Before my son Milo, I had an early miscarriage, around 5-6 weeks. It wasn’t the smoothest, bleeding started whilst I was at work. I knew it wasn’t good! Once I got home and told my husband, I decided to have a shower and gather my thoughts. I had the urge to pee so I did, which was when I saw sac leave my body. I was referred to an early pregnancy loss clinic at the local women’s hospital. I had an ultrasound and blood work to check that everything had left my body, which seemed like it had. I had to have blood work taken every few day to check my hcg levels were decreasing back to 0.
One of the blood test came back, where my hcg levels had actually risen slightly so I had to go back to the clinic for another ultrasound. There was indeed some tissue left in my uterus. I was given a shot of methotrexate (used for ectopic pregnancy and early abortions) to help my body absorb the remaining tissue. After another week or two my hcg levels were back to 0. Husband and I were eager to try again, however my cycle took a couple of months to come back… This is when I started to track my cycle as I had been on the pill for most of my 20s. My cycles were irregular and were anywhere between 39 to over 50 days, not ideal when you’re trying to conceive…
We started trying again after I had my first period. However, it took a few cycles to get our positive test result. The pregnancy was pretty smooth, until we learned at the 20 week scan that our son would most likely be born with just 1 kidney… Thankfully you can live with just the 1.
In Early 2020, we decided to start trying for another baby. We luckily got the positive pregnancy test in March, actually the first day I started working from home due to COVID. First trimester was easy, no sickness thankfully which was the same as my pregnancy with my son Milo. I had blood taken for the NIPT test, which came back low risk for all the different Trisomies. In Canada, you have to pay over $500 for the test. As I was over 35, I could have had a scan and blood work covered by health care, but thought paying $500 for the NIPT test would be better… As I got closer to the 20 week scan, I did start to get nervous. I was starting to think about when I would start to feel baby move, normally it’s around the 16-18 weeks. As it was the first few months of the pandemic, I was put off going to get myself and baby checked out and I had my 20 week scan booked for early July so I decided to wait it out a couple of weeks.
The 20 week scan came… I had to go by myself due to COVID. One of the first things the technician asked me was if I had had the NIPT test, which I replied I had. I asked if both kidneys were present, they were. Once the technician had taken all the measurements, she said she would be back after consulting with the radiologist…. I sensed there was some bad news on the way. The dr came in and said that my little guy had a serious birth defect. He was missing brain and skull – also known as anencephaly. After she left I called my husband and asked him to come get me. After I hung up I burst into tears.
We had a follow up appointment with the genetics team at the hospital about a week later where my husband and I were asked about a genetic backgrounds. We were asked specifically if there had been any cases of Spina Bifida, our answer was no. The genetics team explained to us in more detail what anencephaly was. I had spent the last week googling about it on and off whilst my husband decided not to look up anything. Baby would either die in the womb, be stillborn or live only a few minutes after birth. I had not been feeling any movement from baby too which led me to believe it was a pretty serious defect and one that was not compatible with life on the outside. We later found out that his hands were clasped shut.
We were given a few options. Carry to term, terminate the pregnancy or be induced. As much as it was such a horrible decision to make, we decided to terminate. We were offered to have an early scan, around 15 weeks for any future pregnancies. This would be the earliest that any similar birth defects could be picked up.
The termination would take place at the women’s hospital again a week later. That week waiting for the appointment was hard. I remember just feeling numb and heavy. It was weird still being pregnant, knowing the outcome was death. The procedure started on a Wednesday at the hospital. It started with a counselling session. We went over what going to happen over the next couple of days and I was asked how I was doing mentally. I think I was ready for it to be over knowing what the outcome was. The termination process would take place over 3 days. Personally the 2nd appointment was the worst for me both physically and mentally. The dr stopped my little boys heart. I remember saying ‘sorry’ in my head as the needle went through my belly and into my womb and into his heart.
The 3rd appointment which was on a Friday luckily. I was just uncomfortable and impatient. I was the last women going through the termination that day so I was lying in bed for most of the morning just wanting it to be over. I had the weekend to recover then I was back at work on the Monday. I didn’t have a huge amount of choice as my husband had been out of work during COVID and he was daddy daycare with our then 3 year old which wasn’t easy. Work was ramping up to be a busy end of year, which was kind of a blessing that it kept my mind focused but also I felt that I was going to have a delayed reaction at a later date. We don’t live close to our family. We are originally from the UK but live in Vancouver, Canada so didn’t have family support near us but we spoke to them all via FaceTime. Thankful for technology.
We started talking about trying again in early 2021, around 6 months after we lost Isaac… I sensed I was pregnant the first cycle we tried. I put off getting a test for like 2-3 weeks… it turned out that this pregnancy was a very similar timeline to Isaac, the year before. The due date for this rainbow baby was a few days later. The first trimester for me was the worst mentally, I had a few rough days in the Spring coming to terms with going through the whole pregnancy process, still in a pandemic. We decided not to tell anyone as we wanted to wait til after 20 week scan til we told family. I took each trimester, milestone at a time. I had a few triggers in the pregnancy with going back to the radiology centre for my first dating scan. The appointment was at same clinic I had been when I had the bad news with Isaac.
This time round I opted to go with the free 2nd trimester screening instead of paying over $500 for the NIPT. The screening involves a scan and blood work, both came back for low risk for birth defect a and chromosome issues. Also thankfully the 20 week scan this time round was great!
We welcomed another little boy back in November, he decided to come 10 days early. The following week, it was Isaac’s due date… I gave Otis a big squeeze during a night feed, I had nearly forgotten with the lack of sleep but I was thankful to have a healthy boy in my arms but I will always remember and love my other November boy, Isaac.
Photos taken by Kim Forrester.
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