By Heidy Best
My first miscarriage was in August 2017. It took me a week after my missed period to finally get a positive pregnancy test and I guess that should have been my first indicator that something wasn’t right. In a few short weeks of repeat hormone level testing (HCG or beta testing as it’s commonly referred to) I was told that my levels were not doubling appropriately and as they started tapering off the next step was for them to begin declining and that I would have a miscarriage. I felt like I was hearing the news in slow motion so I didn’t really ask any questions. I was so confused and the only comfort I was really provided with was that it should happen a few days later and not require medical intervention. I went home and felt like a ticking time bomb. A few days later I started bleeding as if my period started and I assumed that was the miscarriage. The next night while my husband Phil was away on a business trip I was laying in bed and started having severe abdominal pain that I had never experienced in my life. I could barely move. I couldn’t even walk to the kitchen to get ibuprofen. I made it to the bathroom and I really don’t remember what happened after that.
A month after my first miscarriage I got pregnant with our rainbow baby Oliver and had a very normal pregnancy. We started trying a month or two before his first birthday and got pregnant shortly after. I wanted to surprise my husband Phil similarly to how I did when I was pregnant with our son Oliver so I hired a photographer to take family pictures while we were enjoying a long weekend out of town. The pictures turned out beautiful and I am so grateful for the wonderful moment we were able to celebrate as a family.
A couple of months later we shared the news with my husband’s family during Labor Day weekend. On Sunday evening I started having a little spotting. I spoke to one of my doctors and she said not to worry and spotting can be totally normal but since we were going to be back in the city the next day to just come in for an ultrasound to get some peace of mind. As we were driving back the next day I got a call from our genetic counselor giving us the results from my recent testing and that everything looked great. I also found out we were having a girl but kept that news to myself. I wanted to share it with my husband in a special way.
Phil dropped me off at the doctor’s office to go park and I got called back to the ultrasound room. Seconds before my husband walked in the ultrasound tech told me that there wasn’t a heartbeat. I wasn’t sure what to say when he walked in so I tried to do it in stages. I think I told him that she had some bad news and he should sit down. Then I told him there wasn’t a heartbeat. The ultrasound tech left the room and then I gave him a hug and said it was a girl.
I had my first d&c in September 2019 days after Labor Day. The doctor that delivered Oliver performed my surgery and I took a little comfort in that. She called a month later with the pathology results of our daughter and we learned that she had an extra chromosome that didn’t show up on the baseline genetic testing. I was reassured by my doctor that we could have another healthy baby and just needed to wait until my next cycle to try.
A couple of months later we were pregnant and shared the news with just a handful of people. We came back from celebrating Christmas with family to our 8 week ultrasound and everything looked great. The heartbeat was even a little stronger than Oliver’s at that stage.
I went in for genetic testing and this time I asked about getting a full panel that showed all 26 pairs instead of just a few. I really didn’t want to be blindsided this time.
My genetic counselor called a week later with the results that the testing came back high risk for an extra chromosome. I was supposed to go in the next day for my 12 week ultrasound but she said that they wanted me to go in for an amniocentesis instead. I asked her for the gender and she asked “are you sure you want to know?” I told her of course and she said in a very clinical way (with percentages even) that it was a girl. I hung up and started crying and within an hour started spotting.
So the next day I ended up having my 12 week ultrasound after all. Phil stayed home with our son so the nurse practitioner held my hand while the ultrasound technician told me what I already knew.
I will never be able to fully explain how it felt hearing that our daughter stopped growing shortly after we saw her strong heartbeat a month earlier. I had been walking around thinking I was pregnant for weeks when really I was just holding her sleeping body close to me and I didn’t know it.
I went in for a d&c the next morning.
After learning that our daughter did in fact have a couple of extra chromosomes we were referred to two different reproductive endocrinologists that each specialized in recurrent miscarriages. They both felt that I would be a good candidate for IVF and explained the added benefit of the genetic testing that could be performed prior to having a transfer. I was able to get diagnostics just before shelter in place occurred but because elective surgeries (IVF included) would be suspended we couldn’t move forward at that time.
During both of our initial consultations we were told that it was possible to have another healthy baby without medical intervention. After months of waiting we decided take a leap of faith and try one more time on our own. And much like our previous pregnancies we were able to get pregnant shortly after trying. I will say that I really thought this time would be different. I started getting positive tests 5 days before my period was due and kept testing days after. I was cautiously optimistic because the lines kept getting darker faster. Because of covid my initial doctor’s appointment was via Telehealth. I didn’t go in to the office until I was 6 weeks along to have my first hormone level check. I was called the next day and told the numbers were amazing and that my next step would be to schedule my 8 week ultrasound. I started feeling a little more optimistic and walking into my appointment I really was hoping I wasn’t crazy in doing so.
I wish I could tell you that my appointment went well, that I am still pregnant, and that I’m due in March but unfortunately that’s not the case. Almost a year after my first d&c I had my third one. It was very different from my first experience but for those of you that have had any sort of surgery during covid you can probably understand why. I wasn’t able to have my husband with me. I had to get a covid test which was not pleasant but was pretty pale in comparison to why I was getting it in the first place.
And although I was by myself in the hospital I wasn’t alone. Phil and a few of my close friends were texting me leading up to my surgery. My care team was amazing as they understood that I was a frequent flyer on their floor. Phil dropped me off and while Oliver was taking his nap his mommy took a little one too.
I woke up from my surgery in recovery and a close friend took me home. I’m still waiting to hear back from my doctor about what went wrong this time. In the meantime I have been spending lots of quality time with Phil and Oliver. I’ve been coping by joining a couple of support groups that are meeting virtually and writing this has helped me share parts of what I went through. And as I hit send on this last part of my losses I walk into the first day of October known in the loss community as Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month prepared to light 4 candles for my angel babies and an infinite number of virtual candles for those of you that have experienced your own losses as well.