Coping With Loss

Life After Pregnancy Loss: Colleen

Colleen recently shared the story of her recurrent pregnancy loss journey. The following is a follow-up of what her life has been like since losing her babies Quinn, Peyton, Riley and Bryn.

When Brittany reached out to ask if I would be interested in writing a follow up post about life after pregnancy loss, my first thought was that I’m not living life after pregnancy loss, but living life in the thick of it.  After losing four babies in less than a year, without a healthy pregnancy or another baby yet, loss is very much still a part of my life. In the past year, I have made it through three due dates, with our final due date coming up in a few days.  This last due date is for our baby that made it to the second trimester, the one that gave us hope we were finally out of the nightmare. We won’t be bringing home our baby to watch her grow, but instead have a teddy bear with her ashes that will always be a reminder of what could have been.

Life during/after pregnancy loss is constantly being reminded of what you’ve experienced and lost along the way. It begins with going into each new week knowing what week of your pregnancy you should be in, as you slip further and further away from your baby. You slowly begin to lose track of the specific week, but your due date is still etched into your mind. A swift punch to the gut comes with every pregnancy or birth announcement and seeing families like the one you envisioned makes the hole in your heart grow. The sweet messages and check-ins from most friends and family drift away quickly, leaving you feeling like you shouldn’t still be grieving. A friend of mine recently described wanting to have a baby (through loss and infertility) as feeling like you’re watching a revolving door that you can’t get into – everything is moving around you while you’re stuck in place.

With all of that being said,  I am still hopeful we will one day add the second baby we are dreaming of.  This road has been an extremely difficult one and I look forward to having this phase of life behind us.  I recently had surgery to remove my uterine septum, that was misdiagnosed for nearly a year after my second loss. This surgery has been the only thing for me to hold on to as we begin trying to conceive for the sixth time.  I hope and pray we found our answer, but the experiences of the past year have left me jaded and skeptical.  Pregnancy loss changes you, and I will never be the same person I was a year and a half ago.  We will be forever grateful if we are able to have another baby AND will always long for the four babies I held close to my heart but never in my arms. 

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Miscarriage

Colleen’s Story

Quinn, Peyton, Riley and Bryn

“Recurrent pregnancy loss.” A term I was unlucky enough to have attached to me over the past year. Four babies gone, in ten long months.  

PART 1

May 2020, my sweet baby Emmelyn made me a Mama.  Much to our surprise, we were lucky enough to conceive on the first try.  We couldn’t believe it when I took that first pregnancy test and saw the faint line (let’s be real, I started testing at 7DPO).  We were so excited, and so shocked at once.  My morning sickness kicked in very early around 5 weeks and I was sick multiple times a day – but it was all worth it, knowing what the reward would be a few months down the road.  Nine weeks rolled around and I was participating in an after-hours event at work, when I went to the bathroom, felt a sharp pain and had my first experience with bright red blood.  This would later become an expected event for me, a feeling all too familiar.  I hysterically called my husband and rushed home.  We rushed to the emergency room, where we were quickly encouraged us to just go home due to me being only 9 weeks along – “there isn’t anything we can do to save the baby if you’re having a miscarriage.” We then tried urgent care, where we were told they couldn’t treat me because I was pregnant.  I got back on the phone with the after-hours line at my OB’s office, to speak with the most heartless nurse who told me I was having a miscarriage and I just needed to go home and let it happen.  Come the following day, we were back at the ER to find out our little baby still had a heartbeat, but it was a threatened miscarriage that could certainly take a turn for the worst.  We followed up with my OB a few days later and baby was still doing great.  The doctor made it clear that I still had a high chance of miscarrying and that I probably didn’t bleed as much as I seemed to think I did. Needless to say, I immediately found a new doctor and had a few additional ultrasounds to check on the baby.  I had no more bleeding the remainder of my pregnancy and she was born a full-term tiny little 5lb 7oz baby via C-section due to her breech presentation.

PART 2

In July 2021, we decided to try for our second baby.  We loved having a spring baby, so we thought that timing would be great for our next pregnancy as well.  Once again, we conceived on the first try, and were expecting a baby to be due April 2022.  I am an obsessive tester, so I continued to pee on sticks every couple of days.  Around 5 weeks, I began to get concerned when my test strips were becoming lighter.  Sure enough, at 6 weeks, I had a tiny bit of spotting that turned into the most awful cramps and bleeding by the next morning.  I made the very familiar trip to the ER to check on the baby.  My husband stayed home with our daughter, so I went alone.  I was at the ER for nearly 4 hours where I had an ultrasound and bloodwork done.  The doctor finally came in to tell me that my HCG was very low and that there wasn’t anything seen inside of my uterus on the ultrasound.  “You must just not be as far along as you think” – the words that don’t hold true for any woman TTC.  I knew exactly the day I had conceived, which also meant I had my answer, I had lost our sweet Quinn. I was completely devastated, but I felt comfort in thinking this was a fluke and I would likely never have to go through it again. My doctor suggested taking 3 months to let my body heal, which I reluctantly abided by. 

