Thursday, October 15, 2015

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

I shared recently about our saints in heaven. A lot of women will refer to their lost children as angels, but in the Catholic faith we refer to them as saints since we believe they live in perfection in heaven. They each HAVE a guardian angel, a relationship for eternity. And as a Catholic, it is common practice to ask for the intercession/prayers of the saints for those of us still living this gift of life on earth. So I want to share my miracle through the intercession of my two saints with you.

When I found I was pregnant for a fourth time, I was completely overcome with all the emotions that had built up over the last year. I was overjoyed to be carrying life, but obviously also very anxious about another loss. I had some wonderful friends already praying for me, but I also asked my saints to watch over their sibling.

I also got it into my head that I needed to see a rainbow. Women who experience miscarriage call the living children that follow rainbow babies, essentially equating the loss to a storm and the gift of new life to the miraculous rainbow that follows. Anyway, I thought I needed confirmation from God that we'd get to hold this baby, and I had specific instructions for Him on how I wanted this confirmation. (What can I say? I'm still learning.)

At the time, it was perfect rainbow weather. It was that season in Florida when it rains almost every afternoon and is immediately followed by sunshine. I started finding all sorts of reasons to go outside: get the mail, stretch my legs, let the dog chase the squirrel. But no rainbows. I soon grew frustrated with God because I kept seeing other people on social media posting pictures of these amazing rainbows they were seeing in person. Where was MY rainbow?

On one particularly anxiety-ridden day I was scrolling through Facebook and saw seven different people had posted pictures of rainbows. They were all over the country, and I was nearly in tears because I had pretty much convinced myself I HAD to see a rainbow. It was absurd, but I guess that's how I was coping. As I sat there and looked at these rainbows, many of them doubles, I suddenly realized something. Maybe these were MY rainbows! Maybe I had been staring at the answers to my prayer for days.

I think I saw a rainbow almost every day of my first trimester in one way or another, most of them doubles. I like to think there was one from each of my babies.

So thank you to everyone who posted a picture of a rainbow. I think you were a part of an answered prayer, and at the very least, you helped ease my anxiety.

And know that if you have experienced a loss, that I'm praying for you as well, that you might see your rainbow in whatever form it comes in.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month: Our Story

October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. Today is also one of my due dates.

I'm not big on sharing my bad days or the tough times on social media because I don't want my bad day to influence another's. However, sometimes bad things should be shared so we can learn from them and maybe help someone else. I also share because my story of loss is very intimately tied with NFP, and I hope maybe it will benefit others.

When I started charting several months postpartum my cycles weren't the greatest. There were some signs of potential issues that I hoped would work themselves out as my daughter nursed less and less. However, after 6 months the charts didn't change much, and I didn't get a positive pregnancy test like I kept praying for.

I am no medical professional, but I had my suspicions that something was wrong. The nursing hormone prolactin is nature's way of spacing pregnancies. It often remains high until the baby weans or nurses less. This keeps the hormone progesterone low so ovulation does not occur and thus a woman cannot get pregnant. However, sometimes the prolactin isn't high enough to keep ovulation from occurring but just high enough to make progesterone too low to sustain a pregnancy. This was my guess as to what was happening.

So I decided to try and get my levels tested. I asked my OB's office and my family doctor to have my progesterone and/or prolactin level tested. I was assured by both that many nursing women can get pregnant. I told them I understood that, but that I was seeing signs of low progesterone in my charting. My family doctor tested several other things, but never my progesterone after multiple visits. The OB nurse didn't even have me in.

When my daughter turned 18 months old I weaned her fully and became pregnant the same week. I was absolutely elated. I so desired a sibling for my daughter. It was practically all I could think about. However, my elation soon turned to worry when the spotting started. I didn't have that with my first pregnancy, but I tried to assure myself that it was fine, as did all the doctors I called. The spotting continued on and off for a few days and I called my doctors again and practically begged that they test my progesterone. They assured me again that spotting was normal and testing wasn't necessary.

Then one Sunday evening I knew something was very wrong. I can't even describe the feeling that came over me. I knew I was losing my baby. We went to the ER right away where they took my HCG (pregnancy hormone) levels and did an ultrasound. I asked if they could check my progesterone levels once again. They said they didn't do that, but would look into it. They took some more blood to run tests. After nearly 4 hours in the ER they came back and couldn't tell me much. I asked about the progesterone levels, and they said they didn't run them. Defeated might be an understatement.

The next day my OB's office called, and I continued my broken-record request to have my progesterone level checked since things seemed to have gotten a little better. She said that was a good sign and to rest. Hope was a cruel thing during those 2 days. At about 2 a.m. I experienced something like a mini labor and lost the baby.

For anyone who has suffered a miscarriage, you can write to the Church of the Holy Innocents, Shrine of the Unborn in New York, and they will write your child's name in a book of intentions, light a perpetual candle, and say mass for the soul ever first Monday of the month. I'd love to visit someday.

The next day in the OB's office surrounded by pregnant women I had my blood drawn once again to test HCG levels, but it wasn't really necessary. I had come so I could talk to my doctor, but she wasn't there so I went home feeling entirely empty.

My doctor called later that day to tell me my HCG levels had dropped significantly. I had assumed as much, and I preface my next question with a "please don't think I'm crazy, but I chart and ...." I asked once again if they could check my progesterone when my body had recovered. Her response, "Oh yeah. We do that all the time." I think I sunk to the floor. I had nothing left to say.

A month later I had my progesterone level checked. It was a 4. The lowest it should be, at the point I had it tested (progesterone has to be tested on a specific cycle day for accurate numbers, about 7 or 8 days after ovulation), is an 8 with a more ideal number of 12 or higher. My progesterone wasn't just low; it was abysmal. My doctor said she'd like to have it tested once again to confirm that we had tested on the right day. Having charted for so long I knew we had, though I agreed. But I got another positive pregnancy test a day later, and by the time I lost that baby the doctor agreed to supplement future pregnancies with progesterone without running further tests. (There haven't been any studies to suggest that too much progesterone during a pregnancy is a bad thing.)

Miscarriage is not uncommon in my family. I actually always expected it, but to experience it was heartwrenching. What made it even more difficult is that perhaps it could have been avoided. Maybe not, as miscarriage is frequently because of genetic abnormalities, but I feel like if one doctor had done as I requested, if one doctor was familiar with NFP, maybe we could have saved that first baby's life with progesterone support. I understand that the medical world has to run a certain way in order to keep up with demand, but it seems like a simple blood draw wouldn't have been much of an inconvenience.

Today I'm exactly 20 weeks pregnant. It's a bit bittersweet grieving the baby due today, and yet to be so elated to be carrying this little girl. I truly believe she's here today because of the progesterone I was finally put on, and I'm so thankful for the knowledge I was given through NFP. I know also that God's plan is for every mama to hold their baby, but with sin comes tragedy, but He can make beauty from any tragedy.