Our 4th pregnancy, precious but too short… – by Simone

It’s hard to know where to start with this next chapter of our lives. A much shorter chapter than we would have liked but important nonetheless. I guess the summary is, I was pregnant, carried until 10weeks and 5 days and then had a miscarriage.

But as with our family, it’s never as simple as that, is it?!

For those who have been following our blog, you will know that we have desperately been trying to have another baby. I had 9 operations last year, some to try and fix my uterus, some to retrieve some very precious eggs for IVF egg implantation, and we have had 4 failed IVF attempts. In between this I also had my lymphnode transplant in January which came with its own challenges.

Earlier this year, after much discussion with my wonderful fertility doctor, we decided that given the ongoing IVF failures, the awful quality of the eggs I was producing and my very limited response to the massive amounts of hormones that were being pumped into me, the best option would be for us to look for a donor egg. So James’ sperm, a donor egg, and me carrying the baby. This required a lot of discussion between James and I but we came to the conclusion that as long as I was the person who carried the baby this was an option we wanted to try. So we embarked on the journey of “shopping” for our donor. It can be a rather daunting and weird process – you are trying to choose 50% of the DNA of your child based on a few pieces of paper. With the assistance of a great Donor Egg agency we chose our donor, she was medically screened and declared “fit” and we were all ready to start the process.

However, nature and my body had a different plan for us. Quite unbelievably, and against all odds I landed up falling pregnant naturally 3 weeks after my lymphnode transplants. So while we were going about choosing a donor etc, I was actually pregnant already. After trying every month for 24 cycles, either naturally or medically engineered…we were actually pregnant.

It took us a while to realize I was pregnant. I had 3 very odd bleeds, which we put down to my body adjusting after all the hormones, operations etc. And then I had a gut feeling that I should do a pregnancy test. There was no denying it, I was pregnant. But given the odd bleeds etc I had no idea whether it was actually a viable pregnancy or not, and if I had perhaps already miscarried. A scan the next day confirmed that there was indeed a sac and a “bean” there but there was no clear heartbeat (which is often the case at 6 weeks) so it took us another 2 days to confirm that I was indeed still pregnant.

And then the next day, everything went to Sh1t. I was busy getting Murray ready for school and started to bleed very very badly. Thank goodness for small mercies – me being at home at the time and my sister Sam staying with us so she could continue getting Murray ready for school without undue trauma for him. James came home and we got hold of my fertility doctor in theatre who took charge from there. What a gem she is! As with all my other pregnancies, I had started to inject myself with Clexane, a blood thinner which I normally take through pregnancy due to my blood disorder. What this meant though, was that when I started to bleed, my body wasn’t able to clot and so I was bleeding uncontrollably.

I was put straight into hospital, and once again I was sure that I had miscarried, yet when I was scanned it showed the baby was still there and had a strong little heartbeat. I won’t go through all the details of the next 24 hours as they are just too much, but the long and short of it was that, while the baby seemed to be progressing fine, my cervix was slightly open and way too short. To put it into perspective, a cervix of 40-50mm that is tightly closed is normal at my stage of pregnancy – my cervix was open at one end and 8mm in length. What this meant was that my risk of miscarriage was extremely high.

I stayed in hospital for 5 days in total and then, after a blood transfusion, was allowed home with strict instructions to be on bed rest/house rest as much as possible. I was scanned every 4-5 days and every time the picture was the same – baby seemed to be doing okay, but my cervix was a complete disaster. I was on a high dosage of progesterone to try and help the cervix but this didn’t seem to make any visible difference.

Anyone who knows me knows that me sitting still is not something that comes naturally. I find it very difficult to be quiet and still and generally charge around like a blue-assed fly trying to fit as much as possible into my day. So I expected this enforced bed rest to be very difficult, but it wasn’t actually that bad. I think mostly because I was feeling so incredibly tired and awful that I couldn’t really do much more than lie in bed and be around the house. I read a lot, built puzzles, caught up on some series and started knitting beanies for premature babies. The hardest part of this was probably us having to cancel our holiday to Umngazi, one which we had looked forward to for an entire year no which I felt our family really needed.

We were really just focusing on taking it one day at a time, because nothing was certain or guaranteed, it was a completely fluid situation. I could only really think one day ahead, because starting to think months ahead and what the next 6-7 months might look like, one way or another, was actually just too much.

And every time I had a scan this little baby was growing beautifully, a strong little heartbeat, and I sometimes allowed myself to hope, even just for a moment, that maybe this would have a happy ending for us, even though I knew that the odds were stacked against us.

