Posts Tagged miscarriage
The worst news we could possibly receive came in the form of a positive pregnancy test two weeks ago. My wife is pregnant for the fifth time. This is horrible news, absolutely horrendous. It is the worst news we could have imagined. And it’s not because we have four kids and didn’t want this one, it’s because all the others died in my wife’s womb, and apart from a miracle, this one will to.
We figured something was up when on our 10-year anniversary cruise my wife could barely get up for the day’s activities. She was woozy, weak, needing frequent naps. Four days later, the typical 6-hour drive from Barcelona to Madrid stretched out to 8 hours, then 9, as we pulled over every 30 minutes for “bathroom stops.” Eventually, the violent stomach tossing and turning turned into the loss of every last ounce of liquid in her body–poor thing. It was at about hour 9 that I started to put the pieces together (I know, I know, it’s pathetic how slow I am.).
“Oh no, God! She’s pregnant!”
And, yes, she was, and still is, pregnant. A day after we arrived in Madrid, we bought the test, confirmed the pregnancy, and went to the emergency room for issues with dehydration. It took her 3 days on an IV to recover enough liquid and keep some food down to be able to come home.
So why am I devastated? It’s not just that each of those four other pregnancies were lost. It’s because every doctor had told us to stop trying because of chromosomal issues. It’s because now I am watching my wife get her hopes up and believe in miracles, and know that they eventually be dashed. It’s because she can’t naturally miscarry, and we will have to go through another expensive and uncomfortable experience of a DNC in Spain. It’s because my wife has incredible sickness and dehydration with every pregnancy, and this one is no different. It’s because even after the baby dies, her body keeps telling her she’s pregnant and she suffers. Worst of all, it’s because the emotional baggage will still be hanging around a year from now, or even longer.
I could go on, but I am already depressing myself and need to go to bed.
The irony is that we paid thousands and thousands of dollars for three healthy embryo transfers, timed perfectly to implant at just the right moment in my wife’s uterus. And they failed. A few months later, a misstep with our contraceptives and now this happens! We don’t even historically get pregnant that easy!
I’ve always been the kind of a guy that likes to know the odds. I never bet, but when I go see a baseball game, I want to know what Vegas says about my team’s odds of winning. When I watch the weather, I want the percentage chance of rain. Heck, when I’m simply walking along with my wife, I tend to start conversations with the phrase, “So what do you think the odds are that…?” Most of the time, my wife humors me. On her days with less than pristine patience, she’ll roll her eyes and ask me to hold off on my latest inclinations.
Part of the reason I enjoy percentages, probabilities, estimations, and odds, is because the experts who set these odds often hit the nail on the head. In the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, the odds of a 15-seeded team winning the whole thing, are well, preposterous. Vegas would probably make the odds 10 million to one, mainly because it’s never happened. The odds of it snowing in Cancun on your honeymoon are absolutely ridiculous because that doesn’t happen either.
Our first miscarriage was a shock for both of us. We were both young and ignorant, blind to the possibility that the little heart would stop beating. But after the DNC and our getting a little thicker skin, we entered into our second pregnancy and I wanted to know, “doctor, in your professional opinion, what are the odds this works out?” In other words, what do the statistics say about a woman who can get pregnant but miscarries one time. This doctor assured us, that very similar to our first pregnancy, the odds of miscarriage were 10%. Well, unfortunately for us, the baby died. 0 for 2.
On to pregnancy number three. This time I debated sparing my wife from hearing the question, but I just had to know, “Doc, so what are the odds?”
“Well, you guys are in a little higher risk category because of your other miscarriages, but given that we have worked out some of your wife’s iron deficiencies, etc., I would say really good odds.”
“Give me a number.”
“Oh, alright, I’d say 80 percent.”
I thought that wasn’t too bad. If you take two times at 90% odds, and once at 80%, the probability that one works out is like, well, I’m not a mathematician, but there really good!
The baby died.
On to our fourth and final pregnancy, “Doctor, I really want you to shoot straight with me. What are the chances on this one?” She mumbled something about 50/50.
When our fourth baby died and we went on to embryo adoption, I wanted the chances for each and every embryo transfer attempt. They were, according to the doctor 50%, 50%, and 50%. But all the embryos either died or did not implant.
Let’s just say you had 7 chances at something, with 50% odds. Supposedly, our odds with the miscarriages were much better, but for the sake of simplicity, let’s say you took a coin and flipped it 7 times, what are chances that it lands heads 7 times in a row? Not very good. I’m guessing less than 1%. Maybe you’re good at math and can help me out.
Can you get any unluckier than us? I suppose it’s possible. But with our bad luck, I bet that the odds aren’t that high.
Once again I stared into her big, blue, and teary eyes as she directed this question to me for what feels like 1,000th time. What do I say? Yes, my learning curve as a loving husband hasn’t been as fast as the speed of light. But given this question has popped up a bit over the last six years, on this occasion I at least knew the difference between responding in love and ramming my size twelve foot in my mouth.
It had been a tough couple of weeks. Recurring reminders of our infertility have taken us both a little by surprise. And as a consequence, depression has been knocking on the door of wife’s heart. Again. I can empathize with her. Our last “baby worship service” or our recent run-ins with coffee shop “friends” would be enough to drive even the most optimistic of infertiles to toy around with a little Russian roulette.
So anyway, there we were, cuddling on the coach, with her dropping this all too familiar interrogative in my lap. Here are just two of my infamous past mutterings that you could categorize foot-in-the-mouth responses to this question. The third is what I actually said this time.
Well, to be honest, I’m pretty fed-up with this whole process. Why don’t we just give up hope and move on? Why don’t you just get a hobby, a new project, or even a dog? I’ve been ready to move on for a while now.
