My exam was in another city a few hundred miles away. I had to stay the night before as it was an early morning one. DH came with me so I wouldn't be alone.
After we got back, the spotting started - here we go again - we decided wait until AF is over and then sort out about the fertility doc. We had a weekend away to spend some time together. The spotting seemed to clear up. No AF. Could it possibly be? I waited again until CD36, then POAS
So many emotions. I was happy to finally be pregnant again almost a year since my last m/c. I was glad we hadn't needed fertility drugs to get there. I was terrified that this pregnancy would be short-lived like the last. I was overwhelmed about what decisions we would make regarding genetic testing. I laughed when I worked out the dates and discovered that this baby must have been conceived the night before my big exam. So much for all the people telling us to relax and then it would happen. Actually, it took intense stress to make it happen!!
I rang the nurses at the EPU. They got us an appointment later that week to come and discuss what sort of monitoring we wanted for this pregnancy. They offered us serial ultrasounds every two weeks. They offered us an early ultrasound the following week. I was wary of being in the situation we had been the first time where they hadn't given us a definite diagnosis on the scan, just an 'it might still be too early'. I was determined not to put us through that so I asked instead for serial betas. I had the first one that day. They booked us an ultrasound for 7w1d and said if the betas were going up nicely we should see a heartbeat at that gestation. I went back after 48h for my repeat blood draw. I waited most of the afternoon for them to call with the results and finally just went to look them up myself (I happened to be working in the same hospital at the time). Oh no, here we go again. My first beta had been 5817 which I had been thrilled about, but this one was only 8957 2 days later. To double it would have had to have been 11634. I went home very depressed and rang the unit. The nurse dealing with it had apparently been trying to ring me on an old number. They wouldn't tell me anything until a doctor had reviewed the results. Eventually they rang back to say that the doctor said that because the numbers hadn't doubled, they would advise an earlier scan to see what was going on. It was a Friday evening though and nothing could be done before the Monday.
It was an anxious weekend to say the least. I called the EPU on the Monday morning and the nurse there said that they were actually quite happy with the numbers and she didn't see any point in bringing the scan any earlier given that I had said I wanted to be certain about my chances of seeing the heartbeat, so we kept the original appointment.
We were both absolutely terrified on the day of the scan. Once again I stripped from the waist down and covered my dignity with a scratchy white hospital sheet. The probe went in, pushed around. I stared at the sonographer's face. I didn't even care that he had a student with him. After less than a minute, the screen came whirling towards me and there it was. A little blob, but this time with some tiny pixels in the middle changing from black to white and back again. Oh. My. Goodness. We've got to see our baby alive. The sonographer was very kind and let us stare at the screen for a bit longer. I could barely see it through the tears that were streaming down my face. I'm not one to generally cry in front of people, but today, I didn't care. Eventually he turned the screen back around so he could do some measurements. DH and I just stared at each other in amazement and each squeezed the other's hand tightly. I didn't even think to ask for a picture, but a kindly Health Care Assistant brought one round to the clinic for us after we'd left.
The good news was that our baby was alive. The bad news was that there was a sign of bleeding on one side of the sac, a subchorionic heamorrhage. It didn't look too big and they reassured us that it would likely clear itself up, but that I might experience some spotting as the blood came away.
The first trimester weeks passed very slowly. Each day seemed like a week in itself. I had found the Pregnant After a Loss board here and was getting support from the girls there which was invaluable. We had an appointment with the genetics people, including a dating scan, the day before Christmas Eve. I was absolutely terrified. I had had some spotting the night before and I was convinced that the baby had died and that Christmas would be ruined. We had our scan
the bean had grown and we even got to see arms and legs this time. We truly couldn't believe our luck.
