My husband and I decided to start trying to conceive right around our first anniversary in July 2019. In September, we found out that we were expecting. A few weeks went by, and I had absolutely no symptoms. I thought I just got lucky and would have an easy pregnancy. The morning of our 8 week ultrasound, I said to my husband, what if it’s not alive anymore? I don’t know why, but I just knew that something was wrong. Little did I know that a few hours later, we would see our tiny baby on the ultrasound screen and the tech would say the dreaded words, “I’m so sorry, but there’s no heartbeat.”
Since the baby measured 8 weeks, we figured it stopped growing very shortly before our appointment. I opted for expectant management, hoping that my body would recognize the loss and I would begin bleeding on my own. But after a week of nothing, I decided to move on to medical management with a pill at home. On October 18, 2019 I birthed our first baby at home.
Once I got my normal cycle back, we tried again. And it worked! We found out on Christmas Eve 2019 that we were expecting again. However, this time was much different than the first. This time, I had already started bleeding and thought I had my period. But when the bleeding got lighter and stopped after just 3 days, I tested and it was positive. I was concerned, so I called my doctor and they ordered a set of beta-HCG tests. After those came back as expected for a pregnancy, I had an ultrasound at just over 6 weeks. This time, the tech could only visualize an empty sac. She could not give me a definitive answer, but I knew. That very night, I started bleeding heavily. On December 31, 2019 I birthed our second baby at home.
I fell pregnant again in March 2020. At this point I thought my losses were random flukes. Surely it couldn’t happen again. This time, I had all of the pregnancy symptoms and felt absolutely terrible physically. But mentally, I was on cloud 9. The fact that I had lots of symptoms gave me hope. My OB tested my progesterone, and that was super high so we felt great about that. I had a little bit of spotting around 4 weeks, but it didn’t last long. My betas were also super high, so my OB brought me in for an early ultrasound at just over 5 weeks to rule out an ectopic pregnancy. To my surprise, the ultrasound revealed two gestational sacs – meaning I was likely having twins!
I had a follow up ultrasound at 6w5d since the first was too early to detect a heartbeat. This time, I finally got to see a heartbeat. This was the first ultrasound I had ever seen with a live baby and a heartbeat. Unfortunately, the second sac never got bigger and that embryo never grew to have a heartbeat. I was sad but still so relieved to finally see that beautiful flicker of life inside of me. I spent two months trusting God that we would get to take home this baby in December.
I got to 11 weeks pregnant in May, and then started having some spotting again. I called my OB, and they brought me in for an ultrasound the next day. I was very anxious because of my history and the fact that my husband was not allowed to come with me due to COVID restrictions. As soon as the tech pulled up the ultrasound, I knew something wasn’t right. The baby was small, and I didn’t see a heartbeat. She was silent for a few minutes and I finally said, “there’s no heartbeat is there?” She said, “no, I’m so sorry.” The baby measured just over 9 weeks. I was absolutely blindsided. We got past the points where we miscarried before. I called my husband from the bathroom in the clinic and was sobbing so hard I couldn’t even speak. The clinic allowed me to leave out the back door so I didn’t have to see any baby bumps. I ran to the car and my husband and I sobbed together for awhile.
I decided to have a D&C this time so that the baby could be tested for chromosomal abnormalities. We found out 3 weeks later that I was carrying a boy with Down Syndrome/Trisomy 21. On one hand, I feel glad that he didn’t have to enter the world just to suffer. I would not have elected to terminate if given the diagnosis later in the pregnancy. But this diagnosis also just gave me more questions than answers. The chances of a 24 and 26 year old couple conceiving a baby with T21 are SO slim. If this was my first loss, I may have chalked it up to bad luck. But since it was my third, and even though we did not get the first two tested, I just felt very broken. I thought I would never be able to have a live birth.
We planned to take at least 3 months off from trying to conceive and work on becoming super healthy. We both took dozens of vitamins and supplements a day. I started seeing a reproductive endocrinologist (RE), who put me on a low dose Synthroid medication for my thyroid. I also started weekly acupuncture appointments and daily exercise. My RE asked me to actively avoid pregnancy so that when my next cycle started, they could do some diagnostic testing. I had been tracking my cycles very closely and became familiar with the fertility awareness method, so I knew when my fertile window would be.
Well, apparently we didn’t do a good enough job preventing pregnancy, because I found out in July 2020 that I was pregnant again! My RE immediately put me on Progesterone and scheduled an early ultrasound for 6 weeks. That ultrasound showed appropriately sized gestational and yolk sacs, but no fetal pole yet. I went back 1 week later and there was a heartbeat!
During this pregnancy, I was so overwhelmed with anxiety. I refused to plan anything for the baby for a long time and spent every day actively avoiding thinking about it. Before every ultrasound, I was so anxious and went in shaking. I thought for sure that each ultrasound would show no heartbeat.
By some miracle, I had zero complications through the entire pregnancy. My baby was healthy and doing somersaults inside of me at every scan. We found out that it was a girl at 16 weeks, and had a gender reveal party with our families. I finally relaxed after a perfect anatomy scan at 20 weeks. Despite COVID, we had a small baby shower in our home with just close family. It was absolutely perfect.
On March 20, 2021 I woke up in labor at 8 AM. I progressed quickly and went into the hospital at around noon. And that night, just 20 minutes before her due date, I birthed our fifth baby in the hospital. Some complications arose towards the end of labor, and I did have a traumatic birth. But at the end of it, I had a beautiful healthy baby in my arms. And that’s all that matters.
Josie is the absolute light of our lives. I would go through everything 10 times over for her. She is a strong, opinionated, and passionate 4 month old. She was always a fighter and I can’t believe I ever doubted her. She was meant to be here, no matter the circumstances.
Today, I would say that my heart is healed. I do think about all of my babies and wonder what they would have been like. I wonder what life would be like with a 1 year old, or 6 month old twins. I wonder what they would have looked like. But I know that all of those losses led me to this sweet little girl in my arms. The rainbow after my storm is worth all the time I spent in the rain, and more.
Photos taken by Nicole Martin.
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