NICU day 46

One year ago, we got the news 13 weeks into our pregnancy that our baby no longer had a heartbeat. And while I’m grateful for how well E is doing, I can’t help but feel sad about the rough journey we’ve had to this point, and still have ahead of us. Four pregnancies: two miscarriages; one perfect, textbook pregnancy; one premature birth. My OB doesn’t think my preterm labor had anything to do with our losses, but she doesn’t know what caused it either, and we’ll probably never know. She did say if we were to get pregnant again I’d have to be on progesterone injections throughout the pregnancy — possibly in addition to the drug cocktail I was on this time around just to keep from miscarrying. Even then, there are no guarantees. Yeah, no thanks. My body hates babies. We’re done.

Interestingly, we have plans for the Fourth tomorrow with the same group of friends, at the same house we were at this time last year, after just learning we had lost our baby. I was still carrying my baby because I couldn’t get in for a D&C until the following week because of the holiday weekend. I was still wearing maternity pants, with a flowy top to hide a small baby bump. Many people at the party didn’t know we had even been pregnant, and I didn’t feel like talking about it. They had no idea the multiple glasses of wine I drank that night were the first I’d had in three months and that I so desperately wanted to escape the nightmare I was living yet again. Now here we are, one year later, living a different nightmare. It’s more bearable this time because our baby is alive. But it’s a lot more draining because it’s so drawn out and there are still so many unknowns.

But I should try to focus on the positives. Emmett is really doing very well, all things considered. The CLD is still haunting me because we don’t know how severely he’ll be impacted, but for the time being, he’s making forward progress. He’s continuing to gain weight. He’s still having occasional events but they aren’t too frequent or severe. He handled the drop to 2 liters of oxygen like a champ, and they’re talking about possibly dropping him to 1 tomorrow. He put on 28 grams today, bringing him to 3 lbs 14 oz.

His heart rate has been jumping up frequently these last couple days, but that seems to only happen when he’s agitated. The higher heart rate episodes seem to have coincided with when they started swaddling him – perhaps he just prefers having his arms free. And he has shown us that despite his lung issues, he can let out an impressive cry when he wants us to know he’s unhappy!

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SIXTEEN.

I keep meaning to start up the weekly posts again. And every week I chicken out. We’re now three weeks past our last loss milestone, but I still haven’t been able to shake the fear. I put on a smile for other people (mostly because I’ve found my fears tend to make other people uncomfortable or cause them to try to convince ME to feel okay) — but deep down I’m still scared. And so is D. Probably even more than I am. I guess that’s just the hand we’ve been dealt and I wouldn’t expect anyone who hasn’t been through what we have to understand. That said, I’m definitely clearly pregnant now. And I do find myself looking back at my weekly updates with T and wishing I were taking the time to document this pregnancy, so I guess now is as good of a time as any to start. (deep breath) Here we go…

Baby: is about 4 and a half inches; about the size of an avocado (or a grenade, according to one website!). His ears and hearing are becoming more developed and he should be able to hear what’s happening on the outside now. This means he will start to recognize mine and D’s voices so he’ll be familiar with us once he’s on the outside. He’s also growing hair, lashes and eyebrows. (I wonder if he’ll be born with a mohawk like T!) Baby is also forming taste buds and should begin to develop preferences for certain things I’m eating.

Mama: is feeling pretty good, aside from some sciatic pain. That came on around 20ish weeks last time, and this time around it started around 13 weeks. I’m finding that everything seems to be happening sooner this time, really. Last week I started feeling him kick and roll a few times a day. I’ve been feeling what I thought might be flutters for a couple weeks now, but as of last week, it’s suddenly become much more obvious. I didn’t start feeling clear movement until about 19 weeks with Theo – but I also had an anterior placenta with him and it’s posterior this time. I’m also showing much faster this time. Granted, I’m starting pregnancy about 5 lbs heavier than I started with Theo, so that may contribute some to the tummy, but there’s a definite bump there now, and it’s about the size it was closer to 20 weeks last time. I’m working out more this pregnancy than I did with T and I’m hoping that will keep the weight in check, despite my higher starting weight.

Total weight gain thus far: 6 lbs.

Cravings: jalapenos, Girl Scout cookies.

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Motherf*cker.

So, I got the results back from my repeat loss bloodwork. Diagnosis: heterozygous C677T MTHFR (which I can’t help but read as motherf*cker every time), high TPO levels (which are most likely related to the thyroid problem I already knew I had,  but could also be indicative of an autoimmune disease) and borderline ANA levels (which could also indicate an autoimmune disease).

Motherf*cker.

