All the gory details (part 1)

My story in numbers:2625357982_d9efbe18bb_b

6: years married
2.5: years trying for a baby
7: positive pregnancy tests
4: times we heard a heart beat
4: times there was no longer a heartbeat
5: surgeries
2 (or more): chemical pregnancies
0: explanations


The long and short of my story is basically that my uterus spits out babies as fast as I make them, and there’s no justifiable reason why. The purpose of a blog I guess is to tell you how this all makes me feel, but the bottom line is pretty simple. For no apparent reason, my body does not comprehend the concept of pregnancy. So, that’s the short version. Here’s the longer version if you have the patience for it:

My husband and I met over spring break our freshman year in college. It’s actually a pretty embarrassing story for me, definitely not my proudest moment, but that’s a story for another time. He went to school near our hometowns in the midwest, I was out on the east coast. When I came home for the summer, we spent almost every day together, but assumed that long distance doesn’t work for anyone, right? So we broke up before I went back to school. It was only a few weeks later that we decided breaking up was boring, and figured we’d give it a shot. We’ve been together ever since. Our first three years together were long distance, then we moved in together after college and got married six years ago.

My husband is loving, brilliant, and extremely goofy. He would do just about anything for me and wants so badly to make me happy. One of my favorite things about him is how much he adores our cats, so I always knew he would be an amazing father. He talks to them like babies and spends hours cuddling with them. It doesn’t sound manly, but he’s pretty secure with his manliness so its not a problem :).

After we got married I was in grad school, and in a program that would likely require me to do some long term traveling, so we didn’t start trying to get pregnant until December of 2010. I was still a year or two away from finishing my PhD, but others in my department had had babies during grad school, and it seemed to work out pretty well for them. I figured, better to get it done now before I have to worry about the tenure clock (puke, thanking god I don’t have to worry about that crap anymore).

Our second month of trying we took a pregnancy test and shockingly, it was positive. Needless to say we had all the emotions normal people have when they see a pregnancy test: excitement, terror, etc. We told our families pretty much right away, and since they didn’t have any idea we were trying they were shocked and unbelievably excited. My parents especially were beyond happy, I’m the oldest and my brother may never have kids, so I’m sort of their only hope. My mom admitted that she hadn’t wanted to bug me that we waited so long since she was so proud of me for getting a PhD, but she’d been dying to have a grandkid (thinking of this now in retrospect, OUCH).

Well, we had all of about a week before things started heading south. At about 5.5 weeks, I noticed a tiny bit of spotting. I did the obligatory google search and found that lots of people spot in early pregnancy, not necessarily a big deal. And so I didn’t think that much of it. I happened to have a doctors appointment later that day for something completely different (not an OBGYN), so I brought it up, thinking why not just ask to make sure I shouldn’t be worried? The doc said its probably nothing, but why not go have an ultrasound at the ER just to be sure? HUGE MISTAKE.

We dutifully went right over to the ER, and proceeded to wait 6 hours to even get out of the waiting room. At one point they wanted to put in an IV, and I managed to have either a seizure or a vaso-vagal reaction (basically I just fainted, but the nurse freaked out because she thought I was seizing and called in a million people to stare at me). They took blood and my hcg was at 160,000. I keep thinking I must be remembering this wrong because it’s such an insanely high number for 5.5 weeks, but it’s pretty much burned into my memory. With that, they were actually talking twins (because higher hcg’s can sometimes mean twins). Finally, around midnight a doctor came in to actually do the ultrasound (transvaginally- if you haven’t had this joyful experience, its like having a giant plastic wand shoved up your crotch. Oh wait! that’s exactly what it is…) , and being that he wasn’t an ultrasound tech it took him around half an hour to figure out what he was looking at. He thought he saw two sacs, but he wanted to get a consult from an OBGYN to be sure (you couldn’t have done that to begin with??). Another two hours later after repeating the experience yet again, the OBGYN tells us that there is in fact no embryo at all. The second ‘sac’ is actually a bleed, and the first sac is apparently empty.

We were finally able to leave the ER around 3am, all our hopes crushed. The OBGYN told us to follow up with another ultrasound a week or two later, to confirm the diagnosis and see if I would need a D and C to end the pregnancy. You’d think this would be the end of the story, but of course it couldn’t possibly be that simple. We suffered through the week of waiting for the next ultrasound, and showed up at the OB’s office surrounded by happily pregnant women. All I can say is thank goodness for ultrasound techs who know what the hell they are doing, because transvaginal ultrasound number three was mercifully brief compared with the others. We were expecting to confirm the blighted ovum diagnosis (sac but no embryo), but instead the ultrasound tech turned the monitor and showed us a heartbeat. Yes, there was in fact an embryo and it had a heartbeat.

Being the naive people we were at that point, my husband and I looked at each other, started crying, and kissed. So, it could actually be okay, maybe this was all just a funny story we would tell when our baby was born. “A silly ER doctor told us you didn’t exist!” we’d laugh. I say we were naive because the ultrasound tech was not smiling when she told us there was a heartbeat. In fact it was extremely slow. She brought in the OB, who was really hedgy with us. She wouldn’t say it was bad news and she wouldn’t say it was good news. She just said we’ll take another look in two weeks. And the only thing we heard was “it could be good news”. Like idiots, we went about our lives for two weeks thinking surely this would work out fine. The heartbeat will speed up and next time it will be a perfectly normal US.

I doubt I need to explain that it was not a normal US. Two weeks later there was no heartbeat, and we scheduled my very first D and C. The fact that we were devastated is probably obvious. What wasn’t so obvious was how stupid I felt for not picking up on the fact that there was no way this pregnancy was ever going to turn out okay. A 5.5 week sac that appears empty is not normal, even if it eventually develops an (extremely slow) heartbeat. I wish that the OB would have been more upfront with me to begin with and saved me the weeks of thinking things would be okay just to be even more let down in the end. We had the D and C a week later, and besides the nerves associated with surgery, it went as smoothly as could be. In our minds we had gotten through the hardest part, and from there on things would be smooth sailing. We had a sucky first experience, but miscarriages happen and next time would be great. If only I could get back to a time when I believed that…

Well, this has been an extremely long winded beginning to my story, and I’m only two months in :(.  I’ll pick up where I left off next time, and I promise to keep it shorter….


4 thoughts on “All the gory details (part 1)

  1. So sorry for your loss. I too often wish doctors would be more upfront about possible outcomes so we don’t end up with devastating surprises – no thank you. I too am a phd, and I wonder what else we will turn out to have in common!

  2. Pingback: All the gory details (part 2) | Recurrently Lost

  3. Ahhh, man. Heartbreaking. And so familiar. Different details, same crushed hope. I really sympathise. I hope they find out what is causing the recurrent miscarriages and/or that one will stick. It’s so tough. A friend of mine went through tests to discover she had auto-immune issues which were killing all the embryos before they could even implant. I have no clue what could possibly be causing the problems you’re experiencing and by the sound of it nor does the medical profession. 😦

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