I always feel kind of weird when my kids hit the 9-month mark. By the time you near the end of a 9-month pregnancy, you would put down money on the fact that you’ve been pregnant since the dawn of time, but once baby hits 9 months old, it seems impossible that the length of an entire pregnancy has gone by again since you met the little booger. And this has definitely been the case with Darcy—it honestly feels like we brought her home from the hospital a few weeks ago, yet somehow she’s been out of me longer than she was in me. And she is so darling and sweet and lovable and squishy . . . these 9 months with her have been wonderful.
I alluded long, long, long ago to some first trimester drama in my pregnancy with Darcy. I never shared the details, and I’m sure anyone who read it assumed it was standard-issue morning sickness. I’ve been thinking back on the pregnancy lately, though—the 9-month milestone will do that to ya—and figured I’d go ahead and post all the gory details. It may not be the most high-drama pregnancy story you’ve ever heard, but it was far more drama than I ever want my pregnancies to be, thank you very much.
After much talking and hemming and hawing and changing our minds one way and the other, Jeff and I decided it was time to start trying for baby #2. And after a little while, I took a pregnancy test out of hopeful curiosity and could not believe my eyes when it came out positive (is it just me, or does a positive pregnancy test always feel like an enormous surprise, even when you’ve been hoping/trying/planning for it?). I figured it must be wrong, so I took a second one (is there anyone out there who really believes ONE positive pregnancy test? they should be sold in bulk for this very reason). Still positive! What are the odds of getting two faulty tests in one box, right? Nevertheless, I packed Forrest up and we went out to purchase and take a third test (in the Walmart bathroom, actually—classy!), and I figured since three separate tests insisted I was pregnant, it was probably true.
In the next few days, I started calling around to find an ob-gyn and set up appointments. We called our parents and excitedly shared the news. We started talking baby names (too early? never). And one day, only about a week after taking the (3!) tests, I giddily headed out in search of a shirt I could wear for monthly belly photos for the next 9 months. I stopped in the bathroom while shopping and I saw blood. I believe I started crying right there in the bathroom—I called Jeff in tears, convinced I was miscarrying. We had only had a few days of being thrilled over our new baby, but it was long enough to feel devastated at the possibility of losing her. (I never did buy a belly-photo shirt, incidentally.)
A frantic visit to my new ob-gyn found a heartbeat and dated the pregnancy at about 6 weeks, but didn’t reveal much else, like why I was bleeding or what we could expect to happen next. My doctor told us that some bleeding in early pregnancy is normal, but sometimes it is a precursor to a miscarriage. We chalked it up to a weird but non-threatening pregnancy anomaly, and tried to stay calm and positive. I kept telling myself that miscarriages happen every day, and if we lost this pregnancy, it wouldn’t be the end of the world. But really, a hormonal pregnant brain doesn’t process these thoughts well. It was a stressful time.
Over the next few weeks, the bleeding continued and progressed from mild to alarming to truly scary. Although I never felt any cramping or pain, I bled nearly every day—some days just a little, some days none, but some days I bled a frightening amount. I had an ultrasound each week, and the cause of the bleeding became apparent. I had a stubborn and scary subchorionic hematoma, an accumulation of blood in the folds between the baby, placenta, and uterus. These are fairly common, and (encouragingly!) usually not a huge deal—they often resolve on their own, and they don’t pose any threat to the baby once they’ve gone away.
Mine, unfortunately, was a bit mean. Ultrasounds showed that a giant blood clot was forming right smack between the placenta and the uterus, and steadily growing. And since it was growing ever larger, it was threatening to separate the placenta from the uterus which, obviously, would be very bad news for baby. My weekly ultrasounds were grim—if, by chance, the hematoma ever measured smaller than the size it had been the previous week, it never failed to grow with a vengeance by the following week’s ultrasound. And regardless of its weekly growth, it was always massively bigger than the baby. I amassed quite a collection of creepy ultrasound photos—itty bitty little baby-shaped blob, arms and legs waving, completely overshadowed by a huge, looming blood mass.