The good news is, the RE feels good about the course of care we’re on. The MTHFR gene mutation inhibits  folic acid absorption and he had already proactively put me on an extra dose of folic acid. So we’ll continue that. I’m taking Synthroid already to deal with the hypothyroidism. And the heparin shots I’ve been taking could help the autoimmune disease – if that’s what I have. The doctor wants to run a few more blood tests that may tell us more about the autoimmune possibility, and could also will look at both mine and D’s kareotyping, which could show whether one of us could be genetically predisposed to passing along chromosomal abnormalities (which are the most common cause of miscarriage). The tests are expensive and not fully covered by insurance – and the doctor said we didn’t need to them if we just want to stay the course of treatment and hope for the best. But to me, it was a no-brainer: we’re running the tests. We’ve come this far already – I just want to feel like we’ve checked every box.

So, we go back again on Monday (10 weeks!) for another ultrasound and the blood tests. Then the following Monday (at 11 weeks) we have our first OB appointment. I’m planning to do the NIPT testing with my OB, which will look at the chromosomes of the baby to rule out the major chromosomal defects and hopefully put our mind further at ease (and as an added bonus, we’ll get to find out the sex of the baby at that time too). Depending on the results of the kareotype testing, the RE said he might also recommend an amniocentesis, which I have mixed feelings about. An amnio looks at ALL the chromosomes (whereas the NIPT just looks for the most common chromosomal disorders), and is considered a diagnostic test (NIPT is still just considered “screening” even though it’s about 99% accurate). Problem with an amnio is that it comes with a small risk of causing a miscarriage. It’s only about 1%, but it’s still enough to make me nervous, which is why I’m leaning toward just doing the NIPT unless the RE strongly recommends otherwise. I mean, we’re doing all these tests to figure out why we’ve had miscarriages, and hopefully prevent another one. I’d never forgive myself if during that course of testing we unnecessarily caused another one.

I guess we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. Onward.

Heavily medicated.

I’m starting to feel like the Collette Reardon character from Saturday Night Live with how many times I’ve been to the pharmacy in the last couple weeks.

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As I mentioned in my last post, my doctor has recently started me on a few medications to help my body do a better job at keeping this baby. I’m on so many meds right now — many of which need to be taken at different times — that it’s getting hard to keep track of everything. I actually had to go buy one of those “days of the week” old lady pill cases and set alarms for myself just to keep everything straight. Here’s what a typical day looks like now:

6:00 a.m. – alarm goes off, take Synthroid (for low thyroid; must be taken an hour before eating)

7:00 a.m. – inject myself in the stomach with Heparin just before leaving for work (to prevent blood clots)

10:00 a.m. – phone alarm goes off, take Prometrium (for low progesterone; 12 hours before bedtime dose)

6:00 p.m. – eat dinner, take prenatal vitamin, DHA, extra folic acid (4 pills), B6 and B12 (for fetal health and pregnancy support; must be taken with food)

7:00 p.m. – second Heparin injection (12 hours after the first)

10:00 p.m. – second dose of Prometrium, just before bed

For anyone counting, that’s 11 pills plus two injections every single day. After the first trimester I should be able to stop the Prometrium, and I may be able to drop the Heparin at some point, depending on the results of my blood clotting disorder tests.

Speaking of tests. I had betas drawn again today. I’m happy to say my betas are at 315.3 (up from 91.4), so they’re still more than doubling. The doctor wants me back for one more draw on Wednesday, after which they’ll schedule me for my first ultrasound if my numbers are high enough. Also today, I had all my repeat loss testing done. 16 vials of blood in total. I was surprised I had any blood left and didn’t pass out walking out of the building. My poor arms look like those of a heroin addict from all the blood draws, not to mention the all the bruises that will soon be covering my stomach from the Heparin injections.

It’s a lot to handle, but I just keep saying – whatever it takes to bring this baby home. I’m reminded of a powerful image I saw recently of a sleeping baby surrounded by hundreds of syringes and vials, illustrating the journey through in-vitro fertilization. And while I know what we’re going through pales in comparison to IVF, I can certainly relate to the great lengths, pain, discomfort and money many couples go through in order to do what so many people take for granted.

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Here we go again.

I’m pregnant.

I’m not sure how to feel right now. I wanted this. I want this. We did this on purpose. But I’m scared out of my mind and the fear is overshadowing all other emotions at this point.

I found out last Wednesday. I took a test at 9 days past ovulation, thinking surely it would be too early to tell (the earliest I’ve ever gotten even the faintest line was 10 DPO). I hopped in the shower after taking the test, fully expecting a stark negative by the time I got out. Imagine my surprise when I discovered a faint, but very obvious second line staring back at me. I immediately started crying. Not out of joy this time, but out of terror.

A faint second line... but a line, nonetheless.

A faint second line… but a line, nonetheless.

Of course this would happen now. Just one week prior, I actually had my first appointment with a reproductive endocrinologist to look into our miscarriage history. I just wasn’t comfortable with the way my OB had essentially diagnosed me as having nothing wrong before even running any tests. Her reasoning was that most things that would cause repeat miscarriages would have affected our pregnancy with Theo. She did end up running a few tests, and everything came back clear, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to get a second opinion from someone whose specialty is getting — and keeping — people pregnant, versus an OBGYN whose focus is general women’s health issues.

