The pain of miscarriage and infertility

I know this doesn’t exactly fall under my bipolar theme, but it does fit a bit. I did end up hospitalized for depression partially due to the loss of my baby and the thought that I would never have a child after 4 years of failed attempts.I found out Alex no longer had a heartbeat 6 years ago today. This was supposed to be our miracle after an earlier pregnancy loss and unexplained infertility. I was alone and I still remember the ultrasound and the nurses. The nurse using the doppler told me not to worry, that it was hard to pick up heartbeats at 12 weeks. The nurse got me into an ultrasound room pretty quickly and I could see that the baby wasn’t moving. The ultrasound tech didn’t say anything, at all. I said I know something is wrong and the ultrasound tech told me she was having trouble finding a heartbeat, but would get the doctor. The doctor confirmed that the baby had no heartbeat and I just cried and cried and cried. I remember the hugs from the doctors and nurses and the way they tried to reassure me by saying it was really common. For me, it didn’t help since it was my second miscarriage AND we had been going through infertility. It just felt like a what did I do wrong to make this happen, again.

 

I was alone for the appointment which means that I drove myself to said appointment. I was a wreck and, unfortunately, I had no means home other than to drive my car. The doctor and nurse were kind enough to allow me to remain in an exam room while I calmed myself. The doctor also gathered paperwork and discussed options for me to pass the baby since my body hadn’t realized that the baby had died. I was carrying around a dead baby. There is medication to move things along, but I was afraid of it happening while I was alone. Another option was to wait it out and let my body do it naturally and the final option was a D&C. I chose the D&C which was scheduled for nearly a week out from my last appointment. At that point, the baby hadn’t been alive in likely 2+ weeks. The doctor thought there was a good possibility that the baby would be passed naturally because of the time frame. It didn’t go down like that.

 
On the 17th, I arrived at the hospital for my D&C. The resident anesthesiologist was rough with me and hurt me trying to put the IV in. The attending was kind and asked me the typical questions that you would ask someone having an abortion, which I wasn’t. His first was how far along are you and when I responded I don’t know he told me to be as close as possible. I explained that I was supposed to be 13 weeks, but the baby stopped growing around 11. He took the stuff away from the resident and finished putting the IV in and explaining what would happen in terms of anesthesia.

I remember waking up after the D&C surrounded by doctors and nurses. There had been hemorrhaging. The doctors had difficulty stopping the bleeding during the procedure. I felt like I couldn’t even miscarry properly and I felt as though I had to explain to everyone why I had the procedure done. I ended up in the hospital overnight and out of work for 3 weeks due to the blood loss. They actually asked my husband if he wanted to speak to a social worker. These complications were not what I had in mind. It made me feel as though my body couldn’t care for a baby properly and that there was something wrong with me. I felt like I failed my husband and that I was a defective woman because I couldn’t have children. I felt like my husband deserved so much better and I didn’t understand why the two of us were being punished so harshly. I could not comprehend this loss and I definitely didn’t understand why it was so difficult both physically and emotionally. It just kept dragging on. It wasn’t just over.

 

I became so depressed that eventually I ended up in the hospital for suicidal ideation. It was a turning point for me. I learned the best way for me to handle it. I had caring providers. There was always a tool or someone to help when it got bad and my medication was adjusted. These all resulted in rapid results where I went from not being able to get off the couch suicidal to a semi-normal level of functioning.

 

Then, my miracle really happened. We conceived my son J and he was born almost a year to the day after my due date with Alex. I never forget the babies I lost. I never forget the struggle to have the ones that I have and I am forever grateful that my two boys are in my life.

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Thoughts on work and the future

I have not worked full-time in several years. In fact, I believe it has been 8 years since my last full-time position. I considered a career change during that period and I took the first class I need to in order to make that change. That was before I got pregnant with my oldest son and after he was born I worked part-time in a related position and I loved it. I couldn’t go back to it after the birth of my second son though as I had to quit when my FMLA time ran out while I was pregnant with him. I actually didn’t even qualify, but they were nice enough to help me out with a leave of absence.

I was fainting while pregnant. It wasn’t just happening when I was standing up or sitting down. I would even faint while laying down. I had a history of fainting, but I hadn’t fainted since I was in my mid-20s. I had to give up driving during this time for obvious reasons. I ended up seeing a cardiologist who had an answer that wasn’t discovered as a child despite visits to cardiologists and neurologists as having several different tests. I was diagnosed with vasovagal syncope and told that it would probably improve again after the pregnancy, but it gets worse with age and I will probably have a problem as a senior. Then, it will likely be treated with medication though some doctors go with a pacemaker which she thinks is far too aggressive.

