‘In my head I screamed, ‘No! No!’ You don’t know what it’s like to only be left with a bloody photo.’: Woman grieves infertility journey and tubal pregnancy loss, ‘I want people to feel less alone’

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“My infertility journey started almost two and a half years ago. I knew something was wrong with my body, but I kept finding excuses like stress or coming off birth control to explain why my cycles were so irregular. It gets harder to deny it when those cycles reach 80+ days. After urging my doctor to do testing she felt was unnecessary, she confirmed my suspicions and told me I have poly cystic ovarian syndrome, or PCOS. I held it together long enough to get out to my car, where I broke down crying, because I knew our journey to having a baby was likely going to be much harder than we anticipated.

Infertility is soul crushing when you are a woman who knows, more than anything, you are meant to be a mother. The next two years were spent trying nearly every supplement out there for PCOS, giving up all my favorite foods to eat a low carb diet, waking up early to take my temperature every morning, and peeing on more ovulation predictor test strips than I can count. The medicine wasn’t working, and each month brought more disappoint. Each doctor’s appointment seemed to bring more bad news. But, a final call in early fall left me once again crying in the parking lot, after learning we had additional infertility factors to contend with, beyond just my PCOS. Our already poor chances were even worse than we thought.

I gave up for a while and tried to figure out how we would ever be able to afford the $30,000 that comes with growing our family through adoption. And, I was trying to come to terms with never experiencing the miracle of pregnancy, and watching my biological child grow. Everything changed in the middle of December, when I took a pregnancy test. I’d taken so many before, that there was never any excitement or hope. But this time, it was there — the faint, positive line I had begged and prayed to see for years. I took a second test, immediately, and was met with another positive! I never knew two pink lines could be so beautiful, until that day.

I already had a little boy and girl onesie hidden in my closet to announce to Philip (from a previous false alarm), so I eagerly threw them in a gift bag and told Philip I had an early Christmas gift for him. We were both in absolute shock the first day, but already loved our growing baby so much. We happened to be hosting Christmas with Philip’s family that year. Since the whole family is rarely all together, and we knew they would be able to tell by our faces something was going on, we told his family. There were screams of happiness and tears all around. We knew because of my PCOS, my chances of miscarriage were high. We were honest with everyone, but cautiously optimistic. The next day, we told my family, while secretly recording them. Again, there were more tears and happiness, as my parents discussed the names they would go by as first-time grandparents. I still have that video saved on my phone, and it’s a heartbreaking reminder of what we all lost.

My pregnancy was filled with so many scares right from the beginning. I had bleeding multiple times and kept thinking we were losing our child. We grieved the loss of our baby three times before finally losing our child. We decided early on that we wanted our baby to have a name, even if we lost it, so we looked up unisex names. We decided on Charlie as a nickname, and our baby’s middle name would be Charlotte if it were a girl and Charles if it were a boy.

Charlie kept holding on, and my numbers kept rising, but each ultrasound went wrong. They reassured us it was just too early and scheduled an ultrasound later on, when we were certain to see the baby. I was so excited to finally meet my baby on the ultrasound screen that day. I’ll never forget the look on the ultrasound technicians face, as she tried to hide what she already knew and couldn’t tell me. She couldn’t see the baby or a heartbeat. Instead, she said there was fluid and debris around my ovaries, and she was going to call the radiologist to take a look. She brought us over to a more private waiting area and offered me a warm blanket, as I tried to keep my tears from showing.

My OB/GYN asked us to walk over to her office and talk to her. She explained they were worried my pregnancy was ectopic, meaning the baby was growing in my tube and couldn’t survive. She said the pregnancy hormone in my blood was so high she couldn’t be sure, but explained if it was ectopic, my tube could rupture, and I could die. I was given the worst choice I’ve ever had to make in my life. She told me I could take a shot to end the pregnancy right then, or we could wait until Monday to do another ultrasound, in case the baby was okay, and just hope my tube didn’t rupture first.

I immediately told her I wanted to wait, but I went home terrified my baby and I would both lose our lives. They took blood work once again, to see if my baby was still growing normally. I sent messages out to family members and friends begging for prayers for our baby, and I went to bed not knowing if I would wake up. Philip and I drove to the hospital early the next day to get my blood results, since my doctor was out of town on a conference. The numbers were bad. I knew the slow rise meant there was virtually no chance of my baby not being in my tube, but the thought of ending my pregnancy while Charlie still had even the slightest chance was unbearable.

We ended up getting a call from the doctor covering for mine, saying to come in immediately. They were afraid my tube would rupture at any time. He told me, based on my numbers, he was nearly positive the baby was in my tube, but wanted to do surgery to make sure. I went home, and we talked to Charlie. We told our baby to keep fighting, and we loved them so much. We will never get to know for sure, but I always felt like my baby was a boy. I had made an email address for Charlie a while back, so I could write him letters and send memories to share with him when he was older. I sent Charlie so many emails during my pregnancy, telling him how much we loved him and were excited to meet him. As my pregnancy progressed, those emails kept turning into me begging him to hold on and keep fighting.

