Hope Through Loss...Our Miscarriage Journey Part 2

Photo courtesy of pixabay.com

Photo courtesy of pixabay.com

Part 1 ended on Easter Sunday 2015, just days after the D&C procedure with our 3rd loss. Here is the continuation of our story…

Test results from the blood work and tissue can take up to 6 weeks to come back, so I filled that time with research. I researched the hell out of recurrent miscarriages, 3 or more miscarriages, causes of miscarriage, anything and everything that had to do with miscarriages. By nature, I’m a researcher. When I’m stressed about something, I research it. If I’m worried about something, I research it. I feel more in control I guess when I feel prepared with knowledge about something that scares me.

I threw myself into researching to distract myself from my hurt. It was easier to focus on the “why” and “how to prevent/treat/etc” than to focus on dealing with the pain. I used researching as a coping mechanism. One day Aaron gently pointed that out to me and explained that we very well might never know the reasons. He asked me to try to let go of the quest for knowledge and just be for a while, and wait to hear what the results were for everything. I listened and put my desperate searching on hold.

Weeks later, the day finally came when my OB called with all of the results. My blood work revealed no clotting issues but did show that I have two gene mutations with the MTHFR gene which affects your body absorbing folic acid properly, so I needed to go on a folic acid supplement (I take methyl folate, which is a better absorbed form) to get enough of this super important nutrient. A typical pregnant woman needs at least 400 mcg of folic acid a day; I needed to start taking 2,000. There’s a possibility that MTHFR mutations are linked to unexplained recurrent miscarriages, but as with everything, the research is still divided. My doctor didn’t think it was the cause considering I had already had 2 successful births, but it’s hard to know for sure. Everything else with my blood work looked fine.

Now it was time to find out about our baby. The test revealed the sex of our baby, but it was up to us if we wanted to know that information. We chose to find out, and my hunch from the beginning was confirmed; it was a boy. A sweet, precious baby boy that had full trisomy 16, a genetic mutation causing 3 copies of chromosome 16, which is incompatible with life. Trisomy 16 is the most common chromosomal cause of miscarriage in the 1st trimester. Knowing the commonality of it doesn’t really bring much comfort though, does it? Even though I now knew our baby had no chance of survival, that didn’t make it hurt any less. I was thankful, though, that God didn’t allow the pregnancy to go even farther than it did, which I think would have been even more painful.

Nevertheless, it was still traumatizing, and we still didn’t have any clear answers as to why we had 3 miscarriages over the span of 9 months. Six weeks after my D&C we had a Hysterosonography to check for fibroids which can cause miscarriages. A Hysterosonography is an ultrasound where they fill your uterus with saline so they can get a better image of the lining. My uterus looked great, so that wasn’t the cause. My OB understood our search for answers but let us know that we likely won’t have any, aside from knowing that the 3rd was due to a chromosomal issue with the baby. She was optimistic that we would have another healthy pregnancy. I, on the other hand, was terrified that we never would.

Through all of my research, I learned that we were now considered to have secondary infertility, which is either the inability to get pregnant or inability to carry a pregnancy to full term after one or more successful pregnancies. While having a miscarriage is very common, recurrent miscarriages are not. Only 1% of women will have 3 or more consecutive miscarriages. We were now part of an exclusive club we didn’t want to be in. Even in the midst of all that was going on, I knew that we were so very blessed to have the two children that we did have, but that didn’t stop it from hurting.

If you are going through secondary infertility, do not feel guilty for feeling sad because you already have a child(ren). Loss is loss, regardless of the stage or the number of times it happens. You have every right to be heartbroken and in mourning.

Photo courtesy of pixabay.com

Photo courtesy of pixabay.com

Because we were emotionally exhausted, we decided to take a 2-3 month break from trying. After getting pregnant back to back without a cycle in between, and having the extra stress of not knowing how far along we were, we knew we wanted a couple of normal cycles under our belts. When we did start trying again, it took longer than it ever had to get pregnant. That just compounded my anxiety that something was wrong with me and that we would never be able to have another successful pregnancy again.

