The road to our sweet girl was a treacherous four and a half years of wishing and waiting. A desire so viscerally absorbed by every fibre of our being.
After 2 years and 2 early losses we decided it was time to seek medical intervention. September 2019 marked the beginning of a new hope for us that we would one day soon welcome our sweet baby into our life.
14 cycles of Ovulation induction (OI) with only 1 positive pregnancy beta hcg which failed to progress, we made the decision that beginning IVF was the most sensical option moving forward and in June 2021 our IVF journey began. With a fairly textbook treatment plan, stimulation went well and they were able to collect 14 eggs at my egg pick up. By day 6 of development we ended up with 5 embryos in the freezer, waiting for the chance to become our long awaited someday babies.
July 2021 was our first ever frozen embryo transfer (FET), which failed.
August 2021 was our 2nd FET, which to our overwhelming delight brought us our little miracle girl, Nova.
Early pregnancy with her came with so much anxiety and fear as I experienced heavy bleeding from 5 weeks. It was almost impossible to believe that this was anything other than yet another loss, but to our complete shock and overwhelming gratitude an early scan at 5w6d revealed she was still nestled in with a heartbeat of 101. We were cautioned that this looked like a “threatened miscarriage” and that we would need to return for a follow up scan in 1 week to learn the fate of this pregnancy. 1 week passed and we went to our scan not knowing what to expect. It was discovered during this scan that I had developed what is called a “Subchorionic Hematoma” (SCH) which in layman’s terms (from my understanding) is essentially a collection of blood that forms between the fetal sac and the uterine wall which in most cases causes light-heavy bleeding. This discovery was so relieving in comparison to the alternative.
By 9 weeks the bleeding subsided and the SCH was no longer visible on ultrasound.
The next 11 weeks went by and other than some afternoon/evening nausea and frequent urination (and I mean FREQUENT, just ask my husband) I experienced nothing particularly notable, that being until 19w6d when I was 4 hours into a shift at work, I began to feel heavy and crampy. Reassured by some co-workers and my own belief that the baby was just growing and that surely these crampy feelings are a completely normal sensation to be experiencing at 5 months pregnant. As the night progressed and I got home from work the cramping became a little more intense however I thought after a long and physically taxing shift at work that all I needed was a good rest, so I hopped into bed and went to sleep. Waking in the morning in a pool of blood and some painful cramps, we got in the car right away and my husband drove me to our local hospital. We approached A&E met by a nurse at the door who led me straight to a cubicle, leaving my husband in the waiting room (thanks COVID). Unsure what was happening, I asked if he could please be let in to sit with me? Another nurse in the corridor overheard my worrying plea and shouted to my treating nurse “yeah, if it’s for miscarriage he’s allowed in”.
What? Miscarriage? Am I having a miscarriage? I was in the “safe zone” (total BS BTW) so in that moment my mind hadn’t considered I was losing my baby… not this far along…
Transferred to the maternity ward, I was met with the most beautiful midwives and incredible obstetrician who upon examination determined that my cervix was opened and my membranes were bulging. With her hand on my shoulder, staring me dead in the eyes she said; “Tessa, your baby is going to be born today”.
The room went silent and in that moment all I could hear was the shattering of my husbands heart and his tears hitting the carpet. Without time to process this complete devastation, my waters broke and meeting our baby was imminent. Or so we thought.
20 minutes had passed since my waters broke and the contractions stopped and I was no longer feeling any pressure. Ultrasound showed that my cervix was now long and closed again and with no further signs of active labour, this news changed the game.
It was explained to us that babies can actually live inside the womb with no amniotic fluid as they can regenerate the fluid themselves. This gave us a tiny beam of hope that our baby might still have a chance at this life.
The decision was made that I be transferred to our preferred birthing hospital which was just over an hour away. On arrival I was welcomed to a birthing suite with so much uncertainty of what was to come. The hope was with strict bed rest I could make it a few more weeks to when there was a chance that our baby could survive. Every fibre of my being wished for that to become true. But, over the next few hours I began having contractions again and even though I was shivering and cold, my body’s core temperature was climbing rapidly. It was clear that infection had set in (Chorioamnionitis) and it was explained to me that the only way for my body to avoid sepsis was if our baby was to be born. But that meant my baby had to die for me to live and in that moment I didn’t care that my life was threatened. I’d risk death a million times over if it meant our baby would survive but they told me that she would have turned septic too and I the thought of leaving my husband without his wife AND his baby absolutely broke me to my already broken core.
