Every Pregnant Couple’s Biggest Fear
Last night, we had a terrible scare. Around 6PM, Dia rushed into the apartment out of breath. She dropped her laptop bag, jacket, and keys on the floor as soon as the door slammed shut behind her. I was sitting on the couch, watching TV waiting for her to come home. Dinner was already prepared, it just needed to be heated up. Usually, I’m like a loyal dog, running to the front door when their owner arrives. This time was different. I looked at Dia from the couch and her face was white. Something was wrong.
We locked eyes and then she looked down at a dark red blood stain filling the entire crotch section of her khaki colored pants. We’re 7 weeks pregnant. It took more than 2 years, dozens of doctor’s office visits, hundreds of injections, and tens of thousands of dollars to get to this point. No words necessary: the look on Dia’s face screamed defeat. My concerned eyes and slightly open mouth wasn’t helping.
She kicked off her shoes and ran into the bathroom. I pressed myself against the door. I closed my eyes and listened as she sat on the toilet. I heard a sigh of disbelief, immediately followed by “Oh my god…”. Now she’s crying. I checked to see if the door is unlocked, it was.
I cracked the door open slowly. Her elbows were on her knees and her eyes were buried deep into the palms of her hands. I saw streaks of blood on her legs. I opened the door fully.
Her pants were on the floor next to the toilet. The amount of blood was shocking. I moved her pants with my feet and kneeled next to her. What can I say or do to make this pain go away? I hug her and say, “It’s going to be ok. Whatever happens, we’re going to be ok.”
For minutes, we were stuck in a boomerang image. I’m on my knees hugging Dia as she’s sitting on the toilet. I’m rubbing her back telling her everything is going to be OK as she rocks back and forth. She’s crying harder than the day we said goodbye to her family at the airport when she decided to move here permanently.
Nothing is OK About This.
“I need to take a shower” were the first words she said since getting home. I looked at her, got up, turned the shower on, and walked out of the bathroom.
I immediately pulled my phone out to call our fertility clinic. It was already 6pm so I reached the after hours hotline. I know the drill. I need to leave our information and concerns with a receptionist and wait for the on-call doctor to call us back.
“Hi, my name is Sunny and my wife, Diana, is having lots of bleeding. Her birthday is 12/28/87*. We’re 7 weeks pregnant. The Doctor can call me at 201-618-7918. Do you need any other information?”
*They use birthdays to look up patients more quickly than the time it takes to spell the name.
I hung up and waited for Dia to finish her shower. I sat down on the couch and started to prepare myself. So many thoughts raced through my head.
My Self-Talk in the Moment:
- “Be strong for Dia, don’t fucking cry.
- What can I say to make her feel better?
- Should I even try to make her feel better?
- Why is this happening?
- Who do we have to tell?
- Why did we tell anyone we were pregnant so soon.
- This is exactly why they say to wait until the first trimester is over.
- We are supposed to leave for Italy in 3 days.
- Do we still go? We can’t go... Can we?
- How will I tell Neel & Layla we have to miss their wedding?
- How will I explain this to our friends that are expecting us to be there?
- What will mom and dad say? What will my sisters say?
- What will Ba say?
- I want my child to meet the only grandparent I’ve ever had so badly.
- I wish Dia’s mom was here. She would know what to do.
- Why don’t I know what to do?
- We did everything right.
- We were on time for every appointment.
- We didn’t miss a single pill, injection, or payment.
- This won’t break us, it will make us stronger.
- We will make it through this, no matter what.”
Snap Out of it!
I heard the shower turn off. She came out of the bathroom with a towel wrapped around her head and another wrapped around her body. She went straight to her closet and put on sweats. Then she walked slowly to the couch and sank into me. Her face was swollen. We hugged under a blanket as we waited for the call from the on-call doctor.
The call came in a few minutes later and after describing what happened to the doctor, she said, “Okay, this is common in pregnancies for infertile couples. “It” happens about 50% of the time. I see that you are already scheduled for bloodwork and ultrasound tomorrow. Come in as planned and we’ll know what to do from there.”
I was too afraid to ask, “What do you mean by “this” and “it”?”
I didn’t want to hear the finality of it.
Instead, I ask, “is there anything we can do tonight?”.
She replies, “All of our facilities are closed, so there’s nothing we can do. However, if you want to visit an ER, you can do that..”
I thanked her and hung up.
I asked Dia if she wanted to go to an ER or if she wanted to wait until tomorrow morning for our already scheduled appointment. She wanted to wait. There was an unspoken understanding between us. We were having an amazing experience with our fertility clinic. If we were going to find out we lost our baby, we wanted it to be through them.
Another couple minutes of silence passed before I asked Dia what she was thinking. “I’m thinking, what are you thinking?”. She turned the question back onto me. I knew exactly what I was thinking, but I wasn’t sure how she was going to receive my perspective. I decided to be honest.
“If we lose this baby, I’m not going to be terribly sad. Which is difficult for me to say, because at a base level, I realize we are losing a huge part of our lives. But, as I sit here thinking about what we could have done differently, I can’t come up with anything. We did everything right... Right? We made every doctor’s visit. We took every supplement, You took all your pills. We did all the injections. We ate the right foods. You stopped drinking coffee. You stopped coming to CrossFit. You haven’t strained yourself physically at all. Last week, the doctor said we had a “picture perfect baby” after our first ultrasound. What else could we have done? Nothing. We followed the process perfectly. We put ourselves in a position to have a successful pregnancy. I am sad right now, and I will be sad if the doctor gives us bad news tomorrow. But this won’t break me, and I won’t let it break us. If we find out tomorrow that our baby is gone, we will take the time to mourn our loss, we will talk about what we want to do next, and we will move forward. We can’t base our happiness on results or desired outcomes. We can only do what we can do. The rest is up to fate.”