The RE was very thorough in his assessment of our situation. He did agree that the fact we’ve carried a successful pregnancy to term was a very positive sign. But he didn’t agree with my OB’s assumption that a prior successful pregnancy meant there was nothing wrong. He was especially uneasy with our most recent loss since it was so late – he wasn’t ready to just blindly blame it on chromosomal abnormalities, which is the most common reason for miscarriage, and what my OB had assumed was the cause. There were also numerous tests outside the few my OB had run that he recommended looking into. He suggested we take a cycle off from trying and use the month of December to run a more thorough workup on both of us to see if they could pinpoint a reason for the losses. I explained to him that there was a chance I was already pregnant, and that I’d know in about a week. He said if that were the case, he’d monitor me closely throughout my first trimester and would run as many tests as he still could (not all the tests can be done if you’re pregnant already). I left the appointment feeling good. We had a plan. I was to call the second I either got a positive pregnancy test or started my period, as the timing of next steps was critical in both scenarios. In the meantime, I was given a prescription for a different kind of prenatal vitamin, another for extra folic acid, and I was instructed to take vitamins B6 and B12.

So on Thursday, after getting a positive home pregnancy test, I went in for my first blood draw. They were checking both my HCG and progesterone levels. HCG came back at 33, which is low, but I knew it would be low since I was only 10 days past ovulation at that point (i.e., 5 days before normal people who aren’t obsessed with peeing on tests so early would even know they were pregnant). The starting number isn’t important – but it’s supposed to double every 48 hours so the next draw would prove more critical. My progesterone was a little on the low side — 16.8, and they prefer it to be over 20. So they started me on progesterone supplements as well.

I had my second blood draw on Saturday (yesterday) and I’m happy to say my HCG was 91.4, so it’s more than doubled! I go back again on Monday for a third draw.

Also on Monday, I’ll be getting a comprehensive repeat loss panel done. I’m also going to be getting my first shot of Heparin. Even though my OB ran bloodwork for two of the most common blood clotting disorders, the RE wants to test for others, as a blood clotting disorder would both explain a later loss (a blood clot in the umbilical cord can be fatal to the baby), and could also explain why we escaped one healthy pregnancy unscathed (no blood clot during those 9 months = no problems). The RE said the tests can take 2-3 weeks to come back, and since those 2-3 weeks are some of the highest risk for miscarriage,  they’d rather put me on the Heparin injections now, and then take me off if all the bloodwork comes back clear. I’m not particularly looking forward to giving myself injections twice a day in the stomach, but if it means we get to take this baby home, I’ll do whatever it takes.

13 things you may not know about miscarriage

October 15 is pregnancy and infant loss remembrance day. Tonight at 7 p.m., people all over the world are lighting a candle for babies lost. For years, I’ve wanted to do something publicly for this day, but until recently we weren’t really “out” about our miscarriages, and I’ve never really known what I wanted to do, exactly. What could I say that hasn’t been said already? But the more I thought about it, the more I realized it isn’t necessarily the awareness of pregnancy loss that’s the issue; it’s the lack of understanding. Long before our first loss, I knew miscarriage existed. I’d even known people who had been through it. But while I’d always offered my condolences, I never fully grasped the magnitude of what that person was going through until I experienced it firsthand.

And while I know everyone’s experience is unique, here are 13 things I’ve come to learn about miscarriage that I would have never thought about before. (This is the first time I’ve ever posted anything from my blog to Facebook. If you’re visiting from there, consider this your TMI warning. It’s about to get personal.)

