Expecting A Rainbow

I’ve been asking myself why I want, or need, to write this. I’m not even sure that my “craft blog” is the appropriate place to post this. I’m not an incredibly open person when it comes to sharing experiences like this… especially with those outside of my closest family and friends. But the thoughts and emotions keep swirling through my head and I find myself talking through what happened, over and over again. It’s my hope that by writing this, that it helps to slow down that hamster wheel of thoughts. Once it’s out of my mind and all written out, hopefully there will be a little more space in my brain for new, and happier, thoughts to take root. I’m also hoping it allows me to concentrate more on crafting and writing for my blog again.

Most importantly, it is also my hope that by sharing this, it reaches another woman who has experienced (or will in the future) something similar. I hope it makes them feel a little less alone in a time when she may feel complete isolation and may even be suffering in silence. 

And lastly, since this seems to be such a taboo subject in our culture, I hope to bring a bit of awareness to those who may be close with a woman (and/or even their partner) who has to deal with this type of experience. Hopefully by reading my words, they can better understand what she may be feeling at a time when she may have a difficult time putting her own feelings into words. Although, I am truly aware that it is almost impossible to completely walk in another’s shoes… as we are all individuals and no single experience is exactly like the next.

I’d also like to begin by saying two things… First, don’t feel pity on me. It’s not the reason I’m writing this as I’ve clearly stated above. I believe writing this is part of my healing journey and this experience has really brought about some positives in my life. And second, don’t judge me - whether you may think I’m overly sensitive or don’t agree with the actions we chose to take. As I said before, every person’s experience is unique. Many times, people find themselves in situations where the choices they thought they would make suddenly change when faced with new information. And sometimes, those choices go against their personal values and become the most difficult decisions they ever have to make in their life.

So let me begin…

This past October, Justin and I found out we were to be expecting our second child. We had held off trying for another because we were in the process of selling our house and I wanted to make sure I had a stress-free pregnancy. So when the test showed positive soon after moving into our new house, we were overjoyed. We were so excited that almost immediately we began to share the news with our families. We hadn’t put much thought into sharing the news so early this time around as we already had one healthy pregnancy from which we got a beautiful, charismatic, little girl. When we were pregnant with Myla, we were much more worried about sharing the news as that is what our society expects and our culture believes is the thing to do - we even waited until the end of our first trimester to tell family. But for some reason, the worry wasn’t there this time around. We figured everything would go the way it did before. And we enjoyed celebrating with our families.

Our First Doctor Appointment 

I knew we were far enough along that we should expect to see the heartbeat and get a good measurement of the baby. Only, that’s not how our appointment went. My doctor started the ultrasound and found the baby but couldn’t locate the heartbeat. I knew the machine in the main office was not as strong as the ultrasound technician’s machine. We dealt with a similar situation with Myla. She measured 4 days behind at our first appointment, and the doctor thought she could see a ‘flicker’ but couldn’t get a good measurement of the heartbeat and had to send us to the tech. However, this time, the doctor then said that the baby was still too small to measure to calculate a due date - which in other words means, the baby was measuring less than 6 weeks. According to my calculations, this meant baby was at least 10 days behind! The doctor said, perhaps I just wasn’t as far along as I thought - which is what I know they tell many women, as many women have longer cycles or ovulate late, etc. But I knew my dates! And it didn’t make any sense to me. By hearing what the doctor said, it meant she was trying to tell me that we conceived this baby the day I got a big fat positive on a home pregnancy test. As most people know, that’s impossible. I began crying right there. Justin still had hope - bless his heart - and reminded me that Myla measured behind, and that we also had trouble seeing her heartbeat as well. But I knew this appointment was further along in the pregnancy than with Myla… I knew my dates… I knew something was not right. The office then scheduled me for an ultrasound with the tech a week later.

