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Our real life horror story

WARNING: Do not read if you get grossed out easily. This may also be triggering for those who have experienced loss or have had traumatic pregnancy experiences.

I’ve been bleeding for four weeks now; I’ve had 7 ultrasounds. In some ways, I’ve almost gotten desensitized to the large gushes of blood or color changes that prompt immediate ultrasounds and doctor’s visits. But I don’t think there was any way to be prepared for the real life horror film we lived this morning.

I woke up a little after 6:30 and started washing my face. Immediately I felt several gushes that were quite different. I sat down on the toilet to find that I’d bled through the bottom half of all my clothes, down my leg and onto my foot. And worst of all, there was a giant clot in my pad. 

I flung the door open and screamed for Seth to wake up. I said, “Something came out! Can you come in here?” He came running in and we both stared at a sea of red. “Is that one of our babies?” I asked. He was pretty still and gently grabbed my shoulder and said, “It’s so big.” He didn’t think it was our babies and hoped it was just the hemorrhage passing. Just in case, Seth went to get a paper towel and a ziplock bag to save it for the doctor. In that short time, I passed 3 more clots. I couldn’t see them because the toilet water was so red but they felt as big as the first one. 

I continued to sit there on the toilet, terrified to stand up because of what else might fall out. So I sat there as we called the doctor’s after hours emergency line. My hands were trembling and covered in blood as I explained what happened and he took down the message to have a doctor call me. To say aloud that I passed four tissues as big as baseballs, was horrifying. Seth just collapsed face first on our bed, still within listening distance. The doctor on call advised us to see if we could get an ultrasound first thing when the office opened an hour later or else go to the ER to check the babies and monitor my blood loss.

We scrambled to get out of the house. Seth woke up Jaclyn and took her to Mom and Dad’s while I quickly got cleaned up. I packed an extra set of clothes in case I bled through mine again. I brought a towel to sit on in the car. Apparently this is how I need to live for this season.

The ultrasound experience was a little different. I was relieved to see both babies as it confirmed that I did not bleed one of them out. But then the seconds felt like an eternity while we waited to find their heartbeats. They were both doing great! As we moved back to the waiting room for the appointment with the nurse practitioner, we were feeling a bit more encouraged. 

Until all of a sudden I started having terrible stomach pain, I sweated through all my clothes, and I was very woozy even while sitting down. I asked Seth to walk me to the bathroom and as soon as I stood up, my vision got dark and fuzzy and I was terribly weak. A nurse quickly ran to my other side and they got me to a bathroom. Seth really couldn’t leave my side for fear of me fully collapsing. When we opened the door, three nurses were waiting with a wheelchair and got me into a room to lie down.

I felt pretty terrible as I laid on the table. Soon the door opened and we were surprised to see my doctor and the nurse practitioner walk in; I should’ve known something wasn’t okay then. My doctor shared that there are now two large hemorrhages; they’re unsure if it’s the same one that broke in half or if there is a new one. Both are bigger than the measurements from yesterday, almost double. I’m pretty sure I dropped the F bomb at that point because how was there still so much in there when so much fell out of me just hours before?

The doctor shared that she is more concerned now that the hemorrhages are growing so quickly and it could be really bad for our babes. There’s a chance that there won’t be enough room for them to grow or that the babies will lose connection with my uterus until the placentas are fully formed, which is pretty soon. 

We confirmed that there’s no way for them to remove the hemorrhages. They shared that there’s literally nothing to do but wait and monitor. However, they wanted to do some labs and monitor me from the blood loss and almost fainting. So I was admitted to the hospital for several hours. In that time, the power completely went out so we we’re just chilling in the dark for a bit. Eventually we learned all my labs came back fine. I’m not anemic. I didn’t need blood. I did need some fluids though. We were able to come home early afternoon.

So here we are. Neither of us have processed the emotional aspect of the news we learned today. One of my friends described it perfectly as agonizing anxiety that we’re walking through. It’s literally just a waiting game for the next gush of blood or passing of tissue or bleeding through my clothes and almost fainting. Then more waiting to find out if our twins are going to make it. We are determined not to lose 2 more babies. And we have zero control over any of it.