We decided to go ahead with the amnio. The wait to get through the first trimester wondering if our baby would survive had been torture. I knew I couldn't get through the rest of the entire pregnancy wondering whether we would have a stillbirth somewhere along the line. I had to know if the odds were in our favour. It was difficult getting through day to day. I had overwhelming sickness and tiredness which was very reassuring. I was utterly terrified that something was going to go wrong though. Every time I did anything baby related I worried that I would somehow cause a miscarriage. I didn't dare buy maternity clothes, I hardly dared to write in my journal. I guess in that context it probably seems strange that I opted for an amnio, but it was the lesser of two evils. We put it off until 18w because I wanted to be sure that if I was going to have a miscarriage anyway, that it would happen in advance of the amnio and not leave me wondering whether I had caused it by having the test.
We had the amnio. The High-Risk Ob, whom I hadn't met before, was absolutely lovely. The baby kept trying to grab the needle, so clearly (s)he was ok. They gave us a picture at the end
The next fortnight was really tough. My anxiety levels sky-rocketed as I waited with baited breath to see whether the amnio would cause us any problems and as we waited to find out our baby's genetic fate. Eventually, about 10 days later, we got the phone call. The news was good. Our baby had normal chromosomes. Around the same time I started being certain that I was feeling movements and things really got better after that. I was still terrified. Every day was counting up to a new milestone - 24 weeks for threshold viability, 28 weeks for a better chance of survival, 30 weeks for a really good chance, 34 weeks for not having to go to the NICU if (s)he was born now.
I went into labour at 38w5d gestation. The labour was straightforward. I stayed at home for as long as I could. I used my TENS machine. I was 4cm when I got to L&D and progressed rapidly to fully within 3 hours. I pushed for an hour. The entire time I was terrified that something would go wrong at the very last minute. Whenever the midwife listened in with the doppler I would hold my breath, expecting her to have trouble finding the heartbeat. When the baby's head was very low and the heartrate dropped from the compression (as is normal) I just about freaked out thinking, we've got to this point, about to deliver and now it's going to go wrong. But it didn't.
I will never forget the moment I looked down from where I was kneeling just inches above my baby daughter's head and looked into her big eyes. My first thought was oh my goodness, there was a baby in there after all. I think up until that moment, despite everything, I didn't truly expect that there would be a baby at the end of the journey for us.
The early weeks of DD's life were very anxious for us both. We couldn't quite believe that we had been this lucky. We kept waiting for the other shoe to drop. At one point I managed to convince myself that because she wasn't feeding that actually the amnio results had been wrong and that she did have severe problems after all. We were terrified that she would die of SIDS. We never let her out of our sight. Even whilst she slept she was right there with us whether we were downstairs in the living room or upstairs in bed.
Eventually we did calm down and learned to relax and enjoy the beautiful daughter we had been blessed with.
We decided right away that we wanted to continue to try and have more children. Given the road we had already travelled and the potential for recurring problems ahead, we decided to just let nature take its course and not use any contraception. I was breastfeeding so we figured it was unlikely to happen in the first 6 months, but even if it did, we were okay with that.
When DD was 10m old we all got a stomach bug. DD and DH recovered, but it seemed to linger for me. It was during a weekend at work that I figured out the sickness was worse when I hadn't eaten for a while and eased for a bit afterwards. Goodness, could we really have managed to conceive so easily? I had only had one AF since DD was born and we weren't sure whether I was fertile again yet.
We ordered some HPTs online and once they arrived I POAS
How utterly fantastic. A stress-free TTC journey. I think we both expected to lose this baby. After all, given our background we were unlikely to be successful twice in a row, right?
We got in touch with all the usual people. The genetics people freaked out a little because by LMP dates I was already 14w, but I reassured them that as I was breastfeeding I was pretty certain that my cycles weren't regular and that I only 'felt' about 6 or 7 weeks based on when my symptoms had started up. They booked us a scan - it was DD's first birthday. I was really worried about the timing, but if we didn't take that appointment we would have had to wait another entire week. It turned out to be ok. There was a healthy baby with a strong heartbeat measuring 9w5d.
