In our new Realtalk series, we're sharing personal stories about fertility and family planning. We hope they offer support and inspire honest conversation about an incredibly tough topic.
For some time after we married at age 22, my husband and I were ambivalent about the idea of having children. Nevertheless, by the time I turned 35, after 13 years of focusing on ourselves, our careers, athletics, and music, we became enchanted with the desire to have a child.
I was adopted when I was a baby and didn't locate my birth family until age 26. Hence, I yearned for a biological connection to my child that I didn't experience during my own childhood. Healthy and fit, I thought that pregnancy wouldn’t be difficult for me, even at my age. Indeed, I became pregnant within three months of trying.
It turned out that the problems I was to experience had nothing to do with my "advanced maternal age."
The elation I felt upon discovering I was pregnant was first shattered at week 13, when I experienced a bleeding episode. Shaken, I was sent home from the hospital and advised to rest. Things returned to normal for a little while.
However, at 22 weeks gestation, I suddenly went into premature labor and was rushed to the hospital. In utter shock, I watched with my medical team and family as my baby boy's heartbeat slowed to a stop on the ultrasound. I was induced and a short time later, held my tiny, dead baby Jacob, in a complete daze. I had lost my first child.
Things like this were not supposed to happen. For months afterward, my husband and I navigated our profound sense of loss and emptiness with the support of loving family and friends. I found reading materials on the subject and we attended a holiday ceremony given by Compassionate Friends, an organization that provides support for parents who have lost children.
We clung to each other, as I repeatedly asked why. Was it the 8K race I had run the day before? The cheese I had eaten? An unknown infection?
After much investigation, we discovered that I had a rare congenital anomaly called a septate uterus, essentially a wall down the center of the uterus that leads to a greatly increased risk of pregnancy loss. This appears in about 1 in 800 women, but it isn't detectable on an ultrasound. The diagnosis was only made after I had a hysterosalpingogram (an X-ray after special dye is shot into the uterus) and an MRI.
Early in my pregnancy, I had noticed that the right side of my abdomen was significantly larger than the left. My doctor had dismissed this, but now it made sense. It was believed that my baby had outgrown the available space with an inelastic septum, and the odd configuration also contributed to my premature loss.
An outpatient procedure was performed by a specialist to remove the septum. Fortunately, the following month, I became pregnant with my second child. I was now 36.