Don’t Forget the Journey- with Twins

I feel like I’ve been pregnant for 30 years. We got a positive pregnancy test at 3 and a half weeks. After two consecutive losses and a total of three, my OB recommended taking the test as early as the instructions said and if it were positive, she’d put me on progesterone immediately to try to help prevent another loss.

Our journey with growing twins has been perhaps one of the most wild rides of my life. I think back to the positive test and am shocked and so thankful that we’ve made it this far. For those wondering, we weren’t doing fertility treatments, and it doesn’t run in the family. I just ovulated twice and we were trying really hard 🤷‍♀️

A couple of things I learned shortly after learning I was growing 2 babies. Read What To Do When You’re Having Two by Natalie Diaz. Get connected to Twiniveristy on social media. Connect with other twin parents for advice, support, and hand me downs. Perhaps most importantly, have no shame in how many times you call your doctor. None. But also know they will likely make you come into the office since you’re carrying multiples.

As for the actual journey, if I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times, this is the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my entire life. I could’ve never imagined the complications, the physical pain, the anxiety, the planning. And we’re not even there yet. I am proud of how far I’ve come but I’m also just in constant misery. Like, there’s no need to ever ask me anymore how I’m feeling; you can just assume miserable. If I’m not, I’ll be shouting it from the rooftops. However, I also know this too is just a season and I will likely forget some of it. So I don’t want to forget my journey with twins.

At 4 weeks, not even a week after finding out we were pregnant, my Mamaw passed away. I didn’t get to tell her our happy news.

At 5 weeks, I went to get evaluated by a psychiatrist because my mental health and anxiety were so out of hand with worry about losing this baby. I was diagnosed with a trifecta of depression, anxiety, and PTSD and was offered several treatment options, but I wanted to wait until our first ultrasound to decide how to proceed. I was also bedridden for a day or two with terrible dizziness.

At 6 weeks, I already had to purchase new maternity bras and pants. Pro tip I wish I’d known, go on up at least 2 sizes in both… otherwise you’ll be waiting on clothes to be delivered while you’re barely squeezing into what you own. I would also highly suggest used maternity tops, but I’m a big fan of new maternity pants because the belly bands are tight and not stretched out, and I’ve needed all the support I can get.

Due to our previous losses, my OB allowed us to come in at 7 weeks for our first ultrasound where we found out we were pregnant with twins. My gut response was, “You’re kidding right?” And then I squealed and screamed and cried in pure joy because we could see two tiny babies with heartbeats in my belly. I’m pretty sure the entire waiting room heard me. Shock and panic came later, but immediately it was joy and thankfulness.

Literally 3 days later, I started gushing blood and rushed back to the doctor for an emergency ultrasound. We were relieved to learn our boys were okay, and that I had a subchorionic hemorrhage. I never knew that was a thing but apparently it’s much more common in women who are pregnant with multiples.

For the next 13 weeks (from 7 to 20 weeks), I bled or spotted almost nonstop, ended up with 2 subchorionic hemorrhages, a hospital visit because of one really bad bleeding episode that nearly caused me to faint due to blood loss, 13 OB visits, and 12 ultrasounds.

By week 10, I’d already spent over $1,000 in medical bills, after finding out we were pregnant in February.

10 weeks

At 12 weeks, we had a small impromptu gender reveal after taking the Natera test to check for chromosomal abnormalities. It also tells you the gender.

2 boys! There was lots of nervous laughter.
12 weeks- we got this very sweet ultrasound picture with both of our little fellas in it.

At 14 weeks, I started carrying a small pillow around to work with me to put behind my back. I also started parking on the first floor and avoided stairs because of the pressure and bleeding from the hemorrhages.

At 16 weeks, I purchased Tummy Tape (https://mytummytape.com/) for the early on heaviness of the belly. I also could no longer sleep on my back because the weight of the boys was too much.

At 18 weeks, we learned I had previa placenta that’s was blocking my cervix and could be very dangerous if it didn’t move on it’s own. The doctor had me work from home until my 20 week appointment to see if it helped the bleeding from my hemorrhages and if it would help the previa placenta move.