Less than a week later I was coming home from a trip out with a friend of mine and her DD. I walked through the door and there was a pop and a gush. I ran for the bathroom only to see I was bleeding heavily everywhere. I cleaned myself up a bit. Went back out through my blood-soaked hallway to see my poor friend standing there looking horrified. I told her I had been pregnant and this was probably a miscarriage. She cried, we hugged. She offered to stay, but I sent her on her way. I called DH and told him. I said I can't see any baby surviving that much bleeding. I rang work to say I wouldn't be in. I sat and I cried. I hugged my DD tightly and I cried some more. I had thought that given how we had conceived easily and we hadn't really expected to have another successful pregnancy happen easily that if anything went wrong I would be ok. The thought that I was probably losing this baby was NOT ok though.
We had to attend a funeral the next day. My bleeding had lightened but the nausea, which had been so much worse than with DD, seemed to have gone. Over the weekend though, there wasn't any more bleeding and my sickness came back with a vengence. I figured it was just my body being stubborn as usual, but I did allow myself a glimmer of hope. On the Monday I rang up the EPU. I explained the situation and they arranged a scan for me the next day. Going back to the EPU was difficult. We had consciously avoided it all during DD's pregnancy and had our scans in a different department because we felt like it was bad luck somehow. It was the same sonographer that had scanned me just a week ago. She popped the probe on my belly and, amazingly, spun the screen round to us almost right away. My baby had a heartbeat. (S)he was alive! I was gobsmacked. The sonographer did some more scanning and found that I had developed another subchorionic haemorrhage with this pregnancy. Still, my baby was alive!
I bled reasonably steadily from then on for a while. It was an anxious time. I rented a doppler at 12 weeks and after the first few weeks I got good at consistently finding the baby's heartbeat. That was a big reassurance. That and the constant vomiting. I was so very sick with this pregnancy. Worse than with the last one. It was reassuring though. Somewhere around 16 weeks the bleeding finally tapered off. We went for amnio again. The amniotic fluid was coloured with the stain of old blood. That worried me. After just over 2 weeks though the result came back good. This baby was again genetically normal.
I wouldn't say I was more relaxed second time around because I was still hyper-anxious and expecting things to go wrong at any minute, but I think I had accepted the possibility that it might just turn out ok in the end this time which I hadn't been able to get my head to accept when I was pregnant with DD.
Happily our son was born healthy, again at 38w5d. The delivery was rather rapid and poor DH ended up delivering him at home with only DD for support! That evening as we all settled down in bed together DH looked over at me and said 'I bet you never thought that in under 2 years we would end up like this'. He was absolutely right. I had never dared to allow myself to even hope that things would turn out so magnificently.
As our little brood started to grow older, DH and I began to discuss more children. Before we had even started trying we had both said we wanted to have 3. After DD was born, I wanted 4. During our darkest time when we thought we might never have any at all, we said that if we got just one we would be thankful.
Before DD there was never any doubt about keeping going as we both desperately wanted to parent a living child. Even after she was born we knew we would really rather that she wasn't an only child so there really wasn't any question of trying again. This time, we had started using contraception because of financial reasons relating to my job it was important to delay getting pregnant until after DS turned 1.
But we started thinking, we had been through such dark years before being blessed with our living children and we had come so far since then. We now have two beautiful children who are both healthy and happy. We even have one boy and one girl. Yes, we really want some more, but do we dare attempt it. We had this discussion back and forth for months. What if we lose another one? What if the next one has severe problems? Will that take from the time we have for our two children? Would it be fair to them? They get on together so well, will a third upset their dynamic? Lots of wondering and thinking and talking. DH said he could come to terms with not trying again if that was what we decided. I tried to think that way, I really did. But in my heart, I ache for another small baby. I don't feel 'done'.
