After Two Years Of Infertility, I Got Pregnant, And Then My Baby Died In The Womb

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Sometime around two years ago, my boyfriend and I decided that we would try to have a baby. We wanted to be parents for some time, and it felt right.

I have paranoid schizophrenia, so I called my psychiatrist and asked him if my medications were safe. He didn’t feel comfortable confirming or denying and referred me to an obstetrician.

I saw one who gave me some printouts about medications that also did not confirm or deny anything — very vague information. They were safe — kind of. Until the third trimester — maybe. My OB started me on prenatal vitamins and wished me luck.

I thought it would be easy to get pregnant. So many people get pregnant by accident; even I had once.

I expected to be pregnant the first month we started trying. I wasn’t.

Surely the next month. Nope.

Five months later, my friend Sarah helped me find another OB in the city where I would be moving.

She was amazing. Empathetic and caring. She referred me to a doctor who specialized in pregnancy and psychiatric medication. He told me that two of my three medications were okay. The third was probably okay, but there were no human studies.

He asked me how I was feeling about my current regimen. I said I was stable for the first time in a decade. He said that it was better for the mother and baby to stay stable than not to be. He suggested I continue taking my medications and trying to get pregnant.

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The next month I went back to the OBGYN. I said after six months of trying, I still wasn’t pregnant. She said that usually, she would wait a year to refer to an infertility specialist, but because I was in my mid-30s she would make an exception.

My friend who had fertility issues for over three years (and eventually was able to get pregnant and give birth to a healthy child) suggested I read It Starts With the Egg by Rebecca Fett. It’s a great book to read for anyone trying to get pregnant, especially those with infertility like myself.

I went on a pregnancy diet. I stopped eating sushi and poke and ate a lot of lean meat and drank a lot of milk.

I stopped buying plastic water bottles and started using products that came in glass. I started taking CoQ10, a vitamin for growth. I stopped using products with phthalates.

I had many tests done by the infertility specialist. One day they took nine vials of blood. They did a vaginal ultrasound. I underwent this test to fill my uterus with dye to check everything out which was not pleasant.

Everything was normal.

I had unexplained infertility, they told me, and I could start treatment. If it didn’t work, I could try IVF.

We had been trying for about a year and a half by this time. We eventually decided that infertility treatments, including IVF, weren’t for us. But we would keep trying.

We kept trying.

Around the two-year mark, I told my psychologist that I didn’t think I could do this anymore. I had learned somewhere around six months before that my dad was terminally ill. I watched him deteriorate with the treatment until he was someone I didn’t even recognize. I told my psychologist that I needed to focus on my dad, and he respected my decision.

I told my boyfriend as well — that my dad was too sick, and I couldn’t do this right now.

Getting my hopes up until my period came, every single month, month after month, was excruciating. He said he understood and supported my decision.

He said that he really wanted this to work because he wanted my dad to meet the baby before he dies, but that he understood and would always support me.

The next week I was pregnant.

When I took the pregnancy tests, I was not expecting anything. I had taken so many over the last two years and had been disappointed every time.

After I used the first one, I set it on the sink and waited a few minutes. It showed two lines, and I thought to myself, "Well, I wasn’t expecting that."

I took another one, a few hours later. Same result. I was definitely pregnant. I put the pregnancy tests in a sealable plastic bag and put them in the drawer. They are still there.

I called my boyfriend. He said, “Hey baby” like always and I said, “Ummmmm, I’m pregnant” and he was so excited. He was freaking out a little bit and said, “it’s finally happening!” 

I thought I was four weeks at the time, but it turns out I was five weeks. My baby was conceived on ovulation day, which was May 9, 2021. Mother’s Day.

My baby was due on January 24, 2022. 

We started calling the baby Poppy, because when I downloaded one of the baby apps it said the baby was as big as a poppyseed.

The baby grew over the next weeks, and the size comparison changed, but Poppy stuck.

We had given my dad his Father’s Day gift on my birthday because he was feeling especially crappy that day and we thought it would lift his spirits. We signed it, "Love, Allie, Delon, and Poppy."

