Guest Post: A story of a girl and her three angels

       We moved to Texas at the end of May that year (2017) and my husband and I agreed that I would wait 90 days to apply for new jobs in the event that i fell pregnant, as we wanted to start a family.  If, at the end of that 90-day period, I was not pregnant, I would go back to work.  We had this discussion around June 1 and on July 7, i took a positive pregnancy test. 

       In this post, I am trying to shed some light on miscarriage.  Sure, we are told that it is common, as if that should make it less painful.  But, to anyone who has ever wanted to be a parent and experienced that glimmer of hope held in a pregnancy test, you know that a miscarriage isn’t just ‘something’ that happens; it’s a significant loss.  And it needs to be okay to grieve that loss like you would any other family member who died. 

       My story starts in July 2017.  I found out i was pregnant on July 7.  My husband was at work, so after I took several positive pregnancy tests, I went to target and bought dry-erase markers and a ‘best dad ever’ mug.  Then i got to work decorating our bathroom so that i could surprise him when he got home from work for the evening.  It’s thought that we conceived this baby on or around june 18th, so i found out i was pregnant, i was only about two weeks along.  I had my first doctor’s appointment at 8 weeks and 6 days along.  The ultrasound tech. Couldn’t yet hear a heartbeat, but we got to see the flicker of it and we were able to see our baby wiggling around like crazy! Our second appointment was at 13 weeks and while we didn’t have an ultrasound, the doctor used the doppler to find the baby’s heartbeat.  It was the most perfect sound i’d ever heard and i teared up pretty instantly!  That day, we got the “ok” from the doctor to share our news with family and friends, as the baby was active, had a strong, fast heartbeat, and even though I wasn’t showing yet, my uterus was expanding in a way that the doctor thought was very positive.  The next day, Joe (my husband) and i started our drive back to pennsylvania.  After four months, we decided that texas wasn’t the best move for us.

       That weekend after we got settled, we drove with my dad to visit Joe’s parents.  We told them all that we had gifts for them (belated fathers’ day gifts for our dads and a belated birthday gift for Joe’s mom).  Inside the gift bags were grandpa t-shirts for the guys and a Nana photo frame for Joe’s mom.  They were all so excited for us and we couldn’t wait to tell everyone else we knew!  Five days later, Joe and I announced our little blessing to the social media world. 

Two weeks later, our world came crashing down around us.  On October 9, 2017, I started spotting in the afternoon.  I know spotting in pregnancy can be normal, but something didn’t feel right.  Shortly after that, I started to feel cramps, kind of like period cramps, but in my back.  I called my OB and the on-call nurse advised me to go to the ER immediately, just to make sure everything was alright. My husband and I headed to the hospital and we hardly had to wait before we were seen.  A nurse practitioner and a nurse came in to try to find the baby’s heartbeat,  They struggled with the doppler for about a half hour before they tried to assure Joe and I that we shouldn’t freak out yet, as a baby under twenty weeks (I think that’s what they said) can have a difficult-to-find heartbeat since it is so small.  

       Shortly after the two women tried to find the heartbeat, an ultrasound tech. Came in and did an ultrasound.  The screen was faced away from us, so we never got to see our baby.  The technician couldn’t tell us anything, so we had to wait for the radiologist to look at and a doctor to come tell us what was going on.  About an hour later, the on-call OBGYN came in and delivered the news that our baby had no heartbeat.  I was diagnosed with a missed miscarriage, as the baby was likely dead inside me for 3+weeks and my body didn’t recognize it.  I had a D&C (Dilation & Curettage) scheduled for the next morning. 

     The next day, Joe and I had to fill out our baby’s death certificate.  We didn’t know a gender yet, so we had to guess.  We both thought she was a girl, so we went with that and named her Margaret Kay, the only girl name that we both absolutely adored.  We decided to start trying to conceive again around Thanksgiving 2017.  I found out I was pregnant on December 16, 2017, so likely, this baby was conceived the first or second week we had talked about.  I was scared when I tested positive but I was also so, so excited and hopeful that we’d get our rainbow baby (a live birth following the loss of a baby due to miscarriage, still birth, or neonatal loss) since two miscarriages in a row is rare.