So in March 2008, we started TTC again. We tried to take this easy and keep it lighthearted. It worked the first few months, but after cycle #3 it started getting harder again. I decided to start temping again. I wondered whether the fact that I was still nursing was affecting my ovulation or my LP even though AF has been regular since DS was 10m old. Temping seemed to indicate things were working and happily cycle #5 was a success and on 27th August 2008 I got my long-awaited BFP
I was anxious. I think that anxiety will always be with me, even if by some miracle I birth 12 living children. I will always be anxious during pregnancy. I chose a 'tummy name'. I sat and I analysed my symptoms. Am I sick enough? Is there any trace of spotting on the paper? Are my boobs sore yet? I tried not to think about statistics and what the odds of having 3 successful consecutive pregnancies are. I took about 5 HPTs that first week which is not at all like me. I usually have willpower of iron when it comes to POAS! I stayed in a little coccoon for the first week. I worked out my own due date - May 3rd 2009. Perfect. A baby born just at the start of summer. Won't be too hot for the early weeks, but will get some nice time off in the summer with all 3 children.
I eventually got around to making an appointment with the GP for 6w4d. I relished my nausea worsening and enjoyed feeling yucky as a lovely confirmation of the growing life within me. At 6w3d the morning sickness really kicked in with a vengence and I felt ROUGH, but also a growing excitement. Things were looking good. That evening I had some bleeding. More than spotting, but much less than I had when I was pg with DS. It was just the one gush. No more came. I still felt sick. I was uneasy though. I arranged a scan the next morning.
Once more onto the ultrasound skewer! Searching the sonographer's face for clues. 30 seconds pass, then a minute. This can't be good news. She eventually turned the screen and showed me my womb with a gestation sac inside. She told me everything is in the right place, I just can't find a heartbeat, but at this gestation and this size measurements, it's not diagnostic. It could just be too early. We'll know better after a re-scan in 2 weeks.
Aargh. I kicked myself for getting a scan so early. I shouldn't have panicked when I saw the bleeding. I should have waited until after 7 weeks. The 2 weeks fell during our vacation, so it wasn't until 9w1d that I could get an appointment for the re-scan. We went on vacation, I felt ill most of the time. The sickness was definitely worsening. My boobs were growing. This has to be a good sign, right? I'm still terrified of the scan.
We trek back up to the EPU once again. They take my details like they have many times before. I'm 9 weeks so I can have an abdominal scan. I have a bladder the size of a lake but I daren't go pee some of it out in case I can't stop and then have to start drinking all over again. We go in for the scan. We've had to bring the children with us because I need DH there and we don't have anyone else to watch them. They are being very good though. The probe goes on my belly, a minute passes. This is taking too long. At 9 weeks they should easily be able to see everything right away. The sonographer says she can't see too well, my womb is retroverted, would I agree to an internal scan. I've heard those words before, but despite myself I have a glimmer of hope. Maybe it's the womb tilting that's stopping her from seeing so well. Perhaps the machine is older and not so detailed. I scoot across the hall to empty my bladder like I have done in the past. Pants off, hospital sheet round and back on the couch. Balancing on the end of the wand again. Another minute passes. Definitely not good. The sonographer looks at me and says I'm so sorry, it's not good news. I can't find a heartbeat. She turns the screen around and shows me. There's just this tiny blob on there now, not a nice round sac like the last time. The statistics were right.
We were taken into the little room again. The 'bad news' room. The room of loss and devestation. I know I want the medical treatment again. I decided that weeks ago when every scenario was running through my head. This time though, there are the children to consider. We decide on a date for next week. We can have someone watch the kids then in case I end up at the hospital past their bedtime or have to stay overnight. We make our appointments and leave.
