Pregnancy After A Loss
Secondary infertility can occur as a result of illness, certain types of lifestyle choices, or by damage to the reproductive system.
This is her story.
I know, you read that title and are all “whaaa??” Unfortunately that is what happened to me after my fourth and final pregnancy. I’ve been pregnant four times and have one living child.
My first pregnancy was completely uneventful and totally successful. I gave birth to a wonderful baby girl in May of 2006. She is the light of my life and it goes without saying that I love her more fiercely than I’ve ever loved anyone.
My second pregnancy, in June of 2007, ended in a “planned” termination. I chose the word planned because it was a decision that my husband and I made together. It was undoubtedly the hardest decision of my life. I had to do what was right for me and my family at that time in our lives.
My third pregnancy in December of 2010 was my first ectopic pregnancy.
I started spotting four days after I got a positive home pregnancy test. I called the doctor’s office and for the two weeks following that positive pregnancy test I went every other day to the doctor’s office for a blood draw to check for increasing hormone levels and for intermittent ultrasounds to try and find the pregnancy. My levels increased, not at the normal rate but they were increasing. However, in all the ultrasounds that I had done the pregnancy was never found.
Late one Saturday night I began to have severe cramping and went to the ER right away. After thorough exams and an extremely painful ultrasound it was determined that I was going to need emergency surgery. Right then. At 3:30 in the morning.
I was alone and scared. A few hours after the operation, when I was in a not so drugged state, I was told that my body was trying to expel the pregnancy and I was beginning to bleed internally from the damage. The result of the surgery was not only the loss of my third pregnancy but the loss of my right ovary and fallopian tube.
My fourth pregnancy in August of 2011 was my second ectopic and final pregnancy. Again like the first ectopic I starting having severe cramping a couple of weeks after my positive home test and headed to the ER. Unfortunately the timing of this couldn't have been worse; the day I went to the ER and found out that I was again having an ectopic pregnancy was the due date of the baby I lost from the first ectopic in December.
Fortunately this ectopic was found right away on the ultrasound that was done in the ER. Since this pregnancy was found and could be clearly diagnosed as an ectopic I did have the option of receiving an injection to terminate the unsuccessful pregnancy. The doctor and I chose the shot because of the fact that another surgery could be risky and I stood a chance of losing my remaining tube.
In hindsight opting for the shot was by far, for me, the worst decision. After receiving the shot I had to have weekly blood draw appointments at my doctor’s office to make sure the hormone levels came down to zero. I went to these appointments for seven weeks after the shot was given. Each week was a reminder of the failure of my reproductive system. The failure of myself as a woman.
A few months after my second ectopic pregnancy I elected to have an IUD placed. After the placement a routine ultrasound was performed and my doctor found something “odd” near my remaining ovary.
After an additional ultrasound was performed four weeks later it was determined that I had a couple ovarian cysts, that we would keep an eye on them and that they would probably go away. They didn’t go away. Seven months later I found myself faced with the decision of having surgery to go in and clean out the cysts. My doctor and I were hesitant to go the surgery route because of the risks. I ultimately chose to move forward with the surgery as I just wanted this nightmare to be over.
As a result of the operation in May of 2012 a damaged - damage sustained from the previous ectopic pregnancy - portion of my remaining left fallopian tube was removed. The portion of the remaining tube was “clipped” off as they would do in a tubal ligation. My doctor knew my wishes going into surgery and she did discuss this with my husband prior to completing the ligation and I am glad that she made that final determination.
I ended up not having ovarian cysts but rather small pockets of damaged tubal tissue that had filled with fluid. Those were also removed.
It took a total of five years to get here but I am now at a point in my life where I will no longer be able to have any more biological children. I never thought this day would come. Even as a child I dreamed of being a mom to many children. Adoption is not totally out of the question but for now I need time for my soul to heal.
What I do have now are answers and closure. This door has closed but perhaps another one will open. I can take this information and move forward with my life and be the best possible mom to the one child I do have.
When I was a little girl, I loved playing the game of Life.
My heart would skip a beat and I would get so excited when I would land on spaces that said, “Congratulations it's a boy,” or “Congratulations it's a girl,” or, my favorite, “Congratulations you are having twins!” I fantasized about what names I would give my children and I would daydream of being a mommy.