At 1am they brought in a little white pill that was essentially going to intensify my already painful contractions allowing my body to birth our baby. I took several deep breaths and told my baby how sorry I was before placing the pill on my tongue and feeling it melt down to nothing. Giving the phrase “a bitter pill to swallow” whole new meaning for me.
1.5 hours later, at 20w1d gestation, on the 15th of December 2021 at 2:27am I became the mama to the most beautiful angel weighing a tiny 345grams, our little girl Nova Rae.
My heart had never felt so much love and so much pain at the exact same time like it did the moment I laid eyes on our first born daughter. She was just so beautiful.
We spent the rest of the early hours and into the dawn holding her and kissing her sweet little face, telling her how perfect she is and that we will never stop loving her or talking about her. The afternoon rolled around and everything was being prepared for us to go home. But how could we go home without our baby? How could we possibly walk out of this hospital knowing we couldn’t take her with us?
Second to her dying, leaving her at the hospital and walking out with empty arms and an empty womb was the deepest and most excruciating pain I’ll ever know. I kissed her sweet little face one more time and whispered “I love you” and in that moment I knew in my soul that I would never be the same.
We spent the days, weeks and months to follow grieving so deeply, crying every day and wishing with our whole beings that things were different. Adapting to this new life filled with bottomless grief was exhausting and made our world feel so heavy, but our girl was the light in our dark. Loving her gave us reason to open our eyes every morning and eventually continue on the broken road to her one day little brother or sister…
Our perfect little boy, the road to him after losing his sister was not quite so long, however for all new reasons no less treacherous.
After losing our daughter, on top of such enormous grief sat an incredible sense of urgency to be pregnant again and it has only been in hindsight that I’ve been able to reflect back on those urgent feelings and realise they were my souls way of trying to fill the incredible hole that had invaded my heart.
August 2022 was our first FET after losing Nova. I knew in my gut that our 3rd little freezer baby didn’t implant but that didn’t make it hurt any less when we got the “I’m so sorry” call. If you know you know.
September 2022, we were cautiously optimistic for our 4th FET and after 11 days we learned that it was successful and I was pregnant with our little boy. What a miracle he was and our hearts filled with the happiness that was so desperately needed. Physically, early pregnancy with him was rather textbook. Mentally though, I was grappling some big emotions and even bigger anxieties. Anyone who’s been pregnant after loss can understand the detriment that has on the human psyche. My anxiety around this pregnancy manifested in physical ways, which was new to me. Shortness of breath and headaches being the most common.
Each day I would say over and over in my head “until there’s something to worry about, there’s nothing to worry about” and at the end of each day as I lay in bed, I would thank the universe for another day our baby was safe and growing inside my belly. The gratitude I felt for every second I was pregnant with him was certainly not lost on me.
As I approached 20 weeks my anxieties intensified. I knew nothing beyond half way and the fear of history repeating was at times so crippling I had no focus on anything else.
My cervix length was checked at 20 weeks and it was measuring long and closed at 4.5cm. This was enough to offer me the reassurance I needed to believe that we actually might make it. I felt like I could breathe a bit easier and continue enjoying my pregnancy without such intrusive anxiety controlling my days.
When I reached 21 weeks it was like a victory I’ve not felt before. I genuinely believed this baby was coming home with us. How could the universe not let that be? It would never take 2 of our babies, right?
At exactly 22 weeks I went in for my anatomy scan. Feeling some little tightening's earlier in the morning but knowing I was only a few hours off having my scan which was scheduled at 11am, I didn’t worry to much. Everything with our baby was seemingly well in regards to his anatomy. The tech raised no concerns as she checked over each portion of his little body. Then came the internal scan, the one that checks the cervix length. I have learnt enough over the years of having what felt like hundreds of scans to know straight away that something didn’t look right. My cervix was open.
Calmly but concerned the ultrasound tech told me she’d be back in a moment. A few minutes later she returned to tell me that she had contacted the maternity ward and that they were waiting for my arrival. I tried not to panic even though my heart knew this wasn’t good. My mother in law by my side keeping me distracted enough not to jump to any conclusions until I was seen by the doctor.
“I can’t do this again” I remember saying to her as she wrapped me in the warmest hug.
Upon examination it was discovered that I was 3-4cm dilated with bulging membranes and very sporadic contractions.