  For two weeks, Joe and I were on top of the world.  We told his parents and my dad about the pregnancy at Christmas time, as well as our siblings and closest friends.  I was so excited to start the new year happily, following a couple months of hell-on-earth.  New Year’s Day, I woke up not feeling great, but attributed it to not getting much sleep the night before. Later that afternoon, the cramps started.  My heart began thumping and I was scared to go to the bathroom, for fear of what I might discover.  I went to the bathroom and felt it happen before I even sat down.  Without going into graphic detail, I miscarried on New Year’s Day 2018. 
       Our most recent loss occurred on December 27, 2018.  I found out I was pregnant on November 11, 2018.  I cried my eyes out at first and was in extreme panic for about an hour after I took that test.  Obviously, I was overjoyed and in love with the little baby inside of me, but after two miscarriages and no answers about why, I was scared about the outcome.  I chose to not Tell anyone I was pregnant except two of my closest friends and my counselor.  I did not want anyone to know until at least got halfway through the pregnancy.  

     On Christmas night, Joe and I agreed to tell his parents that we were expecting again.  Shortly after that, we all went to bed.  As I was going to the bathroom, I noticed some spotting.  Over the next two days, it got worse.  I was about 95% sure what was happening, but held onto the 5% hope that the spotting, which had turned into full-fledged bleeding, was normal and our now-11-week-old baby was healthy and growing normally.  Joe took me to the emergency room the night of December 27.  I had a long ultrasound and after waiting way too many hours, we were delivered the news, that yet again, I was experiencing a miscarriage; the ultrasound showed no heartbeat.  The doctor was concerned about a possible molar pregnancy (when there is another object in the uterine cavity that could be totally benign or it could be indicative of cancer).  Because of that, the doctor at the E.R. called the local Women and Babies hospital and explained the situation.  The on-call doctor there wanted me to come over immediately.

  At this point, it was 2 am and I just wanted to go home and grieve by myself and with my husband.  We went over to the other hospital and were met by several nurses.  I sat in the initial exam room for two hours before the doctor came in and explained that if this was in fact a molar pregnancy, heavy bleeding could occur, so she didn’t want me to go home before she could perform a D&E (same as a D&C except they add suction from a vacuum).  I was admitted to the hospital, took a quick shower, and was able to take a nap from about 8 am to 10:30 am.  I had the procedure done at around 12:30, got back to my room around 3 pm, was able to finally eat and drink something, and after some observation from the nursing staff, was discharged around 5:30.  Joe and I went home, yet again, without a little baby in my belly. 

     And that, friends, is the story of my three miscarriages.  In loving memory of Margaret Kay (6/18/2017-10/9/2017), Paul Joseph (11/27/2017-1/1/2018), and Grace Genevieve (10/28/2018-12-27-2018).

  Surprisingly, since the miscarriages my husband and I have become closer.  I think much of that was due to the fact that we both supported each other when we were at our most vulnerable.  Everything, aside from actually being pregnant, we have done together, from taking tests, to telling loved ones, to going through the feelings that come with recurrent miscarriages to all of the testing we’ve experienced, etc.  Sure, we argue about insignificant things, but overall, I think both of us have grown closer as a couple. 

  The only truly positive things I have found that have come out of these terrible losses is the immeasurable support from family and friends.  We have received flowers, cards, memorial jewelry and key chains, candles, pieces of art, and other small tokens that show just how loved our babies were, and not just by Joe and me.    

   Over the past almost-two years, I have come to realize that I struggle a lot with trying to balance mourning our losses and celebrating their very brief, yet impactful lives.  Some days, I experience gratitude that I got to love three little babies so deeply.  But, on anniversaries, due dates, and Mother’s/Father’s Day, I 100% mourn.  I hope by the 5-year mark, I’ll be able to be more happy than sad.  

  Overall, I think the biggest piece of advice I can offer to others who have experienced loss and/or infertility is, it’s okay to be sad or feel angry.  Negative feelings are normal and totally okay to experience.  Secondly, don’t give up.  I don’t mean to be cliché or anything, but getting support while trying to conceive is super important.  Reach out to doctors, talk openly to your partner, seek out counseling to process your feelings, etc.  Find a higher power and lean on them for strength when it’s hard to find your own.

Note from Okami & Co: We really want to thank Anna for being so brave in sharing her stories of loss. We deeply understand how hard it is for a couple to go through this tragic experience. We only wish the best for Anna and Joe, and hope that they see their rainbow soon.

About Our Author:  My name is Anna Lesher.  I have my Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and Master’s in Mental Health Counseling.  Until May 26, 2017, I worked as an outpatient drug & alcohol counselor.  I absolutely loved my job, my coworkers, my clients, etc.  I was good at what I did and I could see a future long-term in counseling, especially with adults dealing with substance use disorders, trauma, eating disorders, and personality disorders.  While I was counseling, I was actively involved in our county’s anti-heroin task force, which helped bring awareness to the opioid epidemic that is running rampant in the area.  I also enjoyed taking walks with my husband and dog and listening to self-improvement audio books.  Follow Anna’s journey on her blog HERE.