If you missed part one, you can find it here.
My Second Miscarriage – April 2014
In the months following Christmas, I avoided pregnancy. For the obvious reasons mentioned in part one but also because I didn’t want my child to be born in the “Holiday Corridor” (a name I created for the time between Halloween and New Years when holidays seemingly come every week). I didn’t want him or her to have to forego a birthday party because all of his or her peers were visiting family for the holidays. I also didn’t want my child thinking he or she was only getting one set of presents instead of two like everyone else. So I had decided that my hiatus would last until the due date landed in January or later.
One night in April, however, I had trouble sleeping. I was thinking about my cycle for who knows what reason and realized that my period had come one week earlier than it should have and was lighter than normal. Like a scene from a movie my eyes snapped open and my jaw dropped. The only reason my period would have come 7 days early is if it were implantation bleeding (bleeding that occurs when a fertilized egg implants into the uterus). I hadn’t been tracking ovulation so I had no specific idea how far along I was, which drove the micromanager in me insane! The next morning I got up and took an OPK test since I had no pregnancy tests on hand. It came back positive which meant I was either pregnant or ovulating, so I told the husband I was 90% sure I was pregnant and went to work, stopping by CVS on the way to pick up an actual pregnancy test.
I won’t ever forget the moment the results came back. I was hiding out in the cafeteria bathroom on a different floor so no one would notice me entering the bathroom and wonder why I was in there so long (because, you know, people obviously care intimately about other people’s bathroom habits). Before I even put the stick down a bright pink line was staring me right in the face. I was so conflicted at that point. I mean, I was happy that I was pregnant, and apparently more so than last time, but I also knew that my due date would be right around Christmas (December 23rd, to be exact). Of all the due dates in the world, did I have to have one so close to that holiday!?!? But I wasn’t about to have an abortion because I didn’t like the due date, a baby is better than no baby so I took a deep breath, confirmed the news with my husband, and scheduled a blood test with my doctor for the very next morning.
That was April 15th. Tax Day.
The next morning, I woke up a little late for work. A bad day to be late because there was a meeting that I had to be early for; I was acting as the AV person. I jumped in the car and raced to work, checking my phone at every other light to see if anyone had arrived to the meeting room yet. Halfway to my office, I looked down, saw there were no new messages and I looked back up to find the van in front of me had stopped suddenly. I couldn’t brake in time and ran into the van, getting into my very first real accident (hitting the poles in a garage while making sharp turns don’t count). Fortunately, the officer said I couldn’t have been going more than 10 miles per hour so the damage wasn’t as bad as it could have been. I mean, yes, I did end up needing to replace a good chunk of my front end, but no one was hurt and the van had no damage to its rear fender. Despite that, however, from the moment the other driver got out of the car until my husband had arrived and took me home, I was a mess. I couldn’t stop crying. All I could think about was my pregnancy. I logically knew that the zygote inside me was still too small to feel the impact, but what if the impact did affect it. Or what if my stress hormones spiked high enough to cause a miscarriage. The worst part is I couldn’t tell the woman I hit or the officer of the reason I was crying because until I got a confirmation from the doctor there was still every chance that this pregnancy could end prematurely. So instead I sat in my car bawling like a crazy maniac.
When I eventually got to the doctor’s office that day, I told the medical assistant what happened. She comforted me by saying it was likely too early to have an impact, but as with any new pregnancy to keep an eye out for any bleeding. Then she told me I’d have the results in 1-2 days.
A week later after numerous calls and a mini-rant to the office manager, I FINALLY received my results. I was pregnant! Congratulations to me! But the results of one blood test only tell you whether you have Hcg in your bloodstream. To determine whether the pregnancy is progressing properly, a second test is usually ordered. If the amount of Hcg doubles in 2-3 days then you likely have a healthy pregnancy. So I scheduled another blood draw for a week after that first blood draw, much later than it should have been. Thanks for the delay, office-who-shall-not-be-named. In the meantime, I prepared for the first of what would have been many announcements. We didn’t want to announce so quickly but we were presented with such perfect opportunities that we just had to. Our friends were hosting a wine tasting party and we were to bring two bottles with us. Since I could not drink, obviously, we printed some custom wine labels and replaced the original labels with our special ones. Then we just had to wait until someone noticed the labels. And a few weeks after that was Mother’s Day, so we convinced both moms to come visit taking great care to not inform them of the other so that they wouldn’t suspect anything.
The day before the wine party, I had still not heard back from the doctor’s office, so I began calling every hour. (This wasn’t crazy, this was the third time they did not provide results within the time frame quoted, so I HAD to be aggressive.) Finally, I heard back three minutes before the office closed. My Hcg levels had doubled. In a week. I knew immediately what that meant but I began grasping at straws. I asked what the prognosis was and the person on the phone could only advise me to come in after the weekend for a third blood draw. I hung up and was speechless. Was our announcement to be cancelled? Was there a chance that I could still carry to term? I had all these questions and none of them could be answered by that woman on the phone.
My husband suggested we just call out sick to the party but I couldn’t live with the uncertainty. Given a gross mishandling of my care at the doctor’s office (which I will not go into here, but it did result in my switching to a better-run office), I wasn’t informed of my situation until the weekend. That meant that my only option to determine what was happening was to wait until the next Monday, go in for a blood test, and then wait for at least 2 more days before getting an answer OR I could go to the ER and have an answer immediately. I chose the latter.
