My entire life I’ve been obsessed with babies. I realize this may sound strange, but loving babies is in my DNA. My mother has spent the last 35 years working as a labor and delivery nurse at Beth Israel in Boston. Ironically, she didn’t realize she was pregnant with me until she was 5 months along and unexplainably gaining weight. Because of this fact, and because I was born four weeks early, I joke that she basically had a three-month pregnancy.
I loved babies from the start; as a child I would visit my mother at work and immediately ask to see the nursery. I would press my face against the glass so I could see each face. In high school my friends would joke about not allowing me near babies for fear I would swipe one. When I was 16, I bought a tiny blue jacket from a local thrift store and hung it in my bedroom closet. This was four years after I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes and 10-plus years after doctors found out I was born with a single kidney. I didn’t realize it then, but these two factors would seriously impact that jacket being worn.
As I got older, it was made clear to me that there are added risks to pregnancy associated with diabetes. These risks are scary and abundant. For many years, my diabetes was uncontrolled, and therefore getting pregnant was something I feared and worked hard to avoid. My husband, Matt, and I met when I was 24. A year after we met, at a routine OB-GYN appointment, I was asked if anyone had ever looked at my uterus. Because of my one kidney, the doctor worried that my uterus might be in the wrong place. A few weeks later, an ultrasound confirmed these suspicions; not only was my uterus in the wrong place, it was half the normal size. My one kidney had taken its place, causing what doctors call a “unicorn uterus” (trust me; it’s not as magical as it sounds). My OB was clear that it shouldn’t impact my ability to conceive a child but could possibly impact my ability to carry it to full term.
Even at 25, this news was hard; Matt and I were visiting his parents at the time and I excused myself to cry alone in the bathroom. It was hard for him to understand the impact this could have, understandably so, given that it seemed worlds away at the time.
I was prepared for all the problems that could come up during pregnancy, but I truly was not prepared for how hard it would be to get pregnant. Each new month would bring hope that was met with heartbreak. I became increasingly depressed and wanted to throw my phone against the wall at each pregnancy announcement on Instagram. Because of all my preexisting conditions, we only waited six months before starting fertility testing. Three months of constant blood tests and one semen analysis later and we were told everything looked normal.
In April 2019, I left work early with severe abdominal cramps. I called my doctor fearing a burst appendix and was told to go to the ER, where I was informed I was pregnant. The doctor feared the pregnancy could be ectopic and told me to get an ultrasound the next day. After an ultrasound and a few days of blood tests, we were informed by my OB that I had miscarried. As devastated as I was, the pregnancy was not ectopic and my OB made it clear that even though the pregnancy ended in miscarriage, it meant I could get pregnant. After months of trying, this was a silver lining I needed.
In September, we made the decision to meet with a fertility specialist and discuss our options. We did our first IUI (intrauterine insemination) in December and it failed. We agreed to try twice more and then move forward. Neither of us had any expectation that it would work and considered it a steppingstone to IVF. But on Jan. 15, 2020, we got the call that we were pregnant!
The depression I was experiencing from being unable to get pregnant quickly changed to anxiety about being pregnant. I did not allow myself to get too excited. In fact, every person I told (mostly our parents or doctors), I prefaced it with, “Don’t get too excited.” I stayed cautiously optimistic but was waiting for the other shoe to drop. Six weeks into our pregnancy, we had our first ultrasound. Our goal for this appointment was to see a heartbeat. The doctor saw two.
For the first time in my life, I was legitimately in shock. I laughed because I didn’t understand. We had done everything we could to avoid twins, which was not advisable because of my medical conditions, and yet I managed to get pregnant with them naturally. Our doctor, in shock herself, was pretty sure the twins were identical. She said there was a .2% chance of this happening, and in her 30-plus years in fertility, she had never seen it happen.
That day I went through about a dozen different emotions: shock, happiness, confusion and then devastation. We were put in touch with a doctor who specialized in twin pregnancies and were told that if the twins were fraternal, we would probably need to terminate one, and if they were identical, we would most likely have to terminate both. We needed to wait another week for an ultrasound that could hopefully give us more answers. We tried our best to stay positive, but neither of us expected a good outcome.
At our eight-week ultrasound, we sat in silence waiting for the technician. It’s frustrating watching the screen and having no idea what you’re looking at. Our technician then gave us the news: She could only detect one heartbeat. We both felt terrible for how excited we were. We had worked so hard for these babies; how could we celebrate one not making it? Another baby was lost, but for us this meant hope—a silver lining. We had a heartbeat. One healthy heartbeat, and I would do whatever I could to protect it.
After that, I made it my goal to take it one day at a time. I focus on each day and don’t take a single one for granted. Every day I mark an X on our calendar. I focus only on what I can control. I am cautious but hopeful. Each week that has gone by has posed new challenges. A trip out of the country in February brought on morning sickness and fear. An abnormal blood test in March caused anxiety and trips to two hospitals. And then the coronavirus took over and our entire world shut down.
Even so, each challenge that has been thrown our way has made us stronger and more grateful. I am grateful one baby survived. I am grateful this baby is healthy. I am grateful that, as of this writing, we have made it to 15 weeks.
We are all living in a time of uncertainty. We are worried about our families, our livelihoods and, for many of us, our unborn children. Pregnant women are being told they can’t bring their partners to their appointments, and some have had to give birth without them. There are so many things out of our control at this point, but not everything. We can go for walks or runs outside. We can paint our nurseries. We can nourish our bodies. We can stay home and keep ourselves and others safe. We can rest.
This has not, and will not, be easy. Chances are, we will be thrown more curveballs and more challenges. There is no telling when this pandemic will be over, and what the world will be like when it is. But every challenge in my life has taught me strength. Every failure has taught me a lesson. I have now seen firsthand what our bodies can do and what they are capable of.
And so, to my future son, and to anyone reading: If we can make it through this, we can make it through anything. Take a deep breath, take it one day at a time and never stop looking for silver linings.
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