1. Describe the process of getting pregnant. Was it easy for you? Was it hard? Did you have to go through fertility treatment?
I joined the military in 2015 and went through numerous types of birth control and never liked any of them due to weight gain, mood swings, irregular periods, etc. I decided in January of 2021 to get off birth control, which I had been on since 16 years old for painful periods. In 2021 at age 26, I was told without any true fertility testing that I’d most likely never fall pregnant and if I did, I’d most likely miscarry before even knowing. Hearing this at such a young age was extremely traumatizing but little did I know I was already pregnant when they told me that! I’ve been fortunate enough to fall pregnant twice within 1 year, but I’m still waiting for my happy ending. My very first pregnancy in 2021 ended at 22 weeks and I have a vanishing twin with this pregnancy. We honestly weren’t really trying to get pregnant because we knew my husband would be deploying to South Korea for an entire year but I was tracking ovulation with LH strips so that I could become familiar with the cycles of my body. I went to visit him in March of this year and I fell pregnant quickly. I knew 5 days before my missed period. I’m not sure if I’d consider this easy, but I haven’t had to go through any fertility treatments.
2. What was the pregnancy like? Was it easy and smooth? Hard with a lot of pregnancy symptoms?
My 1st pregnancy was smooth, or so I thought. I had zero symptoms. I found out I was pregnant at 9 weeks simply because something in my gut was telling me to take a test and I had some bloating to where I was starting to barely fit into my jeans. It wasn’t until my anatomy scan at 20 weeks that things started going south. I knew something was wrong when the scan only lasted 10 minutes. My OB referred me to MFM and that’s where mine and my husband’s world came crashing down.
This current pregnancy has been nothing but anxiety ridden. I was excited when I found out initially, but as time passed by it just got more and more worrisome. I was told I couldn’t get seen until 9-12 weeks at first. I told my provider I wouldn’t accept that due to my medical history and they finally got me in at 6 weeks. HOWEVER, at 5 weeks I had bleeding which sent me in a downward spiral. All I could think was “i’m having a miscarriage.” After a few hours in the ER the doctor came in and said “well it looks like you have what’s called a subchorionic hemorrhage but the two sacs are looking great.” I was in shock. TWO BABIES??? At 6 weeks, I got to see both of their heartbeats and it seemed like the hemorrhage was barely present. Two weeks later I went to MFM and was told “baby A has no heartbeat, I’m so sorry.”
I had morning sickness every single day from 6-11 weeks and then occasionally up until 14 weeks. I’d have days where I could barely get out of bed not just because I was physically sick, but my mental health was just horrible. I couldn’t bear the thought of losing 3 babies in 1 year.
When I went in for my 12 week scan, I was told NIPT wasn’t an option if I wanted to worry even more for the possibility of false results due to the demised twin. So instead, I opted into a genetic screening ultrasound where they check for the babies nasal bone and nuchal translucency. The baby appeared great but they did say the nasal bone was either absent or small. This sent me into an even deeper hole thinking “ok, now there’s a big possibility my baby has Down’s Syndrome.” I’d still love my baby either way, but that’s a hard pill to swallow.
At 18 weeks I had my anatomy scan and the provider said that all the things they could see looked great and there were no worries. We found out we were having a baby boy and his nasal bone was VERY present. We then had our NIPT labs done and those all came back negative!
I then had a growth scan and another anatomy scan at 22 weeks and they were able to capture everything they needed and said baby boy looked fantastic and had no concerns.
3. Did you have a reason why your losses occurred?
My first loss was caused by a rare anomaly called amniotic band sequence. Basically, bands from the amniotic sac detached and wrapped around different parts of the fetus. When we went to MFM for a better diagnosis, it was heartbreaking. I just cried knowing that there was no hope for this new life I was growing. Eventually the baby also got hydrops and the heart stopped around 22 weeks. We never knew the gender but we felt in our hearts it was a girl.
This current pregnancy is unknown. They say the demised twin could have passed away from the subchorionic hemorrhage (unlikely) or from chromosomal abnormalities.
4. How far along were you?
22 weeks and 7 weeks.
5. What are your baby’s names?
Wren & Baby A. We never came up with a name for the demised twin.
6. What was the birthing/loss experience like?
Loss is something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. I’m happy that this baby has been healthy and my anatomy scan went well but I still think about my losses daily. It’s a feeling that is hard to describe and you can’t truly understand it until you go through it. The best way to describe it is: IT JUST FREAKING SUCKS! It’s difficult talking about it sometimes with people who have never experienced loss before because people talk with toxic positivity or they think they can relate and make it all about them. I appreciate that they are just trying to be hopeful or helpful but it’s almost better in my opinion to just tell me you’re sorry and it sucks rather than using positivity when you know there’s endless anxiety and fear. I just want to feel validated in all my fears.
7. Did you get to spend time with your baby or get any keepsakes?
I didn’t get to spend time with my baby because I chose to have a D&E over L&D. I do however have a keepsake shadow box with the baby’s only ultrasound given to me, a white knitted angel, a tiny green knitted hat, a little bird represented by the name Wren, his/her footprints and a little blue/pink homemade bracelet. My husband and I also had the baby’s feet tattooed on our arms so that Wren knows he/she is always with us. I wear a necklace my husband got me in the shape of a Wren bird with the name Wren on it, as well as a locket that has the baby’s footprints on one side and a picture of my husband and I on the other. Lastly, I wear a ring one of my close friends got me that says Wren on it with a heart.
One day shortly after my first loss, my friend actually shared a link with me of a small business that custom makes pillows for earthside and/or angel babies. On the back it says “Wren~7.05IN~9.3oz~07/07/2021~12:34PM” and the front is basically a scribbled drawing of a baby’s body. It’s something I took with me to my anatomy scan this pregnancy for good luck.
