Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Amanda's Story Part II: Pregnancy After Loss

It was late August, and I knew my period would start any day unless I was pregnant. On a whim, I decided to take a pregnancy test while my son was watching cartoons after lunch. It was positive, just barely! I knew it was very early. My husband was in the middle of teaching his class, so I called my midwife to share the good news. Then, I began to ponder how I would reveal the news to my husband. I didn't have this opportunity before because he was always nearby when I took pregnancy tests before. I put a note inside a bucket of peanuts that said, "We're expecting a little peanut in May 2017." However, I started bleeding within two hours of the positive test. My midwife ordered blood tests for the following week to see if my hormone levels were rising. Through tears, I told my husband what had happened and gave him the peanuts anyway. He kept my note as a sign of hope. One week later, after two blood draws, the results confirmed that I was still pregnant and I had stopped bleeding after a couple days. Apparently it was implantation bleeding. Our prayers and those of our family members and close friends were answered positively. With a smile on my face and fear in my heart, we proceeded.

At 7 weeks pregnant, the report from my weekly blood draw was significantly lower than the previous week, so we figured I was miscarrying. I cried and wondered "Why?!" I went to my old OB office for an ultrasound at the end of the day, and the baby was still alive! We were shocked, so shocked that I couldn't speak. We believe the lab reported incorrect numbers that week.

The next week, I switched labs. At 9 weeks pregnant, there was a minor drop in my levels, so we were concerned again. We once again got an ultrasound at the end of the day and it confirmed baby was still alive! My HcG levels had started dropping which can begin happening during week 8, though my midwives were surprised at how early this was happening.

During these early weeks I pleaded with God to not let our baby die before many years of life on this earth. I couldn't fathom another loss. I was afraid I would enter a deep depression. I moved forward each day with numb emotions about the pregnancy. I didn't want to get too excited, and I wasn't sure who to tell. I ended up telling just a couple friends so they would pray for me. I tried to focus on my son's schooling, as I had decided to start homeschooling him and he was at PreK level.

At 15 weeks pregnant, I started bleeding, a lot. I picked up Joseph early from work and we tried to find a place in town for me to get an ultrasound immediately. We couldn't find one and my bleeding was increasing, so we went to the ER. I was admitted immediately, and soon after had an ultrasound where we saw our live baby! We couldn't believe it! We couldn't understand how I could bleed so much and still be pregnant. Several hours later, the ER doctor pulled us back and explained that the bleeding was caused because my placenta is low, which is known as placenta previa. She said it likely would move, but if it didn't, I would have to have a C-section.

A few days after this my baby started moving! It was such a relief to feel him move while I continued to bleed through my healing. I spent about a month in bed and on the couch so the bleeding would stop. We continued to pray for the baby, and also for the placenta to move. I preferred to not have a C-section and had been planning a home birth.

I didn't take many pictures of my growing belly during this pregnancy. I felt like I would get too attached if I did that and then lost the baby. And I resented the quick growth of my belly if I was just going to lose the baby.

About three weeks after my ER visit, we had an appointment with a specialist. She said the placenta was no longer near the cervix but still low. I was given clearance to be more active, but nothing strenuous, like lifting heavy things or working out hard. We also learned we were having another boy! We were thrilled!
20 weeks pregnant
After this, my fear level kicked up into high gear. If I didn't feel the baby move for 20-30 minutes, I began to worry about him. I would poke at my belly or eat some sugar to spur his movement. I often would pray, too, that God would ease my fear by letting me feel him move. Several times a day I felt this fear. It was overwhelming my brain. I was feeling consumed by my fear. I shared this with my husband and closest friends, so they began to pray for this specifically. After a couple months, the level of my fear subsided. Through prayer and studying Scripture, God helped me trust in Him.

Two and half months after our first visit with the specialist we returned for a checkup, and the placenta had moved! I no longer had placenta previa, so I could lift my son again, as needed, and continue planning for a home birth!
31 weeks pregnant in Yosemite
Did you read Part I of my story? Read it here: Amanda's Story of Loss
Read the final chapter of this story at Amanda's Story Part III: The Arrival of Our Rainbow Baby
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Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Nicole's Story

I met my husband William, who has been called Tiger since childhood, in 2002. We had our first son in 2004. He was the first of four sons we had, all whom were born “sick” in one way or another. Our first two sons were both born with Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia (CDH). CDH is a birth defect where the diaphragm doesn’t form properly in the womb. The exact cause of this is unknown, though researchers believe it’s caused by both genetic and environmental factors. Our firstborn spent 19 days in the NICU and had surgery at just 8 days old. He’s one of a small percentage of CDH survivors, and now attends junior high. Soon after this, I had an early miscarriage.

In 2006 and 2009, we had daughters. On March 6, 2012 I was 26 weeks pregnant with Brayden and went into labor. Just before delivery, I had an ultrasound and the technician found that he also had CDH. Everything felt like a blur after that. I called my husband from the delivery room to tell him that Brayden had CDH. After having him, I knew he wasn’t going to survive long, so I didn’t want to see him. I finally saw him a couple hours after delivery due to my mom and husband begging me to do so. He only lived 36 hours. I felt emotionally numb after losing Brayden. Our other kids didn’t ask a lot of questions and seemed to understand. The local children’s hospital gave them lots of gifts to support our family.

After losing Brayden, I got pregnant again very quickly, but went into labor again at 26 weeks pregnant in October, just seven months after losing Brayden. We hadn’t planned to get pregnant again so quickly, and I felt both happy and scared about it. Since I went into full labor, I had an emergency C-section. I felt like this was a replay of what happened with Brayden, and it was a blur again. I had hemorrhages, and baby Camden was immediately taken to the NICU and never left. His health was up and down for nearly a month until the last few days when he declined quickly due to bleeding on the brain. I stayed in the hospital the whole time while my mom took care of our other kids. I clearly remember sitting next to Camden in the NICU being told there was nothing else that could be done, and then the doctors and nurses all tried to encourage me. I couldn’t believe I was losing another son.

Two years later I was pregnant with our youngest son, Talon, and went into labor at 34 weeks. Before his birth we knew he had dilated kidneys. I saw a neurologist while I was pregnant and after his delivery. He spent one week in the NICU. At just under one year old, Talon had his first kidney surgery and had another surgery at just over two years old. I’m constantly seeing doctors or specialists with Talon because he also has sleep apnea, autism, and trouble gaining weight.

In 2016, I had our youngest daughter, but her daddy never met her or knew I was having a girl. At just 29 years old, my husband Tiger passed away two days before Father’s Day in 2016. I found him at four in the morning not breathing. The kids were still asleep when the ambulance came and didn’t see anything.

At 36 weeks pregnant with our youngest daughter, I had a planned C-section. She had breathing problems, and then a collapsed lung, leading to a week-long stay in the hospital. The anesthesia for the surgery didn’t work right. The doctors believe some of it got to her, which caused the problem. Thankfully, she’s had no problems since then.

We moved to my mom’s house after Tiger died. I spend my days caring for my children and helping care for a friend’s child for a few hours each day. Our days look normal, but we talk about Brayden, Camden, and Tiger often. They were all cremated and their urns stand next to each other in a visible place. Even Talon knows which one belongs to each person. The kids share their memories of their dad and Camden. We have pictures all over of all of them, too.

Angelversaries are emotional. We celebrate the birthdays of all my children with cake and ice cream, and we also have a balloon release for Brayden and Camden. I rarely get a moment to myself, but when I do, I replay the losses of my boys and husband. I wouldn’t wish any of my struggles on anyone. 
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