Our Infertility Journey: Losing Our Baby

Today was the day I was going to reveal that I was pregnant here on the blog. I was going to share our amazing news that IVF worked for us and we were finally expecting. Bridget and I had sat down in November and planned it all out. She would announce her pregnancy in December, and I would post about my pregnancy to kick off the new year.

Today was the day I was going to tell you how we found out about our baby. We got the call on our 4th wedding anniversary. The sweetest anniversary gift we could have ever received. I cried tears of joy when the nurse called me and couldn’t wait for Finn to come home so I could give him a big hug and celebrate. We wrote sweet notes in our anniversary journal and thanked God for finally answering our prayers.

Today was the day I was going to tell you my plans for the blog. How Bridget and I were nervous about having babies within 3 weeks of each other, but how we would somehow figure it out. I was going to tell you how excited I was to post all about my maternity wear, what I was buying for the baby, and our plans for the nursery. And even better, how excited I was to have a baby the same age as my best friend.

Today was the day I would tell you that I was 17 weeks pregnant and due on June 19th. I was going to tell you how I napped every single day during the first trimester and could barely eat a thing. I was going to tell you how I was keeping a baby journal and writing to our baby every morning.

Today was the day I was going to tell you we were expecting a baby boy. How Finn and I would sit on the couch at night and talk all about our son. What we would name him, what he would look like, and how we couldn’t wait to hold him in our arms.

But instead, today is the day I tell you that our baby boy’s heart stopped beating at 9 weeks and we lost him forever.

Let’s Rewind

Preparing for an IVF FET
Smiles before our embryo transfer

The last time we touched base about our infertility struggle was when Finn shared his side of the story. We were on a break from treatments and were excited to pick things back up in the fall.

After many canceled cycles due to fluid in my uterus, we were finally able to get my lining thick enough for an embryo transfer. The drug delestrogen ended up doing the trick to prepare my body to welcome the embryo. I was thrilled and we had our embryo transfer on October 1st. Everything went perfectly and we left feeling sooooo good about it.

IVF embryo transfer
Embryo Transfer Ultrasound

I then spent the next 2 weeks willing my baby to get cozy. I ate pineapple core (an old wive’s tale to get the baby to implant), meditated daily, saw my acupuncturist, made a pregnancy diet plan with my nutritionist, and went for long walks to stay active and keep my mind busy during the two-week wait.

And I could feel him getting cozy in there. I felt really different from our last transfer, and had a lot of pressure and in my uterus…which I took as a good sign.

I decided not to test early and instead to wait for the blood test at the doctor. When we got the call, I was overjoyed. It was the best day of my life. My HCG level was high and things were looking up!

But when you go through infertility, you never let yourself get too excited. Finn and I both tried to not get ahead of ourselves because we knew we still had a long road ahead of us. Instead, we stayed cautiously optimistic.

The doctors continued to monitor my HCG levels and it was more than doubling every 2 days…an awesome sign of a viable pregnancy! We were ecstatic but knew the ultimate test would be the first ultrasound.

Our First Ultrasound

We had our first ultrasound at 6 weeks and were both a nervous wreck. At 6 weeks, you’re looking for a gestational sac, a fetal pole, and sometimes a heartbeat. 6 weeks can be a little early for a heartbeat, so we promised ourselves that we wouldn’t get upset if they didn’t hear one today. It was still early.

IVF 2 gestational sacs
6-week ultrasound – 2 gestational sacs

Once the screen popped up, we were slightly confused. There were 2 gestational sacs up there. The ultrasound technician told us not to panic, but our embryo had split into identical twins. And while one was looking good with a fetal pole and heartbeat (!!!), the other was completely empty and had stopped growing.

6 week ultrasound fetal pole
6-week ultrasound – 1 fetal pole and heartbeat

At that point, we didn’t know how to feel. We were overjoyed that we had one baby doing well in there, but were also sad that our other baby was potentially gone.

We soon learned that this is known as the vanishing twin syndrome and with IVF the chance of this happening is 1-2%. Our doctor told us that the other baby could catch up and be viable, or my body would naturally reabsorb it. Either way, it shouldn’t affect the one healthy baby.

IVF 7 weeks ultrasound
7-week ultrasound – Strong heartbeat

At our 7-week ultrasound, we were really nervous and anxious. Our first ultrasound hadn’t gone exactly as we expected, but we were hopeful for a good visit. We soon saw our baby up on the screen with his beautiful little heart beating away. We were told that everything was looking amazing and he had a strong heartbeat. The other sac was still there, but again, my doctor was not concerned.

At 8 weeks, we went to my normal OB/GYN for our first visit. While we hadn’t officially graduated from our fertility clinic (that happens at 10 weeks), we were excited to meet with our doctor and discuss our entire pregnancy plan.