At 19 weeks, we took our 2 year old to the Newport Aquarium for her birthday. I had to rent a wheelchair because I couldn’t walk for long but we had a wonderful time ❤️

At 20 weeks, we confirmed that the rest from work from home was helping and the doctor told me to work from home for the rest of pregnancy. I started using my belly band in addition to my tummy tape. I always had to have a pillow behind my back and a donut pillow when sitting on hard chairs. And I could no longer see my toes.

20 weeks

At 21 weeks, I finished our baby registries. Preparing for twins required more research than I expected.

At 22ish weeks, I mostly stopped picking up my 2 year old. I change her diaper in the floor so I don’t have to lift her. When she says “Mommy hold ya”, we either hold hands, sit on the couch together, or someone else picks her up and hands her to me. I don’t care for it.

At 22 weeks, Seth and I took our baby moon, which consisted of a day out to lunch at Joella’s and a Marvel movie in theaters. Mama couldn’t handle much more.

At 24 weeks, the heartburn and indigestion became constant. Indigestion was so bad I literally had vomit just hanging out in the back of my throat. Fans must be on in every room in the house. I often got winded simply from talking because these boys are squishing everything. And my belly button was almost a full outtie.

At 25 weeks, I had my work baby shower. My back pain got so bad that I had to scoot to my next destination because picking up my feet to take a step makes me yell out in pain. One weekend, I cramped for 24 hours straight and was called in to check for preterm labor. My cervix was still closed and I wasn’t dilated but was told to pay attention to the pain and discomfort level. On a fun note, Seth finally felt the boys for the first time.

Love my work family!
Gotta do what you gotta do.

At 26 weeks, unrelated to pregnancy, we were at great risk of losing our Adult Ed program. For almost 2 weeks, I used every spare moment of time and energy I had trying to save our program by speaking to the news, multiple legislators, and making videos for social media. Thankfully, our program has been approved for at least this full year.

At 28 weeks, puffiness started in my face, hands, and feet. I ended up at the chiropractor with my entire pelvic region off kelter. I failed my 1 hour glucose test. But on a fun note, we had our friends and family baby shower and got the majority of the rest of our registry items!

At 29 weeks, I failed the 3 hour glucose test and began figuring out life with gestational diabetes. At 29+5, I got admitted to the hospital for a preterm labor check. 2 cervix checks and a preterm labor swab later, everything was okay except there are ketones in my urine likely from dehydration, and I’m 1 cm. dilated.

At 30 weeks, I’ve had 5 appointments. 1- My new weekly chiropractor appointment where I learned my sacrum (tailbone area) was getting out of whack. 2- I had 3 new car seats installed into my backseat. That made everything feel much more real. 3- A follow up check up with my OB from our short hospital stint. There I learned that insulin is almost inevitable because I can’t control my fasting blood sugar. So it’s just a matter of time before I have to learn about shots. 4- A prenatal lactation consultation, which was amazing! I feel much more confident to try to breastfeed the boys than I did with Jaclyn. We have a plan 🎉 5- I went back to the doc for UTI symptoms. My urine sample had no indication of an infection and my symptoms are similar to those of a kidney stone. They didn’t do a scan or ultrasound to check just yet so we shall see. In the meantime, I’m in lots of pain from cramping and internal shooting burning pain. And the urgency / frequency to pee is unbearable on top of the usual frequency of using the bathroom in your third trimester.

30 weeks
So far, Jaclyn is pumped about the 3 car seats.

We’re still a maximum of 7 weeks til the boys arrive. I’ll fully complete our journey once they get here but goodness what a ride it’s been so far.

Pregnancy after loss- Part 2

It’s nearly impossible for me to explain the effects of losing multiple babies on the way you raise the children you get to meet on this earth.

The majority of the last three years of life have been trying to grow our family, navigate grief and multiple pregnancies, while in the middle of COVID. I’ve chosen to be very conservative in my personal response to it as that is the only thing I can control. 