I send DH to work. I have the children today as it is not a work day for me. I can't figure out what to do with myself or with them. We go home, but they are bored and I can't manage to entertain them. I decide to take them out. We go to a nearby hobby shop and buy things for making Christmas presents. It's almost lunch-time. I can't even begin to think about making lunch. There's a Burger King next-door. What's more, it has a drive-thru. I have never fed my children fast food and I have never been to a drive-thru before, but that is where we go for lunch. I tell the kids it will be fun to have a picnic in the car. We head off home, they have their naps, then DH comes home early. He can't bear to stay at work. We vegetate together in some sort of numb stupor. We thought we were prepared for this. We 'knew' we would be ok if it turned out to be bad news.
We were kidding ourselves.
I guess today I'm technically 9w5d pregnant. Not that it makes sense to keep counting once you know the baby is dead, but as far as my body is concerned, I'm 9w5d. No spotting, no cramping, sore boobs. The nausea has only just stopped getting worse. In fact, today is the first day that I have had times of feeling completely ok rather than just sick and nauseous. I don't know why it is, but my body never seems to realise what is going on within my womb. How can a mother not know when her baby dies?
I'm struggling with how to feel. I am utterly devestated by this latest loss. Knowing it might happen hasn't prepared me like I thought it would. I find it difficult to acknowledge that though. I feel as though I ought not to be so devestated. After all, I have two healthy children, I knew the score when we decided to TTC again, I have expected this to happen ever since I got pregnant with DS. There are plenty others out there with losses that are greater than mine and with their own struggles and problems.
Perhaps it is the thought that others see our situation like this that upsets me so and stops me from allowing myself to grieve. I'm sure those close to us who thought we were being pathetic in struggling with our situation before DD was born would completely brush over this entire episode as inconsequential. I think that is part of what makes me so mad. Just because my baby wasn't very well formed and was lost early doesn't make him/her any less of a person. Ok, I don't have a photograph, I don't even know the gender and I'm unlikely to get a chance to find out. That doesn't make my baby a non-entity. There was life, there was hope, there were plans for this little one. That is all gone now. We will not get that back. Not for this baby.
I am also angry. Angry that I am going through this again. Been there, done that. I don't need to keep repeating the experience. Again, I do acknowledge that 3 losses is far less than some others have had but it hurts so much. Every. Single. Time. I am mad at myself too. DH thought he could come to terms with only having 2 children, why oh why couldn't I? I really, really did try, but I just couldn't get my head around it. Now, not only is it my genetic defect responsible for this but it is also my inability to draw a line under the happy times and call it quits that has landed us back in this deep, dark pit of grief.
And yet, once I have passed this baby and laid it to rest I know I will want to TTC again. I have another list of worries to add to the previous one. How many more times will it take before we manage to have a successful pregnancy? How many more times could we bear to go through this as a family? There are the children to consider now. I am not a pleasant person to have as a mummy at this moment in time. Will there come a point where we have to say no more trying and just be thankful for the two children we have? How will we know when to stop? How long will it take to get a BFP next time?
Time, the great healer and the great revealer. Only it holds the answers to all these questions. Sometimes though, I wish we could get just a little peek. A little hint at what might lie on the road ahead. Would that really make it any easier though?
The messenger finally got through. At 8:20 this evening, at 10w1d my little angel bean left the cosy warmth of my body. *TMI warning* The gestation sac had split open. I searched desperately through it. Looking for which parts would have made up the little body. Searching in vain for a glimpse of a face. There was a tiny little foetus in there. Still with a little tail. Not even with limb buds yet, poor little soul. Never even had half a chance. Da.mn my genetic inheritance. At least I got a chance to cradle this tiny, almost alien-looking life in my hand. To know (s)he really did exist. That (s)he was my precious baby, if only for a few short weeks.
I had a 'dry run' at being back at work today - sort of! It was my EPU appointment. One of my colleagues was sitting at the nurses station when I booked in. She asked me if I was alright. I must be dealing ok with things. There was a time when that would have led to me shouting at her (in my head of course) what do you mean am I alright? Of COURSE I'm NOT alright? Today though, I took it as her way of showing compassion, acknowledging what I'm going through and, yes, I was 'alright'.
