…things were different.
I knew before the phone call. When I spotted, I knew it was implantation spotting. I knew why my breasts were sore. I knew why my bras were getting tight again. I pretended not to know, purely for self preservation. I must not get excited, especially now.
The day of my blood test, I casually said to Kevin, “I will be very surprised if this test comes back negative.”
“Oh?” he asked, “Why is that?”
“Because I can’t shove this pizza in my mouth fast enough.”
So the following day, when my phone rang at work, I was somewhat calmer than usual as I stepped into the hallway to take it. I was relatively certain I would not be forcing back tears when I returned to my desk. I still had some nerves, but they were for the next test that I was pretty sure would be coming. I wasn’t surprised to be told:
“We did it again. Your result was 114”
I was a little pleasantly surprised at the number. 114 sounded much better that 33. I wasn’t as ecstatic this time. I was still happy, and there was the same rush of fierce love. However this time it was tinged with dread and worry. All my hopes and dreams hung on the second draw. 114 was a good number, but the initial number means nothing. It has to double. Please, please let is double this time.
Two days later, the news wasn’t what I had hoped for. My hcg had risen to 193. I expressed my worry that it hadn’t doubled, but my doctor’s office assured me that it was within the normal range. After all, it’s supposed to double in 48 to 72 hours. At the rate my level was going, it would be doubled by 72 hours. I couldn’t relax, though. I knew I wouldn’t be able to until I made it to that first ultrasound.
My 3rd blood draw still felt like a milestone, though. That was further than I had made it last time. It was on a Friday, so I had the whole weekend to stress about it, since I wouldn’t get results back until Monday. On that Monday, there wasn’t anybody in my doctor’s Peoria office, and the Rockford office was really busy, so I didn’t get my results back until mid afternoon.
“It was 250. I’m so sorry.”
Oh my God. This is not happening to me again. It can’t be. It’s what I’ve been preparing myself for all along, but… It just cannot fucking be.
The nurse told me wanted me to go to St. Francis right away and have a repeat hcg drawn stat. She sent them an order and also emailed it to me to make sure it got there. The email contained those three little words again. “I’m so sorry.” Luckily my sister was there. I was in no shape to drive. I called Kevin to tell him what had happened, and that I was on my way to the hospital. I called my mom on the way back home.
A couple of hours later found me back on the phone with the nurse. Shockingly, my hcg level was now at 584. I think the nurse was just as surprised as I was. She arranged for another stat lab to be drawn at St. Francis on Wednesday. Thank heaven. I don’t know if I could have retained my sanity if I had to wait a day for those results. I told Kevin that I hoped this pregnancy wasn’t just going to limp along for a while before ultimately failing. I didn’t know if I could take that.
That Wednesday’s results were a whopping 1495. Way to go, Baby! Still, I knew our little one wasn’t out of the woods yet. Since my level had passed 1000, it was time to schedule an ultrasound. The nurse scheduled it for the following Friday (6 weeks, 5 days), and Kevin and I spent a tense week and a half waiting to see if everything would be alright.
Dr. G. started the ultrasound by looking at my ovaries, which were so enlarged and covered in cysts that it was hard to tell where one ended and the other began. I wanted to scream at him, “Just look at my uterus already! Tell me there is a baby in there and that it is okay!” After what felt like an eternity, but I’m sure was mere minutes, he finally gave up trying to count the cysts and moved on to my uterus.
I knew almost immediately that everything was not okay. The sac just looked so tiny, and there sure didn’t seem to be anything in it. Dr. G explained, as he moved the ultrasound wand into terribly uncomfortable positions (Early ultrasounds are done with a transvaginal probe, by the way), that he was having trouble seeing the pregnancy sac clearly due to where it was implanted and the position of my uterus. Evidently, it is tipped backward. After a second eternity, he told me, “I cannot tell if there is a heartbeat. You need more time. We will do another ultrasound next week.” I raised my concerns about the size of the sac, and he confirmed for me, “It is very small. It should be bigger. We can only wait and see.”
