Joy fol­lows mis­car­riage grief

The Gympie Times - - READ - BY Kiri ten Dolle

I found my­self rub­bing my belly like you were there, but you were not. I hoped no­body saw.

ISWORE I would have no more chil­dren. The morn­ing sick­ness was so de­bil­i­tat­ing it be­came nor­mal. Back and forth to the GP, he re­as­sured me that this was preg­nancy and it soon would pass. Only it didn’t.

I was vel­croed to the couch, sur­viv­ing on gin­ger tea and Saos. I still cringe at the smell of gar­lic. The only light at the end of the tun­nel was our first scan.

“What a job, in­tro­duc­ing cou­ples to their ba­bies,” I said to my hus­band, as we en­tered the ul­tra­sound clinic. We were in­tox­i­cated with joy.

We walked into the dark room, lit only by a TV screen. I lay on the bed as the young sono­g­ra­pher squeezed cold gel on to my tummy. I stared at the screen. At first she was quite hasty, mov­ing the re­mote across my belly. A tiny baby the size of a grape. A lit­tle smile grew on my face as my hus­band took a photo.

The sono­g­ra­pher zoomed in. Mea­sured. Zoomed again. Mea­sured. Colours ap­peared on the screen. The si­lence was deaf­en­ing.

“It looks like you are about nine weeks,” she said.

That couldn’t be. I was 12 weeks plus five days or more. I started to worry. The sono­g­ra­pher stepped out of the room. Was she do­ing it right?

She re­turned a few min­utes later.

“The baby has no heart beat or blood sup­ply. Your baby passed at nine weeks and one day. I’m so sorry.”

For the first time, I saw my hus­band cry. We left heart­bro­ken. Torn. Lost. Empty.

We were com­pletely dif­fer­ent peo­ple to those we were when we walked in.

By lunchtime we saw our GP who brought us no an­swers or re­lief. She told us it might have been a “thick­ened pla­centa”.

We were sent to the emer­gency de­part­ment at our lo­cal hos­pi­tal bear­ing a sealed yel­low A5 en­ve­lope, inside the ul­tra­sound re­port con­tain­ing the an­swers we so des­per­ately sought.

The morn­ing sick­ness was stronger than ever. Part of me didn’t be­lieve the news we were handed. We were sent home.

I still car­ried the me­tal­lic taste in my mouth that for weeks had driven me crazy. The nau­sea was still present and the pork we ate for din­ner still made me sick. I found my­self rub­bing my belly like you were there, but you were not. I hoped no­body saw.

What if they had made a mis­take? Then came the thoughts of “what had I done at the nine-week mark that could have caused your lit­tle heart to stop beat­ing? What had I done wrong? Did I drink too much cof­fee, hold my phone too close? Was it that one wine I drank be­fore I knew I was ac­tu­ally preg­nant?” I was drown­ing in a pool of guilt.

The next day, we re­turned to the hos­pi­tal’s preg­nancy clinic. Inside was swollen with out­pa­tients, heav­ily preg­nant women and their mid­wives with smiles from ear to ear. It felt as though they knew, like I was wear­ing a gi­ant neon sign.

A doc­tor de­liv­ered the news. I had a par­tial mo­lar preg­nancy. My preg­nancy hor­mone hCG (hu­man chori­onic go­nadotrophin) lev­els mea­sured much higher than a nor­mal preg­nancy. Height­ened hor­mone lev­els associated with mo­lar preg­nan­cies in­crease symp­toms of morn­ing sick­ness and the womb can grow larger than nor­mal.

A par­tial mo­lar preg­nancy re­sults from an ex­tra set of chro­mo­somes. With an im­bal­ance of ge­netic ma­te­rial af­ter con­cep­tion, the preg­nancy de­vel­ops ab­nor­mally and the pla­centa out­grows the baby. The con­di­tion af­fects one in 1200 preg­nan­cies in Aus­tralia each year. Some­times a baby is present in the womb, other times not. In my case a baby did form but it would never be vi­able.

A few hours passed be­fore I was wheeled into the theatre room and put un­der anaes­thetic. In what felt like a split sec­ond I was sud­denly no longer preg­nant.

And then the tests for can­cer fol­lowed. I would un­dergo weekly blood tests every week for two months screened by the Queens­land Tro­phoblast Cen­tre, based at the Royal Bris­bane and Women’s Hos­pi­tal, to en­sure my hCG lev­els were falling. The tests would then go on monthly for al­most a year un­til my hCG reached and stayed at zero. The end of any wanted preg­nancy is dev­as­tat­ing, but the pos­si­bil­ity of per­sis­tent disease added an­other layer of con­cern for us.

In up to 15% of women, ab­nor­mal pla­cen­tal cells can re­main and con­tinue to pro­duce hCG, which can lead to more per­sis­tent dis­eases that re­quire chemo­ther­apy. Women with mo­lar preg­nan­cies are ad­vised not to fall preg­nant for 12 months, though the chances of a re­cur­ring mo­lar preg­nancy are 1%.

Two years later I would wel­come a de­light­ful baby girl into the world on Oc­to­ber 15, 2016. By co­in­ci­dence the same day is In­ter­na­tional Preg­nancy and In­fant Loss Re­mem­brance Day. A gen­tle re­minder of our past, be­cause you never for­get.

More blood tests and my hCG lev­els were mon­i­tored again af­ter this birth and will be for any sub­se­quent births, in the rare chance mo­lar cells re­main.

In the weeks and months that passed, I found strength in the fact that I was not alone. It wasn’t un­til we shared our story, peo­ple around us shared theirs. Be­cause some­thing that broke our hearts equally brought us closer to­gether.

PHO­TOS: CON­TRIB­UTED

Kiri ten Dolle re­veals how a missed mis­car­riage turned into a long and emo­tion­ally tax­ing jour­ney. Pic­tured preg­nant with her “rain­bow” baby, Jaali, born in Oc­to­ber 2016, and hus­band, Matt. IN­SET: Kiri ten Dolle with daugh­ter Jaali at 10 days old.

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