Andrew and I first met at a wedding. He knew the groom and I knew the bride but we were both single so they put us on the same table. We went out a few times and knew we had something special, so when Andrew's flatmate moved out a couple of months later, I moved in.
We got married three years later and had a very drunken two-week honeymoon in Spain - great fun. When we got back, I was feeling a bit strange but put it down to our excesses with the sangria.
I was still feeling ordinary a week later and realised my period was late. I didn't say anything to Andrew because I didn't think I was pregnant (I was on the pill) but I went and bought a home pregnancy test at the supermarket.
I didn't do the test straight away. I had to get up the courage. I didn't know what we were going to do if I was pregnant. The honeymoon had sparked the travel bug in both of us. Andrew was already talking about our next trip. A baby would ruin all those plans.
At the same time, I started imagining what it would be like to have a baby and that idea appealed to me a lot as well. Little did I know Nature was going to decide for me. One night, a couple of days after I bought the test, we were lying in bed and I could feel an ache sort of behind my pelvis. It got worse and worse and I thought; "Uh oh, this can't be good". I went to the toilet and sat there for ages wondering what was happening. Then I passed a blood clot about the size of a grape and quite a bit of blood.
I woke Andrew up and told him. I was really crying and a bit scared and I freaked him out but he just hugged me and told me everything was going to be OK. I don't think he knew what was going on really.
The next day my mum came over and we went to her gynaecologist. He took some blood to do a blood test but said that from what I had described, he thought I had suffered a miscarriage. He told me they were really common, and my mum told me she'd had one in between me and my little brother and it was "just one of those things".
I had to go for an ultrasound as well to make sure everything had come out - which it had.
Andrew was great. I was a mess for a while. I couldn't believe how much it affected me. I could tell that Andrew didn't really understand what I was feeling. I think he thought it was "just one of those things" as well, but he put up with my tears and moods. Then he said, "How soon can we try again?" He was keen on the idea of babies. "Travel schmavel," he said, which made me laugh.
I was convinced that being on the pill, or getting pregnant while I was drunk, or the Spanish food, or the flight had caused the miscarriage so I was determined to be very healthy when we tried again. I ate all the right things and took folic acid and drank lots of water.
I had two periods and was starting to get a bit worried but by the third month I was late again. I still had the pregnancy tests from before and did both of them. Faint lines. The next day I went to the supermarket and bought another pack, different brand. Again that second line was there. Andrew was down in Canberra for work and I couldn't decide whether to call him or wait till he got back. I waited and left the tests on his pillow the next night. He was over the moon and we lay there thinking of names until about 2am.
I told my mum the next day and she told me to make another appointment with the doctor to make sure. (By this stage I had done seven different tests, three different brands, so I was pretty sure). I was busting to tell everyone, but mum said to wait and, considering the last time, I agreed this was a good idea.
When the blood tests came back it was official. I was six weeks pregnant. What a buzz! We told Andrew's parents that day but didn't tell anyone else.
The next morning the cramping started again. I freaked. I drove to the medical centre near home and got straight in to see a nice lady doctor who tried to calm me down. She organised for me to go up to the hospital for an ultrasound scan. I had called Andrew and he turned up and took me to the hospital.
I was sent straight into the ultrasound room and laid out on the examination bed. The sonographer came in and started hunting around but obviously couldn't find anything. By this stage, I had started to bleed a little and I knew I was miscarrying. I was really upset. Andrew and I went home. The cramps had nearly stopped but I was still getting some bleeding. I tried to do something normal like make dinner but then the cramps started again and I passed my second baby into the toilet.
I have never been into computers much, but Andrew has a laptop and we had internet access at home so I started searching to find out everything I could.
I was convinced I had done something wrong. I read stories about being exposed to cats or paint or seafood and that they could be the cause of miscarriage. But mostly it was just described as "one of those things". (You may be starting to appreciate how much I hate that phrase.)
The gynaecologist told me that many women had miscarriages and went on to have normal pregnancies after that. I was unconvinced. I kept thinking that I had done something wrong, or there was something wrong with me. I had my heart set on having a baby so badly now that I was a wreck thinking about it. The worst thing was, I hadn't told anyone what had happened, so everyone thought I was just being strange.
One of my friends told me she thought I was being a snob because I had got married and just dropped off the face of the social world. I didn't really care what they thought and I cared even less when a pregnancy test a few months later showed I was pregnant again. This time I had an ultrasound straight away and sure enough, there was a cute little heartbeat.
I was so scared I went a little crazy. I wrapped myself in cotton wool - no coffee, no tea, nothing. I was eating Weet-Bix for dinner because it was the safest food I could think of! Poor Andrew had to put up with all this.
Seven weeks passed. Then eight. I was just starting to hope that maybe everything would be okay (like everyone kept telling me). Then I went to the toilet one morning at work and found blood on the toilet paper. Once again the world crashed down on me.
