Finally. Finally today I got a call from my nurse stating that my hcg pregnancy hormone levels are 0. It only took 4+ months and a lot of confusion and heartache…. Here’s the story:
As many of you know, in May, we suffered a missed miscarriage at 9 weeks after initially seeing the baby’s heartbeat. We were devastated. We opted for a D&C because we found out literally the week before we moved from the Quad Cities to Oswego. My OB couldn’t put a timetable on when the miscarriage would happen if we were to let it happen naturally and with all the travel Brian had to do in his new position we thought this was the best option for us, albeit a crappy one.
In June I had a follow up with my new OB in Illinois and let her know what had all transpired the last month. She was confident, as my first OB was, that this was probably nothing more than “bad luck” again and said to wait one or two cycles before we started trying. July rolled around and the whole month was strange for me. I had bleeding on and off but with that bleeding I figured my hcg levels were probably zero and we could start looking forward to new beginnings. At the end of July, after spotting for 2 weeks straight, I randomly decided to take a pregnancy test. It came up faintly positive so I put an immediate call into my OB. I thought about it and some things were just not adding up. I wasn’t certain that this was in fact a new pregnancy or not. Could it have been possible? Yes. Was it likely? I just didn’t know.
I went in to the doctor on July 28 to have a blood draw done to check hcg and progesterone levels. On Tuesday they called me and said my hcg was 31 and my progesterone was 2. She told me that the hcg number was low but if I literally just found out, it was exactly where she would have thought it to be. Two days later I had another draw and I had to wait until Thursday afternoon to find out what the numbers were doing. Doctors will measure hcg in the system over a two day period. What they want to see is that the number is doubling from what the previous number was 48 hours earlier. If the number is not doubling, rising slowly (an ectopic indication), or falling there is good chance that the pregnancy is probably failing. Not in all cases but in my cases, this has always been the outcome. I got the call on Thursday afternoon when we were at Arlington Racetrack and my OB said to me, “Hi Stacy, do you have a few minutes to talk?” Instinctually I felt a kick in the gut. I knew this tone of voice as I have had to endure it 2 times prior. She said to me, “Are you having any bleeding or cramping?” I responded with, “No.” She said, “Your levels have actually dropped to 29 which to me is an indication that this probably is not a viable pregnancy.” I stood there again feeling numb to the world. Hearing birds singing, people laughing, and seeing my precious little girl next to me smiling, I looked up to the sky and vaguely started listening to the things she was saying on the phone. I remember her saying 3 miscarriages overall, back to back miscarriages, further testing, blood work. Every now and then I would say, “Uh huh” or “Yep” but I wasn’t listening. I was screaming on the inside. Pissed off. Sad. Hurt. Deflated. I hung up the phone, looked at Brian giving him a small shake of the head no, and he immediately walked over to me and offered me a gigantic slug from his beer.
The next week came and I had another hcg blood draw. I still wasn’t bleeding but my levels were at 28. Over the weekend I started having a lot of pain whenever I went to the bathroom. It was a sudden, sharp lower left pain that I assumed was in the area of my ovaries and I put an immediate call in on Monday morning to my OB’s office especially with my presumed ectopic background. They wanted me to come in so they could take a look and make sure there was not anything in my tubes. Normally, hcg levels need to be over 1,000 in order to see anything on ultrasound but it was worth a shot. I got there and the tech started click away, taking pictures. I’m definitely not a pro when it comes to ultrasounds but I know what a gestational sac in the uterus looks like and there was a small cystic like structure present in my uterus. Although, it was way too small, it could have been anything. They could not rule out an early gestational sac but they couldn’t say for certain that’s what it was. The tech finished and I was sent to my OB’s office to go over the results.
