Heather C’s Story

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Tell us about your pregnancy loss(es).

After moving to Charlotte to begin college in August 2005 and start my career in Orthodontic Dental Assisting, I met a very funny and smart young man in one of my college classes.  Everything about him from his loud outgoing personality to his head full of curls had me wrapped around his finger.  I went home the day I saw him for the first time and told my grandmother who I lived with,  “I saw the man I was going to marry in class today.”  My grandmother laughed at the idea and went about her day.  My husband and I married two and a half years later on January 19, 2008.  Shortly after we were married, my husband joined the United States Marine Corps and Brian deployed to Iraq.  After his first deployment I relocated to where he was stationed in San Diego, California in our first apartment together.  Brian and I made a life in California with our Boston Terrier puppy, Oakley and began to build relationships with others who lived the same military life.  After living in CA for less than a year, Brian was told he would be deploying to Iraq again then would be moving to Afghanistan for combat in July 2009.  So that I would not be alone across the country from my family, I moved back to North Carolina and stayed with my sister, while waiting on my husbands return.  After Brian came back to California from his second deployment in early 2010 we moved into a home with Brian’s best friend who was in the USMC as well and his wife Caitlin in Escondido, just north of San Diego.

Our friends Patrick and Caitlin became our best friends and we did everything together. We lived together, we ate together, and we experienced California together.  Patrick and Caitlin were not planning to start a family for a few years still but they were a great support system for us and encouraged our dreams of being parents.  After missing my menstrual cycle in April and confirming we were pregnant I shared the exciting news with my husband.  It was then that we decided to wait to tell all of our friends and family until after my first trimester.  One Monday morning in May, I woke up to terrible cramping in my lower abdomen.  Brian had already left to go to work about an hour before I lay in bed crying with horrible pain alone.  After going to the restroom I saw what every woman doesn’t want to see when expecting or trying to conceive, blood.  After confirming that I had in fact had a miscarriage, I informed Brian of our loss.  He was extremely disappointed and shared that he had actually opened up to a couple guys at work, because he couldn’t hold in the excitement.  Of course telling anyone at this point, is a very empty feeling and in a sense almost embarrassing.  Even though only very newly pregnant, I was so sad.  I had envisioned what our child would look like and if it would be a boy or a girl, and if our baby would have curly hair like Brian.  We even talked about names, never picking one but enjoying the thought that we would be the parents of this little one and had this new endeavor together.  Through the months following our miscarriage, we accepted that this child was not meant for us to raise and hold in our arms on earth.  Although not erasing our lost child we looked forward to still one day having a family of our own.  As we watched friends and loved ones sharing their stories of becoming pregnant and watching their progressing pregnancies online we decided we were ready to try and conceive again.  I prayed and prayed that we would be able to get pregnant again for months after our miscarriage.  Unfortunately with the stress of our loss and the pressure on our marriage this caused Brian and I to have a rough patch.  During our split I came home to North Carolina to clear my head and figure out what I wanted in my life and Brian did the same.  In the time I was home I went to my OBGYN for a regular checkup and to my surprise was told that I was pregnant.  I’ll never forget the emotion that came over me.  I cried so hard and so long that the nurse ended up leaving the room to give me a chance to get myself together… After what felt like a year of crying, my Doctor came in and asked if I would be keeping my child knowing that my husband and I weren’t currently together.  I had prayed for this child, “of course”, I exclaimed to her.  She said, “Okay, wonderful let’s go see your baby.”  While doing my ultrasound she told me I was very early because the fetus was too small and wasn’t showing up yet, she sent me to do my blood work and told me she would be in touch after I came back to do my blood work a few more times that week.  She was looking to see if my HCG levels were growing, as they should each day.  Leaving the office that day, I called my husband and shared the exciting yet heart-wrenching news.  He begged for us to work on our marriage and in my heart I agreed this was our child, but I wasn’t ready to come back “home” to California. Through the following weeks, I did blood work over and over, my Doctor seemed hopeful that my baby was okay however my HCG levels only grew by hundreds each day and not thousands.