As the words were leaving my mouth, I became more and more worried. I was worried Dia would take my Stoic focus on process over desired result as robotic and apathetic.
I continued my monologue, “and we’re not sure what’s going on yet. We will find out tomorrow morning. So there’s no need to worry. Just imagine a scenario in which we go to our ultrasound tomorrow and everything is fine. How much “damage” will be done by the stress you feel tonight? We have to try not to worry. We will find out for sure soon enough. Does this all make sense?”
She shook her head Yes, closed her eyes, and buried her face in the pillow trying to fight back more tears.
It was now 7:00PM. I asked if she wanted to eat dinner. I had already prepared our food before she got home. It had been sitting out on the kitchen island all this time.
We moved from the couch to the kitchen and started to heat up our food. Dia turned on the TV and said, “Let’s watch something.”
We had just finished a series a few nights ago and needed to find something new to watch. We selected “Dead To Me”. We heard good things. About halfway into the Pilot episode, we find out one of the protagonists, Judy, has had 3 miscarriages which resulted in her marriage ending. As soon as the words left her mouth, Dia and I look at each other and the overwhelming feeling is, “is this serious?” Exit button.
We pivoted to another show as we ate our dinner. We watched two episodes before heading to bed around 9pm. We laid a few towels on the bed on top of our sheets for Dia to sleep on just in case things got worse.
Fast Forward to This Morning.
We jumped out of bed at 430am and got ready for our ultrasound and bloodwork appointment at our fertility clinic. I asked Dia if there was any more blood before leaving and she said, “just a little bit”. A good sign in my eyes.
We arrived to the clinic at 530am and Dia was called in almost immediately as we were one of the first ones there. She went to do her blood work alone. Then she came to grab me for the ultrasound. The nurse dropped us off in our room and said the Doctor will be here in one minute. That’s the amount of time Dia has to undress, hop on the table, and cover herself with a paper sheet.
Our doctor came in. She started with the obvious, “So you had some bleeding last night? Let’s find out what’s going on”. Her tone was empathetic and curious. Her attitude seemed hopeful, but realistic. It’s hard to explain how well she pulled it off.
It was a vaginal ultrasound, which means the doctor inserts a falic looking device into the woman. Just like our first ultrasound, we immediately saw the fetus. It’s much bigger than last time.
The doctor says, “There it is!” I think to myself, “Yeah but is it alive?”
The “it” she’s referring to isn’t our baby. “It looks like there’s a blood clot in the uterus. This is called a subchorionic hematoma. It’s a blood clot situated between the wall of the uterus and the baby’s gestational sac. When it comes to bleeding during pregnancy, this is the reason 25-33% of the time. Now let’s see if we can hear….”
*Booom!... Boom!... Boom!... Boom!*
“We have a heartbeat, and it’s strong! 120 bpm”
I grabbed Dia’s arm. We were already holding hands, but that wasn’t enough. We both started crying. Tears of joy (and relief) of course.
The doctor continued looking at the left and right ovaries. She said they were, “quiet”. Whatever that means. Finally she took some measurements of the fetus and uterus. Before leaving she said we could make an appointment with our OB, and we’d have one more check-up before getting discharged from the fertility clinic.
We were on top of the world. We couldn’t stop smiling.
So Many Lessons Learned & Reinforced
“Desire is a contract you make with yourself to be unhappy until you achieve your goal.” Basing your happiness on some arbitrary end result is a sure fire way to be in a perpetual state of dissatisfaction. Instead, focus on what you can control. Perfect your process. Identify the things you can do to increase the chances of achieving the desired result and put them into practice diligently and unwaveringly.
Worrying is a useless emotion. It’s hard not to worry in a scenario like this. However, it did us no good. In fact, I will argue that the worrying hurt us. Cortisol is a hormone released during times of stress. Cortisol is detrimental to the health of the baby.
A warm hug and unwavering support works. If this happened to us a few years ago, I would have skipped the hug and “it’s going to be alright”, and dove straight into problem solving mode. I may have gone as far as suggesting Dia skip the shower and head straight to the ER. I’m making progress, but I still have a long way to go in being a better husband.
Being sad does not have to be debilitating. I was scared my reaction to the situation would come across as robotic. The last thing I want Dia to feel is that she’s alone in her sadness. If we did lose our baby, I would be sad. However, I am confident we did everything we did to give ourselves the best chance of success. Knowing that, gives me comfort even in despair. Thankfully she didn’t misinterpret my intentions.
We are lucky. Not only are we lucky that we didn’t have a miscarriage, but we are lucky to have even become pregnant. I’m so grateful to our fertility clinic. We tried to conceive naturally for years. We tried to use all the apps, sticks, supplements, and tools available to us. Our process was good there too, but we couldn’t achieve the desired result. Not without the help of science and technology.
I wrote this down because I don’t want to forget it. Whether I share it or not is a different story. If you’re reading this, it’s likely after careful consideration. The benefit I see in sharing this story is letting pregnant couples know bleeding does not always equal miscarriage. It could “just” be a subchorionic hematoma, whatever the hell that is.