From there I went home and researched and researched more. I discovered that anything measuring 10 days to 2 weeks behind at this point, was a bad sign. But I kept faith and continued to research for any positive outcomes. That coming weekend was Myla’s 2nd Birthday Party. Family was going to be traveling in and I was about to have a house full of friends and family. I called my OB’s office to see if I could get in before the weekend for that next ultrasound. I needed to know what was going to be happening - there was no way I wanted a house full of people and family staying overnight if I was about to lose this baby. I did my research about what women experience during a miscarriage too (which I discovered is much more difficult than I ever thought before) - I wanted to prepare myself for what may come. Because of that, we almost decided to cancel Myla’s party. Luckily, the technician was able to fit me in right before the weekend. At that appointment, we found the heartbeat, which again gave me a little bit of faith - enough to keep the party going as scheduled. But the baby hadn’t grown the amount it should have in those days. It was growing, but slowly. It’s heart rate was also slow - probably less than 70 beats per minute and at this point, it should have been at least double that. The tech kept trying to get a measurement with the machine but it wouldn’t measure - we could see it, but it was too slow for the machine to pick up. We kept trying to look for the best possible outcome - perhaps the heartbeat only JUST started, which then of course, it would be on the slower side. My doctor confirmed that the heartbeat may just be starting and that she has seen women who thought they knew their dates, but ovulated late, and where implantation took place later than expected and the embryo just took a little longer than usual to start developing - she was trying to give me a shred of hope. She said it was still too early to call it. We got to take home pictures of our little bean that day - which I’m eternally thankful for. Then, they scheduled me for a third ultrasound the following Wednesday - the day before Thanksgiving.

Waiting Game Continues

I did more research on heart rates the day before Myla’s party - still searching for more hope - still debating if we should cancel - still wondering how I would be able to handle seeing everyone and act like everything was ok. However, the only concrete information I could find was not positive. A heart rate of 70 bpm or less means a 100% risk of miscarriage… or also in medical terminology: fetal demise. I read those words over and over again in all the research I did. Gosh, how much I hate reading those words.

So here I was… This little tiny baby living inside of me, fighting for life, hanging on but slowly falling away… and there wasn’t a single thing I could do about it. Nothing… absolutely nothing I could do. I’ve never felt so helpless in my entire life. The only thing I could do was wait and see and continue to hope for a miracle baby. There was a part of me that wished I just had a blighted ovum (gestational sac but no baby), or that I had already began to miscarry - because this waiting felt torturous.

That weekend, we celebrated Myla’s birthday - and for some strange reason, I felt really calm - perhaps I was just feeling numb from already having cried so much or perhaps because I had so much going on with the party that my mind had a chance to take a break from worrying. I know I isolated myself a lot during that weekend and felt it was difficult to make conversation as I couldn’t really talk about what was truly going through my mind. The words Justin and I used to describe the situation to family was “we are cautiously optimistic”. At this point, none of my friends knew what was going on, but my closest ones suspected I was pregnant - they just didn’t realize what we were facing at this point.

Final Ultrasound

That next Wednesday, at our third ultrasound, I remember sitting in the waiting room, gripping Justin’s hand tightly, and breathing heavily… so nervous to find out what was happening.

We went into the room. I’m pretty sure I already had tears in my eyes, preparing myself to receive the worst news of my life, but still hoping for that miracle. Just as before, the tech found the baby and again, it had grown, but just a tiny bit. She tried over and over and over and over again to get a measurement of the heartbeat - I could still see it, but I could tell it was even slower than before. It would flicker a few times, then again… then again… but it was soooo slow. I can almost remember just holding my breathe, staring at the ultrasound screen, waiting to hear the words. Then she said them: “it’s not looking good”. All that air I had been holding in my lungs came screaming out as I closed my eyes - but when I closed my eyes, I couldn’t escape the ultrasound image - the black and white reversed as it was burned into the inside of my eyelids. I felt Justin come over and hold me and between my sobs and screams, I could see the tears in his eyes too. Our world suddenly stopped. The tech continued to try to get a measurement of the heart rate… it seemed as though she wanted to see this baby make it as much as we did. After a little while, the tech and Justin held me and walked me out of the room, through the waiting room of other pregnant ladies, whom I’m sure all heard my cries, and back into my doctor’s office. 

