It should have been my baby’s 1st birthday. But it wasn’t. There was no birthday cake, no balloons, no party. Just me, feeling sad about what could have been, what should have been. I’d lost that baby more than a year before, when he or she had only been growing inside me for a short ten weeks. But the loss still ached.
Along with that ache in my heart was a real physical ache right where that baby had once been. I said to my husband, “It’s the strangest thing, but I feel like I’m having another miscarriage.” We both thought that was pretty crazy. I’d tried to get pregnant ever since our miscarriage more than a year earlier. Month after month, the fertility treatments had failed. Finally, we gave up. I couldn’t take one more month of hormones, shots, and being devastated when none of it worked.
We’d stopped treatments a few months before. I couldn’t be pregnant now.
Those many months of fertility treatments came with a lot of hoping, waiting, and testing. I had leftover pregnancy tests stashed in the back of my closet where I didn’t have to look at them and be reminded of all the times I had failed to get pregnant. All the times that my body had failed to do what was supposed to be so easy and natural. I dug in the back of the closet and pulled one out. A few minutes later, I came out of the bathroom to show my husband a positive pregnancy test and broke down in tears. I was cramping, aching, and bleeding. I was just heartbroken to know that I was finally pregnant, but this little baby was as good as gone. I’d had an agonizing night the night before. I was in a lot of pain. Now I knew that it must have been me losing the baby.
I called my OB/GYN’s office, and they had me come right in to see the resident who was working that morning. They did a pregnancy test and an ultrasound. Having seen the early ultrasounds with my older kids and the one we lost, I knew what I should be seeing on the screen during the ultrasound, and it just wasn’t there. The doctor said the pregnancy test was just barely positive, and the ultrasound showed no baby. She confirmed that I had already lost this much-wanted little one. She said that over the next few days, they expected my hormone levels to drop and pregnancy tests to become negative. But, she was a little worried that maybe it was an ectopic pregnancy, so she wanted me to come in and have blood work done several times over the next week. Through measurements of HCG in my blood, they’d be able to tell whether the levels were dropping, as they should with a miscarriage, or holding on at low levels, like they would for an ectopic.
I think it may have been one of the first times that this resident had to give news like this. She was not sympathetic and looked unsure of what to do with the crying, heartbroken person in her exam room. When I explained that it was hitting me really hard because I was already upset over this being the anniversary of the last baby’s due date, the nurse hit her with a tissue box to prompt her to hand them to me, and that was about as good as it got. I held on to the memory of the wonderful doctor who saw me for my earlier miscarriage, who had hugged me as she told me over and over until I almost believed her:
“This is not your fault. Nothing you could have done would have changed anything. It’s not your fault.”
I cried my way through my blood draw that day. Tears were falling down my cheeks, and I was painfully aware that I was unsuccessful in my attempts to hold it together in public. The very kind person taking my blood gave me the biggest hug and just held on to me for a moment. It was the first kindness anyone had shown me since I got the news. With that hug, I thought I was going to come apart at the seams. I choked back a sob, thanked her, and headed home.
I shared my news with my husband, who had stayed home with our two kids so that I could go to the doctor. I watched his eyes well up with tears. And I saw how worried he looked when I told him about the possibility of an ectopic pregnancy, which can be dangerous for the mother.
He said then that he didn’t want to try anymore, he just wanted to be done.
It was too hard. I understood. I even agreed. But it made my heart hurt.
Those next few days, I felt so broken. I had a really hard time pulling it together enough to be even halfway normal around anyone, even my family. So, I hid out in our guest room crying or talking to my mom and best friends, all back on the east coast. Thank goodness for phones and good friends. I kept going in for all the bloodwork that the doctor wanted me to do, even though I felt like it was just adding insult to injury to keep going back again and again.
The next week, I was sitting in the parking lot of my son’s preschool when I got a call from my doctor that changed everything. “I have some good news for you. Your betas are doubling. That means you’re still pregnant. We think that it was just too early for us to see anything in the ultrasound. The bleeding and cramping are not good signs, though, so we don’t want you to get your hopes up.” They had me keep coming in for more bloodwork, which kept showing positive progress. Meanwhile, I kept bleeding, cramping, crying and worrying.
I went in for an ultrasound each week. We started to see the beginnings of our little baby. But, the ultrasound tech warned, “The size of your hemorrhage is bigger than the size of the baby. This kind of thing can really go either way. The uterine lining could be breaking up or your baby could have just dug in so hard that they shook a big section loose. I don’t want to tell you not to hope, but I want you to be ready for it if the worst happens.” She had been my favorite ultrasound tech through my fertility treatments, and she was the best through all of this, too. You could tell she really cared about all the families she worked with, and I was grateful to have such a kind and compassionate person there for these appointments where I was so scared and needing comfort.
I was terrified every single day.
The cramping and bleeding continued for the entire first trimester. I was terrified every single day. Even after our 20 week anatomy scan when we saw our daughter looking healthy and perfect, I didn’t quite trust that everything was just going to be OK. When my husband posted ultrasound pictures on facebook, it didn’t make me feel happy and excited to share our news like I had with our first two babies. It made me feel panicky – what if the worst happened and we ended up having to tell everyone we knew that we weren’t going to have a baby after all? But, as the baby kept growing and most importantly staying put, I began to feel a little more confident, a little more sure that maybe we would get to have this baby that we wanted so much. Finally, at 39 weeks, our little girl made her grand entrance into the world and made our family complete.
Now my little girl is two. We’ve had the chance to celebrate birthdays, ones that are real and not just dreamed of. I got to enjoy all the baby snuggles and giggles I’d been wishing for. I can revel in the fullness of my arms when I hold her. I get to watch her playing with her big brother and sister, so eager to be one of the big kids. I get to discover new things about her every day – her lively, excitable, curious, caring little self is everything that I had dreamed of and so much I couldn’t have imagined. This little girl, this longed for little one, is my very own miracle.
If you are still in the days of wishing, hoping, worrying and waiting, consider this my little prayer that you get a miracle of your own, too.