Our first pregnancy began as most such happy journeys begin.
I vividly remember my heart’s flutterings as the second line slowly emerged on the pregnancy test, in the early Saturday morning hours while my husband still slept.
We had been trying to conceive for 2 months. I had approached our attempt at pregnancy with some apprehension, as my mother had struggled with 10 years of infertility and I had long feared to share her fate.
You can well imagine, therefore, my disbelief and subsequent euphoria to behold the positive pregnancy test on my bathroom vanity.
I screamed, “I’m pregnant!” My husband, roused from sleep by my exclamation, rushed into the bathroom and hugged me; we both wept for joy. This revelation was followed by a flurry of Pinterest-worthy pregnancy announcements to our parents and relatives. This would be the first grandchild on both sides, a longed-for prospect.
Our first ultrasound appointment was met with a small amount of trepidation, but all doubts were silenced by the cheerful ultrasound technician, who exclaimed, “We have a heartbeat!” We paid less attention to her subsequent statement: “The baby is a little on the small side. It’s measuring 6 weeks, when it should measure 8 weeks. You probably ovulated late.” This seemingly innocent remark would later assume ominous overtones in retrospect.
I felt exceedingly well. I counted myself fortunate to have avoided the dreaded morning sickness suffered by so many expectant mothers and deduced that all must be well. We were so confident in the success of this textbook pregnancy that, at 11 weeks, we proceeded to post a social media announcement, featuring our dog standing in front of a sign which read the following: “Mom and Dad are getting me a human for Christmas!” We spent hours coaxing our puppy into the proper position for the perfect shot. We gleefully posted it on Facebook, basking in the subsequent flood of well wishes.
Our 12 week appointment arrived. Given my lack of symptoms, I was so convinced that all was well that I gave my husband permission to miss the appointment. I invited my mother-in-law instead, who wished to hear the baby’s heartbeat. The seminal moment arrived, and we followed the same cheerful technician into the ultrasound suite. I waited with bated breath to hear my angel’s heartbeat once again.
This time, instead of rapid-fire reassurances, an eerie silence cloaked the dark room. The ultrasound technician finally uttered in hoarse tones, “I should see arms and legs by now.” She switched the ultrasound mode from transabdominal to transvaginal. She quietly asked, “Have you had any spotting?” I whispered, “No, I haven’t.”
The silence in the room deepened. My mind began to race as the unthinkable took shape.
The technician ultimately shook her head and bemoaned, “I am so sorry; I cannot find any cardiac activity.”
I was never before – and have never since – been so utterly crushed as in that moment. The ultrasound suite was a tomb, where my dearest dreams – past, present, and future – were buried.
I underwent a D&C, and subsequent test results revealed our baby had been a boy. We also learned that he was the product of a molar pregnancy. A molar pregnancy is a fluke of nature, 1 in 1000 pregnancies. It most often occurs when 2 sperm fertilize the same egg, leading to a non-viable fetus. It carries more danger than an average miscarriage as there is a small risk of cancer (gestational trophoblastic disease, or choriocarcinoma). In a cruel twist, I not only mourned the loss of my baby but now faced the potential specter of cancer.
As is custom in molar pregnancies, we were instructed to wait a set number of months to conceive again, to ensure that my HCG level dropped to zero – and remained there.
During those months, I wrestled with demons of jealousy. Seeing other young mothers around me was a daily torment. Through tears, I smiled for them. I could hardly bear to see young children, as thoughts of my little lost love were all-consuming. I wondered if this mystical gift of motherhood would ever visit me again. Looking back, I am not proud of my emotions during that bleak period, but they were natural and unavoidable. Even then, I realized that only a second pregnancy had the power to cure this bitterness.
I marked the day on my calendar when this agonizing wait would end and met that day with caution, hardly daring to hope.
Two months later, I had another positive pregnancy test. And yet, this result was received with far greater forbearance and gravity. No Pinterest-worthy announcements this time; in fact, no announcements at all.
Each doctor’s appointment provoked intense anxiety, and I came as close to a panic attack as I ever have at my 8 week visit, when I was again forced to enter the dark room of death, as I saw it then – the ultrasound suite. This time, the technician reassured me that the baby was measuring 7 weeks and 4 days – consistent with expected size.
Each doctor’s appointment allayed my fears by small increments. Only at the anatomy scan, when my baby’s organs were painstakingly examined and pronounced to be free from defect, did I begin to relax and somewhat enjoy the journey.
Our firstborn, a healthy baby boy, arrived on July 27, 2019.
Our second son was born two years later.
Our great trial taught us many lessons. Only in the rain can we begin to appreciate the sunshine that follows. God taught us the value of trusting Him. Particularly inspiring was the song, “By Faith,” by Keith and Kristyn Getty; it was our theme song, our ballad of faith, during those dark days.
We named our molar baby, “Andrew.”
Even though the lyrical laughter of children and the patter of small feet infuse our home with warmth and delight today, we will never forget Andrew.
We know we will meet him again one day.
To all women who have suffered pregnancy loss, and particularly to those who have endured the protracted nightmare that is a molar pregnancy, we hope our story inspires hope for brighter days. You are not alone.