  1. It’s so common. One in four, to be specific. Think about that for a second. Picture all your friends’ kids. For every three children here today, there’s one who never came to be. One who never existed to the rest of the world, but whose parents are forever changed because of those six weeks, or eight weeks, or 13 weeks – or even just that one day when two pink lines held so much promise, before the world came crashing down.
  2. It’s often a well-kept secret. Maybe you don’t think you know anyone who’s been through it. But you probably do (see #1). With our first loss, not even our parents knew until after the fact. Everyone knows you’re supposed to wait until 12 weeks to announce your pregnancy – because you don’t want to have to un-announce if it all goes south. But what no one tells you is how lonely it is to go through alone. You’d never be expected to silently grieve the loss of any other loved one, yet all over the world today, grieving parents are quietly putting on a brave face while inside their hearts are breaking. I recently read a fantastic article about how smiling Facebook pictures don’t always tell the real story. The reality is, you never know who around you may be suffering in silence.
  3. The physical act of miscarrying is horrific. It’s not just “a little bit of blood.” It’s a terrifying amount of blood. Probably more blood than you’ve ever seen in your life. It’s real contractions and actually birthing a tiny baby. I opted to have a D&C with my first loss because weeks after my baby had died, my body still hadn’t realized it, and I couldn’t handle waiting around for such a traumatic experience to begin. With my second loss I didn’t have a choice because of how far along I was. But a D&C isn’t a walk in the park, either. It’s surgery, under general anesthesia, and comes with its own complications and recovery. Oh, and fun fact – it’s the same procedure as an abortion and if you get a pro-life nurse like I did who can’t keep her disdain to herself, you may be treated like a pariah until she realizes your baby is already dead, and then she suddenly has all the compassion in the world for you. Yeah, that happened.
  4. It’s hard on the dad too. Most of the information you’ll find about miscarriage focuses on the mother. Understandably so. We’re the ones who physically carry the baby, so we’re the ones who typically bond hard and fast. And we’re the ones who must endure the pain of physically losing the baby. But it was his baby too. I can only imagine how helpless it must feel to watch the love of your life crumble emotionally and suffer physically — all while trying to be strong for her and dealing with your own grief. In the 13 years D and I have been together, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve seen him cry. But the death of a child – even one you’ve never met – will break even the strongest of men. Even though our second pregnancy was flawless and resulted in our beautiful son, D told me afterward he essentially held his breath for nine months. And when we started talking about trying for a sibling for T, he was very hesitant to agree to try again because he was so traumatized from before. He said he thought he could be happy with one child simply because he couldn’t watch me go through that again.
  5. You’re stronger than you know. Unfortunately, we did go through it again, in the early second trimester this time, when we thought we were out of the woods. I won’t lie. It was awful. But we survived we are surviving. I remember after our first loss, thinking I would simply die if we had to go through that again. But I didn’t die. It hurt like hell, but the world kept turning. Theo still needed his mom and dad. The house and yard still needed to be kept up. Work still had to be done. I have a very understanding boss who knew what had happened and she told me to take all the time I needed, but honestly what I needed was to not sit around with time to think. After two days to physically recover from the surgery, I was back at work. I put on a brave face and pretended nothing had happened. Studies show the physical act of smiling can make you happier. Perhaps acting strong makes you stronger.
  6. You play Pain Olympics. I posted about this a while back. The fact that no one talks about miscarriage can sometimes make you doubt the validity of your grief. Why are you so broken up over a baby you never met? You look at people who have had stillborn babies, or lost children through tragic accidents or illness, and you wonder if your loss even “counts.” Surely their pain must be greater than yours. Do you even deserve to grieve? Likewise, I’ve had friends downplay their losses around me because theirs were “only” 5 or 6 weeks. For what it’s worth, I think I had a harder time with my first loss at eight weeks than I did with my 13-week loss. So length of gestation doesn’t necessarily correlate to level of grief. Grief is grief and loss is loss. It does no good to compare your pain to someone else’s.
  7. You may find yourself haunted by shadow babies. A “shadow baby” is a baby who was due around the same time as yours. It can be really hard to watch a friend’s pregnancy progress after yours has ended and not be reminded the belly you should have by now. Or to see that baby reach milestones yours never will. No matter how much you care about that person, the sadness – and jealousy, if I’m being completely honest – can trump the happiness you feel for that person. I’ve skipped baby showers. I’ve hidden friends and family whom I love dearly from my Facebook feed – because it just hurts too much. It has nothing to do with how much I care; it’s self-preservation.
  8. “When are you going to have [more] children?” is a loaded question. I’ve really come to hate this topic of conversation. People ask about others’ reproductive status so nonchalantly all the time. I know they don’t mean anything malicious by it. But anyone who’s ever struggled to get or stay pregnant knows just how much that question hurts, because it’s hard to answer without making the conversation awkward. Most of the time I shrug or give a vague answer, but on bad days I sometimes feel like being brutally honest. I have secret fantasies of making the person asking the question just as uncomfortable as they’ve made me. Maybe I should. A friend recently told me she asked this to someone once and got a very blunt and awkward answer in return. She said in hindsight she was grateful for the experience, because she had never thought about how such a seemingly innocent question might affect someone so deeply.
  9. You feel a kindred connection to anyone who’s been through it. It’s like a club that no one wants to belong to, but when you find other members, you find solace in the fact that you’re not alone. You know their pain. They know yours. And you both know that no one else really gets it unless they’ve been through it.
  10. The pain never goes away completely. Sure, it lessens with time. It becomes less acute. You find you’re able to go minutes, then hours, then days, then weeks, then months without crying. But it’s always there. It’s an emotional scar you’ll forever carry with you. I believe the pain is what gives us such compassion for others going through it, though. One of my biggest supporters through our most recent loss has been my mother-in-law (D’s step-mom). Even 40 years later I can hear the pain in her voice when she talks about her three losses, and I know that pain is what’s given her such empathy for what we’ve been through.
  11. You feel at fault. Anyone who’s been through this knows one of the first things the doctor will tell you is, “there’s nothing you did to cause this.” Probably because they know that’s the first place our minds go as mothers. Was it the wine I drank the night before I found out I was pregnant? Did I exercise too hard? Was I too stressed at work? Should I really have painted the dining room trim? I wore a mask. It’s hard to shut off your brain when you so desperately want answers. And answers – even bad ones – are often easier to swallow than no answers. Because you can’t fix it if you don’t know what caused it. Even if you aren’t worried you actively did anything wrong, it’s hard not to blame your body or feel defective. Why does a 16-year old crack addict get to carry her baby to term, and I’m over here avoiding sushi and deli meat, popping my prenatal vitamins religiously, and my body still can’t carry out this basic evolutionary task?
  12. It forever changes your views on pregnancy. Having a miscarriage robs you of the joy you should feel while pregnant. It strips you of that naivety and once it’s gone, it’s impossible to get back. It gets a little better once you pass your loss milestone, but you never quite lose that nagging feeling in the back of your mind that something might go wrong; that everything could be taken away from you at any minute. To top it off, it makes you irrationally angry at people who are naive or confident. I still remember (and wrote about) when Kourtney Kardashian announced her second pregnancy at nine weeks and justified the early announcement by saying she “felt confident.” And while I would never wish a loss on my worst enemy, part of me just wants to shake people who think they’re somehow immune to miscarriage. Perhaps what surprised me the most was that not only was I jaded about my own subsequent pregnancies; I’m automatically guarded about anyone’s pregnancy. It’s sad to admit, but when I hear about someone’s pregnancy, my first thought isn’t, She’s having a baby! It’s more like, She *might* have a baby. I hope it works out. I carry the same fear for my friends’ and family members’ pregnancies as I do during my own. I want to protect the ones I love from the heartbreak we’ve experienced.
  13. If you’re lucky enough to have a live baby, you take nothing for granted. There’s a phenomenon commonly known in the world of pregnancy loss as a “rainbow baby.” It’s a baby born after a loss — i.e., a rainbow after the storm. There isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t marvel at what a perfect miracle our little rainbow is. Even on his worst days when he’s acting like the quintessential two year-old, I smile (sometimes through gritted teeth!), because I have been given the opportunity to be this little boy’s mom, and there were days I doubted whether I’d ever be a mom. I like to think my losses have made me a better mother and I can only hope I have the privilege someday of getting my second rainbow.

