The five words that change everything in a split second. “I don’t see a heartbeat.” These words have been spoken to Brad and I time and time again over the past few years. They are words that we are all too used to hearing but wish we never had to hear again. If you are new to our story, I want to share a couple other blog posts that can catch you up to speed.
For those of you who are up to date on our story, I will continue on with what happened since our positive pregnancy test from our third and only successful frozen embryo transfer to date.
Our third frozen embryo transfer was July 31st. We found out that we were pregnant just nine days later from a blood HCG test. This marked four weeks pregnant (dated from the first day of my last period). At nine days post FET (frozen embryo transfer) they were 192.9. Three days later they were 1,051.8. And two days later, 2,950.2. The doctor was super happy with how our levels were doubling (well, more then) and some of you suspected twins with such high numbers. This was our last HCG draw. We were told that we could go in at 6 weeks, 4 days for our first ultrasound. This was a little under two weeks from our last HCG test. A long wait!
While we waited for our ultrasound, the worry started to set in. Having experienced three previous miscarriages, it was hard to shake the worry and keep myself from comparison. However, I had such high hope because this was out first pregnancy with IVF AND a known genetically normal embryo. I documented my symptoms and shared them on Instagram stories. (I have saved all of my IVF stories to highlights if you’re interested.)
I felt all the symptoms! While IVF medications (especially the progesterone injections) mimic pregnancy, I could just tell I was pregnant. I felt it all.
Food aversions and cravings
Bloating/ Weight gain
These are all similar symptoms that I experienced during my other pregnancies as well. So, all felt right. However, as we approached our ultrasound, I began to notice a change. I was starting to feel better. I had energy again. I wasn’t feeling an aversion to foods anymore and didn’t notice any more nausea. This sent me into a state of fear. I had experienced this same shift in symptoms before I had my previous miscarriages. It’s like slowly I started to feel less pregnant. It’s weird, but I always knew that something wasn’t right. I felt the same way this time. I had a good hunch that things were not going to go well at our first ultrasound.
We went in for our first ultrasound at 6 weeks, 4 days. Walking into the exam room was pure torture. When you have experienced a loss, there is a lack of joy in future pregnancies. It’s not by choice of course, but it’s as if your heart gets hardened. Your mind gets stubborn. You are too afraid to accept it as real until you know that your heart isn’t going to be hurt again. It’s how we’ve learned to cope.
Soon after starting, our doctor located the gestational sac (the large cavity of fluid that surrounds an embryo), as well as the yolk sac (which is attached to the embryo and provides nourishment). He mentioned a small flutter of a heartbeat, but then never saw it again. He was not sure he saw it at all. He looked for the fetal pole (a thickening of the yolk sac where the baby continues to form) but didn’t locate one.
While he wasn’t happy that he couldn’t see a fetal pole or heartbeat yet, he did say that it can happen this early. He advised that we wait one week and return for a second ultrasound. He prefaced that if we did not see a fetal pole and heartbeat at our next scan, he would call it an unviable pregnancy and would end in miscarriage.
When he told us the news, my heart sank. While I knew he was still saying there was a “chance”, my heart knew there wasn’t. It’s hard to explain the innate feeling you have as a mother (for those of you who have had children and/or lost them, you know what I am referring to). Deep down, I just knew that this pregnancy wasn’t going to continue. Knowing I had to wait another week to be given definite news was devastating. I knew it was going to be a really long week ahead.
The week following our first ultrasound was tough. I knew that it was likely not going to be good news, but my heart clung to even the smallest amount of hope. While I knew that I was lacking any pregnancy symptoms at this point (a pretty clear sign of miscarriage), I still wanted to believe that maybe it could still work out. It was a constant battle between mind and heart.
When we arrived at the doctor’s office, I couldn’t breathe. My legs were shaking. Brad was calm but I knew he was trying to mentally prepare for bad news. Not just so he could cope with it, but he also knew he had to be a support for me. I know how hard that must have been for him to prepare himself for. My love for him is so deep. He is the greatest partner in life.
As soon as we began the ultrasound, we knew our fate. The doctor was so quiet. He wasn’t saying anything. There is a very particular mood that fills the room at the time of bad news like this. We are all too used to it. It was so easy to identify. We didn’t need words. The silence told it all.
The doctor finally spoke. He said that he was unable to find a fetal pole or a heartbeat. He confirmed that there was no viable pregnancy and that we were miscarrying. Even though deep down we knew that was going to be the case, the rush of emotions were overwhelming. I think I sobbed harder this time than any of our past losses. In this moment, I was so tired. I was so exhausted from this process. I said that I did not want to do it anymore. That there was something majorly wrong and that no one can tell me everything is fine when it’s clearly not. It took me a good ten minutes to stop crying. Brad held me and wiped my tears. It was such a hard moment.