I birthed my first rainbow baby when the doctor’s offices looked like ghost towns and no one spoke to each other in the eerie silence of the waiting rooms. Seth and I were alone for 5 days in the hospital with Jaclyn because no one was allowed to visit. 

I worried so much about Jaclyn making it into this world, I hadn’t even thought about how we would raise her as a pandemic baby. She hasn’t met many people in her two years of life in attempts to keep us as safe as can be from COVID especially when the strains were more aggressive and at its peak.

In those two years, we’ve lost 2 more babies, had 2 more D&Cs, and are now 23 weeks pregnant with twins. If I could’ve made it happen, the three of us would’ve lived in a bubble. And a lot of folks think we have. But the large majority of it is my trauma response to trying to protect my babies, whether in utero or in our home.

I’m well into the 2nd trimester and developmentally feel some peace that our babes will be okay. However, the PTSD of my other losses hits me out of nowhere and often cause me to spiral- much of it still prompted by COVID.

I’m terrified of getting COVID again, while pregnant with twins. The super illogical part of my brain goes to worst case scenarios such as losing our boys or going into super preterm labor and not knowing if they’ll make it. The more rational part of me warns those closest to me that if I catch it and become any more miserable than I already am, everyone better watch out. You see, carrying twins is not for the faint of heart- I am miserable 97% of every day. 

I also don’t want to waste my sick days by actually being sick. Our country does not truly support parental leave. It is complicated and if you are granted leave through your work, you often have to use your sick or vacation days for it to be paid. I desperately want as long as possible with my boys after they’re born, and I need all of my days so that some of my leave will be paid.

So when you see me still masked wherever I go or the fact that I’m still virtually attending church, this is the context. When I don’t accept your invitation out somewhere or invite you over to our home, its because most people I know do not mask as I do and I can only control what I can control. However, we will happily entertain visitors who agree to mask in our homes.

I will likely go back to therapy in the near future to work through my PTSD of our losses and how that’s affecting my parenting, but in the meantime, I’m doubly hormonal and growing two tiny humans while raising a two-year old and working full-time. This is the best I can do for now.

Pregnancy after loss

On my birthday this year, my period came back, and I was ecstatic for this gift my body gave to me. Weird, I know. But this meant we could start trying to get pregnant again after our third and most never ending miscarriage. A few weeks passed, and I followed my OB’s directions like clockwork. I took a pregnancy test as soon as I could according to the directions and at the faintest sight of two lines, I began taking progesterone. We found out I was pregnant at 3 weeks and 4 days. I hadn’t even missed my next period yet. I had four days of pure bliss and excitement until I scheduled my ultrasounds. Then panic set in and reigned for four weeks.

I can’t explain the worry, fear, and dreaded anticipation I had of losing this new baby. We were already in a difficult month of 2 due dates that passed with no babies and then my Mamaw passed away. Honestly, the way I told my parents that I’m pregnant was, “No I can’t be a pallbearer at Mamaw’s funeral because I’m already pregnant again.”  What a sad, lame pregnancy announcement. I had also learned in previous bloodwork that I have the MTHFR mutation and need a different kind of prenatal vitamin that has metabolized folate. The process of understanding that and researching what I should be taking was a big stressor. 

After having three meltdowns at work one Friday afternoon, I decided to call my OB to ask what my options were for mental health. I had already been seeing my therapist weekly or biweekly, so the next step they suggested was to be evaluated by a psychiatrist. 

The meeting with the psychiatrist provided lots of options to help me feel better. She shared that I was in a long period of adjustment with severe anxiety, mild depression, and PTSD from the other losses. We discussed frequency of continued therapy, returning to EMDR therapy for my PTSD, and medicine. I was really struggling to decide which direction would be best for my mental health and protect this new little life inside of me.

I wasn’t convinced that I would feel better without medicine. I woke up each morning and could feel the unhappiness in my bones. I really wanted to get back into EMDR, but I was at a pause until I made a decision about medicine. Since both alter your brain chemicals, it’s not best practice to begin meds and EMDR at the same time. 

Finally, I just decided to wait on everything. Adjustment disorders are temporary, and we had a couple more weeks until the ultrasound, so I decided to invest in a natural calming supplement, L-Theanine, and hold off on everything else until we had some answers about our new little babe.

