October is pregnancy and infant loss awareness month. And before I start I’d like to mention- behind every pregnancy thought and parenting decision is a story. We officially started our infertility journey early 2016 and despite all the failed attempts, surgeries and damn two week waits that came at such a mental and physical cost, I remember always saying “at least I haven’t had to go thru a miscarriage.” A part of me wasn’t sure if I’d be able to handle that devastation. Coming to terms with the fact carrying a child may not be in the cards for me seemed to be enough, and some may say that is a loss in itself.
My luck eventually ran out, and we miscarried in fall of 2019 after transferring two embryos. At this point we had our twins through adoption, and we made the decision to move forward with IVF. It takes a lot to prepare your body for embryo transfers. You get pumped up on estrogen that thickens the uterine lining, followed by progesterone that prepares your uterus for the implantation of the embryo. These medications should ideally be timed perfectly, and are monitored by weekly ultrasounds at the fertility clinic, ours which was an hour away. The expectation of a perfect diet along with blissful daily meditation to calm your body was completely doable considering my life with twins and working in the hospital setting (hey I tried my best). We were committed to working thru the embryos we had and we came up to our third transfer date, the first two did not implant. We decided to transfer two this time, maybe giving us a little more of a chance of success. If you’re following so far the answer is yes, yes we had twins and were prepared to have another set of twins. I’m funny but I never said I’m normal. When you go thru so many failures your mind offers different coping mechanisms. Mine was, prepare for the worst and do not let yourself get excited. At this point I was a master at the two week wait, living life how I always did just moving forward. Something did feel different that transfer, it was the same physical feeling I had with my rainbow baby. There was a tugging and pinching sensation in my uterus. I can recite the “symptoms of a successful embryo transfer” and I knew that feeling can be the feeling of implantation. The day came for the hcg blood test, I made those appointments in the morning so I knew the results would be back early afternoon. I have access to my clinic electronic chart and the results are usually posted in there before you get the call. Many people don’t forget where they were the first time they see a positive pregnancy test and you can imagine with my history it was quite the dramatic situation. I tricked my husband, something about me is I like dealing with things on my own, even heavy stuff (not necessarily recommended) and instead of having him there at the exact moment I find out my results, I would first do it on my own and a take a minute to process. This particular time I had him put our twins down for a nap as I snuck downstairs and logged on my chart to see the lab result. My heart would always race, as a clicked the button and saw my elevated hcg number (325 to be exact) it’s like my eyesight went blurry. I logged out and logged back in, methodically looked at the hcg results button as a I pressed it again. And there it was, the unbelievable positive pregnancy result. My eyes watered and I ran upstairs in my boys room, not giving a damn if they napped and gave my husband my phone. He doesn’t know anything medical so the actual number didn’t mean much but he saw it in my expression. He hugged me and we cried. I texted the few family and friends who knew about our great news. Like some cruel unusual joke, even after this positive test you have to wait another two weeks for confirmation ultrasound. I was in uncharted waters now and whatever stress I thought I conquered during the two week waits was nothing compared to the excitement and anxiety waiting for the first official OB appointment. The lady at the infertility clinic knew me so well at this point when I called to schedule an OB ultrasound she started singing in excitement.
My husband and I showed up to this appointment on pins and needles. Finally, the ultrasound was up, one gestation sac and one growing embryo. She explained one embryo did not implant, and the current embryo, although was in the 2 day window for correct measurement, remember with these transfer dates everything is exact. Maybe because Ive been in the medical field for a while, there was something in her tone that seemed questioning, and she told us to make an appointment at our normal OB in one week. The next week, 7 weeks at this point, I show up to my primary OB who had done 3 medicated IUIs with me, for the second ultrasound. With the ultrasound he keeps pausing, looking around, taking measurements, pausing…Finally he said, well we are still early. The measurements are now 3 days small and we cant see the heart flicker. But, he doesn’t want to officially call it because of how early it is. But I knew…I sunk back into that numb feeling and made sure to tell my at times annoyingly optimistic husband not to get excited. I actually told him I don’t want to talk about for a few days. The next week went in, a miscarriage was confirmed and that day I picked up my Cytotec to expel the embryo at home. I remember that night looking at my twins play and thinking, I’m so lucky to have you boys, looking at them made my eyes water and a weird sense of ‘what if something would happen to them’ would randomly come over me. I said in the beginning how I wasn’t sure if Id be able to handle a miscarriage. No surprise, the world kept turning, and I knew I could get thru this, for my kids, for my husband. The Cytotec didn’t completely work, and a few weeks later I went in for a d&c.
I was devasted and frustrated I had to go thru all that hope.
That loss, on top of my infertility, impacted pregnancy with Gideon, my rainbow baby. To say my guard was up was an understatement. We got that positive blood test with him, I gave myself the day to bask in excitement but I woke up the next morning doing my thing of not getting my hopes. Can you believe at 5 weeks pregnant with Gideon, before we could even have the confirmation ultrasound I had a bleeding episode. I walked out of the bathroom barely looking at my husband and nonchalantly said “hey we need to go the infertility clinic (they took walk ins for bleeding), I’m bleeding” The ride up there fully preparing myself to confirm a miscarriage, thinking hey, at least its early this time. The doctor did the ultrasound and said “well everything looks normal, heres the gestational sac and no bleeding around it, probably just hormonal bleeding you know its early to see anything else, you scared me for a minute there Darla! ” I left that appointment so confused. My husband was waiting outside in the car, covid times, and I got in and shrugged my shoulders “uh I don’t know what happened but he said everything looks ok now?” I could feel the relief in my husbands body but the poor guy stopped himself before he started singing praises, and said “ok we will see in two weeks at the next ultrasound.”
I went on to have a beautiful pregnancy. It took me awhile to even be able to look at the ultrasounds, and I had quite a few extra because of my history and hypothyroidism. It took me about 20 weeks to announce it. Every ultrasound he was measuring perfect, even big, and I don’t know why but loved hearing that. Yeah I know ultrasounds are actually not good predictors of size, but for me it was something telling me I have a growing baby. “What are you growing in there, Darla??” my OB would say and I would just smile feeling so reassured of his health. This was a covid pregnancy and I say this knowing it comes from a place of privilege, but the shut down and all around slow pace that happened during this pandemic, really helped me mentally. It’s like I was given permission to turn in internally, quiet that outside noise.
Because of my loss I’m not sure if I really took advantage of how amazing my pregnancy, especially in the beginning.
Whenever there is a month dedicated to something, even if it doesn’t personally involve me, I know to pause and respect there is a reason for it. And even tho I’ve written this blog and given bits and pieces on social media about our story, I know there are many many more stories with similar backgrounds from people who do not want to publicly share what they have gone thru. Its my hope even its one person, maybe someone who has gone thru a loss will read this and not feel so alone, because phew it can be so hard going thru it, not knowing what will happen next, not knowing if you’ll be able to handle one more bad news. It’s not fair, and this month is to remind you of that, and that you are not alone.