Natural Mourning & Adopting Hope

Paris is the first close friend of mine that told me she had a miscarriage. I admired her for sharing what was going on in her life, and once I started down my own fertility journey I felt so grateful for our friendship. She expressed the importance of confiding in women with shared experiences, and said the biggest thing she learned from her fertility journey is that “I can help other people and I love that I can be an empathetic ear to someone. That we can talk about it and we know what each other has been through.”

Paris

Paris and Jeremy decided they wanted to start trying for a baby the summer Paris was 26 years old. They got pregnant shortly thereafter at the beginning of fall. When they were 9 weeks along Paris started spotting and immediately thought the worst - she thought that she was likely having a miscarriage. Paris called her OB and requested to come in so they could check her out. The OB office said she was likely fine and didn’t need to come in, but Paris insisted. When they saw her they said things seemed fine, and Paris again insisted they do an ultrasound. Luckily the ultrasound looked normal despite Paris’s spotting. This occurred just before Christmas so Jeremy and Paris asked the OB if they should tell their families or hold off sharing their news due to the spotting. The nurse said they could certainly share their news and assured them that everything looked normal. They spent the holidays with their families and shared their pregnancy news - all the while Paris kept spotting. Shortly after the holidays, when they were now 11 weeks, Paris’s spotting turned to bleeding. They went back into the OB for an ultrasound, and the heartbeat was gone; the baby didn’t make it.

“Looking back now, that first one, I still don’t know what happened with that pregnancy. It was so good, the heartbeat and everything, and then it left.”

It was a Friday afternoon, and they decided to go home and miscarry naturally. The OB told them to contact them on Monday if Paris didn’t miscarry over the weekend. By Friday night Paris started cramping really hard and bleeding. She contacted the doctor on call who said she was miscarrying and just had to go through it, and recommended she try to save the remains for testing. After hours of painful cramping all night Paris passed the fetus into the toilet. She clean it off, and put it in the fridge to bring to the OB office that Monday for testing. Paris recalled, “That was the most painful thing, holding it under the sink and rinsing it off.” When she brought the remains into her OB office they tentatively accepted them and told her that wasn’t necessary. This left Paris feeling completely dismayed.

“This was my first miscarriage, my first time, we didn’t know what to expect. To be honest this wasn’t as emotional for me as the second one. By this time I was glad - it had been two weeks of spotting and I knew that it wasn’t right.”

After a short time Paris healed up and they decided to try to get pregnant again. Paris said, “The second time was way harder. I didn’t get my cycle back for half a year, about 7 months. And then I think I did get pregnant again fairly quickly, but when you’re trying, every month that you get your period is just awful. That’s the worst part.” After a few cycles they found they were pregnant again; however, shortly thereafter Paris got a late period and went to the OB who confirmed she had had an early miscarriage. Physically, Paris had a very different experience because this miscarriage was much earlier than the previous one. Emotionally, Paris recalled, “I lost hope and thought this is never going to happen.” After her second miscarriage Paris sought out a friend of a friend named Amy that had had two miscarriages before her son was born. Amy and Paris emailed regularly and Amy helped Paris to feel more relaxed, find hope, and not feel so stressed.

“Amy told me, “It seems hopeless, but it’s not. It feels like it’s never going to happen, but it can.” I will always be grateful to her.”

After two miscarriages, Paris decided to seek out a more experienced OB and was referred to one who specialized in infertility and miscarriage. Paris and Jeremy decided to have a fertility assessment done. The results came back, and everything looked normal. Paris recalled, “I was on this high, I had a great doctor, all of their tests looked good, I felt relaxed, and then that cycle I got pregnant.” Their OB recommended Paris take numerous medications and shots to help support this pregnancy. Paris explained that she really doesn’t like taking any medications, and after a lot of thinking, she and Jeremy decided not to take the medication. Their OB supported their decision, and Paris said looking back she is glad she didn’t take the medications because she didn’t need them, but at the time, she was concerned that if things didn’t go well it would be her fault for not taking them.