Three months later, we tried again, and I was once again pregnant.  This time I was watching my tests even more closely to see they never even had the chance to get darker.  At 5 weeks on the dot, Peyton was gone.  I didn’t even make the trip to the ER this time since I knew exactly what was happening. I followed up with bloodwork, and sure enough my HCG had dropped to nearly zero. 

“Another fluke, you have a healthy baby, so certainly this is just bad luck.” 

We took a month off and had some recurrent pregnancy loss testing done.  All of my bloodwork came back normal, and my SHG identified a uterine anomaly, an arcuate uterus.  You know, the uterine anomaly that is no big deal and won’t cause you to lose babies… just keep trying, one will stick!

Two cycles later, I was pregnant again.  THIS TIME HAS TO BE IT.  There is no way we can have three in a row.  I watched those tests again and saw as they once again didn’t darken.  This time I was getting HCG tests from the moment I got pregnant, so I watched my miscarriage unfold in real time.  At 5 weeks, I once again lost a baby – our Riley. 

At this point, I had decided I couldn’t go through it all again.  However, when I discovered I was ovulating 10 days later, we said what the hell – let’s go for it.  At this point we finally had our appt that we’d been waiting months for with a MFM doc.  I found out I was pregnant the day prior.  She said she would watch me closely and would do anything in her power to help keep this pregnancy.  This time around, I started taking progesterone after O day, in addition to baby aspirin, a prenatal, an additional 4mg of folic acid and a vitamin D supplement.  I finally got those dark tests I dreamed of. The day I got the dye stealer, I was ecstatic. This finally felt like a win.  We had our first ultrasound at 7 weeks and we got to see that flicker on the screen.  It was magical.  A second ultrasound followed at 10 weeks, where we once again got to see our sweet baby.  Our MFM said we had graduated and could continue to just see our OB.  At the beginning of week 13, in my process of checking my toilet paper for blood, which had become a regular ritual for me, there was a tinge of blood.  I scheduled an appointment for the following day to check for a heartbeat and a follow up ultrasound for a few days later.  At 14 weeks, we watched our perfect baby bounce around the screen and even suck her thumb.  At this point, I felt so relieved that the bleeding was nothing. 

Three weeks later, I went in for my standard OB appt.  I was met by a new doctor who began to find the heartbeat.  Time was passing so slowly as she was searching with the doppler, and the excuses began for what might be going on.  She ran to get a hand ultrasound machine to find the heartbeat.  The second she paused, she didn’t even have to say the words… I said them for her.  “There isn’t a heartbeat!?”.  I was completely inconsolable.  I couldn’t stop screaming “NO, NO, NO! I just saw the baby a few weeks ago and they were perfect!! – This can’t be happening, please tell me this isn’t happening!” She rushed me to their other office to get an ultrasound to confirm, and sure enough, my sweet angel Bryn (we found out her gender after the genetic testing came back), no longer had a heartbeat. 

She was measuring to be about 13 weeks, so she likely passed almost immediately after we saw her in all of her perfection at the ultrasound a few weeks prior. I carried her for three weeks, still getting sick every single day, having no idea she was already gone. I felt like I had failed her in every way.  I scheduled a D&E for the following week, made the arrangements for her to be cremated and put in a teddy bear, and tried my best to be the best mom I could for the baby I have, but everything inside of me was empty.  I felt so lost, confused, angry, in denial, and probably just about every other feeling on top of that. I am now 2 months post loss, and am finally getting to a point where I’m not crying every day, but it’s all consuming thinking of what this past year has brought. To be so close and have it all ripped away.  

I am still working through so many feelings around the whole experience, including letting go of the timeline I had planned for my family and accepting this new post-loss version of myself. There has been one silver lining to this experience though; I have the most amazing support system through my husband, friends and family – particularly a couple of women I connected with on a loss forum back in December. The support and empathy these once strangers, now best friends have shown me is something I will forever be grateful for. Loss leaves you with such a feeling of loneliness, but being able to share your saddest, deepest, most vulnerable feelings with those who have been in your shoes, is the closest thing you can get to filling your heart back up.

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