I was taking my prenatal, folic acid, baby aspirin, and vitamin b12 every day. I mixed maca powder in my yogurt every morning (so gross) because I read it was supposed to help normalize your hormones. In September, we went to an acupuncturist over an hour away that specialized in infertility and pregnancy. Acupuncture has been gaining a lot of traction in the western medicine world, and a lot of the top infertility doctors now prescribe it to their patients. So, we gave it a try. I was not a fan of the acupuncturist herself. She was a little brash and pretty judgmental of the patients that make up most of her practice. She made comments about how so many of the women going through infertility are only after their husband’s sperm and don’t care about an actual marriage. She was not a mother herself and didn’t understand the “obsession” of getting pregnant. I was pretty turned off by her comments and offended. The desire to have children is in many women, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s devastating to not be able to, and while I would agree that getting pregnant shouldn’t become the sole focus of your marriage, I also understand the desire to have children or more children.

Anyway, she did the acupuncture (which, uh, by the way, hurts more than everyone says it does. Yes, you can feel the needles), and then tried to have me buy a bunch of herbal supplements that are supposed to boost and support fertility. She also recommended I stop taking baby aspirin, something that was against my OB’s instructions. I left empty-handed because the supplements she recommended were available online for about half the cost, and I wasn't convinced I wanted to try any of them.

And then, just 6 days before Thanksgiving, we found out we were pregnant. Pregnancy after a miscarriage will never be the same. This time was the most starkly different. Even though we had been trying to get pregnant, when we read that “Pregnant” result, instead of excitement and joy both Aaron and I were filled with fear and honestly a little dread. We waited longer to tell anyone this time, although by longer it was really like 4 or 5 days. We were hosting Thanksgiving that year, and I was so exhausted so we knew it would be obvious to family. The day after Thanksgiving nausea set in and all of my favorite Thanksgiving leftovers made me gag.

Even though I had super strong symptoms, I wasn’t comforted, because our previous miscarriage had all of the symptoms, and perfectly rising HCG levels, but it still ended badly. Aaron and I chose not to have my HCG levels checked this time because it made no difference. We had done everything obsessively right before and still had 3 miscarriages. We had our 8-week appointment scheduled, this time at a different doctor’s office and hospital (because of insurance, of course). The only nice thing was that it was at the huge teaching hospital in Colorado, so I was scheduled with the high-risk Maternal-Fetal Medicine Dr's because of my history.

The day of our first appointment came, and of course, Denver had a massive snowstorm. It took us almost 2 hours to get to the appointment, but there was no way we were going to reschedule. After we got there and it was time for the ultrasound Aaron and I held hands and prayed. I’m pretty sure I almost broke his fingers when the ultrasound started, I was squeezing his hand so tight. I wouldn’t look at the screen at first, but Aaron watched it. And then we heard the words we had waited more than a year to hear, “there’s the baby’s heartbeat! And it’s nice and strong.”

I burst into tears in disbelief and massive relief. There was our little baby, our miracle, squirming around in there, measuring perfectly. That was the first time we let ourselves start to get excited. We had our next appointment scheduled for 12 weeks, and I left with instructions for DIY Diclegis (an FDA-approved morning sickness medication, that you can “make” yourself at home with vitamin b6 and Unisom. Talk to your doctor before trying though, please!). We were sure that we were expecting a girl based on how sick I was.

At our 12 week appointment, we had another ultrasound, and the baby was still doing perfectly. We were offered the opportunity to do the Harmony blood screening test that tests for chromosomal conditions like Down's syndrome, which would have been free for us because of our previous history with trisomy 16. We turned it down. In fact, we turned down all of the prenatal testing aside from ultrasounds, the urine screens, and diabetes testing. We didn’t want the added stress that can come from those tests, and we knew that in the event that something came back as potentially positive, we wouldn’t do amniocentesis or any of the diagnostic tests because of their increased risk of miscarriage (however small it may be, we wouldn’t want to risk it). If we ever have to make that decision again, I’m not sure what we’ll do. But for that pregnancy we decided not to.

Amazingly we made it through the 1st trimester, and it was such a major relief. We knew there still weren’t any guarantees, but we knew the risk of miscarriage was smaller now. Once we hit the 2nd trimester we were no longer considered high risk by the Dr's, so we decided to transfer my prenatal care to an OB office at the hospital that was just 8 minutes from our house. We had an appointment with them at 14 weeks, and when the NP couldn’t find the heartbeat on the doppler I started to panic. She knew our history, so she tried doing an internal ultrasound, but couldn’t find the baby. She was confident that everything was fine because she could hear movement, but she had me go back to their ultrasound room with an actual tech and better quality machines. The tech instantly found our baby who was doing perfectly well. I didn’t make another appointment with that NP, but I did like the other doctors there at the practice.