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Good days and bad.

It’s hard to believe it’s been a month since our D&E. Emotionally, I’m feeling okay most days. I know I’ll carry both our losses with me forever, but it’s true what they say — time heals. Each day feels a bit better than the last, but I do notice certain “triggers” take me by surprise. Like earlier this week I was sitting in a meeting and noticed the date on the calendar and had the realization that I would have been 18 weeks that day. It hit me like a ton of bricks and took my breath away. I had to really focus to compose myself. Little things like that seem to come out of nowhere, but overall I’m doing okay.

Physically-speaking, I had my post-op appointment and talked to my doctor about next steps last week. In another month or so, we’ll do an HSG test (where they inject dye into your uterus and tubes to look for abnormalities), and we’ll test for autoimmune and blood clotting disorders at the same time. I’m also going to get tested for Celiac disease again. My dad has Celiac, and it’s hereditary, and can cause miscarriage. I tested negative for it about 5 years ago, and I’m not showing any symptoms, but it’s possible to be asymptomatic and test positive at a later date, so we’ll get that checked out. Unfortunately, my doctor said she doesn’t think any of these tests will find anything, because if I had had any of these issues they would most likely have affected our pregnancy with Theo, and that pregnancy was essentially textbook. She said if she had to guess we’ve just had bad luck. I still want to do all the testing, though. As strange as it sounds, I hope they find something wrong with me. Most of these things can be treated if you know what you’re treating. But if we can’t pinpoint a cause, I’ll feel more confident knowing we’ve at least ruled out some things. It feels good to have a game plan, but I need to start accepting the reality that we may never know what happened or why.

Unfortunately, I was still bleeding slightly at my appointment, which the doctor had hoped would be over with by that point. She did an hCG draw and my levels were 11.6. That’s very low (the most sensitive of home pregnancy tests will detect around 25), but she had hoped they would be zero. We just did another draw this week and I’m happy to say they’re finally zero! I’m pretty sure the sheer elation of reaching zero is truly something only a miscarriage survivor can appreciate. I’ve also finally stopped bleeding, so that’s a relief. I recently started tracking my cycles again by taking my temperature, and my body seems to be still wonky. 32 days out and I have yet to ovulate. It’s not like we would do anything about it yet (more on that in a minute), but it would be nice to know my body is back to normal.