The backstory during the period before kids

I didn’t work full-time back in those years before my first born due to my illness. I couldn’t get the treatment I needed due to insurance for some time and then I was in and out of partial hospital programs and I was in therapy three times a week. I was also hospitalized once during that time due to suicidal ideation. I wasn’t safe outside the hospital and home alone at the time.

There were some difficult things happening which contributed to the severity of my illness. My husband and I so wanted children, and it just wasn’t happening for us. I had an ectopic pregnancy and a missed miscarriage. I had lost a lot of blood during the D&C that removed the remains of the second baby. We had a diagnosis of unexplained infertility and our reproductive endocrinologist kept telling us we would have a child some day. I had trouble with the hormones during our 2 failed IUI attempts. I was afraid to leave my house so we took a break and never came back.

Around the due date of the second loss, around 4 years after we started trying to have a baby, I gave up. That is when I was so depressed that I couldn’t get off the couch. I couldn’t shower and I wouldn’t eat. Nothing was entertaining and showering was a struggle. That is when I became so suicidal that I had to get more intensive treatment than even the partial hospital program could provide and I went inpatient for 8 days while my medications were adjusted and I got extensive therapy. I got to talk about the trauma of my past and my struggles of the present. I got to utilize a weighted blanket when I became so anxious that I had trouble with my stomach and I couldn’t eat anything at all. It was at those times when I just couldn’t stop crying and calm down that I had this tool along with some anti-anxiety medications.

That hospitalization changed everything. I came out feeling better and the medication adjustment, which needed further adjustment outside of the hospital, was truly my lifesaver. I went back to therapy three times a week and within a month or so, my mood was stable.

Then, my husband and I got the shock of our lifetime. We were pregnant again and so was my sister-in-law. They had problems getting pregnant also, but they started trying after us and I found out she was pregnant before me. For us, this was a very tense time. I had this feeling that this baby was going to be born healthy and I, with the exception of having low blood sugar because he was a big baby and jaundice, he was.

As you can see, there were many stressors that impacted my life at the time which significantly impacted the course of my illness. Hormones, losses, and just this constant feeling that your body cannot do what comes most naturally to others.

Future Career Aspirations

The funny thing is that I don’t have future career aspirations. I have future career anxiety, but I know that I will be expected to work when my kids enter school full-time. I used to work in technology. My last two full-time jobs were working for software companies: one as a software support engineer for a shipping software company and the second as a technical trainer for a healthcare software company. Unfortunately, the tech industry moves at a fast pace and my existing skills are somewhat obsolete. I did take some programming classes last summer to try to bone up on those skills, but I feel like I don’t do these things day in and day out so my skills are not fresh.

That means that the thing that I know is not really something I can do. Plus, the career rehab organization for the state has it listed that I cannot work in this career anymore as it has lead to multiple episodes of my illness that have required intensive therapy. Now, I miss the problem solving that was involved in my day to day activities and both my husband and I aren’t sure if I could balance both the stress in my personal life and a professional life now.

I fear that if I continue to be a “stay at home mom” when my kids are in school people will begin to question why I stay home and that may lead to rumors. I would try to nip the rumors in the bud though my son may do that for me. He’s four and brutally honest. He knows I have something wrong with my brain chemicals and I take medicine to stay healthy and he may tell someone which is OK. I just don’t want to become the brunt of the mom jokes if I don’t go back to work.

How will I know if I can go back to work and when the time is right?

A little about me

I decided to start this blog with a little something about myself. I live in New England with my husband and my son. In 2002. after periods of highs and lows, mainly lows, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I did not genuinely seek help until after I was married in 2007.

In 2008, I took myself off of medication cold turkey so that I could have a child. I would never recommend this to anyone. If you want to come off medications, talk to your psychiatrist or other prescribing physician. Little did I know that having a child would be such a challenge.

In 2009, I became pregnant. Shortly after I discovered I was pregnant, I began bleeding. I was told that I was having a miscarriage. Then, the bleeding stopped, my hormone levels doubled and the doctors told me to be cautiously optimistic. Two weeks later, my hormone levels dropped and I was again told I was having a miscarriage. They did an ultrasound which showed nothing. They continued to monitor my hormone levels which plateaued. They failed to drop appropriately and my diagnosis was changed from complete miscarriage to ectopic pregnancy. I received shots of methotrexate to treat the ectopic pregnancy and it was monitored for several weeks. Fortunately, the levels dropped after a few weeks.

