I always refer to this as my fifth pregnancy. Even on Father’s Day I thought the words “The father of all five of my children. Two at home, two we lost, and one still growing.” Ger and I were taking last night and he said “Our five children.” But on paper, in the medical world, this is my sixth pregnancy.
It started with a missed period. A negative pregnancy test. Another negative pregnancy test. Finally, bleeding which I just assumed was a late period. We had been trying to get pregnant, so I sighed and knew it would be another month’s wait.
On June 21, 2008 (nine years ago today) I ended up in the emergency room due to serious pain in my side. It was a Saturday. I thought I had appendicitis. “And you’re pregnant?” the doctor asked. “No,” I responded, “I got my pertiod.” He held out a piece of paper in front of my face “Well a blood test shows that you are pregnant.” I still remember the number: a Beta Hcg of 50. I know now that is a pretty low number, considering the date at that point. The outlook was not good; in all likelihood I was miscarrying. Repeat Beta Hcg on Monday to confirm. Stay in bed until then. I posted the following on Facebook that day:
Ger held my hand and I cried in the ER. “We’ll try again,” he whispered. He knew it was over. I knew it was over. A few moments over the weekend, I let my mind wander to a place where everything was fine and the pregnancy progressed normally, but I knew. The test on Monday showed an identical Beta level, when it should have more than doubled. It was suspected that the pregnancy was ectopic and treated as such with methotrexate. Instructions to wait three months before attempting pregnancy again. The OBGYN randomly assigned to me said that the pregnancy was not viable, and such miscarriages were common, and that many women went on to have healthy pregnancies. It was painful, but I could accept this explanation at the time.
When I became pregnant with Theo, six months later, I was terrified. The midwife practice I used agreed to do several Beta Hcg tests for me initially, to assure me that everything was progressing as it should. After thirteen weeks, I felt good. With Quentin, not anxious at all. It never even occurred to me that things could go wrong after the first trimester, even less so at the twenty-week ultrasound. I’d heard of situations like that, but had little firsthand knowledge. It felt like something faraway and rare, until it happened to us.
That day of my ER visit was an altering moment for us. We were no longer the young married couple playing house. It became very real that bad things would happen in our lives. That maybe getting pregnant would not be so easy. I feared that in the months that followed…. what if we couldn’t get pregnant at all? I was starting to panic when I found myself pregnant with Theo. From that point, there was no going back to “just us.”
That loss was devastating at the time but I hardly think about it now. I don’t “count” it in my pregnancies because it was over before I ever knew it existed. I never planned for a future. I know women who have had early pregnancy losses, and they knew – they had the chance to be excited, to plan for their babies, to know a due date. I never had that. For me, it was an almost completely clinical experience. There are times when I ask myself “Why do I only say 5th pregnancy? Why don’t I say 6th?” Because that wasn’t how I felt. I never felt pregnant. My words, conveying how I processed the event.
It is a similar feeling when I struggle with saying that Nelle was stillborn and Iris is a miscarriage. Those are medical distinctions. But they were both born in the same way: induction, labor, delivery. I read this article a few days ago, describing stillbirth. I could have written it. It cemented for me that I will never again struggle to say that Iris was stillborn. She was. Medically, it might be a miscarriage because I was only 16 weeks but she was born.
Two live births. Two stullbirths. One growing. No mention of the early loss. But I look back now, not on the loss itself, but that moment when Ger took my hand and said “We will try again.” We couldn’t have possibly fathomed then what lay before us, and the devastation we would endure the next time he would need to take my hand in that type of comfort. An early prelude that marriage is tough, and sometimes so difficult that you wonder how you will survive and have only your spouse to whom you can cling.