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My wife and I have suffered 2-5 miscarriages, depending on how you count them (the second time she miscarried quadruplets). We were not using in vitro fertilization, so the chances of us conceiving quadruplets is somewhere around 1/800,000. With the first miscarriage, I think we took some (small) comfort in discovering how often they occur – that the traumatic event we were living was not some special misfortune that God had reserved for only us. But the bizarre macabre nature of seeing four lifeless embryos on the screen afforded no such comfort. I remember my wife’s words on the car ride home after we scheduled the D&C: “I feel like a walking tomb.”
I want to thank you for posting these stories. They aren’t stories people like to recount but they are so common and they touch those involved so deeply. The fact that this community has emerged on the blog of a gay man with no children is profoundly touching. The human capacity to empathize and share in the joys and sorrows of others is celebrated on the Dish, and it’s why I’m a subscriber.
Reading this thread is hard. Not only because I have had a two miscarriages, but also because of my family history. In the years after my older sibling’s birth and mine (four years), my mother had six miscarriages. As a result, her OB put her on a “artificial” estrogen, or DES, to help her carry full term. I was on the tail end of her using the drug. As a result, I have several abnormalities of my reproductive organs and have had several small tumors removed from my cervix. I was told at 19 that I would never be able to conceive or carry to term a normal pregnancy.
I had resigned myself to being childless. My birth control choice was more for prevention of disease rather than pregnancy. When I met the wonderful man I married, I told him that I probably could never have children and we discussed adoption. Six months after becoming engaged, I missed two periods (not unusual because of my abnormalities; my cycle is very irregular), but then I started bleeding heavily at work. Because I worked in a hospital I went to the ER where they did a blood test that showed I was pregnant.
Over three days, I alternately cried, prayed and bled.
My future husband flew back from a business trip early to be with me and we both grieved. My mother gently reminded me that miracles occur on a regular basis and that I was proof of that. Fast forward a year and half later, and a skiing accident landed me in the ER again. I was asked if I could be pregnant and I smiled at my husband and said yes (another missed period, but not unusual), so they did a blood test before they would x-ray my ankle. I joked with my husband that we could give the “positive” test results to the parents for Christmas. And we did, because I was indeed pregnant.
They called the perinatologist on staff and made me an appointment for the next day. Because of my medical history, I was very much a high-risk pregnancy. Because my hormone levels are so weird (because of the DES exposure), we could only estimate the date of conception and how long until safe delivery. I had ultrasounds that guesstimated I was about 12 weeks pregnant. I was put on immediate maternity leave and monitored on a biweekly basis. I delivered a healthy baby boy six months later via c-section. (Because of previous surgeries, my cervix never dilated at all despite 12 hours of labor and pitocin).
When my son was two, I “felt pregnant” again and blood tests confirmed it. For about four months, things went smoothly then terrible cramps, bleeding, etc. It didn’t feel like labor but rather more like a rolling sensation through my pelvis. After about six hours, the tiny little girl slid out of my body.
I wept copiously and so did my husband. Despite the fact that she never drew a breath, our family priest offered to baptize her. We had no service but that and had her remains cremated and sealed into a small walnut box that will go with us when we die.
Two years later, again I “felt pregnant” and had a blood test. Negative. But I still didn’t have a period. Weeks later my son had a nightmare and he climbed into bed with us. He poked me and told me that my stomach was kicking him. My husband looked at me, jumped out of bed and sped to the nearest gas station. He bought a EPT test and told me that the attendant looked at him in wonder (3 am, frazzled man in jeans and t-shirt). I peed on the stick and then waited … positive.
I called my OB the next day and told them; they got me in that day. We took a blood test, two different ultrasounds and saw the tiny little boy kicking and cried. I was six months along and delivered that lively little boy three months and ten days later via c-section. During that c-section the doctor saw why I didn’t lose this little boy; I had a large tumor growing from my cervix into my uterus. It prevented me from losing that pregnancy. I had to have a hysterectomy, because the frozen section showed a particularly aggressive type of cervical cancer cells.
My younger son has some secondary DES-related problems, and both boys are at a higher risk for testicular and other cancers. There is not a lot of research out there on the effects of the fourth generation, but in some ways, despite the problems, both my husband and parents are grateful to DES, otherwise I would not be here. I still have periodic tests and I have to be more vigilant than the ordinary woman, but I will always grieve for the soul of my little Kristina Katherine and the unknown child that I lost.
I’m a subscriber, and long-time reader, but have never written in before. I’ll be honest with you: although I read the quoted piece you posted initially, I can’t bring myself to click the link and read the full thread, because I know it is he articulation of my greatest fear.
A little over two years ago (my wife remembers the dates and due dates; I’ve blocked them out), my wife and I had a miscarriage. It was about a week or so after a positive pregnancy test. Since it was our first time being pregnant, we approached the pregnancy like I imagine most first-time parents do: unrestrained glee. It happened to be the week before Fathers’ Day and she got me a Fathers’ Day card. We went out to a nice restaurant to celebrate.
When she started bleeding, we went in for an ultrasound. I should tell you at this point that I’m a lapsed Catholic/agnostic who hasn’t been to church in years. When we went in for the ultrasound, I found myself praying as we looked at the monitor, straining to see signs of life and hoping that things were ok, in spite of what we’d seen to that point. There was nothing there. Since it was so early, we hadn’t told anyone about the pregnancy, but we told family and close friends what happened.
Months later, we found out that we were pregnant again. Again, we told no one. This time, we had an ultrasound at six weeks and saw a heartbeat. Seeing that on the monitor was like nothing else that had happened in my life. To know that I would be a father meant everything to me. We decided we wouldn’t do a fancy celebratory dinner – just in case – so we did something casual. Although my wife was reluctant, I convinced her that we should start enjoying the fact that we were pregnant – we’d seen a heartbeat! – and should look at baby items, which we did. We started to think about how best to tell our families (Christmas ornaments? Ultrasound pictures? Something more creative?).
About three weeks later, we went in for another ultrasound. We were still nervous, but, again, we’d seen a heartbeat. When the ultrasound tech came in, she started the procedure and kept moving around the probe, not saying anything along the lines that expectant parents want to hear. She said she would need to get the doctor to look at the image. At that point, I remember looking at that somewhat confused, but somehow already haunting image, and asking God to be with us – asking Him if he were there, could he please make sure they pointed the ultrasound wand at the heartbeat we knew was already there, so that we could go on with our lives and figure out how best to tell our families we were pregnant.
When the doctor came in, he told us we’d had another miscarriage. The embryo was dead. I felt like I’d been kicked in the stomach. It was hard to breathe. Another round of sobbing telephone calls to our family to tell them the news, along with another awkward rollout to our close friends.
My email’s long enough, so I won’t bore you with the details, but my wife and I have been seeing a fertility specialist for the better part of a year, and are now pregnant again. We’ve had a roller coaster ride of blood tests the last few weeks (everything looks normal, congratulations!; your blood work indicates a likely miscarriage, you should be prepared). Today we had a second ultrasound at seven weeks. The first showed a very early heartbeat. We were both sick to our stomachs with worry in the days leading up to the ultrasound. Again, despite my lapsed faith and our history, I found myself saying continuous Hail Marys through tears at the doctor’s office today while we waited for the image. We saw another heartbeat.