Some good news: D and I had a serious talk the other day about trying again. I was terrified about having this conversation. He was on the fence about trying this last time, due to fears leftover from our first loss, and I was afraid this later miscarriage would put him over the edge and he would be totally closed off to the idea, but to my surprise, he is completely on board. So that’s a relief. We’re still going to give it a few months so we can do all the testing, but I have hope that we will be pregnant again — it’s just a matter of when.

I think the “when” aspect is actually one of the hardest things for me to accept this go-round, though. I had always dreamed of having children 2-3 years apart. Now, best case scenario we’re looking at 3-4 years apart. I’m trying to have patience, but the truth of the matter is, the more time that passes, the farther apart the siblings will be in age, and that’s hard for me to accept, since I have such great memories of playing with my brother growing up (he’s two years younger). The other thing is that, frankly, time is not on our side. I’m 34 now, and best case scenario, I’ll be 35 when this next baby is born. That’s considered “advanced maternal age” by the medical community. I know women are having babies later these days — and I still feel young — but biology doesn’t lie, and the older a woman gets, fertility declines and chances of complications rise. It’s ironic — we got married so young — who would have thought we’d reach the point where we were at risk of being “too old” to have children? It sounds dramatic, but in some ways I sometimes feel like my life is passing me by and there’s nothing I can do about it…

Beam me up.

Yesterday I had my surgery. I learned after the fact that they ended up doing a D&E instead of a D&C because of how big the baby was. It’s a similar procedure, but involves dilating the cervix more and uses different methods to get the baby out. As a result, I’ve been a little more crampy and am bleeding more than I did immediately following the last time. But overall I think I’m doing okay. My doctor was incredibly compassionate yesterday — she obliged my last-minute panic and request for another ultrasound before surgery just to be sure the baby was really gone (she said she gets that request a lot), and she got us hand and foot prints of our baby, which was sweet of her to think to do.

Coming out of surgery was pretty similar to last time — the simultaneous relief that it was over, with the overwhelming sadness of realizing it was truly over. But while my doctor was amazing, I was less than impressed with the post-op care I received at the hospital. After they let D in the room to be with me, they told me I could get dressed whenever I was ready and then we were kind of on our own. When I stood up to get dressed, I started gushing blood, and they hadn’t even left me with any extra pads. D had to go flag down someone just to get an extra one to get us home. Just getting dressed and trying to get a new pad in place left the room looking like a murder scene. Then I was feeling dizzy and didn’t feel like I could walk to the car, so D had to flag someone down to get me a wheelchair.

On the way home I started feeling clammy and dizzy and had to make D pull over so I could throw up. But since I hadn’t really eaten anything since the night before, I couldn’t. Instead, the heaving caused me to pass a giant blood clot (sorry, TMI), which was a little alarming. I passed a few more large clots (I’m talking golf ball-sized — yikes) yesterday afternoon and evening, but thankfully the bleeding seems to have slowed way down today. I just hope it stays down now and that the worst is over. Our last experience with a D&C and the extended bleeding was just too much for me and I’m still traumatized by it.

I took the afternoon off work yesterday, and am taking the day off today. Tomorrow I’ll work from home, and then I’ll have the weekend to really recharge. It’s been nice to just have some me time today. I go back and forth between feeling fine and feeling really sad, which I’m sure is normal. I binge-watched the entire first season of The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt today, which was the perfect escape. I laughed my ass off, which was much-needed.

By now you’re probably wondering what the title of this post has to do with anything. I came across an article today about celebrities who have opened up about their miscarriages. One of the stars mentioned was Pink, and how she had written her song “Beam Me Up” after her miscarriage. I hadn’t heard the song before, so I looked it up. It’s beautiful and made me bawl my eyes out. I’ve been listening to it on repeat. Perfectly captures the sentiment I feel about my lost babies, and applies to anyone who’s lost a loved one, really.

The juxtaposition of watching Kimmy Schmidt and listening to this song pretty much captures the range of emotions I’m feeling today.

13 weeks pregnant — an unexpected loss.

Yesterday at 13 weeks, we went in for a routine checkup, and found out our baby was gone. The irony is that I think I was finally at the point where I was feeling confident. We had told most of our family and friends last week since we had reached the “magical” 12-week mark, and I had found the heartbeat via home doppler several times. I’m still processing everything and I’m kind of in shock. I mean, who loses a baby at 13 weeks for no apparent reason?

Our appointment started out very normal. It was our first meeting with our new OB (last appointment had been with the nurse practitioner), and she went over our history, talked about both our previous loss and our successful pregnancy, and talked about our plans for this pregnancy as far as any testing, delivery plans, etc. At the end of the appointment she pulled out the doppler to check for the heartbeat. When she didn’t find it right away, none of us were terribly worried at first. I know it can be tricky to find. But the longer she searched, the more concerned I started getting. She kept yapping away about something and I honestly have no idea what she was saying — I just kept listening for that unmistakable galloping sound. A few times I glanced over at D and I could see he was starting to worry too. Finally she said she was going to grab the ultrasound machine. I had this overwhelming feeling of dread, but kept trying to tell myself it would all be okay — and hey, on the plus side I’d get to see my baby again, right? We weren’t due for another ultrasound until 20 weeks, so I kept trying to convince myself this would be a nice surprise.

