I have written and rewritten the beginning of this post a million times in my head. I have even considered not saying anything at all. Then there were days that I was inspired to write and put my emotions in print, but I hesitated to open up my computer. And then the moment was gone – poof. It went back on my mental shelf for a later time and date, to be revisited again when I felt strong enough or determined enough to put the past behind me. But when something so traumatic, so heartbreaking as losing a pregnancy and going through chemo interrupts your life for almost a year, it’s something you never truly get over. You may be confused at this point, and if you know me or read my blog regularly you are probably wondering what really happened this year. So I’ll start from the beginning.
I started this blog almost a year ago, and it was motivated in part by several life changes coming my way. I wanted – needed – an outlet to express myself and a hobby that I could pour myself into. I could have just done this privately in an online journal or even a scrapbook, but I decided to start a blog instead so I could share my experiences with anyone who wanted to read; I have nothing to hide. My first post announced my pregnancy, which I was dying to share with everyone and anyone. It was exciting news that anyone in my position would have been thrilled about, and we received amazing love and support from everyone we knew. That Holiday season was filled with more joy that I had ever felt in our new home, and those glorious two months are ones that I hope to share once again, one day.
Some would say that announcing a pregnancy before the first trimester is “bad luck”, or not a good idea because of the risk of miscarriage. I evaluated the risks, and made my decision. No, I do not believe that announcing a pregnancy early on is a jinx – whatever happens happens, due to no fault of anyone – that is life, and bad things happen sometimes. I was fully prepared to take the risk of having something go wrong publicly, because as I said before, I have nothing to hide from anyone, and come good or bad times I knew family and friends would understand what we were going through and be there to support us no matter what. And boy, was I right.
I had been having a fairly uneventful pregnancy: no morning sickness or nausea, some food/smell aversions, and a growing, tender feeling in my tummy. I was so happy to know that I was pregnant, and taking all of the necessary precautions, such as taking the proper vitamins, avoiding risky foods like sushi (sadly), and even exercising. Everything was going great, and we were thrilled for my first ultrasound appointment at 10 weeks. Of course I was nervous, and had made myself paranoid because of the fact that I had gone online and read about everything that could go wrong, which was a huge mistake at the time. But my husband and mother both assured me that I was going to be fine, and this was a time that we should stay positive and happy. So, Max and I went to our first doctors appointment together and nervously anticipated seeing our baby for the first time to hear its heartbeat.
But that miraculous moment never came. As the ultrasound tech poked and prodded, there was no baby to be seen, or heartbeat to hear. She was nervous, and I started to panic, too. My heart felt as if it stopped and sunk to the bottom of the ocean, and then rose back up again into a full panic, as if gasping for air. We were sent out to the waiting room again to sit until the doctor was able to speak to us, but I already knew what was happening. Thanks to my paranoid online research, I knew.
At that moment, I absolutely didn’t care about anyone else around me in that waiting room. I didn’t care about holding myself together, or that I might make other people uncomfortable. I began to cry, panic, speaking to Max frantically and explaining what I thought to be true. He tried to hush my blubbered speech because others were looking, he tried to calm me down and wait to hear what the doctor had to say, and I could see it then that he was trying to hold it together, too. I stopped, and looked away from him because I couldn’t take the look in his eyes anymore, and my eyes landed on the forms that we had filled out when we arrived. They suddenly seemed like such a joke, a mockery to my pain in that moment.
When my doctor finally called us in, I felt like stone. She has been my doctor for more than 15 years, and I knew as soon as I saw her face that it was over. There was no hope of any good news at this point, so before she had even opened her mouth to introduce herself to my husband, I knew the diagnosis. The entire meeting I sat silently and nodded mechanically, half listening to her explanation. It was more a science lesson for Max than me, since I already knew exactly what she was explaining. She suspected that my pregnancy was what they call a hydatidiform mole, and I would need to go in for minor surgery right away because it could have serious complications — including a rare form of cancer — and required early treatment. It would only be confirmed by lab work later on that it was a partial-molar pregnancy.
A molar pregnancy is a noncancerous (benign) tumor that develops in the uterus. It starts when an egg is fertilized, but instead of a normal, viable pregnancy resulting, the placenta develops into an abnormal mass of cysts. In a partial or incomplete molar pregnancy, which is what I had, the mother’s chromosomes remain but the father provides two sets of chromosomes. As a result, the embryo has 69 chromosomes instead of 46. This can happen when the father’s chromosomes are duplicated or if two sperm fertilize a single egg. As my ultrasound showed, it was a mass of nothingness. The baby that I thought I was holding didn’t really exist except on a completely basic, cellular level.
Up to an estimated 1 in every 1,000 pregnancies is molar. The risk factors include maternal age and previous molar pregnancies – but I was 28, and this was my first pregnancy, so why me? Why did I end up being the .1%? No reason.
We drove home in silence as I quietly texted my mother and mother in-law what happened. One stayed silent as the other replied words of encouragement and disbelief, saying that mistakes happen and that I should try another ultrasound in a week. No, this wasn’t a mistake, I replied. We accepted it. As we entered the house and our dog Lady greeted me with a smile and wagging tail I couldn’t look at her. I collapsed to the floor, wrapping my arms around her and sobbing into her coat. She sat there and let me do it, like a good girl, because we had her trained as a therapy dog so I could take her to visit my Special Ed students, but I never thought she would be such a service to me in a moment like this – I never predicted that I would need her comfort. When I was done, she looked at me with sad eyes like she understood, and I wiped away my tears and stopped, just as I did now while typing this.
Max had already disappeared into the bedroom somewhere, I think to call his mother – I can’t recall anymore. On this day, our marriage began its test. We had only been married for a year, and already a huge obstacle had been thrown in our path. I am not saying we aren’t like every couple. Everyone has mountains to climb and difficulties to battle through the course of their lives. But this was out of our control, and you never want to think that something like this could happen to you. And there were no warnings, no health issues or signs of a complication with my pregnancy – we were just blind-sided. On this day, we pushed away from one another and grew apart, mourning in our own ways. I should have been there for him in those next months like he had been for me. I selfishly took his love and care but never gave him any back, and I am truly sorry for that now as I look back. He gave me all of his strength and he is the reason I am where I am today.
That day began a year-long journey that we are still on today. It wasn’t simple at all, and every day was a roller-coaster of emotions and unsure diagnoses, uncertain futures. It is hard to sift through these memories without becoming emotional, which is why I need to write this post in separate parts (sorry for that). I have pushed these visions, words, and feelings away for so long now that unpacking them again feels just as raw as the day they happened. I suppose I am not fully healed, but maybe this is the first step in closing that chapter. I have been hanging on to this particular blog post for a long time now, and it’s about time it gets published. Thank you for following this journey with me, and I hope that perhaps another woman in my situation can stumble upon my story and have hope and comfort in knowing that she is not alone in this rare and unique condition.
After this experience, I have been moved to create a Free Mini e-Course addressing Pregnancy Loss Recovery and the steps involved in navigating positive personal growth. If you’d be interested in this enriching workshop, please enter your info below and I will notify you when it launches!
Please visit this link for Part 2.