It all started on June 30, 2021 when I took a pregnancy test to learn I was pregnant. I still have the cutest video of me showing my husband the pregnancy test while he was holding our son (2 years old at the time) on the couch and smiling when he realized we were going to add our third child to the mix. My son smiled too…it was all so sweet. My husband and I were both so excited and honestly I didn’t realize how badly I wanted another baby until I was sitting there processing it all. This would be our third child and would complete our family.
My sister had also told me she was pregnant a couple weeks before, our babies were going to be 5 weeks apart! Again, another sweet video of me announcing to her that our children were going to be best friends via newborn onesies. Another video I cannot bring myself to delete and that I will probably never share.
I told all of my sisters and my mother, but kept it at that because I wanted to see the heartbeat at my first ultrasound. For me, having already experienced a pregnancy loss with my first pregnancy, seeing the heartbeat on the ultrasound helps ease that first trimester anxiety nearly every mother has probably felt.
I went in for my 8-week ultrasound on July 29, 2021. (8 weeks and 3 days to be exact as I knew the date we conceived). I was by myself as my husband had to work and I was fairly confident that we were ok. When I say that, I mean I had all the pregnancy symptoms (tender breasts, gagging when brushing my teeth, hell! my stomach had even grown) and I had not had any bleeding to indicate otherwise. The tech started on my belly with the ultrasound and had the screen out for me to see. Going through two pregnancies already, I knew what to look for but wasn’t seeing it. After a while the ultrasound tech said that we would have to go vaginally to get a better look because I wasn’t as far along. She asked me to confirm the start of my last period date and started the ultrasound again, this time without showing me the screen. That should have been my first clue.
She kept a good face on and after a while she said she needed to go get a physician to speak with me. I looked at her and asked what was going on and she said “there is no baby.” She said there is a gestational sac but it appears to be empty. I sent a text to my husband and I texted my sister, who had sent me well wishes before the appointment. I couldn’t believe that this was happening to me. Not in a million years did I think this would ever happen to me again.
The OB on shift at the time came in and told me that I was most likely miscarrying because the shape of my uterus looked to be shrinking. What she didn’t see in the ultrasound or what didn’t draw her attention were the grape like cysts. I cried and asked some questions which she answered and she gave me a hug which was comforting…I love hugs. Before I left they drew blood to check my hCG levels, they scheduled me for an appointment with my regular OB and told me to get another blood draw the day before that appointment. Then they sent me on my way.
I made it out of the waiting room and to the comfort of my car before I just completely lost it and sobbed. On my drive home I called my pregnant sister and sobbed some more. When I got home, my husband called after seeing my texts and said he was on his way home from work so I wouldn’t have to be home alone. It was a long, long, dreadful day. Many of the same emotions as my first loss. I had immediate thoughts of “what did I do wrong?” “Why me?” “This isn’t fair.” You name it, I thought of it that day.
August 1st – Ultrasound Results:
Uterus: Irregular shaped gestational sac with no yolk sac or fetal pole visualized. Heterogeneous tissue noted surrounding the gestational sac.
I got my blood drawn as instructed by the OB. On July 29th, my HCG levels were at 90,051. On August 3rd, the levels came back at 155,076. I thought, “huh? How can it be rising? With my last loss it went down…maybe, just maybe the OB, the ultrasound tech, and the ultrasound results are just wrong. Maybe the baby isn’t as far along as we thought?” For some reason I actually had hope going into my next appointment that maybe the baby was still there…
On August 4th, I saw my regular doctor and she took one look at my ultrasound and combined that with the rising hCG levels and said “this looks like a molar pregnancy.” She ordered another ultrasound and once she saw those images she confirmed that yes, it was in fact a molar pregnancy and ordered a D&C to have it surgically removed the following day. The small hope I had of there being a baby was crushed and now I had to start digesting this diagnosis.