After what felt like an eternity, it was finally the morning of our 7 week ultrasound. With our history of loss, they would let us come in as early as 6 weeks, but there’s a good chance the baby wouldn’t be seen yet, so no need for potential unnecessary stress. 

As I watched the nurse do a pregnancy test on my urine, my mind transported me back to my second loss where my body was no longer pregnant by the time I got to the doctor’s office only hours after I started bleeding. I made her look at pictures of my positive test to prove I wasn’t crazy.

As we sat in the ultrasound waiting room, my mind went to our first pregnancy where we were so blissfully ignorant of the possibility of loss. We didn’t even understand that we were looking at an empty gestational sac on the screen until they verbally told us there was no baby.

Then my mind jumped to last November when again, there was no baby and then 2 days later the baby appeared, and then a week later, the baby had never developed a heartbeat.

I’m pretty sure I don’t breath while we wait. There have been so many awful memories in that waiting room and they all come rushing back to me each time we’re there. We’ve seen nearly all of the ultrasound technicians. By the time we’re in the room ready for the nurse to return, I’m in almost full blown panic attack with my arms over my head so I can breath and not throw up.

But this time, with no warning at all, she told us we’re having twins! Seth and I just looked at each other in shock and disbelief, and I asked her if she was kidding. Then I scream-sobbed, as I usually do, but this time in joy and thankfulness. I was so loud, I’m pretty sure the whole waiting room heard me. I’m not sure how long I cried, but by the time I looked up, I realized I hadn’t looked at the babies at all and told her she would have to show them to me again.

For the most part, I’ve been able to ride out my blissful shock. However days after our ultrasound, I started bleeding and cramping… a lot. I was convinced we’d lost both of them.  I was home by myself and called the doctor in a panic. They called me in for an emergency ultrasound and Mom drove me down while Seth left work to meet me there. I cried while waiting for mom but then became a robot because I knew what was coming. In my mind, I was already trying to plan out when we would have a D&C and how much work I would miss for physical and emotional recovery. Seth wept quietly in the waiting room. 

Thankfully, the babies were great. We saw their heartbeats and they looked perfect. In the ultrasound we saw that I have a 3 centimeter long sub chorionic hemorrhage, which isn’t too abnormal in many pregnancies. There’s not much to do except my body passes it or absorbs it. 

I thought I knew what was coming that day, but I was wrong. It is so easy to panic after loss. And now, there’s two precious little lives to worry about. My therapist encouraged me to hold on to the truth that I know until we learn more at next appointments. Our truth is that at our last ultrasound, everyone was alive and healthy. So I’m clinging to that for now.

February

My heart has been achy in anticipation for the month of February. It’s also as if my body can sense the calendar and has started grieving all over again.

February 3, our little nugget, our first baby, would’ve been 2 years old. We felt like that would be our first son. That same day, Jaclyn will be 20 months old.

February 14 is our little beanbag’s due date, our third baby. I would’ve been almost 38 weeks pregnant now. We would’ve had a new nursery ready and would know if Jaclyn would have a little brother or sister.

February is the month we can start trying again after my most recent miscarriage in November. That feels like a lifetime ago. It’s weird to think that my body is freshly recovered from all the crazy trauma of that loss.

February is also the month that Seth and I will celebrate 5 years of marriage. Goodness the highs and lows we’ve had together so far.

February is a short month and will be full of a variety of emotions. I’ll just cling to the truths I know and believe.

Promises by Maverick City Music

There was Jesus by Zach Williams

Battle Belongs by Phil Wickham

Enough

I’ve been a perfectionist for as long as I can remember. I’m the first born, so some of it comes naturally. I think it then evolved into me trying to control anything I could when life’s circumstances felt like they were out of control. What an exhausting lifestyle.

I started 2022 caring for Jaclyn by myself and working remotely as Seth quarantined with covid and then again as my dad tested positive for covid the following week. I have so much pride in my roles as a mother and a coordinator at work, so naturally, I want to give my all to both. But I physically couldn’t.

