Thursday, September 23, 2010

Miscarriage at 5 weeks, June 2000
Miscarriage at 5 weeks, June 2009
Mom to Sydney Alexis, born at 20 weeks on February 10th, 2009
Fenton, MO

I always knew I wanted to be a mom.  When my husband Eric and I got married in 1998, we were 19 and 20 and he was still in college so we thought we would wait until he finished school to have a baby.  I had always had irregular cycles so I had a feeling it wouldn't be easy for me to get pregnant.  We both wanted to have four children, so we hoped that it wouldn't be too difficult for us to conceive.
Within six months of marriage, I went off the pill and a few months after that we were officially trying to conceive.  After stopping birth control, my cycles also stopped.  I went to my gynecologist, who told me that it wasn't abnormal to not have cycles.  This didn't sit well with me.  My boss at the time recommended her gynecologist to me so I made an appointment.  Within the first few minutes of meeting this new doctor, I was diagnosed with PCOS.
A year after going off the pill, we began going through various fertility testing and I began to take Clomid.  The first two months on Clomid, nothing happened.  I didn't even ovulate.  My doctor prescribed Metformin and the first month of Clomid and Metformin, I finally ovulated. 
On our second wedding anniversary, I took a pregnancy test and it was positive.  Our third Clomid/Metformin cycle had worked!  The test result was very faint so I had a blood test the same day.  My level came back very low.  A repeat test a few days later was negative and the next day I began to miscarry at 5 weeks.  I was devastated.  We continued trying the next cycle.
I used Clomid for two more cycles without success.  My doctor wanted us to stop the Clomid, take a few months off to regroup, and come back at the first of the year to start discussing injectable medication.  The next cycle, to my surprise, I ovulated.  Then again the next month.  On our fourth unmedicated cycle (I was only taking Metformin), my period didn't come when I expected it.  I thought that I had stopped ovulating.  I then realized that I'd been very tired and just felt off.  I took a pregnancy test and to my surprise, it was positive.  I had a relatively uneventful pregnancy until 32 weeks, developed mild pre-eclampsia, and was induced at 36 weeks.  Our first son, Christian, was born on July 19, 2001.
A year later, I was a happy mom to my little guy and thinking about ttc again.  We decided to wait until he was closer to 2 and assumed it would take us a while to get pregnant again.  I started taking Metformin right around Christian's first birthday.  At the end of July, I got really sick and thought I had the flu.  At the urging of my husband and friend, I took a pregnancy test.  It was positive and I couldn't believe it.  The pregnancy was completely unexpected, but we were so excited.  After a pregnancy full of complications, including severe pre-eclampsia and HELLP Syndrome, our daughter Hailey was born at 33 weeks on February 9, 2003.  She spent 12 days in the NICU and came home healthy.  We spoke with my OB and a high risk doctor who advised us to not have anymore children.  Despite this recommendation, my OB wasn't comfortable tying my tubes since I was only 24.  I chose to have an IUD placed for birth control.
When Hailey was three years old, I began having problems with my IUD.  I would bleed uncontrollably for weeks at a time.  I had my IUD removed, hoping that would end the problem, but it didn't.  In April 2007, I had a D&C done, which stopped the bleeding for a few months.  In December 2007, I had another D&C done and the pathology showed I had a uterine infection.  After a month of strong antibiotics, the bleeding stopped for good.  In February 2008, I had Lap Band weight loss surgery and by September 2008, I had lost 100 pounds.  My cycles were more regular than they had ever been in my life.  Christian and Hailey were 7 and 5 and both were in school, I was working full time, and going to school.  We decided that we were sure our family was complete, so Eric had a consultation for a vasectomy in mid-October 2008. 
In late October, I went in to have some x-rays.  While I was waiting, I saw the signs that said "If you are or might be pregnant..."  For some reason, those signs made me start thinking and I realized that my period was late.  I waited a few days and finally took a test.  I knew the test was going to be positive, so I just glanced at it and saw the two lines.  I was in a panic and scared out of my mind.  I was scared to be pregnant again after what I went through with Hailey.