My new OB was on vacation from August 1st until August 18th so I was meeting with another OB in the office. She told me the radiologist saw a few things. They saw a possible early gestational sac but they also saw something else. They weren’t sure exactly what it was but they chalked it up to either A) Retained products of conception or B) Uterine AVM. UAVM (uterine arteriovenous vascular malformations) is basically a cluster of veins that can “show up” in the uterus, although it is very rare, after things like a C-section or D&C. Patients that are affected by this usually present recurrent miscarriage. UAVM’s are usually treated with embolization if the woman wants to preserve her fertility. Apparently on ultrasound UAVM’s and retained products of conception mimic each other and it’s hard to tell, when hcg is present, what is truly happening. So, we played the waiting game.
A week and a half later I was giving Kenzie a bath and it started. In one hours’ time, I ended up passing 6 or 7 fairly large sized clots but did not have any sort of pain or cramping associated with it. I made a quick decision at that point to go to the ER because we still didn’t know if I had an UAVM or not and if even one of those were to burst I would have been in a whole lot of trouble very quickly. I got to the ER at 8p and was finally released at 1a. They gave me an IV, ordered blood work, were going to do another ultrasound but since I had just had one the week prior they didn’t think much would have changed. The results came back quick from my quantitative hcg and it went from 28 the week prior to 14. They told me I was having a miscarriage (duh) and that everything that I was experiencing was normal but they were glad I came in due to all the bleeding I was having. At 1a they gave me Cytotec and sent me home. I had a follow up with OB working my “case” the next day and she basically talked to me about the miscarriage, asked how I was doing, and said that she wanted me to repeat my hcg’s in one week.
The weekend came and it was time for Makenzie’s 2nd birthday party which was a great distraction for me. My parents, sister, and my two nephews came down on Saturday, helping us get ready for the party and just being there, loving and supporting us. Kenzie’s birthday party was great but by the end of the day I was just feeling awful. I was nauseous, had a headache and a backache so bad that it resulted in me not even able to pick Makenzie up or stand on my two feet. I had to stop cleaning up and ended up lying on the couch for the rest of night heating my back.
That following Wednesday afternoon I went for another hcg draw and on Friday morning the nurse called and told me that my levels were 12. I was so frustrated. I had just bled very heavily for 6 more days after the ER visit and my levels didn’t do anything. Brian, Kenzie, and I were leaving for Northern Wisconsin that day but I quickly sent an email to my OB expressing my concerns. I asked if it was normal to have heavy bleeding that required an ER visit followed by 6 more days of bleeding and my levels only dropped by 2 values. To me something didn’t seem right so I was pleasantly surprised when I got a call Saturday morning from my OB, back fresh from vacation. She apologized for being out, I told her don’t be sorry we all need vacations, but that she agreed with all the comments and concerns that I had expressed in the email. She wanted me to come back in on Monday for another ultrasound.
So on Monday August 25th, I went back in for yet another ultrasound. This time the cystic like structure was gone, as I would have expected, but there was still a small amount of blood flow to that same area in my uterus. The tech again sent me to my OB’s office to go over the results. Good news was that they ruled out the AVM since the area had shrunk significantly in size and there was still hcg present which concluded them to believe we were dealing with retained product. She said she wanted to give me Cytotec to try and induce more bleeding. The job of Cytotec (or generic name mistoprosal) is to allow the uterus to contract which would mean more bleeding but she wanted whatever was in there out. So, she ordered another round of hcg to be taken again that day and said to wait until she called me back with the results before I took the Cytotec the next day. She called me on Tuesday and said my hcg was still at a 12 and told me to take the 4 Cytotec pills and to be ready for some pain, cramping, bleeding, all the not so wonderful things that come with a miscarriage. I strategically took the pills at 6p hoping we could give Makenzie a bath and down to sleep before they started working. 6p came, then 7p, followed by 8p, 9p, 10p, and nothing was happening. I went to bed with basically a diaper on not knowing what I was going to wake up to but the next morning I woke up to nothing. It didn’t work. I called her back that morning and she said, “Well, unfortunately you are probably falling into the <5% of people that this drug doesn’t work for. Let’s wait one week, take your blood again next Tuesday and if the levels are still elevated we need to discuss performing a hysteroscopy.” So again, we waited. I went back on Tuesday, September 2nd for another round of hcg draw and on Wednesday she called me and said, “Well, you’re still at an 11. It’s time to schedule the hysteroscopy that we briefly discussed the week prior.”
