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PAILS of Hope

Maria's Story (aka stargirl)
My first thought upon seeing the positive result on the pregnancy test was a very joyous, "It's back!" Somehow, I felt the little soul who had three times earlier tried to enter the world was back for another try. This elation was quickly followed by, "Oh no! How can I go through this again?" This was my fourth pregnancy after three early miscarriages, and I had given up hope after the third one. Miscarriage is such a personal experience and it affects people differently, but I thought I would share my experiences in case it helps someone.

When I got pregnant the first time I was so na´ve and ignorant about everything. I thought the doctors would want to take care of me. When I started having spotting in the seventh week and called the doctor's office and they told me "Wait a week and come back if you're still pregnant," I was devastated. No one told me that having a miscarriage could be painful, and I sent my husband away on an all day trip with his friends and suffered through horrible cramps by myself. I found a new doctor and she checked me out, said I was probably okay, that it was just a fluke and we should try again. I got pregnant right away and lost it right away. No heartbeat was found on the ultrasound at 6.5 weeks and I had heavy bleeding. Again, my doctor reassured me that this was probably just due to bad luck and encouraged us to try again.

During this time I also suffered two other losses. My 16-year-old cat died of cancer. She had been battling it for a year and I painstakingly kept track of all her chemotherapy. I also suffered a humiliating rejection at work. A paper I spent a year working on was rejected by two very insulting referees. I had nothing to show for my effort.

It was at this point that I got pregnant a third time. I believed my doctor when she said the previous miscarriages were bad luck and I was ready for a new start. At the 6.5 week mark, I went in for an ultrasound and no heartbeat was found. They told me that it was still early and to come back in a week to see. As luck would have it, I had to spend that week at a meeting across the country, so I did not get back to the ultrasound until 8.5 weeks. What an agonizing two weeks! Again, no heartbeat was found. I waited to miscarry on my own, but after 2.5 weeks nothing happened and I had a D&C scheduled. I couldn't take the waiting any longer - especially since I still had all my pregnancy symptoms. Part of the reason this one was so devastating is that I thought I did everything "right". I got plenty of sleep, ate incredibly well, didn't dye my hair, cut out all caffeine and any other possible contaminant I could think of. I felt like I had no control at all. We decided to get a new cat to bring some joy back into our lives. Incredibly, this cat immediately got sick and almost died. She was in the vet hospital for two days while I had my D&C. I felt like giving up on everything. I taught my classes and then went home right away. I did no committee work, I did no special preps for my classes, and I certainly did no research. I could barely drag through each day. I was posting at StorkNet by this time and found some help and comfort here. I learned a lot about miscarriage and was reassured to learn about other women who went through what I did (or worse) and eventually had a baby.

My doctor finally scheduled tests for us and nothing was found as a cause for the miscarriages. I was convinced that it was due to my age. I was 37 and figured I missed my chance to have a baby. I must have waited too long. When I finally saw a specialist, she told me there was very little she could do for me and oh, by the way, if my period was a week late it was probably because I was pregnant and not because of the "hsg" test I had the month before. I thought back over the previous months and the only time my husband and I "did the deed" was on Christmas Eve, which was about three weeks previously. We weren't trying and had put off ttc indefinitely. So we had our own little Christmas miracle.

I do not believe that things "happen for a reason that only God knows", or that we are not given more than we can handle, or any other platitudes that seem to comfort some people. Sometimes life is just rotten. What I did learn is that when things got too overwhelming for me to deal with, I had to just shut down and concentrate on breathing, sleeping, eating and just being alive. I had seen that a few years before when my sister's husband died. It really helped me to ignore the rest of the world for awhile.

However, knowing that I was pregnant again brought me back to reality. The 6.5 week ultrasound was coming up and I had panic attacks just thinking of it. I had nightmares, including one where I was at the ultrasound and the lab tech said there was nothing there and showed me an empty money container - the kind you get at drive through banks to transfer money from your car to the bank. In my dream I was so furious that I threw it across the room in anger. I told my sister about this dream and she gave me one of the new dollar coins with Sacagawea and her baby on it. She wanted me to know that this time the container had something in it. I carried it in my pocket throughout the pregnancy for luck and as a sort of touchstone.

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The morning of the real ultrasound appointment I couldn't calm down and ended up spitting everything I tried to eat or drink across the kitchen. When I lay down on the table and looked at the ultrasound window I could tell right off that there was something there this time. Immediately the tech picked up a heartbeat and played it out loud for us to hear. I couldn't believe it and still get teary just thinking about it. I had spotting in week 8 and 12 and was convinced it was all over. I didn't feel confident about the pregnancy until sometime around week 20 after several ultrasounds and amnio. We also got a baby heartbeat monitor and used it every day. "Yup, she's still there, phew." I absolutely loved finding out that the baby was a girl. A boy would have been terrific, too, of course, but I loved knowing something concrete about the baby. It helped me believe that this one would make it. It was around week 20 that I also felt the first movements - how wonderful they were. By this time I had also made several friendships through the StorkNet boards, especially Support for Losses and PAILS of Hope. These people helped me so much!

The innocence of the first pregnancy never did come back and the previous miscarriages affected me throughout this pregnancy, including my decisions about labor and delivery. I was still afraid of everything, so I opted to not have any medication and didn't induce - even when she was 11 days late. I went through labor and even got to pushing, but with no baby to show for it. After five hours of pushing I was losing strength and she hadn't moved at all in an hour or two. I started to panic and think I'd lose my baby after coming so far, so I opted for a csection. I just had to have her in my arms. Very shortly she arrived and her cries were so beautiful and I just cried and laughed to hear and see her. I know that being born does not bring any guarantees, but since she arrived I have not worried as much as I did in my pregnancy.

I still have the Sacagawea coin and put it in a protective case. I will give it to Juliana when she is old enough. I think of that image on the coin when I carry her around in my own sling. What a difference a year makes!

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