In 2020, right before the world came to a stop we found out we were expecting our first child, Juliette. We were ecstatic to become parents! At first I was cautious. I had heard of chemical pregnancies and miscarriages, but once the NIPT results came back cleared and we entered the second trimester we felt safe. We were going to be parents to a little girl, my husband who had always wanted a daughter was over the moon. Tears of joy were rolling down his cheeks the day the doctor’s office called us with the news that our baby was a girl.
Soon after we shared our pregnancy with everyone we knew, but because of the pandemic we didn’t get to give the news in person. We spent months home not seeing anyone and we didn’t take many pictures as we weren’t doing anything interesting. Very few people saw me pregnant.
The pregnancy was going well, I was low risk and our anatomy scan let us know everything with our daughter was well, except that she measured small in the 8th percentile. The doctor wasn’t too worried since everything else looked good. We convinced ourselves not to worry as we were both small babies. I tried to ignore her size and looked on the bright side, I would have another chance to see my baby at 24 weeks for a growth ultrasound!
Around 22 weeks, I started having new symptoms. I was throwing up again, my feet were swollen, I had shortness of breath… I thought that pregnancy was just extremely hard and my body was not handling it well. I didn’t think for one second that I could be sick. At my 23 week prenatal visit, I saw a different doctor than mine and let her know of my symptoms, which now included rapid weight gain. She told me to exercise daily and we talked briefly about delivery plans. I was annoyed at her comment from a body image issue perspective, I was feeling guilty for putting on all that weight and not exercising as much as I used to since everything was shut down. I didn’t know she was missing the signs of a life threatening disease.
On July 20th 2020, at 24 weeks, we went in for our ultrasound feeling confident that we would see the baby, get news that she was doing well and continue on with our day. During the ultrasound the sonographer asked a few casual questions and talked about us being parents. I noticed in the corner of the screen that the baby’s measurement showed 21 weeks, I knew that meant she was measuring small again. At some point during the appointment someone else came in and took some measurements, I didn’t think anything of it. Once they were done they told us the doctor would meet with us shortly.
We waited in the dark ultrasound room for what felt like hours, I had a feeling something wasn’t right and I asked my husband to take the day off if we were to receive bad news. I was expecting bad news, I had no idea it could be this bad. The doctor came in to let me know my OB had been notified and that I should go to Labor and Delivery, where they would be able to figure out what was going on and give us more information. We needed to be prepared that they may keep me for the night. I left the room not understanding what was happening, as we walked to the elevator I started crying, something was wrong with my baby. I was scared. My husband tried to reassure me, neither of us had any idea of how bad things could be.
At L&D, they admitted me very quickly once they saw my blood pressure was 190. As soon as they got me into my new bed the OB and pediatric teams walked into our room and gave us a tsunami of information. They let me know that I had preeclampsia with severe features, and our daughter had severe intrauterine growth restriction, she was in the 1st percentile and if she were to be born today she would not survive, that I will not leave the hospital pregnant and the best case scenario would be 10 weeks in the hospital. Every hour I could stay pregnant was a victory, I received the steroid shot for the baby, I was put on magnesium sulfate to avoid seizures, and I was given blood pressure medication. My world had collapsed, I didn’t understand how everything could have gone so wrong so quickly. I kept repeating “I came in for an ultrasound”.
At the end of the day my doctor finally came in, she explained everything to us, I felt supported and ready to fight for my daughter’s life.
Unfortunately I was only able to stay pregnant for one more week. On my birthday we had another ultrasound to see how the blood flow was doing. It was wonderful to see our daughter, a beautiful birthday present. After the test we were informed that the blood flow had started reversing, we knew this was bad news. Yet we had to wait hours for my doctor to come in, confirm, and let us know of the plan. I kept receiving happy birthday messages on a very sad birthday.
My doctor and a pediatrician met with us, my health was getting worse and it was a matter of days before our daughter would die in utero. We discussed the prognosis of a NICU stay at her size and the risks for my health. With all the love we have for our daughter, because we didn’t want her to suffer, and with the support of two amazing doctors we decided to do comfort care. If she was born alive, we would hold her and love her until she died.
I was induced the next day, I was extremely afraid of what was about to happen. I knew giving birth to her would kill her. The induction took 48 hours. We refused to have Juliette on the monitor because I could not bear the idea of hearing her heart stop. We found out 24 hours into the induction that she had died. I was relieved that I didn’t have to be active in her death.
Juliette was born on July 30th 2020 at 14oz (396g). She was beautiful and our perfect daughter. We got to hold her and spend time with her. Our doula and nurses took pictures for us. Even though it was heartbreaking that our daughter was dead, the time we spent with her was magical.
Since her birth we have honored Juliette in many ways. We have picked the lion as her symbol, for her strength, and the lily as her flower. We have dedicated gardens for her in our backyard that have lilies and flowers with her name. She is a part of our family and we decided to never stop talking about her. She is very present in our lives.
Five days after being discharged from the hospital, I was admitted again with sepsis, pneumonia, and peripartum cardiomyopathy (pregnancy induced heart failure). I didn’t understand how I could be so sick, all I could think was my body wasn’t able to sustain a pregnancy.
With the help from amazing doctors, modern medicine, and the miracle that is the human body, my heart healed in 4 months. While working towards my recovery, I had one thing in mind: getting better so I could be pregnant again. We had to wait one year before the doctors allowed us to try again.
The excitement of trying again quickly turned into despair as it wasn’t working. We turned to fertility testing in the hope of getting answers, there was none. After a year of trying and a week after Juliette’s birthday we found out we were pregnant again. We were overjoyed! It was as if hope and happiness came back into our lives after being gone for two years. Of course we knew there was going to be a long and difficult road ahead of us but at that moment we were pregnant and we allowed ourselves to be happy.
I am now 32 weeks pregnant with Juliette’s little brother. We have passed all the big milestones: the preeclampsia diagnosis week and the loss week. As we expected these milestones were extremely difficult in a pregnancy that has been going well physically but extremely challenging mentally. I have been watched very closely by my medical team and I have been very supported by them. I feel lucky to be in such good hands and I know Juliette is watching over us. We still have, I hope, 6 weeks to go and we are now starting to feel excited and very slowly planning for this baby. The uncertainty of pregnancy after loss has left us unable to think long term. Yet taking it a day at a time has really helped us appreciate and be fully present in the pregnancy. We are so grateful to be pregnant today and hope with all our heart that we will watch this baby grow up.
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