I became a mother in my heart long before I ever held a child of my own in my arms. We were surprised with our first pregnancy on the day following Thanksgiving in 2012. I had been so tired for days, but I assumed it was because I was hosting Thanksgiving dinner for my boyfriend’s family for the first time in our relationship. I brushed aside the nausea as nerves. I powered through until I caught myself heaving over the toilet the morning after our family feast. I knew in that moment. I was pregnant.
I ran to the grocery store, bought a test, and it was positive! We were incredibly excited. I had to wait until Monday to schedule an appointment with the midwife’s office. She worked some magic, and got us in for a dating ultrasound within two weeks. We got to see our beautiful baby with a perfect, fluttering heartbeat. We decided to announce early, and began calling our friends and family. The love and joy poured into our lives with a fierceness that I couldn’t have expected.
On January 13th, we went in to see Maternal Fetal Medicine for the first time. This was a routine appointment because I was diagnosed with Marfan Syndrome as a teenager. The nurse took my vitals, had me lie down, and proceeded to use the Doppler wand to check on our tiny one. She couldn’t seem to find the heartbeat, but didn’t seem concerned, because we were still somewhat early. The nurse moved on to using the ultrasound machine, and we got to see our sweet baby on the monitor, but the nurse rushed out to find the doctor. I began to get scared. I asked Curtis to come sit on the bed with me. I was already crying when the doctor came back in, and told me was going to take a look. He explained that it appeared that our baby was only measuring 9 weeks, when we should have been 13 weeks 1/2 pregnant. That’s when the doctor broke my heart completely with the words “There is no heart beat.”
I cried; I sobbed; I felt hot tears of anger, guilt, sadness, and loss spill down my face and land on my shirt. The tears ebbed and flowed like tides. I cried until the tears stopped coming, and still my shoulders trembled and my body was wracked with grief. We were mourning our future, our hopes and dreams for that perfect beautiful daughter that should have been. I felt caught between two worlds. My heart was in Heaven with my child, but my physical body was caught here on Earth, with her tiny, silent heart waiting to be delivered inside me.
I called my midwife, and she referred me to an OBGYN in her building for a Dilation and Cutterage procedure, because my body didn’t want to acknowledge our loss either. The entire procedure lasted a little under a half hour, but seemed like an eternity. I was awake, terrified, and feeling a loneliness that only a mother of a lost child can feel. My midwife held my hand and touched my face through the entire procedure. This was my first experience with pregnancy loss.
To say that I struggled through the next few months would be an understatement. I quit my job. I cried endlessly. No one knew the right thing to say, because there was no right thing to say. Nothing could change what had happened or how I felt about it. I missed my baby. I missed hoping for her future, and I craved to hold her and smell her, even though I knew she was already gone. The only way I could keep myself in one piece was to keep reaching for the future, for a family.
We decided to start trying again after the six week pelvic rest period. It was not a fun or lackadaisical process. I studied cervical mucous, basal body temperatures, and ovulation predictor kits like they were the Bible. I got pregnant again on the first cycle we tried. I knew I was pregnant for exactly 10 days before the bleeding started. We rushed to the ER, only to be told that I was having a spontaneous abortion, and there was nothing they could do. I was sent home with an ice pack, a prescription for Norco, and a loss for words.
How could this happen to us twice? We were good people, happy people, loving people. I was so envious of every swollen belly I saw, of every new mother holding her baby. I needed my own child like an addict needs a fix. The awareness of my childlessness brought me physical pain.
My OB was very optimistic, but practical, in her advice. She said that we could start trying again as soon as the bleeding stopped. She called in standing orders for hCG beta and progesterone level testing, so that we could start blood tests the moment we got a positive pregnancy test. It happened three weeks later.
I wasn’t happy to see that thin pink line. I cried because I was so afraid that we would lose another baby, but I went in for the blood labs. My levels rose appropriately for exactly 10 days, then the blood came again. The hot tears came again, and the grief flooded back in waves, this time tinged with the guilt of having never been happy or excited for this baby. I was losing my hope, my faith, and myself. The only thing that I ever knew for certain about myself was that I wanted to be a mother, and I could feel that dream falling out from beneath my feet.
At the advice of my OB, we contacted a Reproductive Endocrinologist. We spent a year’s worth of mortgage payments on fertility testing: hormone levels, vitamin deficiencies, cycle monitoring, saline infused sonograms, ovarian reserve testing, and structural ultrasounds. I received a diagnosis of having a Luteal Phase Defect. My body wasn’t making enough progesterone to sustain a healthy pregnancy.
We had an answer, and a potential solution. I was to continue monitoring my cycles, timing intercourse to match ovulation dates, and to begin a regimen of taking a vaginal suppository of progesterone twice a day beginning two days after ovulation and continuing for 14 days. The 14th day was test day, a day that was always heaped with anxiety, hope, and pure terror.
I followed this plan religiously for 3 months before we got our next positive test. We lost the baby 15 days later. I needed a break for self preservation. I had lost myself on my path to motherhood. I needed to get back to doing more than trying to have a child. I continued using ovulation predictor kits, and my OB increased my progesterone dosage to three times a day beginning two days past ovulation, but I definitely gave up on the rest of it. No more charting intercourse, I went back to having sex for fun and loving my partner for the amazing person he was, instead of the father he had the potential to become. We got drunk together. We made out and went to concerts. We had fun together for the first time in over a year.
I found out I was pregnant with my son 6 days before Christmas, and went on to have a regular, miraculously boring pregnancy. We welcomed Jericho into our lives in August of 2014. The moment he was born into my hands, the joy and relief flooded through me like heavy rains in a desert. I was overwhelmingly complete, and he was impeccably perfect.