PAIL - Pregnancy and Infant Loss
I have already shared an entire post on our precious baby “Olive” this one is different.
I stood in the bathroom with the positive test staring in disbelief. We weren’t trying, we hadn’t done any of the tricks (preseed, softcups etc.) we did while trying to get pregnant the first time. How did this happen?! I was overwhelmed and started sweating and shaking. How did this happen!? I made the decision to tell Zach the same way I told him with our first pregnancy. I gave myself a few minutes to myself, looking down at my baby and spoke to this precious unexpected life we had created.
I walked into the bedroom, woke Zach up and left Evie sleeping in our bed. We went into the bathroom, he looked down at the test in confusion and shock. We were both happy and excited, but to be completely honest it didn’t seem real for either of us until the couple days leading up to our unexpected goodbye.
I had told my mother in law the week before I birthed our baby that I felt like there was a catch with this pregnancy, like I owed someone something because of how easy this was to conceive this time. I don’t know if I felt these feelings as a physiological protection of some kind trying to prevent me to from emotional attachment. I had never had any fears of miscarriage with my first pregnancy, but this time it was different. I had to push these thoughts out of my head on a daily basis. - in hindsight this should have been a big red flag *intrusive thoughts can be a symptom of postpartum mood disorders and if you are experiencing them, know the signs and symptoms and seek help from a professional*.
The afternoon I started cramping I knew something wasn’t right. My student midwife told me that it sounded like a miscarriage, but wasn’t 100% sure since this was over the phone.
My voice and body shaking I called Zach and explained what was happening. He said he was leaving work immediately and coming home. The midwife on call said she would prefer I get a shot of RhoGAM that night. So on Dec. 31st at 9 o’clock while the rest of the world was celebrating bringing in the new year, I drove myself to the birth center to meet the midwife. Zach stayed home with Evie since she had fallen asleep already.
The part that I haven’t discussed before is that the five days it took us to get a final answer, if we had lost our Olive or not was full of the following statements from multiple care providers:
It sounds like you had a miscarriage.
You need to get to the hospital now since this may have been an ectopic pregnancy.
There is no sign the patient was ever pregnant.
This was a chemical pregnancy.
Maybe you aren’t as far along as you think you are since you were still breastfeeding, it could have thrown off when you ovulated.
You could still be pregnant.
The last one was right before our last ultrasound. We sat in the waiting room of the hospital after I had another blood draw. After 5 days of emotional hell we sat and discussed the possibility of our baby still being with us. I was almost excited to see the screen hoping that this had all just been a big mistake and I would hear a heartbeat, or see movement, a full sac, or any sign of life.
After the exam I made the long walk back down the hall to Zach (he couldn’t be with me for this ultrasound since it was in the ER).
We went to get something to eat after my tests and before we exited the car my OB called with my results (since this was no longer considered a low risk pregnancy my midwife recommended I continue care with my OB).
“Your hCG levels have dropped by half since your last beta test, and there was nothing on your ultrasound. I’m sorry but you’re no longer pregnant. Do you want to schedule a D&C now or call back?”
Just like that. Any hope that was hanging on my the tiniest of threads was snipped and gone. We finally had our answer.
I was numb. I was empty.
I felt most comfortable without doing a D&C and decided to just let my body continue this process on its own, naturally without interventions unless I ran into complications.
It took my body an additional two weeks for my hCG level to reach below 5, and we got the go ahead to start trying to conceive again if we desired.
A few months after we lost Olive I was diagnosed with hashimoto’s and hypothyroidism. My hormones and antibodies made it so my body was not a healthy environment for a growing baby. They are still not at healthy levels, so for now I am doing everything within my power to get my body to be the healthy home it needs to be again.
Before I had my diagnosis I was finally at peace with no answer, with no understanding of what happened or why it happened, because there was nothing I could do or learn that could change what had happened. That being said, I am thankful for an answer, because I know most of the time there isn’t one.
I am thankful for our Olive for so many reasons, one being that had I not been pregnant I honestly don’t know how long I would have suffered through these symptoms, and continued to live miserably. This in no way means that I do not wish every day that our home has two precious babies in it. There are still days that I sit and cry / sob, I feel broken, I feel alone, and I have to stop my thoughts from going down the dangerous path of wondering what our life would look like today had we been able to hold and physically love on our baby.
If you have experienced a pregnancy or infant loss you are part of a club that you never wanted to be in. If your loss is recent, I promise you are about to find that there are many forms of support and in today’s day of technology you are never more than a click away from a community that has experienced a loss as well and is there to support you through your experience. (this absolutely does not replace the need of an actual support system, but is an easy place to start.)
This post isn’t really directed to you. Yes, the statistics are high for pregnancy and infant loss (1 in 4) but I’m talking to the majority. I’m talking to the 3. If you have been fortunate in your life to not have experienced pregnancy or infant loss know how blessed you are. I’m sharing my story because you don’t have one to relate to on a personal level like someone who is in our “members only club”.
I have links to two resources that are absolutely worth at the very least a glimpse at because at the current statistics on pregnancy and infant loss chances are you know someone that has experienced this gut wrenching loss.
My personal recommendations on how to help, is honestly just listen. Sit and listen. Call and check in MULTIPLE TIMES. If they don’t want to talk to you they won’t answer the phone, or flat out tell you. Don’t take it personal.
I wish I had more people checking on us, not just in the first few days but in the weeks and months after. Call / text on what was or would have been their baby’s birthday, Mother’s / Father’s Day etc. whatever you do don’t exclude or alienate. The feelings of being absolutely and completely alone are already there, don’t contribute to those feelings. Please do not forget about the father / spouse / partner. They might not have physically experienced the loss, but that in no way means the loss is not real for them as well.
If the grieving family is out of town or far away from you send gift cards for food, a food delivery service, a cleaning service, ask how to help find a bereavement doula, a simple flower arrangement or card to give the family something tangible to see you care means more than you think.
I know this topic is not fun, trust me I never dreamt in all my wildest dreams or scenarios that I would have something to say about PAIL prior to our loss. One of the most empowering moments was sharing our story, because no one I knew had shared their loss, so I assumed I was the only one who had gone through this. Only after I shared our loss in a Facebook post on what would have been our first day of our second trimester is when girlfriends, aunts, grandmothers etc. decided to share their story with me.
The stigma needs to stop, this is nothing to be ashamed of.
THIS IS THE TIME TO TALK.