The nurses, once again, were exemplary. I know it's not just that I know them. They have always been this sensitive and compassionate. I guess now I just skip the queue - though I had a timed appointment this morning and there weren't any other ladies waiting. One of the senior sisters saw me. I explained about last night, so she just scanned me there and then. There's a small amount of tissue left inside, most likely clots. It should come away by itself without any further intervention. So, medically speaking, good news.
It was hard being back though, even for just half an hour. I've been in this lovely coccoon of unreality since my scan. I have my 'mummy days' (as DD calls them) where my focus is on feeding, teaching and entertaining the kids. On what would usually be my work days, the kids go to nursery, DH goes to work and I sit in the protected comfort of my sitting room, sending random thoughts into the ether of the internet. I could happily go on like this indefinitely. Going in to where I work though, was a taste of 'normal'. Having been very composed for the last few days I came very close to breaking down in tears several times. It's the unexpected things that are the worst. I knew I'd see people I know at the EPU and I had prepared myself for that and got through it, composure almost 100% intact. It was when I bumped into one of the Attendings on the stairs that I nearly lost it, even though I just smiled a greeting at him as I kept going down the stairs whilst he was coming up. It's going to be difficult to go back in next week and have people give their condolences. That said, if they don't I will be incredibly angry. I expect what will happen will be a mixture. My immediate colleagues should hopefully all know what has gone on and many of them will have the guts and the good grace to mention it. Most of the nurses and midwives will not know though. I'll just have to try and prepare myself as best I can and get through those first few days. It will get easier from there on.
I've done a lot of very 'matter of fact' thinking these past few days. I've realised that DH and I allowed ourselves to be sucked into a false sense of security by the previous two successful pregnancies. I think that having gone through two miscarriages and then that terrible year of failing to conceive at all and constantly worrying what the translocation diagnosis might mean for us in the future, when we finally came home with DD, we managed to convince ourselves that the nightmare was over. In a sense, it was. It was so healing to bring a child into our home. To realise that actually, things could work out for us. When we had DS it was like we hit the jackpot, but also, in a sense, like we had put all those dark years behind us. Like this was our bright new future and the loss and grief would just continue to fade into the background. This latest loss has dragged us back so far to things that I feel we didn't really think we'd go through again. Like we had somehow broken that particular mould. In some ways I feel like we are right back at the start, but actually, even with the children out of the house right now, I look around the room and see their books, tiny clothes, colouring pencils scattered on the desk from where DS was drawing his 'pick-shur' this morning and actually, I am comforted that we can never go back there.
Now that's not the same thing as saying everything's fine and dandy. It's not. A loss hurts regardless of how many living children you have. If a mother of five (which is what I am) has three of her children die in a house fire, you don't say to her, never mind, at least two survived. You would expect that she would grieve for the three that were lost and maybe hug the other two that bit tighter, knowing that their survival is a blessing but will never compensate for the loss of the others. I think that best explains how I'm feeling right now.
I buried my baby this afternoon. It took me a while to decide where to put him/her. Angel baby #1 is buried under a magnolia and I thought of putting this baby there too, but in the end I went for under a rose bush. The only one in our garden and a new addition this year. It was bought by my parents and planted by them (as they know how un-green fingered we both are). It's also in a newly developed bed right alongside where the sandbox and playhouse are in the summer so I can think of this LO watching over his/her older siblings (and hopefully younger too in time) as they play.
I want to vent about something silly. I hate sanitary pads. There. I've said it. I have never been a pad girl. Not even in adolescence. I hate the sensation. I hate having to wear underwear to bed. It always seems to be just the final bad joke that goes along with losing my angels. Suffering through this indignity of feeling like an incontinent old woman. And what is with the wings?? I ask you. I'd like soft cotton against my skin in my nether regions thank you not some horrible plasticy stuff chafing up around the sides of my undies. They must've been designed by a man!