I couldn’t make myself wake up any earlier than 5:00 am to work before Jaclyn woke up after another restless night sleeping on the couch. I sometimes couldn’t actively participate in zoom meetings because Jaclyn was in full toddler mode… whatever that meant in the moment. I couldn’t cook dinner every night because Jaclyn wanted me to hold her or play with her instead after having only half of my attention all day. I could only do what I could do. And it was enough.
I’ve never been one to choose a word for the new year, but if I was, I would choose ENOUGH for this year. My efforts are enough. I am enough. Enough with perfectionism and the desire to control every little thing.

My therapist asked me what it means to me for my efforts to be enough. When it comes to Jaclyn, I want her to be able to think about the day and say, “This was such a fun day with Mommy.” When it comes to work, I want my team to have what they need to do their work.

I’ve found it’s easier to feel like my efforts are enough as I reflect on the day rather than in the moment. So my therapy homework this week is to change my modals when I’m talking to myself. Change my shoulds to coulds. Instead of, “I should wake up earlier to get started on my emails” change my language to “I could wake up earlier…” or I could sleep and get a little more rest. Both are good options and it’s my choice. The word should puts more unnecessary pressure on myself.

I didn’t really believe simply changing some words could make a difference. But it surely did. I talked myself out of a near anxiety attack in the middle of Kroger last weekend with it.

My boss always says, “Words matter.” I’ve always known that in regards to how you speak to other people, but I’m a little slow on realizing that it matters with my own self talk as well. Better late than never though. I’m thankful and excited to learn and practice this more so I can pass it along to my little sweet pea as she she watches her Mommy learn to care for herself better.

The Ebb and Flow of 2021

Most New Year’s Eves, there’s so much build up and excitement about what the new year will bring, how it will be different this time. Yet, here I am at bedtime on January 1, 2022, and I’ve somehow finally realized that life just ebbs and flows. Last night, I was excited and hopeful for 2021 to come to a close. Today, I nursed my 18 month old through her first busted, bloody lip, and Seth tested positive for COVID… again. I’m starting the year quarantined from the love of my life in our own home, that is until it comes for me too. Life just is what it is, and as much as we try to control it, the more out of control it feels. But then, other days are good and filled with friends and family who bring joy, love, and laughter. 2021 as a whole followed this flow.

2021 brought so much joy and pride as a mama. I made my goal of feeding Jaclyn breastmilk through her first six months of life; exclusive pumping was exhausting. I completed my photo project of weekly Wednesday photos- A Year in the Life of Jackie Chan Hope Pierce. Seth and I survived sleep training part two, and our girl goes to bed wide awake every night now with no trouble. I found a children’s book about hemangiomas for Jaclyn as she gets bigger.

Jaclyn has grown so fast and so beautifully. I have videos that document her first time pulling to stand up, waving, crawling, walking, finally saying mama (even though I was at work when it happened). She knows and loves all animals. She says thank you after you help her with something. Jaclyn is just the greatest gift.

2021 has also brought worry and heartache as a mama. Jaclyn has had multiple specialist appointments for her hemangiomas since she has one on her head and one in her nose. We’ve seen a pediatric dermatologist multiple times and tried several types of medicine to help it stop growing. She went to a pediatric ENT and had a scope go down both nostrils as far as her esophagus to see if the hemangioma in her nose was blocking her airway, but thankfully it was not!

A couple months later, Jaclyn had some seizure-like episodes that prompted an MRI with sedation and and EEG. Everything about those moments were terrifying, but again, we’re thankful that all test results came back normal, and she’s had no other incidents since.

In June, we were expecting Jaclyn’s little brother or sister, but just days after the positive pregnancy test, I miscarried our second baby. It’s called a chemical pregnancy. The test wasn’t even positive anymore by the time I got to the OBGYN.

In November, we gained our third angel baby girl. This loss was quite a doozy. No baby in the 8-week ultrasound. Two days later, the baby appeared. A week later, the baby hadn’t grown and still didn’t have a heartbeat. D & C. Lots of grieving. A month later, still positive on pregnancy tests. More bloodwork and ultrasounds. A second D&C that found scar tissue from when Jaclyn was born that had never healed and some recent pregnancy tissue that was stuck to it. Everything was cleared out with a camera this time.

