When I found out I was pregnant in November, the celebration didn’t last long. My hormone levels were impossibly low, and the doctor predicted either an ectopic pregnancy or imminent miscarriage.
Still, I had read some doctors prescribe hormone supplements, though in situations much more hopeful than mine.
“Yes, we can give you progesterone supplements, and there is a .1 percent chance it will help.” the doctor said. It felt like a fool’s errand, but I filled the prescription. I was less than 5 weeks pregnant.
Two weeks later, I was on my way out of town for Thanksgiving, when the doctor told me to stop the supplements. He said my pregnancy was almost certainly ectopic, though it could not yet be found by ultrasound. If I continued to support an inviable pregnancy with hormone supplements, I risked a ruptured fallopian tube.
My family and I boarded a plane for Connecticut on what I felt was the worst day of my life — a day of life (the baby I thought I would bear) and death (the loss of that baby, even if she was just an idea at that point). The week before, I had ordered a sweet little “Big Sister” t-shirt for my daughter to wear on arrival, an announcement to the grandparents that I am finally pregnant again.
My journey to this conception started November 2014 when I visited the fertility clinic and told them I was ready to start my next baby. In January, the disappointments began. The doctor was not pleased with my blood glucose (I’m Type 2 diabetic). Fertility treatments were delayed most of the year while I worked intensely with my endocrinologist, exercising and eating well, wearing a continuous glucose monitor for instant data to modify my choices.
Finally in October, we began the intense process to induce ovulation. The hormones made me emotional and uncomfortable; doctor’s appointments 2-3 times a week consumed my time. For six weeks, I was sick with side effects, exhausted, antisocial. I shared very little with friends and family because I don’t imagine most people are comfortable hearing the intimate details of my reproductive system.
I spent the holiday week in a maudlin funk. I shared details with my mother-in-law in an attempt to explain my mood and need for space.
“I don’t want you to think there’s hope,” I told her late one night. “Even though I’m technically pregnant right now, there’s not going to be a baby.” It was the same thing I had to tell myself over and over that week. I ditched the prenatal vitamins and had a beer at lunch. I wasn’t going to act like a pregnant woman.
The day after we returned home, I went back to the doctor for an ultrasound. They hoped an extra week of growth would clarify the location of that doomed bundle of cells so we could plan a strategy to “resolve” the pregnancy.
I lay prone in the dark room, the ultrasound screen turned away from me. The doctor didn’t speak for a moment. The nurse gasped.
There was a heartbeat.
How could this happen? A tiny baby with a healthy heartbeat, exactly where it was supposed to be.
Well, this is how it happens: doctors do their best to predict outcomes based on the data and information they have. My baby’s experience happened to fall outside those expectations in the narrow range we call “miracles.”
I am now 37 weeks pregnant with that baby girl. It took me three months to start to believe she would really make it. I approached every doctor’s appointment steeled for bad news; left each appointment surprised by good news.
Now, lest I fall back into the habit of not believing she could be real, she dolphin flips in my belly and reminds me she’s here, and she’s strong.