The details of my particular journey are a mix of tragedy and blessing, heavy on the blessing side. I've spent hours preparing this story, mostly for my own benefit. I hope that I never forget a single detail about the children God gave me or the unfolding of events, whether painful or pleasant. And some parts are painful. Initially I tried to make the sad portions of this story not so dreadful... not so raw. But above the goal of an enjoyable read, was the goal to remain accurate and honest. I do believe this to be a very honest depiction of the actual events and my own personal reactions to them, whether for good or bad. I was not, nor am I still, a perfect Christian who responds to every circumstance in a Christ like manner. I am trying to improve but in this story you will see my weakness and my strength, but above all else, I hope you see God's strength and goodness throughout.
Knowing that I am not the first nor will be last mommy to loose babies prompted me to include this in my blog. In my heartfelt desire to remain true to this story, I did not rush the story. I omitted very few elements, and so it has become very long. For this reason, I divided it into chapters.
I had a fluttery feeling my tummy. Excitement. Suspense. Hopefulness. Shock. And then the two pink faint lines made their appearance and the truth was known.
I was pregnant. My husband and I… WE… were pregnant.
I went to my part time job that day as usual but an undeniable relentless smile crept back onto my face regardless of my attempts not to appear too ridiculously daffy. My attempts were half hearted, I realize in retrospect, as I remember walking by co workers who casually asked how I was today and I would bluntly and mischievously reply “Oh I’m good. I’m pregnant.” Subtle, right?
My technique for telling Seth of our happy news was slightly more sophisticated. I made a quick trip to a store and had my purchases wrapped and ready by the time Seth and I met at home for dinner. I handed him the surprise package while he looked delightfully confused. He opened up the box to reveal two bibs: one pink and one blue. Both read “I love my daddy.”
In typical Seth fashion, it took a moment for the truth to register. “So does this mean….”
Married for about 6 months, we were first among most of our friends to be expecting. I had suspicions that some of them thought we were crazy. Or that we would be “missing out” on more baby free years of married life. But if they could have known our true feelings, they would know that we were elated. We felt not a smidgen of disappointment that our carefree days were over. While we tried to grasp the magnitude of our impending responsibility, most our thoughts were of holding a snuggly bundle of baby softness. I had big plans of pink and pale yellow and butterflies galore. We immediately made plans to move to a bigger home since our current apartment was not big enough for even a pet goldfish.
We told our parents right away, and very soon shared the news with our church. I received a gentle reprimand that I had broken protocol by sharing the news before passing the first trimester. But even if we spilled the beans prematurely, everyone was happy.
Because I was feeling some discomfort, my obstetrician ordered a precautionary ultra sound. I was barely 5 weeks into the pregnancy but we were still excited to see a glimpse of our baby’s beginnings. Lying on my back with a very full bladder and cold goo smeared all over, we saw… well… we didn’t know what we were seeing. And the technician of course did not talk much. She pointed out a few blurbs on the screen that were part of the early development of a baby. We gladly accepted the printed out photos of a gray and fuzzy scene of an unrecognizable human that we already cherished. Later that day, I received a call from my obstetrician’s office. The nurse spoke softly and carried a tone of sympathy in her voice. The images in the ultra sound were not what they should be at 5 wks. She warned me that this pregnancy may not be viable. That it could be a blighted ovum. A pregnancy with no actual baby. She let me know that my body would most likely expel the ovum on its own. They would schedule a follow up ultra sound in a few days.
I did not have much of a reaction. Maybe I was in shock. I asked if this was because I had been painting before I knew that I was pregnant. A silly question, I know, but one I had to ask. The nurse assured me that this was nothing caused by my actions. Just something that happens.
It seems naïve but even after that phone call, I still had an unwavering impression that nothing bad was about to happen. Other women have blighted ovums. Other women have miscarriages. Other women have deformed children. Other women have still born babies. But not me. Not us. We would surely not be among those unfortunate parents. There is always a lingering “what if” in the back of a person’s mind, of course. But the possibility of something going wrong with our baby remained a very very small “what if”. It was a “what if” equal to “what if an asteroid landed on our house?” or “What if we won the Publisher’s Clearing House Sweepstakes?” A slight possibility but thoroughly unlikely.
My belief was solidified even more by an uneventful next few days and an ultra sound in the very same office as a few days prior. This ultrasound, however, showed a beating heart. And the beginnings of a placenta. It clearly showed a life supporting cyst that would nourish the baby until the placenta was completely formed. This ultra sound showed that I was right: we would have our baby. Our baby was safe and healthy and fine. My obstetrician concurred that everything was normal. My dates were probably mixed up or maybe even the baby had just taken a little extra time getting all its necessities in order to show us on screen.