One weeknight I decided to go over to my best friend’s house to share my crazy, yet wonderful news.  After leaving Ashley’s house, I called my grandmother who I was staying with and told her that if I didn’t make it home soon to call 911.  I was having horrible pain in my stomach, sharp shooting pains that brought me back to the feeling of losing my first baby.  Driving home I prayed out loud, begging God to keep my baby safe and for this agony to pass.  I arrived at my grandmother’s that night and she laid with me throughout the night holding me.  My awful pain continued to get worse into the following day which led to me fainting mid morning.  My grandmother rushed me to CMC main where they rushed me into a room.  After running tests my doctor entered my hospital room and informed me that the embryo was trapped in my right Fallopian tube.  I asked if there was a way to move my baby safely to my uterus.  My doctor apologized and told me that we would have to terminate my pregnancy by giving me a methotrexate shot and that there was no way to salvage the pregnancy.  As I lay in the bed on my stomach and the nurse gave me the shot, tears rolled down my cheeks.  I was absolutely heart broken.  I felt I couldn’t take anymore as I was losing my second child and felt my marriage was crumbling.  The following week I had to get another methotrexate shot as the pregnancy was not completely terminated.  After the second shot, and terminating was a “success” I decided that I would fly back to California where my husband and I resided to discuss in person whether or not to continue in our marriage.

The morning after returning to Escondido, Brian, Patrick, Caitlin and myself decided we would go to Ruby’s to have lunch in Oceanside.  If Brian and I decided to not work out our marriage this would affect our friends as well because we had become a family by now.  We all loaded in Caitlin’s small car, to save gas (ha! If we only knew) and headed to the restaurant on the pier. At the bottom of our development was a large intersection where all of our lives unfortunately changed that day.  I woke up in the hospital to find out I had been in the hospital for over a week in ICU and we four had been hit by a Cadillac escalade who ran the red light at the foot of the hill.  Fortunately, we were all alive but Patrick, Caitlin and myself were all in very bad shape with several broken bones, lacerated livers, diaphragms, punctured lungs and glass in our face and neck.  Luckily for us after getting out of the long stay in the hospital, Brian had only suffered a concussion and was healthy to able to take care of us.  After our almost fatal car accident we each had months of physical and occupational therapy, dental restorative work and plastic surgery to remove the glass under the skin from the broken windshield.  Although a very painful recovery and mental and physical recuperation this ended up being a positive thing for our marriage.  Brian said after sitting in the hospital room seeing me unconscious wired to all kinds of machines, bruised with road rash along my face and body, he realized he could never be without me.  In a weird way I thanked God over the upcoming months for our accident because it made us appreciate one another so much more.  Getting pregnant became a memory for us in the years to follow.  Brian and I concentrated on making our relationship better and finished up his enlistment in the USMC.  2010 had to have been the worst year of my life thus far and we looked to the future for better times.