We then had our chance to talk with the doctor. Before I heard anything she had to say, I was certain that I wanted to miscarry naturally, at home, whenever the time was right for baby to leave us. I knew it meant hours, days or even weeks before it could happen, but it’s what I believed was the right thing to do. As if my head wasn’t spinning enough, I was then given some information which made me second guess everything I had prepared myself for. I was told that I was at a higher risk for hemorrhaging than usual and that going in for a scheduled D&C would be my safest option. I was told that since the following day was Thanksgiving and we had the “holiday weekend” upon us, that hospital staff might be lighter than normal. I was told that I could wait until I started bleeding, but as soon as I did, they wanted me at the hospital immediately - even if that meant the middle of the night, at which point, I would get an emergency D&C - a less safe option than a scheduled one - combine that with possibly having to go in during the holiday and fewer people on staff makes for a riskier/scarier situation. I was also told that the heart was still in fact slightly beating, meaning that in effect, it would be a termination if I went in that afternoon for a scheduled D&C - which was my doctors suggestion. I was told that if I wanted to wait it out, that they wanted me to return in two days if I hadn’t already started bleeding for another ultrasound and we would continue that pattern until we knew the heart completely stopped beating and then schedule the D&C. However, we knew there was still a good chance that my body would begin to miscarry before we even reached the next ultrasound. After hearing all this - I couldn’t believe how easily it was for our world to be flipped up-side down and all my values to be second-guessed. I knew that making the wrong decision could potentially have a huge impact on my health. And making the right decision could also be the hardest thing I ever had to do.

Making a Decision

Justin and I went home, where we sat with my mother who had been there watching Myla. We talked about the different options and as I watched Myla play, I knew my priority was her. I had to make sure I was healthy for her and that I needed to do the safest thing possible. As I sat there with my mom and Justin, and my heart started to accept the fact that this baby was not going to make it, I began to feel like I just wanted it over with. I didn’t think I could handle the ‘sit and wait’ approach any longer as this entire experience had already been going on for a few weeks - all this sadness mixed with little bits of hope - I couldn’t take the emotional roller coaster anymore. Could I possibly continue to wait? To continue feeling this pain for longer? I just wanted to get past this and start on my healing journey. A little while later, I called the doctor and told her to have the hospital schedule me for that afternoon. 

I laid down on my couch for several hours before we had to leave for the hospital. I spent that time staring blankly at the walls and ceiling, crying, and even shaking uncontrollably … it’s pretty much how I spent a lot of my time for those past few weeks since our first appointment. I kept asking my baby for forgiveness and telling it how much I loved him/her. I kept hoping that its heart would stop beating by the time surgery was to take place. I hated myself for making the decision I had, but I knew it was the best choice every time I thought of Myla. Plus, I have this unfortunate history of being in the 1% when doctors tell me what could go wrong - I don’t get it, but it usually happens to me. This was one situation where I didn’t want to take that risk. 

Saying Goodbye and the Months that Followed

When the time came, Justin drove me to the hospital. By this point, I couldn’t believe I still had tears to cry, but I did. I met with my doctor there and was prepped for surgery. I remember being on the hospital bed, getting wheeled around - I couldn’t handle the numerous, random staff around having normal conversations or even hearing the occasional laughter. Not that it was their fault, but here I was, dressed in hospital gowns, laying under the white sheets about to be taken into a room where I’d be saying goodbye to a baby I never got to hold. I remember not being able to handle looking at anyone and decided to take out my contacts before I had to - without them, I can not see more than 12 inches in front of my face. I spoke with several people who would be assisting in the OR - nurses, anesthesiologists, doctors… I remember kissing Justin goodbye. I remember sobbing so hard that they decided to inject some medication into my IV before they even began to wheel me into the OR. 

