This is the sixth and final post in the series I've been writing about the babies we miscarried. The time felt right to give them all names and to revisit the experience one by one, as a way of remembering and as a memorial. I appreciate the opportunity to use this blog as a step in the healing process, and I'm grateful to those who have faithfully read along, commented, encouraged, and prayed. These precious ones will always be part of our lives. I'm honored to call them by name.
Emily Grace, Callie Elizabeth, Luke Daniel, Adam Louis, Agnes Faith, and Aaron Joseph
Just four months after we lost our fifth baby, I discovered I was pregnant for the sixth time on December 11, 2006. It was really soon but we felt like we surely must be close. We'd had dozens of tests run, discovered a uterine septum and had surgery to correct it, and were planning to try the progesterone supplements and blood thinners again. Since our specialist was an hour's drive away, we were working with my local OB/GYN for lab work and treatment in the early stages of the pregnancy.
Pregnancy number six would be another roller coaster ride. We spent a long time with things up in the air, not knowing whether it was going to work out or not. It was hard and it was emotionally exhausting. And it was all happening right around the holidays, which seemed to make it harder.
Early signs showed that the pregnancy was going well. The first HCG results were higher than my previous pregnancy, and the progesterone was high. I started the nightly Lovenox injections in my stomach right away. A week later, on December 18, the HCG was rising as it should be. We scheduled an ultrasound at a local imaging center on December 21 but were only able to see a gestational sac. It was a start, but we had to leave that day knowing we would spend the Christmas holiday with the big question hanging over our heads. Oh, how we'd been hoping to spend Christmas with the knowledge that our baby was okay and growing.
We decided to go ahead with our travel plans. Spending that time surrounded by our family seemed like a much better idea than staying home alone and worrying. We packed up a basket full of injections, put the progesterone suppositories on ice, and headed for Louisiana and the comfort of home and family. As soon as we got back home and the office was open, I called to schedule more blood work on January 2, 2007. HCG came back: 95,000! After a week and a half of waiting, it was wonderful news! We planned for an ultrasound and the doctor told us that we should be able to get a look at our baby with numbers that high. We knew better than to let ourselves start celebrating but we felt sure that we would at least have an answer, one way or the other.
The ultrasound on January 4 didn't go as we hoped. There was a yolk sac this time but still no growing baby. We knew it wasn't good but we continued to hope and pray for our miracle. Later that evening I had a little bit of bleeding. My heart dropped into my stomach as I thought it was the end. To my surprise, though, the bleeding tapered off and then quit. I had another lab appointment on January 9 to be sure the numbers were still rising. They were. It was ultrasound time again. It had now been a month of injections, desperate prayers, and worry. And hope. Always hope.
We returned to the imaging center on January 15. At ten weeks along we knew we should be seeing our baby. As soon as the image of the yolk sac was visible on the screen, we could see that there was still no growth. No flickering heartbeat. Just an empty sac. This pregnancy had been a blighted ovum, which is when a fertilized egg implants but doesn't develop into an embryo. Conception occurs and your body prepares for pregnancy, but the yolk sac remains empty and the baby does not grow.
I had a D&C on January 22, 2007. It was three days before my 30th birthday. There was no party, no big celebration. My sweet husband had arranged for many of my friends and family to send special cards and letters, which he gave to me in a big bag on my birthday. My mom came and made my favorite cake: chocolate with chocolate icing. We spent a quiet day at home as I recovered.
In a way, after six times, I'd gotten used to dealing with the tough news and even the surgery and recovery. But you never ever get used to the pain and devastation of loss. Each and every time brought such overwhelming sadness and disappointment. And guilt. You name it. There were so many emotions and unanswered questions. We had to accept that we would probably never have those answers this side of heaven. Our specialist told us with regret that even she didn't know what else she could do to help us. We knew we'd reached the end of the road with her. The call came from the OB/GYN who told us she didn't think we'd ever have a baby. I felt like I'd hit rock bottom.
There's a familiar expression that I think applies here: "Don't put a period where God has put a comma." That's how I felt. I wanted a second opinion. And honestly, if another doctor looked at me and said no, and if we felt God leading us to stop, then we knew we'd need to find the strength to put it all to rest. But I just couldn't let go until I knew for sure. One thing was certain that even I in my weakest times never doubted, though. We were going to be parents. We just didn't know yet if our family would grow through a successful pregnancy or through the gift of adoption.
The weeks and months (and eventually, years) that followed were hard. We found a new doctor in the big city and had our first visit with him on July 16, 2007. For the first time we truly felt that we'd found a doctor who had the knowledge and experience to help us. The best part was that even after all he knew about our history, he didn't think we were a hopeless case. After six pregnancies and six miscarriages in six years, we had hope again. And it would keep us going as we faced something we didn't expect -- three years of infertility. But that's a story for another day.
I love the name we've chosen for our sixth baby. Aaron is a boy name that we've both loved for years. Joseph is my father-in-law's middle name, and was also my maternal grandfather's middle name. While getting ready to write this post I looked up the meanings of these two names we'd already picked, and what I read confirmed that they were right. It's one of those things that forms a lump in my throat and brings tears to my eyes.
Aaron means "mountain of strength."
Joseph means "God shall add."
This pregnancy holds a lot of meaning for me. Looking back at it now I
can see that it was in some ways both the end and the beginning. Of course I didn't
know it at the time, but praise the Lord, it was our last miscarriage.
It was the end of a very long and painful chapter in our lives. But it
was the start of a new decade of my life -- my thirties -- and while one
chapter (well, it felt like an entire book) was closed, another was opened. I can
look back on it years later and remember the sorrow I felt while at the
same time appreciating that the old was gone and we were right on the
edge of a new, fresh start. There were two beautiful miracles right
around the corner. God shall add. And He had been my mountain of strength.
We had so much hope for you, precious boy, but we know that you are safe with Jesus right along with your brothers and sisters. Thank you for keeping hope alive within us and for showing us that the Lord would be our mountain of strength. We love you and miss you so, so much.