After moving back to North Carolina in November 2011 we were excited to be near friends and family.  So many friendships had changed because a lot of our friends were now parents.  As time passed we continued to be happy for our friends and family that had successfully had a child but it was still a topic we tried to stay off of in our home.  After prayers and visits to a fertility specialist and being given the go ahead to try and conceive again years later in my one “good” Fallopian tube, we did it! We conceived in December 2012 and found out we were pregnant in January 2014.  This time was different.  We were in a wonderful spot in our marriage, we owned our first home, and we were near our family who wanted to be part of us raising a family.  We even took our first “expecting” picture, you know the one where you stand to the side and show how big your belly is.  We went to my Doctor; they were so excited for me as they remembered my traumatic experience in the past.  My doctor gave me all of the “You’re expecting” pamphlets and gave me the do’s and don’ts while pregnant.  I can’t remember a happier time in my life than when I left that doctor visit.  In the 8 weeks that passed I experienced morning sickness and I felt like I could smell food from 50 miles a way. Both were so unfamiliar, I never had these “bad” but amazing pregnancy symptoms.  Every moment I felt sick to my stomach it made me laugh to myself out of pure joy knowing this is different, this is great!!  I was loving every minute of reading what to expect when your expecting, because I had had this book for years and never finished it.  I looked forward to the morning of March 14, 2014, this would be the day that Brian and I got to see our healthy baby wiggling around and it’s perfect heartbeat.  The morning of my ultrasound I drove to work, feeling happy and excited.  When I pulled in the parking lot, I called my office manager and explained that I was having some weird discomfort and because I was already going to leave early for my very awaited doctor visit I was going to turn around and go home.  My office manager told me this would be completely fine and wished me luck.  By the time I got home and came upstairs I began to feel a lot of pain… cramps, something that I hadn’t felt the entire 8 weeks.  I decided to get in the shower, just to relax and told myself everything was okay.  As I stood in the shower looking down, praying, I started to see drops of blood.  I was confused and knew this was a mistake; this was nothing to be worried about because today is my appointment that we are going to see our baby.  I called my doctor and they said not to worry and to keep my ultrasound appointment.  Brian and I stopped on the way to get a big juicy burger to celebrate our big appointment day.  Although nervous for bad news, we didn’t let ourselves get upset because we knew this was our time, this was going to be our healthy baby, the one we would successfully give birth to.  There we sat, March 14, 2014 getting our “special” ultrasound, the one that the ultrasound tech would tell us what our baby was measuring at, the one we would see it’s heartbeat.  All of a sudden the moments began to go in slow motion, I could tell the technician was quite and looked worried.  I looked at Brian and he looked scared.  I then asked the technician if everything was okay, she replied and asked if I was sure I was pregnant.  I let out a nervous laugh, “of course I’m pregnant” I shouted, “I am 8 weeks pregnant.”  She told me she saw nothing.  I leaned up a bit, looking at the screen and told her, “look in my Fallopian tubes”, she told me she wouldn’t see anything because Fallopian tubes are too small.  I began to beg and told her in 2010 I had an ectopic pregnancy in my right Fallopian tube.  “Check them” I quietly shouted. The room then got completely silent, it felt like time stopped, “there it is, it’s in your left Fallopian tube,” she said.  All I could think was that’s my healthy Fallopian tube, the one that isn’t blocked with anything, the one that would cause no problems.  She then pointed to the screen and apologized, “I’m sorry, there is the embryo’s heartbeat in your left Fallopian tube.”  I began to sob, I looked in Brian’s eyes and I could see his heart breaking alongside with mine. I then stared at my baby’s heartbeat flickering on the screen, waiting for something to change and for her to tell me there was a mistake and that our baby was okay.  She removed the ultrasound wand and apologized again.  The technician left the room and my doctor entered, she then apologized to Brian and I.  She explained that she would have to terminate this pregnancy and couldn’t do the methotrexate shot again that I was too far along.  She told my husband that he would need to take me to the hospital and they would prep me for surgery after my (celebratory) burger was no longer a problem.  That night March 14, 2014 they had to surgically remove my left Fallopian tube with my third child in it.  Lying in the hospital bed, I felt numb; I couldn’t even explain what I was feeling.  I almost felt like my life had ended or stopped.  Brian didn’t talk and neither did I. There was nothing to say, except when the cleaning lady came in and congratulated me, not knowing I was in the delivery room for a sad delivery where my child wouldn’t come home with me.  Brian had to tell her to get out.

The months that passed were extremely sad. Sad really doesn’t even touch on the hurt that I felt.  Brian felt emptiness just as I did but he chose to deal differently and to shut out all of his feelings.  I pray for Brian daily that he lets his anger go and allows himself to care like I know he does deep down in his heart.  For several weeks following my surgery I questioned over and over why they didn’t give me my baby.  Some would think that is a sick question.  But it’s my truth.   I wondered what they did with him or her.  I wondered if they used it for research or if they through my baby in the trash.  That thought haunted me for a long time.  For almost a year I had nightmares, and got on anti-depression medicine to help me cope with our loss.  It was basically the end of an error, the end of talking about babies and the end of hoping one day it would “just happen.”  The third pregnancy loss was by far the hardest to get over.  I know I don’t choose my fate but if ever a time was right for me to be a mother and for Brian to be a father, this was it.  I don’t know that I will ever get over any of my children’s deaths.  I know a lot of people, friends and even family will never understand why I would say my “children’s deaths.” But all three of those babies were mine; they were a make up of DNA between Brian and myself.  They were going to have his funny sense of humor and my drive.  They were my children that I never got to meet or kiss or rock to sleep.  My heart still aches a few times a week if not daily when I see a baby in the store, or a child in my office where I work.  Seeing Facebook friends share their precious baby bumps, what they are having, their birth announcements, their accomplishments of their children and anything that has to do with a child period, in a way breaks my heart a little more.  But on the other hand, I am grateful to have friends that have babies so I can be apart of their children’s lives, to have the opportunity to feel their baby move inside them and happy that my friend’s don’t have to go through the heartbreak I’ve been through three times.  Being a woman and losing the opportunity to have a successful pregnancy has really formed the woman I am today.  I know it’s all in God’s hands, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say the flesh of me wished his plan would have been different.  With every death, I lost a part of who I am.

