As a young woman you spend years terrified of becoming pregnant. Thanks to high school health classes and PBS specials you are taught to take precautions until you actually want to have a baby someday. Then you go see your doctor, stop taking the pill and just like that you will get pregnant and become a mom. No one ever prepares you for the what ifs. You don’t even think about how hard it might be to STAY pregnant. Nobody wants to talk about miscarriages. Like swearing in church, it’s forbidden. The internet is full of resources to plan and track your pregnancy from conception through birth but those websites don’t have much content about what happens when things don’t go as planned. I personally found that extremely frustrating! After a pregnancy loss, you already feel alone and when you reach out to try and find support you get very little in return. The information you do find is buried on websites with pictures of happy, healthy babies and mommies to be with protruding stomachs. Not exactly what you want to see when you’ve just lost a baby. In fact, I didn’t want to see or talk to anyone. I felt safe at home and was fine sitting in the living room or lying in bed with the curtains shut. Darkness was my friend. Opening the front door and going out into the world meant I had to face people, put on a fake smile and get on with life. How was I supposed to do that exactly? Move on? The first miscarriage ended with the need to have a D&C. We found out at a regularly scheduled Friday afternoon appointment that there was no longer a heartbeat. I knew something was wrong as soon as I laid down in the ultrasound room. For past appointments the technician would get everything situated and then go get my husband. We were supposed to hear the heartbeat that day and were both pretty excited. I had gotten pregnant basically without trying, was feeling good and we had told quite a few people about our baby news. Instead of hearing a swish, swish, swish I was told to get dressed and was taken to an office where my husband was waiting for me. Listening to the doctor talking was like being on a cell phone with bad reception. I only caught certain words: ….no heartbeat was detected……pregnancy is no longer viable……scheduled for a D&C first thing Monday morning….do you have any questions? Yeah I had questions, but I wasn’t able to form actual words. I just sat there with my head on my husband’s shoulder his arm wrapped around me with hot tears streaming down my face not capable of thought or movement. It’s hard to explain the feelings and emotions that took place over that long weekend. I was literally a zombie for those two days. I knew what was happening of course, my baby, our little Orzo had died. The pregnancy books associate food and fruit with the size of your developing baby. My husband is Greek and when we got to the week where our baby was the size of a grain of rice we decided to “Greek it up” and from that day forward our unborn child was named Orzo. But now Orzo didn’t have a heartbeat. He would never grow up and we wouldn’t be his parents. We had to say goodbye to him, to the hopes and dreams we had already started planning. I couldn’t believe that this tiny being whom I had become so attached to the past few months was going to literally be sucked out of me on Monday morning. It sounds crazy, but I went into super protective mommy mode. I didn’t want anyone to touch my belly or take my baby. It was my job to protect him and keep him safe and I failed. I failed him, I failed my husband and I failed at my first chance of becoming a mommy. Knowing that you have a dead baby inside of you is an indescribable feeling. You are literally a walking coffin and life is like a funeral. I kept telling myself that if I could just get through surgery on Monday that I would feel better, that I would be ok. I had come to grips with reality a little bit by the time we were in the pre-op room. The nurses and staff were absolutely wonderful, so compassionate. They took the time to talk with us about what happened, what was going to happen and what we could expect. They let us cry, they held our hands and helped us to say goodbye. What they didn’t do was prepare me for the paperwork I had to sign. Sure there were the usual surgical release forms, but there was also a death certificate where I had to sign in a box labeled mother. That crushed me. The other difficult part about that day was the bells. Every time a baby is born in the hospital glorious bells ring throughout the building. It must have been a busy morning in the delivery ward because there were bells going off what felt like every 15 minutes. I have to take a minute to say how wonderful my husband truly is. He was hurting too. He lost his baby too. But he was strong when I couldn’t be. He made the phone calls to friends and family, talked to my boss and said I wouldn’t be in for the next week. He took care of me. We cried together. We grew closer having gone through this heartbreaking experience. He is a wonderful man whom I love beyond words and I am grateful to have him in my life. If you’ve ever had a D&C you already know this, but no one really tells you about what happens after. Your body still thinks it’s pregnant and it takes time for the hormones and symptoms to disappear. I naively thought that after the procedure I would feel like my old self again and could start the emotional healing process. Wrong! It took a couple of weeks for the bloating to go away and my boobs didn’t deflate to normal size until more than a month post op. I won’t even tell you about how lovely the first period is……hopefully you won’t have to experience it, but if you do that actually is something your doctor will prepare you for. You go through separation sadness and you feel empty. That baby whom was growing inside of you for all those weeks is gone. Just like with any death, there is a mourning process which is unique to the person going through it. For me, I had a hard time being around pregnant people, seeing babies and toddlers, and I did NOT want to talk about how I was feeling or hear about other people’s stories. I get that they want to relate to you and let you know that you aren’t alone but I swear when I heard things like “You can try again”, “It happened for a reason”, “You will be a great mother when the time is right” and so on, it took an enormous amount of restraint to stop myself from punching those people in the face. I guess that was part of the healing process – anger. I still get fired up when I hear pregnant people complaining of being fat, of being tired of counting down the days until they can see their feet again. Don’t they realize how LUCKY they are to be experiencing these things? Don’t they know how many people want to be exactly where they are right now? Truth is until you’ve had a miscarriage, you aren’t able to see things from that perspective. And same is true about being pregnant. I won’t be able to fully appreciate swollen ankles or feeling a baby kick until I can stay pregnant.
