Whoa…we’re half way there! Whoa-oh! Living on a prayer!

Admit it. You sang the title and now Bon Jovi is stuck in your head. You’re welcome!

Tomorrow we are officially 20 weeks pregnant. The normal half way pregnancy point. Part of me can’t believe we are already half way to full term. It feels as if this pregnancy is flying by. Then I remember that it feels so fast because we only had nine more weeks with our last pregnancy. I’m hoping and wishing to experience the feeling that I have been pregnant forever.

This Wednesday was our big ultrasound. I had a very difficult time sleeping the night before and was relieved to see her little head bouncing in the ultrasound as her arms waved at us. The ultrasound technician confirmed the blood test that said we were having a girl, and everything she was able to measure looked great. Unfortunately, the little stinker took after her brother Joey and curled up in a little ball half way through, preventing the technician for getting all of her measurements. The good news is I will get to see her again at my 24 week appointment as they try to get pictures of what they missed.

Proud mommy pics:

After our ultrasound, I was able to sit down with my doctor and hash out a game plan for the second half of our pregnancy. I was honest and confessed that I had been having nightmares and was scared. I know too much now. What I like about my doctor is she doesn’t minimize my fears. She feels optimistic having seen success with an asprin/Lovenox regimen, but acknowledged that I’m going to be scared no matter what she tells me, and understands why. Since I started getting sick at 24 weeks last pregnancy, starting at 22 weeks I will need to come in and do “just in case” labs to check and make sure that I am not leaking protein, my liver enzymes are not rising, and my platelet levels aren’t dropping. It’s not my favorite thing to do, but it gives me a sense of relief knowing that we are being monitored and hopefully won’t be surprised if anything were to suddenly go wrong.

I’m hoping for a full term/no drama delivery.


Milestones of a Nervous Mother

During our twin pregnancy, I started to get sick at 24 weeks before delivering at 29 weeks and two days. When I was put on bed rest at 27 weeks, my motto at the time was one week at a time, then one more week until we could delivery safely. We made it two weeks. As scared as I was, the quick decision of the doctor gave my boys a chance and saved my life as well. After talking with the doctor who kept me in the hospital long enough to give me two steroid shots, she confessed that she thought she was going to have to deliver the twins that weekend. I’m grateful we were able to go two more weeks.
Early in this pregnancy, I went through my calendar and marked dates and milestones, or goals for my mental well being. Whereas many women use the trimesters as their major milestones, mine are different. Last pregnancy it was easy to hide our pregnancy from our family since we live in a different state. It was impossible to hide it from coworkers due to the morning sickness hitting me hard. This time it was easy to hide from most friends because I wasn’t working. However, since a trip up north was planned about a week after finding out we were pregnant, my family found out right away. When one grows up in an Irish-Italian family, turning down a beer or a glass of dinner wine is an instant give away that something isn’t right. 😉

Our first major milestone was eight weeks and our “promotion” from the reproductive endocrinologist office to our regular OB-GYN. Our second major milestone was entering our second trimester and happily announcing that our rainbow baby is due. Our third milestone was our consultation with the Maternal Fetal Medicine (MFM or high risk) doctor and not being picked up for their services. Our next milestone is our twenty week ultrasound that takes place tomorrow.

With the twins, we had ultrasounds at almost every appointment since it was difficult to get both babies on the fetal monitor. I became spoiled by that. This will be our first ultrasound since we were 11.5 weeks. With the constant nerves and nightmares that I have been having, seeing my baby girl dancing on the ultrasound screen will be a huge relief for me. I’m grateful that I have been able to feel her more than I felt the twins, but there is something about listening to that little heart beat that calms a nervous mother. To me it is the most beautiful sound in the world.

Going into the second half of our pregnancy means that the number of our appointments will increase. Our ultrasound will be followed up by an appointment with our doctor where we will sit down and discuss the plan to keep both the baby and me healthy until we can reach full term. As scared as I am, I’m feeling hopeful that we will make it far enough along to where I will be able to hold my baby as soon as she is born.