I've always been the mothering type. Whether it be mothering my friends and being nicknamed “Mom” by everyone or whether it was helping to raise my two little sisters due to having alcoholism in my family.
I'll never forget the first time I received a Mother’s Day Card from one of my little sisters. She thanked me for everything I had done for her – taking her to doctor appointments, registering her for school, driving her to school dances. Being recognized in that way touched me so very much and really made me feel like I was a mother for the first time. It was an amazing feeling I will never forget.
I met and fell in love with my husband in 2004. We were married three years later and soon we adopted a furry-child – a golden retriever we named Murphy. He quickly became exactly that – a furry-child. He was the center of our lives and I got to practice my mothering skills on him. He was a willing participant and he enjoyed the long walks, the birthday parties, the photo cards I made with his picture on them, and the professional family pictures we had taken with him every Christmas.
They say that the first step toward starting your family is adopting a pet so it was only natural that we started trying for our first child soon after Murphy came into our lives. We adopted Murphy in April of 2008 and we became pregnant in October of the same year.
To say we were overjoyed is the understatement of the year; we were over the moon happy. Jason and I didn't hide our excitement from our family. We told them when we were seven weeks along. Shortly thereafter, I started spotting. I lost our first baby at eight weeks along, in our home. I was devastated. I took a week off of work to grieve the loss of my pregnancy, of my baby. I started blogging; it became excellent therapy for me by allowing me to journal my feelings. It provided the outlet I needed so very much.
The little outfits I had bought prematurely went into a chest of drawers – tucked away out of sight. The picture of our ultrasound when we saw the flutter of a little heartbeat went into a frame and was displayed on my dresser. We knew we would try again, but we waited three months like the doctor advised. I thought we would get pregnant right away again, but it was nine months before I saw the faint line on the pregnancy test that told me I had a positive reading. We were pregnant again! Oh, how I hoped and prayed that God would bless us and would allow us to raise this child.
My pregnancy was very difficult, both physically and mentally. I was very sick for the first 16 weeks. I worried all of the time – about everything – due to my earlier miscarriage. I was hospitalized twice for dehydration; I became anemic and was diagnosed with asthma, as well.
I went into preterm labor at 35 weeks and was put on bed rest. I was so swollen during the last part of my pregnancy that I had to place ice packs on my legs and feet. I did everything the doctor told me to do. My sole purpose at that time was to be everything I needed to be for my baby in order to get him here safely.
Through it all, I was still a happy pregnant woman. I was definitely ready to be a mommy. I read all of the books and took several classes to prepare for the arrival of our baby boy. I bought little outfits and had three showers to welcome our baby. I sanitized every bottle, every toy, and washed every piece of clothing while I was nesting.
After the early labor was stopped, my son became so comfortable, we had to schedule an induction. We went to the hospital early in the morning of August 10, 2010. My husband and I couldn't have been more excited to become parents.
My labor was long and it was trying. I was in labor for fourteen and a half hours and pushed for an hour and a half and still hadn't delivered. The doctor discovered that our son was too big for me to deliver, so they wheeled me in for an emergency Cesarean section. The doctor prepped me and it wasn't long before I could hear the cries of my newborn son, Landon Jason. I was so happy that he was finally here and he was healthy and perfect. The nurse brought Landon over to me and I was able to look at him for the first time.
He was beautiful.
We took our first family photo and he was swept back into the nursery. I was happy, but worried because I hadn't shed a single tear - I'm usually very emotional. What I didn't know is that I was emotionally detached. I was beginning my battle, my own personal war with postpartum psychosis and postpartum depression.
Postpartum psychosis is a monster.
It comes on sudden, takes its powerful hold, and strips you of everything you have ever known yourself to be. I started displaying symptoms almost right away. My husband and I had never heard of postpartum psychosis, so we were ill prepared. I couldn't sleep. When I did, I had terrifying dreams that led me to fear sleep. I was obsessed with keeping schedules of diaper changes, visitors, breastfeeding - you name it and I developed a schedule for it.
I thought I was dying.
