I’ve always wanted to be a mom. Ever since I was little, it’s the first thing I answered when asked “what do you want to be when you grow up?” My now-husband and I discussed this on our very first date, to make sure we were both on the same page. Yes, we both wanted marriage and babies.
We started trying for a baby in mid 2020. Trying to conceive was mentally much harder than I expected. I discovered that my cycles were long and irregular, closer to 35 days instead of 28, meaning an entire extra week of waiting every cycle. And I’ve always had strong PMS cycles, so combining that with the disappointment of getting my period every month was really hard.
Finally, after what felt like an eternity, we got our positive pregnancy test in January 2021. I ran back into the bedroom to wake my husband, “I think there’s a faint line! It’s really faint but I swear it’s there!” We were incredibly excited.
We told my family right away, as we were staying with them for the holidays. Barely 4 weeks pregnant and already sharing the news. I knew the risks of miscarriage and also knew that I’d need the support of my family in case anything did happen. Fortunately, the pregnancy continued perfectly. At the first scan, I was measuring behind but we knew my dates could be of due to the irregular cycles, and I was thrilled to get to enjoy my pregnancy even longer.
The pregnancy progressed beautifully. I loved being pregnant. Fortunately it was physically easy on my body, and I just felt fabulous. I loved the physical changes, and enjoyed sharing updates with our community. Due to COVID, my husband wasn’t allowed at any appointments with me so we had a home doppler to check baby’s heartbeat at home. We took weekly bump photos and documented the pregnancy in a journal. All the genetic testing came back normal.
The day of the 20 week ultrasound, we were told that Owen could attend with me- COVID rules had recently been loosened. We were so excited! We were team green, waiting until birth to find out fetal sex, but I was secretly hoping the tech would slip up and we could find out early. I was so excited for Owen to see our baby in a scan when it finally looked like a baby, and to get to see all those adorable details.
The ultrasound room was cold, dark, quiet. The scan took forever, and the tech was so impersonal. She barely spoke a word, and had me lie down flat so I couldn’t even see the monitor. She scanned for what felt like hours, then left the room to find a doc, and returned to scan some more, again in silence. Since this was my first pregnancy, I had no idea what to expect- is it like at the dentist’s office when the dentist always comes in at the very end to say a quick “hi” or is it weird for the doc to come in?
The male doctor came in, introduced himself and said he needed to focus on the scan for a bit, so he’d be quiet and focused. I was starting to get nervous at this point, but ever the optimist, I blew it off as “those scans are just so hard to interpret!” My husband was very quiet, neither of us looking at each other.
After another long wait, the doc finally pulled us into his office, at which time I knew something bad was coming. “I have some hard news to tell you,” he said. I immediately burst into tears. Our baby had a giant omphalocele, an abdominal wall defect where the stomach, liver and small intestines were growing in a sac outside baby’s body. He showed us photos, told us stats, said that babies with giant omphaloceles can survive well if their heart and lungs looked good, which our baby’s did not. Baby’s heart was being pulled into the omphalocele.
I’ll never forget this doctor. Even as he shattered my world, he was gentle, kind, and direct. He told us multiple times that nothing we had done caused this to happen- it was just a random fluke. He also gave us the options: “If you choose to continue to pregnancy….. if you choose to terminate….” Either way, it was a decision. If we continued the pregnancy, we were looking at regular high risk appointments, an early delivery, months of NICU time, surgeries after surgeries, and and high chance that baby didn’t survive that. If we terminated, we were looking at ending the pregnancy soon and waiting a few months before trying again.
It was both an easy decision and the hardest one we’ve ever had to make. We spent hours crying, researching, talking things over with our families, and crying more. We decided to terminate, as it felt unlikely that our baby would make it to term and any “success” stories we found sounded awful. We chose to have a medical termination as I didn’t want to labor and deliver a baby I knew wouldn’t look like the baby I pictured in my head, or be coming home with me.
At 21 weeks and 2 days, I started the process of the TFMR (termination for medical reasons). My sister flew down to be with me, and it was a 2 day process. Honestly, the termination itself wasn’t as hard as I thought. My sister, sister-in-law, and my best friend all rallied around me and I felt incredibly loved and supported. We went hiking, we went to the beach, we spent hours discussing the silver linings to this experience and how I was so grateful for the medical support and access I had. We dyed my hair and had a home spa day between the 2 day procedure. Looking back, it’s one of my favorite memories.
The weeks and months after the loss caught up with me. I felt so angry with the world whenever I saw pregnancy announcements. It took so much longer to recover than I expected- I had retained tissue and a second D&C 8 weeks after the first, and I didn’t get my cycle back until 12 weeks after our loss. I had been hoping I’d be pregnant already by then. Baby’s due date came and went, no rainbow pregnancy. My cycles continued to get longer and more irregular- 4 weeks, then 6, then 8 weeks and no ovulation. My doc worked with me to start letrozole to help regulate my cycles. I stated on Zoloft in November since my grief spirals were taking over my world and I couldn’t manage. Therapy helped, but not enough. I never regretted our decision, but was so angry and upset that we had to make that choice.
During our initial TTC stage before our loss, I had told my husband I wanted to be open about our fertility/parenting struggles, whatever they were. I run my own business and have a large community of moms in my network, and I knew this would be something they related to. I never expected our loss or the particular struggle we experienced, but we have been open about the entire process. I shared openly about out TFMR, my abortion, the grief and mental health struggles, and TTC after loss. It’s been incredibly connecting and empowering.
In January 2022, we got the positive pregnancy test again. I started at it in disbelief and took 3 more that same day- it felt so surreal after so many months of waiting and hoping and disappointment. But it was clearly positive.
I knew I needed this pregnancy to be different from the last- different pregnancy, different outcome. I’d been planning for this for months- I set up our living room with rainbow onesies, made a rainbow fruit platter for breakfast, and put on rainbow leggings and a “rainbow mama” shirt for myself, and waited for hubby to wake up. He was confused, surprised, and finally thrilled. We couldn’t believe it- we were finally past the terrible TTC phase again.
We shared openly and early again, knowing how we’d need extra support this pregnancy. Our family and friends have been incredible. My sister gathered our entire family together to send me weekly pregnancy updates so I don’t have to read the same updates in the same apps as the last pregnancy and relive those moments. The timelines for the pregnancies is almost identical- the due dates are 3 days apart, so there’s a lot of similarities and comparisons.
I’m currently 31 weeks pregnant with our rainbow baby boy. Our loss baby was a girl (we found out after the autopsy results came in). This baby is so reassuring and wiggly and lovely. I’ve had stronger pregnancy symptoms with him, and it’s been wonderful to have some similarities and so many differences too. They really are very different pregnancies. The first trimester in particular was hard, dealing with the anxiety of pregnancy after loss combined with the regular anxieties about miscarriage and pregnancy. I cried hysterically before our first scan, terrified that my husband would be attending yet another heartbreaking scan- but all was good. Our doctor has been wonderful, starting with scans right away and skipping the small talk until after we know baby is ok. The ultrasound tech at the 20 week scan was incredible, showing us each part of baby and checking the abdominal wall very carefully- clean bill of health for this baby.
I’m incredibly grateful for the support I’ve had through this entire process, from my medical team to my therapist, my family and friends and community overall. This rainbow baby is so loved and so wanted, and he will always know the path his big sister paved for him.”
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