The next morning, on April 26th, I left for the hospital after the husband left for a run with his friend because I knew he’d try to convince me to wait rather than spending money on an ER visit for an outcome that wouldn’t be affected either way. When I arrived my eyes were red and watery as I fought to hold back tears. They took blood and a urine sample and put me on the schedule for an ultrasound. By the time they were ready to bring me into the ultrasound room, an hour or two later, my husband had finished his run and had made his way to the hospital. In the ultrasound room, I prepared myself for the worst but expected the best as the ultrasound tech prepped me for an abdominal ultrasound. The screen turned on and the tech didn’t see anything. She explained that apparently it was so early on in my pregnancy that she wouldn’t be able to see the gestational sac with an abdominal view. So we switched to a transvaginal view. Immediately I saw the sac, but there was nothing in it. I had a general idea how far along I was so I knew that the embryo should have been visible. The fact that there was nothing inside that sac was bad news.
But I still held on to a sliver of hope.
When we got back to the room, the ER doctor did a pelvic exam and found that my cervix was dilated (spoiler alert: another bad sign). But it wasn’t until the OB-GYN doctor came in with the results of the blood test that I had to stop avoiding the truth. She told me that my Hcg levels had halved since my last test and that my cervix was dilating as it prepared for the miscarriage. My official diagnosis was a blighted ovum, a pregnancy in which the support structures (e.g. the pre-placenta) start forming but for whatever reason the embryo fails to grow. She also told me I had three options: wait for my body to expel everything on its own (which could potentially take up to several weeks), use medication to induce a medical miscarriage, or schedule a D & C during which a doctor would use medical instruments to physically remove the remnants of the failed pregnancy. Not being one for uncertainty or pain, I chose the second option.
I put off taking the medication immediately because even though I knew it was over, taking the medication made it feel final. And I wasn’t ready to face that finality. So on Sunday, after two full days of procrastination, the husband set me up with some recorded tv shows, lots of comfort foods and a heating pad and I took the medication. It took a while, but eventually I started feeling some cramping, which I believed was the start to some significant pain (why else would I have been sent home with heavy pain killers?). Fortunately, the pain was never nothing more than a slight discomfort, which is saying a ton because I have an extremely low pain tolerance. However, nothing passed that day so I took the following day off from work, and still nothing passed. On Tuesday, I went to work, and just my luck, was welcomed by yet another failing of my femininity. Being at work, I felt like I couldn’t take time to process the moment and what was happening. I just had to get through it and get back to my desk.
In the days surrounding that miscarriage, I couldn’t quite find the support I needed. On the miscarriage forums, my peers referred to the miscarriages as “angel babies” and some mothers even named them and celebrated their birthdays. But I didn’t have a baby. I didn’t even have an embryo. All I had was a sac. One, small, empty sac. So I didn’t feel that I lost a baby, only opportunity. I packed away the extra custom wine labels with the sad knowledge that they would never again see the light of day. I had my husband call his mom to cancel her trip for Mother’s Day; we would have cancelled my mom’s flight as well if it weren’t for the cancellation fees. I found myself feeling a tremendous amount of guilt. I had spent so much time not wanting a child born near the holidays. Was this my karma? Or even worse, had I not gotten into that car accident, would I have an 11-month-old with me today? (I will never know the reason that the embryo stopped developing as it was impossible to determine, but since that day I have never texted while my vehicle was in motion).
Looking back, I know that my experiences were on the more positive end of the spectrum, if there is such a thing. I didn’t have time to get adjusted to life changes (like abstaining from alcohol and soft cheeses). I didn’t see a heart beat. I didn’t feel any kicks through my belly. But having more than one pregnancy loss was a kick to the ovaries. I questioned whether I was even capable of staying pregnant. Everyone I knew seemed to have gotten pregnant on the first try but it was taking me so much longer. I was healthy. I didn’t smoke. I exercised. I had a varied diet. I thought I was doing everything right. So why was I having so many problems?
I ended up sitting the next cycle out to make sure everything went back to normal. The month after that we weren’t really trying; it had been so long that I was half waiting for September to roll around again so I’d have another chance at a Cancer baby. When I got the positive on the test, I held my breath. I didn’t’ make any announcement plans. I went straight to the doctor for the initial blood test confirming my pregnancy. Then I went again two days later to see if the numbers were doubling (they had more than tripled!). And because of the psycho in me, I got a third test to rule out any flukes and those results came back even more positive. At that point, I started planning for my announcements including putting up our Christmas tree in July and hosting a mid-year holiday celebration so that I could have the Christmas Announcement I’d been dreaming of for ages.
As I’m writing this, Baby is practicing her kissing and standing skills simultaneously against our window. I am extremely grateful to have her in my life and know that had any of those other pregnancies stuck, she wouldn’t be here today. It’s a bittersweet realization, but it’s true. I thought I had resolved my feelings with my miscarriages a long time ago, but a few tears while writing this proved that no matter how much time passes, scars can still hurt. I will always have that small itch in the back of my mind of “what-if”. But the third time’s a charm, and what a charm Baby is.