What do you remember most about the initial stages of grief immediately following your loss? How did you feel? What were you thinking?

The initial stages of grief immediately following my loss: Shock, anxiety, confusion, anger, unable to catch my breath, feeling like the earth stops spinning and everything is frozen, speechless.  My thoughts: No way! Why? I’m going to be sick! And I think the most real thing for every pregnancy loss that I’ve had to cope with each time: “What can I do.” Nothing, I can’t do anything to change it. That’s definitely the hardest and most painful part for me by far with all of this.

The pain of pregnancy loss doesn’t ever go away. The waves of grief seem to come and go throughout time. Do you have a story to share of a moment when grief hit you when you weren’t expecting it to?

If I had to say a moment when grief hit when I was least expecting it… Unfortunately, I have random moments of grief still today and my last failed pregnancy was two years ago.  I hate suddenly feeling mad when I’m at a baby shower.  This horrible feeling of anger comes over me and I get mad that I am there celebrating a baby for someone else but have even more anger towards the fact that I’m getting mad in the first place and it makes me feel so selfish, that I’m disgusted with myself.  I want to be apart of everything like everyone else is; I don’t want to not be invited because of my “situation”.  It’s hard to separate your happiness for others and your sorrow for yourself.  It’s not out of jealousy but more for not understanding why it can’t be me too.  I want to be apart of the “club”; I want to have the stories to share when others are sharing their stories of their babies. Another random time of grief that often happens but out of nowhere, is when I write down what date it is and then realize it’s the due date of one of my babies, that’s a hard one and sneaks up on me every time.  It never gets easier because I’ll never know or understand the “why”.

Approximately 1 in 4 women experience pregnancy loss. What would you like someone who has never experienced it to know?

If I could tell others that are able to have a healthy pregnancy and deliver a healthy baby what it’s like in my shoes, I’d probably say just to try and remember what it was like when they found out they were pregnant.  I would ask them to remember the excitement following finding out and all of the emotions they were full of.  Then to think of finding out it’s over, everything you were hoping for all the dreams you had of that baby would go away and you wouldn’t have the opportunity to be with them in this life. I don’t want sympathy, only to be respected and for others to try and be sensitive to the topic.  Be grateful for your children and don’t make apologizes for having them just remember that when someone says having a child is a blessing, they are telling the truth.  A blessing that not everyone gets.  Although you may feel so nauseous, exhausted, fat and your boobs hurt, I wish that I could feel all of those things right now.  I know that the loose skin that hangs with all of those stretch marks look awful to you, but to me they are beautiful and you have the marks to prove you had a successful pregnancy to create the child you see every day.  When you are exhausted because your child stayed up and screamed all night, I wish I had someone to stay up because of.  Specifically in my case, the only way I can conceive is if we do IVF, which is extremely expensive and I’m unsure if we would be able to ever afford it.  Also, IVF from what I hear very grueling and emotionally hard in itself, but I do believe every amazing thing is worth the fight.  I haven’t completely shut out the idea of trying again with IVF but after three failures it’s hard to think of putting myself in the position of failing again. If I don’t bring it up, I don’t want to talk about it, not because I’m mad or don’t want to share but because I don’t have the right words to say about it.  I’m still dealing and I have a hard time putting into words what feelings I experience day-to-day. I would imagine it’s the same for most women.  I’m happy to know that one-day I’ll meet my three babies in Heaven but for now I’m hopeful for the future and that one day I might get the chance to be called mommy.

–  Heather C.

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