I was so afraid that something was going to happen to me, that I would leave my husband without a wife and my son without a mother. At one point, I was left home alone with my son (he was five days old) and I was pacing back and forth. I didn't know what to do. The voices in my head were telling me to do crazy things and I knew – somehow – that my son was not safe with me.
I made the choice and called my mother and told her to get to the house right away. I had my psychotic break at home, scaring my husband and family enough that they had to call 911. At that time, I was a danger to myself. By the grace of God, I did not harm myself and I never did want to harm my son. I thank God every day that I never wanted to harm my son.
My husband admitted me to the hospital against my will. I was hospitalized for seven nights and eight days; it wasn't long enough. During my hospital stay, I had to start the process of piecing myself back together again – just like a puzzle. I was separated from my son during my hospitalization, which was difficult. I was so happy when I found out that they had little bottles of baby shampoo. I carried that around with me and smelled it whenever I really missed my boy. I wanted more than anything to be “the old Tina” – to be a good mom – to be a good wife. I could not believe that I had finally been blessed with a child, but was so very sick that I could not enjoy the first part of my son’s life.
Postpartum psychosis robbed me of that.
When I was released from the hospital, I found I was still terrified to be alone with my son. I didn't have any self-esteem and I didn't believe in myself as a mother. I thought that everyone else could do a better job than I could do and Landon didn't need me. I felt so hopeless and the suicidal thoughts began. I formed a plan; my husband and Landon are the two things that stopped me from carrying out that plan. I couldn't allow my husband to be the one to discover my body. Thank God I didn't remain silent and shared what I was thinking.
I was hospitalized again, but this time for only four days. It wasn't long before I went back to work. I was still unstable, but coping. I was on another mix of medications and seeing my psychiatrist regularly. I quickly discovered that I had gone back to work too soon. It was overwhelming and I felt like I was failing as a wife, as a mother, and as an employee. I felt so worthless; the feelings of hopelessness and despair returned along with the suicidal thoughts. I had to take a leave of absence from work and returned to the hospital. We went with a different hospital this time along with a different psychiatrist. I stayed for eight days -it was the longest stay and most beneficial.
I haven't returned to the hospital since.
I've really started enjoying my son. I still feel guilt and shame over missing out on the first two months of his life. I was there for some of it physically, but mentally I was checked out completely. Since I've begun the journey of healing and finding myself again, I've really enjoyed motherhood. My son is happy and healthy. He is surrounded by love and I could not ask for anything more than that.
Please, know that if you are suffering from postpartum illness that you are not alone. There are many women who have experienced it. We've survived it. We have made it to the other side.
Life can be and will be good again and you will look forward to your tomorrows again.
Just for today, live life moment to moment. Celebrate taking a shower, doing the dishes, getting grocery shopping done. All of the little moments help in the healing process and help to pull you out of that depression. You are going to be okay.
And you ARE a good mother.
The creation of human life is one of the most complex and shockingly beautiful things that our bodies are designed to do. The microanatomy that goes into this task is so astonishingly complicated that it's a miracle any of us walk around at all. And yet, most of us do. Most...but not all.
When a baby dies, we are fragmented. Shattered, we must pick up the pieces and put them back together as we pay tribute to our children, our tables forever missing one, our families incomplete, our treasures in heaven, our babies alive only in our hearts.
It is through our stories that they live forever. These children were here and they mattered. They were loved. They are loved.
I found out I was pregnant with our first baby on July 9, 2007.
I remember the day precisely because I was several weeks into an archaeological program in Rome. It was my first time abroad, and although we'd been trying to get pregnant, we'd had no luck for several months. I was... thrilled. Ecstatic. Overwhelmed. Grateful. Excited. I just wanted to be home. A friend who was in the program with me came with me to a payphone to call my husband and parents.
I came home from the program a little over a week early. I felt good, had an easy pregnancy, and enjoyed every minute. I had a little queasiness here and there, but no real sickness. I tried to eat well and stay active, knowing I was starting pregnancy out overweight.
I just wanted to be the best mom I could be.
We slowly started buying things, little pieces here and there, and designated a room in our tiny apartment as a nursery.
We picked out names, struggling over a boys name for weeks and weeks.