During all of this, genetic testing was done and learned that I’m a carrier for Tay Sach’s disease, which is deadly for most small children. I had a full day of panic and horror worrying that Jaclyn had it until Seth got home and confirmed from his 23 and Me test that he is not a carrier.

2021 confirmed that God gave me the best partner I could’ve ever asked for. Seth is so thoughtful and creative when he celebrates me. My birthday and Christmas gifts are hidden around the house with clues- scavenger hunt style. My first Mother’s Day was absolute perfection as he and Jaclyn made me a homemade book telling me how great I am. My Christmas gift this year was this beautiful necklace with the birthstones of all our babies; I believe it’s the most special gift I’ve ever been given.

Seth has cooked more this year as I’ve been too stressed, tired, or sad to do so. And it’s been a hilarious, yet delicious experience for all of us.

He is the best dad.

In 2021, COVID was still affecting all the things. We finally celebrated the Boyd family Christmas on January 10 after we all recovered from COVID. I was very thankful to receive both vaccines and the booster this year.

There was a brief time between April and July when we thought we’d beaten COVID…

But we did not, and somehow some folks still don’t believe that. So I closed out the year changing Jaclyn’s pediatrician because I shouldn’t have to ask her doctor to put on a mask when COVID cases are the highest they’ve ever been.

2021 brought more professional growth. I completed a full year of Adult Education NTI after coming back from maternity leave. I had more professional challenges than I’ve ever experienced and was coached beautifully through it all. With the help of my team, I was able to transition our ESL program back to in-person classes while maintaining live, virtual classes.

I had more interaction with students this year. I met with students via Zoom to help them prepare for their posttest. One particular student was on her 30-minute lunch break and spent every minute of it practicing with me. She shared that she had to pass the test so she can start GED classes and then go to college. I also had the privilege of facilitating a student-led training for our staff. These students worked with me for a month and a half to create a shared training about their cultures.

Despite the pandemic, I still had the opportunity to create and present several trainings. I shared a Cultural Competency in the Workplace training with our team. I stepped in last minute to present at the virtual COABE conference about our Family Learning virtual pilot. And I was honored that NCFL asked me to lead my first webinar about How to Support Multi-Language Parent Facilitation.

Finally, in October, I accepted a new job in Adult Education; for the first time in my career, I’m not exclusively working with ESL. Now I am a Coordinator, Special Projects of ABE and ESL. I will oversee both the ABE / GED and ESL programs. I’ve only held the position for a couple of months so far, but it’s been an exciting and challenging change that I’m grateful for.

2021 was another year to remember. It was a tough year, but this reflection is important because there was still so much good.

Triggers

I went to the eye doctor today and ended up spiraling with confusing PTSD. I was sitting in the exam room waiting for the doctor, and I kept expecting her to come in with bad news about the baby. However, I was completely aware that I was at the eye doctor and that there is no baby. But my body didn’t care. It was in full anxiety-mode, and I was terribly sad.

During the intake, they asked if my medical history had changed. I said yes, that I’d had a D & C. She said, “We have the one from 2019. Was there another?” I answered, “I had one on Monday, and I had one on November 9.”

Monday. I had surgery on Monday. And today is Thursday. And I’ve worked the last three days and now I’m at the eye doctor and it’s like none of it even happened. But it did. I thought I’d be better emotionally this time because the initial grief of it all has passed, but simply being at a doctor’s office triggered me terribly.

Then the eye doctor comes in and asks, “How’s the family? How are the kids?” Plural. She didn’t mean anything by it. But my heart was grieving and I was trying to convince my body that I wasn’t at the OB receiving bad news, and all I could think is that we have one, single living child.

And then I cried the whole way home. I was not prepared for today.

The Loss That Never Ends

I’m still “pregnant.”

