After our marriage in the spring of 2004, my husband and I decided that we wanted to try to have a baby. I felt a very strong urge that it was the right time in our lives to embark on this new adventure. I got off the birth control pill, and within a few months I found myself staring at my very first positive (+) on a pregnancy test. Elated, my husband and I told our family and friends right away. My mother, sharing in our joy, bought us a beautiful Precious Moment souvenir of a little baby lying on a cloud. I will never forget that Precious Moment; looking at it will always remind me of a 5 year journey that would go on to be the most trying experience of my life, thus far.
I began spotting approximately 6 weeks into the pregnancy. I KNEW deep down that something was wrong. I went back to the doctor and was ordered an ultrasound. I remember lying on the ultrasound table, nervously awaiting to hear the results. The radiologist said nothing – she just had an expressionless look on her face (I would go on to receive many of these horrid stares in the future). The results of that ultrasound confirmed a blighted ovum (occurs when a fertilized egg implants in the uterus but doesn’t develop into an embryo). I was heartbroken. Regardless, we had high hopes that it was just bad luck, so we tried again.
A few months later I found out I was pregnant for the second time. I decided against sharing the news with my family, friends and co-workers. Around 8 weeks gestation, I began to spot. That ultrasound showed a fetus that was only 5 weeks gestation with very low heart rate (HR) of under 60 beats per minute (BPM). I would miscarry for the second time.
I became increasingly worried after my second miscarriage. I wondered if having two consecutive early miscarriages was common. My husband and I consulted with the doctor to see if there was any cause for concern; the doctor did not seem very concerned and reassured us that until you have at least 3 or more recurrent early miscarriages, there was really no need for further invasive tests. The odds seemed to be in my favour anyway – I was still young, my uterus and Fallopian tubes were healthy, I was physically active, I ate well, I didn’t smoke, never tried drugs and I rarely drank alcohol. With a little more fear but still maintaining a sense of hope and optimism, we tried yet again.
I would go on to miscarry a devastating 5 more times. It literally amazes me how tenacious the human spirit can be; I was on a relentless quest to become a mother! Those years seem like a blur, but here are some of the specifics I remember:
Causes of my miscarriages were unknown, however I chose not to opt for invasive testing such as genetic counseling (it is highly possibly that either me or my husband carry some sort of genetic mutation/defect). All ultrasounds performed showed my babies measured smaller than expected and had either had no heart rate or abnormally low heart rates. My pregnancy symptoms ranged from nonexistent to very minimal; little hGC was produced. Before and during my 5th pregnancy, my gynecologist put me on progesterone and baby aspirin; which did not work – I miscarried around 10 weeks gestation. This particular gynecologist said something to me upon learning of my 5th miscarriage that I will never forget. She said “wow, I can’t believe this”. Okay, really? YOU can’t believe this? I truly believe (from my own personal experiences) that more doctors should be required to undergo “sensitivity training”. Needless to say, I never went back to her.
I will not go into detail with each miscarriage, but I will say that they all brought unique experiences and emotions. However, I would like to elaborate on my last miscarriage as it is still vivid in my mind and caused me the most pain – both physically and psychologically. It also forced me to make a very important decision – to finally let go and accept what I was not able to control…
I remember going through 8 hours of intense contractions and profuse bleeding, at home. At that point, I had gone through so many miscarriages that I instinctively trusted my body’s ability to miscarry without intervention (D&C). The contractions continued until they were approximately 30 seconds apart (I remember looking at the clock and timing them). I had never felt such intense back & abdominal pain in my entire life. At some point during the 8-hour mark, I cried and yelled that I just wanted it to end. I wanted to die. My husband was of great support to me and begged that we go to the hospital. Not long after my desperate plea for help, I passed a very big clot (which I believe to be the fetus/embryo) and just like that, the contractions stopped. The bleeding subsided. My baby was gone. I was exhausted. I felt defeated. I literally had no fight left in me anymore. I promised myself that I would not make my body endure another pregnancy. When I lost a baby, a part of me also died.
Shortly after my 7th miscarriage, my husband and I decided to pursue the childless route and that we would try to find other ways to bring fulfillment into our lives. We discussed travelling the world and volunteering for children organizations. Not long after making these plans to move forward, we surprisingly found ourselves staring at our final positive (+) on a pregnancy test. I can tell you that I felt anything but happy – I was extremely upset and disappointed in myself. I had already come to the conclusion that the pregnancy would end in yet another loss. We didn’t tell our family, friends and co-workers that I was pregnant, and I didn’t even go to the doctor until I was 10 weeks along! I decided to go to the doctor when my pregnancy symptoms were in full force – I felt different during this pregnancy when compared to all my others. Upon going to the doctor, I learned that HCG results were very good (for the first time!). The often dreaded ultrasound showed, for the first time ever, a VIABLE fetus with a high heart rate (HR) of 145 beats per minute (BPM). Waves of emotions swept upon me. On March 13th 2009, I gave birth to my only child, Izabella. After 5 years, 7 losses, millions of tears, and one heavy heart, I was able to finally hold my miracle child. With less than a 10% chance of having a child (from what I’ve researched, odds of a success full-term pregnancy unfortunately decreases with every miscarriage after 4 consecutive) I felt and continued to feel more blessed than words can express.
I must be completely honest and reveal that the grief of my losses did not end the day my daughter was born. The pregnancy, birth, and first few years of my daughter’s life, came with it’s own set of taxing challenges and emotions. Although my story has a happy ending, my last pregnancy was anything but joyful. The beauty and innocence of pregnancy was fiercely taken away. My entire pregnancy and the first year of my daughter’s life was filled with fear, anxiety, sadness, and detachment. I simply could not bond with the life growing inside of me, nor could I fully appreciate or enjoy motherhood. I felt isolated and left out; I could not relate to any other pregnant woman or new mother. Consequently, I carried tremendous guilt and anger for many years after my daughter’s birth. I often wondered why me? Why did I have to go through, what I perceived to be, 5 years of Hell on Earth?
During these past few years, I have made a conscious effort to become the strongest version of myself. I have slowly been able to release feelings of guilt, anger, fear, self-pity, anxiety, sadness, and jealousy. By practicing self-love and positive affirmations, I was able to bring happiness and peace back within my soul. I have allowed myself to accept what was (with no judgment) and to start living mindfully in the present moment. It has been a beautiful (and at times, painful!) transformative process. However, I believe this process has no end – healing of body and mind is a lifelong journey.
At this point in my life, I can say with sheer confidence that I am ready and willing to give back to those who have no choice but to walk the difficult and heartbreaking path of pregnancy and infant loss. I realize the importance of having support available, and seeking that support when/if the mother instinctively feels it is the right decision for herself and for her family. THAT is my reason for volunteering with PAIL – to selflessly provide that support, empathy, love, compassion. To those coping and grappling with the grief associated with pregnancy and infant loss: you are NOT alone.
It has been 7 years since my last miscarriage. After much reflection and soul searching, I have decided that my daughter will be my one and only child. My husband and I have accepted and made peace with this decision. We feel in our hearts that our family is complete.
Thank you so much for reading my story. I look forward to my journey with PAIL.
With love & light,
PAIL Peer Led Group Facilitator @ Bloor West