I had a picture-perfect pregnancy in 2020 and welcomed a beautiful boy in January 2021. Having gone to all of my appointments solo due to the pandemic, I wasn’t nervous to go to my appointments alone once I got pregnant again in May 2022.  At 7 weeks 5 days, I went in by myself, and our little baby looked perfect – perfect size and perfect heart rate. We had already been dreaming about who they would be, if they would look like my husband’s twin again or have a little bit of me. We knew that we were ready and that our son would be the best big brother.

Bridget Wicherek - Bridget's Bump Day Blog, Week 10: Leap of Faith

Author’s Personal Collection/Bridget Wicherek

My gut had told me for a few weeks that something wasn’t quite right, maybe my mother’s intuition, but I tried my hardest not to put my unease out into the universe. Between the first appointment and my 12-week appointment, support persons were allowed to come to appointments again.  The night before my 12 week appointment I started bleeding and I told my husband he needed to cancel work to come with me.

11 weeks 5 days. It only took a few seconds of looking at the ultrasound before my worst thoughts were confirmed, and our dreams were shattered.

No heartbeat. Baby’s growth stalled in the ninth week. Our baby. The hush of the technician. The ushering straight into a room, the what’s next conversation. The thoughts and questions of what went wrong? To be told that it was nothing I did, but to question every single thing I did. To go home, for my son and husband to see me cry in a way they never had before. To have my arms ache to hold a baby that never took a breath. To dread going to bed because it meant it was time to use a medicine to help my body expel a baby that was so badly wanted and already so loved. To do this twice and have it not work. To have to wait 11 more days for a D&C. 11 days knowing I was carrying a baby who I could not save but who my body wanted to hold onto and protect. That baby’s due date was March 26, 2023.

The presumption was that a spontaneous chromosomal abnormality caused our loss, given the timing, and it was unlikely to be an issue with either myself or my husband. We opted not to do any genetic testing on the baby and were told that once I had a normal period, we could start trying again.

Two months later, we tried again.

After waking up in the middle of a December night, I couldn’t fall back asleep knowing I was within the window of days where I could take a pregnancy test. It was positive. I crawled back into bed and told my husband. He was happy and fell back asleep. I lay there, not knowing how I felt. The next few weeks, I found myself feeling a deep sadness for the baby already in heaven and not feeling a connection to the baby I knew was inside of me. I wasn’t sure if it was a coping mechanism or my heart knowing again that something wasn’t right.

We celebrated the joy of Christmas by telling our families of “one last gift” that would be arriving on August 22, 2023. By the time we got home on Christmas Day night, I had started to notice some of the same things I had with the first loss. We rang in the new year, wondering if I was having another miscarriage. The bleeding began the day before my 7 week 2 day appointment. It was 5 days before our son’s second birthday. The ultrasound tech was one I didn’t know. I knew to ask for the big monitor to be turned off before the ultrasound started. There were fewer tears this time. I tightly held onto my husband’s hand during an in-office manual vacuum aspiration which meant I/we didn’t have to go through the mental and emotional anguish of using meds that may or may not work, of waiting to see if I could clear on my own, or of scheduling and waiting for another D&C. I baked my son’s birthday cake in tears and hosted our family for a small birthday party while hiding my overwhelming sadness behind a smile.

We were again told that it was likely a spontaneous chromosomal abnormality and that we could try again after my next period.

We opted for genetic testing that showed our baby had trisomy 22–a cause of many early miscarriages and almost certain death if a pregnancy made it to term. It was a relief to know that there was, again, nothing I could’ve done differently and to know with some certainty that we were truly experiencing bad luck and that a future, healthy pregnancy is very possible. Many months later, I asked my OB what the sex of this baby was, and it was a girl. In the meantime, my OB had recommended I make an appointment with a fertility doctor as a total backup plan in the event I had difficulty getting pregnant again or, worst case, I had another loss. The soonest available appointment was 6 months out. I never imagined I would need it.

I really struggled with the question, “Were my losses easier or my pain and sadness less because we lost our babies early?” We took a few months off from trying to attempt to heal emotionally. We got pregnant again in the second month. I felt great. I felt hopeful. I truly thought I would get to hold that baby in my arms. The baby’s due date was January 25, 2023, two weeks after our son’s third birthday. At 5 weeks 5 days, the exact same day I started to feel like I was losing our second baby, I started to feel like I was losing this third baby. I reached out to my OB and her NP, went in for multiple days of labs, started hormone supplementation, and because the labs weren’t encouraging, they got me in for an early ultrasound.