Everything was continuing to go smoothly with this pregnancy. At about 15.5 weeks Aaron and I took a 2 night trip to Vegas to celebrate our anniversary. We walked 12 miles each of the three days we were there, and my hips were so sore. We had a little bit of scare on the second day when I thought I may have started bleeding. It was literally about the size of a pencil tip, but it freaked us out. We waited in our hotel room for a few hours and called my OB’s office who said I should be fine. There wasn’t any more spotting, and I realized that the antibiotics I was still on from a bad sinus infection had given me a yeast infection, and it was just a tiny speck of irritation that freaked us out.

That’s the kind of thing you’ll likely experience with pregnancy after miscarriage, every little thing totally freaks you out and makes you start to panic. You overanalyze everything and you obsessively search the toilet paper for any sign of bleeding. It was also in Vegas that I felt the first flutters of movement, though; it felt like our baby was letting us know that all was well.

At 20 weeks we had a fun gender reveal party at our house, and together with Isaac and Kaiya we popped a giant black balloon over our heads; pink confetti came showering down on us as we found out we were expecting a baby girl. We had such a fun party, we felt so blessed to have come that far. Hours later in the middle of the night, I ended up with the worst stomach bug I’ve ever had in my life. We ended up taking me to the hospital just before 6 am, and they took me up to labor & delivery because I was 20 weeks. I ended up staying there for over 24 hours, with IV anti-nausea medication every 4-6 hours. I’ve never been that sick before, and pray I never am again. They kept me on the monitor though, and it was such a comfort to feel our baby girl’s strong kicks and hear her steady heartbeat throughout it all.

Thankfully the rest of the pregnancy went smoothly. It was the most impatient I’ve been with wanting to just get to full term and deliver though. I loved being pregnant with Isaac and Kaiya after the 1st trimesters, but with this one, I just wanted to have our baby girl safe in our arms. As we inched toward my due date, I started having painful Braxton hicks, but they would never progress to anything more. We went on so many walks, ate spicy food, did all the normal things to try to naturally start labor, and nothing. My parents were visiting from Germany to be at the birth, and I was worried we would deliver so late that they would only be at our house for a few days after she was born.

I had my membranes swept at 39 weeks (I did that with Kaiya, and it worked!), but nothing. At my 40 week appointment, she tried it again, and we scheduled an induction for two days later. I really didn’t want to be induced, but I was also scared of being overdue with the increased risks of stillbirth. So we kept trying to bring it on naturally, but by the night before had resolved to the fact that it just wasn’t going to happen.

We needed to be at the hospital at 5 the next morning, so at 4 am my alarm clock went off, and I got up to go to the bathroom. When I bent over to sit down I felt a weird little pop. After I stood back up and started getting dressed I thought my panties felt a little wet which seemed odd. I moved a little and felt a little more wetness. I realized my water broke! I told Aaron and we rushed to get ready to get there asap. I was group b positive with this pregnancy so I was going to be put on penicillin for hopefully 4 hours of labor to prevent our baby from getting it, and with my water broken, I knew we needed to get that started as soon as possible.

Labor went well, and we were able to get all of the antibiotics in before delivery. It started off a little slow, but after the first round of antibiotics, they started a little Pitocin to get my contractions more regular. It finally started picking up, and I wanted to wait as long as I could before getting an epidural. When I went from a 4 to 8 in a half hour I was begging for the anesthesiologist to come, and he finally did. I knew when I hit 10 centimeters, even with the epidural.

It was at that moment, as I was breathing through the urge to push waiting for the dr and nurses to get everything ready for delivery, that I was hit with massive fear. I was suddenly terrified of delivering this baby girl that we had waited so long for, and had gone through so much to get. I was so scared that something was going to go wrong with the delivery and we were going to lose her. Once you’re there though, you really have no choice but to push, so we began. Less than 5 minutes later we heard the cry of our precious baby girl and I sobbed the happiest of tears. Our rainbow baby was finally here, after over 2 years of waiting, and she was perfect!!

We named her Grace Ahuva, and at 8 lbs .4 oz she was our biggest baby by far! Isaac and Kaiya were both just 6 lbs 12 oz. Her middle name is Hebrew, and it’s a word used to describe God’s everlasting love. His grace is what saw us through our darkest of times, and it was His everlasting love that brought us our sweet Grace.

Grace Ahuva, July 27, 2016; The rainbow to our storm

Grace Ahuva, July 27, 2016; The rainbow to our storm

The emotional trauma of recurrent miscarriages doesn’t just magically go away once you have your rainbow baby though. For Grace’s first several months I had massive anxiety at night. I would obsessively check to make sure she was still breathing while she slept right next to my side of the bed in her bassinet. I would even put my hand on Aaron’s back to make sure he was still alive, and go into Isaac and Kaiya’s rooms most nights to check on them too. It was when a trusted mentor gently pointed out to me that I likely still had some unresolved feelings of anger and distrust towards God about our miscarriages, that I was able to move past that.