Then… I remember waking up as a few nurses took care of me. I remember them being really sweet with me. Helping me stay warm and get comfortable and simply placing their hand on mine. Unfortunately, I also remember how much my body hurt, as it did for days… my shoulders, sides, back - I must have been coughing pretty hard from the breathing tube… combined with the amount of crying I had done. I couldn’t believe how much I ached for days after that - in addition to the cramping from the surgery. To add to that, I ended up with strep throat and a double ear infection the next day - as if the hurting in my heart wasn’t bad enough, my entire body felt like it was thrown under a truck.

After leaving the hospital, I went home and just laid on the couch - I don’t think I understood everything I was feeling - it just simply felt like it was all over - which it was. There was no going back. There was no longer a little life inside my belly. I was empty and felt empty. This is when my world truly started to feel like it had stopped. I guess that’s kind of what mourning and grieving feels like to me. You look around at the world, and its still moving - life is still happening and going forward. But to me, it all halted. I had trouble speaking, moving my body, listening to anyone who tried to speak to me. I remember not knowing how I was ever going to move forward myself. I didn’t want to talk to anyone but Justin and my family. I had so much trouble sleeping that night. I woke up before the sun and wrote my Thanksgiving Wish blog post… I truly didn’t want to accept that this was over. All my hopes and dreams for this little one that I carried inside of me for a few short months - were all gone. 

The next three months were beyond hard - it was the amount of time my doctor said we had to wait before trying for another baby. During that time, I felt little hope. I almost didn’t know what to do with myself besides think of all the things I possibly did to cause this to happen. I still couldn’t accept that it was most likely just a “chromosomal fluke” and that it was nothing I did that caused this to happen. I wondered if it was the cold medicine I took before I knew I was pregnant, or the hot bath, or maybe even the flu shot I got. I didn’t want to accept the statistic that 1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage, 90% due to a chromosome issue - none of these stats made what happened any easier. I still wanted an answer. It also made me wonder, why with such staggering rates, that the subject of miscarriage is so taboo in our culture - why very few people talk about it. It’s made the women who have experienced it feel so alone - many who suffer in silence or without the proper support to heal. And furthermore, I can not even begin to imagine the pain of those who experience stillbirth, or give birth to a child who only lives a few months, weeks, days or even hours. I wonder where those parents turn to for support as so much of the world doesn’t want to talk about it. It’s for these reasons that I want to be open and share my experience and feelings. I certainly did not experience the typical loss of a baby and still wonder if I can even use the term miscarriage to describe what happened. I’m reminded of this each time a doctor or nurse questions me about number of pregnancies, number of living children, number of miscarriages, etc. I’m still having a hard time with the decision I made, even though I know it was inevitable the baby wasn’t going to make it. But, I know my first priority was making sure to take care of myself so I could take care of Myla.

During those months, I also experienced things I never knew would be quite so hard for someone having just lost a baby. Don’t get me wrong, I knew these things would be hard, but not to the degree in which I felt them. Being so close to Christmas, there was one day we grabbed the mail and as I opened up Christmas cards, we received 4 birth announcements and 2 baby-on-the-way cards… every time I looked on Facebook, I would see another friend announcing they were expecting around the time I was due (pretty sure there was about 5)… everywhere I went, all I saw was pregnant women… I would cringe if anyone asked me if I only had the one child when they saw Myla, or asked if I was planning on having any more (questions I vow to never ask anyone again) - because all I wanted to do was scream “I just freaking lost a baby you jackass”. And not that I was really mad at them for asking, but my emotions were still running so high, it’s what I was bursting at the seams to say. I also had been invited to baby showers, and would see pictures of other friends on Facebook having just given birth to their children. Of course I was happy for them, but everything was just a constant reminder. Each time I was reminded, I would retreat into my mind, become quiet and have a hard time functioning normally. At other times, I found myself getting very agitated with people, even towards Justin for no particular reason, and it would take me awhile to realize why, but it all stemmed back to a reminder of our loss in some way.

Finding Hope and Our Good News

When the three month mark came, I really thought I would be quite upset and I was bracing for that. Justin and I even planned a dinner out for just the two of us. However, something I didn’t expect began to happen. I suddenly began to feel hope and my negative emotions slowly started to turn positive. Everything just began to look a little brighter.