Andrew came and got me and we went to the hospital again. No heartbeat. More bleeding. Cramps. The whole nightmare again.
I didn't go to work for the rest of the week and my boss, Adrienne, came to see me at home. I thought it was going to be really awkward when she rang, but as soon as I saw her I just burst into tears and hugged her. It was funny because we didn't have a really close relationship at work. Apparently when Andrew rang to say I wasn't coming in, he had ended up telling her the whole story. She was doing IVF (which I didn't know), and had brought a brochure from Genea about the Miscarriage Management Program. I read the part about recurrent miscarriage and thought, "That's me".
A couple of weeks later, I made an appointment for us to see Dr Devora Lieberman in the city. She was lovely. She told us "once was unlucky, twice was very unlucky, but three times may mean a problem".
We met Justine, the nurse, who explained all the different tests that they could do. It was a bit intimidating but at least I felt like I was really doing something positive. We left there feeling very encouraged.
On the first day of my next period I rang Justine and she booked us in for the first lot of tests. I was booked in for a blood test straight away and two different sorts of ultrasound scans. Andrew was booked in for a sperm test, which he was pretty embarrassed about. I had to go to Newtown for one of the scans, the sonohistogram. They put a catheter inside me and squirted saline into my uterus to get a better look. It was pretty uncomfortable.
At the same time, Andrew was in town doing the sperm tests. We met back home for lunch. He was joking about the collection - apparently it wasn't as bad as he thought it was going to be. I was still feeling a bit achy from the scan and we ended up going to bed and cuddling all afternoon.
On the 10th day after my period started I began the ovulation tracking. This means having blood tests every couple of days - not fun. I had to keep telling myself it was all going to be worth it.
Every time I talked to Justine, she mentioned that counselling was available to patients. At first I thought she thought I was a bit crazy, but she told me that it was just like having someone to talk to. About halfway through the ovulation tracking, I finally made an appointment with Genea's Counsellor Christine.
We talked about how I was feeling and I told her about my crazy times and how much better I felt to be actually doing something. Then she asked how Andrew was doing. I feel terrible saying this, but I really hadn't thought much about how this was affecting my darling husband - it had been all about me. Andrew was just there when I needed him. I now appreciate a bit more what it must have like for him dealing with losing his children and dealing with a crazy wife!
The final test was the endometrial biopsy, where they take a little bit of the uterus lining (endometrium) for testing. I was booked into the Genea Day Surgery in the city. I took a couple of Nurofen® half an hour before. Devora passed a thin plastic tube into my uterus. There was some cramping for a few seconds, but no worse than a bad period. The procedure was really quick and not too painful afterwards.
While I was in Day Surgery, Justine had come down and made an appointment for us to see Devora again in a fortnight. I couldn't wait. When the day came, Andrew and I both took the day off work.
The first thing Devora said was "We found something we can treat." I nearly started crying on the spot. She told us the tests had shown that I had a condition called antiphospholipid antibody syndrome. We were told that antiphospholipid antibodies prevent the embryo from implanting properly in the lining of the uterus.
Devora described what we could do to fix this. We would go and try to get pregnant again, and when we did, I would start taking a drug called Clexane®. This would stop the antibodies from interfering with implantation so the placenta could develop normally.
The only downside was that the Clexane® had to be injected every day - by me. I wasn't too freaked out about this. I had a flatmate who was a diabetic and I had watched her do this heaps of times. But still ...
We didn't get pregnant straight away. We didn't even try. We decided to take a trip first, then settle down to trying. Andrew had a work conference in Bangkok and his boss (who knew our story) had offered to fly me over as well and give Andrew some time off for a holiday afterwards. I had a fantastic couple of days shopping in Bangkok while Andrew was at the seminar, then we had a lovely week lying on the beach at Koh Samui. I felt better than I had since our honeymoon.
We were almost different people when we got back. I was positive and looking forward to everything. Andrew was almost his old self again after having to walk on eggshells around me for so long.
We got pregnant on our second try and right away I started taking the Clexane®. I won't talk about the injections that much. You grit your teeth, you do it, it's done. There was also the pregnancy monitoring, which involves lots of blood tests and ultrasounds. These were worse than the needles. Each time I lay on that bed I kept thinking "There's not going to be a heartbeat".
But first six weeks, eight weeks, then 10 weeks passed and each scan showed a healthy fetus growing inside me. At 12 weeks, we did the nuchal translucency scan and blood test which came back all clear. Justine rang us with the good news after twelve weeks, telling us I could stop taking the Clexane® and that everything looked great.
Our little miracle man, JJ, was born weighing just over eight pounds and if he suffered any ill effects from mummy's dodgy womb, he hasn't shown it.
Can't wait to start trying again.
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The delivery of (or the process of delivering) a conceptus before there is a viable fetus....
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