The moment you learn there is a new life inside you is an indescribable feeling. Excited, anxious, hopeful, scared…such a range of emotions instantly flood your brain. With my daughter, I remember casually looking down at the pregnancy test, fully expecting it to be negative and doing a double take when I saw a faint second pink line. My husband and I were both in our mid-30s, had only been married three months and fully expected it to take much longer to get pregnant. I purchased some pregnancy tests and just wanted to take a “practise” test…because it’s pretty complicated, right? So the shock of seeing that pink line caused me to fall into a fit of giggles. Not at all the reaction that I was expecting. Making the decision to have a baby is only the first step in the process; the rest is a gamble. Are you ready to get pregnant this month? Or do you just want to have a baby within the next year? Your body could be just as ready as your mind or it could betray you when you least expect it. But you won’t know until you’ve already decided you’d be happy to have a baby right now. We knew that we wanted to get pregnant quickly, but assumed it would take months or more. In our case, it didn’t. So after I gathered myself, the realisation quickly set in that we were actually going to have a baby. As much as I thought I was ready, when I found I was pregnant, I couldn’t help but wonder, “Are we sure we’re ready for this?” It was the day before my husband’s birthday, so I wrapped up the test and gave it to him as an early birthday present. My heart was pounding and I could barely hide my smile. He looked at it, bewildered, and said, “Really?? REALLY?? But how?!” Yep. This is really happening.
Fast forward through a relatively easy pregnancy, a surprisingly quick and unplanned natural delivery (eek!) and a perfectly healthy, beautiful baby girl. Those first few months were rough and a bit of a blur. Even though I couldn’t wait until she slept through the night, there’s a part of me that desperately misses our middle-of-the-night nursing sessions and watching her eat and doze in my arms. I would stare at her for an hour after she finished, knowing I needed to go back to sleep but not wanting her out of my arms.
We knew immediately that we wanted another baby. Since I was already “advanced maternal age”, we planned to get pregnant again within a year of our daughter’s birth. When she was eight months old, I again found myself staring, surprised, at two pink lines. We’re going to have another baby! I felt so blessed that we were able to get pregnant so easily. Now we can handle two kids 18 months apart, right??!!
After having no issues in my first pregnancy and being relatively oblivious to all the bad things that could happen, I was hypersensitive with my second. Inexplicably, I felt there was a shadow hanging over this pregnancy. I was on edge all the time. I had friends who had miscarried between their first and second children and couldn’t get over the constant anxiety that I was going to miscarry as well. Whether it was simply paranoia or a sixth sense, I’ll never know. I woke up early on Mother’s Day and realised my fear might not be for naught. I visited the doctor the next day and my HCG numbers were lower than expected. After an agonising 48 hours, I returned to be retested and the numbers had indeed gone down. God had decided it was not in the grand plan for us to have this baby. The following Friday evening, I miscarried. I was devastated, but almost in an expected way. It was as though I’d already prepared myself for this to happen. But did the anxiety of thinking I would miscarry stress me out so much I miscarried? If you know anyone that has lost a baby, regardless if they know they didn’t do anything to cause it, they have still replayed the events in their head and wondered if they unknowingly played a part in the loss. The reality is that your head and your heart are at odds because even though you don’t want to think you did anything to cause it, knowing why you lost the baby means you can help prevent it the next time. But your head knows you didn’t do anything and you don’t know why you lost the baby and your heart is longing to share this now over-abundance of love with a baby you’ll never hold.
So we waited a little while and tried again. Double pink lines! It’s faint, but it’s definitely there! We are so very blessed. I still had the initial excitement, but apprehension quickly crept in on my excitement. I calculated the projected due date and how old my daughter would be when this one was born. We’re going to be parents again! Each day, I took another test. I had become what they call a POASA (pee on a stick addict). The faint pink line that I saw originally wasn’t getting any darker. Four days pass and no change (for those non-POASAs, as the HCG increases in your system, you’ll typically see the line darken). The apprehension grew. A week after my initial test, I know I’m no longer pregnant. The doctor called it a chemical pregnancy. I did get pregnant, but something in the process failed and the baby never progressed past fertilisation. The sadness floods over me, but I tell myself that it’s not in God’s plan. Not in the plan because we just received the news that we would be moving to London. Who wants to be pregnant when you’re packing, selling your home and moving to another country, right?! Wrong. I want to be pregnant. I want to hold these sweet babies. I want to feel my stomach grow and the baby kicking and the horrific exhaustion and the morning sickness and hormonal craziness that comes with growing a child. Yes, even while packing and moving and figuring out our new life overseas. But I won’t. Not this time.