From a physical standpoint, my body was ready to carry a pregnancy three months after the D&C…..but my mind and spirit were not. I was still grieving and honestly I was afraid. At some point during the months that followed the longing to have a baby suppressed the sadness and fear. Becoming an Aunt a couple of times helped too. Everyone was having babies! Our brother’s wives, friends were on their second or third kids. We had baby fever and it was time…..we felt more than ever that it was OUR time. Peeing on the stick and seeing the positive results brought on happiness, but it was a guarded, cautious happiness. We put up an invisible barrier of emotional protection this time around. Were we excited? Yes, absolutely! Did we pick up the phone and call everyone? No. We waited a week and told our parents, but that was it. I started spotting at the end of week 6. This time around a D&C wasn’t needed as we weren’t that far along. The miscarriage occurred naturally and thankfully the process only took about 10 days. Aside from a very lengthy and heavy period that comes with the territory you also have to get your blood drawn every other day. This is done to ensure the pregnancy hormones are decreasing steadily. Not a big deal really, the hardest part is having to go into the office and see a bunch of pregnant happy women. Dealing with the second loss was much different, and in many ways, easier than the first. I didn’t stay home to grieve, but I did take one sick day. Co-workers, friends and most of our family had no idea what had happened. I didn’t get attached to the idea of being a mom like I did the first time…..like I said we tried to keep our emotions in check. But, it was sad and it took just as long to feel like trying again. We had lots of unanswerable questions and wondered why this kept happening to us and if it would happen again. That’s the most frustrating part - you don’t get closure. With all of the advances in modern medicine why miscarriages occur is still a bit of a mystery. There are lots of reasons why they occur, but pin pointing exactly why each one happens is almost impossible. This time around my husband was ready to try again before I was. Part of me was over the idea of being a mom. Maybe I was only supposed to be a doggie mama and a wonderful Aunt. Maybe having children of our own wasn’t in the master plan. While out shopping for a cousins baby shower one day I surprised myself by purchasing a bag full of new born sized outfits…….for me. I was drawn to them and for some unexplainable reason had to take them home. So I did and we decided to give round 3 a shot.
We found out we were pregnant again right around the same time my brother’s wife gave birth to their second baby and my husband’s brother was going to be a dad again in 5 short weeks. I remember holding my niece who was just a few hours old and wondered who our baby was going to look like. Inside we were thrilled and couldn’t wait to tell our parents that there was going to be ANOTHER grandchild in the quickly expanding extended family. But, we decided that this time we weren’t going to say anything to anyone until week 14. Our doctor said by then we should be in the clear. It was actually fun to have a gigantic secret to keep between just us. I was feeling great! The HCG hormone level was growing by leaps and bounds which made my doctor happy and eased my mind. We both got excited. Finally! Our time had come and we were going to be parents. It was getting harder and harder to keep our secret. Greek Easter was quickly approaching – which meant a day spent with family enjoying a feast and drinking wine. We were going to have to come up with a solution to the questions about why I wasn’t drinking. I was eight weeks along and even though things were progressing normally, we were sticking to our plan of waiting to share our news. The day before Easter I got a Charlie horse in my right leg that was very persistent and wouldn’t go away. As the day progressed it became very painful. Our neighbor was a doctor and I asked him if there was a need for concern. He said probably not, but if it was his wife he would advise her to go get an ultrasound of her leg done to make sure there wasn’t a blood clot if the pain was constant. He said that leg pain can also be a warning sign for other things but seeing an ultrasound was the first appropriate step in a diagnosis. The last thing I wanted to do was go to the emergency room on a Saturday night. We already had an ultrasound scheduled on Tuesday – just three short days away- and I wanted to wait until then so I could see my regular doctor. But we decided that with my history it was better to be safe than sorry. That decision literally saved my life. The short version is that the pregnancy was Ectopic and growing inside my right fallopian tube. While in the hospital the tube burst and I had emergency life saving surgery instead of going to Easter dinner. My poor husband had to call our parents and say not only did we just lose another baby, but my life was in jeopardy also. The surgery was successful and recovery was a bitch. Plain and simple. My Doctor said that some day if I have a C section, that will be a walk in the park compared to the surgery and recovery that I endured from a burst tube. It took eight weeks before I could really function like a normal person. I could still feel the scar tissue on the inside for another 6 weeks after that every time I bent over or twisted a certain direction. The physical recovery made the mental recovery that much more difficult. This time not only did I lose a baby, I lost part of my reproductive system. The pain I felt daily was a constant reminder of the baby that used to be in there…..another baby that will never grow up. I’m one of those people who believes everything happens for a reason and that there are signs everywhere if you know where to look for them. Ectopic pregnancies are a fluke and happen at random, for no reason. But part of me thinks maybe this is a sign that I’m not supposed to carry a child. Having my body literally explode from the inside is quite a sign isn’t it? Or maybe it’s one of those things that just happened and I will never truly understand why. I have a scar about 1 inch long on my abdomen. This might sound strange but when I touch it I feel closer to my three little angel babies and it makes me want to try again. I also have extremely intense cramps every period (a lovely side effect from the missing parts) so I am reminded once a month of the third baby we lost.
I can think of nothing greater in this world than becoming a parent with my husband. Seeing our siblings become parents, watching our nieces and nephews grow up like little mini me’s, looking at the huge smiles on our parents faces as they see their grand children……it’s painful sometimes. If I’m being truthful, it hurts like hell if I let myself think about the three kids missing from our family tree. But I also know that when we do get pregnant again that I am going to be so thankful and so appreciative of the entire experience. Our kids are going to be loved and hugged more than the average kids. It’s been 5 months since I had surgery and I’m almost ready to try again. I’m scared though. I’m trying not to think about the what if’s and the what could have been’s…….that’s no way to live. Instead I choose to focus on the future and look forward to the journey that lies ahead. Here’s to hoping that the 4th time will be the charm!