By Danielle Fontaine, as told to Stephanie Watson
I was relatively young and healthy. I didn't drink or take drugs. I was a runner. And yet, when I tried to get pregnant with my second child, I had miscarriage after miscarriage.
I had conceived my first child, my son Devon, without even trying. So, three years later, when my partner, Distefano, and I decided to try to get pregnant, we weren't expecting any problems. It came as no surprise when I got pregnant the first month we started trying.
Di and I were so excited. But then I had my first ultrasound. In my previous pregnancy, when I was carrying my son, the ultrasound tech had made comments like, "There's your little gummy bear!" But this time, the tech was silent. She turned the screen away from me. I asked, "Is something wrong?" She did not respond. It was like she was hiding something from me. I left the imaging center in a panic, which my obstetrician did not do much to ease when I called him.
He said the baby's heartbeat was slower than expected and they'd have to check again. However, he did not mention that this was anything concerning, and he offered false reassurance. I went back for another ultrasound a week later. The baby's heartbeat had stopped. I simply could not understand how or why.
Beyond my confusion, I felt devastated. The moment I had learned I was pregnant, my mind and heart had started planning our future with this little piece of us. All at once, those hopes and dreams were ripped from us. We were left shattered and broken.
I'd heard of people having miscarriages, but I never thought it could happen to me. My first instinct was to blame myself. What had I done wrong? What was wrong with me?
On top of the emotional anguish of losing our baby, I had to go through the physical ordeal that comes with miscarriage. The doctors gave me misoprostol, which made my uterus contract. I was passing blood clots and tissue. I was not expecting to experience something even in the realm of labor, but that is what this was like. It made me so weak that I ended up in the hospital. It was a traumatic experience.
My doctor said, "These things just happen. Don't worry about it." He recommended that I wait a cycle or two, and then try to get pregnant again. I felt that my concerns and heartache were being dismissed by a doctor whom I had admired and trusted for over a decade. I felt anxious about moving forward and trying again with no answers, but I put aside my instincts and continued to follow my doctor’s lead.
A Little Girl
Four or five months passed without a pregnancy. I feared that I might not be able to conceive again. I asked my doctor why it was taking me so long. He again told me not to worry. At 29, I was still relatively young.
A couple more months went by, and I found out I was pregnant. This time I waited until I was past the eight-week mark, the point when I'd lost the last baby, to have an ultrasound. I didn't want to be heartbroken again.
Di and I were both so nervous going into the appointment, we were shaking. But sure enough, on the screen was a tiny heartbeat. We cried. The tech cried, too. We left that appointment believing everything was ok.
By the 20-week mark, we knew we were having a little girl. I had always been into sports and a bit of tomboy, so I felt unsure about tea parties, but I was ready to delve into the world of everything pink with my little princess. I looked forward to sharing that special bond between mother and daughter, especially as she became a woman.
Everything seemed to be going well. Then one night, I felt a little off. I did not have any specific signs, like pain or bleeding, but I could no longer feel my baby move. I was terrified, and already fearing more was going on than just anxiety due to a previous pregnancy loss. I could barely focus at work. Each minute she did not move felt like an eternity, and it took all of me to remain composed and not rush to the hospital. I ignored my own true concerns, convincing myself, with the justification of the people around me, that it was just paranoia.
When I went in to see my doctor that day following my shift, he was unable to find our daughter’s heartbeat on the doppler. I immediately suspected my worst fears were coming true yet again. My doctor sent me down the hall for an ultrasound. There was no movement. I knew immediately, she was gone. My doctor was dumbfounded about what had happened. I just sat there, trying to process what had happened. I was in shock.
Though my baby hadn't survived, I decided to go through the painful and difficult process of labor and delivery. I wanted more than anything to hold my baby in my arms, just once and for as long as I could.
We named her Faith.
We were desperate to find out what had gone wrong. But test after test came up with no explanation for my pregnancy loss. In a way, not knowing what was wrong was worse than having an answer. Di and I continued to blame ourselves and each other.
After that loss, I didn't know how much more I could handle. Di and I went to group therapy to help us grieve. Hearing other people’s stories and feeling their support, I gradually realized that the miscarriages weren't my fault.
During this time, I started seeing a new ob/gyn. She sent me to a fertility specialist, Dr. Carol Wheeler, who did a full workup on me. She still didn't come up with any answers, but she did offer some potential solutions. She put me on progesterone supplements (to prepare my uterus for a pregnancy) and a daily baby aspirin (which research shows might improve the odds of conception by reducing inflammation). She tracked my ovulation and checked to make sure that my eggs were mature.
During that time, I had three chemical miscarriages, which means I lost the pregnancies after receiving a positive pregnancy test, but before my first ultrasound.
I told Di, "I don't think I can do this anymore." I couldn't try again, only to lose another baby.
We stopped trying at that point, while we awaited the results of even more tests. I was in the process of getting a second opinion from a fertility team up in Boston and had begun acupuncture. I had not even gotten my period after the last miscarriage, when a pregnancy test came back positive. I couldn't believe it.
For the first 12 weeks of my pregnancy, my doctor kept a close eye on me. I had regular exams and weekly ultrasounds.
I was die-hard about protecting this little life inside of me. I didn't carry groceries or laundry -- anything heavy. I bought a baby heartbeat monitor, and checked it every chance I got. I even stopped drinking coffee.
I stopped thinking about the future and focused instead on appreciating every day my baby was growing. Each day was a battle of hope versus anxiety. Thinking about even the next day was too much to bear, so I lived minute by minute. I cherished the chance I was given to be a mom again, and just hoped it would last beyond that place in time. I was desperate for it to be a successful pregnancy, but I never had much hope, honestly. I did try to be positive, but my heart was too guarded.
On December 3, 2018, I had my scheduled C-section. I did not fully relax until I heard her cry. She had the strongest cry. When the nurses brought her over to me, she was so healthy and just as cute as can be. I was like, "Wow, is this really my baby?"
It took four years and a lot of prayers to bring our baby into the world. We named her Sydney Faith, after the baby we lost. She's not replacing her sister -- that hole is there forever. But she's brought happiness back to us. It's been amazing to watch her grow.
Today, Sydney Faith is 19 months old. Every day when I see her I think, "Little girl, you are a miracle." It blows my mind that after so much pain and disappointment, we finally have her. I thought it would never happen for us, but I'm forever grateful that it did.
Danielle Fontaine lives in East Providence, Rhode Island, and is currently working in the medical field, while studying as a nursing student. She hopes she can help encourage others struggling with infertility or recurrent pregnancy loss to not give up, as their rainbow after the storm may be hiding just around the corner.