So I'm pregnant after a loss...
And boy, that 'after a loss' phrase makes everything completely different this time around. A few days ago I finally sat down at the computer to start typing a few blog posts about the pregnancy, at nearly 11 weeks pregnant. I must have been having a rough mental day because there are four paragraphs full of doom and gloom and depressing thoughts about how difficult it's been for me to enjoy this pregnancy. But you know what? I'm not posting those four paragraphs because I'm choosing to be positive for a change. I will, however, paraphrase my rambling thoughts on the matter of being pregnant again after a miscarriage earlier this year. And then I'll get to the nitty gritty details that you all want to read anyway:)
I'm a worrier as you may have picked up from reading my blog. I worry that posting about this pregnancy will hurt the readers out there who are still trying to get pregnant---after a loss or not. I want those readers to know that I promise not to EVER take this amazing gift for granted. I am fully aware of how blessed I am to be pregnant after a loss just 6 months after my last BFP. And although I hesitate to post all about this pregnancy because I worry I'll hurt others out there traveling my same path, please know that if I didn't post about this I would be the biggest phony blogger out there and I'm pretty sure nobody wants to read a bunch of BS on this blog. Big, big hugs to those trying to conceive, too---there can never be enough hugs, right?
Also, I am definitely not one of those second-time moms who says things like, 'I just don't have time to sit around thinking about pregnancy this time, so it's flying by. I'm way too busy with my toddler to remember how far along I am, or what fruit baby is, and it's not the center of my life anymore.' No, that is basically the opposite of what I am telling you today. Because my journey to get to this pregnancy is incredibly different than most of those moms out there who don't have the time to worry. (I guess I've managed to make time, then). It's just that when you are pregnant after a loss you don't feel comfort in the statistics telling us that we have less than a 3% chance of losing this baby now that we've seen a heartbeat. I've been on the 'rare' side of stats before and it hurts. Badly. It hurt me so deeply that I can definitely say I will be forever changed by my loss, which isn't necessarily a bad thing but I am painfully jealous of women who still have their innocent naivety about pregnancy. I didn't take a single belly pic until 11 weeks this time, nor did I have the courage to write any drafted posts until then. We didn't tell our parents until 6 weeks (and that was only because we needed their support in light of some complications I'll write about in a bit) and didn't tell most of our friends until much later, too. I guess I'm only telling you all of this to preface the fact that this first trimester has been mentally grueling, has landed me in some of the darkest moments of my life, and I guess I didn't expect it to be so hard. I just thought if I got pregnant again THAT was the ultimate goal and all would be right with the world. But oooh, boy---I feel like I just started the roller coaster ride of my life. It's also made me pray a little harder, a little more often, and I've found myself trusting God's plan even more than before---because let's face it, at SOME point I have to realize that I cannot control my life. Especially when it comes to getting pregnant and staying pregnant---that is all up to God's will, in my opinion. And I'm thankful that He is walking with me on this journey.
After my surgery in June, my OB said we had to wait two cycles before trying again. We listened and then it was our second cycle of trying that yielded a big.fat.positive. So yes, we were trying---very hard. :) Harder than ever before because with Truman we got pregnant on the second cycle of 'half-assed' trying. With Wren we weren't trying at all. And this time we went ALL out. As I was enduring the dreaded two-week-wait before I could test I had basically convinced myself that this might not be our cycle either, and I started looking to the next cycle to plan the 'operation sperm plus egg' attack. I made a mental note that if my period had not shown up by 12 days after ovulation, I'd pee on a stick and hope for the best but I vowed not to test earlier than that. But then I started getting all psycho and over-analytical about every twinge of my body (who, me?). At 11 days after ovulation, I woke up and took my temp like I had been doing every morning and decided if it was even a fraction higher than the previous day I'd have to test then. And sure enough, it was up by two tenths:)
I went into Truman's room at 5:30 on Saturday, September 17 when he was awake and calling for me and we played a bit in the nursery while Nate slept. I was not even nervous at this point, just resigned to the fact that I would have to see a negative test because it would be either too early or I really was not pregnant at all. Eventually I decided to get it over with and dunked one of my cheapie pregnancy strips in my cup-o-pee, walking out of the bathroom without any true anxiety. For real. A few minutes later, after playing with Tru some more, I peeked onto the counter and saw a freaking second line, clear as day, without even using my magnifying glass or special infrared lights. I promptly began to cry, shake, and say, 'Thank you, God!' repetitively like a reproduction-obsessed robot. I went back to Truman and did a little happy dance with my unknowing toddler and then decided that I should probably use another test 'just for fun' because one is never enough to convince me. This was another cheap dunkable test but from a different packet all together. And guess what? Only one line. Cue the excitement slamming to the ground.