When I was able to compose myself, we met our doctor in his office. He gave us the typical conversation. The… “You didn’t do anything to cause this to happen.” “You have three options on how you want to proceed.” The normal lingo we have gotten used to hearing over the years.
We have always chosen to miscarry naturally at home, but this time, we were interested in hearing about other options more indepthly. The thought of going through another natural miscarriage at home was overwhelming. I just didn’t want to do it. He gave us the option to take a pill to miscarry at home faster (which you all said was terrible and to never do) or the option to do a D&C. While this procedure does have very small risks (like any surgery does), it would be over quickly and my body would be able to recover faster.
From my past miscarriage experiecnes, a natural miscarriage consists of a solid 12-24 hours (sometimes longer) period of intense cramping (contractions), accompanied with massive amounts of bleeding and the passing of blood clots, pregnancy tissue and any fetal remains. It is a horrific experience. Not only because it’s painful, but watching it all happen is traumatizing emotionally. For anyone reading this who has experienced one, I am so sorry. My heart goes out to you.
I knew that I didn’t want to do it this way. Part of me felt like I didn’t deserve to. Which is crazy because no one deserves to go through any of this. No matter how many times they’ve had to. But this time, I just knew that I didn’t deserve to. I just kept thinking how unfair it was. That my body must be so tired and confused. It worried me. I was pretty confident that something needed to be different this time.
We left the office to think about what we wanted to do, but we were pretty solid on the D&C route. Doing the procedure also allows you to test the tissue for genetic abnormalities. While we knew that our embryo was genetically normal (from the testing we did beforehand), it was a way to double check. I’ve also been told that having your uterus cleaned out can be beneficial for future pregnancies. It seemed like the right choice this time around. We booked the procedure the following day but would have to then wait six days to have it done.
The day before we were scheduled to have the D&C, I began bleeding. It was minor bleeding with no clots. I was so worried that it would pick up and I would end up doing it naturally at home anyway. Cause that would be my luck, right? Or so I thought. However, we made it to the following morning with minimal bleeding and went in for the procedure as scheduled.
When we arrived at our doctor’s office, they took my vitals and set up an IV in my arm for saline and an antibiotic during pre op. We met with the anesthesiologist and the doctor to go over the procedure and any possible risks or side effects. We signed paperwork and were soon saying goodbye. I made a pit stop in the restroom and then walked to the operating room.
When we arrived ini the OR, they had me lay flat on a table and place my arms out to a T. Within two minutes, they had given me medication and I was fast asleep. The procedure only lasted about fifteen minutes or so. I awoke in a bed in a recovery room. I was groggy and in very mild discomfort. Within thirty minutes I was dressed, wheeled out and sent home. The rest of the day I was advised to rest and take it easy, but to move around some. They wanted to avoid any risk of blood clots. I wasn’t bleeding, nor was I in much pain. Physically I was doing just fine, but it was such an emotional and exhausting day.
I did not bleed for four days. I had my procedure on a Monday and didn’t begin to bleed until Friday of that same week. They said this is normal. I was told I could not use tampons (just like with a natural miscarriage), so pads it was. I had mild cramping but it wasn’t too bad. I bled for about a week. It was heavier than a normal period for me at first, but it wasn’t too bad.
I was told that I could work out whenever I felt up to it. I resumed my workouts about a week after my procedure. The first workout was the hardest, but it did help speed up the bleeding and helped me get any remaining tissue and blood out. So I found that to be beneficial.
About a week or so after the procedure, we received the test results back on our tissue. It came back as a “genetically normal female.” When I saw the portal message, my heart sank. Throughout all our losses and failed IVF transfers, we never asked to know the sex (or couldn’t know). This was the first time that we were aware of what sex our baby was. It was really hard to hear it. It was genetically normal. Which begins so many questions as to why this happened. And why it keeps happing.
Since the miscarriage, I’ve gone in once a week to track my HCG levels. This is to make sure that they go down to 0. If they don’t, there may still be pregnancy tissue in the uterus telling your body that you are still pregnant. While I have never experienced this in our past losses, you never know. My levels are down to 12 as of now. Waiting for the all clear that they are down completely.
As far as where we are at now, that is a loaded question that I’ll fill you in on soon! We have had some consults and still going over the information and deciding on a plan. We are either going to move forward with an embryo transfer myself or through a gestational carrier. More to come soon. In the meantime, I have shared a lot of this info on my Instagram IVF highlights.
Here For You
For those of who you have gone through a miscarriage, currently experiencing one, or struggling to conceive, my heart aches for you. I am praying for you and your heart. This journey is not easy and it can be shattering during every step or setback. No matter how many times you have been there. Please know that I am here to talk if you need it. Don’t hesitate to reach out. We are in this together. And most importantly, God’s hands are in all of it. I know at times it is SO HARD to know what plan God has for us through all of this pain and heartbreak, but clinging to that is everything. Don’t lose sight of His love for you.
All our love, B and E