What It’s Really Like to Have a Baby During a Pandemic

As you may have seen on my previous posting, we welcomed our much awaited rainbow baby, Charlotte, on October 29th.

As we all know (and I’m sure, feel) 2020 has been anything but ordinary. While up nursing the babe at 4am today I came across a posting from another blog, Her View From Home, about how a 2020 baby was a light during the dark year and it made me think. While yes, Charlotte is definitely a positive thing that happened this year, I’d say having a baby during a pandemic has been anything but a positive/perfect/easy experience. Don’t get me wrong, I’m 1000% so thankful for Charlotte it’s just that having a baby during a pandemic is definitely not something I’d add to my list of things to do again. 😂🤦

When we found out we were pregnant the first week of March, covid had barely started here. Rob went to my first appointment confirming the pregnancy and doing an ultrasound but, after that he was only allowed back at one other appointment (anatomy scan ultrasound) and then her birth.

In the first few weeks of my first trimester, office closures started and fertility clinics had to limit their appointments. I had luckily already become pregnant so I was still seen while so many others had to put their cycles and family planning on hold. I remember going to my second scan by myself just praying that the ultrasound would show that baby grew as expected. When I got the news that she had, and when I was able to hear a heartbeat (for the first time out of our 3 previous miscarriages) I was alone. This was the first of many pregnancy milestones I wouldn’t really get to share with anyone or celebrate and it was bittersweet.

As the pregnancy went on, and the pandemic grew in severity, Hannah started staying home from daycare (which eventually 100% shutdown – and still hasn’t reopened), we stocked up on groceries, and we quit seeing most of our family and friends. Throughout the pregnancy we were very cautious about exposure (with all of the unknowns of covid for pregnant women) and hardly saw anyone. In the beginning we kept to just our household and Rob was the only one who went out. As the weeks and months passed, I eventually went out to the store more and my dad started helping with a few days of childcare here and there.

Despite expanding our bubble to include immediate family members, it felt like I didn’t get to share my growing baby bump with anyone. If it weren’t for my work colleagues, I really wouldn’t have done anything to celebrate the pregnancy. They were amazing and threw me my only shower for Charlotte. Our work team is all spread out across the country so doing things remotely wasn’t new for us and they didn’t miss a beat. It was a baby shower over Google Hangouts where they all came together to ship presents to my house and organize games for us to play together. It was fun and, looking back on it, so so appreciated and special. Having had three miscarriages previously, Charlotte deserved to be celebrated so much so it makes me sad that that wasn’t able to happen really. With our local friends and family, we didn’t have a baby shower (or sprinkle, what they call it for second babies) and most of our friends never even saw me when I was pregnant. Getting ready to have Charlotte was so isolating and lonely. We missed out on a fun family vacation in July (with a whole side of the family I hardly ever see) because we didn’t feel it was safe (and if we weren’t pregnant we probably would have gone). I was so selfishly bitter about missing it and not spending time with all of my family in a massive lakehouse on Lake Wylie. It would have been our last little *family of 3* vacation before the baby came.

The family got a photographer to do family pictures while they were all in Wylie

Then, once I had Charlotte in October, the isolation only grew more intense. The pediatrician recommended we not see anyone outside of our household that wasn’t necessary. She recommended that family visit and meet Charlie through our glass front door (“pope visits” as some of our family called it). With flu and RSV season also upon us (alongside the pandemic) we were asked not to take Charlie out of the house, unless to the doctor, at least for two months. Two months takes us into January so I’m sure it’ll be longer than that but we aren’t there yet. This advice meant that the bubble we had pre-delivery (that included our immediate family) was shrinking again.

For the first few weeks it was just the 4 of us. Charlie was jaundice in the beginning and a weak/lazy babe until her bilirubin levels were back to normal. This made nursing and weight gain hard for her. Her first two weeks home consisted of doctors appointments almost every other day. Her struggle to have regular weight gain and her poor latch early on meant we spent the first 3 weeks triple feeding (nursing, pumping, and supplementing a 1oz bottle) for each feed, even overnight. It was exhausting and I felt like my supply wasn’t ever going to recover from her low demand early on. I wish I knew poor latch meant poor demand and I would have started pumping as soon as the latch discomfort started. Still, pumping after nursing you don’t get much (if baby actually latched right), especially when they’re newborns, so it always felt like a let down (no pun intended) measuring out the half oz to an oz I got each session. It was just a rough few weeks for me. I was so down on myself no matter what positive encouraging words Rob tried to remind me of. Postpartum life is hard.

