the sky watching over us, and one day I will get to see him and hold him.

I know that not everyone agrees with the choices others make. I cannot ask any of you to accept what I decided. Everyone is different. You really can't say what you would do until you have been faced with the same situation. You have no right to judge me or anyone else for that matter. It is a very individual choice; something that is thought out and all things are considered. You do what is best for yourself and your family.

I chose what I thought was the best option. That does not mean that I am always okay with this. My head says, logically, that was the right thing to do. My heart? It&'s sad and makes me think I am a quitter, a murderer; I didn't do enough for my son, a coward. My heart really hurts, and I will never be over my son. That is the cross I bear in my life. I wish there was some way to bring this issue out. Some people do not choose to have "abortions" as a way of birth control. Some do it out of love, out of health issues for themselves or their child. I don't like to say that what I chose was an "abortion" but legally, that is what it is termed.

I just want women to know that they are not alone in their choices. And whatever choice you may make is okay. Just make a choice that you can live with. And believe in yourself.

And remember, watch what you say or think because someday, somewhere, it will come right back at you. I am a firm believer of that. Try not to judge because one day, you may be judged as well.

Marsha S
Mother to Sabrina, Sky, Holly, Peter, III
(3) Children lost to miscarriage

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