Today is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. This is a difficult post for me to write, but I strive to always be transparent and honest on this blog about the ups and downs of our lives. We recently announced that we have a new crew member on the way. I have been asked a couple times over the last few months if we knew I was pregnant when we bought the boat, and what on earth we are planning to do with a newborn aboard.
Yes, we knew I was pregnant when we bought the boat. If you want the brutal truth, this is my 4th pregnancy, after 3 losses, 2 years of trying, and 1 round of fertility medication. It has been a long, hard road with no guarantees. Against all odds, the boat and the baby dream came together at the same time, and we are thrilled about it.
My first pregnancy was ectopic. For any woman, the chances of an ectopic pregnancy (outside the uterus, usually in a fallopian tube) are around 1/100—it is very rare but always life-threatening. Conor had just deployed two weeks earlier, so when I experienced stabbing pains in my right side, I drove myself to the ER in the middle of the night and found out the bad news. It was traumatic, to say the least.
After Conor came back from deployment, we were ecstatic to find out that we were expecting again. The immediate concern was the chance of another ectopic, because once you’ve had one, your chances are 1/6 for subsequent pregnancies. Early scans showed that the little bub was in the right place, so we announced to friends and family in person while we were back in Washington over the summer. After all, what were the chances that we would have two losses in a row? We traveled back to California, and I went in for another ultrasound at 9 weeks, only to see that the pregnancy stopped progressing. Conor was in the field for an exercise, and rushed home to be with me.
I was diagnosed with a missed miscarriage, meaning that my body hadn’t recognized that the pregnancy was no longer viable and was continuing to behave as though I was still pregnant, morning sickness and all. I had to be medically induced. Not so fun fact: missed miscarriages account for only 1% of pregnancies. We had rolled the dice, and lost again.
To say I was bitter and angry at this point would be an understatement. Conor and I were both young and healthy, with zero risk factors. I only got more discouraged as the months dragged on and I couldn’t get pregnant again. My due dates passed, and I found myself thinking of alternate timelines. “Oh, I would have a one-year-old right now. Oh, I should be six months pregnant by now.” Instead, we were back to square one. Behind square one, even, because now the naive excitement of pregnancy had been replaced with bad memories and disillusionment, a track record of failure. I envied and marveled anyone who had pregnancies with no losses. It seemed impossible to me.
Eight months later, I finally got a faint positive test, which was quickly followed by another miscarriage at 5 weeks. I told my doctor I had pretty much given up by this point. We were also about to leave California. She suggested a round of Clomid as a last-ditch effort. “It won’t necessarily help, but it won’t hurt anything, either.”
I guess the 4th pregnancy was the charm. Conor and I feel beyond lucky to be at this point.
I hope my story helps anyone else going through the unique pain that is pregnancy loss. It can feel so isolating, especially because it is still so taboo to discuss in society. Women feel like they have to be so hush-hush and secretive about it, and wait until they are past the first trimester to announce to people because “What if something happens?” Well shit, things do happen. And it sucks to try to handle it on your own so as to spare other people’s feelings on the matter. I want to let other women know that they are not alone. For friends and family who support these women in your life, here are some tips to follow (and what not to say) if someone you know experienced a loss or is struggling with infertility:
1) “At least you can get pregnant.” Oh, goodie! And I can also have multiple miscarriages in a row! Definitely a win for me.
2) “It will happen when you stop trying.” Ah, yes. The truly scientific explanation, backed up by empirical data. So helpful.
3) “It just wasn’t meant to be/ God’s will, etc.” Why would you assume anything about my religion and what I believe in? Stop trying to make yourself feel better by saying a general platitude.
4) “You still have time to try again.” Well, I wanted that baby. And now that baby is gone. Any subsequent pregnancies are not a replacement for the ones that I’ve lost. They were all unique.
5) “Maybe if you wouldn’t have done ____, everything would have worked out.” Don’t you dare blame the mother. She’s also probably already obsessed about this herself a million times.
Here’s what you can do:
Say that you’re sorry for their loss. Listen to them if they want to talk about it. If they named their little passenger, refer to the baby by name. Bring meals, chocolate, distractions, whatever, don’t just tell them, “I’m here for you.” Show them. I had friends drop off care packages, check in with me months after my losses to see how I was coping, weren’t afraid to bring it up in conversation, and sent cards for what would have been my due dates. Don’t shy away from it. The mothers haven’t forgotten.
There is an event tonight (October 15th) to acknowledge pregnancy and infant loss. Everyone lights a candle at 7pm and keeps it burning for an hour, creating a wave of light all around the world through the all the timezones. We’ll light ours on the boat.
Taylor and Conor