This one is near and dear to my heart, as I have two adopted kids. My ex and I were also unable to have another child and suffered a devastating loss when our daughter died at 32 weeks of gestation. There are few things out there more devastating and heartbreaking than having to give birth to a child you know is dead. Having suffered regular miscarriages as well, I am well familiar with what the author of this article – an Army buddy of mine – is feeling. The heartbreak is no less real, and as I tried to get past my own feelings at the time, I also noted with some degree of bitterness that while we were having trouble keeping a baby, my brother and his wife – drug addicts whose children we had to adopt due to neglect brought on by the situation – had started talking about having yet another kid! They didn’t seem to have any trouble conceiving and keeping a baby! (At the time I told my dad that if they even tried to have another kid after giving both of theirs up for adoption due to their inability and unwillingness to give up their drug use, I’d go over there and yank her uterus out through her ass.) Meanwhile, those of us fighting to have children had to face sometimes insurmountable adoption or in vitro costs, as well as multiple heartbreaks every time the child we wanted so badly died.
So here’s Carmen’s story. Please read and share.
When I found out I was pregnant with my second child, I was absolutely elated, but being the realist that I am (o.k., negative person) I prepared myself for signs of a miscarriage. I’m not sure why exactly, apart from the fact that I conceived my first child in the midst of an tumultuous first marriage to a high school sweetheart and let’s face it, things that seem perfect have a tendency to get ruined.
I met my husband about seven years ago and after spending a year long-distance dating, we got married. We didn’t meet online, but instead met playing softball and reconnected a year after my divorce and a year into my husband’s active duty Army contract in Germany. When he returned home, we decided to take it slow, focusing on his career, college, and building our ideal home. After a few months of trying, I noticed my boobs were extremely sore while I was away on a routine business trip. This particular symptom was the tell-tale sign of my first pregnancy, so I decided to take a test. When it came up positive, we were beside ourselves.
My husband was everything my first partner wasn’t. He was there, and not out of guilt. He anxiously waited for cravings to jump into the car at a moment’s notice and appease them. He fetched me Tums when my heartburn was acting up; lectured me about my caffeine intake and told me to take it easy at spin class. We wanted to wait to share the good news with our now six-year-old, but I noticed that Brad (the husband) would lash out at Gabriel (the son), whenever he would lay on my stomach or ask me to jump on the trampoline. Looking back now, he really just wanted Gabriel to see me the way that he did, not the rough and tumble mom and Soldier I once was, but the fragile, baby factory I had become.
I should probably mention at this point, I am in the Army too, and have been about a decade longer than my husband. I had to be especially cautious to get my appointments taken care of because as a member of the National Guard, our Annual Training was coming up, as was my Officer Candidate Course I knew full well I could not participate in as an expectant mother. So I scheduled the earliest appointment I could, but in the meantime we shopped for baby toys and clothes, things I had long since parted with. We cleared out the guest room, chose a spot for the crib, registered at a baby store and set out to tell our closest friends and family. We even had announcement photos taken during our trip to Disney World. In fact, every photo I took I had my hand on my belly so I could one day tell my child that she went to Disney World before she was born. Yes, she was a girl. I had always planned to name my daughter Emily Jane after my late grandmother but one night I had a dream about our baby. I held her in my arms and I told someone standing next to me that her name was Ayden. I looked it up the following morning and found out that it meant “fire.”
Two days after our return from Disney, I was measuring about six weeks based on the date of my last period. I walked into my Daytona-based OBGYN full of hope and excited to see baby Ayden. As I said before, I was prepared for cramps, bleeding, some sign that this pregnancy was not meant to be, but none presented itself, and nothing prepared me for what was about to follow. The sonogram technician could not locate a heartbeat. “No big deal,” I told myself. I was three weeks pregnant with Gabriel when I peed on a stick the first time, so maybe I just wasn’t as far along than I thought. The doctor came in to speak with me however, and informed me that I had a 50/50 shot of having an abnormal pregnancy, one in which I would eventually miscarry or the baby would fail to form. It appeared that I had a fertilized egg and a sack but nothing else. Even thought I had all the symptoms of being pregnant I would not stay that way.
