As my husband keeps reminding me, “Pregnancy is not a simple process, and it’s a miracle that it happens at all.” If you doubt this, check out http://www.webmd.com/baby/guide/understanding-conception. It’s pretty amazing how everything has to line up just perfectly in order to create a new life that is healthy and viable.
We discovered that we were pregnant near our 12th anniversary, in August 2012. We were so excited! I have always started feeling nauseous exactly 7 days after becoming pregnant, so I was already pretty sure, by the time we actually saw the two pink lines on the pregnancy test. My first thought, “It’s a girl!” I really didn’t mind either way, but for some reason, that was my first thought.
The first prayer that I prayed was, admittedly, a bit selfish. I told God that I would be “ok” if He chose to take this one to heaven early, but that I would really just love a chance to hold this one. Of course, in my heart, I wanted to see this child grow and mature, just like my two boys, but more than anything, I just wanted an opportunity to hold my baby. The last three miscarriages were much too early to see my little ones, without the help of ultrasound.
About two weeks after the positive test, at nearly 6 weeks, I began bleeding. Immediately, I figured that I was miscarrying. I had never bled with any of my other pregnancies, so I had no reason to believe that I would this time either. I called my Doctor’s office and they had me come in for blood work and an ultrasound. The hCG hormone was elevated properly, and further testing the following week, showed that the levels were rising as they should. The first ultrasound revealed a pregnancy sac that measured around 5 weeks, so it was not surprising that a fetus was not detected. It appeared that I had suffered a subchorionic hemorrhage, which is surprisingly common, and often harmless. Our hope was restored.
The second ultrasound, a week later, revealed very little change, however. There was still no sign of a baby. It was at this point that I began to research “blighted ovum.”
“A blighted ovum (also known as “anembryonic pregnancy”) happens when a fertilized egg attaches itself to the uterine wall, but the embryo does not develop. Cells develop to form the pregnancy sac, but not the embryo itself. A blighted ovum occurs within the first trimester, often before a woman knows she is pregnant. A high level of chromosome abnormalities usually causes a woman’s body to naturally miscarry.” – American Pregnancy Organization
This was a difficult diagnosis for me, personally. I have found a way to grieve my lost children in a healthy manner, and how to include them in this story of my life in tangible ways; however, to know how to grieve a child that never was…I was a bit unsure. My first thought was, “So much for holding this one. Now, I don’t even have proof that this one existed at all!” Obviously, I had surrendered my child to God, but I had not surrendered the pregnancy to Him – a minor detail with major ramifications.
We did find some online information to support the thought of misdiagnosis, but, again, this hope was soon crushed by another ultrasound, which showed the pregnancy sac growing, but still no sign of life. By 8 weeks, my hCG levels were high enough that a baby should have been clearly visible. At this point, the medical community was willing to begin steps to diagnose a faulty pregnancy and proceed with a D&C. It was a Friday afternoon, so more blood was drawn, with plans for surgery Monday afternoon.
I had a tough weekend. It’s never easy to know that you are carrying a dead child, but it was almost harder to know that I wasn’t carrying one at all. Over the course of three weeks, I had built a wall around my three-times-healed Mommy’s heart, trying to protect it from yet another painful loss. However, with this recent visit, it all came crashing down. I cried, finally. It felt good, but it also left me feeling more empty and alone than before the tears. I had a wonderful visit with a dear friend on Saturday afternoon. She came up from Pennsylvania, bearing gifts of encouragement…and Chinese food! I had many cravings in the first weeks of pregnancy. Chinese food was the last. She also brought me a very tiny handmade hat and crown for the baby, along with a tiny set of wings to go with the three she had already made for my past miscarriages.
By Sunday afternoon, I was emotional again. Kevin and I were scheduled for nursery duty that morning, and we were both blessed, and yet also saddened by the sweet smiles on the chubby faces of the infants we cared for. I talked to my Mom for a bit, after lunch, and then, prepared for a small birthday party for my two-year old. His birthday was actually Monday, but I didn’t figure I would feel well enough to enjoy celebrating. I had wanted to make him a Mickey Mouse cake, as that is his current favorite character, but just didn’t have the energy. We stopped at the grocery store and I gave my sob story to the bakery assistant. She apologized that she wasn’t able to be fancy on short notice, but she said that she had a plastic figurine of Mickey and Pluto in an airplane, that she could put on a cake of my choice. I don’t ever remember crying over a cake before, but I had tears in my eyes as she handed me my little chocolate answer-to-prayer. As it turned out, the little cake decoration was one of Carter’s favorite birthday gifts. He even slept with it clutched tight in his little hand that night. I’m so thankful that our God cares about the little things in our lives!
Monday morning began early, but well. “Weeping endures for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” This was how I felt. We left the house around 8am, for yet another ultrasound. This time, the pregnancy sac had begun to pull away from the uterus and had begun to hemorrhage, though I didn’t have any signs of that yet. I went from there to the hospital for more blood work and a chest x-ray. Because there was no sign of a fetus, the doctor wanted to eliminate the possibility of a molar pregnancy. I’ll let you research that on your own, if you so desire. To put it simply, a molar pregnancy can get pretty complicated and can take quite some time for recovery. The verdict is still out, but everything seems to point towards the blighted ovum as the final diagnosis.
Around 1 pm, I was finally ready to be admitted for surgery. After being asked for my health-care proxy at least two dozen times and repeating the fact that I don’t smoke, drink, or do illegal drugs 6 or 7 times, I was hooked up to an IV saline drip. Then, the introductions began. The assisting nurses and the anesthesiologist all came in to explain their role in my procedure.
Through this entire ordeal, I had found that the mercy and compassion of Almighty God was what I needed most. My broken heart needed gentle reminders of these attributes. When the anesthesiologist came in, I felt God visit these upon me. The first words out of his mouth were, “I am so sorry that you are here for this, and that you have to go through this.” I was stunned. Usually, it’s all business at the hospital. Without a doubt, this man had been touched by miscarriage in his life. This was evident by the overwhelming empathy in his voice and eyes. He went on to tell me about what he would be doing, while several times, reiterating that he was “so very sorry for my loss.” This was the only time during that day that I nearly shed some tears. My heart was blessed by the comfort and mercy of a complete stranger.
Besides a small incident where my IV was reversed, while trying to hook up the Pitocin and a rather large amount of blood was drained from me onto my bed, blanket, and gown, things went smoothly. The doctor had prepared for a transfusion, if need be, as these pregnancies can often bleed more than usual, but surprisingly, I hardly bled at all. (I think it was because most of it was lost in the room downstairs, before surgery!)
That night, after a wonderful meal prepared by my Mother-in-law, I was able to rest. I had some strong contractions through my back and down my legs for a couple of hours, but thanks to some sleeping pills and some, unusually, soundly sleeping boys, I was able to get some good sleep. After a few days of being sore, life will go back to “normal,” whatever that looks like. I decided to give a name to this pregnancy – baby or not – because the boys would understand it better in that context. I chose “Bethesda Faith,” which means “house of mercy,” and comes from the healing pool at Bethesda in the Bible.
I don’t know what the future holds for me in regards to being a Mommy, but I’m learning to find my identity in being a child of the King, instead of in a role that He asks me to fill. I am living for eternity, and in that perspective, I am able to see the blessings that come with these difficult times in my life. I am thankful for the opportunities to use these lessons for growth in my walk with God. I am blessed because of Him. He is all I need. He is my All in All.
The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.
Original material by Holly M. Besser, ©2012. May not be used or re-printed without permission. bp0011p9-25-12