1) What is your personal experience with infertility/miscarriage?
By the time our son, Hudson, was one, we had experienced so many wonderful memories, that we were (well I was anyway) itching to be pregnant again. Within a few months of trying this time, we were pregnant again. We were elated and of course let everyone know almost as soon as we knew. At my brother’s wedding we made an announcement. It was out there. Everyone was a part of our joyous news. Being naive from our first child we equated pregnancy with only joy and that we would be welcoming another boy or girl into the world in just a few months. Only this time the difficulties came.
I started spotting. But I felt in my gut it wasn't just spotting. I mentioned to Kyle my intuition and said if it didn't stop the next day when we got home from the cottage I would head to the doctor. It didn't stop. I went to the doctor that morning and blood results indicated a low pregnancy hormone. I was urged to head to the ER. I became filled with anxiety as we drove to the emergency room. My hands stayed on my belly as I prayed there was nothing to be worried about. However, it was confirmed that I was in fact experiencing a missed miscarriage. "Although you say you are about 10 weeks, the hormone levels reflect a baby of six weeks. And a lack of a heart beat shows the baby stopped growing around 6 weeks".
Lack of a heart beat? Stopped growing? Miscarriage? The stark words hit me so hard I began to hysterically cry. Kyle held me as we let the information sink in. The doctor left very quickly and awkwardly, clearly either inexperienced or jaded by the situation, and so I was discharged not really knowing what to expect. All I knew was that I was pregnant, but also not pregnant. I turned to two close friends who unfortunately had also had experienced miscarriages, and they prepared me for what was to come: Bleeding. Check. Cramping. Check. Losing baby. Check. Kyle and I said a prayer as we said goodbye to our baby that we would never get to hold. We nicknamed ‘her’ (I thought I was having a girl) Raspberry, because that was the size she was when we lost her.
By Christmas I received the greatest gift- we were pregnant again! This time, we had learned to keep it to ourselves until we had cleared the first trimester. My I had the 12-week ultrasound performed and while to Kyle it was just another doctor appointment, for me, it was different. I needed to hear that heartbeat, see the little bean so snuggly and safe inside me. I needed reassurance and proof with a picture that we had made it past that grey period. I needed to let that breath of air out that I had been holding inside my lungs for those long weeks. But that breath did not come and to this day I’m still having trouble letting it out.
Something was off. The technician was quiet. Kyle was never invited into the room. He chalked it up to that was just how the technician did her job. But as I glanced down at the photo on the way home I could not shake the feeling something else was going on.
This appointment was not the first time I had felt nagging doubt about this pregnancy. There had been thoughts and dreams about this pregnancy that were more negative, but I blamed the previous loss as my reasons for these doubts. Even while watching our Thursday night Grey’s Anatomy I couldn't stomach the storyline of two doctors finding out about trouble in their pregnancy. I went home and compared my one picture to that of Hudson's ultrasound which was still proudly displayed on our fridge. I did notice slight differences in anatomy and I voiced my thoughts to Kyle. He shrugged this off by saying I was looking for differences and that of course there would be differences, they were different babies. But still these thoughts weighed heavily on my mind. A phone call later that night from my family doctor sent my doubt to full on meltdown. They booked an appointment for me to come in the following morning
The wait in the doctor’s office was excruciating. Thoughts swimming in my head of Down syndrome, Spina Bifida, tumours, any scientific name made me sick to my stomach. Kyle and I discussed at some length prior to ever getting pregnant what we would do if our child was discovered to have or to be born with special needs. Both being a little religious in our own ways, we had said the child would be born and we would give it a life as best we could. Stepping into the waiting room this discussion replayed in my head.
Then doctor confirmed my worst thoughts. Our baby was sick. The list of disabilities and abnormalities was long. Really long. Stunted neck. Fractures to limbs and ribs. Stunted growth of limbs. As the doctor read them out and I stared at the computer screen my world seemed to freeze. I cried the entire doctor’s appointment as she told us we would be booked for another ultrasound to confirm the findings and then booked with a geneticist to discover our next options. I cried the entire ride home. I cried as we told our families we were pregnant, but that our baby was really sick and were not sure what it meant. It was not until days later that the results determined out our baby had Osteogenesis Imperfecta II. We were told our baby was 'not viable'. Not viable? This was our baby. Waves of emotions crashed again as more devastating news sank in.
This genetic disorder, also known as Brittle Bone disease, causes bones to not strengthen properly, resulting in fractures and poor bone structure. We asked the geneticist our options. My emotions betrayed me as tears ran down my face hearing that this baby would most likely not live past 18 weeks gestation. “The baby has fractures in the limbs and ribs from the womb. The skull is not fully formed. Being the most severe form of this disorder, as the baby grows, the baby will succumb to this disease.” I have always been pro-choice, however, had never expected to have to make the decision to terminate a pregnancy. Now I was forced with the decision.
A week later, with a heavy heart I found myself heading to the hospital to be induced. Kyle and I quietly walked up to a special section of the maternity ward that was designated for cases like me. Even though we were at the hospital to do what we would not wish on our worst enemy I felt a strange sense of calm. As they prepared to induce me, I felt my soul connect with the baby that I had been preventing myself from previously doing. At that point I knew and accepted what we were doing.
I asked that Kyle would be present in the room but sit away from me. I took in every breath slowly. I didn’t look at the clock, but counted the minutes that I spent with the baby. As Kyle slept I endured the physical and emotional pain alone. These were my final moments with my baby being literally a part of me. Inhale. Sending loving thoughts. Exhale. For now, push away the sadness. Inhale. Sending prayers. Exhale. Push away the loss. I needed to be strong for my baby at this time. I needed to know my baby was leaving with all the love I had to give.
I delivered our baby into the arms of the nurses who cradled our silent little one, cleaning and clothing it in a tiny lace outfit, who at just 14 weeks gestation was lost in the fabric. We could see all the toes and fingers and the nurses took their time trying to capture these footprints on paper for us, footprints that are now tattooed on my husband and etched in my mind forever. Not yet knowing the gender we named our baby Reese and we cried. We had a pastor come in and bless Reese. I needed to know he or she would be with God and would be with our Raspberry. Kyle and I were allowed to stay and take our time with Reese. Knowing I would not leave the hospital with our baby was devastating.
Additional testing on our baby was unable to reveal if this would be in our future again, however, we were able to confirm Reese was a girl. We had her cremated, and have a small shrine to her. When asked about how I was feeling, I would often crack jokes to make light of this dark situation. But internally my heart was breaking. Breaking does not adequately match the feeling. Shattered? Pulverized? Obliterated? I simply cannot put to words the feeling I had as I lost my child. I can barely see the key board because as I type this tears are streaming down my face. The hurt is still alive and will be forever. I am slowly coming to terms with this.
2) What have you learned through this experience?
For most of my life my thoughts and emotions have been both my form of therapy and my worst enemy. I now find the process of revealing my innermost thoughts to be cathartic. Some thoughts I have been holding onto for far too long, scared of having to really feel my emotions but I need to now face these fears and emotions and possibly knowing someone else out there can relate or find solace in my words makes it worth it.
3) In what ways has your experience with infertility/miscarriage changed you as a person?
Leighton Heather Anneliese Miller. That is the name of our baby girl we were blessed with after our losses. I know she was meant to be our rainbow after the storm. My babies have changed me. All of my babies. But I have made it through the storm and I will forever hold each of them in my heart.