On Halloween, I went to my first OB appointment and had an ultrasound.  There was a faint heartbeat and I was barely 6 weeks pregnant.  My due date was June 26, 2009.  My OB treated me as high risk from the very beginning.  I saw him every two weeks and had ultrasounds done at every visit.  The pregnancy progressed smoothly and I'd never felt better during pregnancy.  I felt movement starting at 11 weeks, which was unbelievable to me.  Eric could feel the baby kicking when I was only 19 weeks.  The baby was so active and moved all the time.  I had some symptoms that I thought were just normal for a third baby and being older.  I had a lot of pelvic pressure starting at 14-15 weeks.  I also had discharge that seemed like small pieces of my mucus plug often.
At 20 weeks, on February 4th I had a level II ultrasound.  Despite my feeling that we were having a boy, the ultrasound revealed we were expecting a healthy girl.  She was growing right on target and we were all so excited for her arrival.  We had already picked out her name, Sydney Alexis.  On Saturday, February 7th, I wasn't feeling right.  I had an extremely increased discharge and felt like I might have the flu or something.  On Sunday morning, I woke up to a sick kid and had to take her to urgent care.  When we got home, I had to lie down to rest because I felt awful and was exhausted.  I got up around noon and went to the bathroom.  When I wiped, I had a small amount of red spotting.  I wiped again and there wasn't any more blood.  I decided to call my OB and he told me to go in and get checked.  I had to pick Eric up at work and we headed to the hospital.  On the way there, I had a weird feeling like something was in my vagina. 
I got checked into the hospital and everything was very casual at first.  After answering all of the questions they ask about everything, a resident came in to check me.  She started with a sterile speculum exam and the nurse was standing nearby, handing the doctor swabs and other things.  I remember the nurse went to hand the doctor something and the doctor said, "I don't need that" and removed the speculum.  She looked at me and said, "I can see a good portion of your bag of waters."  Eric and I looked at each other.  He didn't know what that meant, but I did.  The doctor told me that I was about 4 cm dilated and they were going to put the head of my bed down to take the pressure off of my cervix.  I couldn't believe this was happening.  I hadn't had any contractions or felt any pain. 
I knew at 20 weeks that if I delivered the baby, she wouldn't be able to survive.  I was determined to stay on strict bedrest and pretty much stand on my head if I had to for as long as I had to.  But the next morning, I woke up and rolled over and felt a gush.  I knew my water had broken.  I called my nurse in and she got the resident.  I had an ultrasound which showed good fluid levels around the baby, so she wanted to do a vaginal exam to see if my water had broken for sure.  She checked me and confirmed that yes, my water had broken.  At this point, I was hysterical.  I was alone so I called Eric and told him to get to the hospital right away and to make sure he brought the camera.  He had to drop the kids off at school because it was Hailey's birthday and she was taking cupcakes in for her class.  He raced to be with me and we spent the day crying and praying.  My OB came in and explained that some women can have a rupture of the membranes and stay pregnant until the baby can survive, the biggest risk was infection.  When I arrived, my temperature was normal and my blood work showed no signs of infection.  They would watch me very carefully for signs of infection.
By that afternoon, my temperature had started to climb and another exam showed that the fluid looked infected.  The resident went to call my doctor and came back to tell me that they needed to induce me immediately.  At this point, I completely fell apart.  I was crying and screaming at her.  I begged them to save my baby.  The doctor started screaming back at me, telling me that from the minute I arrived the day before, I basically had no chance of saving this baby, that I was "remote from viability" and unless I wanted to die too, this baby had to come out.  I didn't want to go on without Sydney, but I also had to think of Christian and Hailey.  I had no choice but to sign the consent for induction and delivery.  I felt (and still sometimes feel) that I signed away Sydney's life.