“It’s hard because your doctor is telling you this and I wanted a baby so bad and to stay pregnant but at the same time, all the tests showed I was fine. Like our doctor explained, because the miscarriages were so different it probably wasn’t one issue that was making me miscarry.”

Paris’s third pregnancy continued to progress, and things looked normal. Potential miscarriage remained in the back of Jeremy and Paris’s minds, but Paris recalled, “I felt so taken care of by my doctor. She made me feel relaxed and stress free, and I wasn’t worried about this pregnancy in the same way as the first two.” Paris reached the end of her pregnancy, and the baby was breech and didn’t turn, so they opted for a c-section, and on January 11th, 2013 their daughter Payton Grace was born, and Jeremy and Paris were thrilled.

Payton Grace

Jeremy and Paris knew they wanted to try for another baby, and decided to try again when Payton was a year old. Paris’s cycle didn’t return until about 14 months later, likely due to breastfeeding, but as soon as it did, they started trying, and got pregnant after four cycles. Paris remembered, “This time I was feeling very confident. I wasn’t concerned because I thought the first two miscarriages must have been a fluke, I had Payton and that was great, it’s going to be fine, my body is fine.” Paris’s 8 week HCG blood test looked normal, but a few days later she started bleeding. In a normal pregnancy HCG levels continue to rise and often double from day to day. Paris had a series of HCG blood tests over the next few days and her levels dropped and then spiked back up. The OB had her come in for an ultrasound and the sonographer saw a mass near the uterus and called her doctor in to review it. Paris’s doctor explained it was an ectopic pregnancy, which means the embryo implanted in her fallopian tube rather than her uterus and  it needed to be surgically removed that same day. Paris felt crushed, she didn’t want to accept that she was losing another pregnancy.

Unfortunately, the embryo had grown so large in the tube that her doctor had to remove the tube itself because it was so stretched out. Paris’s doctor showed her pictures of the mass and the tube and walked them through what she did during the procedure.

Paris said, “I healed up pretty good physically from that, mentally, not so good. It was very very sad and after every miscarriage it felt a little bit more hopeless, and you start losing it. It was incredibly hard because now we knew we only have one side working and it’s going to be even harder to get pregnant.”

Their OB explained to them that you don’t necessarily ovulate on the right side followed by the left and right again - it’s random, and that eased Jeremy and Paris’s fears a bit. After Paris healed up from the three incisions from the surgery, she went in for an HSG dye test to confirm her remaining tube was open, which it was, there was no blockage. That same cycle Paris got pregnant for a fifth time; however, her HCG numbers didn’t look good and they confirmed she had another ectopic pregnancy, this time in her other, and only remaining tube. They caught the ectopic pregnancy much earlier this time and their OB recommended a methotrexate shot, and after weighing their options for a couple days, Paris and Jeremy decided to move forward with the shot. The hope is that the shot will clear an ectopic pregnancy and they could avoid a surgical procedure to have it removed from the tube. The methotrexate shot takes 7 days to take effect after the injection, and now they had to wait and hope it was effective. Paris got very sick from methotrexate, which is a common side effect. Over a week after taking the shot Paris started to have extreme pain near her fallopian tube. It was a weekend, so they went to the emergency room, and they confirmed the ectopic pregnancy had not passed and they needed to do surgery to remove it. Paris’s OB wasn’t available that weekend to perform the procedure so they had to move forward with the on call doctor. Luckily, the doctor was able to cut out the ectopic pregnancy while keeping Paris’s tube intact.

It took longer for Paris to heal from the incisions after her second ectopic pregnancy surgery. Jeremy didn’t want to try again, of course he still wanted a baby, but he was concerned about Paris’s well being both physically and emotionally.  Paris still really wanted a baby and felt like she needed to keep trying. The OB recommended they do another HSG dye test to evaluate if her tube was open.

