Last night, we were sitting around the dinner table talking about babies. Isabella, my oldest daughter said “Mommy, you’ve been pregnant two times and you’re not having anymore babies.” I hesitated at the “pregnant two times” part of her sentence but I told her she was right. My daughter, and so many other people, do not know that I’ve been pregnant 4 times but only have 2 children.
When my oldest daughter, Isabella, was about 18 months old, I went through baby fever, and it was bad. I wanted to have another baby, I wanted Isabella to have a sibling to play and grow up with. But my husband wasn’t ready, and he knew deep down, I wasn’t either. So we decided to wait. I was taking birth control pills after having my daughter. The birth control was covered by Medicaid, but as Isabella’s second birthday was approaching, my medical coverage was ending. My birth control was $90 a month, an expense we couldn’t afford at the time, so I had decided to get an intrauterine device or IUD.
I made an appointment with my gynecologist, and I told her I needed to get an IUD as soon as possible, before my insurance coverage ended. We talked about different IUD’s and I decided on ParaGard, which is has copper and no hormones. It was supposed to be more effective than the hormonal IUD’s and I was more comfortable with a hormone free one. I wasn’t sure how I would react to the hormones in other IUD’s and I couldn’t chance it. And the copper IUD would last 10 years and I could just make an appointment to get it removed whenever Jonathan and I decided to try for another child.
I laid there on the table, my feet in the stirrups while my gynecologist prepared to insert my IUD. She was having some trouble but after a lot of poking and prodding at my cervix (ouch) I finally had my IUD inserted. And I breathed a sigh of relief knowing that I wouldn’t have to worry about getting pregnant any time soon.
Or so I thought…
It was about a year after having my IUD and I had no issues with it. My husband occasionally felt the string from the IUD when we would have sex, but overall, no real problems. Then one day, I had just finished working out at home, and it suddenly occurred to me that I hadn’t gotten my period. I ran to my calendar in the kitchen to count the days since my last period.
Not very late, but late nonetheless. “Fuck, could I be pregnant?” I went to the store and got a pregnancy test. A faint positive appeared and I cried on the toilet. How? How did this happen? I know the IUD is still in, did it move?
I called Jon and told him I was pregnant and he thought I was joking. I told him “no, baby, I’m not kidding. The pregnancy test is positive and I’m scared.”
I started looking up the chances of getting pregnant with a copper IUD, less than 1%. What are the chances of having a healthy pregnancy and delivery with an IUD? Mixed research. I made an appointment with my gynecologist and I remember telling the woman at the office “I’m pregnant and have a copper IUD.” She couldn’t believe what I was saying.
I had to wait until the next week for my appointment, which was hell. Even though I didn’t want to get pregnant at the time, knowing that I was in fact pregnant, I wanted my baby to be okay. But I started spotting, and the bleeding got worse as the days went on.
I heard blighted ovum at one appointment and ectopic pregnancy at another. I honestly don’t know what it was and I was in too much shock to ask questions. Either way, I was not going to have another baby.
And I was crushed.
I got my IUD removed because it didn’t work for whatever reason. Maybe it moved or wasn’t inserted correctly. It could be possible since my gynecologist at the time had trouble inserting it. I’ll never know and the answer wouldn’t make me feel any better.
I was heartbroken. And I wanted us to try for another baby. But every month, my period came and my heart broke all over again. I tried to act like it didn’t bother me, but it did.
And a year later, I got pregnant again. I was excited, but I was wary. I made sure not to tell anyone but my husband and mother. I wanted to go to the doctor before I said anything. But I’d have to wait until at least 8 weeks to have my first appointment and I was only 5 weeks.
When I got to 6 weeks, I started spotting. And my heart sank. I went to the emergency room and sure enough my hCG (pregnancy hormone) levels were low. I stayed at the hospital for a few hours so they could test my levels again, and if they were continuing to lower, that meant I was having a miscarriage. I tried to hold on to hope that things were fine, but after a few hours and another test, we found out I was miscarrying.
I remember how direct the nurse was. Quick and to the point, and not sympathetic. I was told, just like the first time, that my body should “take care of it” and my body should expel all remaining tissue. And to follow up with my doctor in a few weeks. My husband, daughter and I made it to the car before I started crying. And I kept crying.
When we got home, I was crying in my husbands arms and I looked at him and told him…
“…I feel broken. I’d rather never get pregnant again than to feel this pain one more time.”
I didn’t tell anyone, no one knew I was pregnant, so why should I share my loss? I convinced myself that I was lucky. I was lucky that my body would take care of things and I wouldn’t need surgery like other women have. I was lucky not to have gotten so far along in my pregnancy. I was lucky to have one child, when so many other women struggle with this loss and still don’t have children. I told myself that my grief wasn’t valid because there were other women who have endured much worse than I have. And maybe that helped me cope at the time, but my loss was real. My pain was excruciating, both physically and emotionally. And it’s a pain I still carry today.
I didn’t realize at the time that I was going through something called secondary infertility. I found out later that it’s common for some woman to have trouble either getting pregnant or carrying a baby to term after giving birth to a child previously. It was over a year later before I got pregnant again. And four years total after my first pregnancy loss before I got pregnant for the last time.
But I am lucky. I got my rainbow baby, my Emilia. When I got pregnant with her, I was wary yet again. I was careful not to let myself get excited. But I made it to my 8 week appointment and explained to my midwife that I needed to have an ultrasound since I had 2 previous pregnancy losses. And I got my ultrasound, and we saw that heartbeat flicker and I breathed a sigh of relief. Not a big one, because I knew I was not through the woods, you never are when you’re pregnant. But I was relieved and I was excited. And she’s here, and one of the greatest joys in my life. I am incredibly fortunate to have 2 beautiful children.
But some women never get their rainbow baby, and for that I am truly sorry. To anyone reading this who is struggling to have a baby, I see you. To those who have endured countless pregnancy losses, I feel your pain. And to the women, suffering in silence, trying to put on a smile at the news of other women getting pregnant, I see you too. There are no words that can ease the pain of losing a pregnancy. Grieving a life that could have been.
You are not alone.
Below, I will include a link for pregnancy loss support or if anyone who wants to chat about pregnancy loss can email me.–