Most of you I’m sure have never heard of the term “Molar Pregnancy” and I’m sure you want to know what that is. This is how I understand it: so, there are 2 types of molar pregnancy. One is a partial molar where two sperm fertilizes one egg 69 chromosomes total; 23 chromosomes from the egg and 46 from the sperm. A baby can form in a partial molar, but will not be viable. The other is a complete molar pregnancy where an empty egg with no maternal chromosomes is fertilized by one or two sperm. Meaning 23-46 chromosomes, but all from the sperm, no genetic material from the mother. No baby forms. In a normal/non-molar pregnancy you get 23 chromosomes from the egg and 23 chromosomes from the sperm. So a tumor formed in my uterus instead of the placenta and it became a mass of fluid-filled sacs/cysts. This was the knowledge I had going in to get the surgery to remove the molar pregnancy.
August 5th was D&C day to remove the molar pregnancy. Before I went into surgery, we had my OB explain what we should expect and what would come of this, etc. She said that once we get everything out they would send it to pathology to discover whether it was a partial or complete molar. She said we would hope for a partial molar. She explained that if it’s a partial molar we will monitor your hCG levels until they go to 0 and when the levels return to 0, we would be able to try again for another baby. She said if it’s a complete molar that again they would monitor my hCG levels until they return to 0, but that I would have to be placed on the birth control pill to ensure that I do not become pregnant for up to a year to ensure that my levels never rise. In both partial and complete molar pregnancies, hCG levels are monitored weekly to make sure the levels are going down. If the hCG levels ever plateau or rise then that means the tumor is growing back and I would have to undergo chemotherapy to remove tumor cells and reduce the chance of it spreading to my lungs. My OB assured me that this becoming cancer is super rare and only happens to 15-20% of women. But my first thought was, “yea it’s rare, but so are molar pregnancies and here I am.”
I am another statistic. I am 1 in 1,000 women in the US. I just wanted a baby to complete our family and I ended up with a tumor…and now there is talk about possible cancer? This is so unfair.
As I laid there waiting to be put under for my D & C, I was looking up at the operating room lights and couldn’t believe that this was the second time in a year that I was looking up at those lights (August 2nd 2020 was my appendectomy. My daughter was only 11 days old). For some reason, I find those lights terrifying, even though both my surgeries are very routine and less invasive, it’s still terrifying to be put under anesthesia hoping nothing goes wrong and you wake up! My OB held my hand as I was being put under and that helped a lot. My OB was very happy with the surgery, there was minimal blood, they removed it all and we would meet in 2 weeks to discuss the pathology results and move forward with a plan.
The pathology results from my surgically removed molar pregnancy indicated that I had a complete molar pregnancy, meaning back on birth control and not allowed to become pregnant. That was another hard pill to swallow. I want to have my baby on my own timeline and my own terms, I don’t want it to be dictated by doctors. Also, a complete molar pregnancy means a baby never formed. Was I even allowed to grieve if there was no baby at all? I remember getting this news as I was getting ready for work and I just sat there crying on our couch. After I allowed myself that cry, I got the kids ready and off I went to drop them off at the sitter and go to work. I could have taken time off, but work was a distraction.
I was placed on birth control to ensure I would not fall pregnant and I had to go in every single week to get blood drawn to check my hCG levels. It took 7 weeks for my levels to get down to 0. Then I had to get monthly blood draws for 6 months. As long as the hCG levels did not rise, we would be cleared to get off birth control and try again. This molar pregnancy was extremely hard on me. I was emotionally devastated to learn that I had lost the pregnancy, then I felt isolated from the rarity of my diagnosis, and then there was a chance I may need chemotherapy! It’s an incredible amount of emotions I was forced to bear. On top of all that, I wasn’t able to try again right away, I had to be monitored weekly and then monthly which made it impossible to move forward with my grief. Every blood draw was a constant reminder of my loss.
I was lucky enough that my hCG levels never rose and I was cleared by my OB to get off birth control in March of 2022. My first cycle in April, we fell pregnant, but it sadly ended in a chemical pregnancy. We are still trying and are hopeful for a double rainbow baby.