After a little confusion, wondering if that first positive test was a total fluke I brought out the big guns: an expensive digital test, reserved only for special occasions like a super faint second line that needed confirming (or a tie-breaker test, in my case). I dunked that puppy in the same cup-o-pee, capped it, and tossed it on our dining room table so I could keep a close watch on it while pretending to play with my boy. Oh yes, the crazies were in full-force by this point and there was no going back now---I willed that test to say 'pregnant' so hard I almost popped a blood vessel.
The little hour glass kept ticking away, deciding my fate as I sweated bullets next to the digital screen. And then, there it was. One word. Pregnant. It was for real, you guys. And sure enough---that one-lined test I had taken about 20 minutes before started to show a faint second line as well. Three tests all positive before 6 am on a Saturday = a pretty frickin amazing morning by my book. I was a whopping 3 weeks and 3 days pregnant which was definitely the earliest I've ever found out the big news. Sort of ridic, right? Gotta love testing early because it makes the first trimester just FLY by (sarcasm).
So my husband was snoozing away during all of this pee stick drama in the next room, mind you, and I just had to think of something half-way clever to break the news. I mean, I really wanted to run in there, jump on the bed and start screeching about second lines and digital words and pee cups but I figured that might not be the coolest thing to do to the man. Instead, I wrote on a little post it note: "Daddy, Mommy tested and it was positive! Love, Truman" and had my child hold that little note in his chubby hand until the sperm-giver was awake from his beauty sleep. Truman kept crumpling up the note so I had to keep straightening it out, but I know he was just excited to break the news to his dad.
Finally, Nate did come into the family room while T and I were watching truck videos on You Tube. I told Truman to give daddy the note and he did so with such pride that I swore he knew something big was happening. Nate just said, 'Oh, thanks, buddy,' sort of clueless and mostly still asleep. I watched him read the words and then watched his jaw drop open to say, 'No way! You tested already?!?' And then I was forced to spew out about a thousand words per minute explaining the three tests, hundreds of emotions, and overwhelming excitement over the results. And Nate totally got it and we hugged and smiled and said, 'we feel good about this one,' together. And we really did. We felt happy and confident and at peace.
Well as you might guess, that contentment feeling lasted about one day. Then the worries crept in and so began my inner turmoil. Do I embrace the pregnancy and possibly get really crushed again if we lost it, or just detach from the idea until it is 'safe' to get excited? I knew I would ask my OB to do blood work right away this time, to check if my HcG levels were doubling every 2 days and whether my progesterone was at an acceptable level, too. What I didn't know at the time is that those tests, and more specifically waiting for the results to come over the phone, were both a blessing and a huge curse. Not sure if I would do the labs again in hindsight.
My HcG did double perfectly throughout the four blood draws I received in those first weeks. But my progesterone started off sort of low, then did a dip to the 'definitely low' mark, before it came back up to an acceptable level and hovered. This was the first time I decided the pregnancy was doomed. Then the next day I spotted brown. I had a real breakdown that day and was convinced that I would absolutely have another miscarriage. But then things were going okay and I started to feel hopeful again. Until I was 5 weeks, 5 days pregnant and at a patient's home for a regular visit on a Monday. That day was probably the lowest point of the first trimester, by far.
I will never forget the feeling that, 'huh, is something dripping out of me right now? Wait. That doesn't feel right---it can't be---am I bleeding?!?!' All while in a patient's house, trying to care for another person and not totally freak the eff out about what just happened in my underwear. I somehow managed to wrap up the session and practically ran to my car where I sat in the drivers seat, unbuttoned my pants, and peeked into my undies to see bright red blood that had already soaked through my pants. 'Okay, now what?" I asked myself. I wasn't panicking at all, but it was more like, 'well, I guess this is how it's going to happen this time.' I drove to a nearby gas station and went to the bathroom to find a LOT of blood down there. Like enough that I had flashbacks to my disgustingly-prolonged miscarriage earlier in the year, which of course made me nearly hyperventilate and wish I could just curl up into a ball and get out of this nightmare. But again, somehow my rational brain took over and I just put on a new pad, wrapped my jacket around my waist, deciding that I HAD to keep working and refused to let my life stop over a possible miscarriage, and then I called my OB to inform the office of my bleeding nightmare.
The triage nurse somehow believed that bright red blood, and an absurd amount of it, was probably okay but she would have me come in to see the OB that evening 'just for peace of mind.' I was shocked that she didn't tell me flat out that, 'Honey, you are having a miscarriage' since that is what I already assumed. But I made it through the rest of my day, calmly texted my husband to say I was bleeding and would go to the doctor that night, and was sort of at peace with how it was all happening. I was sad, too, but I didn't really let myself get too worked up until we had answers.
Nate was able to meet me for the appointment, which was perfect not only for moral support but also because I had to get Truman from daycare right before we drove up to the office. I wasn't sure I could handle getting bad news while tending to my wild toddler at the same time. And I really wanted my boys there with me this time, just like they were when we had our bad ultrasound in April. We were all a team in this and we'd have to sort through the information together.