The ultrasound was so last minute. It was not at my usual clinic, and with the labs and my symptoms, I think we were all expecting the worst. The NP called me the morning of asking me to come over to her office afterward, and they’d fit me in. The ultrasound was with the same technician who had been with me when we lost our first baby, who had started a new job at this particular office. As soon as we put the pieces together, I thought it was “a God thing” that she was the one doing my ultrasound.  Through her own tears she showed my husband and I a beautiful heart beat. Happy tears. Over the next 6 weeks until my 12-week appointment, I would continue to have on-and-off spotting, many conversations with my providers, and a total of 4 ultrasounds–all of which showed a beautiful, strong heartbeat. With each ultrasound, my fears, which I continued to have, were proven wrong. Basic genetic testing showed we were having a girl, our little Claire. My doctor just said whatever was causing the spotting was going to torment me (and torment me it did), and the fact that our genetic testing looked good meant the risk of losing this baby was incredibly low.

After a week of no spotting and finally starting to allow myself to get excited, the bleeding started again a few days shy of 14 weeks, and suddenly, I was incredibly anxious.

Something felt different. But I had already bought some cute clothes, taken an announcement photo, had been prepping her room for painting, and our son (now two and a half) knew his old crib was waiting for “baby sister,” so I was pressing on. Then one night I passed a clot. I called the on-call OB, who thought everything sounded fine based on what I had told her about the previous 8 weeks.  Another day passed, and I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was different about this “episode” and reached out directly to my providers, who had me come in for “reassurance.”

14 weeks 1 day. My mom came over to watch my son, and I insisted on going by myself because I thought I was just driving myself crazy. Even the NP made it sound like she thought everything would be fine. On the ultrasound, after some prodding, I saw my little baby’s profile, and they were so still. I closed my eyes as they filled with tears and prayed. A second person then came in to search for a heartbeat, and it was the same ultrasound tech who had done our early scan and who happened to just be filling in for a day. I hoped it was another “God thing” and that she would find my baby’s heartbeat. There was nothing but quiet and an “I’m so sorry.” Instead of crying happy tears like we had earlier in the summer, she held my hand and shared my sad tears while I asked the NP why this keeps happening. Our baby was measuring just shy of 11 weeks. While they had a good heartbeat at 12 weeks we didn’t get a measurement because we were solely looking for a beat. The doctor suspects our baby died shortly after that appointment.

Instead of being able to text my husband that all was good I had to call him at work and ask him to come. It was the absolute worst call I have ever made. Instead of celebrating our 5 year wedding anniversary with our weekend away that we had planned, we were having another D&C and grieving another loss.

Genetic testing showed that the initial testing was wrong.

I was thrown for a loop when I learned that the baby was actually a boy, not a girl, and that he did have a non life-threatening chromosomal abnormality, XXY, or Kleinfelters syndrome. Thank goodness I had never felt confident enough to cancel our previously scheduled fertility appointment because we would need to dig deeper to the cause of his demise. The next week I got another call that they did find a life-threatening chromosomal abnormality, triploidy, and that my OB thought the fertility doctor would likely recommend IVF in order to do genetic testing on our embryos.

After a fall season full of fertility workups and procedures that were unremarkable, we were again told that there was not necessarily a problem to solve and that there was no reason we couldn’t have a successful pregnancy. While given the option for IVF with genetic testing of embryos, something in my gut was not ready to proceed. We decided to take a leap of faith and try again after a few months of more physical and emotional healing.

Pregnancy loss is devastating. From the moment you take a test and wait for it to tell you if you’re pregnant, you start to dream up your child’s life and your own life with that child. Pregnancy loss means remembering the dates you found out you lost your baby and their birthdays for the rest of your life, while to everyone else, it is just another day. There is no fanfare, no congratulations. There are tears and longing left in its wake.

Pregnancy after loss is a whole other beast.

We recently got pregnant again in our first month of trying. I was shaking while waiting for the test to result. I was shaking when I told my husband. My first emotion was excitement, which was quickly followed by fear. I felt a mix of relief but also caution about letting my heart get too invested. I have felt robbed of a naive pregnancy as I am well aware that hope and longing for a baby don’t mean that I’ll be holding that baby in nine months. I will likely check my toilet paper every time I go to the bathroom for the next nine months. I will likely question every single symptom, cramp, and twinge that I feel. I will likely be anxious before every appointment. I will likely be counting down each day, each week, until this baby is in my arms.

But I will also tell myself that for now, today, I am pregnant, and that’s all I can do.

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