We mentally adjust but have no doubt that we’re going to keep trying. We take a break and get settled in London. Two pink lines. Deep breaths. There are two pink lines. Am I excited? I don’t even know if I feel excited anymore. The apprehension has fully taken over the excitement. I contact a new OB in London and explain my history. He wants to see me at five weeks since it’s the earliest a scan can detect anything. Trevor and I anxiously go to the appointment. But I have a good feeling about this one. The odds of losing three babies in a row HAVE to be very unlikely, right? But the feeling in the pit of my stomach is unbearable. I just need to know. The sweet ultrasound technician gently tells us that while she can see signs of a pregnancy, the development isn’t what she would typically see at five weeks gestation. But not to worry – this is very common and could mean absolutely nothing. So go home, relax and come back in a week to recheck. Relax? A week? How can I wait a week? The whole “advanced maternal age” phrase is playing on repeat in my head. I’m now 38 years old. Have I really passed my baby-making days? Did I simply hit the jackpot with my daughter and that easy-peasy pregnancy? Maybe that was the fluke and this is the norm. We agonisingly wait a week and return for our second scan. Good news! She can now see the baby and even a tiny heartbeat! Emotions flood my heart and my head starts thinking of the future. She then adds that while she sees definite progression from the previous week, she would expect to see more progression. Rather than the anticipated seven days of growth, the baby only progressed three or four. My heart drops. But this is supposed to be the one! This is supposed to be the “third time’s the charm” baby! This is supposed to be the baby that I finally get to hold. Heck, the projected due date is only a day from my daughter’s birthday. That has to be a good sign right?! We meet with the doctor and he reiterated what the ultrasound tech told us. He asked if I “feel” pregnant. I think about it and realise I don’t. But the funny thing is, I didn’t really “feel” pregnant with my daughter. I didn’t have the morning sickness, the cravings and aversions, the hormonal ups and downs. So I don’t know. I feel like I don’t know anything anymore. We’re leaving in a few days to fly to the States for Christmas. We make it home, but a sadness is overshadowing my typical love for my favourite holiday. On Christmas Day, my worst fears come true. (That’s right – Mother’s Day and Christmas Day. It just keeps getting better). I go to the hospital the following day for a scan and he can’t find the heartbeat. I make an appointment with my previous OB in Atlanta. He does another ultrasound and confirms what we already knew. We’ve lost another one of our babies. It’s devastating. But it’s more than the others because I really thought this was it. Against all odds, I thought this one would pull through. I convinced myself that the due dates were off and that’s why the baby wasn’t measuring right and you simply can’t lose three babies in a row. You can’t. I can’t. No one should. They scheduled a D&C a few days later. I was just shy of 10 weeks.
We need a break. Can we keep doing this? Can I emotionally handle another loss? My doctor in London is great and I’m thankful to have found him. He’s encouraging, but realistic. He ordered multiple blood tests and all came back fine. Yes, I’m old (in medical terms). My eggs are old (in medical terms). But there’s no medical reason not to keep trying. Emotionally, yes. We had to decide if we could keep trying. While the doctor didn’t specify this, we felt we had to recognise the fact that there was either a genetic reason that we kept losing the baby or something was wrong with me carrying the baby. If it was genetic, is it wrong to keep trying? Is God trying to tell us something? Or are these just the trials that we face on the way to our miracle baby? We’ve had amazing lives. We’re happy, in love, living in a beautiful city and we’ve been blessed with a wonderful daughter. Do we need to have another child to feel complete?
Mentally exhausted, we wait. We need to wrap our head around a few things. But the funny thing is, deep down, I knew we would keep trying. Through the sadness, through the unknown, there was another baby waiting for us. This was not going to be the end our story.