I was immediately sent to her scheduling assistant and we booked the procedure for Friday, September 5th. She was clearing her morning and coming in especially for me as she had already had plans for that day. Brian and I arrived at Rush Copley at 7:45a and I got into my gown and signed all the paperwork that was needed. A hysteroscopy is a pretty general procedure that can be done without anesthesia and even in the office. However, we knew there was something in my uterus that more than likely would have to be cleared, similar to a D&C, so I was put under. What it involves is inserting a small camera into the uterine cavity and taking a look at the uterus as a whole. Making sure there aren’t any fibroids, tumors, scarring from a prior C-section and/or D&C, and to make sure the uterus as a whole looked healthy. She would also be able to visually remove whatever was leftover in one particular area. They wheeled me into the OR and I was fast asleep before I knew it.
I woke up to Brian putting a straw in my mouth ordering me to drink some apple juice. I quickly came to and the next thing I knew my OB was in my room explaining her findings. The retained product that was in my uterus was small, 4x6mm, but it had started to harden and calcify which was probably why my body was trying so hard but unable to shed it on its own. She told Brian that she was very certain due to the condition of the tissue that this was from our pregnancy in May and that she didn’t believe we were even pregnant in July. She sent everything off to pathology but was pretty sure of her findings.
I had my follow up with her yesterday and she basically told me the same thing. Because this tissue was still in my uterus from May and there was hcg present she didn’t think I would have been ovulating which would have made it next to impossible to be pregnant.
It makes me feel better knowing she doesn’t think we had back to back miscarriages. In the medical world having 3 miscarriages calls for all sorts of red flags, blood testing, and possible medical intervention. Today I got a call from the nurse who has been along for this roller coaster of ride and she sounded so happy when I answered. She said, “Guess what? Your levels are finally normal!! You no longer have hcg present in your system!!” She was so happy as am I.
I feel like finally after 4+ months of heartache, sadness, questions to myself, and questions to God, I can relax a little bit again. Right now the time is to just let my body heal, drink red raspberry leaf tea, and just let things be. (Red raspberry leaf tea by the way is great for pregnant mommies in their 2nd or 3rd trimester, women that are trying to get pregnant, women who have painful periods, or someone that just gave birth. However, research is iffy on whether or not this tea should be drank if you are in your 1st trimester so if you decide to try it, please ask your OB or a medical professional their opinion on it. I personally stopped drinking it as soon as I found out I was pregnant with Makenzie and resumed drinking it around the 28 week mark).
Why am I blogging about this you may ask? I did a lot of research when this was happening to me and everyone said, “a D&C will not leave left over tissue” or “that is not possible” well guess what, in 98% of people D&C’s do work but there is a small percentage that it does not work and 2nd D&C has to be done. There is also 95% chance that taking Cytotec to induce a further miscarriage also works but again, I felt into that 5% of people it did not work for.
Let’s be honest here, I have no problems sharing my experience with you all. For me, writing is therapeutic and I hope that my story can help other women out there know that they are not alone and having miscarriages is not something taboo or that they should be afraid to talk about. I have a great support system in my husband, my amazing little girl Makenzie, my family, my best friend and sister Jen, my parents, and my amazingly awesome and loving Mother-In-Law, Marcy. I also have my wonderful friends and a special group of women that all have August 2012 babies the same age as Makenzie. I’ve never met any of these women in real life but we talk on Instagram and have a special Facebook group but they have been so supportive of me and Brian and our journey thus far. A special thank you goes to each and every one of you that have taken my calls, texts, emails, and Facebook messages over the last four months. Thank you to those that have just let me cry on the phone, sent me encourage text messages, or sent me a chocolate and fruit bouquets because sending Whitey’s Chocolate Chip Ice Cream from Iowa to Illinois just isn’t possible. 😄
This is my story, this is my journey… It’s time to close the book on this chapter and start making new ones.