IVF miscarriage – the heartbeat is gone

If you follow me on social media, you’ve heard the news: we lost the baby. Miscarriage is a word I hope would never apply to me.

Monday, fateful Monday

Two candles for my two lost babies from frozen embryo transfer #4. Just as I was getting myself excited about having a singleton, I found out my singleton no longer had a heartbeat.
Two candles for my two lost babies from frozen embryo transfer #4. Just as I was getting myself excited about having a singleton, I found out my singleton no longer had a heartbeat.

Come Monday morning, I was ready for a break. In the last three days I’d prepped for and hosted a party, taken Liam to the emergency room, and showed up at church an hour late with at least one clingy kid.

Jeff planned to take the kids to the YMCA and I was more than happy to send them off and have a morning free to rest and clean up the house a bit more. I also remembered belatedly that I had an OB appointment that afternoon.

I didn’t want to go to the OB appointment. They often feel like a waste of time. Nothing happens at my OB appointments.

When Jeff and the kids returned, I rushed the kids through lunch and into bed for naps so I could attempt to leave on time. I almost made it. Then I hit traffic on the freeway. I took a detour on city roads. Then my usual route to the parking garage at the clinic was one-way the wrong way because of construction. Argh!

I finally made it!

The trip took me almost an hour from our door to the OB check-in desk. Normally it’s about 35 minutes.

I was too late to see the doctor, but a nurse practitioner could squeeze me in. Sure, whatever. I didn’t feel like making the drive again later in the week.

The nurse asked the usual questions. To my surprise, they do an ultrasound for the first OB appointment for everyone. I expected just the doppler to check heart rate since I had only one baby cooking.

As soon as she scanned through the baby, I saw it. Or rather, I didn’t see what I should have seen. There was no flicker. She scanned through it again. Nothing.

“I’m sorry, but I don’t see any cardiac activity,” said the nurse.

“I don’t see it either,” I replied, completely shocked.

She tried to comfort me by saying that miscarriage is really common in early pregnancy. Technically, yes, if you lump together the entire first trimester. After seeing a heartbeat, the miscarriage rate is supposed to drop to somewhere between 4% and 7%, depending on the source. At 8 weeks, when my baby passed, it may be as low as 1.5%. I’m sure that OB offices see a lot of miscarriages, but I do not consider those probabilities to be “common.” Sorry, already researched that.

The nurse left to get a doctor while I let a few tears out. How can that happen? Just a few weeks earlier my baby had a healthy heartbeat of 122. I mean, I know it can happen. Just, not to me.

The doctor she brought was not my doctor. It didn’t matter. He confirmed no heart flicker on the ultrasound. He even turned on the doppler imaging (where the colors show up to highlight blood flow). I saw blood flow on the screen, but nowhere near the baby.

By the ultrasound measurements, my baby had died around 8 weeks or a little later. Slowly, my lack of symptoms started to make sense. I thought a singleton pregnancy might just be that much easier than a twin pregnancy.

The long drive home

The only way I’d make it home is with distraction–just enough to take my mind off of the appointment but not enough to distract me from driving. Tschaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite seemed like a good candidate. I know the music well and I connect it with positive things. Whenever my mind drifted to how I was going to tell Jeff, I told myself “Nope, not right now. Listen to the music.”

I stole away to Jeff’s office in the basement as soon as I got home. Someone cried behind me, but I figured the babysitters would handle it.

“I have some bad news,” I told him.

He looked up, obviously surprised.

“There was no heartbeat!”

I couldn’t hold back tears anymore. Most of the appointment, the whole drive home, and walking into the house I held it back.

I sobbed as Jeff hugged me. Finally I was not alone!

Only coming up with a plan would give me lasting comfort. I spend the rest of the evening researching natural miscarriages, medicine-induced miscarriages, and surgical miscarriages.

Jeff and I agreed that a surgical miscarriage sounded like it would be the least upsetting all around. I didn’t want the kids to see me go through a natural miscarriage at home or have mom disappear suddenly and obviously upset about something or in pain.