Our ultrasound there was again a good one. The heartbeat had gotten even stronger and he was looking perfect. We took pictures and videos and sent them to our family members. Our doctor said she was very confident that things were looking good and advised us to make our 12, 16, and 20-week appointments. She also gave us information for prenatal classes and showed us how to sign up for the hospital for delivery.

We left our 8-week appointment feeling amazing and we both breathed a huge sigh of relief. We had been nervous and antsy with each doctor’s visit but finally felt like we could relax and enjoy the pregnancy. In true Casey fashion, I even made a big to-do list for us for the remaining 7 months so we could prepare for Baby Finn’s arrival in June.

I had gone most of this year pretty unhappy. Going through infertility is hard and draining both mentally and physically. But for the first time in a long time, I was happy again. I finally got what I had prayed for every day…a baby and a chance to be a mother.

“I’m Sorry, But There’s No Heartbeat”

I was feeling confident about our 9-week ultrasound appointment. So confident that I told Finn he didn’t have to come and instead my mom could come with me. At this point, we had already seen the baby 3 times and had heard his strong heartbeat at each appointment. I figured my mom would love to come along and meet my doctor and favorite nurses at my fertility clinic before I graduated. Not to mention see her grandson for the first time!

My mom and I made a morning out of it, grabbing breakfast before heading to the doctor. I gave blood and then we headed in for our ultrasound.

Immediately I knew something was wrong because the normally chatty ultrasound technician was very quiet. I started to panic a bit and looked at the screen searching for clues to her silence. And that’s when I saw it…my baby boy on the screen without the flicker of his heartbeat. He was just floating there in silence.

She turned to me and said, “I’m sorry, but there’s no heartbeat.”

At that instant, I was numb. I just kept thinking that she was mistaken. We had seen a strong heartbeat just 5 days before…how could it stop? She went and got a doctor to check again, and it was clear…our baby was gone.

I was lucky to have my mom by my side and she immediately called Finn. He came to the office as fast as he could from work and the moment he arrived I collapsed into his arms. We both sobbed uncontrollably having just lost the best thing that had ever happened to us.Hysteroscopy after IVF miscarriage

Two days later I had a D&C surgery to remove our baby. I remember waking up from surgery and touching my stomach, knowing that he was no longer with me. My little buddy who I talked to all day long was now gone.

The next few weeks were a blur. I tried to pass the hours getting work done, but writing uplifting and fun holiday content seemed pointless when I was hurting so badly. I couldn’t eat.  I couldn’t smile. I looked at the clock everyday wishing for it to be bedtime, so I could just sleep. But then at night, I would find myself lying awake replaying every moment over and over in my head and asking myself questions. Had I done something wrong? Why did this happen? Were we ever going to be parents? Was I not meant to be a mom? Could this happen again?

We began seeing a therapist who specializes in fertility treatments and pregnancy loss, and that was helpful for us both. It gave us a safe place to talk about our baby and she provided us with tips to get through the hardest time of year…holiday gatherings, baby announcements galore, and Christmas cards full of families.

At my surgery follow-up appointment, they found retained tissue in my uterus. I ended up having to take drugs to try to pass the remnants, which resulted in a terribly painful weekend. Unfortunately, the drugs didn’t work and I had to have a second surgery to ensure all of the tissue was out. 2 surgeries in the span of 3-weeks was really hard on my body. And I spent most of December bleeding and in pain.

Eventually, though, I stopped bleeding and started to heal.

How Did This Happen?

That’s a question I ask myself over and over. Unfortunately, miscarriage is all too common, but my situation is a little bit different.

Most miscarriages are due to chromosomal abnormalities, a whopping 70-80%. However, with IVF our embryo was tested ahead of time and was found to be normal. Also, your chance of miscarriage goes down greatly after you’ve seen a heartbeat, and we had seen a strong heartbeat three times.

Yet somehow, even with a PGS tested embryo and a strong heartbeat, we still lost our son.

A few weeks after my surgery, we visited my fertility doctor looking for answers. I had spent most of my recovery diving into research about miscarriage and ordering books to read. This book was really helpful for me to learn about the various testing available for recurrent miscarriage and to arm myself with information. I went into my doctor with a list of all of the tests I wanted done to figure out what went wrong.

Insurance only covers testing if you’ve had 2 or more losses, but we were willing to do anything to prevent this pain from ever happening again. And luckily, our doctor agreed to do all of the tests we requested. So during December, we both underwent blood work and more testing to see if there was an underlying issue here. We also tested the fetal tissue.

Everything came back normal.

What Now?

We still have 3 normal embryos left, but the thought of trying again right now terrifies me. I’m scared of not getting pregnant and I’m also scared of getting pregnant and losing another baby. I think for now we both still need time to heal…physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually. I need some time to bring that hope back, because it’s nowhere to be found right now.

So many of you have checked in with me over the last month asking for updates and I felt like it was time to share the details. We appreciate your continued support on our journey to parenthood. Your emails, DMs, prayers, and good vibes sent our way keep us going. Thank you.

Casey

Our Infertility Journey