April 9, 2014
How I found out I was pregnant with baby #4. Three times.
This is a long post, but it's the true story of baby #4.
THE FIRST TIME:
About a year ago in March, I found out that I was pregnant with baby #4.
A week later, I learned that it was a false alarm. I won't go into details, because they are humiliating. But I was not, in fact, pregnant.
That week that I thought that I was pregnant, however, was an emotional roller coaster. I cried for the first two days. Kyle and I couldn't talk about it without me crying. I was panicked about where we'd put the baby, and how we'd afford a baby and what on earth we were going to do with four children.
But as the week went on, we started to figure things out. People have had a lot more children in houses a lot smaller than ours. And finances? They always seem to work out. Maybe only one of our children will be able to go to college. The others can learn a trade, am I right? We were figuring it out. By the end of the week, my fear had turned to excitement.
Then, on that Friday, I discovered it was a false alarm I was devastated. I didn't have a miscarriage. I didn't lose a real baby. But I did lose something. Everyone who's ever been pregnant knows that this minute you find out you're pregnant . . . even just a few weeks . . . you start to make plans. You start to figure things out. In your mind? That baby is as good as born. I lost the idea of a baby. Does that make me sound crazy? Perhaps. Still . . . it was rough.
I had only told a couple of close friends, and most of them laughed when I told them I wasn't pregnant. I thought that maybe I'd laugh at myself over it someday (I still can't), but all I could do for about 2 weeks was cry. March was a bad month. I was finally getting over the pneumonia, and this happened. April and May were kind of rough, too. I cried a lot and didn't want to be around people much. The whole thing really shook me and left me asking . . . should we have a fourth?
We weren't able to answer that question right away, and I knew it was unwise to jump into a decision like that right away because we were still emotional. So we decided to wait and see how we felt in the fall.
Fast forward to the fall, and we decided that we were going to see what happened. If you've followed this blog from the beginning, you might remember that I ovulate 2 - 3 times a year, so it's not like we can really "try." We just decided to stop taking measures to prevent pregnancy and see where we landed. In my mind, I had decided that if I wasn't pregnant by Christmas, we'd call it good and our family complete.
I don't think I'd normally share this story, but it's such an important part of getting to where we are now. If we hadn't had this false alarm, I'm not sure we'd have started thinking about having a fourth baby. During those months after the false alarm, and maybe even as a result of that week, our desire for another child grew.
THE SECOND TIME:
In December, Kyle was talking to a friend who works for child protective services. He was telling Kyle about how the foster homes in Jackson County are full and they were using part of the detention center in Pontiac as a foster care facility. Kyle came home and told me this, and we wondered out loud if maybe that was the route we should be taking. The very next day I took a pregnancy test (I hadn't had a period since August, so I took tests monthly just to make sure). Lo and behold, I had a positive pregnancy test.
We decided to tell the kids Christmas day, even though our first appointment wasn't until the day after Christmas. Kyle and I were both hesitant about this because we've always waited until we've heard the heartbeat to tell people . . . but Christmas seemed like the perfect time, and I've had 3 healthy pregnancies. What were the chances something would go wrong with this one? We put an extra stocking on the mantle for Christmas morning and when we pointed it out, Jack said, "Uh, is that for baby Jesus?" Once they figured it out, they were excited. We let them tell our families at family gatherings that day, too. Jack and Ben were really excited to share the news.
The next day, we went for our first appointment. The midwife did an ultrasound and saw nothing. She thought maybe she saw a shadow in one spot, but couldn't be sure. She sent us to the hospital to have another ultrasound done, and the ultrasound tech confirmed that the gestational sac measured 8 weeks, but there was no baby. They diagnosed imminent miscarriage. My bloodwork showed that my hcg levels were still going up, but that's not uncommon early in miscarriage.
During that appointment, I started bleeding, so they sent me home to let nature take its course. As is protocol, they scheduled an ultrasound for 10 days later to confirm miscarriage before taking any action to end the pregnancy, though the midwife thought it wouldn't be necessary since bleeding had already started.
We had to go home and tell the kids that the baby wasn't growing any more. I beat myself up on the entire drive home from the hospital for telling them so soon. Jack cried with me and Ben just sat quietly. Claire had no idea what was going on . . . it was actually her 2nd birthday. We ate cupcakes and did our best to celebrate, but it just felt like there was a dark cloud over us.
I'd like to say that I was stoic and handled this all with grace and a grateful heart, but that would be a lie. I was a wreck. I stayed in bed for most the next week, and missed every Christmas gathering we had scheduled. I spent a lot of time praying and realizing how grateful I am to have three healthy kids. And how lucky my kids are to have parents as awesome as we are.
Kyle took care of the kids that week and attended all of the Christmas festivities with them, but he was hurting, too. My parents ended up taking the kids for us for a few days, which was probably the most helpful thing anyone could have done. It gave us a chance to spend time grieving and accepting everything, without having to put on a happy face for the kids.
