Spoiler and trigger alert: this post is about pregnancy after loss. If you are sensitive to pregnancy, you may want to skip this post for now.
This post was written a little over a week from getting a positive pregnancy test.
The first week, I had no hope. I didn’t call the doctor to confirm everything until I made it through a week without complications. Mostly I waited for a miscarriage to start.
When things were still ok after a week, I called the doctor only because I didn’t have enough progesterone to last me through my upcoming trip. In order for them to give me a prescription, they had to confirm the pregnancy.
Still believing I would not be able to carry this pregnancy long, I did the bare minimum. I refused the pregnancy panel and quantitative hCG tests — opting only for a simple yes or no kind of blood test. They scheduled me for an ultrasound at exactly 6 weeks. I have not had a good ultrasound in 4 years. They are always long and drawn out because they can’t find the baby.
Our last pregnancy in the fall my doctor believed might have been ectopic. Something was found in my left tube area. They almost scheduled me for surgery, then decided to wait for my hCG results to come back. When my test came back with low hCG, they monitored me to make sure they went down and I didn’t have surgery.
Going into the ultrasound this time, I didn’t expect them to find anything. I have seen my empty uterus more times than I would care to admit. I didn’t know if I would walk out of there with good news. Or if they would find it was ectopic again, and have to have surgery and skip my trip.
I told the ultrasound tech that I hated these scans, and that I would keep my eyes closed until she saw something. It took her saying “we see an embryo with a heartbeat,” several times before it registered in my brain that she was talking to me. That she was saying there was a baby in the right spot — with a heart beat.
Ryan and I both teared up at that point. Having a biological child was something I had given up on. In fact, I had been waiting to write a post about how God told me there was another child for us, and how we needed to keep our home and hearts open. I assumed he meant a foster child. After a serious wrestling bout, I surrendered and told God we would still do foster care. Never did it cross my mind that he would grant us another child we wouldn’t have to return. (Even in saying that, I am still very much aware of all that could still go wrong. This is very much a walk of faith.)
Right up the morning of the ultrasound, I was a ball of stress. I finally told God that I couldn’t do it. I didn’t know how to make my hCG rise, I didn’t know how to make the baby implant in the right spot, and I didn’t know how to grow a baby. I had no control over the situation. If he wanted me to walk through a loss, I would walk through a loss. If He wanted me to have a baby, then he would have to make a baby be in there, because I couldn’t do it.
From the time I finally surrendered the control I already didn’t have, I felt more at peace. The anxiety I describe below is all but gone. I have moments of worry, moments where I forget to trust, but in all I would say I have much more time where I feel at peace that this is all in God’s hands.
But … Those first two weeks before I knew that this pregnancy was a viable on was very difficult. Getting pregnant after a loss can seriously mess with your mind.
I have always thought hope to be a resilient little bugger. Why are we hardwired to have hope when by all appearances, all statistics, there should be no hope left?
I don’t know. I just know that from the moment we got the positive test, hope firmly planted in my heart. It was in the wrestling of my hopeful heart and my doubtful mind that all my fears were produced. As my pregnancy continued day after day, hope kept growing … And with it the realization that the more I hoped, the farther I made it into this pregnancy, the more I had to lose.
The following was written in the middle of the battle between hope and fear. It’s a sliver of what it’s like to want to hope when the odds are stacked against you.
In this case, I’m so thankful hope continues to win.
I woke up this morning at 3:30. It’s now 7, and I still haven’t fallen back asleep.
So far this morning there have been tears. Random YouTube videos on pregnancy. 6 am runs to the grocery store for crackers and ginger ale. Too much time on Facebook. Not enough time in the Word.
And now this blog post.
Which I will promptly regret writing.
Because writing about it seems to make it official somehow. And if I officially have hope … Well, I officially have more to lose.
Better to not have hope. Otherwise, I’ll be left with regret.
The same reason I instantly regretted making my ultrasound appointment. “As soon as you schedule it, everything will fall apart. You are setting a day in your calendar this baby won’t live to meet.”
Except so far … This baby is making it.
I’ve managed to go more than a week without spotting, cramping or bleeding. No crazy sharp pains. Not a smudge on my toilet paper (and you better believe I do check). My symptoms are not as intense as with Maddy … But they sure are there.
It’s the reason I couldn’t eat the meat on Easter. The roast was rarer then I liked, but the overwhelming smell of blood made me feel like I couldn’t eat even the well done parts. Actually, I’ve fel sick almost every time I’ve eaten meat.
When I start to think “maybe everything is in my head,” my painful chest tells me otherwise.
Late afternoon hits … And I am toast. Burnt toast. Dry, burnt crumbly toast that you need lots and lots of water to force down your throat. That kind of toast.
So you’ll see … The symptoms are there.
So are the positive tests I look at a billion times a day.
But this is no casual stroll through the maternity department.
This is pregnancy after recurrent loss.
This feels like war.
Forget the scrolling through Pinterest to discover a fun way to announce.
Take that due date with a grain of salt.
(Actually, better to just assume “this is the day other people will give birth around when you were supposed to. And in this day you will feel happy for them, and oh-so sad for you.”)
I read somewhere that recurrent pregnancy loss is akin to signing up for an instant anxiety disorder.
I wish I had fewer adverse experiences to compare this pregnancy to.
“How many pregnancies have you had, including this one?” the nurse asks. (Haven’t you looked in my chart?!? I want to say. My chart is the reason I called YOU and not the front desk.). “7,” I reply calmly.
7 pregnancies. Who the heck has 7 pregnancies?
Unphased, her questions continue.
“And how many live births?”
What horrible odds. What ridiculous statistics. There’s a lot of emotion behind those 7 pregnancies. None of it makes it to the nurse. I hide it, cloak it, behind a thin veil that all of this is normal.
This is not normal. I know that well. So does she.
She hides too. Professionalism, all the way. No pity, no acknowledgement that I just admitted to failing 5 times at this. No judgement in us trying again.
“Any symptoms?” she asks.
I share my symptoms, and there it is. Relief in her voice. A lightheartedness, a small laugh. “Nausea is a very good sign. So happy to hear you aren’t having problems!”
She was holding her breath too. Even if only for a moment.
I, on the other hand, am miles underwater, holding my breath and wishing for a lifeline. Something to tell me that this baby will be the one to make it. That I’m not a fool for hoping, for trying once more.
And then it’s time for me to take charge. It’s what I do now. No more waiting and following their lead.
I know my chart, my body, my needs and my history better than they do.
“I need progesterone,” I start. “I’ve already started, and have 10 pills left. Please have the doctor call in a prescription. I won’t be able to wait until my appointment. 200 Mg once a day. And we’ll need to schedule an early ultrasound. I leave on vacation, shall we schedule it before I go? Perfect.”
She tells me she is sending me a letter on common pregnancy concerns. I silently wish she wouldn’t. Last time I got that letter, it came two days after I miscarried.
Too many pregnancies to compare.
And that is the problem of course. For every hope that slips through unchecked, there are 5 bad experiences to remind me that hope is a fool’s errand.
And so here I am. 3 days from our ultrasound. Believing (against my better judgment) that we might just make it to the ultrasound.
And in my wildest moments, a thought escapes the barricade of my soul … “What if there is a baby in there.” What if you get to announce this pregnancy with tears of joy? What if there is a baby you don’t have to give back? What if my girls will get to watch my belly swell with their little brother or sister?
But those thoughts are too much, too soon.
For now, I have 3 days left of hope.
And after that day … I’m not sure I’ll ever hope for a pregnancy again.
Thank you, Jesus, for letting us be 10 weeks in. Thank you for the hope this baby brings.