On the third of May, I saw two pink lines. I was no longer excited. I couldn’t let myself feel that way. This is the beginning of a journey and it’s going to be an uphill hike and I don’t even know the destination. And for the first time, it’s not the journey, it is the destination. I want the destination. I no longer tell my husband in a cute, creative way like with our daughter wearing a new bib that says, “Big Sister”, or a picture of her reading the “I’m a big sister!” book. I quietly get in bed that night, turn to him and say, “Are you ready to do this again?”. God has blessed us multiple times with getting pregnant quickly. Please bless us with staying pregnant.
A week later, the signs of an impending miscarriage began. That familiar sadness washes over me, but I am used to it now. I hadn’t let myself get excited because if I expected this to happen, maybe it wouldn’t hurt so bad. After all, it’s our new normal. I told my husband and he immediately said not to worry – we’d try again. We’ve been down this road. We are in this together and we’ll carry on together. It’s a horrible thing to “get used to”. No one should. But you do it to protect yourself. This time we were prepared. We’re moving forward. I was flying to the States in a couple of days with my daughter and would be there for three weeks. I felt relieved that I’d have something to distract me from this latest rollercoaster of emotions. After the frenzy of traveling alone with a toddler, arriving in the States and catching up with friends, several days passed before it hit me…I was no longer experiencing symptoms of a miscarriage. I hadn’t BEEN experiencing the symptoms. I had some a week prior but nothing else. If this was supposed to be the end of the pregnancy, this is not what I’d experienced in the past. I raced out and bought one of those new digital tests that tells you not only if you’re pregnant, but how many weeks along. I had progressed! Oh dear Lord, I’m still pregnant?! Could this be possible? In my rush to assume I was losing another baby, I didn’t fully process what was going on. I saw my doctor as soon as I returned to London. And you know what? There was a healthy baby in there. No issues. No shortcomings on growth. No “let’s wait until next week and see what happens”. I was seven weeks pregnant. I had all the symptoms. I was exhausted, nauseous, starving, bloated. It was all there. It had been there and I’d ignored it. I was PREGNANT. We anxiously, but now excitedly, wait another few weeks. At 11 weeks, I have a second scan. There is a beautiful, perfectly formed, precious little gift from God in there. I’m still pregnant. She bumps up my due date because that sweet baby is actually measuring three days ahead of schedule. Is this it? I want this to be it. I want this to be the baby I hold in my arms in January. I want it so badly. But until that moment, we’re taking it one day at a time. Bracing myself for bad news. I don’t want to, but I don’t know if I can emotionally process a loss again. Not at this stage. Not after we’ve come so far. We completed the standard genetic testing for moms of “advanced maternal age”. Everything came back clean. So far, so good. They also test for gender. Oh my goodness. We’re having a little BOY. A sweet, snuggly baby boy.
I’m now 16 weeks pregnant. For the first time, I’m allowing myself a little excitement. A little planning ahead. A little time to play around with names. And praying, praying, praying that we get to hold our precious son on January 13, 2017. Friday the 13th may finally be a good day. We are so very blessed.
Miscarriage is a hard thing to talk about. My husband and I talked a lot about this before posting it. Not only is it typically accompanied by some amount of guilt by the mother, but it’s a loss of something, someone, that isn’t yet tangible to others, which makes it difficult to share the burden of grief. And even if others could help, many moms and dads haven’t yet shared the news with others. It’s a deeply personal and private thing to go through and not often discussed, which is why it’s so surprising to find out how many women have experienced a loss. Up to half of women that miscarry have shown symptoms of depression and up to 40% of women experience heightened anxiety. And these rates only increase for those that experience repeated losses. The more we open up about miscarriage, the more the taboo will dissipate. While this will, in no way, decrease the feelings of sadness for the loss or anxiety during subsequent pregnancies, it will lessen the feelings of guilt and isolation and women can more easily share their experiences. We’re praying that our story has a happy ending, but so many women never get to hold that baby they’ve dreamt about their whole lives. But we’re all still moms. And we still need to talk about our babies.