After some antibiotics, some medication to reduce contractions and a shot of steroids to help develop our baby’s lungs it was decided that an emergency cerclage was the next step in our treatment plan, but not until I was transferred to a major Melbourne hospital, where they have the recources to provide intensive care to babies born as early as 22 weeks… but only if they’ve had the 2 courses of steroids and our baby had only had 1, with the 2nd dose due 24 hours later. I landed in Melbourne via air ambulance at about 9:30pm and hit the maternity ward about an hour later. Overwhelmed with the day and the bombardment of information about premature babies, I tried to get some rest, knowing that in the morning I’d hopefully be getting a cerclage to keep our boy inside for long enough for him to receive the 2nd dose of steroids that would essentially be the decider between potential life and death.
I dozed on and off but woke at 2am with intensified contractions and some bleeding. The midwife advised me to call my husband who was staying only a kilometer down the road so that he could be here. I knew in my heart that only meant 1 thing… I was about to become an angel mama for the 2nd time.
By 3am, I was in active labour, by 7am my waters had broken and by 8:08am on the 8th of February 2023 our boy was born. 22 weeks and 1 day gestation. Weighing a tiny 456grams. He was placed on my chest, heart still beating and his long but little arms and legs still moving. I can’t even remember noticing when his movements ceased because I was just to in awe of our perfect little son, Parker James.
If he was born 21 hours later than he was they would have been able to provide life saving intensive care. That didn’t mean he wouldn’t have still died, but he would have been given some chance of survival. Knowing that we were so close but not close enough was hard to wrap my head around.
I held our son, as my husband held me. My mother in law to the right of me, witnessing her own son become a father again, but in the most heartbreaking way. I can’t even imagine how that would have been for her… watching the tears of her son roll down his cheeks and onto the floor as he cradled the tiny body of his lifeless son. She’ll never truly know how deeply sorry I am for that.
Nevertheless, we were completely in love with our little boy and whilst our hearts were shattered once again, we found comfort in knowing his big sister was there to collect him for heaven. They will always have each other as they share a cloudy pillow and wait patiently for another cuddle from their mama and dada someday. My most longed for reunion with my babies.
Over several hours post birth I was losing more blood than what was considered normal.
I remember the midwives monitoring that closely. It was concluded that I was experiencing postpartum hemorrhage (PPH) a rather common (but not normal) birth complication and would require surgery to help it stop
The thought of leaving my baby to go under anaesthesia for however many hours was hard. I knew that I would NEVER get that time with him back. Every second with him was so precious and so special.
After surgery they told me I’d lost 1.1L of blood and that the usual amount of blood loss during birth and in the early hours to follow was 300mls.
We stayed on the maternity ward that night, loving on our little boy as much as we possibly could, knowing that the sunrise would mark the day we had to leave him. Fortunately for us, because we lived over 3.5 hours from the hospital, we were able to bring him home with us, so leaving the hospital this time wasn’t as traumatic as it was with our daughter. I cuddled our boy the whole 300ks home.
We got back to our town late in the evening and drove straight to our local funeral home where we met with the directors and handed our boy over to their care. The next day we invited our families to join us at the funeral home chapel to meet our newest member. How incredible that they all got to meet our boy. Our final hour with our son was spent with just me and my husband. Nova was with us too, in her little heart shaped urn that we take with us everywhere so she doesn’t ever miss out.
Our final cuddle is where I found myself re-living the worst moment imaginable… putting my baby down and never picking him up again. An experience too many parents know and something completely inexplicable to those who don’t.
It’s been 18 months since we lost Nova and 4 months since we lost Parker and most days I wonder how my 2 feet are still touching this earth after everything we’ve been through and everything we’ve lost but my strength to get up each day comes from the purest love I have for my 2 babies, my wonderful husband and our incredible family and friends.
We gained them just as equally as we lost them and I feel so proud to be Nova and Parker’s mama. I am so lucky that my heart gets to love them every single second for the rest of my life.
We’ve since learnt that Insufficient cervix (IC) is ultimately what took our babies from us and i’ll never find sense in why that had to happen to me… twice.
My trust in the universe is incredibly fractured but we have one little embryo still in the freezer waiting for us and the only way I can bare to look to far into the future is believing that with the protection of their big sister and brother beyond the clouds that they’ll one day get to live earth-side and someday we’ll too become part of the lucky ones who get to pick their baby up and not have to put them down for the very last time.
Sweet dreams my beautiful angels.
“If not with them, for them”