It was a difficult time for me—Jeff was optimistic that things would be fine (him and his stupid optimism), but I really struggled. Besides the logistics of dealing with the bleeding (which sometimes came on very suddenly and very intensely, making it impossible to feel comfortable leaving the house) and the typical morning sickness and caring for a busy 2-year old, I had a hard time coping with the very real possibility of losing the baby. I remember telling Jeff many times that if I was going to miscarry, I just wanted it to happen right now so I could move on, instead of spending each day worrying and waiting and wondering what would happen. Every day was a tightrope walk—trying to keep my expectations realistic without fixating on the idea that we were going to lose the baby or becoming too hopeful that she’d make it through. I will always be thankful for the kind family members and handful of close friends who knew what was going on and were so loving and supportive, as well as my angelic doctor who was always so sweet and understanding, and never seemed to be bothered by my crying at appointments (do ob-gyns take a class on handling hormonal tears? I’m guessing my doctor passed that course with flying colors).
The worst day came at about 12 weeks. (I’ll warn you—this is gross. If you don’t want to read about some nastiness, consider this your last and final warning to click away.) I was sitting at the kitchen table, doing something-or-other on the computer (writing a blog post, actually, if I remember correctly). I felt a little wetness and ignored it—I had gotten used to the out-of-the-blue bleeding by then, but I remember feeling frustrated because a day or two had passed without any bleeding, so I had started to cautiously hope things were clearing up. But I quickly realized that I was actually feeling a lot of wetness—way more than I’d felt before. I stood up and looked down at the chair, and it was covered in blood. Literally a pool of blood in the chair. I continued to bleed in the bathroom off and on (heavily, I might add) for about an hour. And as if the blood alone weren’t enough, I passed an enormous clot that I thought—and my heart absolutely stopped—was the baby before I realized it was the infamous hematoma I had gotten to know very well from my frequent ultrasounds. I called a friend to stay with Forrest while I raced to the doctor’s office. An ultrasound showed that the baby looked fine, her heart was still beating, but I was bleeding quite a bit (obviously) from the space between the placenta and uterus where the clot had been before it detached. The doctor gave me a rather upsetting 50/50 chance of still being pregnant the next day (and truth be told, I think he was being more than a little generous—his words said 50/50, but his expression and behavior certainly did not). Looking back, maybe I could have felt a little more optimistic—50/50 is hardly a death sentence, as one sweet friend tried to remind me—but after a day of bleeding and clot-passing, and after weeks of wondering and hoping and praying, it hardly felt promising, either.
But I was still pregnant the next day . . . and the day after that, and the day after that. I continued to get weekly ultrasounds, and they showed that the hematoma had returned (conveniently placing itself right beneath the placenta once again), but it wasn’t growing quite as aggressively as before. This time around, the baby managed to take the spotlight in my ultrasounds while the hematoma was actually getting slightly smaller with each visit (and although I continued bleeding, it decreased quite a bit both in frequency and intensity). The baby continued to grow beautifully despite the uterine drama surrounding her. By about 17 weeks, my doctor started to express a little more confidence that this pregnancy might actually stick around. And by 20 weeks, the hematoma was barely a sliver in the ultrasound shots.
From that point on, it was a standard, low-drama pregnancy. I didn’t have any other issues, the baby seemed completely unaffected by all the bleeding, and everything progressed smoothly. I don’t think a single doctor’s visit passed without my ob-gyn remarking that he was so glad/surprised I had made it this far (evidence that I doubt he really believed his own 50/50 outlook). After about 20 weeks, we finally felt like we could be excited about the baby without trying to temper it with the possibility of never meeting her. And there are not enough words, could never be enough words, to express how glad and grateful and blessed I feel that she is here today. The idea of losing her when she was an unnamed, unknown, blurry spot on an ultrasound photo was scary enough. But now, knowing that the wiggly little blob on the ultrasound was the start of our sweet little Darcy? I can hardly even think about it.
I know there are far more dramatic pregnancy stories out there. There are plenty of couples who wait years for a positive pregnancy test, or who deal with real miscarriages and not just threatened ones. And there are hundreds, thousands of baby stories far more miraculous than this one. But not a day goes by that I hold my precious girl without thinking that she seems like an awfully big miracle to me. Isn’t every baby?