This is really a proud and insensitive slap in the face: proud because it pretends like the whole issue doesn’t really bother me that much (a lie); insensitive because I’ve just missed an opportunity to validate her feelings; and slap in the face because it’s laced in emotional abuse. By emotional abuse I mean that it puts the blame on my wife for what was actually our decision: to move forward with the last few treatments. In addition, I am also disrespecting my wife’s dream for children. She doesn’t disrespect my dreams for success in my work. Why should I disrespect her dreams for children?
Here’s another foot-in-mouth option I’ve been guilty of.
You always tell me that you want me to be honest. And actually, I have seen you sad now for a (insert obnoxious tone here) loooong time.
This one sounds a little less egotistical but in reality it’s still pretty demeaning. It certainly doesn’t take into consideration the core content of my wife is really asking. She really cares less about whether I’m tired of her sadness and more about if I’m tired of her. She wants to know if I’m still committed to her. When I realize that’s what really behind her words, I’ll know that that is what required is responding to this concern.
What I’ve learned my wife really needs to hear is something like this:
I’m sick of seeing you hurt like this because I love you so much. I wish desperately that I could take your pain away, but I can’t. So don’t worry, even if I can’t completely understand your sadness, I want you to know that I am with you all the way.
In this statement, I join her in her pain and frustration, and do so while immediately addressing her real concern: that I still love her. I validate her emotions as much as I can, but more importantly reaffirm what she wants to hear most.
I thought I might know what my wife was thinking. I should know better. Eight years into marriage, and this I should certainly know better.
We were strolling in Retiro Park in Madrid. The birds were chirping. We were holding hands. We were relaxed and in love. And then the thought came to me, “you know, it’s been awhile since we discussed our miscarriages and the failed embryo transfers. This is a pretty peaceful moment. It seems as good as any. I wonder if she even wants to try another transfer. Maybe, just maybe, she doesn’t even want to adopt and has come to terms with it all.” These thoughts seemed somewhat reasonable. She hasn’t been talking about another transfer and really seems to be moving on. We’ve had quite a few weeks of peace and calm, without the sobbing, the morbid sadness that for months accompanied our miscarriages or one of the few failed transfers.
As I’ve mentioned before, I personally wouldn’t mind leaving the dream of kids behind, especially as much as I’ve seen it hurt my wife. More than anything, I just want the pain to stop. But, thankfully, God gave me the grace to ask my wife, “So honey, sometimes I wonder what you’re thinking. It’s been quite a while since you’ve talked another treatment. Are you thinking of moving on? How would you feel about the ‘complete as two’ life option? Do you want to talk about adoption?”
Her response helped remind me of how vital it is for us to do everything we can, I mean everything, to have a family. “Honey, sometimes I feel the only thing helping me press on, is the slim chance that a family is in our future.”
I need to be careful to not get ahead of my wife. It would be dangerous “to move on” without her.
Our miscarriages occurred at really pivotal moments in our lives: every single one of them. Our first miscarriage occurred while we were coping with the final year of our time in seminary. What was supposed to be a time of celebration after 4 years of discipline and study turned into a nightmare. Eight weeks into the pregnancy and there was no heartbeat. Our second occurred while we were being appointed with our current organization to do pastoral ministry in Spain. The very week of our appointment my wife miscarried. This one had no signs of life at six weeks. Needless to say, our appointment was less than the ideal celebration we had anticipated. We had to slap on fake smiles for a truckload of pictures. Yippee.
Our third failure was particularly painful. We were living our final days in Illinois and were just about ready to leave for the great adventure of overseas life. 8 weeks along, the doctor in the states gave us the nod of approval for our pregnancy. My wife was taking blood thinners and a mountain of meds. It seemed like the doctors really believed that we had just had a couple of flukes; the first two were just plain bad luck, or so they said. I vividly can recall this third medical specialist praying over my wife’s womb. It really felt like this would finally come through. Even the doctor believes and is praying for us. God would finally give us our gift.
Two weeks after landing in Spain, our knew doctor couldn’t find a heartbeat. This one was 9 weeks along when it died. New tests on the miscarried fetus showed that it had been a chromosomal issue. Although it wasn’t our last miscarriage, I feel like this was probably the most devastating of all four for my wife. Cross-cultural adjustment requires an incredible amount of energy and stamina, especially at the first, and we had to deal with a third loss. How on earth were we going to survive the emotional and marital torment of a third miscarriage, another surgery, a new job, a new home, a new church, and new language learning, all at the same time?
For whatever reason, I’ve been thinking quite a bit about the third miscarriage today. Why didn’t God allow my wife to receive that special gift? Why did it happen RIGHT after we arrived? Why us? I know the right theological answers, but for whatever reason they don’t help me today.
We received the sad news two days ago that my wife is not pregnant. This was her second embryo transfer attempt and it appears that the embryos implanted and then didn’t live long after. She is two weeks late on her period and her blood work is showing that she is definitely not pregnant. It is unfortunate, not only because the transfer didn’t work and more dreams are shattered, but also because my wife has yet to miscarry naturally. This means a surgery or DNC is probably in order. It’s sort of the icing on the cake of our own personal misery.
We have decided that it will be best to take a few months off before we talk about trying another round. The process is agonizing, and I just can’t imagine doing another transfer. Again, I am where I was the last time we discussed another round; I prefer that we just give up. Six pregnancies and six miscarriages. That is our story, and I’m tired of the failures. I don’t feel like adding another round.
Again, this is only my perspective, and I know that I can’t completely understand the longing of a woman to have a child naturally. I can’t comprehend all that drives her to continue on. So, I need to respect my wife’s desires and give her space. This, and the closeness of our last transfer failure, are good reasons to not talk about it for the next few months.
We will both need God’s grace as we wait and pray. May he guide us in the next steps, whatever they are.