“I remember that test was really nerve wracking. I had Jeremy come with me because I was so nervous that they were going to say no, the tube is closed, we can’t get pregnant.”

Fortunately, her tube was open and there were no blockages, so they decided to try to get pregnant again. After a couple cycles, they got pregnant for a sixth time. By now it was April of 2016, over three years after the birth of their daughter Payton. The pregnancy was ectopic right away, Paris started bleeding right away, but it was too small to see it on an ultrasound to confirm the embryo's placement. Paris’s HCG went down and spiked back up and Paris hoped it could have been a result of vanishing twin syndrome rather than yet another ectopic pregnancy.  She told me, “I definitely didn’t think I was going to have 3, I didn’t think I would have another ectopic pregnancy.” Her OB recommended Paris do the mexotrexate shot again, but it made Paris so sick last time and didn’t prove effective, so neither Jeremy or Paris wanted to repeat it.

“After a lot of crying and talking, we decided, okay, we’re done. We have Payton, we’re thankful. I don’t want to end up in the emergency room again. So we scheduled a surgery, they took out the tube, they had pictures and confirmed there was a baby in the tube. After this last surgery there was a relief almost. We had tried for two years with all of this and now it can’t happen, we’re done, it’s a relief.”

I asked Paris how she felt while they were trying to get pregnant and what emotions she had during her pregnancies and following each of her five miscarriages. She told me that the hardest thing for her was time - the time it took to get pregnant, the time spent being pregnant when those pregnancies didn’t pan out, the overall time from when they started trying to when they brought their daughter Payton home, and the time they spent trying for a second baby that ultimately left them unable to have another child naturally.

“I looked at the timeline at one point, and it didn’t take me that long to get pregnant any time. When you go back and look at it, you think, what was I thinking, I should have been patient. Even after Payton I wasn’t patient, I wanted a baby now. And you know even when you get pregnant that doesn’t mean you’re going to have a baby. Miscarriages are sad, but you can’t help to think about the time involved. Our generation is used to getting everything right when we want it, which is why I think it affects us so much.”

By the spring of 2016, following Paris’s second fallopian tube removal, Jeremy and Paris decided they were done trying to have another baby. They had their daughter Payton, and they were so grateful for her. They were in a place where they were 100% okay having Payton with no plans for additional children. This wasn’t what they had originally imagined their family would look like, but they felt so fortunate and grateful to have Payton. Paris didn’t know many one child families growing up, so she decided to read some books about raising one child and stories of only children. This helped her to feel more resolve.

Over the following year both Paris and Jeremy continued to assume they were done trying to growing their family. At the same time, they both still wanted another baby.

“I don’t know if you ever stop wanting to have a baby. I have friends that have four kids and they still want a baby. We were done, we were happy, but I just want another one. And Payton would be such a good big sister. That’s a huge part of it, I want her to have a sibling. But she’ll be fine either way.”

I interviewed Paris for this piece in the summer of 2017, just after she and Jeremy went in for an IVF consultation, and just before they were planning to meet with a few adoption agencies. After the IVF consultation they were told they would be good candidates if they decide to move forward. Paris is 33 years old, and the clinic recommended moving forward sooner than later to avoid an advanced maternal age pregnancy. Paris explained that she and Jeremy have gone back and forth about the idea of IVF. They recently explored numerous adoption agencies, and they think they have found an agency that feels right to both of them. Paris told me she is glad they are considering all of their options, and said,

“I think I’ll always wish that we could have another one naturally. I’ll always mourn not being able to make that decision. If we don’t get another baby or we don’t adopt I am very happy with Payton. It would be nice to say that we explored or tried everything.”

Since interviewing Paris this summer, Jeremy and Paris have committed to an adoption agency and are in the process of preparing to join the book of waiting families. To learn more about Jeremy, Paris and Payton and their journey to try to grow their family, visit Love Makes a Family.

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