We finally settled on Aodin, a play on Odin and pronounced like Aidan, as a unique spelling of an otherwise relatively normal name. We wanted something different without condemning our kid to a life of easy jokes.
Everything was awesome.
We were planning and dreaming.
I felt great.
My sister came to visit on a beautiful weekend in the end of September.
The leaves were starting to change and the weather was cool enough for long walks. We walked the 2 miles or so down to the beach, right after lunch on September 30.
After the walk I laid down for a nap, only to be immediately struck by the now-familiar feeling of needing to pee.
I stood up and immediately I knew something was wrong. Before I could figure out what, I felt... wet. I thought I'd wet myself, but when I got to the bathroom I was soaked. My water had broken at the brink of 18 weeks. I yelled for my sister and husband, and I called my mom. We tried to be calm about driving to the hospital, with me sitting on a towel as I continued to seep fluid.
I was immediately admitted to the antepartum ward, specifically designed for women who shouldn't yet be giving birth. I got a scan. He was happy in there, his heart beating strong. It was then we found out it was a boy. The doctors were encouraged by his strong heartbeat, and they let me know that I might have a chance since fluid replenished sometimes. They'd watch me, measure my fluid levels, and keep me comfortable.
A week passed. No infection. No continued loss of fluid. No contractions. A strong heartbeat still beating away. They warned me that he might have issues from the reduced fluid, that his limbs might not develop properly. I didn't care. I laid in the hospital bed every night and prayed for him.
I sang to him.
I begged him to stay.
It wasn't enough.
Here's what I posted on October 8th:
Aodin R. Hurd was born at 4:02 am on Sunday, October 7th, 2007. His strong, tiny heart had ceased to beat hours beforehand, just one and a half days before his nineteenth week of gestation. He weighed 9.6 oz and had beautiful, big hands and perfect tiny feet.
He was beautiful.
His father and I, as well as my parents, were given the precious opportunity to say our goodbyes to him while I held his tiny, perfect body in my arms for the first and the last time.
Our hearts are broken, but Aodin’s life will be celebrated forever. He is our son.
I am his mother.
Thank you all for your sweet thoughts and fervent prayers. I firmly believe that he awaits us in heaven, wrapped securely in the arms of the loved ones we have lost over the years. No child will be better kept, and in his short time here he knew only love. Not a moment of pain or fear or sadness ever crossed his sweet, perfect heart.
Healing is a process that we are only just beginning. The hospital sent us home with a beautiful memory box including a butterfly bracelet, symbolizing new life flying away, and some beautiful pictures of our son. When I am stronger, I will post them.
For now, every time we see a butterfly, we will consider it a tiny hug from our tiny, perfect son.
Healing is a process that we are relearning every day. It's been four years now, and I find myself assaulted by the grief even now. Dive bombed, ninja attacked. It takes me by surprise every time.
I'll be in the middle of something - work, television, a phone call - and it hits me, like being side-swiped by a locomotive. The pain never stops, but it does get easier. I've finally stopped being angry with God, furious at the world, and begrudging other pregnancies.
I'm not going to lie.
Every time a friend or family member shares a picture of their new little boy - it hurts again. I don't begrudge them their children. In fact, I take joy in their happiness. But still... it digs at me a bit, reignites an ember of that anger, reminds me that it's always there.
I still say hello to butterflies.
Now I struggle with our sweet daughter. She's three. She knows about Aodin, but she doesn't really understand. It's only this real; this visceral to me. Me alone. It's lonely.
It's a lot like this.
I'm a teacher who works an alternative school where I have the honor of teaching horny teens about sex - how to not have sex and how to have safe sex if you're going to have it. A new child - one who had gone to school where my husband teaches - entered our program.
My husband and I are both very open and honest about our experience in which our baby died, so this child knew about our loss.
This boy asked me, "So, you have a baby in your belly."
"Yes, I do," I replied, currently pregnant with our fourth child.
"Well," he asked. "The baby - not this one - but the one before. It was supposed to come, but didn't. Why?"
This child is thirteen and has only been in the country for two years. I didn't see where the conversation was going until it went there.
And I felt like I smashed my face into a brick wall.
