In January 2016, after a year of marriage, we began trying to conceive. We used protection for all of 2015 because I wanted to “spend a year enjoying marriage with no kids.” I told my husband, “We’ll never have this time again.” He wanted to try to have a baby in 2015, but we waited because that was what I wanted. I also wanted to wait until we bought a house so I could bring our baby home to the nursery where they’d grow up, a nursery where I could choose the paint and nail things to the walls. I was confident I’d be giving birth by the end of 2016. In fact, my New Year’s resolution that year was to have a baby. “I already know I’m fertile,” I explained to all my friends. “At least I know I can get pregnant.”
My husband follows my lead, for better and worse, so while he still doesn’t really understand ovulation predictor tests and follicle counts, he supports me and believes what I say. I read “Taking Charge of Your Fertility” and I was so proud I’d been tracking my cycles on a phone app for years already, and I’d practiced taking basal temps for months before we started trying. I tracked mucus, I took ovulation predictor tests, I took prenatal vitamins. We both thought we’d get pregnant the first month. We both thought if we just had sex on the right days, we’d have a baby.
In May 2016 we’d already moved into our new house and I had a positive pregnancy test on May 8. I felt so confident that this was our baby. I told my husband that I could just feel that this pregnancy was going to be healthy, that nothing would go wrong, and we both believed me because I’d been right about the ectopic pregnancy. My husband came home from work on May 9 with a bouquet of tiny lavender rosebuds, “for our little rosebud,” he said, referring to the baby girl I was sure I was carrying. By chance I had an appointment with my OB/GYN, Dr. K, on May 10, and she ordered an HCG blood test. I got the results back the next day and my HCG was 15. She optimistically wrote, “It’s positive, still very low, indicative of very early pregnancy.” I didn’t feel confident. Two days later, instead of doubling, my HCG was 21. Dr. K didn’t even mention miscarriage, but I already knew. My next HCG level was 7, my period finally came a week later, and I didn’t throw out the roses until they were shriveled brown husks in a dried out vase.
Dr. K gave me the go ahead to try again as soon as I felt emotionally ready, which was immediately. I researched and read that in the first six months after a miscarriage, a woman is exceptionally fertile. I took this very seriously and tracked with ovulation tests and we conceived again on May 31. I didn’t feel so confident about this one, but decided to treat it as though it was surely going to be a successful pregnancy. I was afraid that I wouldn’t enjoy my pregnancy if I spent the entire time being paranoid and fearful. My HCG was rising slowly – just barely doubling within time limits, but it was doubling. We had our first ultrasound on June 23. The sac measured 5 weeks exactly. The ultrasound technician was very doomsday about it being so small and possibly not even being a sac. I was actually 5 weeks and 2 days, and I figured being 2 days off isn’t something to worry about.
We had our second ultrasound on July 1. I was 6 weeks and 3 days pregnant, but the sac and embryo inside were measuring 5 weeks and 4 days. Dr. K and ultrasound tech were both unconcerned, as they were convinced this pregnancy could not yet be dated since I’d had a loss the previous month and got pregnant again without waiting a full cycle. I, on the other hand, knew the exact date we’d conceived, and worry set in deep. I remember sobbing in the car in the parking garage outside my doctor’s office, yelling at my well-meaning husband who insisted on hoping for the best. “Why do you want me to hold on to hope so I can be devastated and destroyed when I lose another one?” I shouted at him.
Around this time, I also had some spotting. Google and everyone and their mothers will tell you spotting can be perfectly normal, and everyone knows someone else who spotted and now they have a 4-year-old. On July 15, we had our third ultrasound. There was a heartbeat. I remember breathing a sigh of relief, tears sliding down my temples as my husband watched the flicker on the screen. There is a second heart beating inside of me! We did it! I was now 8 weeks and 3 days, and measuring 6 weeks and 1 day. I asked for the heartrate. “About 89 to 90 beats per minute.”
After the ultrasound we waited in my doctor’s office. I told my husband the heart rate is too low, and he made me promise to at least hear what the doctor had to say. Dr. K came in and said, “Good news! There’s a heartbeat.” She admitted it was low and suggested that maybe since it was still so early, it could be normal. No one would believe me that I was definitely over 8 weeks along.
I spent the following week researching heart rates in viable and failed pregnancies and came to peace with the fact that I was going to miscarry. I had a follow up appointment that week and the doctor had a folder of information for me about genetic testing options and childbirth classes and prenatal yoga.
I told her, “I’m expecting a miscarriage, so I don’t think I need that.”
“I see. How about just in case?”
“Okay, just in case.” I took it home and hid it in a drawer in my dining room china cabinet. The week until my next ultrasound I became absorbed in dark thoughts. I wondered if my doctor would think I was insane if I asked for an abortion, just to get the failing pregnancy out of me. I considered going to the toy store to buy a baby doll that I could carry around the house to ease my pain. Almost as quickly as I had these thoughts, I pushed them down, feeling ashamed.
