October is pregnancy and infant loss awareness month. For those of you who know me, it’s something that is near and dear to my heart. Not everyone is comfortable with talking about their journey and loss, but I’ve found that with speaking out about pregnancy loss can help with healing, open up conversation and help connect people who have been affected by loss. 1 in 4 women experience pregnancy and infant loss. It’s time we talk about it.
Here is my story:
My husband and I decided quite early on that we wanted children. It was something that was never really discussed seriously, just something that was important to both of us. We decided in early 2012 that we would start trying (a few months before our wedding) because things like that never happen right away. Well, it did. I conceived the first time in early February of that year. We were overjoyed. We told everyone. Picked out names, discussed paint colours and basked in the joy. Our wedding date was May 5th. During the afternoon of May 3rd I began to bleed. I was at my final wedding dress alteration when I first noticed it. I called telehealth and they said that minimal bleeding is normal, but if it got worse to head to a hospital immediately. I drove home with my sparkling ivory dress in the backseat of my car, crying my eyes out with a deep feeling of dread. I was terrified. During the evening it didn’t seem to get worse, so I chalked it up to stress and tried to push on. That night, at about 10pm I was cramping quite badly and the bleeding was much worse. Understanding what was happening, my husband and I went to the hospital. When we got there, I ran to the bathroom and ended up losing the fetus in the toilet of the Emergency Room. I’ve never been so devastated in my entire life. We spend over 12 hours at the hospital that day, and while I was mourning the loss of our unborn child, I was also having to deal with the fact that we were supposed to be married the next day. I had a rehearsal to go to, flowers, favours and everything else to take over to our venue and all the “fun” stuff of preparing for the wedding day. I spent the afternoon and evening in bed, was barely able sit through the dinner and wanted nothing more than to shut out the world and cry. We did get married on May 5th 2012, and while it remains one of my favourite days ever, it will always have a grey cloud over my memories.
We decided to take our time, recover from the loss and try again. In November of 2012 we were able to conceive again. By this time I had been to a fertility specialist and had been diagnosed with PCOS (Poly-Cystic Ovarian Syndrome). My periods had always been very heavy and irregular until I went on birth control at 18. After taking birth control for 6 years, my system was completely screwed up. I was on fertility medicine to get my system in check and ended up conceiving. We were cautiously overjoyed this time. Told only immediate family, didn’t really discuss names or anything that we could get excited over. My doctor ordered an early ultrasound to make sure everything was in order. It was the second week of January when I had my ultrasound and learned that my baby did not have a heartbeat. The doctor recommended that I wait a week, have the ultrasound redone to ensure that there was no heartbeat before taking any measures. I painstakingly waited 8 days and had the ultrasound redone. It was negative for fetal heartbeat. Once again, I was completed crushed. My options were different this time, I could either wait for my body to naturally expel the fetus or I could take some medication to induce a miscarriage. As with the first miscarriage, the timing of this loss was horrible. I was due to start a new job in 4 days and decided to take the medication on the Friday evening, hoping to be able to work on Monday. I’ve never been in the amount of pain as I had been that weekend. The medication took 6 hours to kick in, and I bled heavily and constantly for 3 days. On my first day of work at my new job I had to leave at lunchtime (after having to tell my superior that I had a miscarriage over the weekend – just a tad awkward on that first day) and went to the hospital. After sitting in the ER for over three hours (bleeding severely) I ended up passing out in the hallway on the way to the bathroom and finally receiving care.
After this incident, we decided to put pregnancy out of our minds for a while. I was an emotional wreck, my body was a mess and I don’t think either my husband and I could take another loss. It was 10 months before we even discussed the idea, and at that point I went back to a fertility specialist and once again went on fertility medicine. We struggled with months of medications, crazy mood swings, pains and failure to conceive. We had given up once again when I fell pregnant just after our second wedding anniversary. Again, we were cautiously happy, didn’t tell anyone other than immediate family and didn’t speak of it much to each other. I know now that my husband expected me to lose the baby and had emotionally checked out – something I completely understand. I hadn’t realized just how much the losses had affected my Husband. Each time I may have gone through the physical pain on my own, but I hadn’t realized that I had someone to share the emotional pain with. This time, 12 weeks passed, then 14 and I felt like perhaps we were out of the danger zone. Then it happened. One morning before work I woke up spotting. Knowing what was in store for me, I called in sick to work and went to the hospital in the next town and waited for news. I had an ultrasound and the ER doctor told me to go home and relax, that he saw a heartbeat but stressing out about it could make the bleeding worse and I could miscarry. So I went home and tried to relax. Just before dinner I decided I couldn’t wait any longer (the bleeding and pains were more intense) and went to the local ER. I was in desperate need of pain medication, and once again ended up losing the fetus in the bathroom at the hospital.
I decided then that having children wasn’t in my future. I obviously couldn’t carry a child to term and tried to resound myself to that fact. Inside I was devastated. I was having issues at work and I was so messed up emotionally. It was the worst time of my life.While my husband was supportive and tried to help, it was difficult for him to reach me on the emotional level that I needed. We decided to look into adoption and fostering, but under the stipulation that we were in absolutely no rush. Since our ages were no longer a factor (adoption agencies in Canada state that both the mother and father must be 30 years old) we agreed it would happen – at some point.
Six weeks later (after one drunken night at a party) we conceived our daughter. I have honestly never been more scared about something in my life. It pains me to say that I was not excited, and in fact quite upset that I had conceived again. I was not looking forward to miscarrying again, to the pain and the bleeding, the loss and feeling of utter disappointment. It was at this point that my doctor decided that if there was anything to do about saving the pregnancy I would have to stay off my feet as much as possible. I went on medical leave when I was just 6 weeks pregnant. I decided at that point to consult a midwife and do things a little differently this time around. I was not prepared to get pregnant again, so I decided to do everything I could to maintain the pregnancy. I went on a very strict regime of supplements and vitamins, as well as aspirin every day. Every single day during that pregnancy I was scared. Terrified. Every time I went to the bathroom, I expected to see blood in the toilet. Every ultrasound (once a month until I was 6 months along) I expected the midwife to tell me that there was no heartbeat and that I had lost my child. The first time I felt that succinct “flutter” in my belly I cried all day. From then on, I became a little more optimism with each week that passed. We had a 3D ultrasound in January of 2015 and I saw my little Nugget’s face for the first time and bawled my eyes out.
After 41 weeks 6 days, 28 hours of labour and an emergency c-section, our precious little girl was born. I felt like it wasn’t real (aside from our daughter being whisked away from the operating room and into the NICU) that one moment I was pregnant and the next I wasn’t. Like it was almost a (very long) dream. We spent some time in the NICU at the hospital, but eventually brought our daughter home and life hasn’t been the same since.
For all those of you who have gone through pregnancy loss, I feel you. I know your pain. I’ve been where you are, wondering what you’ve done to deserve this, wondering what you could have done to prevent it, and wonder how you’re going to get through it. Here is what I’ve learned. We didn’t do anything to deserve it. Nothing could have prevented it. We will get through it. We will never forget the children of our hearts, but we will find a way to live without them. By sharing our stories, we can erase the shame and stigma of pregnancy and infant loss and help others who are suffering to know that they are not alone.
To my three angels; I hope you’re watching over us, knowing that we loved you and wish you were here with us every day. To my husband, you’ve been my rock through some of the hardest times of my life and for that I will forever be grateful. To my daughter, you will always be my special gift, one that I will cherish until the day I die with the entirety of my heart and soul.