Hanging On To Hope After Losing Our Baby At 23 Weeks
By Alyssa Jennings
My husband and I started trying to conceive 19 months ago. We were hopeful, excited, and thankful for our health. After 6 months of trying we started to get nervous and I saw a doctor. Within a few weeks, I was sitting in my RE’s office listening to him say “You have two uteri (uteruses) and one tube, you will not be able to get pregnant naturally. Let’s talk about IVF!”
I had surgery on my tube due a rupture, but they had told us that the tube remained open. However, my RE noted that in the minute by minute surgery report it specifically stated that the tube was closed. Apparently, doctors in the past had missed this.
We were upset that this mistake was made, but we were eager to move forward with IVF. I was born with two uteri and the one attached to the working tube was not accessible. We didn’t ask many questions; we just signed on the dotted line and thanked our RE.
To be honest, we didn’t even have a chance to grieve the loss of not being able to conceive naturally. We started IVF right away and we were met with amazing results--12 PGS normal embryos! We transferred our strongest most perfect embryo in October of 2019, and it stuck!
The pregnancy was hard from the beginning. I was high risk and had to be seen almost weekly. We also got uncertain first and second trimester screening results and needed an amniocentesis. By week 18, we realized something serious was wrong. By week 22, a Whole Exome Gene Sequencing test confirmed our worst nightmare: we would lose our baby boy, Cole, to a rare genetic defect.
That Saturday I ended up in the Labor and Delivery emergency room. I was diagnosed with adjustment disorder and was heavily medicated. On Friday, March 20th, 2020, one week into the pandemic SIP, we lost our son at 23 weeks. It was a multiple day process. Thankfully, my husband was able to be by my side the entire time.
They dilated me on Wednesday using a spinal tap and laminaria sticks. We went home that evening and enjoyed the last few kicks of our baby boy. My husband had just started to feel him move on the outside. On Friday morning, we went into Labor and Delivery. After some time, I was put to sleep because my body was in danger.
My baby boy and I went to sleep at the same time and I woke up without him inside of me. We had about an hour with Cole before we had to say goodbye. It will forever remain the most heartbreakingly beautiful moment of my life. The weeks following the loss are still a blur. I could barely get out of bed. It’s hard to try and navigate how to deal with postpartum without your baby, while also grieving his loss and being stuck at home during a pandemic. It wasn’t until my first postpartum period came that I started to feel myself again.
It was also then that I started to gain back hope. We did PGD testing for the single gene defect on our remaining 11 embryos and we were left with 7 healthy embryos. This is what kept us going. We had so much hope.
Losing our baby was hard. It was probably the hardest thing we will ever have to go through as a couple. I just remember thinking, I am so grateful for science and technology. Without it, we wouldn’t have been able to identify Cole’s defect. We wouldn’t have been able to test our remaining embryos to ensure we didn’t have to suffer a loss like that again. And we wouldn’t be where we are today, one step closer to a healthy pregnancy and baby.
On June 16th, 2020, just three months postpartum, we decided to transfer another embryo. Another boy. We had so much hope during the two-week-wait. I saw rainbows EVERYWHERE. We knew this was it. I could feel it in my heart—until 9dp5dt when I got the call. It was negative. We cried. We felt defeated. But we got our RE on the phone for an immediate consult. What went wrong?
It was confirmed that everything looked perfect—the embryo, my hormones, my lining. My doctor reminded me that sometimes, actually 35% of the time, it just doesn’t work. He also said maybe my body needed more time to rest and heal after such a late loss. So, we are taking some time off and will try again before the end of the year.
We have 6 embryos left and our hearts are still full of hope. My body, and our hearts, have been through the wringer. However, we’re still full of hope and gratitude. I feel it’s so important to keep pushing forward, keep reminding yourself that this fight will be worth it. And that, without IVF, many of us wouldn’t even be able to make it this far. My heart was eager to try again, but my body wasn’t ready. I’m hopeful that this time off will give us a little more time to heal both emotionally and physically.
IVF is hard, loss is crippling, and dealing with all of that during a pandemic is debilitating. But don’t give up. Remember that you’re not alone. Hang on to that hope. Listen to your body. Give yourself time. I promise it will all be worth it.
Alyssa Jennings is an infertility warrior who shares her journey on Instagram @healthyivf.