A Rainbow Baby Pregnancy

When we found out we were pregnant the first time, I had a feeling that we were having multiples. I just wasn’t sure how many. My husband almost hit the floor when the doctor labeled “fetus C” on the ultrasound. Though we had three fetal sacs, fetus c did not have a heart beat. Our doctor explained that our third sac was a “vanishing twin” (or in our case a vanishing triplet) and it was believed to be very common. Most women do not know they had an extra fetal sac since it is absorbed by the body before their first ultrasound. Sure enough, at our eight week ultrasound the third fetal sac was gone.With this pregnancy, our excitement quickly turn to fear as we waited for our first ultrasound. Women with multiples are found to be at a higher risk of developing preeclampsia and HELLP syndrome. Whenever injectable drugs are used during fertility treatments, the risk of having multiples is high. Unlike my first pregnancy, I didn’t think I was having multiples this time. Maybe it was mother’s intuition, but I wouldn’t know for sure until that first ultrasound. Everyone in the room let out a sigh of relief as we saw just one fetal sac with a very strong heartbeat.

A rainbow baby is a baby that is conceived after a miscarriage, stillborn, or infant loss. It represents the hope that a rainbow gives after a storm. Rainbow babies are a blessing, but a rainbow pregnancy is much different because those of us carrying rainbow babies have lost the innocence that comes with a healthy pregnancy. With the twins, even though we were constantly warned that we were high risk, I never focused on the negative or the dangers that could happen. I constantly daydreamed about my two beautiful children and holding both babies in my arms. My husband and I laughed and argued over baby names. We would try and guess the genders based on ultrasound pictures and heartbeat rates. My husband double fistbumped the air when we found out we were having two boys, and we argued whether they would be Cleveland Browns or Pittsburgh Steelers fans. It never crossed our minds that we wouldn’t be able to bring both of our children home.

Being pregnant after losing a child has brought on a paralyzing fear that has constantly plagued this pregnancy. Shortly after finding out we were pregnant, the nightmares began. Most nights I would jolt awake having dreamt that I was bleeding, having a miscarriage or the doctor was unable to find a heartbeat. Then the old nightmares I had after losing our son returned and I would dream that I was also losing my surviving twin. I would walk into my son’s room to make sure he was breathing and hug him tight as I fought back the tears that were threatening to fall. The further along we get, the dreams have started to change, reminding me how I almost lost my life with our last pregnancy and I keep having to fight a paranoia that I am getting sick again.

Since my last pregnancy ended in the development of severe preeclampsia and class I HELLP, we had to have an emergency c-section at 29 weeks. I’m actually one of the lucky ones. I began showing symptoms at 24 weeks and was on my doctor’s radar. I started having severe symptoms a week before delivering, but I thought I was being a wimp. Luckily on the day my boys were born, my doctor called and asked me to come into her office, just to check on the twins and my blood pressure. The next day she told me that had I not come in, I would have come in later that night via an ambulance and might have had a different outcome. No one could believe how sick I was, sitting there chatting and laughing as I listened to the strong heartbeats of my beautiful boys.

Because of the high risks associated with being pregnant, there are many preventative measures that we have to do in the hopes of going full term and HELLP free. With this pregnancy I have been taking a daily dose of low dose aspirin in addition to giving myself daily Lovenox shots into my stomach. Since I had gestational diabetes with the twins, I took and failed the glucose test at 12 weeks instead of later in the pregnancy. The diabetes has been harder to control this time, so in addition to the lovenox shots, I am also giving myself four shots of insulin a day. On top of all of that, thanks to the blood transfusions that I had after the last pregnancy, I contracted two antibodies that I didn’t have before and now have to have monthly blood draws to make sure there are no isoimmunization problems that can cause anemia to the baby or hurt me. Also, because doctors love to mention this, I am officially of advance maternal age having turned 35 last month.

What does all of that mean?

Not everyone can say they are bffs with their OB-GYN office. I joked with one of the nurses about being placed on the office speed dial. I grin and clench my teeth as I attempt to find a non-painful place on my bruised stomach to inject a shot. I patiently wait for the call from the endocrinologist that says there is another increase to my insulin and make sure I am keeping track as I jab the needle into my thigh. I do what any mother would do in order to protect their child and carry this baby as long as I can. Then I hope and pray that when the day comes, I can bring this child home with me.

Adventures in Fertility

The fertility process can be a long and frustrating journey. With the twins, we had nine straight months of failed attempts. Most of the cycles were cut off in the middle of the month because my body was refusing to cooperate. As a woman who wanted nothing more than to be a mother, it was hard not to feel like a failure. I felt like a failure to my husband and I felt angry at myself since biology and health classes in school pretty much taught us that if we let a boy touch us, we would instantly get pregnant. Now, add two straight weeks of injecting high dose fertility hormones to those feelings. I was a wreck.

