I started this blog about a year ago, when I was first trying to get pregnant, and having issues (in the form of wildly irregular cycles). A lot has happened since then: infertility evaluation, pregnancy, second trimester miscarriage, complications on top of complications. Synthesizing information that any mildly dedicated googler could figure out for herself in a matter of minutes wasn’t enough to keep me writing, so I’m starting over and trying something new this time. Plus, I find that when I look at other people’s pregnancy blogs these days, I’m mostly not looking for medical advice (I get plenty of that from the army of doctors I’ve been seeing), but rather for stories to relate to. So, I’m going to try telling my own story here. I’ve been a journal-writer on and off throughout my life; this is my first time making it public (if pseudonymously). But sh*t’s gotten weird enough that I feel compelled to put the story out there for other women going through the same weird sh*t — with so few of us, the pseudonymous internet is really the only way to form a community. I can use all the support I can get, and if my story helps even one person out there, it’s more than worth it.
That said, here’s a brief recap of my story:
July 2013: Got married to my amazingly wonderful husband. I was 30; he was 32. Our ceremony involved tons of participation from friends and family, was outdoors, was exactly the way we wanted it (although about 20F hotter than we might have preferred), and we were off to a great start.
September 2013: We started trying to conceive. I had been off birth control since the beginning of June, because I knew my cycle could take a few months to normalize, but actually I’d had three lovely, regular cycles. We were ready to be parents — bring it on, world!
Winter 2013-14: My cycles got wacky. By spring, I’d had as short as 27 days, as long as 66, and everything in between. I kept thinking I was pregnant, but then I wasn’t. I freaked out, went to my local OBGYN first, but she wasn’t helpful, so we went to an RE (reproductive endocrinologist).
Spring 2014: Basic fertility workup. Hysterosalpingogram showed that tubes were open. Hormonal levels were all normal. My basal body temperature showed that I was ovulating. Husband’s sperm were hunky-dory. I started using ovulation prediction kits (OPKs). RE prescribed Femara, and we were waiting for my period to start the prescription.
May/June 2014: My period never came. Second cycle using OPKs did the trick, and I was pregnant! We got a lot of monitoring early on since we’d been seeing the RE, so we saw a heartbeat at 6 weeks and 8 weeks. At 10 weeks we started seeing the local OBGYN. Another ultrasound showed a somersaulting baby and confirmed that I was due on my birthday. My husband’s birthday is two weeks after mine, so our baby will most likely be born in between — we’ll be a February family! We do non-invasive prenatal testing at 10 weeks. It’s a girl. (A girl!)
August 2014: End of the first trimester. After the 14-week ultrasound was normal I told my family, friends, and people at work; I requested parental leave for the spring semester and got on the waiting list for campus daycare. I turned down three invited talks that would have fallen during my maternity leave. People started giving us their old baby stuff. By September (4 months along) I was in maternity clothes, and starting to show.
September 11, 2014: We went for a routine prenatal appointment at 18 weeks + 1 day and they couldn’t find the heartbeat. Our daughter had died. They induced labor and I delivered just over a day later. After five excruciating hours the placenta wouldn’t come out, so they extracted it with instruments. My milk came in. I cried a ton, had no appetite, couldn’t sleep, didn’t care about anything in the world, and felt like I’d never recover.
Late September: After two weeks of pain and intermittent ridiculously heavy bleeding, they brought me back in for an ultrasound and found retained products of conception. They scheduled me for a D&C (dilation & curettage) that night. Finally, I started to heal (or so I thought).
Fall 2014: Results of tests and autopsies trickled in over the next month or two. We found out that our baby was chromosomally normal, that there was no evidence of infection, that the only significant autopsy finding was a blood clot on the placenta, and that I was heterozygous for Factor V Leiden (a genetic mutation that predisposes me to blood clots). We were referred to a maternal-fetal medicine specialist, who reviewed all my records and told us that she believed our baby had died of a placental abruption, possibly related to my clotting mutation. She told us our next pregnancy would be high risk, and offered prophylactic blood thinners, with the clear understanding that there wasn’t a lot of evidence that they would help. She also recommended that I have a sonohysterogram (saline-infusion ultrasound) 3 months after the D&C to make sure my uterine cavity had healed normally, and that we refrain from trying to get pregnant until then (this almost killed me, since I have wanted nothing more than to be pregnant again since the moment we found out our baby had died — it may sound callous, but it’s true).
January 2015: Sonohysterogram is abnormal. My OBGYN suggested a hysteroscopy D&C, but I’ve read enough about intrauterine adhesions at this point to be freaked out about another D&C, even one that is performed under hysteroscopic guidance. I found a doctor who runs a minimally invasive gynecology ward in the Boston area (about a 2-hour drive from us) who can treat adhesions and small polyps in the office hysteroscopically, without the need for general anesthesia.
… and that’s my story so far. I’ve got an appointment with his office on February 2nd, and now I’m just waiting. Again. The worst part of all of this has been my baby dying, but the second-worst part has been all the waiting and the setbacks. If you had told me immediately after the delivery that I wouldn’t be pregnant by my original due date, I would have crumpled into a puddle of misery. Now that I know that there’s no chance of that happening, I haven’t quite crumpled, but I’ve got plenty of misery to go around. I know that I’m taking the proactive and responsible path, but all I want in life right now is a living, breathing baby.
This has been quite a saga, and I suspect that even my nearest and dearest are getting misery fatigue from me talking about it (although my nearest and dearest have generally been amazing and wonderful and I am quite possibly the luckiest person in the whole world in my friends and family). But I need an outlet, and I want to connect with other people who have been through similar things, and this seems like a way to at least start down that path. So, please, leave a comment, tell me your story, or just listen. I’ll try to update semi-regularly from now on.
(Oh, and why “The Pregnant Physicist?” I’m a tenure-track physical science professor at a northeastern liberal arts college. My experience with trying to start a family is inextricably tied to my identity as a scientist, so intersections between academia and pregnancy will — I guarantee it — pop up now and then. Juggling family planning with a busy travel schedule, doctors appointments with classes, teaching class while dealing with pregnancy loss… it’s a challenge. But that’s my life for now.)