Pitocin was started around 4 pm.  I had tried to get the doctors to delay the induction until after midnight because it was Hailey's birthday and I didn't want her sister to die on her birthday.  They refused so all I could was hope and pray that I wouldn't deliver until after midnight.  Once the Pitocin started, the IV pump kept having an error and beeping.  I wondered to myself if maybe this was a sign that we weren't supposed to be doing this.  I fell asleep and woke up around 8 pm in full blown labor.  I had initially refused an epidural, but I was told I might require a D&C or manual extraction of the placenta so if I had an epidural in place, I wouldn't have to go under general anesthesia.  I needed to be able to remember what was going on, so I had the epidural.
I slept off and on for about an hour at a time.  Mostly I was just catatonic through the labor.  I could still feel Sydney kicking inside of me.  I asked the nurse what was going to happen and she told me that most of the time for a baby this small, you don't have to be fully dilated to deliver.  I asked when I would know it was time and she told me that probably I would feel a lot of pressure and the baby would just come out and if that happened, just hit the call light and they would come in.  I was terrified of what was going to happen.  Finally around 4 am, the doctor came in to check me and said that it was time to push.  They got everything set up and left the room for a while.  I was really scared because I didn't want Sydney to come out without someone there.
At 4:30 am, the doctor came back in and after one push, Sydney Alexis made her entrance into the world.  The hardest thing I've ever had to do was to push her out of me, knowing what was going to happen to her.  I looked at Eric and he was looking at Sydney with a look of fear but also of pure love.  I asked him if she was alive and he nodded.  The doctor quickly cut the cord and put her on my chest.
She was beautiful and so tiny.  She had long arms and legs, long fingers and toes.  She looked so much like Eric and Christian.  I held her tight and kissed her, told her that I loved her, and I was so sorry I couldn't keep her safe.  I quickly handed her to Eric to hold.  My mother in law was also there and held her.  When they gave her back to me, I opened my gown and put her skin to skin on my chest.  She was still moving around.  I put my finger into the palm of her hand and she gripped it.  At one point, I stroked her arm and she pulled it away.  Eric and I agreed that she would've been just as fiesty as her sister.  Eric took tons of pictures.  About 4:45 am, she became still and I told Eric that I thought she was gone.  The nurse checked for a heartbeat and after a moment, she smiled at us and said, it's still there.  I couldn't believe it.  Every fifteen minutes or so, the nurse would check for her heartbeat and it was there every time.
There were several times that I started to cry and get upset.  But each time, I stopped myself because I thought hearing that would be very scary for her.  I just cuddled her close, determined to keep her warm.  I asked the nurse if they had any small hats because her head was getting cold, but she told me that they didn't have anything small enough for her.  I wrapped the blanket up around the top of her head to try to keep her warm.  I felt like if I could keep her warm enough, maybe she would be ok. Maybe they would reconsider trying to help her since she was so strong.  Eric and I spent the time we had with her marveling over her beautiful face and her tiny but perfect features.  I wanted to memorize every inch of her and never forget it.
Sometime between 6:30 and 6:45 am, Sydney's heart stopped beating.  She lived for just over two hours.  I like to think that in that time, she experienced nothing but love.  If she had to die, she went just as I wanted--in my arms, on my skin, hearing my heartbeat as she had heard for the last 20 weeks.  It was an incredibly peaceful experience.  When the nurse confirmed that there was no longer a heartbeat, I broke down completely.  I didn't think I would ever stop crying.  I was also in incredible physical pain because the placenta had not yet delivered and they had given my Cytotec to help it along.  They told me that my OB was on his way in to assess me and decide if I needed a D&C.  Finally, four hours after giving birth, and just before an attempt at a manual extraction, the placenta was delivered.  I found out two weeks later that I had retained placenta, but I refused a D&C and was able to pass it naturally.
