Tag Archives: miscarriage

Our Down Syndrome baby that we never met

Today’s Boston Globe featured a story on how the detection of Down Syndrome early and other genetic abnormalities early on in pregnancy is resulting in ethical dilemmas for parents.    

In 2007, the same year the couple profiled in the story discovered their daughter, Julia, would be born with Down Syndrome, I was also pregnant with a baby with Down Syndrome.   We found this detail out after I miscarried at 10 weeks and I have not looked at a person with Down’s the same since.

At the time, we had a 3 year old and a 1 year old, but I had suffered 3 miscarriages (the first before our oldest daughter, the next two in between my daughter and son).  I knew how lucky I was to be pregnant again.   I started to show early on, my body knew what to do.   In the midst of this pregnancy, we were working on a fundraiser for a good friend who was in a terrible car accident.

At the fundraiser, we told my husband’s extended family and our good friends about the pregnancy, were so confident about the outcome.  I was so confident, the next Monday when I went to my OB for a routine exam, I didn’t bring my husband.   Despite the fact I threw up that morning from morning sickness, I wasn’t pregnant anymore.  There was no heartbeat. 

We had the fetus tested afterwards.  When we found out it was a baby with Down Syndrome, it made the loss more poignant.  It gave the baby more of an identity.  Later on, we found out it was a girl.  

At the time, we already loved that baby with Down Syndrome.  We talked about how we would have had the baby, how people with Down’s have such a happy outlook on life, how having a sibling with a condition like Down’s could make our other children better people.   Of course, it was easy to say after the fact.  

As I read the story today, I thought: it could have been us and at the same time it could have been us.  

When I went on to have subsequent pregnancies, 4 more times (only one at the end resulting in my son), we chose not to do prenatal testing in the early stages of pregnancy.  We crossed our fingers and prayed during the “big ultrasound” at around 18 weeks that the baby would be “normal.”   This seemed out of the ordinary and a bit crazy for most of our friends and even some of the doctors who eyed us warily.   

The to-test-or-not-to-test is another story altogether.  All I know is that when I look at a child with Down Syndrome, I think of that baby that we lost.  She would have been 6.

 

 

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Things about Being Pregnant I Will Not Miss

I’m 40.  I am blessed with 3 healthy children.  I had six first trimester miscarriages in between all of the healthy children.  That means I have been pregnant nine times.  Like a Walton.   A few of my friends (many younger, some around my age) are just starting their families.  I look at Facebook pictures of newborns in the hospital with fondness and I listen to the excitement of each OB visit.

 

A conversation with my best friend from high school yesterday (40, with her first child, lamenting that she doesn’t have the round baby bump and just looks fat) made me remember something I don’t miss about being pregnant:

 

The stage where you are not ready for maternity clothes but real clothes are uncomfortable.

 

This is a stage I was in way too many times.  What makes this stage worse:  career clothes. Dress pants hurt when your uterus is poking out.  Button downs gape over gigantic hormonally inflated breasts.  

 

Hiding the pregnancy until you are 12 weeks along.

 

Trying to hide a pregnancy in dress pants is just bad news. To try and mask that fact that you are pregnant so that you can get your performance review before you tell your boss you’ll be out for 12 weeks is even harder.  Wearing a suit because a jacket is more slimming when your office is business casual makes everyone wonder if you are pregnant or going on a job interview.

 

Hiding the fact that you are not boozing it up.

 

Then there are the parties and after work drinks where people will wonder why you aren’t drinking.  I’ve come up with a million ways to hide this- have a tonic water with lime in a gin and tonic glass, a non alcoholic beer poured directly into a pint glass.  The bartender never hears my whisper or catches the knowing wide-eyed hiss: “pour the O’Doul’s into a glass.  Hurry! Hide the bottle!  My friends are coming!”   I’ve tried to act casual when there is a full glass of wine in front of me and take sips that barely wet my lips or have my husband drink my glass.  People notice.  Especially other women.

 

Stressing out about ultrasounds and tests.

 

When my daughter was born, I was offered the triple screen for birth defects and 2 years later, I was offered quad screen for my middle son.  Four years later, my last baby should have had his nuchal fold measured and my blood should have been screened.   I say they were offered, but I really feel like they were mandated (and from my perspective I feel that the stats are bad enough when you are over 30 and have had too many friends who were scared to death from bad numbers and the babies turned out to be healthy).  Still, I stressed about not doing the tests. I hated ultrasounds.  I’ll never forget the image of the baby with no heartbeat on the black and white ultrasound screen the first time I was pregnant.  Needless to say, ultrasounds were never fun for me.  I was fraught with worry.

 

Buying pregnancy tests. 