I remember going back to surgery and knowing how slim our chances were, but being so relieved we would know for sure, and I wouldn’t have to end the pregnancy spending my whole life wondering if he’d have been okay if I had only waited. Prayers were said for me. I remember prayers being said that Charlie would be okay, but if he wasn’t, we would find peace with God’s decision. In my head I was screaming out, ‘No! No! No! That isn’t an option. My baby has to be okay. I love this baby.’ I gave everyone hugs and told them I loved them. I called Philip over, and he placed his hand on my belly one final time before I was brought back.

I woke up to my doctor telling me my tube had already ruptured, and the pregnancy was ectopic. He told me he was able to save my tube during the surgery, and he would bring Philip back shortly. Looking back, we think my tube had ruptured several days before, when I started having cramping and pain just hours after announcing my pregnancy to the Schollmeier side of the family. The fact I didn’t suffer massive bleeding and die after my tube had been ruptured for days is something I can’t explain. The next few hours were a blur, as I was drugged up on many pain killers. But, I’ll never forget having my bed rolled out from recovery onto the maternity floor. As the news of the loss of my child was still fresh, I saw a woman pacing the hall in labor and heard the crying of newborn babies. I was so angry and will never understand why they have women recovering from the loss of a child, on a floor surrounded by women bringing their healthy, living babies into the world. I went to sleep that night with the TV on to block out the sounds of babies and mothers on the maternity floor with me. The next day, I wrote the Facebook post publicly announcing the life and loss of our sweet baby.

And that’s where people think the story ends. But the reality is, the pain would only grow worse over the coming days and months. I came home from the hospital unable to allow myself to cry and grieve for my baby for days, because the physical pain it caused was too much after my surgery. There were, and still are, so many days of crying on Philip’s shoulder, telling him over and over I just want our baby back, and I miss Charlie so much. I still feel the hurt and pain of losing Charlie every day, even when it isn’t visible to anyone else.

Other people don’t know every time I look outside, I see the board on our playground, where we said we would paint Charlie’s hand prints. They don’t know I have baby outfits for Charlie in the spare bedroom closet, my baby will never wear. They don’t know I had to ask Philip to throw away the dozens of positive pregnancy tests I had been taking each day to see the line growing darker when my baby was still growing. They don’t know, for the first time in my life, I had the scary realization I understand why people become drug addicts, because the only time I’ve ever felt peace since Charlie’s loss was while high on Oxycontin in the hospital. They don’t know I don’t change my profile picture because it’s the only ‘family photo’ I have of the three of us. They don’t what it’s like to watch your husband have to be strong for both of you, while his heart is breaking in a million pieces too.

They don’t know what it’s like to have your faith destroyed, and the struggle of trying to rebuild it, because the God that could have given a miracle and saved my child, chose not to. They don’t know what it’s like to feel like you can barely breathe because your heart is so broken. They don’t know what it’s like to see everyone around you having multiple children and moving on with their life, while you’re stuck knowing exactly how old your baby should be each day. They don’t know what it’s like to cry while helping put together your niece’s furniture, knowing you should be setting up a nursery at home. They don’t know what it’s like to not have an ultrasound photo of your baby, but instead, the bloody surgery photo showing where your baby was. They don’t know what it’s like to hate your own body because it betrayed you and your child.

After losing a child, the innocent question of, ‘Do you have kids?’ loses its simplicity and becomes a question that doesn’t feel like it has a right answer. Unexpectedly hearing my child’s name feels like it knocks the wind out of me. I’m forever stuck in knowing the way things should have been. The well meaning comment of, ‘You got pregnant once, so it can happen again,’ leaves me crying out inside that I want my baby back. I want my first child back, who I loved more than I ever thought possible.

But life continues to go on, whether I like it or not. I go to work and out with friends and family and put a smile on my face, but the thoughts of Charlie and our loss are constantly there. Infertility and the loss of my child has left me feeling like I’m failing at being the wife, daughter, and friend I want to be, because the crushing weight of grief is always on me. After loss, life continues, and the infertility appointments resume. And we try again, knowing we may never see another positive pregnancy test, and even if we do, it could end in tragedy all over again.

So, did infertility make me a stronger or better person? Did it teach me lessons? I guess it did. I am still fighting, despite everything. I still believe I will somehow hold a child of my own in my arms. Infertility and child loss is often enough to tear marriages apart. Yet, Philip and I are stronger than ever, and I’ve learned an even deeper love for him after seeing the way he cared for Charlie and I. I have learned to give people more of a break, because so many of us are carrying around the crushing weight of events people will never know. But, I would give away the strength gained and the lessons learned in an instant, if it would bring my Charlie back. This is the sad, ugly reality of my infertility and child loss story. I don’t want anyone to ever feel the heartbreak I have, but I know so many already have, and maybe this will make them feel less alone. I will continue to recognize and speak about the value and importance of my baby’s life, even if people think infertility is something we shouldn’t talk about. Because Charlie was, and always will be, my first child. I wish there were a happy ending to this story. Maybe some day there will be, but for now this is it… ”

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Kristina Jo Needham. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here.Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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