The hospital where I delivered has a great program for bereaved parents.  The nurse who runs the program is amazing and she did so much for us.  I had to stay overnight because I was on IV antibiotics and it gave us time with Sydney. They took pictures of her, weighed and measured her, then brought her to us dressed in a silky white dress, a small pink and white knit hat, holding a small bear, and wrapped in a pink blanket.  I held, rocked, sang to, and slept with her.  I tried to squeeze an entire lifetime into that time.  I wanted to keep her with us the entire time, but the nurse explained that she needed to have some time in the cold room to keep her skin from deteriorating.  We allowed them to take her to the cold room for the night.  They brought us back the clothes she had been wearing and I slept with them.
That night, and for many nights to follow, I woke up around 4:30.  I went to the bathroom and when I came back, I saw her little blanket and hat in my bed.  It was like at that moment everything hit me and came crashing down.  Eric got me back in bed and laid down with me.  We cried ourselves to sleep.
The next morning, they brought Sydney to me again.  She was dressed in a little flannel gown and had a little brown bear.  I ended up clinging to that little bear for a year before I finally tucked it away with her other things.  I didn't know how I was going to give my baby back and never see her again.  I told the nurse that we needed to set a time for them to come and take her because otherwise, I would never be able to do it.  The day was so hard and I kept watching the clock, knowing the time was coming.  It was so hard to hand her tiny body over to the nurse when it was time to leave.  I never imagined that I would leave the hospital with a memory box instead of a baby.
A week later, we had a private graveside service for Sydney.  I spent that week searching for the perfect things for her burial.  It was my way of continuing to parent her, I guess.  I began to have severe panic attacks, one so badly that I made Eric call 911 because I was convinced I was having a heart attack and my blood pressure was sky high.  I don't remember much of the next month.  I mostly laid on the couch and stared into space.  I didn't sleep, I didn't eat.  I am very pro-breastfeeding and had looked forward to nursing another baby, so when my milk came in, it was salt in my wound. 
I began attending support groups at the hospital and then found Share.  It helped me so much to find validation for my feelings.  I felt the strong need to openly grieve and make Sydney a part of our everyday lives.  I was broken and I had no idea how to put the pieces back together and I really didn't want to try.  I was wracked with guilt because I blamed myself for Sydney's death.  The what ifs and should've beens haunted me.  As time passed, I focused more on honoring and memorializing Sydney's life instead of focusing on her death.
I also had a new obsession.  I wanted a new baby.  I needed to have my arms filled again.  We consulted with a high risk doctor.  My research made me think I have an incompetent cervix.  The pathology after Sydney's birth showed a bad infection in the placenta, so the doctors weren't convinced it was IC.  The high risk doctor gave us the all clear to start trying when we were ready.  We started trying in June 2009.  That very first month, I was pregnant.  I couldn't believe it when I took the test and it was positive.  A week later, I began to bleed and had bad cramping.  I knew I was miscarrying this baby just like our first baby.  It was so hard to deal with another loss on top of the crushing pain of losing Sydney.
Finally, in January 2010, I was pregnant again.  I was so worried about everything that could go wrong.  Each OB visit and ultrasound revealed a healthy baby growing well.  At 13 weeks, my cervix looked short, so I had a cerclage placed at 15 weeks.  It was just in time because my cervix was very short and soft.  By 17 weeks, my cervix measured over 40 mm and continued to measure between 40-45 mm until the end of my pregnancy.  At 17 weeks, we found out that we were expecting another girl.  Kelsey Grace was born by c-section on August 1, 2010, at 31 weeks.  I developed pre-eclampsia and had to deliver.  Ironically, she was delivered by c-section because my cervix would not dilate past 4 cm, thanks to scar tissue from my cerclage.  Kelsey is amazing and reminds me so much of Sydney.  I think that Sydney would've looked a lot like Kelsey.  She is the balm for my soul and gives me hope for our future.  I will never forget Sydney or "get over" her death.  I think Sydney knew that we needed Kelsey and I feel like Sydney handpicked her baby sister just for us.  I am now the mom to four kids that I always wanted to be.  Sydney will always be our third child and she will always be a part of our family.
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