Luckily, as the days went on, her bilirubin levels evened out and she eventually did get the hang of nursing – several visits to a lactation consultant definitely helped us – weighted feeds too. We quit triple feeding at every feed at week 4 and were down to one bottle, then no bottles, shortly after. Having our nursing journey take a more positive turn helped with my stress a lot. The postpartum hormones, plus a lack of sleep and a busy toddler, were wearing on me (and Rob) so we decided to widen our bubble once again to include my dad. He is retired and strictly follows all the covid guidelines so we felt he was the best next person to include. He was able to watch Hannah a few days a week to help out and, just that little bit of support, helped us so much.

All of this to say, it truly does take a village to raise kids and, not being able to lean/rely on your village is the hardest. Postpartum life is hard already and having support from loved ones can do so much for a new/growing family. When we needed people most, covid took our village away from us and for that, I hate 2020 a little bit more.

We couldn’t get friends and family together to celebrate this pregnancy – even just a barbeque to share our happiness. We couldn’t have a photographer document Charlotte’s labor/birth like we did with Hannah. Our family didn’t meet us at the hospital to celebrate. My sister hosted an online meal train for us and only two friends and my neighbor signed up. (My mom and Rob’s step mom did bring us dinner too, just outside of the meal train sign up – my mom loves to drop goodies off at our house.) My mom or Rob’s mom/step mom couldn’t come over to help or snuggle the baby while I showered. My friends couldn’t come see the baby and visit with me to see how I was doing – I’ve only seen three friends in person since I’ve given birth even. We couldn’t let Hannah go to her grandparents for a sleepover and some 1:1 attention. Hannah wasn’t enrolled in a daycare and could hardly get out of the house to burn off energy due to a fear of germs from others (at a park or places like the aquarium). All around, covid robbed us of all of that support and all of those special moments so far. So yes, while Charlotte is and has been a light during the dark year of 2020, I feel like this journey has been anything but what you typically envision having a new baby to be. Of course, because of covid there’s been a lot of time where it’s just us and we’ve been able to bond with her but, honestly, I feel like we still had that with Hannah too. I didn’t allow company everyday when Hannah was a newborn anyways. I guess as much as I want to focus on the good things that came from 2020, it’s hard and the year definitely dealt its fair share of challenges.

With Charlotte being 8 weeks now she’s only met a portion of our family (pope visits or actual physical visits). Only 4 family members outside of our household have been able to hold her – and that says a lot when we have so so much family locally. Luckily we did just recently decide that we’re going to expand our bubble a little bit more to include my mom and Rob’s step mom and dad. They can help more with Hannah and we need it. Sometimes we have to make decisions for our sanity and this was definitely one of them. Our bubble is still small but the change is worth it. She hasn’t met all of her grandparents or great grandparents but this way we get to include a few more. Her aunts still haven’t been able to snuggle her yet either. And, to be honest, I’m not sure when everyone else will get the chance to meet her – great grandparents, cousins and such. At least after a ten day quarantine period maybe, right?? 🤦 The distance is something I’m always trying to come to terms with; something I’m always feeling guilty about. Something I know I’m doing for her own health and safety but still hate nonetheless. Net net: raising a new child in 2020 is for the birds. With Christmas just a few days away, I’m trying to focus on us getting to enjoy a calm holiday home but I’m sad about all of the things we’re missing out on; I’m human and it’s okay to be sad. Normally we’re that huge busy family who does 6 holiday gatherings all across the city in just over 3 days so this year is very different.

Although we have prayed for this baby girl so much (and don’t get me wrong, my negativity is not directed at her), I wish the year would have gone a bit differently and I can’t wait for life to be normal again. I just hope she won’t have to be a year old (or even older 😵😱) before the rest of our family and friends get to meet and hug her. She’s definitely a blessing during this dark shitty year but man how I wish I could have given her a better 2020 too. ❤️

Well that went well…

On 12/4 we had our first appointment at our fertility specialist. We were supposed to have our first appointment on 11/25 but my dumb ass thought it was set for 1:30pm and we arrived at 1:20pm only to find out we were late and would have to reschedule. Luckily we only had to schedule one week out and were able to get in on 12/4. BUT, that was all a long way of saying, just getting to our first appointment was a hassle.

Once we got to the office, the receptionist tells me she doesn’t have the appointment in her computer. She said it only showed my one from 11/25. Luckily this didn’t cause us any issues but it just didn’t set a great tone for the afternoon.

