The devastation of one miscarriage is tough enough, but nine miscarriages nearly broke me.
They happened over 20 years, my first being an unplanned pregnancy at 18. At the time, a curette took away all evidence that I had formed a life and I was told I was young and to get over it. Later, I was diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome.
I was 26 when I met Scott. We started trying for a baby using Clomid, a drug used to stimulate ovulation. I don’t know how you’re supposed to get pregnant when you’re a hormonal, screaming mess, but we managed. We endured round after round of fertility treatment and on some rounds, we’d get pregnant but I’d lose the baby a few weeks later. It was emotional, to say the least.
The elation we felt when we found out we were pregnant turned to the darkest disappointment when we lost our babies. Finally, Scott and I couldn’t take any more and we stopped trying.
Two months later, I had a huge fibroid removed from my uterus. We desperately wanted the fibroid to be the reason for the miscarriages so we started trying again. However, during my surgery, the doctors found the fibroid had crushed one of my ovaries and a fallopian tube and they said we would need IVF.
BUT FIRST, A HONEYMOON
Scott and I married and planned to start our IVF journey after our honeymoon.
When we got back from our trip I was pregnant! The doctors were baffled. They had no idea how I had fallen pregnant naturally.
Two weeks later, I started to bleed and we lost the baby. Scott and I went to see my gynaecologist and he suggested we wait for a while to let my hormone levels return to normal then start IVF. While we waited, we lost two more babies. I wanted to blame someone, something. Scott and I had only been married 12 months and we were stressed, upset and emotional. You need to grieve but it’s hard when you have nothing physical to grieve over.
If a baby grows its wings at birth, or due to SIDS, there’s understanding. There are funerals, identity, names, even cuddles and smells. A miscarriage has nothing, just a little spirit that leaves a hole in your heart.
Some friends were great, others kept their distance, and some family struggled to deal with all the loss. We needed support, someone to listen, to cry and get angry with us. The only thing that got us through was our love for each other and our faith in God.
THE TESTS REVEAL...
After the eighth miscarriage, I went to my fertility specialist and he took blood to check my hormone levels. When it was tested, they found I was still pregnant with Twin 2. We were so excited but at 10 weeks we went for an ultrasound and they couldn’t find a heartbeat. I carried my baby for three more weeks, as they no longer performed curettes so my body had to expel the baby naturally.
Six months later we were pregnant with Abigail. When we found out we were pregnant again we were really nervous and wary.
We made it to 18 weeks, had a morph scan and the doctors found a hole in the baby’s heart. It was followed up with a fetal echo and the doctors said the baby had Patent Ductus Arteriosus (PDA). The ductus arteriosus is a hole that allows the blood to detour away from the lungs before birth.
When a baby is born the hole is supposed to close but our baby’s hadn’t, which meant she could go into heart failure at birth.
TAKING IT DAY BY DAY
Abigail was born five weeks premature. She didn’t go into heart failure, but we knew she’d have a long stay in hospital before coming home. Thirteen days later, Abby looked like a very sick baby. Her heart was failing and all her extremities were dark blue. HeartKids SA/NT flew us to Melbourne so Abby could have open-heart surgery. When she came out of theatre we went to see her and she was lying in an Intensive Care Unit infant cot with tubes and wires coming out of her and her eyes fixed open. For a few seconds I thought she had passed away and that they’d brought us in to say goodbye, but the nurse explained everything had gone well but she wasn’t out of the woods. During the next six hours Abby’s kidneys failed and they had to reopen her chest to remove blood clots and fluid. Over the next 72 hours her bowel tissue died and she needed 90 per cent of her large intestine removed. Her health issues seemed insurmountable but we took each day as it came and, very slowly, Abby got stronger. A month later we flew home but needed to spend another four weeks at our local hospital before she was discharged. When we finally brought Abby home we had to visit her cardiologist every week for monitoring. Ten months later we were back in Melbourne for her second heart surgery. Abby’s first was more like a bypass to get her through until she was bigger and the second was to do the repairs to her heart. She was in theatre for 11 hours but everything went well. She spent eight weeks in Melbourne, then another two in our hospital and she was discharged on her first birthday.
AN UPHILL BATTLE
Abby is now three and has been in hospital more times than I care to count. This year has been dreadful. She’s had pneumonia and influenza B, and having only 10 per cent of her large intestine she gets dehydrated very quickly, which puts her at risk of cardiac arrest. Abby deals with the sickness, pain and hospital visits incredibly well and, for the most part, is a happy and joyful child.
We can’t rule out more surgeries, and at the moment her heart is doing well, but she’ll always need medical care. We were told Abby was a baby to love and enjoy but we have faith that she will outlive us.
We try not to think of ‘what ifs’. We’re just so thankful we have her, and we’re now the family Scott and I fought so hard to have.