But as soon as I saw the baby on the screen, I knew. Just 4 weeks earlier at our 9-week ultrasound, baby was dancing around on the screen, waving its arms and legs. This time the baby was very still. And there was no flicker in the middle where we should have seen the heart beating. The doctor didn’t say anything for a few minutes, while she got different angles and measurements, but I knew it was over long before she said anything. She finally confirmed there was no heartbeat and that’s when I broke down. She pointed out that the baby was measuring right on track — 13 weeks and 1 day, so it had to have happened in the last couple days. I already knew this, since I had just found the heartbeat via home doppler three days prior. She kept talking, pointing out other things — like how the shape and position of the baby meant that the death was recent, yada, yada… I honestly wasn’t listening. I just wanted to run out of the building. My baby was gone. What else mattered?

As it turns out, losing a baby at 13 weeks is more complicated than losing a baby at 7 weeks. Whereas before I was given three options: wait to miscarry naturally, induce with medicine, or a surgical D&C, this time the doctor said our only safe option was a D&C, due to the size of the baby and the amount of bleeding that would come with losing a second trimester pregnancy. I really hate the idea of another D&C, especially after all the complications we experienced last time. But my doctor assured me my experience was rare. Then again, so is miscarrying in the second trimester, water breaking before labor starts and too much lipase in your breastmilk. I seem to end up on the wrong side of statistics a lot. Unfortunately, with the long holiday weekend, we can’t even talk to the scheduler until Monday. I was instructed to head to the ER if I start bleeding over the weekend.

So here we are, in a state of limbo. Still carrying my baby, and still feeling pregnant. Still looking pregnant too. Mostly all that fits me right now are maternity clothes, but they’re just too painful to wear when I know my baby is gone. So I spent most of the afternoon yesterday cleaning out my closet and packing all my maternity clothes away again (I had just unpacked everything last weekend and put most of my regular clothes in storage, so I got to spend a few hours swapping everything out once again). Everything I own either feels tight and uncomfortable or shows off my belly, which I can’t stand to look at right now.

It just sucks. Who loses a baby at 13 weeks? And why? The doctor had no explanation. She said it was most likely a chromosomal abnormality, but everything I’ve read online says most chromosomal abnormalities are more likely to cause first trimester miscarriages. Why did baby develop this long? The doctor will do some testing on me after my D&C and see if she can find anything like an autoimmune or blood clotting disorder, which can sometimes be the culprit of late miscarriages. She also said we have the option of having the baby tested for chromosomal abnormalities after the D&C, but that it’s expensive and  usually not covered by insurance. I’m not sure what we’ll do, but I’m leaning toward not doing it. What would it tell us, really? Either the baby had an abnormality and there’s nothing we can do to prevent that from happening again, or the baby was healthy and its death was just senseless.

It was really hard to have to break the news to everyone yesterday, but the support and love we’ve received has been overwhelming (in a good way). I guess that’s the silver lining to having told so many people. Interestingly, a lot of people have offered to watch Theo for us, but to be honest, he has proved to be a beacon of light in this dark time for us. His innocence, silliness and even his tantrums have been a reminder that life goes on, and he’s provided some much-needed distraction. Although he had just learned the concept that there was a baby in mommy’s tummy, and loved to pat my belly and say “baby” and then kiss it. He did that this morning and it was like a knife through the heart. I’m glad he’s young enough that he’ll probably forget soon enough. My 9 year-old niece, on the other hand, was excited about a new cousin and I can’t imagine the job my sister-in-law had trying to explain this to her.

I had been keeping weekly entries for this pregnancy in secret and I’ve debated whether I should publish them. I think I am going to. As hard as it is to look back on, it’s still an important part of our journey. So if you’re interested, you can scroll back as far as April 30 for my first update about this pregnancy.

33/34 weeks (and maternity photos!)

Buckle down… this is sure to be a long post! I’ve been slacking on my weekly updates, so I’m going to combine my 33 and 34 week updates. We also got maternity photos taken, and there’s just been a lot going on in general these last couple weeks.

First off, exciting news – we found out my brother and his wife are expecting a baby in November! It’s still early and they aren’t telling many people yet, but I figure it’s okay to write about it here since anyone who reads this blog either already knows, or doesn’t even know my brother and his wife. I’m very excited for them, and I absolutely love the idea of having cousins just six months apart. Not to mention, they live about 5 minutes away from us and we see each other quite often, so it will be fun to get together for playdates and will also be convenient for exchanging babysitting duties.

