“The first baby I lost, was completely unplanned and an utter surprise. My now husband and I had been dating for maybe 6 months, and I found myself as a statistic whose birth control failed them. We found out in early June that we were expecting after a period of serious morning sickness and multiple negative pregnancy tests. Both utterly shocked but totally excited, we embraced it and moved forward. My mother in law and sister in law came down to go to my first ultrasound with me since Luke was on the boat for work. He is gone typically about 8 months each year in Alaska for work. We went and had the ultrasound, the tech was quiet, and said ‘your doctor will be in contact with you shortly.’ So home we went, not having ANY idea what was happening, expecting the call from the doctor to be something along the lines of, ‘You’re having multiples!!!’.
When the doctor called, they said I needed to come in immediately. So we drove to the office in town to see them, and the first thing the doctor told us was ‘Yeahhh, this isn’t a viable pregnancy… so we need to make arrangements to get that thing out of there. It might be a molar or chemical pregnancy… not sure. But we need to get it out of there.’
The ‘It’ the doctor was referring to was our unborn child. The pregnancy eventually ended on its own, in the emergency room, where I was sent home, gushing blood (alone), waiting for my baby to pass on his or her own. I kept this miscarriage a secret for so long. I felt ashamed and I am not sure why.
We fell pregnant again two years later. I found a new OBGYN who I ADORED and still do to this day. She was knowledgeable, and seemed to genuinely care about me, as if I was more than just a name on her chart. She understood I was filled with anxiety and told me to call her anytime I needed to. We sailed through the first 12 weeks seemlessly, and made it to the 12 week screening for abnormalities (12 weeks, 5 days) where baby looked great, moving, stretching, wiggling away happily. 10 fingers, 10 toes. I remember admiring her perfect spine. I was so relieved. I had hit the ‘safe zone’, right? We announced it to friends and family with cautious excitement.
About a week later, I felt something was ‘off’. It was strange, and there is no other way to put it. I called my doctor who got me in ASAP to hear the heartbeat for reassurance. When I went in, she couldn’t find the heartbeat, but told me not to panic, baby was still little. She sent me for an ultrasound and told me to come back afterwards. Off I went. I remember laying on the ultrasound table… hearing the crinkling sound of the paper underneath me. I was again, alone. I remember the feeling of the cold gel on my belly, and watching the tech’s eyes scan and scan and scan. She looked empty, and I could tell right away she had to tell me something I didn’t want to hear. Then she said it… the worst words a mom can hear, ‘I am so sorry. I cannot find a heartbeat.’
Our daughter was born to God on June 28, 2013. I was supported by my younger brother through an induced, painful, at home labor before going to the hospital for surgery to empty my womb of my baby and all products of conception so I didn’t suffer any risk of secondary infection, cancer, or anything else.
Typically, in the US, a doctor doesn’t run a panel to see what is going on until a woman miscarries three times. However, my doctor said she couldn’t watch me lose another baby and we were going to figure this out. Together. They drew seventeen vials of blood to scan for everything under the sun. The ONLY thing that came back from the blood work was that I have a condition called MTHFR. It’s a genetic blood clotting disorder which also means I do not process or break down folic acid or B vitamins.
We got pregnant again in late October of 2013. After we found this out, I got started on the millions of pills I currently take again. I take 11 pills a day, plus a hormonal suppository to help the baby ‘stick’. This perfect cocktail got us our first rainbow baby, Colby Miles, born on August 7th, 2014. 8lbs, 4oz of perfection. He is our first rainbow baby and a rambunctious blessing of a wild three year old now.
Shortly after Colby tuned two, we decided we were ready to try for another baby. We fell pregnant VERY quickly, literally the day my husband returned home from sea after 4 months. As soon as I saw the positive test, I panicked. I didn’t exactly know why, but I was unsettled. I chalked it up to ‘not being ready’ for another kid yet, but truthfully, you never are 100% I don’t think. There’s always something holding you back. Finances, potential moves, work, not giving the first baby enough ‘alone’ time to grow up… As my pregnancy progressed, and my anxiety did NOT ease, I told myself I was feeling that way because really I was terrified of what I ‘could’ lose, especially knowing how I felt about Colby… How could I possibly lose one just like him? Possibly with the same smile, giggle, cute little voice? I disconnected from the pregnancy, in an effort to protect myself in case something happened.
I was sick as a dog, really sick, for the first 12 weeks. But again, I had made it to the ‘safe’ zone. Second trimester. We went to our 12 week screening to check the nuchal fold of baby and it came back unusually high. Almost three times what ‘normal’ is. Our new doctor (who we never connected with, at all) explained that he wasn’t worried ‘yet’ and he was going to do a repeat scan a few days later to double check it. Sometimes it’s a fluke measurement. A thicker nuchal fold typically indicates some sort of chromosomal defect, resulting in maybe Downs Syndrome, which we were totally okay with, but I wasn’t convinced it wasn’t something terrible.
We returned a few days later where we saw the baby was not just measuring with a thick nuchal fold, but instead, baby was completely encompassed in fluid. The doctor immediately referred us to a maternal fetal medicine specialist, all while telling us it ‘wasn’t good’ and meant something ‘not great’.
