“We cannot find a heartbeat” must be the most dreaded five words spoken to an expectant mother.
In 2008, my husband and I welcomed our first son into our family. My pregnancy was without complications. We were surprised yet excited when we became pregnant again in 2009 after my son’s first birthday. In retrospect, things seemed a bit different with this pregnancy right away. I found myself extremely tired and nauseous from the first sign of the pregnancy test. I contacted my OB/GYN, and he recommended that I come in for a routine blood screen to see how far along I was.
My doctor called me with concern that my hormone levels were a bit low. He prescribed progesterone in order to help adjust my hormone levels. Two days later, I began to bleed. I had never experienced any spotting with my previous pregnancy, and I was nervous that with my low hormone levels this could be a negative sign. I contacted my OB/GYN but was referred to the obstetrician on call for the weekend. I was told that I should try and rest and come in the following Monday for an ultrasound. I continued to have spotting over the weekend.
At the doctor’s office on Monday, I had another blood test and an ultrasound. All appeared to be normal with the ultrasound, but my hormone levels were still low. I was encouraged to continue with the progesterone and to return in two weeks for another blood test and ultrasound. During those two weeks we tried to not worry. We only told a few people about our pregnancy and didn’t share the concerns that we had about it. At the following doctor’s visit I was at seven weeks. By this time, we thought we should be able to hear the heartbeat. I was so nervous in the waiting room. I was trying to be positive that everything would be okay, but I had a sinking feeling that I needed to prepare myself in case we had a negative report.
The ultrasound room was very quiet. At the beginning of the scan, the ultrasound tech was smiling, but then her face changed. She went to grab our doctor, which I knew was not a good sign. They both returned, and the scan resumed. There was complete silence. We could see the amniotic sac and an image inside it, but there was no sound. Then came the dreaded words, “We cannot find a heartbeat.” My doctor tried to remain positive. He said that they would again test my blood to see if there was any increase. We were set to meet my family for a small vacation the next day. The doctor encouraged me to go on the trip and try to relax. He gave me my medical chart in case of an emergency.
The following day once we had reached our vacation spot I received a phone call from the doctor that my hormone levels were now decreasing. Signs were pointing toward a miscarriage. I couldn’t believe it. I was in a house full of my family but felt completely alone. I didn’t know how to process the information or how to even share it with my family. We returned home three days later and were set to go to the doctor the following day. Another ultrasound confirmed no heartbeat and a D&C was scheduled the following day. As I was prepped for the procedure, I felt numb. My doctor came to me beforehand and promised me that I would be able to try again very soon. I clung to that hope.
I had a follow-up appointment at two weeks with my OB/GYN. It was unbearable to sit in the waiting room with other expectant mothers. I so longed to be there for a positive reason rather than to again relive the loss that I had endured. I was expecting this day to be hard, but never did I imagine what the doctor would tell me. After my exam, he asked me to join him in his office. He tried to explain that this pregnancy was something known as a “partial molar pregnancy.” I had never heard of such a thing before. He wrote it down on a prescription pad so I could do further research on my own to learn more about it.
He said in a nonchalant tone that there might have never been an embryo. I couldn’t even believe what he was telling me. My heart felt as though it broke into a thousand pieces. I was trying to come to terms with the loss of my child and now I was learning that there might have never been a child to begin with. He told me that I would need to continue to have my hormone levels monitored because if there was an increase in levels than it could lead to cancer. I had more blood work drawn and left feeling as empty and helpless as I had felt the day I left the hospital after the D&C. I did read a bit about the partial molar pregnancy and read that I would need to wait six months to a year in order to begin trying to conceive again.
The next weeks I continued to have my blood drawn, and every time I received the call that hormone levels were still elevated but were decreasing I still felt hopeless. I simply wanted an end to this. Two months after the D&C I finally received the phone call that I had been longing to receive, that my hormone levels were now normal and the doctor had given me the clear to begin conceiving. The following month we were excited to find that we were pregnant. I was so nervous, the doctor had cleared us for a pregnancy, but research had said to wait much longer. Would this pregnancy be okay? I again was brought in for blood work. My hormone levels were a bit low, so I began taking progesterone again. I tried to stick to a normal routine and not worry. At six weeks I began to bleed. Fear and dread came upon me as I called the doctor’s office. I was told to come in for an ultrasound. We had the same ultrasound tech that we had before when there was no heartbeat. It seemed that she was trying to be upbeat, but I think she was nervous as I was.
Almost immediately the silence was broken with a strong, beating heart. It was music to my ears. We were able to see the tiny image of our rainbow baby. Six months previously with the initial positive pregnancy test and then the later diagnosis of a partial molar pregnancy was a very dark time in my life, but it was just a period of time. Out from the time of pain, loss, confusion, hopelessness, and despair came a ray of sunshine. This tiny beating heart was now my hope. The clouds were separating and hope, light, and love were in the works. My rainbow baby, Hannah Elizabeth, was born on May 27, 2010. She is now six years old and I hope one day to be able to share with her the story of how she was my rainbow. I conceived again and didn’t realize that we were pregnant until I was eight weeks along. I was relieved with this pregnancy that I experienced no spotting and normal hormone levels. We welcomed our last sweet gift, Gabriella “Ella” Marie, on July 25, 2012. What I learned from my partial molar pregnancy is that life is a gift. I treasure my children, I find peace in knowing that one day in heaven I will be able to meet the baby that I lost in the partial molar pregnancy, and finally that trials may come, but the clouds will lift and hope will come again.