After the pregnancy loss, without medication, I began cycling. I was initially, as expected, down. Then, one day, my thoughts began racing and I began acting like a fool. I began “cleaning” the house which entailed tearing the bookshelves apart. My husband and therapist convinced me to go to the emergency room where they had me sent to a partial hospital program. I was started back on medication, which turned out to be the wrong medication, and treated with extensive therapy. I found a new psychiatrist because the one I had seen before becoming non-compliant was no longer with his practice.

This psychiatrist was a women’s health psychiatrist meaning she understood the impact hormones have in mood swings as well as kept up with the research on medications in pregnancy. She put me on a medication regiment that closely resembles the one I am on today. Unfortunately, she was not readily available and I had to switch psychiatrists. In the meantime, I received a consult with another expert on the effects of medications on a fetus.

In 2010, I switched to a psychiatrist who specialized in bipolar disorder and understood my desire to become a mother. She worked with me on the medications through my ups and downs. My lows still outnumbered my highs.

In the summer of 2010, after trying to get pregnant again for a year, my husband and I received a diagnosis of unexplained infertility. Month after month of negative pregnancy tests took its toll on my mental health. We tried IUI with Gonal-F. It failed. At the holidays, I needed a break from trying.

In spring of 2011, we decided to try again. I contacted the fertility specialist only to be told that we had to start over because we had waited more than 6 months. I setup a consultation again, but in June 2011, I discovered I was pregnant. I considered this my miracle pregnancy. It had been 2 years since my last pregnancy. I couldn’t wait to shout it from the rooftops!

Unfortunately, in August, I discovered my baby no longer had a heartbeat. On August 17, 2011, I had a D&C. We named that baby Alex. We never knew the gender of the baby. I was totally heartbroken.

In February 2012, around my due date, I became depressed. It was so bad that my psychiatrist encouraged me to enter another partial hospital program. I entered in late February, but in early March I became an inpatient for a mental health issue for the second time in my life. I was suicidal and no longer trusted myself.

In the hospital, they adjusted my medication and increased my dose of Wellbutrin. I think this was my lifesaver. It has made such a difference in my life. Things are night and day to what they were. I emerged from this period of depression within a month or so of my hospitalization. We decided to see the fertility specialist again.

Over Independence Day weekend in 2012, I learned I was pregnant again. I was afraid. At six weeks, I had some light pink spotting and I called the doctor in tears. I asked why is this happening again only to be told that the bleeding wasn’t necessarily indication of a miscarriage. I was scheduled for an ultrasound 2 days later, but the doctor told me that they could set one up for the following day.

I went in for the first ultrasound and there was my baby – complete with heartbeat. They couldn’t find an indicator as to why I had bled. They believed it was just an irritated cervix. From this point on, I was paranoid about every little twinge, every little itch, and I looked for blood constantly. I was afraid to tell anyone I was pregnant. I thought that telling people would mean the end of the pregnancy.

At 13 weeks,  I announced my pregnancy and all was well. At 18 weeks, we discovered the baby was a boy. We also discovered I had a low lying placenta with blood vessels from the placenta sitting on my cervix. This would need to be monitored because it put me at risk for a bleed. I was put on travel restrictions.

Around 32 weeks, we discovered that the placenta and blood vessels had moved. We also discovered that the baby was still breech. The doctor monitored this, and, at 36 weeks, we discovered he’d rotated to the head-down position.

At 37 weeks, my water broke. It was 5:30 in the morning and my husband was up, getting ready for work. I walked into the kitchen and I thought I had just peed myself. I called the doctor and they told me to come in. I took a shower as our childbirth class told us not to rush in such a situation. As I stood, I continued to leak and they didn’t even test to see if it was my water because I was dripping down the hall.

We tried to see if nature would take its course, but, at noon, I was given pitocin. Unfortunately, the baby was stubborn. I wasn’t fully dilated until the following morning at 8:30. I pushed for 3 hours and then had a c-section. Finally, I had my rainbow.

At birth, the baby had low blood sugar so they took him off to the special care nursery. He rebounded and was back in my room that evening. After discharge, we discovered he was jaundice and went back to the hospital. Now, he is a healthy 3 and a half month old.

I had some issues with postpartum depression. I was afraid to take the baby outside, to enjoy the world, after he was born. I worried he would get sick. It wasn’t until he was a month old that we even went to the grocery store.

Now, I have some supports in place. I go to a new moms group that meets once a week. I talk to other mothers. I have my mom visit often. I have a therapist. All of these things make a difference, but it doesn’t make bipolar disorder go away.

My hope is that this blog will discuss my journey and help someone else. I hope to pass on the skills that I learn to deal with life with a child.