Joey was 10 months old when I went to my first consultation with our reproductive endocrinologist. This was the same doctor who helped us get pregnant and it would be the first time seeing him since I left his office shocked, ecstatic, and carrying ultrasound pictures of two growing fetuses. Considering the twins should only have been 7 months old at that time, it was a rough appointment talking about the loss of Connor and the dangerous ending we had to our first pregnancy. As much as I know that what had happened wasn’t my fault, as a mom you can’t help but feel guilty that you were unable to protect and save your child. There is always a slight anger that I carry at my body. I’m mad that it doesn’t work right. I’m mad that I got sick and had to deliver early in order to give my children a fighting chance. The grief at our loss hits me hard when I least expect it. I still cry for my baby and I wonder what life would be like had he survived. Would he and Joey already be best friends? Would they be chasing each other around the house? Would they be talking to each other in their own little babble? Would they gang up on me at bedtime?

Going in for our second attempt at fertility was slightly easier than the first time since we knew what to expect. We knew it most likely would take some time. We knew it might not work. We knew that even though our insurance was great, with the high cost of the injectable drugs, we could only afford a few tries and IVF was off the table. Most of all, we knew we had a beautiful miracle boy and would be happy even if we couldn’t give him a younger sibling.

Our first month cycle that we tried went very well. My ovaries created a few follicles and I was nervous and ready to cancel if there were too many. I was terrified of getting pregnant with multiples again. The doctor promised me that he would not risk anything over three eggs. Only one follicle looked promising, another two were close and could possibly contain eggs, and about 20 small ones were causing my ovaries to swell so much that it was beginning to become painful to walk. We were given the go to trigger ovulation with another shot and come in for IUI, two days after our twins first birthday.

Like my first pregnancy, I started getting symptoms early. Unlike our first pregnancy, I did not have a positive test right away. On day nine post ovulation with the twins, we knew we were pregnant. This time it was negative, negative, and negative. Technically they ask women to wait a full two weeks before testing (mostly to avoid false positives from the fertility drugs) but I had given up by the time our two weeks was up and was just going through the motions. I bought a cheap blue plus test from Walmart and instead of having a second line show up, the test turned into a giant blue blob.
I stared at the test and then swore loudly enough for my husband to poke his head into the room and ask what was wrong. I showed him the test and asked him what he thought it said. My husband who doesn’t understand how the home tests work, just shrugged and said, “I dunno.” Frustrated and wondering if I was pregnant or not, I ran out to the store and picked up a box of pink tests. Quickly downing some coffee and water, I waited impatiently to be able to test again. Five positive tests later, I started to believe that our fertility treatments actually worked the first time and we were pregnant with our rainbow baby.

Hope after the Storm

We were so happy when we found out that we were pregnant with twins.  After months of fertility treatments, it looked like we were going to get everything we ever dreamed for plus more.  After developing HELLP Syndrome and having to deliver at 29 weeks, we thought the worst was over.  Unfortunately, 12 days later we had to say goodbye to our son after he developed NEC and was too small to fight off the infection.

Devastated and in shock, I was beginning to spiral into a terrible depression.  However, my tiny little 1lb 12oz surviving twin was lying in the next isolette and needed the love and support of his mother.  His fighting spirit saved me and I am blessed and grateful that I get to watch my little miracle grow into a loving, mischievous boy. After spending two months in the NICU, we were able to bring our miracle boy home!

At my six week follow up appointment, I was convinced that my doctor would tell me never to get pregnant again.  I stared blankly at her when she said that it would be best to wait six months after my c-section before getting pregnant again.  After everything we went through?  We could possibly have more kids?

After much discussion and after talking with doctors, my husband and I decided that we would try again to give our beautiful son a younger sibling. We waited for his first birthday and were shocked that after all the trouble we had to get our twins, we were pregnant our first try.  Our rainbow baby is due in January!

Deciding to get pregnant, getting pregnant, and staying pregnant has not been easy.  Like any modern day mama, I went searching the web hoping to find others who went through similar situations.  Since it was difficult, I decided to share our story in hopes of raising awareness for infertility, HELLP Syndrome, and infant loss.  Thank you for reading our story about the hope we have after going through a terrible storm. 

Dum Spiro Spero. 💜