Actual ultrasound measuring our tiny baby of. .68 cm
Months went by and the pregnancy was normal and healthy. Despite being extremely thrilled that a new life was growing in my womb, I physically felt terrible. I was nauseated all the time. I threw up or at the very least gagged all morning. Even in the afternoons and evenings, my stomach was shaky at best. Almost everything aggravated it. Fruit juice, milk, cheese, meat. Nothing set well. I lived off of smoothies, French fries, crackers and almonds. I tried every nausea remedy suggested. Ginger, ginger snaps, ginger ale, herbal teas… I was desperate to settle my stomach but most ideas proved ineffective. I simply learned to live with it and tried to ignore it as best as I could.
We looked forward to every doctor’s appointment. We were especially looking forward to the big 20 week ultra sound when we hoped to discover our baby’s gender. At 20 weeks, we had a regular check up scheduled, at which our all important ultra sound would be put on the calendar.
May 10, 2005 was a Tuesday morning and I was feeling particularly horrible. Driving to pick up Seth at the church so that he could take me to work and have the car for the rest of the day, I had to pull over twice on the five minute drive to open my car door and heave outside. I hoped that once I was out of the car and focused on my work, I would feel a little better. As the hours passed, however, I only got worse. My co worker asked me if I was feeling all right, and I finally admitted that I needed to go home. I couldn’t stop retching and I had the most unusual head ache I had ever had. It was so sharp, concise and throbbing. I called Seth and he took me home. If I had not had a regular appointment scheduled for the next day, I probably would have called my doctor to let them know about this sudden increase in my pregnancy symptoms. But even as miserable as I felt, it seemed silly to call to complain of nausea and a head ache. They are, after all, signs of a very normal pregnancy, and should almost be expected.
After sleeping for the rest of Tuesday, I woke up on Wednesday morning feeling much better. The nausea was much improved and though the piercing headache lingered, I was enthusiastic about my prenatal visit, because I always looked forward to hearing the heart beat and even being measured. I just enjoyed all things related to the process of having a baby. Our baby. I was particularly excited about this appointment because we would schedule our ultra sound for sometime in the next week.
I do not remember the exact circumstance but I recall that Seth was not originally planning to accompany me to this appointment. He had arranged to be at almost all our prenatal checkups but there was something going on that he planned to do instead, with the intention of making sure he could be present for the ultra sound. For whatever reason, though, almost last minute, Seth decided to go with me to the doctor anyway.
There was always a long wait at my obstetrician’s office. A long wait in the waiting room. Then another long wait in the exam room for the nurse. And yet another wait for the doctor himself. We were joking around with each other and were keeping each other company while we endured the usual wait. The nurse came in and asked her routine questions. I laid down to let the nurse check the baby’s heart rate with the hand held Doppler. I was 20 weeks along but did not have much of a belly at that point. I certainly knew I was showing but in most outfits, the outside world could see no evidence of my pregnancy. She placed the Doppler on my tummy and moved it around slowly, searching for the baby’s heart rate. Hearing only the swooshing and thumping of my own heart beat, she pushed harder, and began massaging my tummy in an effort to coax the baby into a better position. She remarked that sometimes their Doppler’s did not work well, and I had heard other nurses say the same thing and complain about low batteries. She went to the cabinet and retrieved a second Doppler machine and went back to work trying to find the baby’s heart rate. She seemed very confident that this time she would find it, as was I. Even after several minutes passed without finding the baby’s heart beat, I was not at all concerned. Again, I was simply convinced that nothing bad could happen to our baby. She very assuredly said that our baby, “the peanut”, as she called it, was still quite small and was probably playing hide and go seek. She said that the doctor, or as was the case for this particular appointment, the nurse-midwife, would check for it when she came in.
The nurse-midwife who came in was my favorite of the mid-wives. Her name was Corrine. She was a Catholic and a very nice person. She had been the “doctor” I had seen since before pregnancy and had made me feel comfortable. She understood and agreed with our belief about the sanctity of life, and she had not made me feel like an uneducated fool when I informed her of our personal decision not to use hormonal birth control methods. I’ll always remember what she said to me when we discussed the topic. “With the pill, you’re risk is breast cancer and stroke. Without it, your risk is a pregnancy. You don’t seem to dislike that second one so much!”
Corrine asked me a couple very typical questions and looked over my chart. Everything looked fine to her. I told her about my horrible episode yesterday. She again suggested crackers and seltzer, and let me know that it was safe to take three extra strength Tylenols for the headache. The visit was brief and within a minute or two, she reached for the Doppler she carried in her pocket and tried again to find the baby’s heart beat.
She was unsuccessful.