As my little family waited with me in the exam room, I laid back on the table and tried to talk to God. I wasn't in a bargaining mood, nor was I feeling particularly trusting. But we talked a bit while I stared at the odd florescent light shield that was made to look like the bottom of the ocean. It's really weird what happened next, but as I was staring at this illuminated ocean view, I imagined Nate and I as retirees someday. I thought about how we'd be 70 years old with so many stories to tell about our child-raising years, so many ups and downs that we'd forget a lot of the 'big' issues over time. I thought about Nate and I taking awesome vacations together over the next 30 years and how I want to snorkel and scuba dive with him again, just like we did on our honeymoon---and how this little ocean scene on the ceiling of my OBs office was like a sign from God. Life will go on. You will grow old with this man next to you (God-willing), with this amazing child on his lap, and who knows what the rest of the story will be. Either we will get this baby in May or not---but it's all going to be okay. We'll still look back on these years in our life and smile because they are undoubtedly some of the best I could imagine.
My OB came in and gave me a worried look, which I returned back to her. And then she brought in her ultrasound machine. I knew it would be super early to see anything at all but was happy we could at least get an idea of what my uterus was doing. My OB raised her eyebrows and said, 'Well, we have a baby....with a heartbeat. But I am worried about it.' Um, first---a heartbeat?!?! Before 6 weeks? What an amazing and unexpected gift from above! But of course it's not that simple.
She also saw a large bleed in my uterus called a subchorionic hemorrhage (SCH) that was much larger than the baby, about 4cm big. It could either be 1. The start of a miscarriage, or 2. Nothing at all. The overall message from my OB was that she was hopeful because this little baby had a heartbeat, a beautiful little heartbeat. But she had to be honest when she said that she hadn't seen a bleed this large turn out okay in the end. So we were in limbo. Again. A threatened miscarriage. And that night I did cry the ugly tears and began the grieving process for this little flicker of a heartbeat in my belly, because of course my stupid body would attack it and try to take it down. But after a long talk with Nate I came to realize that we had to hang onto the hopeful feelings. We couldn't begin to grieve yet because we had a real, living baby to focus on and we decided to choose optimism. What's that saying about how you can only control your attitude, but not what happens to you in life?
(our little baby with a heartbeat, and my dreaded bleed)
You might guess what happened next. I stopped bleeding. I had multiple follow up ultrasounds. And every time they would show the baby growing up a storm, the bleed shrinking away, and that little heartbeat getting more and more pronounced. Each visit left me feeling even more hopeful and it made my OB excited enough to say, at just 6w1d (3 days after my initial bleed): "I think we are having this baby, just so you know." I wrote those words down in my journal that night and would read them over and over if I started to feel anxious. By my 7 week ultrasound baby looked like a noticeable blob, by 8 weeks it was a gummy bear, and by my 10 week scan that baby looked like a baby---one that was moving around like crazy. And my bleed was practically non-existent but still hanging around. Being that the champion baby was 50 times the size of it now, when the bleed was easily 3 times the size of the baby in the beginning, I started to feel like my child was a fighter and was pushing that bleed out of the way.
In true Julia fashion, I did a ton of research on SCH's and found a lot of success stories online, many of which had even larger bleeds than me. They don't know why some women have bleeds like this but apparently bleeding in the first trimester is not too uncommon--happening about 20% of the time, and then half of those ladies will go on to having normal pregnancies. I have a hunch that going for a run and, ahem, having some adult playtime together the day before I bled may have something to do with my SCH. And so after that scare, I've been on pelvic rest and instructed not to exercise by my OB as well. A few months ago, I would have gone crazy without exercise but it's amazing how little I care about being in shape now that I have a little baby blob to worry about. It also helps that I've felt the first trimester ickiness----no desire to run at all. And if that means I gain 50 pounds this pregnancy then so be it, I honestly do not care one fraction of a bit. Priorities are in place. And really, I'm pretty lucky that my OB didn't put me on strict bed rest immediately after the bleed because a lot of girls have to wait it out on bed rest. We all know I'm not a good bed rest patient though, considering my OB caught me in Target before Truman's induction when I was supposed to be on bed rest. :)
We waited to tell the internets on the blog and Facebook until 14 weeks because we wanted to surprise Memaw with the news in person, during our Thanksgiving trip last week. If it weren't for that, I probably would have shared at 12 weeks but I really do enjoy waiting until it's this much more 'official' to blab all about the pregnancy to my internet friends. I hope you understand.
If you are still reading this, I congratulate you on your stamina. And now you are sort of caught up on the dirty deets of this pregnancy #3 for me. I guess this mammoth post should be expected when there is SO much to explain with such an eventful first trimester, huh? Hope you are ready for more pregnancy posts in the near future!