 

I bought a lot of pregnancy tests. I bought pregnancy tests that wouldn’t work because it was too early to detect a pregnancy, I bought more to see if it was time now, I bought more to really make sure I was pregnant, I bought the CVS brand, First Response, ClearBlue Easy, and was partial to the Duane Reade brand when I traveled to New York for business.  Pregnancy tests are expensive.  Looking around my empty windows, I imagine I could have those Restoration Hardware window treatments for my livingroom if I had just put that money in a money market account. 

 

Throwing up. 

 

I threw up a lot.

 

Trying to plan when visitors like your mom and dad or in laws should come when you had no idea when the baby was going to arrive.

 

Should they come the minute they get the call or wait around in your house a week before?  Should they stay after you come home from the hospital? Should they hang out in your hospital room?   Should they call your husband’s cell phone so it will ring when you are pushing?

 

I will miss having babies, but I will not miss being pregnant. 

 

 

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Reality TV Star Talks About a Still-Taboo Topic: Miscarriage

I had my first miscarriage in 2002.  At the time, I didn’t know anyone who had had a miscarriage (or so I thought), with the exception of my grandmother and the woman I worked for as a nanny.    Once my bad news spread, co-workers and acquaintances shared their miscarriage stories with me.   Hearing their stories validated my sadness and in many cases, gave me hope.

Miscarriage is still not openly discussed in our society, which is why I am happy that E! reporter Giuliana Rancic is openly sharing her fertility/miscarriage struggle on her reality show Giuliana and Bill.

To some, it may appear that she is sharing too much of a private matter, but what I have found is that the more reserved women who endure miscarriage need help being drawn out.  There’s a part of them that needs to talk about their feelings but they need someone else to help them get started.

Some women have the ability to compartmentalize, and some just don’t view a miscarriage as the loss of a baby- they are quickly ready to move on.  For these women, or for women who won’t even allow themselves to buy a book on miscarriage, let alone see a therapist after a miscarriage, I hope Giuliana shows them that they are not alone.

 

 

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Protecting your emotions after a miscarriage

Tonight we went to a 40th birthday party for one of Ward/Mike/Heathcliff’s friends from college. This friend has the most wonderful mother in the world. After I had my first miscarriage and unexpectedly burst into tears at her grandchild’s bris, she followed me out to the deck, gave me a warm embrace and assured me I’d have a baby of my own someday. But what she reminded me of tonight is that she told me that I should go home. What a beautiful and kind thing to say. Because that is what I needed to do, and that was the best thing for my hurting heart.

After all that I have been through, I have still been conscious of doing the “right thing”, the unselfish thing. I have my good days and my bad days.

Sometimes I have to send a gift to a baby shower and make up an excuse of why I can’t attend. Because I can’t bear to.

Last week, I was chomping at the bit to get to hold my friend’s new baby girl less than 24 hours after she entered the world. Because I wanted to.  It felt right.

Sometimes you have to protect yourself. And the kindest, most wonderful people are the ones who allow you to do just that.

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I’m So Happy For You (But Why Can’t It Be Me?)

Photo Credit:  Amazon

Photo Credit: Amazon

I just finished Lucinda Rosenfeld’s new book “I’m So Happy For You” which is a dark, funny, fictional account of two female friends, Wendy and Daphne. Wendy is jealous of a lot of the things Daphne has always had: beauty, her pick of men and never really having to worry about money. It’s sort of annoying how jealous Wendy is and I wished that she could make her own way and not be so fixated on what everyone else is doing. One overarching envy in the book was something that I could relate to, though: other women’s luck with fertility.

I reflect daily, sometimes several times a day on how grateful and lucky I am to have 2 beautiful, healthy, sweet children, a boy and a girl. When people see our “perfect” family of four, they don’t see what my husband and I have endured for the past 7 years: six miscarriages. One before E. (11 weeks), 2 very early losses before J., then 3 more (10 weeks, 10 weeks and 7 weeks). I have been pregnant 8 times since 2002.

After my first miscarriage, I had to listen to my still pregnant office-mate gush about her baby-to-be, which was torture at the time, a time I was trying to hold myself together and could be easily set off. I went to a bris and was struck by all of the babies and burst into tears without warning.

Thankfully, I gave birth to my healthy, full-term babies, which made these occasions much easier. But I have always tried to be sensitive to women around me who are obviously or not so obviously dealing with infertility.

The baby shower scene in “I’m So Happy For You” was poignant to me as I remembered what it felt like to be at a baby shower when I had just miscarried or was longing for a second (and now, a third child). When Wendy leaves the room to collect herself, I feel for her. When her moment alone leads to a brash gesture, I am embarrassed for her, but I also wish the smug mommies could be a little more empathetic.

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