We saw MFM two days after the last ultrasound for another. They did an internal to get a closer look while not saying anything at all. We watched our baby vigorously kicking away, non stop and the heart just pumping away. Surely, they couldn’t tell us that this active baby wasn’t going to be okay. I asked if the tech could tell the gender yet, and she didn’t respond. She was too focused, concentrated on every centimeter of our baby. Baby was measuring 9cm and was just about 13 weeks, 5 days. Our specialist came in, who was wonderful, and gave us the worst news possible.
Our baby was doomed.
Our baby had what is called a cystic hygroma which measured 8cm, almost the entire length of her body. There were also major cardiac defects, an enlarged aorta and a misshaped heart. The movement we had seen so much of was because baby was fighting to keep up her cardiac output because the heart wasn’t working properly. The signs you long to see after losing a baby, heartbeat and movement, were not good signs in our case. Dr. Kauffman explained to us our options. Our baby had a 1-2% chance of making it to term. I could try to hold the pregnancy, but he had never seen a hygroma that large, and I would likely lose the baby before 22 weeks while gradually getting sicker and she would suffer to death. (For lack of a better explanation, a baby with a cystic hygroma that size, slowly becomes a parasite to mom, gradually making her sicker and sicker and sicker. We had already seen that with how sick I had been in the recent weeks.)
I could be part of the 1-2% who carries baby to full term and then baby would live MAYBE a few days, in terrible pain, until she passed and I had to take my almost three year old to his sisters funeral. Or we could choose to terminate the pregnancy.
I have never been someone who considered abortion for herself. I have never judged anyone for having an abortion, but never thought it was something I would be considering. I was heartbroken. Mulling over our choices… trying to decide which was the least awful. There wasn’t a ‘good’ decision. There was only a right decision. I handed it to God, I prayed and prayed. I asked him if he would ever forgive me if I chose to end the pregnancy. I asked how the Christian girl with the pediatric heart surgeon for a father was having to decide if she needed to have an abortion because of a congenital heart defect that her dad (and SEVERAL other doctors and specialists) told her was NOT reparable… no matter what. My dad was exactly who I needed him to be, I can’t imagine what he was feeling having to be clinical with his daughter. But I told him I needed science because I know what my faith tells me and I was trying to separate science from God. He was gentle, honest, and based everything on facts. Luke and I prayed together, we talked to the baby, we cried, we hugged. I laid in the bath for literally hours, numb, feeling my baby flutter and struggle and fight for her life.
We came to the conclusion to end the pregnancy. It was an impossible decision that we were forced to make. We couldn’t risk my health, we couldn’t take Colby to a funeral at the honest age of 3, and we couldn’t let our baby suffer to death because I thought I’d go to hell if I ended the pregnancy. (This is NOT what I think will happen to people who choose abortion. I was emotional, hormonal, overwhelmed, and being hard on myself. I am 100% supportive of a woman making the choice of her own body, so please do not think I would judge anyone for even a second.) I prayed to God that he would forgive me and I wasn’t sure how I would ever make peace with the decision we had made… but I knew it was truly our only option. I am sure there are people who judge me for the choice I made, but only God can judge, and I know he will forgive me for making a decision to spare both of my children pain and suffering. I prayed to him to please let the baby pass on her own before surgery so I didn’t have to live with the ‘what if’ thoughts for the rest of my life. Luke spoke to my belly that night and told the baby it was okay to go, that we loved her, and we would see her soon. She had siblings waiting in heaven for her.
We went to surgery the next day, checked in, I quietly wept most of the day and held my husbands hand. He was there in solidarity. He was there to support me, whatever I decided or needed. He was a rock. I told him that morning that the baby was already gone, for whatever reason, I knew it. I couldn’t feel movement. I had a tinge of pink spotting… I just knew it was already over. Still, I headed into surgery to terminate my baby’s life. To end my dreams of her future and who she would and could be. I woke up, and I felt gushing below. I was being taken to recovery. I asked them if I had peed myself, I was soaked. They peeked and said ‘oh my God, she’s still bleeding’. I passed out and woke up to my doctor saying ‘whoa. You bled A LOT.’ I was also told ‘you didn’t terminate The baby was already gone.’
They admitted me overnight due to losing over half of my blood supply in surgery. I stayed in the maternity ward, ironically, where we would leave without our baby. Luke stayed in the chair by my bed while they did vitals every hour. I passed out. I felt like I was dying. My blood pressure was scary low. Luke didn’t move. We were both terrified. They sent us home the next day. All my iron sources had been completely depleted and I was completely anemic. I was out of work for almost 6 weeks recovering, which physically wasn’t even enough. Emotionally, not even close. Luckily, Luke’s work was delayed and he was able to stay home for an additional month with me, usually he would have had 6 days between when our baby (Rainey, meaning brave) was born (1/6/17) and the time he was supposed to leave.
A few months later, after a lot of soul searching and prayer, we got pregnant with our second rainbow baby, our ‘pot of gold’ as we call him. I swore I was done. I would never get pregnant again. Then I decided to ‘let go, and let God’. This baby is due two days after the day Rainey was born, and I know that isn’t coincidence.
In conclusion, I want to say to women who have endured the loss of a child and to those who unfortunately may one day: This is a club. It’s a club you don’t want to be in, but it is filled with the strongest women you will ever know. Speak up. Speak out. Don’t suffer in silence. Find your village. We will surround you.”