This was my first pregnancy and the joke I couldn’t wait to tell this baby was how I knew I was pregnant with her mere hours after conceiving – because that’s when I started throwing up. At the time I didn’t know I was going to continue feeling and being sick right up to the day after we found out her heartbeat was gone; and that the day after having her at 16 weeks, I’d wake up feeling well for the first time in those 16 weeks. Physically well, yet utterly devastated. That contrast of the physical and emotional feeling is something I’m still struggling with now, 16 weeks later.
I know now that the extreme sickness was linked to the abnormally high levels of hcg hormone that comes with a partial molar pregnancy. Those first few weeks though, I took it as a great sign of a strong pregnancy and if I had to spend hours on the bathroom floor, throwing up even water and trying to live on dry Rice Krispies, then it was worth it for a healthy baby.
It seemed to take forever to get to the 8 week scan. Hearing the heartbeat and seeing the little jelly bean that matched my dates exactly just reinforced the idea that the sicker I was, all the better for the baby. A tiny, barely noticeable to anyone other than an expectant mother, bit of spotting two weeks later almost made the bottom fall out of my world. What reassured me that night was the fact I was still so sick. I went to sleep hopeful that the bleeding couldn’t mean the worst, if it did surely I wouldn’t be still sick.
The next morning, a reassurance scan was exactly that. There was the jelly bean going strong. Hearing the heartbeat again, hearing how good our odds were because we’d heard the heartbeat, sent me home feeling like we were invincible; this baby would be coming home.
The 12 week scan, just two weeks later, was the only appointment I wasn’t nervous for. Having had a horrific morning of being so sick, I was just looking forward to seeing the picture that made all of this worthwhile.
Instead of the baby I wanted to see, or even the jelly bean I had already seen, all that was in front of us was a snowstorm on the screen. I remember looking at Dr.McKenna and saying “I can’t really see the baby” and then the rest is a blur. I can still feel the panic and heartbreak but as I left the office the only thing I was really conscious of was that I was going home to wait for my baby to die.
The next few weeks are too painful to revisit and even if I could write it all down it would take days because there was so much going on. We were in hell and if you’re going through this or have come through this, believe me when I say I know your strength. Sending a woman away pregnant to wait out a pregnancy that isn’t viable is beyond cruel. For me it was a physical and mental torture. And I chose the word torture carefully knowing that to be tortured is to have your basic human rights violated. Follow up visits didn’t answer the why of what was happening, and everytime I heard my baby’s heartbeat but couldn’t see her through the snow, it gave me false hope and crushed me all at once.
We had an amniocentesis scheduled after the 15th week. I really dreaded that because it wasn’t going to change anything for this pregnancy and also I feared the very likely possibility that I’d need to throw up while the needle was in.
In the end, I didn’t need it. The scan showed something I had suspected myself because of a brief few hours of feeling well I had two days earlier. The heartbeat was gone.
Through the absolute and surprisingly fresh heartbreak of this, I remember noticing that on the screen showing my placenta, it looked like a cartoon drawing of a bunch of grapes and I knew that meant something about the pregnancy. Dr.McKenna confirmed this when he said he suspected a partial molar pregnancy. Now we had the reason why we lost the baby but we’d lost her so the reason meant nothing to me.
Again, even though I remember them hour by hour the next few days are too personal and would take too long to really go into. What is important for you to know is that when we went into CUMH a few days later to have our baby by induced miscarriage, every single person we encountered was amazing to us, and I really mean it when I say the nurses, midwives and doctors and the care they gave us were the light in the darkness for us.
Next day, having had the baby and immediately after a D&C to remove the placenta, I woke up feeling physically better than I had done in 16 weeks. My hcg had dropped from almost a quarter of a million to 1500 which accounts for this. It felt bizarre to be so physically well again despite the devastation of what had happened. Going home to ‘get on with your life’ after a miscarriage is uncharted territory as it is; after a partial molar pregnancy you are kept in the limbo between what has happened and moving on for a lot longer. In my case this meant having to have weekly checks of my hcg level to ensure they reached negative on their own. As I write this it’s taking almost as long as I was pregnant to get the levels to negative.
Most weeks walking in to the Early Pregnancy Clinic for the blood test feels like being kicked when I’m already down. Even though the nurses are all so lovely and you meet the same ones often, it can feel like you’re the white elephant in the room- the only one that’s not pregnant. The range of emotions is what you’d expect from a woman with rapidly changing hormones… or what you’d expect from a woman when the hormones aren’t changing rapidly enough!
The saving grace each week has been the nurses in the GTD centre. Because I have almost all my dealings with Caitriona, she deserves to be singled out here, but Orlaith has also responded to panicked messages and calls in just as caring and professional a manner. Caitriona is the one that calls me each week with the results and it’s honestly like having someone on your team so you’re not totally alone in the wait. The fact she knows your story and knows what those numbers mean to you counts for so much as you go through this.
For some of you I’m sure the numbers mean your own health, avoiding the treatment, or drawing a line under the experience. After the initial shock and grief for me, the numbers now mean when I can try again.
I’m lucky that the question of treatment hasn’t been too close to the surface for me and being so consumed with grief for the baby doesn’t allow me dwell too much on it.