This is our story of love and loss. Our journey with this experience isn’t anywhere near over which, I think, makes it that much harder for me/us to process and get through. I have days where the sadness overpowers the pain and days where the hope triumphs over everything. Days I can’t wait to try again and see what our future holds and days I can’t imagine risking another heartache on this level. Days where I feel so unbelievably broken I don’t think I’ll ever be myself again. I know that isn’t true, not completely anyway. I am struggling right now but, with time, I will find a way to be a new version of myself. A stronger version for having gone through this heartbreak, even if I’ll always be missing a piece of myself.
I invite you to read on, if you’d like, but know this is my raw and real account of pregnancy loss.
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January 9th: 8 weeks pregnant.
Eight weeks isn’t really a milestone yet, to me, it sure felt like it was. I can’t explain where that feeling came from but I remember feeling pretty good that day. Two months down, seven more to go before we’d be holding our bundle of joy in our arms. Two months down and two-ish weeks to go before we would find out the gender. Two months down and two days to go before we would see our baby’s heartbeat for the very first time. Or, so we thought.
January 11th: First OB Appointment
I was SO unbelievably excited to go to our very first OB appointment. I had been on cloud nine all morning at work, counting down the seconds until I could leave and meet Jimmy at home. Being the wonderful man that he is, this first appointment was not one he was going to miss. Like good expectant parents, we showed up at the doctor’s office with a full bladder (for me, though this no longer took any effort), our medical history paperwork, the hospital pre-admittance forms, and a notebook full of questions for the doctor.
A nurse called us back and took my vitals. She escorted us to the first exam room where she congratulated us on the pregnancy, provided us with paperwork on prenatal testing, and gave us a list of available pediatricians. She asked me to strip down and put on the gown. Then, we were escorted through the office to the second exam room. The one where the nurse practitioner would complete our first ultrasound.
Excited yet vulnerable and feeling like my tooshie was hanging in the wind (a la Jack Nicholson in As Good As It Gets), we made our way to the ultrasound room and patiently waited for the NP to arrive. Once she did arrive, very few niceties were exchanged. She wasn’t wasting any time getting down to business.
Being early in our pregnancy, she opted for a transvaginal ultrasound. The look on Jimmy’s face when he realized what that meant was priceless…and perhaps my only moment of joy that afternoon. Ultrasound wand in place, it didn’t take long for my excitement to turn to utter panic. I couldn’t see the screen, but could see the look on the NP’s face. There was no smile. (In hindsight, even if there had been a heartbeat, I’m not sure she would’ve smiled.) She turned the screen and showed us what she was seeing. A gestational sac. A yolk sac. No fetal pole, no fetus, no heartbeat. She said it was possible I wasn’t as far along as we thought. She actually laughed at me when I told her about the first negative blood pregnancy test. She said I couldn’t be 8 weeks pregnant, but she also told us other reasons for the ultrasound results: either the pregnancy wasn’t taking place where it should or I was going to have a miscarriage. She allowed me to sit up, tears already running down my face. She told me I might start bleeding and cramping over the weekend and explained what level of bleeding would constitute an emergency. From my perspective, despite not having all the information, she had already decided I was going to have a miscarriage. She ordered a quantitative HCG test to be completed the same day and instructed me to come back on Monday for a second HCG test and in two weeks for another ultrasound. She gave us a minute for me to calm down and collect myself before escorting us back to the first room. Jimmy helped me get dressed again, in between holding me while I cried. We left the office with my head hung low so no one could see how much I was hurting and headed to the lab. My HCG that day was over 86000.
And, that was it. In a matter of about five minutes, I went from being a happy go lucky pregnant lady to living in constant fear. Every time I felt a twinge, I waited for it to become undeniable pain. I was terrified to go to the bathroom, thinking each time would be the time I saw the blood. All because this one woman told us we were going to lose our baby. I spent all weekend in a fog, unable to see beyond the sadness and fear. I’d go from barely being ok to breaking down, sobbing. It was an intense and emotionally draining weekend of waiting. For both of us.
On Monday, as ordered, I showed up at the lab of the doctor’s office for the second quantitative HCG blood test. Shockingly (or, not) the lab did not have my order. The poor man working the check-in desk called up to the OB office for the order, which I explained was supposed to be STAT. I was anxiously sitting in the waiting area for my turn when that same poor man called me up to the desk. He said the NP’s nurse was on the phone and wanted to talk to me. I picked up the phone and all I could hear was someone laughing and joking on the other end. She failed to acknowledge the half dozen attempts I made to get her attention. I was one frustrated moment away from repeatedly whacking the phone on the counter to get her attention. Another movie reference for you…just like Sidda and Vivi in Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. I’m sure that would’ve been well received. 😉 Either way, once the nurse did pick up the phone again, she told me I needed to schedule the appointment for the second ultrasound. I assured her I would be up after the blood draw to make the appointment. It wasn’t long before it was finally my turn to have my blood drawn. While sitting in the chair, I asked the phlebotomist if the order was STAT. She said it was not. Fighting back the urge to cry, I told her it needed to be…that it was supposed to be STAT. She told me not to worry (ha!) and that she was sure the doctor ordered it the way it was supposed to be. I left and, with tears fully welled up in my eyes at this point, went back to the poor man at the check-in desk. I told him it wasn’t STAT. He looked at me with the saddest look I’ve seen in a long time and, disregarding everything else, asked me if I was ok. I wasn’t, but I told him I would be fine and immediatly headed for the elevator. Even then, I knew some way, somehow, I would be ok again.
I had no further luck at the OB’s front counter when I tried to schedule the second ultrasound. That lady simply looked at me as if I was creating my own plan of care and who the hell was I to do that?! Apparently the nurse hadn’t relayed the information that I was to schedule the appointment. Still fighting the tears and the urge to throw a full on Southern hissy fit, I ultimately scheduled the appointment and fled from the office. I still had another doctor’s appointment to go to that was an hour away and I was starting to run low on time and patience.
While I sat in the waiting room of the second doctor’s office, I knew the STAT blood results should have been ready. I checked the health app a thousand times, hoping and praying for an increase in my HCG. Try as I might, I couldn’t will the results to be there. As luck would have it, this doctor was in the same network as the OB so, once I was roomed, I asked the sweet nurse if she could see the results. She told me they were there but she didn’t know how to interpret them. That didn’t matter, I assured her. I just needed to know the number. She told me and probably immediately regretted doing so. My HCG had decreased to 78000. In my mind, that meant I was definitely going to have a miscarriage. I left my appointment and sat in my car. The nurse practitioner still had not called me with my results, though I noticed she had sent a message in the health app. She let me know it was normal for HCG levels to peak and plateau when they reached that level and she wanted to proceed with the second ultrasound in two weeks.
Ok, I thought, maybe everthing will be alright.
I didn’t understand, though. I simply couldn’t. How could that woman tell us we were going to lose our baby without knowing any of my blood levels and then, just a couple days later, tell us everything could be completely normal? What kind of monster puts anyone, let alone a first time mom and dad, through that kind of pain and worry?! Even if everything had turned out ok, my pregnancy was never going to be the same. I was never going to be the same.