Wait and see. I think if I ever write an autobiography, the title will be “Wait and See.” It definitely became our motto over the next few weeks. Wait and See. At 7 weeks, 3 days, the sac was not very much bigger, but I had developed a yolk sac. It took up one whole side of the pregnancy sac. It’s not supposed to. The fetal pole could not be seen. Dr. G. told me, “It doesn’t look good, but it still could be okay. Stranger thing things have happened.”
“No,” I replied, “I’ve seen this scenario play out before. I know how it ends.”
He reached over and patted me on the knee. “I know. I’m so sorry.”
I burst into tears. I think that’s the most vulnerable I have ever been in my life. Crying while still in stirrups, naked from the waist down, in front of Dr. G. and a resident. After I got dressed, Kevin and I numbly walked out to the desk to make our appointment for the following week. Come to think of it, “I’m So Sorry” might make a good title for my memoirs, too. I don’t mean that I don’t want people to tell me that they’re sorry. It means the world to me. I just don’t want there to be a reason for people to be sorry.
At 8 weeks, 3 days Dr G. prepared me before the ultrasound by telling me that if things have not improved, we will have to give up on this pregnancy. I nodded. I had already been preparing myself for that since the first ultrasound, or since the first bad hcg result, really. We were all shocked to see that there had been a huge leap in growth since the previous week. The pregnancy sac is much larger, and Dr G. said that he couldn’t ask for a more perfect yolk sac. There was even a tiny tiny fetal pole. Still, there was no visible heartbeat. It may have just been too small to see just yet. At that point, Dr G. said to be “cautiously optimistic.” By that, he meant cautiously optimistic about the pregnancy, not necessarily the health of the baby. I was 2 weeks behind developmentally and that is a very serious thing indeed. He explained that if the pregnancy was to continue, I would have to be monitored very carefully, and have a lot of testing done.
I had thought I’d been numb the week before. I walked out of the appointment shell shocked. I had really already given the pregnancy up for lost. Now it wasn’t over, but there was, in all likelihood, something seriously wrong with the baby. People kept telling me to think positive. That everything was probably fine. I know that they meant well, but it just angered me. Everything was not fine. You just can’t be 2 weeks behind that early and everything turn out okay. I wasn’t just being negative. I was being realistic.
At 9 weeks, 3 days Kevin couldn’t go to my appointment with me, so my mom did. I didn’t think I could face it alone. Thankfully, I didn’t try to. The news was the worst. Growth had stopped. There was no cardiac activity. My mom hugged me and said, “I’m so sorry.” Dr G. said we should try to let my body miscarry on it’s own but to call them on Monday if I hadn’t had any bleeding.
I hadn’t started bleeding by the following Monday. They did a D&C on Tuesday. The procedure itself was quick and painless. The worst part was knowing what they were doing. In the surgical consents, there was a page I had to fill out regarding what to do with the remains. I wasn’t prepared for that. I cried. I opted to let the hospital take care of it. I know St. Francis will treat my baby with reverence. The good part about having a D&C is that they can run tests, and maybe I will find out what went wrong with my precious baby.
About a week after my D&C, I looked down and noticed a wet spot on my shirt. At first I didn’t think anything of it. I thought I must have splashed it while washing my hands. However, a couple of hours later I looked in the mirror and saw that there were several spots and drips down the right side of my shirt. The dried ones were stiff and sticky. As I looked, the one at the tip of my breast spread.
I can’t begin to express the horror I felt. I was lactating. As if my lack of a baby hadn’t been driven home enough by that point. I sat in the tub that evening with leaking breasts and bawled. It was so painful. In addition to the emotional pain, it was among the worst physical pain I have felt in my life. And I could do nothing about it. I grew angry with my breasts. Show offs! Assholes!
That went on for about 4 days. It stopped, and though I’m still having occasional twinges of pain, thankfully I’m having no leaking at this point. My prolactin level is still elevated, so I’m starting medicine today to bring that down. My hcg is also still elevated (it’s at 109). It’s ironic that 2 and 1/2 weeks after my D&C, I would test positive on a home pregnancy test if I took one. Cruel of my body, really.
In 3 weeks I’ll have both those hormone levels tested again. Hopefully they will have dropped. We can’t move on with any other testing until they do. And in the meantime, I am anxiously awaiting the pathology report on our baby. He or she was surely a fighter, if nothing else. Our baby fought so hard to live, and I am so proud of the little thing.