It’s Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month and all month long I’ve been reading beautifully-written and harrowing stories of miscarriage, stillbirth, sudden infant loss, infant loss due to underlying medical conditions, and termination due to fatal chromosomal abnormalities, but I haven’t yet read our family’s story.
I’ve been vacillating about whether or not it even qualifies for Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, and after agonizing over it, and whether or not I should share our story, I’ve decided both that it does and that I am ready.
A Journey Paved with Infertility
A little over six years ago we had our first honest-to-goodness positive pregnancy test. After two and a half years with nine medicated cycles of infertility treatments and one early miscarriage, we had finally gotten our positive. We were cautiously ecstatic. You don’t get to that point in infertility treatments and remain eternal optimists. We recognized that there were many hurdles between a positive pregnancy test and a healthy baby. In that moment, we had no clue just how right we were.
At an ultrasound at 6 weeks gestation the radiology tech very enthusiastically announced, “Oh my goodness, there are three fetuses here! It’s triplets!” But my husband and I didn’t smile or laugh or make any noise at all. We simply held hands and watched the monitor as tears tracked silently down my face. The tech excused herself and was replaced with a maternal fetal medicine specialist who confirmed the information and gently asked that we return two weeks later for another ultrasound to reassess.
Tough Statistics and Heavy Hearts
Throughout our infertility journey we had received excellent communication from our medical team regarding the risks of higher order multiples, meaning pregnancies with more than two fetuses. Many people successfully carry triplets, but statistically speaking, 90% of triplets are born prematurely and their outcome is dependent on gestational age and weight at birth. After meeting with a second maternal fetal medicine specialist in another city we were quoted a 50/50 chance of bringing home three living babies given the known scientific data and taking into consideration our own individual factors. This ratio didn’t mean three healthy babies, that statistic was far more grim.
Armed with that information we opted to pursue chromosomal testing on the babies to identify any abnormalities. When that returned normal two weeks later, we made the heartbreaking decision to terminate the life of one of our babies.
I don’t like to think about that day, and I can’t really put the experience into words. I can only imagine that I felt what any woman feels when experiencing pregnancy termination. Even though your head knows you’re making the right decision, your heart still feels like it’s breaking into a million pieces. You feel a deep aching sadness that leaves you breathless and causes a physical pain in your chest.
Harder still because you don’t talk about it. You rest like you’re supposed to for 2 days after the procedure and then you get up and go to work with a smile on your face like nothing happened at all.
In our situation, my pregnancy progressed normally until just after 30 weeks when our twins were born very suddenly and very unexpectedly. I was measuring full term and my uterus just had no more stretch to give. Had we continued with a triplet pregnancy, we were told I would have gone into labor even sooner and we’ll never know what the outcome of that might have been. I feel like by saying that I’m trying to legitimize our choice to reduce the pregnancy to twins and I’m genuinely not.
Making The Right Choice For Us
Even if our twins had stayed in utero until 38 weeks as planned, reducing the pregnancy to twins still would have been the right choice for our family. I still would have the right to grieve the loss of that very much wanted baby and still be allowed to remember and honor them.
Why now? It’s been six years since our abortion. Why suddenly do I feel that it’s time to think about it, to write about it, and to talk about it?
I think the experience has been deeply buried under the busy day-to-day work that goes along with raising twins, minding a marriage, keeping a household, and working. I think that, for the first time since the procedure, life has slowed down a bit and we’ve taken a moment to acknowledge that it happened and to accept it as part of our history. I’ve been feeling a strong pull to share our story and this month felt particularly appropriate.
If you’ve ever terminated a pregnancy and wondered whether Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month is for you, the answer is: it is if you want it to be. If you want to light a candle, say a prayer, share your story with a friend, say their name out loud if you chose one, or think of them, then do it, and if you don’t want to, that’s okay, too. This month is to remember all infant and pregnancy losses and I choose to pause for a moment to remember our baby, and then to look at my two healthy, beautiful children and feel gratitude and so much love for the family that we have become.