Because I thought it was four weeks and my OBGYN didn’t have an appointment until two weeks later, I thought it was fine. I initially thought that they couldn’t do the ultrasound until eight weeks anyway, but when I called on the phone the doctor’s office told me that the doctor would want to see me right away to make sure it wasn’t an ectopic pregnancy.

In an ectopic pregnancy, the egg can be found somewhere outside the uterus, usually inside a fallopian tube. It's very painful and needs to be surgically removed.

So, I scheduled an appointment with a different doctor at the same office for the next week, when I would be six weeks.

It wasn't a great experience. When the doctor came in, she did the vaginal ultrasound. She confirmed I was pregnant with one baby. She could not confirm the due date because it was too early. When she couldn’t detect the heartbeat, she said that she couldn’t tell if it was my heartbeat or the baby’s — again, it was too early.

She asked me what my medications were for; I said paranoid schizophrenia. She asked if I had seen someone to make sure they were safe, and I confirmed my regular doctor had referred me to someone who cleared me on the medications.

She asked me if I got pregnant on purpose. I advised her that I did, it took me two years to get pregnant. She did not say "Congratulations!" She then said that one in four women experience a miscarriage in the first twelve weeks. 

She told me that if I started to bleed enough to soak more than one pad an hour for longer than two hours, I should go to the emergency room. I learned later from my stepmom who is a licensed nurse that this is a necessary conversation to have. The doctor did not give me an ultrasound picture. She printed them out for my file but did not give me one.

A longtime friend of mine told me that if she had I wouldn’t have been able to see anything. But now, I still wish I took it. The doctor asked me if I had any questions. I shook my head no and I got dressed, scheduled an appointment in two weeks, and left.

The next day I called the doctor’s office back. I asked to change my appointment in two weeks for my regular OBG They asked why I was changing doctors and I told them my experience wasn’t great. They didn’t apologize. 

A prevalent part of having paranoid schizophrena, the one that is so hard to treat, is the paranoia I experience. I'm paranoid that I will be poisoned or that I will get sick. Vomiting is very difficult for me; I have avoided sickness to a degree that seems unfathomable to most people. I can’t remember the last time vomited. Ten years ago, I think.

I started to feel nauseous at around seven weeks, bu I never actually vomited, thank goodness. But I woke up in the morning sure I would. And I was nauseous throughout the day. My brother told me my mother and grandmother never had morning sickness and maybe I would get lucky.

At eight weeks and two days, I went to see my doctor. She came in and told me congratulations and that I should see the high-risk doctor to double confirm the safety of the medications. She started the vaginal ultrasound, but there was only silence, and she said very quietly, “There is no heartbeat.”

Tears ran down the side of my masked face. I knew very well that there should have been a heartbeat by six weeks. I was eight weeks pregnant.

RELATED: I've Had Miscarriages Before, But Never Like This

She placed her hand on top of mine and said, “I am so sorry.” That only made me cry more.

She stayed there with me for a while, until I asked her what I had to do.

She said I could force the miscarriage with medication or have the D&C operation to end the pregnancy. She said I didn’t have to decide right now. She asked me if I would like to call my boyfriend. I realized I would be the one who would have to tell him. I said, “He’s downstairs in the car.”

She asked me if I would like to call him and tell him to come upstairs. I asked her if that was allowed. They had COVID restrictions and only the patient was allowed — no exceptions. It didn’t matter that we were both vaccinated. I had even called before my appointment to try to get them to budge. They wouldn’t.

I said, “I thought that wasn’t allowed.”

She said, “I think we have to make an exception in this case.” (I later learned my OBG was the medical director of the practice.)

I called him. I said, “Can you come upstairs please?” I was crying. He asked me what was wrong. I started to cry so badly that I could barely speak. “The baby doesn’t have a heartbeat.”

He said, “I’ll be right there.”

Sometime later, there was a knock at the door. I was dressed by this time. The nurse said, “Delon is here,” and he came in. I explained to him that there was a weak, or wrong number, of chromosomes. There was nothing either of us did wrong. These things happen.