Oct. 27- 8 week ultrasound with a yolk sac and no baby
Oct. 29- Follow up ultrasound and a baby appeared.
Nov. 5- Follow up ultrasound. Baby hadn’t grown and had no heartbeat.
Nov. 9- D & C
Nov. 23- Post op appointment and positive pregnancy test
Dec. 7- Another very positive pregnancy test
Dec. 8- Ultrasound to check for residual tissue and hCG bloodwork
Dec. 10- hCG bloodwork
Dec. 17- hCG bloodwork
Dec. 20- D & C #2

It’s been almost six weeks since my D&C and tomorrow morning, I’ll have another one where they’ll go in with a scope to look around my uterus.

At my post op appointment, I tested positive for pregnancy. Two weeks later (one month post op), there were still two bright red lines. I was brought in for an ultrasound to see if there was any residual tissue. The ultrasound showed many blood vessels clumped together in my uterus that is not typical unless you’re pregnant. No actual leftover tissue was found.

That day, I learned that when I had Jaclyn, they tested the placenta. The results showed that a tiny piece of the placenta had grown into / was stuck in my uterine wall. Something called placenta accreta. It obviously passed because I knew nothing of it.

The theory now is that my uterus has a natural tendency to absorb things. This baby didn’t have placenta but perhaps whatever was growing is stuck in my uterine wall now.

My two options were to do regular bloodwork to see if my hCG levels (pregnancy hormone) decrease and let it all pass on its own or do another D & C procedure with a scope to check out the uterine wall.

My hCG levels are going down. 313 to 242 to 104, but not pregnant is 0-5. I’m still a long way off. I don’t want to be fake pregnant anymore. My hormones are all over and affecting many areas of life. My deductible is met. There really isn’t an ideal choice here, but ultimately I decided to continue with the procedure again. This scope is a common exploration for folks who have the accreta history and who have had recurring loss. Plus, regardless of if they’re able to remove anything else, I’ll know we did all we could to try to get closure.

The continuation of this loss is very isolating. When we learned our baby hadn’t grown and had no heartbeat, it was a shared loss. Now that the baby is gone, this is only related to my body, and I feel very lonely in trying to cope with it. I don’t know anyone else who’s gone through these little details. Emotionally, I feel terribly alone.

Throughout this never ending loss, we received my genetic test results back which initially caused more anxiety than relief as I am a carrier for Tay Sachs, a horrific children’s disease. Praise the Lord, Seth is not so Jaclyn and future babies are not at risk. I also learned that I’m mildly mthfr deficient, which could be a factor in our losses, so I’ll need to up my folic acid intake in future pregnancies.

There were also several moments of false hope, that there was still a baby. In my head and in my heart, it was our little pumpkin. One evening in particular I was convinced that maybe there was some miraculous mistake through it all, and I sobbed for 45 minutes. From the doctor, there was suspicion that it could be a new pregnancy as she looked more closely at the ultrasound.

I was crushed with each moment of hope that quickly came crashing down that there is still no baby. I’d worked really hard during our initial two weeks of waiting to not believe that our baby would be okay because I knew it would be harder if we got bad news. I didn’t anticipate needing to keep my guard up for the next month after the D&C. So my heart has been quite achy. There is no baby in there; I just need my body to realize it.

The Balance of Justice

In therapy today we looked at the balance of justice scale as we were talking about my tendency to go to the worst case scenario due to high anxiety. That instead of only considering “what if” this awful thing happens, I also consider “what if” this awful thing doesn’t happen. This is HARD.

I reflected in that moment to the exact time that the worst case scenario became a familiar tendency. After our home was broken into while we were sleeping 4 and a half years ago, I asked multiple police officers, “What if they come back?” “Statistics show they don’t come back.” I asked other friends and loved ones, “What if they come back?” “They won’t come back.” They came back 2 weeks later. And my mom and I ran.

Two years ago, we lost our first baby and we’re told 1 in 4 pregnancies end in loss. Today, we’ve lost three.

The statistics have failed me in my safety and in my ability to grow my family. Of course the “what if” terrible things don’t happen more often than not. But significant ones have and they’ve changed my brain and my heart forever. And this is all just very hard.

My homework is to consider situations in the past when I was worried about the worst case scenario and it didn’t happen. Feel free to share any of your own examples to help me believe it.

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