I will admit, though, that hearing their news dredged up a lot of old feelings, too. When they told us the news, they were only 7 weeks along and hadn’t even had their first doctor appointment yet. I’m always scared for people whenever someone announces a pregnancy early, and the fact that they’re right at the point where we lost our first baby just hits really close to home. Of course, I want nothing more than to be excited for them, but a big part of me is so reserved in that excitement since miscarriage is so common (1 in 3-4) and I know firsthand just how hard it is. D mentioned to me the other day that he too always gets nervous for people when they announce their pregnancies early. We’ve actually had a few friends recently who have announced to us sooner than the standard 12 weeks, and while we’re always nothing but smiles and excitement for them on the outside, deep down we’re both thinking, gee, I hope it works out. It’s just amazing how much your perspective changes when you’re been on the wrong end of a statistic before. I always knew I’d never again have a naive, carefree pregnancy, but I’ve been surprised at just how much our loss has impacted my ability to get excited over other peoples’ pregnancies too. Anyway, not to get all doom-and-gloom. I really am so excited for my brother and his wife, but I think I will be able to breathe a little easier once they’ve actually had an ultrasound and cleared the first trimester.

With that out of the way, here’s what’s happening with baby and me these last couple weeks…

Baby is now almost 5 lbs! Holy moly. That’s almost the size of a “real” baby. He is continuing to put on more fat and is just … everywhere these days. I can feel him kick my ribs, punch my bladder and tickle my sides, all at the same time. Sometimes I swear I’m gestating an octopus and not a human because I can’t even keep track of which appendage is where, although my doctor did confirm at my last appointment that he is head down, so that at least gives me some frame of what’s where (though he still can technically flip at this point, so I’m told not to put too much stock into where his position was at last appointment). Also happening this week is continued maturation of his central nervous system and lungs, which are getting him ready for life on the outside. Hard to believe I’ll be holding him in my arms in around 6(ish) weeks. Also really hard to let go of any control I have on the timing of his arrival! Could be much sooner or up to two weeks later than his scheduled appearance. As someone who’s always been a huge planner, this is really hard for me to accept. To prepare for worst case scenario, I’ve been frantically checking things off my to-do list in preparation for a possible early arrival (am I nesting, perhaps?). I have my hospital bag mostly packed (minus some stuff we still need to buy if we don’t get them from our baby shower this weekend), I’ve washed all the baby’s sheets, blankets and clothes, and I’m going to get keys made this week to give to a couple people who could watch our dogs if we were to go into labor. Still hoping baby is punctual and arrives at least close to his due date, but at the very least I hope he doesn’t come this week, as D is in Arizona and I have my baby shower on Saturday! I was able to capture a cool video earlier this week of baby in action. He is quite the active boy, and I have a feeling we may have our hands full with this little guy!

Mama is feeling larger than ever. At my last appointment I was measuring two weeks “ahead” — which doesn’t really mean anything besides the fact that my belly is 2 cm larger than it “should” be at this point. The doctor said that really anything within 3 cm in either direction is normal, though. Your fundal height typically correlates in centimeters to the number of weeks you are, so at 32 weeks, my belly should have been 32 cm and it was 34. But large belly aside, I’m still doing pretty well on my weight gain. I gained 1.4 lbs between weeks 32 and 33, and then actually lost a pound between weeks 33 and 34. Total weight gain is currently at 21.6. If I keep up my pound-per-week average, I can expect to have gained around 28 lbs when all is said and done, and 25-35 is the recommended amount, so I’m happy with that. I’m not looking forward to a crazy flabby postpartum body, but hopefully the weight comes off quickly. I’m thinking this summer may call for a one-piece bathing suit and a lot of maxi dresses, though! My back is still achy with occasional sciatic pain, and despite having had two prenatal massages now, it doesn’t seem to be going away. I got some more spa gift cards from my parents and my in-laws for my birthday, so I will try to squeeze in a couple more massages before baby gets here, anyway. Even if they don’t eliminate the back pain, it sure feels nice to get pampered!

Oh, and in other exciting news, I think we’ve finally decided on a name. It was actually a name that I originally loved but D didn’t really like that much. He’s been warming up to it though, and last week he told me there’s nothing out there he likes any better, so he agreed to go with that name and then surprised me by saying he actually had strong feelings about which middle name he wanted to go with. So with a first name that I love and a middle name that he wants, I think we’re actually set! We won’t be sharing until he’s here, and I told D I’m still open to changing it between now and the birth if he finds himself suddenly inspired by a different name, but it feels really good to have that checked off the list.

To wrap up this already long post, here are some maternity photos from last weekend. I’m really happy with how they turned out, and I’m thinking of printing a few to frame in the house, including putting one of the close-up belly shots in the nursery and the one with the dogs somewhere prominently in our house too.

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