The day after my ultrasound, I scheduled a vacuum aspiration procedure for Thursday. No need to draw out the misery.

Short rant on miscarriage vs. spontaneous abortion

Why is most of the information on surgical miscarriage options on abortion websites? I am not killing my baby! My baby already died and I’m trying to avoid complications from that. Most of the information specifically related to dealing with a miscarriage was on forums, which are notoriously unreliable.

Also, why does the medical community have to call it a spontaneous abortion? I understand that medically that is valid terminology, but “abortion” certainly is not a word a woman wants to hear when she very much wanted the baby.

I hate being lumped in with people who *choose* to end a pregnancy, for whatever reason. I’m not about to judge other people’s choices, but this was *not* my choice. The thought process is very different between a voluntary abortion and a miscarriage.

The end of pregnancy #4

Jeff took the day off from work, so we had a leisurely breakfast out Thursday morning. We arrived at my OB’s clinic shortly before my appointment. I barely withheld tears on the long walk from the parking garage to the OB check-in desk. I was not at all sure I would be able to check myself in without becoming a blubbering mess.

The check in was mercifully short. They seemed to skip the litany of questions they usually ask me. A few tears silently rolled down my cheeks in the waiting room.

In the procedure room, I had one last cry for my lost baby before the doctor arrived.

The vacuum aspiration procedure was about painful than a hysteroscopy without ibuprofen ahead of time. That is to say, all of my focus was on dealing with the pain. I couldn’t be sad in those few minutes.

Then it was over. My fourth pregnancy and the vacuum aspiration procedure were over.

Aftermath of a miscarriage

For 24-48 hours, I still felt a fair amount of cramping and discomfort. I also had daily migraines from Thursday through Sunday, but Excedrin controlled them well enough. Come Monday, Excedrin was useless. Only Zofran kept me from throwing up.

Around 12:30pm, I gave in and had my mom take me to urgent care. I guess one bonus of not being pregnant is they can throw everything at me to make me functional again. A shot of Toradol fixed the immediate problems within about an hour. Prescriptions for Maxalt and more Zofran gave me some security that I wouldn’t be back the next day if my migraine returned.

Hormone fluctuations and tension have always been my main migraine triggers. Guess what I had in abundance? Both!

I also came down with a cold on Monday that finally eased up on Friday. Add in progesterone withdrawal bleeding (or a period… not sure) and it’s been fun (yes, that’s sarcastic).

Miscarriages suck, but I think mine went about as smooth as possible. I am thankful for that.

When are we doing embryo transfer #5?

My OB and reproductive endocrinologist recommended going through one normal cycle before trying to conceive again. Jeff and I had planned that anyhow just to give my body and mind a break. IVF, even the relatively easy path I’ve had, can be gruelling.

First, the expense. If it doesn’t work, we still spent $4,000 plus meds.

Second, medications. Birth control pills make me short tempered. Estrogen can do the same, but to a lesser degree. I take 2-3 weeks of birth control pills followed by 3-8 weeks of oral estrogen, depending on if the transfer succeeded.

Third, lots of needles. I have nightly progesterone shots from six days before transfer until something like 12 weeks of pregnancy–10 weeks of shots with a caulking gun. The lab tests use a smaller needle, thankfully.

Fourth, driving almost two hours away for procedures and check ups. A handful of visits doesn’t seem like much until you need to find someone to take care of six small kids because you can’t take them along and your husband has to work.

All that being said, we’re planning to jump right back in once I’ve met the one-normal-cycle bar. This way I’ll be younger when we use the last embryos, we’ll keep a similar gap between kids (assuming FET #5 works), and we’ll save on storage fees.

Storing our embryos costs $800 per year. By moving right into another cycle instead of waiting, we can save several hundred dollars at least in storage fees. It seems to me that we’d accrue less in credit card interest in the time it would take us to pay off the transfer fee, even if we don’t have cash on hand for the transfer.

1 Comment

  1. June

    I love Tweety!! No words will ever help you forget your loss but just know how much you are all loved.!!

    Reply

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