During the time that the kids were away, my friend Jeanette sent us flowers with a heartfelt note. It was so nice of her, but the flowers had been sitting in subzero temperatures all day when I took them out of the box, so they looked like this:
When we saw them, Kyle and I started laughing hysterically. I don't know why it struck us as funny . . . maybe the juxtaposition of the dead flowers and the beautiful note . . . but we laughed SO. HARD. That laugh was exactly what we needed . . . even more than the flowers. It was perfect.
We went back for what was supposed to be a follow-up appointment a week later. I was still bleeding, But it was light enough that I didn't think I had yet miscarried. The midwife said that once they confirmed the miscarriage at my next ultrasound, they could schedule a procedure to end the pregnancy right away. I wanted them to do the ultrasound that day, but they wouldn't have been able to schedule any procedures until it had been at least 10 days from the first ultrasound. I just wanted it all to be done. I was constantly nauseated . . . more than I was with any pregnancy before that. I was hormonal and bloated. I had honestly accepted the miscarriage. I had dealt with the loss. I just wanted it to be over.
The ultrasound was scheduled for January 6. The night before the ultrasound, we had about 18 inches of snow dumped on us. We were snowed in. I begged Kyle to please try to get us to U of M anyway, but we ended up stuck in the road in front of our driveway for a good 20 minutes. I had to cancel, and they couldn't get me another appointment for 10 days! I was so upset. I knew there was no baby and I just wanted to stop feeling pregnant. The nausea and fatigue were overwhelming. Fortunately, the midwife got me in for Friday, so that I didn't have to wait over another weekend.
THE THIRD TIME:
So we went in Friday. Jeanette offered to watch Ben and Claire so we didn't have to drag them along, which was amazing. I was sad, but anxious to get there and get everything scheduled.
Before we left that morning, I was listening to the Rend Collective version of "10,000 Reasons" and this stuck out to me:
"For all Your goodness I will keep on singing;
Ten thousand reasons for my heart to find"
That verse played over and over in my head throughout the whole day.
On our way to the hospital, Kyle's Aunt Karen sent me this message:
"In the middle of running around and playing with Uncle Jeff at our party, Ben came up to U. Jeff and asked if he could tell him a secret. He then told him, "our baby isn't growing like he should." Uncle Jeff told him that he would pray that everything would be okay. Then they went back to playing. We wanted to respect your privacy, but even more, we wish to know if we could pray more specifically for you."
It was perfect timing. I needed to have more people praying for us. It was interesting, too, because Ben had very little to say about everything to us. It was good to catch a glimpse of his heart and his concern. At one point during the week before, he told me, "Mom, did you know that I pray for you in my head, like, all the time?"
When we got to the hospital, we parked in the lot that we've parked at for every OB appointment, and for the birth of all three kids. We passed all of the hospital landmarks that have become so familiar over the last 7 years. I was so sad that I would now have this memory tied to those things, too.
A cheerful ultrasound tech came into the waiting room and said my name, and I followed her into the room. With a big smile she said, "Do you want to know if you're having a boy or a girl, or are we keeping that a surprise?" Through tears I said, "We're here to confirm a miscarriage and schedule an MVA." She was so apologetic and realized she had the wrong Sara. She promptly returned me to the waiting room where my name was called again, by a rather somber Fetal Medicine Specialist. He had a packet of information on MVAs and D & Cs that he set down next to the computer. He told us that after the ultrasound, he'd go over our options and we could schedule something as soon as possible.
I closed my eyes as he began the ultrasound and within seconds said, "Well, I'd like to introduce you to your baby. And here is it's heartbeat." I sat straight up and said, "WHAT?!" And there she was. A sweet little baby, about 8 weeks along. I was stunned. Kyle was stunned. Quite frankly, the doctor was a little surprised, too. He said it's rare that he gets to give good news in this situation. I told him he was one of my top 5 favorite people.
We were given a due date of August 26, which is Kyle's birthday (the due date as also been reported as August 20 and August 13 . . . we're not really sure when this baby is due exactly). Kyle and I left the Fetal Diagnostic Center agreeing that it was one of the best days ever.
I've had a few friends and family members question whether the ultrasound was just too early, or if they were wrong to presume miscarriage. Just for reference, though . . . miscarriage is presumed when the gestational sac measures larger than 2 cm, with no embryo. Mine was 2.3 cm. By the time a woman's hcg level is 1000, they normally expect to see an embryo. If it's over 5000, with no embryo, they presume miscarriage. Mine was 67,000. On top of that, I was having bleeding . . . not just spotting. In retrospect, I think it was from the vaginal ultrasounds (even though I've been told they wouldn't cause as much bleeding as I had). There's still no other explanation for the bleeding.
Midwife and doctor agreed that this little girl might have been up against the side of the sac or in a shadow. She was definitely big enough to have shown up at that first ultrasound. This little girl is already giving her brothers and sister a run for their money at hide and seek.
I feel so incredibly lucky (and to be honest, a little guilty) to have my story turn out this way, because I know that for many people it doesn't. Why me and not them? When I think about those two weeks that we thought our baby was gone, my heart still aches. I know that there are people for whom that ache isn't a just a memory.
Our 20 week ultrasound showed a healthy little girl, developing just as she should be. I'm so grateful.