8. How was the medical treatment/support during your loss?
My OB was terrible. She lacked any form of empathy/sympathy. It’s like she was a robot saying “your baby has amniotic band sequence. I can’t tell you much other than they still have a heartbeat but MFM will be able to tell you more.” I bawled my eyes out because I had to find out all this news alone. COVID didn’t allow my husband to come to any of my appointments. She handed me a box of tissues so blank faced. To me it was just so insincere in every way possible. I understand you go to your job every single day and deliver both good/bad news to a lot of patients, but the least she could’ve done was comfort me in some way. She told me to take all the time I needed until I could drive home.
MFM on the other hand was fantastic. The sonographer let us video tape Wren’s heartbeat because she said that it could be the last time we hear it. The provider was even more sincere. She ran us through all of our options and didn’t push a single one of them onto us. I thanked her for her kindness and empathy at the end of our appointment because I didn’t feel like anyone cared until she saw me, which actually made her cry. We sat for over an hour in a room afterwards to process all of this information and try to make a decision we felt was best for us.
I’m not sure how everything works in other states/countries but for us in San Antonio, TX I had to have the D&E at a reproductive clinic since I opted out of L&D. I still don’t know if that decision was the best one to make but I just didn’t think I could hold our dead baby in my arms. The worst part about going to the reproductive clinic wasn’t the pamplets they have to give you saying something along the lines of “Are you sure you want an abortion? There’s other options…” It was the MEN standing out front protesting, holding up signs that said “God is watching you” or “Please don’t kill me mommy” or “You’re going to hell.” It was such an emotional time for me because my baby was already dead… They told me while waiting to enter the doors “we have free pregnancy tests you can have” and “you don’t have to do this” before the security guard told them to leave me alone. It brought tears to my eyes and I was shaking going up to the front desk preparing for my procedure. My husband had to tell me to cover my eyes and not let what those people were doing get to me because the decisions we make as pregnant mothers shouldn’t impact them nor should they be preaching about something they have no clue about. The staff at the clinic were so nice and after I woke up from the procedure they had pads, ice, water and an envelope with Wren’s feet ready for me when I wanted to see them.
My OB never offered me any type of group or grief support after my procedure and that was 1 week afterwards. She just made sure I wasn’t suicidal and said if I have those thoughts to let her know. I actually received couples grief counseling through the VA when I decided it’s what we needed to help us through the loss. The counselor there was so amazing and just let the both of us speak our minds and our sessions would go by so quickly. That was one of the best decisions I could’ve ever made.
9. Did you receive support from family and friends after your loss?
I did…. But people don’t know what to say or they say things that aren’t meant to be hurtful but are. My husband was and still is my biggest supporter. He was the only reason I got through it all. We went to grief counseling together but I can safely say that I wouldn’t have gotten through any of it without him. He was the true rock for me even if he says differently.
Friends and family definitely showed up for me but instead of trying to relate or cut me off trying to talk about hardships they’ve faced (NOTHING LIKE BABY LOSS), I would have rather they just be quiet and sit in silence with me until I wanted to talk. I’m not the type to want a hug from most people when I face difficulties…. I’d rather you just tell me “i’m sorry” or “you let me know when you’re ready to talk or let me know if you need anything at all.” Sometimes saying nothing and just listening is more powerful than saying something we as loss parents might take offensively.
I did have a family friend and family member that truly helped me during my losses. They both suffered losses and didn’t feed me unnecessary BS. They were always honest and never invalidated my feelings.
10. How were your emotions after loss?
Oh boy, I had a lot of mixed emotions and none of them were happy. I was scared, confused, sad but most of all angry. I was angry that God would put me through something so devastating. Something I felt like I didn’t deserve. I couldn’t understand why my first pregnancy would end in such a tragic way. It took a lot of time to come to terms with it and realize that I wasn’t the only person who experienced loss. Grief is so complex. There’s no time limit. I have waves of strong emotions that sometimes make me feel like I’ve taken 10 steps backwards, but I’m glad to say I’ve come a long way since last July. It’s a lifelong process.
11. How did you know you were ready to try again?
I think we just knew after a few months that we wouldn’t give up on our hopes of having a child earth side with us. It wasn’t an overnight process. The first time we were intimate with each other post our first loss was extremely emotional. We fell pregnant again 8 months post D&E. We just knew in our hearts no matter how hard the pregnancy would be, we had to do it.
12. What has the pregnancy with your rainbow baby been like?
It’s been extremely difficult but I think it gets a little easier with each milestone we hit. The biggest for us specifically was the anatomy scan. When we were told everything looked great it really sent us on cloud 9. It’s still difficult and I always worry, but we celebrate each milestone we hit and that’s what really makes us more excited.
13. Is there anything special you do to remember your angel baby/babies?
We light a candle for them on their due date and always have their shadow box up on our mantle.
14. Is there anything you want others to know about going through loss?
ALWAYS advocate for yourself. Don’t let doctors beat around the bush and give you information you’re unsatisfied with. Stick up for yourself and push to get the right medical care that you need. I’ve been very open & vocal with my losses so that I don’t feel like I need to hide that part of me. Although speaking up on a taboo subject is difficult, it starts a chain reaction for other loss parents. I’ve had so many individuals message me saying “thank you” or “because of you I don’t feel alone” and that’s just really something special. Grief counseling, being in support groups and just communicating how you feel makes all the difference in the world. Don’t be afraid to feel every little feeling that you have. Grief comes in waves and is a sign of love. You’ll never 100% recover from loss but you’ll have good days and bad days. I constantly tell myself that all this pain will mean something more to me once this baby is born. We can’t wait to meet our baby boy, Malakai.
Photos taken by Brittney Burnham.
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