Today Mac and I celebrate out 4th wedding anniversary. We’re going out to dinner at a restaurant near our house that we’ve been wanting to try since it opened a little over a year ago. I’m hoping it lives up to our expectations!
Last year I posted about our anniversary here. However, there was something significant that I glanced over.
I mentioned “other craziness/worry that just made me appreciate my husband and our marriage even more.” Well, I’m happy to say that this year, the cause of the craziness/worry, an embryonic Nemo back then, will be spending the evening with his grandma.
Last year at this time I was about 7 weeks pregnant with Nemo. Last year, our anniversary was scary and frightening and stressful.
I had had my first prenatal visit on Monday the 26th. I mentioned to the midwife that I had noticed a few instances of spotting over the previous week or two. It was very minor, but it was worrying me a little. She suggested that they run some blood work to see how things looked. Otherwise, there wasn’t much to do- being only 7 weeks, they didn’t do an ultrasound or anything.
I hadn’t told Mac about the spotting (considering one of the instances happened when we were out for the day, without Mabel, celebrating our anniversary) because I didn’t want him to worry. Looking back, I think that was a mistake.
The day after that first appointment, our 3rd wedding anniversary, the midwife’s office called me at work. It was not good news. My progesterone (the “pregnancy hormone“) levels were extremely low. For comparison, normal range is 9 to 47 ng/ml, with an average being about 25ng/ml at 7 weeks pregnant (source). My blood work showed my progesterone level was 6ng/ml. Very low.
The midwife then said, “Before we begin to supplement your progesterone, we need to make sure it’s a viable pregnancy.” Right there my heart skipped a beat. I knew it meant there was a chance I was having a miscarriage or what I thought was a pregnancy was a blighted ovum.
The midwife gave me the contact info for a local radiology center that could conduct the ultrasound, since the midwife in the practice who did them wasn’t in the office that day to do it.
Doing my best to keep myself composed, I took the scrap of paper with the phone number, picked up my cell phone and car keys, and went out to my car. Nobody at work knew I was pregnant and I couldn’t have that kind of conversation in a shared office.
First, I called the radiology center, told them it was urgent and asked when they could see me that day. They had a 3:30pm appointment.
Once I hung up with them, I knew I had to call Mac. I was nearly in tears just thinking about having to make the phone call. He was totally unaware that anything was going on. I hadn’t told him about the spotting, I hadn’t told him about having the blood drawn. As far as he knew, everything was fine.
I called him, a tremor in my voice and said, “The midwife’s office called. They are sending me for an ultrasound. They think I might be having a miscarriage. I had some spotting, they did some blood work and they need the ultrasound to confirm that the pregnancy is viable. My appointment is for 3:30pm.” It all tumbled out.
His first response was, “What time do I pick you up?” What else we discussed is hazy in my mind. I know I was crying. I felt scared at the loss of the pregnancy and I felt guilty for having kept him in the dark.
I then scrambled and called my mom. She knew I was pregnant, but also unaware of the concerns. She was great. She accepted my brief explanation, didn’t ask any questions and then scrambled to get coverage at work so she could come watch Mabel.
I composed myself and went back into my office. I sat down and started Googling/PubMed searching and reading all that I could about miscarriage, low progesterone, blighted ova, chemical pregnancies, etc. In my searching I found info on misdiagnosed miscarriages. Women, particularly those with a ‘tipped uterus’ reported being misdiagnosed as miscarrying. Transvaginal ultrasounds (the only ones capable of seeing an embryo in the early stages of pregnancy) with a tipped uterus apparently resulted in miscalculated gestational ages- indicating that an embryo wasn’t growing normally, was measuring small, and likely there was a miscarriage in progress. I tucked that info into my brain.
At 1:30pm Mac with Mabel, my mom, and I all convened in the parking lot at my work. I didn’t even tell anyone I was leaving, I just walked out. My mom took Mabel home, and Mac and I went to the radiology center.
We waited FOREVER- over an hour- to be called back. It was miserable. Then they called me back.
The technician began the scan and looked for a long time. The longer she looked, the more my hope faded. She said, “Here’s the embryo. It’s measuring about 5 weeks. That’s too early to see a heartbeat. Maybe your dates are wrong?”
I knew my dates weren’t wrong. I’m a scientist for Christ’s sake. I was charting. This was a wanted and planned for pregnancy. My dates were right. I had a positive pregnancy test in my hand over 3 weeks ago! There was no way that I was only 5 weeks along now. Something was wrong.
Outwardly, I was stoic. I just laid on the table holding Mac’s hand. I didn’t look at him. I couldn’t look at him. I felt so guilty for keeping him in the dark. For letting him go along thinking everything was fine. Then calling him a few hours ago to tell him everything wasn’t fine, that I might be having a miscarriage.
Inwardly, I thought to myself, “Maybe I have a tipped uterus. Maybe that’s why her measurements are wrong. It will be hard to wait, not knowing, but I’ll insist on coming back in a week to see if the embryo is still growing.”
Then, the technician, God bless her, said, “You know what, scootch down, make your hands into fists, and put them under your but. I think your uterus is tipped. Let me just try to get a better angle.”
I felt a glimmer of how and did as she instructed. It took several minutes. I knew she was trying very hard to find us conclusive answers.
After what felt like an eternity she said, “Oh! I see a heartbeat! Right there.”
I couldn’t even look. I didn’t even turn my head. I had too many tears in my eyes to see the screen anyway. I just reached out and clenched Mac’s hand and said a prayer of thanksgiving. (I’m getting teary-eyed just thinking about it now.)
She recalculated her measurements. The embryo was still measuring behind where it should have been, giving my charting, but it was less than a week off, and given the tipped uterus and the trouble she was having getting a good view/good measurements, it was good news. The heartbeat was definitely good news.
I can’t explain the relief I felt. I don’t think it’s possible to comprehend just how attached you are to your pregnancy until you are faced with losing it. I knew that the embryo wasn’t a baby, yet, but I wanted it to become one, and I realized I would have been heartbroken if it hadn’t of been viable.
As soon as the appointment was over, I called the midwife’s office and they called a prescription for Prometrium into my local pharmacy for me to start on that very night. Then I called my mom and let her know that her prayers were answered.
That was how we spent our anniversary last year, Mac and I. This year promises to be so much better.
A few days later (I think it was Thursday or Friday) the midwife’s office gave me another near panic attack when they called with the retest of my progesterone levels after starting on the Prometrium. They hadn’t gone up at all, and they said I needed an ultrasound to confirm viability. The fear came flooding back. This time I went to their office, alone. When I mentioned the scan I had on Tuesday, and how the tech had said my uterus was tipped, the midwife looked confused. Apparently they hadn’t gotten around to putting the results from the radiology center into my chart! That midwife (one of several in the practice) didn’t know the viability had already been confirmed when she saw my blood work and said to bring me in! So, the midwife did an exam and actually, manually un-tipped it (!) and could see everything just fine. She measured and said the embryo looked fine and was measuring normal growth compared to Tuesday. I was simultaneously angry at them, and relieved by the results.
I stayed on the Prometrium through my first trimester, even upped the dosage, but my progesterone levels never got above 12. Thankfully Nemo was fine. He developed right on track. By the time of my Nuchal Translucency scan (about 12 weeks) he was measuring right according to my dates.
Thinking back, it was so frightening. I am so blessed it worked out the way it did. My heart breaks for the parents whose stories don’t have the happy ending.
ETA: A follow-up post with more science, and more emotions regarding this experience is here.