Thankfully, I'm open to talking about baby loss, so I was able to handle this conversation. I felt my co-worker behind me, holding her breath, not knowing for sure if I could handle talking about losing our son.
"Yes," I replied. "We had a baby die."
With those words, the room became quiet.
"Our baby was sick and we didn't know it; no one knew it. And he didn't make it."
He told me that he was sorry for our loss, sorry for bringing it up. Others quietly chimed in with condolences, as freaked-out pre-teens do.
A discussion broke out.
Out of the nine kids in the room, three spoke about knowing someone whose baby died.
"My aunt had a baby die in her belly."
"My mom had a baby die in her tummy before me."
"My sister had a baby die in her tummy, too, but I was too little to remember."
I gave the kids my quick-run down about how this happens sometimes; that it's sad; how it always hurts - about as in-depth as it could be with that group of children. Honestly, I was happy how it went.
But it had nothing to do with the kids I teach; it was my kids I began thinking about.
I've always known that our baby wasn't "real" in the eyes of some. To many, he's never mentioned. To others, he doesn't count as a child; people discuss the number kids I have without adding him to the count.
It feels like slowly ripping off a Band-Aid... it hurts and keeps hurting - a slow hurt that never feels any better. Of course, a Band-Aid comes off eventually. The dead baby Band-Aid is more like duct tape covering your entire body with millions of layers.
It never ends.
But in all of my thoughts of who knows of his existence and who doesn't, I felt good knowing that our little family bubble knew he existed. But I was suddenly hit with a view of the future. When I talk, I say Joel died. When my living kids grow up, it won't be "my brother, Joel, died." It'll be another kid who says "my mom had a baby die in her belly." No matter what I do or say, my kids will never know Joel.
Hell, I didn't KNOW him but I knew of him what I could.
My eldest son, who was only 18 months at the time, has no memory of Mommy being pregnant. My not-even 2 year old, who was born after Joel, obviously has no idea. This baby in my belly now will be the same. They won't know Joel. They won't have a connection. They will simply know it's something that hurts us.
I'm not sure why this bothers me.
It's unfair to expect my other kids to have some bond with a child that only my husband and I truly have a bond to. I know this and I'm not angry; I don't fault my kids. But it's just another reminder that my son, my Joel, is nothing more than a passing story in the eyes of most. A story of sad awkwardness to be passed up in discussion as quickly as possible.
My baby died in my belly.
And on that day, so did a part of me.
1 in every four pregnancies ends tragically in miscarriage.
This is her story about pregnancy after loss.
I just got a positive pregnancy test.
I want a baby so badly - this should be exciting, right?
I'm not excited. I'm barely even happy.
I can't get my last and only other pregnancy out of my head. The pregnancy that wasn't really there. Or was. I don't know. It was a blighted ovum so my body was growing everything for a pregnancy except an actual baby.
So now, instead of being over the moon, I'm cautious...at best.
Instead of driving to every family member and filming their reactions as we shared the big news the same day I got a positive test, I called my mom on the phone. I almost cried telling her. I don't even know when we'll tell anyone else.
Instead of my husband talking in awe about how he's going to be a dad, he says "he might be one."
I never knew might could feel like such an ugly word.
I'm using it myself, too, though. The reality that a pregnancy doesn't always end in a baby is hitting me so hard right now it's hard to think about anything else. I'm not talking to this baby in my head. I'm not imagining what it might be like. All I can think about is if there's really anything there.
It's so unfair. It's especially unfair to my possible future child. If this pregnancy does result in a child I don't want this to be my reaction to finding out about them.
Those are my only words for this right now. I can't allow myself to get attached. Not yet.
If I see more than an empty void on the ultrasound, I hope I can start to get attached then. Even though I know that's no guarantee and I'm starting to wonder why I got myself into this. I'm so scared. I don't know if I could live through another miscarriage.
Last time I laid in bed so giddy I couldn't sleep. That's how it should be. I shouldn't be awake because I'm sobbing so hard I can't breathe.
I want a baby. It's unfair to my potential child that this is my reaction. They're no bigger than a poppy seed and I'm already failing them as a mother.
Until I know more though, they aren't real to me.
They're just a giant question mark.
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