“How the hell did that happen?!?”
This was the response from Double A when I showed him the positive pregnancy test back in December. Staring at those two lines took us both by surprise, and has left us in a state of excitement, shock and worry. I won’t say that we weren’t trying as much as I’ll say we weren’t paying attention. We just didn’t think about it. We couldn’t think about it. After spending the last six years focused on tracking, timing, and unromancing, not to mention grieving, we were done. We were living, and being, and enjoying life with our son. (Please don’t say that’s when it always happens. I’ll be talking reactions to our coming out shortly.)
I remember calling the doctor’s office the next day and the nurses screaming, “Erin and Aaron are pregnant! Erin’s pregnant!” It was great that they were so excited, I just didn’t know what to make of being pregnant again. Was I up for this? Could I handle it? What if it happened again? So many emotions. So many unknowns. Double A and I were as excited as we were terrified. We still are.
When we first met with the doctor (same head of Maternal Fetal Medicine for one of Chicago’s best hospitals), I said to him, “I know what I’m about to ask you is not fair, but I need you to play G-d, and tell me everything is going to be alright.” I knew he couldn’t do that, but I wanted him to reassure me, and to guarantee that all would be OK. No, I needed that. Of course that didn’t happen. But what did happen was a frank, and ongoing, conversation about options and possibilities.
According to Doc, the biggest things that we had going for us was that this baby was conceived naturally, and there was just one. Our first two pregnancies were the only ones conceived naturally, and they both ended early, likely chemical pregnancies. We knew that the hormones used in fertility (in our case Follistim with the IUI) sometimes thinned out the uterine lining and caused issues, and since there was never anything else to point to why we lost Baby K, Sarah and Benjamin, our hope was that “spontaneous conception” as they kept calling it, was in our favor (our 3rd loss was genetic due to chromosome 17, and 5th, the triplet, was likely genetic as well).
Great. Now what, if anything, can we do differently?
I try to not do too much with Dr. Google, as I know that can lead to a black hole. But I did do some research, and spoke with some friends who had experienced similar issues. Doc welcomed our questions, and provided us with a medical answer, along with his opinion/recommendation on everything we discussed. This enabled Double A and me to make informed decisions, together with Doc.
We talked about a cerclage, and the super cerclage (aka the transabdominal cerclage, or TAC), but the risks for me seemed to outweigh the benefit, especially considering cervix issues didn’t seem to be the problem in the past. I know I brought a lot of other thoughts and questions to the table, but can’t remember them all.
We netted out on 17p progesterone shots starting at week 16 through 36. This fell under the camp of, can’t hurt, and may just help, as there are some studies that show it prevents preterm labor. (This also fell under the camp of, holy crap that’s expensive, what do people without insurance do, but that’s a rant for another time). We also decided that weekly visits, initially to measure baby growth, and then to check the cervix length and closure was what we were all most comfortable with.
From all of our experiences, we learned the need to advocate for ourselves: to stand up for what we want and need, and not stop until we feel comfortable. Finding the right doctor, who is willing to listen to our thoughts and needs, and develop an evolving plan with us, instead of for us, has given us some control in a mostly uncontrollable process. Knowing that we could go in at any time, daily if we wanted—without judgement—also helps ease our minds.
Each week, we’d go in with bated breath. Would there be a heartbeat? Is he growing properly? Are there any genetic issues? How about medical issues? The fear of losses past, never subsides, and I’ve had to choose to deal with that fear in new ways every day.
From the start, we knew we couldn’t look at this pregnancy as a 40-week journey. We needed to break it down into more manageable bits of time. So, for us, it started with getting to—and past—the time of each prior loss. And as we hit each of those dates, it was a combination of relief, with a dose of sadness for the baby who didn’t survive that date. When we surpassed Sarah and Benjamin’s date, it was the sadness, along with shock that we had made it so far. But what really threw me was hitting 24 weeks: possible viability. I remember crying to Double A over the fact that if the Little Guy were to arrive, the doctors would actually try to do something to save him.
On some levels, I think that I have been blocking out everything out: the fear, the hope, and the possibilities. Maybe it’s a survival tool. It isn’t that I haven’t accepted or acknowledged that I’m pregnant, but focusing on it, and the possibility of another loss is just too much for me to think about. So we hid. And I felt guilty about hiding. Not about the people we were hiding from, rather guilty we were hiding this baby we are so in awe of, and excited for.
Early on, Double A and I talked about going back to therapy, and even talked with the psychiatrist about the possibility of me going back on meds (something neither Double A or I thought was ideal, but we wanted to be prepared for anything). But in the end, we’ve been able to talk one another through, and down, as needed. And yes, Baby Boy has been a great focus as well. Truthfully, it all feels surreal.
For the most part, I have to say that I’ve been relatively calm, having only had two major panics resulting in me going in for heartbeat checks. These panics were completely mindf*ck driven, with no real reason…other than five prior pregnancies and seven babies who didn’t make it home. Of course there have been smaller panics and bouts of being overwhelmed by the all the feelings. Nights tend to be the worst, as that’s when my mind seems to wander to those places.
I’ve found that the further along we get, I am hopeful. At the same time, I’m not able to let my shoulders down and breathe easy. I know that’s something I won’t be able to do until he’s here breathing, screaming, and healthy, hopefully at 40 weeks. I’ve accepted that. At this point, I’m just trying to focus on today, and be grateful of where I am because all I really know, is that at this moment in time, he is OK, and that’s what I have to hold on to.