After a few minutes in the waiting room the doctor calls us back and we start to go through what feels like his 20th questionnaire of the day about our fertility struggles. Apparently (another bit of our *great* luck) my medical records weren’t in their system yet (I called my regular OBGYN after the appointment and they said they sent them on 11/25 so who knows whose fault it is). But, since he didn’t have my records he was asking us everything (how many miscarriages, when were they, how far along did the baby develop, did I get an ultrasound, what did they see on the ultrasound, did I hear a heartbeat, etc.). Honestly, these were hard questions. I felt so gutted that between the three miscarriages this year, Rob and I were getting all the details mixed up a bit. Such a shit problem to have – I’ve had so many miscarriages I can’t keep the stories straight. I just felt terrible. The doctor really seemed like he does this all the time and was pretty loose and happy. I mean, as Rob said later, he’d have rather him be happy and positive than sad and worried during our consultation. I guess I just also kinda wished he was a little more sensitive or compassionate. Either way – his bedside manner wasn’t really that bad. It didn’t cause me any concern alone it just wasn’t necessarily a “win” for the doctor’s office column either.

But, as a result of our chat with him, he gave us a few options and next steps. Our next steps were to do bloodwork, genetic testing, an ultrasound and an HSG test. He said that usually the tests come back negative and, if that’s the case, then I have 3 options:

  1. Take progesterone and baby aspirin to try and help the next pregnancy stick
  2. Take hormone boosting drugs (like Colmid) to try and improve the odds of getting pregnant (even tho that part seems easy for us) and also the Progesterone I think
  3. IVF

Personally, this wasn’t exactly what I was hoping for but was kinda what I expected. I was hoping they’d have more options between 1 and 3 for me to try. Since I took progesterone last pregnancy, option 1 I’ve already really done (minus baby aspirin) and he said if we did it again we’d have about a 50% chance at having another miscarriage. IVF would give us an 11% chance at another miscarriage but is really expensive and invasive. At least he laid out options so there’s that but luckily we don’t have to decide anything right away. To finish up this appointment – next up was the ultrasound and bloodwork.

First problem: for the urine sample/collection they wanted to do, they didn’t have the right equipment in the office (another strike). They took my sample but said I might have to come leave another (annoying). But still, not a big deal, just looks kinda not put together at this point. Then, for the ultrasound everything was normal. They looked at all my internal lady parts – no probs there so that’s good. Painless.

Second problem: the blood draw. For me, my blood draws 99% of the time have to come from my hands and, with my luck, the office receptionist/phlebotomist/OB-GYN assistant can’t draw from hands. She checks my arm, can’t find a vein, and then does Rob’s draw while we wait on another lady to come try and do mine. Rob’s draw goes easy peasy and then the other lady arrives to do mine. She stuck both hands and couldn’t get either one and then the first lady tried my arm and couldn’t get it. Soooooo… They decided to send us to their main office where they have a phlebotomist that can draw my blood. They tried to call the office and tell them we were coming but no one was answering so they just sent us there. At this point I’m annoyed but we’re still joking around so I’m not that bothered. Plus the main office was kinda on the way home so whatever – annoying but still, at this point I wasn’t ticked off.

When we get to the next office and head upstairs to the floor the doctor is on, all we see is major construction behind their doors. The lobby is all torn up with drywall and tools everywhere. There is a sign by the door that says its under construction and appointments are available at their locations 3 locations (this one included).

Right when I saw the construction it all clicked. They didn’t answer when the other receptionist called I assumed because they were CLOSED. ☠ This then immediately reminded me of when I originally came to their main office location on 11/25. When I had to reschedule they wouldn’t let me choose the main office location because it was going to be under construction. I was so mad. Rob and I left and went back to the car. Rob said we could go back and look around one more time to be sure they were closed and I said to not bother. I thought it was definitely closed and we should just go home. I tried to call the office from the car but they’re one of the fancy offices where you just leave a message and only get a call back so we decided to leave. 🙈

When we left I was annoyed and irritated and pissed off. I wanted more from this appointment. It wasn’t supposed to go like this. Everything was going wrong and now I was going to have to wait longer for more answers. I wanted to do my damn test today. And to top it off, I needed to get back to work. It was already almost 3pm and I was hoping to have been home by then. It was all going really great.

