Dear Family and Friends,
There was a baby between Everett and Reece…a boy actually. In June of 2012, Zac and I decided to start trying and after several months we found out we were expecting. We were thrilled and overwhelmed all at the same time.
We found out we were pregnant at only three weeks. From the beginning, the pregnancy felt as if it was in hyperdrive. Morning sickness kicked in at just four weeks and by six weeks I was so sick and miserable. By seven weeks I was already showing and by eight weeks I was taking prescription anti-nausea medication because I just couldn’t function! From the start, every symptom felt like it was exaggerated times ten compared to Everett. But four good appointments with our new OB had us reassured that things were moving in the right direction.
We took Everett to Disneyland for his birthday that year. We had a doctor’s appointment the day before we left and the baby was measuring correctly with a strong heart beat. We had a wonderful trip and came home reeling with memories of Everett’s first time at Disneyland. However, with 45 minutes of getting home, I began to spot. Nothing too alarming for a nurse with *some* obstetrical knowledge. I felt so confident that it was nothing that I waited until the next day to call my doctor. He reassured me that it probably was nothing but offered an ultrasound. We met him in the afternoon. Within 45 seconds of starting the ultrasound, Zac and I knew that something was wrong. After a minute and a half of silence, our doctor announced that there was no longer a heartbeat. I had miscarried and by his measurements, it had happened on Everett’s birthday :-( I can remember apologizing to Zac, telling him that I just wasn’t good at making babies. He, of course, said it wasn’t my fault. We went home, devastated, and waited for nature to take its course.
Nature never did take its course and after a week of calling in sick to work, we opted for a D&C. The procedure went fine and the recovery was a breeze. My doctor was pleased at the possibility of finding out why Everett came early so everything was sent for testing (something that doesn’t normally happen with a first miscarriage). After about a week I was back to feeling like my non-pregnant self. After two weeks, I went in for a follow up. The doctor had the lab results and asked if I knew what a molar pregnancy was. The only knowledge I could dredge up was a faint memory from nursing school that connected molar pregnancies with cancer. Unfortunately, my memory served me right.
We experienced a partial molar pregnancy, which is when a single egg is fertilized by two sperm at the same. The chances of conceiving this way are less than 1% and it is generally thought to be a total fluke phenomenon. Molar pregnancies rarely result in a viable baby as the child has three sets of chromosomes (one from the egg and one from each sperm). They do, however, have up to a 20% chance of causing choriocarcinoma, a rare and extremely aggressive form of uterine cancer. It is actually one of the most aggressive forms of cancer BUT is also one of the most treatable.
I left the appointment with a lab slip for bimonthly HCG blood draws to monitor for developing cancer cells. In a molar pregnancy, the placenta quickly grows out of control and actually invades (and kills) the baby and surrounding tissue. From there it can rapidly move on to the lungs and brain. As the HCG (pregnancy hormone) rises at an abnormally rapid rate, grossly exaggerated pregnancy symptoms are often experienced (thus the early pregnancy test result, severe nausea etc). The HCG also takes longer to leave the body after the miscarriage because of the invasive nature of the placenta. Luckily, within eight weeks, my HCG was back to a normal level and I showed no evidence of cancerous cells in my blood. But the monitoring would continue for six more months.
During our monitoring wait time, I focused on projects to keep my mind off the possibility of getting cancer. I revamped our household budget, our insurance, our retirement, re-landscaped, re-decorated, found a support group, lost18 pounds, got healthy, had drinks with friends, potty trained Everett and traveled a lot (we made four trips to Disneyland). And, of course, I grieved the loss of our baby.
Toward the end of our wait Zac and I began talking about the possibility of trying again. He was reluctant at first. I think the possible cancer diagnosis scared him. It scared me too...thinking that trying to have another child could take me away from the child I already had. But after a lot of conversations and tears, we decided to try...just one more time.
We spent the first 12 weeks of Reece’s pregnancy holding our breath. The problem was, after a miscarriage, no part of a pregnancy feels like safe ground. We had to worry about the beginning and the middle while hoping to make it to the end. The statistics on miscarriage are 1 in 4 pregnancies. When I look at our immediate group of friends, we fit the statistics perfectly. It isn’t uncommon and the more you talk about it, the more couples you find who have been through it. I try not to dwell on the sadness of the loss. There are days of course, like when our due date came and went, that hurt. Times when I see a baby that would have been his age that my heart aches a little for losing him. But I try to remain ever thankful for my health, for my not getting cancer, for my not needing chemo, and for my retained ability to have more children (Reece wouldn’t be here otherwise!). Some women with molar pregnancies end up requiring a hysterectomy. In the end, I’m just so thankful we were able to have Reece and for my being here to enjoy my two beautiful boys.