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If you have been following along our blog, you may be aware that the month of October holds a very special day – the 15th of October – Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day – a universal day for parents who have experienced miscarriage, still birth or pregnancy loss, to honour the babies they have lost.
If you are like us and have experienced multiple losses, a day such as this is particularly important. There are so many due dates that roll around in my mind these days that in some respects, having just one day to remember our lost babies is easier than piling a whole heap of grief into multiple days throughout the year.
That’s not to say I don’t notice when our due dates roll around, or that they are in any way less significant for us, it essentially just means we have the option of choosing one day in which to represent the losses we have experienced.
When you experience a miscarriage, it is not as if you go through a normal grieving process where you have a ceremony or burial or even have any remains to take away with you.
It is a strange, empty kind of “did this really happen?” grief, where all you have is your thoughts and emotions of “what might have been”.
A day such as this is particularly important, because it also helps raise awareness and open up topics associated with pregnancy such as infertility and loss.
It is unfortunate that so many couples experience infertility and loss, which can be compounded by the notion that it is not considered socially acceptable to talk about these topics.
Which is amazes me, because the second you say to someone “I had a miscarriage” most people usually respond with either “so did I” or “so did my… mum, sister, friend, colleague…” or so on and so forth.
For an experience that is so common, that affects so many, it saddens me that so many of us feel as though these topics are to be “kept quiet” or not spoken about for fear of judgement, the reactions of others, or worry that others could not possibly understand what it means to experience such a loss.
So in honour of this day, to help raise awareness and reduce the stigma associated with talking openly about topics such as infertility and pregnancy loss, we will be sharing real stories from real people throughout the month of October.
We have received four stories from four incredible ladies who were so open and willing to share their experiences.
I look forward to sharing their stories with you throughout the month of October, but to start with, I thought we would kick off the series of stories for this month by sharing our story so far…
Way back in January 2016, which feels like a lifetime ago to me already, I walked down the isle to marry Sam, the love of my life.
We wrote our own vows and Sam even joked in his about how we would have some kids running around soon.
At that time we had been working really hard at developing our website, during which we thought it might be “a fun side project” to start a blog about our experience towards parenthood.
We knew that we wanted to have kids fairly soon after we were married (I was already 29 and Sam was 31, so we thought it best for us not to delay any longer) and discussed that no matter what happened in our journey, no doubt there would be others who were in a similar place in life that might be interested in following along and finding the topics in our blog as something they could relate to.
Sam was a little keener to have kids than me. I was adamant that I would be enjoying some champagne’s at my 30th Birthday in March (nothing wrong with one final party before you decide to delve into the realms of parenthood, right!?) and so agreed that we would see what happened after that.
Without too much forethough or planning, we were pretty lucky to find ourselves pregnant almost straight away in May of 2016.
At the start it was a pretty good pregnancy. I didn’t experience any morning sickness and around 6.5 weeks, I went in for an ultrasound. I was excited to see a nice strong heartbeat on the monitor!
Things seemed to progress relatively well after that. Thinking back now, I did experience some fairly strong cramps at around 8 weeks and then a tiny bit of spotting at one stage, but everything seemed normal after that, so I just made a mental note to mention it to my OB when I saw him.
At 10 weeks we went into my OB’s office and spent a fair amount of time giving medical history. There didn’t appear to be anything to worry about, and when he said he had a scanner in his room and asked if would I like to have a look, I jumped up pretty quickly, very excited at the prospect at seeing our little fetus, which I suspected should have a lot more definition at 10 weeks as compared to my first blurry 6.5 week ultrasound.
A couple of minutes later, and our world fell apart for the first time.
We did get to see our fetus, but it didn’t look the way we expected it to. I could see the outline on the screen… but nothing else. There was no heartbeat flashing wildly like I had seen the first time.
Our OB remained very quiet, only saying “this isn’t good”. We went back into his consulting rooms and he discussed our options.
I was in a state of disbelief, and requested a second scan.
Our OB was very accomodating and agreed to do one more scan the following week, but also suggested I book in for a D&C as well, so as to not delay what was likely inevitable.