About a month later, my period was late and I waited a few days to take a test. I was scared to take the test because I knew I was either going to be faced with disappointment (negative) or worry (positive). Justin and I looked at the test together - it was positive! What a crazy mess of emotions I began to feel. I was terrified that I would experience the same thing all over again… and I knew that if I did, this would be the end of trying cause the pain was just too much to go through again. I couldn’t say the words: I’m pregnant. All I could say was that I had a positive pregnancy test. We shared the news with my parents (as I knew I needed my mother’s support) and I shared with my closest friends (again, because I needed their support too). There was no celebrating this time but instead a lot of talking about emotions and what was going to happen next. I had to wait a few weeks for my first appointment - and gosh, how long those weeks felt.

We finally got to our first appointment and had an ultrasound. I won’t lie… it was so hard walking back into that doctor’s office. I cried while walking into the back as memories flooded right back into my mind. The doctor began the ultrasound and cautiously gave us the measurement and checked it against my LMP (last menstrual period). I truly couldn’t have asked for better news - baby was measuring exactly to date and its heartbeat was nice and strong. What a huge sigh of relief I let out. I know we were not out of the woods by any means, but I knew this was starting better than before. 

I continued going back for weekly ultrasounds during the entire first trimester so they could track baby’s measurements making sure it was still growing as it should. Then we were sent to the high risk doctor for an NT scan - everything looked good and my fears started to subside. We also opted to do a genetic screening test, which all came back negative for Trisomy 13, 18 and 21. We also found out we are expecting a little boy. At this point, I was finally able to say “I’m pregnant”. Another number of weeks passed, we got to hear baby’s heartbeat on doppler a few more times, and then we had the Level 2 anatomy scan last week - again, everything looked good. And now, I can finally… just finally, now breathe easy. And as I sit here writing this, I can feel the little guy kicking and just how miraculous it feels. It’s crazy how it’s taken me so long to begin to really feel joy during this pregnancy after experiencing our loss. I know we are only about half way to the end… and there is still a chance that any number of things can happen… but I finally feel like I can share the news… We are expecting our rainbow baby boy at the end of November!!! 

Here is a quote I came across that accurately describes what I’m feeling:

“Rainbow Babies" is the understanding that the beauty of a rainbow does not negate the ravages of the storm. When a rainbow appears, it doesn't mean the storm never happened or that the family is not still dealing with its aftermath. What it means is that something beautiful and full of light has appeared in the midst of the darkness and clouds. Storm clouds may still hover but the rainbow provides a counterbalance of color, energy and hope.

As much as I’m overjoyed that we are now expecting a little boy, there is still a part of me that feels guilt over being so happy for this baby when I’m still mourning our last. I’ve read that this feeling is normal, but it’s still hard to actually feel it. There is still not a day that goes by that I don’t think of that baby. I should have been holding that baby in my arms right now. It’s hard to think of how my life would be so different at this very moment in time. 

I’ve also spent a lot of time doing things in remembrance of our little peanut. Most importantly, we named our baby before we said goodbye. In addition, I worked with a local jewelry designer to make a pendant that I wear along with my “M” for Myla - so my babies are always close by. I’ve planted a butterfly bush for “our little one with wings”, I made a Christmas ornament for “our angel”, and I’m working on a special project using the ultrasound picture we got to take home during our second appointment, along with the positive pregnancy test I kept, and hospital bracelet from the day we said goodbye. I will never forget and don’t want to forget. The pain may ease over time, but there will also be a part of my heart that’s forever broken for our little peanut.

As sad or depressing as all of this may seem, a lot of positives have come from it too. I truly believe my relationships with Justin, Myla and my family and friends have strengthened. I’m so thankful for my friends and their support, for my family and their unconditional love, so thankful for Justin (who’s still my rock, my love, my everything), incredibly thankful for my crazy little girl, Myla, who makes me smile and laugh daily, and has made my heart grow a million times over, for the little life growing inside of me right now who I can not wait to meet, and for everything else that I have. I truly feel lucky and blessed.