I had a very honest conversation with God about everything we had been through, and I finally told him that I was mad that he had taken our 3 babies away from us, even while being so thankful for Grace. I told him I was scared that he would take her, Aaron, Isaac or Kaiya away from me, too. And strangely, just opening up about all of those feelings I had kept locked up was so helpful. I was able to let go of the fear and start trusting again. That unexplained peace that He promises in Philippians 4:7 filled my soul.

That trust was vital when Gracie stopped gaining weight and ended up being failure-to-thrive around 5 months old. Her pediatrician kept saying everything was fine, but I knew it wasn’t normal, and after she dropped down below the 4th percentile they finally started to look into it. She was exclusively breastfed, and always seemed satisfied after nursing and was sleeping through the night up until that point, but once they had us start supplementing with formula she finally started gaining weight again. Now she’s a happy, healthy 2-year-old in the 50th percentile for weight and 68th percentile for height.

It would be nice if our pregnancy loss story ended there, but unfortunately, it doesn’t. Last December 2017 we were surprised to find out that we were expecting again. We weren’t trying to get pregnant at the time but had talked about possibly trying in January. We were happy, but I was worried. I had a couple of negative tests and positive tests, so I scheduled an appointment on the day of my expected period. I had to find yet another new dr because my old office closed, so the first new office I tried did a blood test when their urine test came back negative. I got a call the next day confirming my positive test.

The Friday before Christmas I went in again with what ended up being bacterial vaginosis. The provider I saw forgot to call in the prescription, and all of the Drs were already out of the office when I went to pick up my prescription. I panicked because I was so scared not getting this treatment would harm our baby, so the next day I went to the urgent care connected to my practice, and was finally able to get someone to call in the actual prescription. It was so stressful, just days before Christmas. We made it through Christmas though, and I was still feeling a little uneasy about everything. I didn’t have super strong symptoms, but I had a few.

The Friday morning before New Years, I went to the bathroom and saw some light spotting. I freaked and called Aaron right away. I tried getting into yet another dr because I no longer trusted the one from before. No one was going to be able to see me until the next week, so we ended up going to the ER. They did blood work and an ultrasound. The blood work revealed fairly low levels for being almost 8 weeks, but still within the normal range. Our ultrasound was just as confusing, the tech didn’t see anything but a small potential sac. We were hoping that I was just earlier than expected, but I had a bad feeling. I had no other bleeding though, and I was told to come back on Sunday (New Year’s Eve) for follow up blood work to see if my HCG was doubling. My levels did increase but didn’t double. They said it could very well still be a normal pregnancy or a threatened miscarriage, and to follow up with my OB the next week. I had an appointment scheduled at a new office 35 minutes away for Thursday.

We made it to Thursday without any other spotting or symptoms. My new OB was really nice, and she cut to the quick and started the ultrasound right away. Unfortunately, she couldn’t see anything on the ultrasound. We were devastated, and then worried when she said there was a possibility of this being an ectopic pregnancy. We had more questions than answers at this point and had to get another blood HCG check done. We left the hospital defeated, knowing that no matter the outcome it wasn’t a healthy pregnancy. My levels had increased since the Sunday before, but it wasn’t a normal increase. She wanted me to come in early Saturday morning for another draw, and if they increased again it would pretty much confirm that I was having an ectopic pregnancy; the on-call doctor would call me with the STAT results as soon as they came in.

A couple of hours later I got a phone call from the on call, and sure enough, my levels increased slightly. I needed to get to the hospital for another ultrasound and figure out what to do next. We had an ultrasound done, and they couldn’t find where the baby was. The OB was sure it was an ectopic, and recommended a shot (methotrexate, a chemo drug) that would stop any growth and potential rupture from occurring, and would likely start the miscarriage process. She didn’t want to do any damage by searching my tubes for the baby, so we took her advice and got the shots, which hurt and bled like crazy. We were finally able to leave and went home knowing we had lost another baby.