She recommended labs to measure my HCG levels. At the point I was at, they should be doubling. I had them checked the week prior and they were 850. I went to check out choking back sobs and snapped at the secretary trying to schedule me for my next ultrasound when she said “Is this a surprise? Aren’t you excited?” Honestly, don’t these people read charts before popping off at the mouth?! I managed to hold everything in until I reached the car and called my husband, the super excited, amazing father-to-be to tell him everything was not right with the world. In short, I lost it. I couldn’t breath. I couldn’t speak. I just sobbed uncontrollably into the phone, but even in the face of all that negativity, he held out hope that everything would be fine.
When I finally made it to the lab location, I handed the nurses my chart with tears in my eyes. The bitch looked right at me and said “everything happens for a reason.” I wanted to scream. I wanted to shout: “what reason?!” Did I commit some unspeakable sin? Did I cut someone off in traffic earlier that day? Was I going to win a million dollars then next morning but could only collect if I had no baby? What the hell were they saying that to me for?
We waited and prayed for a week, even after the levels came back slightly less than double. We reached out to our church friends who had been praying for us to conceive. We were heartbroken but continued on like we were still going to have a healthy, beautiful baby. Against the orders of my nurse sister-in-law, I poured over internet questions about this issue. The only names I could find for this situation was “blighted ovum,” “silent miscarriage” and “missed abortion.” In almost every situation, the doctor could not find a heartbeat but a few weeks later the pregnant woman returned, undeterred, until finally a heartbeat was found. Other than a few questions in Google, nothing was written on the subject.
My husband and I decided to get a second opinion. It obviously wasn’t the doctor’s fault for having to deal with such a frightening issue, but I felt she could’ve done more research or told me more lightly that my baby was dead and our lives were never going to be the same. On Monday, April 17, we went to visit a highly recommended doctor in Jacksonville. The moment I saw the image on the screen, I knew our worst fears had been realized: there was no baby. The sack was empty, and even smaller than before.
He was very kind, took the time to go over every detail of my six-week pregnancy to conclude that there was in fact nothing he could do. I had had a missed abortion. I had in fact conceived, but my baby could never form – would never form. I would continue to feel and essentially be pregnant until I wasn’t. He determined the best course of action was to perform a D&C, in which they essentially dilate me and remove the sack and tissues in my uterus that are not in fact a fetus.
I left the hospital and drove for an hour in the wrong direction. I blared Metallica and when I got home, drank a bottle of wine. I didn’t want to see anyone. My husband, the gracious and magnificent man that he is, poured me each glass and cried alongside me. My friends and family wanted to come over and help, and I warned them that I was not my chipper self. They would not find me buried in the Bible, sobbing softly, but instead back to my southern roots, tipsy and angry. It didn’t make sense. I did everything right. I had no symptoms. Why was my baby dead?
On Wednesday we checked into the hospital and waited patiently for the surgery. I cried a bit when I had to put on my hospital gown; when I examined my pregnant little belly pooch for the last time, knowing that Brad would no longer place his hand on it hopeful, but out of sadness. All in all, I held it together pretty well until the head nurse came by. He started by saying this was all a legal requirement, but would need to know if the hospital should dispose of the remains of if we had contacted a funeral home. I lost it again. I thought it was tissue. I thought it was a failed pregnancy, not a baby I was having removed from my body – that I did not sign up for.
Eventually we went through with the D&C anyway. It seemed like the best course of action to move past what happened and begin healing. We prayed for Ayden. There will never be another her. We loved her and will never forget her. As I reflect back on these events, I just wish there was more to read. More to prepare myself for what happened. I even found out my mother had the same circumstances between my brother and I, minus the mandatory funeral home talk. I don’t believe that everything happens for a reason, but I do believe that in every circumstance there is an opportunity to help and minister to someone else in pain. My hope is that someone else reads this and knows that they are not alone. Evidently this is yet another scientific mystery that knows no cause. There is nothing you or I could do to make it any easier or to prevent it from happening, but we can share the pain.
Another thought is we fight for women’s rights – reproductive rights especially. There should be healthcare for women. There should be accessible birth control for all. But I can’t help but wonder, are those of us fighting to conceive being represented as well? Adoption costs are still astronomical as are the costs of invitro. It just seems if we are supporting women from all walks of life, our voices should be heard as well and our issues addressed just as swiftly.