We went back for our another scan the following week… and the results were exactly what was to be expected. No heartbeat, and a fetus measuring just over 8 weeks.
I still hadn’t managed to see any signs of impending miscarriage and agreed to have the D&C.
A lot of Doctor’s spent a lot of time that week telling me that miscarriage is really common, and it would be highly unlikely that I would experience another one.
They were SO wrong.
Little did we know, this would be the first of 4 miscarriages we would experience over a period of just under 18 months.
After the first miscarriage, I was lucky to have recovered quite quickly from a physical point of view. Our OB said it would be fine to try again after 1 cycle, so we both agreed that we felt comfortable enough to try again.
We found out in November (just under 3 months after our miscarriage) that we were pregnant for a second time. It is safe to say that I was incredibly anxious and emotional. The Doctor’s kept reassuring me that everything would be fine this time.
But of course, I wasn’t surprised when I went in for a scan at 7 weeks and saw there was no heartbeat.
Pregnancy after miscarriage is an extremely emotional and anxiety-provoking experience. On the one hand, I had been half expecting it. On the other, I couldn’t believe we would be so unlucky as to experience this twice in a row.
There were no obvious physical signs of impending miscarriage. I requested a second scan just to be certain, and booked myself in for another D&C “just in case”.
The second scan clearly showed that there was still no heartbeat, and I went forward with the surgery again. By this stage it was December of 2016.
At this point, our OB started to get suspicious that maybe something was wrong, and ordered a whole heap of tests.
The tests all came back fine and we were told “this probably won’t happen again”.
Fast forward to April 2017 and we’re finding out about pregnancy number 3.
Our OB has the results of the testing of the tissue from our last miscarriage, and is concerned that the fetus showed a mirco-deletion of chromosome 1. Exactly the same cause as our first miscarriage.
He suspects that this can’t be a coincidence and requests further tests.
The tests come back and indicate Sam has what is known as a balanced translocation. We’re told that this basically means part of two of his chromosomes have switched places with each other. It also means that each pregnancy has a change of inheriting an unbalanced chromosome, leading to a greater risk of miscarriage.
So we’re sent off at a genetics counselor for further information. I’m about 8 weeks pregnant at this stage, and feeling extremely stressed and anxious about enduring another loss.
The genetics counsellor tells us that we have a 55% chance of our pregnancy going full term, and we’re shocked to learn we have a 20% change of our pregnancy going full term and ending in still-birth, or a child who lives but has serious physical and mental disabilities.
This new information does absolutely nothing for my stress levels, but alas, we find ourselves back at our OB’s with another scan showing no heartbeat (again no other physical signs of miscarriage) and booking in for a D&C.
By this stage it is May 2017.
Not too long after that, Sam and I decide to do some research of our own… finding that our chances of a healthy pregnancy are more like 30%.
I go and seek out some support groups and find balanced translocations are relatively common (about 1 in 600) and that the majority of people I had spoken to experienced about 8 miscarriages to 1 healthy pregnancy (of course there are others who have better odds and others who have worse, this is just my calculation based on the people I have spoken to).
We find ourselves pregnant again at the end of July, only to be back in hospital having another D&C just last month, in September 2017. Again, no obvious physical signs of miscarriage from my point of view.
We start feeling fairly down and defeated.
But that doesn’t stop us.
Because this isn’t the end of our story.
We know that if we keep trying there is a pretty good chance we will end up having kids eventually… it might just be a little harder for us to get there than it is for others.
Along the way, we are so grateful to have shared our experience. Of course, I have mentioned in previous blog posts that there has been the odd person that says something particularly strange or insensitive, but on the whole, we have been overwhelmed by the support we have received, and the number of people who have contacted us to talk about their own experiences of infertility or loss.
It is a horrible experience to endure, but nothing is ever as bad as it seems when the weight of it is shared with others who care.
If you would like to help raise awareness and reduce the stigma associated with talking about infertility and pregnancy loss by sharing your story this October, 2017, please send your story to email@example.com or if you would like to share your story anonymously please fill out the form on our get in touch page.
All submissions received will be shared on our blog “One in Four” throughout the month of October.
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