A Private Struggle: Losing a Pregnancy

The past couple months have been a time of cautionary joy and private sorrow.

Life is strange and wonderful and cruel.

Most of you know I am the mother of three beautiful children.  I talk about them, their antics, and their constant influence on my life through my blog and social media.  What may be not readily apparent is the fact I was done having babies at the age of twenty-three – years before many of my generation started families of their own.
 
I never put much stock in the ticking of the biological clock.  My twenties were passed raising toddlers and elementary-ages with no desire to continue.  While not traditional, our little family was complete and we took precautions to keep it that way.
 
My thirties hit and I came to realize the biological clock was very real.  Though I already had three children, I began feeling the urge to procreate.  The amount of married friends I had skyrocketed and babies were popping up everywhere.  Even my youngest brother, who is nine years older than me, married and they now have three children of their own.  I felt left out.
 
Knowing we were not financially capable of caring for another child, I contented myself with raising puppies and surprising my husband with ambush discussions of expanding our family.  The looks on his face were priceless… for a while.
 
A few years ago, my shunt started to fail, even though scans, X-rays, and tests continuously came up clear.  There was no physical proof to validate my symptoms.  So I started to think I was pregnant.  Tests confirmed I was not and I eventually had my shunt replaced, but one little glimmer was like seeing an oasis mirage in the middle of a desert.  I wanted another baby.
 
But it was never right.  My husband worked a shitty job, got fired, and started a new (better) one.  We were in between insurances.  I got sick – again, and had my shunt replaced – again.  Mere months after surgery, I started having symptoms again.  The physician’s assistant at my neurosurgeon thought my scans were off and it seemed I was in for another shunt replacement.
 
Something nagged at me, though.  Perhaps it was the memory of symptom mimicry or the fact my symptoms were much worse this time around.  Maybe it was the fact, although I had an IUD in place and my periods were irregular, I still felt I missed one or the fact my breasts were sore.  If I was fated to have another surgery, I had to know for sure.  I took a test one night.
 
Three months ago, I found out I was pregnant.
 
Despite all the wishing and wanting, I was in shock.  The odds of getting pregnant on my IUD are zero-point-zero one percent and can be dangerous.  Knowing this, I called my doctor first thing the next day.  After explaining the situation, I was able to get on the schedule immediately, thus beginning one of the longest days of my life.
 
First it was my primary doctor’s office, where they confirmed a pregnancy diagnoses.  From there, they wanted an ultrasound done at the local hospital, in hopes of locating my IUD, plus a blood draw.  Then I met with a midwife at a nearby OB/GYN’s office – one that could get me in that day.  If I did not know it was serious before, it was painfully clear by the time I got to the midwife and I was stressed out and terrified.
 
Finally, we found out my IUD was missing – the first bit of “good” news I’d had all day.  The risk factors dropped exponentially and I breathed a sigh of relief.  My hcG levels were rising, but the progesterone was low, which was a potential problem.  From my labs, they were not sure if the pregnancy was even viable or if it was just really early in the pregnancy.  They wanted to keep an eye on me.  
 
The waiting began.
 
The next week I was informed my hcG levels were rising slowly, but the progesterone was maintaining a low level, so I had an ultrasound at the OB’s office to check how far along I was.  At the time, they could not be sure, but the gestational sac was clearly visible and in the uterus where it belonged.  Another sigh of relief… until we were surprised to find another gestational sac – we might be expecting twins!  I had yet come to terms with one; now there was one more thing to worry about.  They sent me off with another blood draw and a ‘see you next week’ appointment.
 
In other news, it seemed I would not need another brain surgery.  I had an appointment with my neurosurgeon in two weeks.  On the other hand, I had started bleeding…
 
By the next week, the second sac was gone and my levels were not optimal.  I was a bundle of nerves – from the first week I was told to expect a miscarriage, but it never came.  I finally saw one of the OBs in the office and he was gentle, but told me it did not look good.  My options were to wait another week to see if my labs improved or to get a shot of methotrexate, which would dissolve the pregnancy. 
 
I was a wreck.  Although I knew the odds were not good from the beginning, over the past weeks I had become attached to the idea of being pregnant again, even the possibility of twins.  I was tired of the constant unknowns, of waiting for the loss of my pregnancy, of just waiting – and I could not do it anymore.  It was obvious something was wrong, so I broke down – I was not going to wait anymore.

The doctor sent me over to the hospital to get the shot, but due to scheduling, I was not able to get it the same day.  They would call me when they could get me on the schedule.  I cried… a lot.  We finally told our friends that weekend, to explain why I was not myself.
 
Two days later, it happened.  My heart-wrenching, private moment happened in a spectacularly public fashion – while I was waiting to see my neurosurgeon at the aforementioned appointment.  I was devastated and mortified.  My husband did not know what to do and a sweet lady acted as middle man as I text him through my tears from a stall in the women’s restroom.  The nurses were sympathetic and I was able to reschedule my appointment so I could go home.  The Big Guy was very gentle with me and I could see it was killing him to see me in such pain.
 
A miscarriage – a nightmare.
 
I cried and wanted to curl into a ball to sleep for days.  I called my mom and talked for hours.  I cried some more.  I kept thinking ‘the baby never grew’ – that I had not really lost a baby, just the idea of a baby.  The thought did not make it hurt less.  So I cried.  My husband did his best to be consoling, but he was hurting too and I know it hurt him to see me fall apart, even momentarily.
 
Weeks later I was still bleeding, so I saw the doctor again.  This time, instead of a shot, I was scheduling a D&C.  I wanted this to be over and I thought it had been.  The stress of waiting, or the unknown, was taking its toll on my mental state and my marriage.  Seems my body, as well as my mind, was unwilling to let go.  I cried again, but we were able to get the D&C done the same day, so the end was near.
 
During this process, I kept a happy public face.  I was honest about my struggle without being specific.  Those who know me and care about me knew there was something wrong, but did not press the issue.  I grieved in relative peace and for that, I am grateful.  Seeing happy, pregnant women caused my heart to break a little; for those I knew personally, I was able to muster a smile for them and their joy, but I could not watch commercials with babies in them.  I could not bear to walk past the infant section in a store.

My husband is stoic, but at times I can see the loss behind his eyes and makes me love him more, even if he will not admit his vulnerability.  It is not just my loss, it is ours.  I think sometimes people forget that, myself included.  I know better now.  After all, I didn’t get pregnant on my own, I didn’t struggle alone, and the loss is not only mine to bear.  I am grateful to have the man I do, to stand by me, for better or for worse, for the rest of our lives.
 
After the D&C, I felt better.  I am still sad – it has been several weeks – but the experience has opened up an honest dialogue between my husband and I about possibly trying again later.  Sometimes I still cry.  It has given me a new perspective on life, love, and loss. 

As for babies, we raised three and continue to be amazed by them every day, even when they are driving us crazy.  And I will continue to grieve the loss of our little sac, whether we decide to try again or not. 
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