My First Pregnancy

Well I did it. I made the decision I agonised over. We decided to have a baby. The
decision took a lot of discussion and number crunching, but when it came down to it, I
just couldn’t live anymore unless I was a mom. I wanted so desperately to have my own
sweet baby to love and nurture and that feeling would not be denied.

We started trying in August and much to our surprise, I got pregnant first cycle! I
remember taking the test and seeing the second line faintly fill in within seconds. I called
to my husband and he swore it wasn’t there. Then he put on his glasses and took it out
of the dark bedroom and I got the reaction I wanted. Lots of hugs and kisses and
exclamations of excitement. We were over the moon.

The first 7 weeks of pregnancy were very easy for me. No nausea and I felt healthier
than I did before I got pregnant. I was starving all the time, usually waking up at 3am for
a snack before I went back to bed. Being hungry made me so happy because I knew
my little jellybean was getting lots of good nutrients. We always called her JB.

Then things started to go downhill.

After coming home from a friend’s wedding, I had extreme pain in my pelvis and
was cramping. I couldn’t see or hear and was vomiting uncontrollably. My husband rushed
me to the hospital and we found out I had had a very large ovarian cyst that ruptured
and leaked about 8 pounds of blood and fluid throughout my abdomen. I was massive
and swollen and in pain. Recovery was 2 weeks. Next, my thyroid went and stopped
functioning so I was put on Synthroid to keep it going. Then I got a horrible UTI and was
given medication that made me throw up 10 times a day.

Finally, I was better and went in for an ultrasound to check that the UTI hadn’t affected
my kidneys. The tech did a pelvic scan and found that the fetus’ NT was 5mm. A
worrying sign as it was supposed to be under 3.5mm at the time. Everyone went into full panic
mode and my husband and I spent 3 stressful weeks waiting to get into a genetics
clinic.

At the detailed ultrasound, things went from bad to worse. The NT had increased to 10mm, the fetus’ thorax was tiny compared to the abdomen, the arm bones were disproportionately short, the nasal bone wasn’t developing, the heart still hadn’t separated into 4 chambers, and the entire baby was surrounded by a pillow of excess fluid under the skin. Every one of the 4
doctors I saw was shocked I hadn’t miscarried already. Hysterical, I was shepherded to
a meeting with a geneticist and a genetic counsellor. My husband had to all but carry
me through the hospital.

We were told that taking into account the NT measurement alone, our baby had a 10-
15% chance of being born healthy. Chances were much higher of miscarriage or baby
being born with chromosomal disorders like Down’s Syndrome or Turner’s. Following
that tree down, if the baby survived and was in the lucky 10-15%, it would have a heart
defect, or skeletal dysplasia of some nature. The doctor was especially concerned with
the thorax growth, telling me that if I carried to term, more than likely my baby would be
born onto a ventilator and die within hours. They said a termination or further testing
were options, but to be aware that optimism should be guarded against. I had a near
zero chance of beating every problem they found. I was catatonic but screaming inside.
Near the end of the meeting, they told me if I miscarried before I had made a decision,
to scoop the contents into a clean baggie and put them in the fridge, then call to bring
them in for the pathologist. I had never heard such a horrifying request. It seems too
much to ask of a miscarrying would-be mother to catch the remains of her baby and put
them in a bag in the fridge. At least at a termination, they could collect the sample
themselves.

I was 25, Eli and I both had no history of problems like these in our families, I
had been on prenatal vitamins for 6 months before we started trying, I worked out 3
times a week, I had never drank or smoked or done drugs, I had gotten a pap smear
and full blood panels before we started trying to conceive, I had fought my depression
off for a year, and gotten off all my medications. I had done absolutely everything to
ensure I had a healthy pregnancy and baby. How could I possibly be the lightning strike
that has a pregnancy with this many problems? There are tons of women who do drugs
or drink, are over 30-40, or who had no prenatal care who get to have healthy babies,
why didn’t I get to have one?

The only humane thing I could do was terminate the pregnancy I was so desperate for. It felt surreal, like I was not pregnant already although I could still feel the symptoms. I couldn’t bear to look at myself in the mirror. I saw my glowing skin, thick hair, and strong nails and thought “this will be gone next week” or I rub my newly-popped, 4-month belly and was reminded all over again that I was still pregnant when all I wanted was an MIB mind wipe. Every hunger pang or dizzy spell was a punch to the gut. This pregnancy wasn’t mine anymore. I almost couldn’t wait to have it scraped out so I could start to mourn and pick up the pieces of myself I seemed to have lost everywhere. I could feel my depression’s shadowy tentacles at the corners of my eyes, just waiting for a crack big enough to get in. Eli helped. He fed me and sang to me, made sure I showered. Life is really, really bad sometimes. It’s okay to hate it and resent it, I think I’m owed that.