We had a plan in place. I had the Harmony blood tests done, a test which screens for various chromosomal abnormalities at 10 weeks, and we were waiting for these to come back this coming Friday. If they showed that the pregnancy was viable, my gynae was going to put in a cerclage (a stitch in the uterus) to try and strengthen the uterus. While it wouldn’t provide any guarantees that the cervix would hold, its the only thing that could be tried to give the cervix some assistance. So in my mind I was just working towards getting to Friday, getting the results and going from there.

But nature had other ideas for us. On Monday evening, 9 April, I had another extremely bad bleed, it was pretty scary. Again, thank goodness Sam was with us, and could help us with Murray. We called the doctors looking after me and they advised that I come straight into hospital, which I did. Both James and I thought that it was just another bleed and that baba would be okay. They stabilized me and then scanned me. As soon as the image came up on the screen I knew that something was wrong. Gone was that little wriggling baba, that heartbeat beating away, and in its place a grey, hazy picture of an empty uterus. James and I both knew before the doctor told us – that huge bleed had actually been a miscarriage and our baby, our miracle and dream, the last roll of the dice, was gone.

There are so many emotions that go through you. Complete devastation, a loss of hopes, so much sorrow, but also a little bit of relief. We always knew that the odds were stacked against us for me carrying this pregnancy to a viable point, and I would rather have miscarried at this point than further down the road when I had even more hope and had bonded with this baby more.

When this pregnancy started to go wrong 4 weeks ago, James and I decided that this was our last throw of the dice. That we really had exhausted every single option available to us, and that my body was telling me in no uncertain terms that it didn’t have the capacity to do what we were asking it to. I have been brought up to believe that if you try hard enough, work hard enough, put enough effort in, things will eventually go the way you want. But I am also learning that sometimes that isn’t the case despite every single effort being thrown at it. Sometimes you have to listen to the signs and not stubbornly continue to walk down your chosen path, not listening to everything to the contrary being shown to you.

This loss is more than just a miscarriage. It’s the loss of the hopes and dreams of creating our family of 4. It’s the acceptance that Murray will be an only child. It’s the reality of our little family of 3. And it’s also knowing that this is enough for us. That we need to be happy with what we have instead of thriving for something that is clearly not meant for us.

We are reminded again how very very lucky and grateful we are to have our darling Murray. How much he brightens our life every day in ways that we could never fully describe. And he is enough, more than enough! He deserves to have a mom who isn’t hormonal, in and out of hospital all the time, a stable home life, 2 always available parents. He has been remarkable through all of this, just soldiered on like the remarkable little boy he is. We never told him that I was pregnant again, which we are very glad about, because he really didn’t need another loss in his life, the other 2 impacted him so much.

And I am also just so very grateful for my husband. He has been by my side every step of the way, at every scan, ferrying me to and from the hospital and doctors appointments. He has picked up so much at home the last 4 weeks while I haven’t been able to be the mom/wife/home maker that I normally am. And he has never complained, not even once. I truly married a gem. I am so grateful for my work partners, who have just been remarkable and understanding. Who have understood how much this baby has meant to us, and have given me every single opportunity to make this a reality. I am truly blessed to work with incredible human beings. And then the medical care I have received has been nothing short of remarkable. It’s the one thing I have never had to worry about. My doctors, particularly Lizle Oosthuizen, my fertility doctor (who I have known since I was about 4 years old) have looked after me better than I can ever describe. She has always been at the other end of the phone or email, has dropped everything to help me try to make having a baby a reality. She was never scared to ask for opinions from other doctors and to ensure that every single avenue was being considered. I know that she is almost as devastated as us as to the outcome of our pregnancy journey, she was fighting along with us. Steffi, my gynae, who took over my care from Lizle last week has also been her wonderful self. She has walked a very long and complicated journey with us, and has held James and my hand every step of the way. Feeling each loss with us.

As I write this, I am actually back in hospital. I was discharged yesterday but have been re-admitted today. I had another bad bleed last night, I am feeling completely horrendous and my uterus isn’t behaving as it should. So I am here so that they can try and manage it and avoid doing surgery. My only focus going forward is to try and get some balance back into my life. To look after myself and my body and to stop pushing so hard against those things which clearly aren’t meant for us. It’s not going to be an easy road, but I am at peace with the fact that we really have tried every single option available to us, that this is not for lack of trying, and that sometimes the things we want the most in life, just aren’t meant to be.

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