I was sitting in a chair. He knelt down on the ground and put his head on my knees. He cried. He cried for a long time. We cried together for a long time.

“I’m sorry,” I said, and he said it wasn’t my fault.

“This is not the end,” I said, and he said he knew that and that we could try again.

We gained our composure and left. They did not charge me my co-pay for the visit.

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I texted my boss. I told him I would be out the rest of the week.

I told Delon we didn’t have to tell anyone right now. That we could take time to grieve. He agreed. Later that day, I asked him, “Do you resent me for what happened?”

He said no. He said, “I could never resent you. Even if this was your fault, even if it was something you did, I could never resent you.”

I slept alone that night, like every night.

We do not live together, and he has a senior dog who has to go to the bathroom oftentimes a night. He offered to stay at my apartment with me, but I said it was okay and to go be with his dogs. His dogs and my cats are our kids. They are the only kids we have at the moment, and we treat them as any parents treat their kids.

I slept well, surprisingly. I thought it was going to be a sleepless night, but it wasn’t. 

The next morning, he drove me to the doctor again. I saw my OB and she asked me if I had decided how to move forward. I said medication. She explained to me what I could expect — a miscarriage, basically — and said that most likely there would be tissue leftover and that I would have to have the D&C operation to remove that.

I sighed out loud.

RELATED: I Had An Herbal Abortion Because Going To A Clinic Made It Too Real

I was avoiding the D&C. Over ten years before, I had gotten pregnant by accident. I wanted to keep the baby, but my partner at the time did not. I had lived a life of being born to one parent who didn’t want me, and I could not do that to my baby.

My partner at the time took me to the clinic and paid $400, not without complaining that I should have paid for half. In the waiting room, people were laughing and being loud. I was crying. I was so scared. I was twenty-three. I had never had surgery before. 

He told me to stop crying — not that it was going to be okay, just to stop crying. That I was making it worse.

I think about that my abortion all the time. It’s in my dreams, in my wakeful mind. It terrifies me, going back to that place. I’m still not over it, which is why the thought of another D&C terrified me.

This time, my OB gave me the medication and told me they would administer it the next morning.

I agonized over it all day. Forcing a miscarriage sounded so traumatic. I had to stay home for three days and wait. I called my boyfriend that night.

I said, “I think I’m just going to have the surgery instead,” and he said, “I support whatever you decide.” He knows about my abortion and how much pain it has caused me.

The next morning, I went to see the nurse practitioner.

I explained that my doctor told me I may have to have the D&C anyway, and I was avoiding it due to past trauma, but I was just going to do it. She said she would make some calls and come back in an hour.

I started to silently cry. 

They brought me to the room with the ultrasound machine, where I had learned two days before that my baby didn’t have a heartbeat, where I had cried with my boyfriend. A small piece of the paper was sticking out of the machine — the paper that the ultrasound photos were printed on. I started to cry again.

The doctor came in and explained the procedure. I knew it all too well, even though it had been over ten years since the last one. At the very least, my boyfriend will be on time to pick me up. That I know for sure.

...

Since I had experienced infertility, I was sure I wouldn’t have any complications. Surely I had worked hard enough for this pregnancy and nothing bad would happen. It wouldn’t happen to me.

It’s so easy to think: It won’t happen to me.

But infertility and miscarriage can happen to anyone — no matter how good of a person you are or how healthy you are or how hard you work at it. It can happen to anyone. 

Is fighting to become a parent worth it? If you want to be a parent, or you’re already a parent and want another child, yes, if you truly want it. If you’re passionate about it, and you know it’s what you want and it’s the right time. Yeah, it’s worth it.

Fighting for what you want and for what you deserve is absolutely worth it and I hope someday, I can will the strength to try again.

RELATED: What I Wish I Could Say To The Child That I Lost

Allie Burke is the author of Paper Souls and is the CEO and co-founder of Stigma Fighters.

This article was originally published at Medium. Reprinted with permission from the author.