On July 22 we had our fourth ultrasound. They didn’t find a heartbeat. The ultrasound tech was a different one, the one who’d seen my empty uterus during my ectopic pregnancy. She apologized. I told her it was okay, because I already knew. My husband didn’t know. Despite all my telling him it was over, he was caught completely off guard and was crushed, horrified.
I felt worse for him than I felt for myself. I apologized to him repeatedly for not warning him properly, for failing him again, for getting his hopes up at all. There was his disappointed face in the ultrasound room again. I feel like I can handle it, but he shouldn’t have to, not after all his optimism.
I wanted to take the medication to get the miscarriage over with, but my doctor wanted me to see if I could pass it naturally. I spent the weekend asleep in the dark, trying to move through time without being conscious. On Monday I went to work and told my boss that I was going to miscarry soon and may need some time off.
Instead of taking time off, I went to work the next day, July 26, and started miscarrying on the way home from work. I completed the miscarriage that night, wearing a nightgown and having contractions on the sofa while watching HGTV, and collected it in the specimen cup I was given, refrigerated overnight. The next morning, I dropped the specimen off at my doctor’s office and went to work. The rest of that week is mostly a blur but I didn’t miss work even though I completely lost my voice from stress
Two days after the miscarriage. I recall doctors from my OB’s practice calling me (she was on vacation) to come in for multiple ultrasounds all week to see if I had any “retained product.” I recall openly weeping at my desk and telling nurses over the phone I refuse to come in to the office again because I needed to work and live a normal life. They scheduled a D&C to remove what wasn’t coming out on its own, and then canceled the D&C when they realized my uterus was absolutely empty.
I was so anxious to get the chromosomal analysis back. I wasn’t sure which would be worse, finding out that there was a genetic problem and that possibly I have bad eggs or that one of us has a chromosomal abnormality ourselves, or finding out that there was nothing wrong and that the pregnancy failed for unknown reasons that we maybe could have prevented.
We found out a week later that the fetus had trisomy 16, and was a girl.
The doctor who’d scheduled my D&C, Dr. R, the one who’d told me my ectopic pregnancy was probably just my period, was sure that I had a submucosal fibroid – a fibroid growing in the wall of my uterus and projecting into the uterine cavity. He ordered a sonohysterogram for me and I was able to schedule that for September 30. I spent all of August and September researching myomectomies, half hoping I needed one and half hoping I didn’t. On one hand, if I needed one, then maybe my fibroids were the cause of my losses and I could get this fixed and go on to have a baby. On the other hand, if I did need one, we would have to wait six months to try again and we wanted to try again right away. The sonohysterogram showed no problems with my uterus or uterine lining.
My husband was starting to feel pessimistic and I was summoning hope out of nowhere again. “The chemical pregnancy was a fluke, they happen all the time, and trisomy 16 is the most common cause of miscarriages. The ectopic pregnancy, now this, it’s all unrelated. It’s all just terrible luck. There’s still no reason why we can’t have a baby,” I told him, and he believed me.
After the miscarriage, I buckled down on the efforts to conceive. In retrospect, I should have pushed for fertility testing, but I thought I could remedy this at home. During my pregnancy in June and July, I found out by happenstance that I am have a homozygous C667T MTHFR mutation. I was fear stricken that my baby already had a neural tube defect as I was taking folic acid instead of folate, I became convinced I was suffering blood clots and started taking baby aspirin, and I invested in a slew of new vitamins and supplements for both myself and my husband. I dove headfirst into research and discovered that MTHFR mutation isn’t necessarily a cause for recurrent pregnancy loss unless you have a clotting disorder as a result, so I had my homocysteine level tested and it was normal. My fears over my MTHFR mutation subsided but I became focused on egg quality, convinced my eggs are bad. I started taking myo-inositol, CoQ10, extra folate, vitex, extra vitamin B6, and whole food based prenatal vitamins. I researched and purchased DHEA but was too scared to take it after so many women on message boards advised against it because it “messes with your hormones.” I bought a ferning microscope and we started using Preseed lube. I never for a moment thought that my husband’s sperm health was to blame, and it isn’t. I was convinced I had poor quality eggs because I had just turned 34, and supposedly women become drastically less fertile at 35.
In January of 2017, I had two positive pregnancy tests. We were too afraid to be excited. The next morning, I tested negative.
By now, I had begun to bargain with the universe. I don’t need two babies, I’ll take one baby if I can just have a daughter, if I can just have the mother daughter relationship I’ve never been able to have. I’ll be such a good mother. My daughter will never know the pain I’ve felt growing up without my mother. Then more desperate, Okay universe I will take a boy. I just want to have a baby, I don’t care if it’s a boy, that was so silly of me, of course I just want to have a healthy baby. Then finally, Please let me have a baby, even if it’s not a healthy baby, I just want to feel a baby moving inside me.