The next day was Isaac’s birthday, and I couldn’t bear canceling his party, so we bought his cake from Whole Foods the next morning and played glow in the dark putt-putt with his best friends, while we waited for the miscarriage to begin. Life doesn’t stop so you can mourn, but you do need to make sure that you make time to let yourself mourn. This loss was almost the most difficult of all, because it seemed to drag on. We had to wait a week after the initial spotting to find out that we were lost our baby, then we had to wait for blood work, and then wait for hours in the ER, and then go back every couple of days for a week and then two more times for blood work to make sure my HCG levels went down normal. The entire medical process took about 3 weeks. The emotional healing would take longer.

Not knowing the why of things is really difficult. Why would God get us unexpectedly pregnant only to have it end up as another loss? We weren’t even trying to get pregnant at that point, we hadn’t purposefully opened ourselves up to that kind of hurt again. It was heartbreaking.

I remember a few days later when the cramps and bleeding had really set in, sitting on the floor of our closet listening to the newest album our church worship band, Red Rocks Worship, released. I was weary from wiping away pieces of yet another baby, wiping away our dreams and a future that could have been. A song came on called Overflow, and it was like it was written for us. You can hear that song here. I listened to it and when the part comes on where they sing “Lord my cup is empty, Lord my cup is empty, Fill me with your spirit” I just completely broke. I sobbed and sobbed while I listened to that song on repeat, my hands turned palm up on my lap. That song spoke for me what I was unable to put into words to God. It was the cry of my heart to God to fill me because I didn’t know how I was going to get through yet another loss.

Photo courtesy You Version Bible App

Photo courtesy You Version Bible App

He heard my cry, and by His grace, He saw me through it. Slowly we started to heal, and after a while, we were able to accept it as another part of our story. Not one of my favorite parts, but a part nonetheless. A part that I am confident He will use in some way, for good. I don’t understand the “why’s” to any of our losses, and I don’t think I ever will. But prayer and honest, sometimes brutal, conversations with God have led me to a place where I can be okay with not knowing why.

Sometimes the grief of losing a baby will come back in the weirdest of ways, out of nowhere. You might not even realize at first where it’s coming from, because you thought you had moved on from the pain of it. When I started writing about our miscarriages I had a moment the next day that I would realize later stemmed from the emotions that reliving our story brought up.

The day I started writing I was able to write with zero tears, which surprised me. The next morning was my weigh-in morning (I’ve been working hard at getting healthy since the beginning of August), and when I saw that I had only lost 9 ounces the past couple of weeks when I’ve been working my butt off every day, I totally lost it. I was crying, I was texting Aaron while super upset and mad about it, and was just super grumpy about the whole thing.

I finally realized a couple of hours later that the true source of my tears and overreaction was hurt from the miscarriages. See, after our ectopic loss in January, I, unfortunately, ended up gaining 10-15 lbs between then and August. I obviously can’t blame that weight gain on the pregnancy and loss, because food and activity choices were the ultimate sources of my weight gain. I do sometimes struggle with eating my feelings, and some of that weight gain can be attributed to that. So after spending the day before dwelling on our losses, I was upset and mad that the weight I had gained after our 4th loss still wasn’t completely gone. In August I started eating right and exercising and being way more active, and at first, the weight was coming off fast. Then I had this couple of week plateau and I was right on the edge of being under where I was before the pregnancy, and all of the emotions and heartbreak came rushing back in.

Have you ever experienced that, where something super random triggers a flood of emotion from a traumatic situation? When that happens, I think it’s important to allow yourself to feel the hurt and cry if you need to. Grief isn’t something that ever fully goes away, even when you reach that “final" stage of acceptance. The sadness will come back sometimes, and that’s okay. Our babies were with us for such short amounts of time, but they left a big imprint on us.

Never apologize for mourning after a pregnancy loss, no matter how many weeks it happened at, no matter how long it takes, no matter how many years ago it happened. That was your baby, and it was taken much too soon. It is okay to be sad. It is okay to be mad. You are allowed. It is important to talk about it. If it helps, name your baby. I personally haven’t been able to do that, the thought alone crushes me because the dreams that were ripped away come flooding in. I know for a lot of couples, though, it is helpful and healing. Be gentle with yourself during this time. Take time off, take bubble baths, watch cheesy movies, eat chocolate, do things to care for yourself. Ignore people who say insensitive things; most of the time they mean well.

If you’re going through a miscarriage or are going through the grieving process, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We would love to pray for you and listen to your story. You can email us at aaronandemi@gmail.com; message or tag us on instagram @floralwreathblog or message us on facebook @thefloralwreath.

In the words of Horton from Dr. Seuss’ “Horton Hears a Who:”

“A person’s a person, no matter how small.”

Missed Part One? Catch up Here