As we were driving home I rationalized my way into their 3rd office being semi on the way home so we decided to dig ourselves an even deeper hole and stop there. What else could go wrong? As we pull up at that office someone from the practice finally calls me back. The lady says that they had in fact actually been in their main office location. Apparently when we saw their front doors we should have turned left down a hallway and then seen another sign on the right to check in there. If only that had, I don’t know, maybe been written somewhere. Like maybe on the sign by the door?! I was pissed. It was ridiculous that they didn’t have any signs up to say where to check in. Plus, how stupid that I didn’t go triple check or something. I was annoyed but whatever – we were at the third office now. We got off the phone and parked. Once out of the car my phone starts ringing again. It was the office again. Apparently the third office we were at wasn’t equipped to do the blood draw I needed either. We drove all the way here for nothing.

At this point I was done. How ridiculous was this shit show of a “specialist” appointment?! Their satellite offices couldn’t care for me on a simple NEW PATIENT INTAKE appointment. I felt stupid for not triple checking the signs at the main office but also super irritated because I did check the first time we were standing right there. The signs obviously sucked. Rob and I both missed how/where they could have been open.

I definitely expressed my frustration to the lady I was on the phone with. I told her that the whole day had been a shit show and that I was beyond irritated. I felt bad, in hindsight, that I was so irritated while on the phone with her (I didn’t yell at her but definitely cussed a lot while expressing how ridiculous every aspect of the day was). She told me “it wasn’t her fault” and that I “shouldn’t take my anger out on her” so we just agreed to set me up an appointment for a blood draw in two days (on Friday) at their main office and part ways.

The whole ride home was lots of traffic and road rage in our car. Rob and I were both in good moods. The rest of my day was shit too. I cried a lot about how terrible the day was and about how unsupportive the doctor was. I cried about how this specialist was supposed to help me and instead stressed me out even more. I cried because this was supposed to be the most recommended practice in our area and I was getting such shit service. It was just a rough day. I wanted more from this specialist. I wanted to feel supported and helped. I wanted this all to be over and every, single, part of it, just felt worse.

At the end of all of that, I debated on finding a whole new doctor since I received such terrible service. Once I was able to cool down I decided I’d give them another shot and do my blood draw that Friday and see how things went. This was supposed to be the best doctor in the area and I really wanted them to help us.

Now, fast forward a week, I did my blood draw on Friday and my genetic tests are processing. They 100% redid the signs at the main office (that’s under construction) to be more clear/obvious and have also made sure that both of their satellite offices are fully stocked to do the tests I needed to have done but couldn’t. Hopefully no one else has the experience I did! Rob’s blood draw that they did didn’t work for some reason (or wasn’t enough blood or something – the lady on the phone didn’t really explain) but she said once my results come back, and if I’m a carrier of anything, then we can decide if we want to redo Rob’s test or not. I guess if I’m not a carrier of anything then it doesn’t really matter what he is bringing to the table. I’m not sure how genetics work but that’s how she explained it.

All of this is a long way of saying that it’s been a roller coaster of a ride so far and it just started. Next test is the HSG test and then we’ll just wait on all the results before deciding what to do next. Fingers crossed we find some answers and this part of our lives can be behind us soon!

The Elephant in the Room

First of all, consider yourself warned. This post maybe “over sharing”, emotional, triggering, and/or hard to read for some people.

But, now that that’s out of the way….

I haven’t been quite able to write a blog in a few months now and I kinda thought I’d ignore that and just pick back up where I left off but, honestly, that feels crappy. I wrote a new post the other day while all along I had a draft version of this post lingering. Was I just planning to ignore it? I think that would be crappy of me. I feel like it’s my responsibility to open up about what happened to me as I know it could help someone else. Plus I think that feeds into the whole “people don’t talk about it”/”I went through it alone” stuff that upset me. >> read till the end for that to make more sense<<

But, the reason I’ve just been in a funk is because I had my first miscarriage in early March and I just haven’t really been in the best headspace since. I wouldn’t say I was depressed but I was sad and sad can be normal sometimes too, just a shit version of it. I just never really felt like doing a whole lot, I drank more alcohol than I had been (but duh I was pregnant prior to so I wasn’t drinking anything so that’s easy to top), eating like crap/not working out, and I just was lazier (lots of netflix + chill). The one good thing is that I kept painting and working on other craft projects through it all (and I think that helped honestly). So in a nutshell, I’ve just been feeling kinda shitty and that’s #reallife, I guess.

The last blog I wrote was in the end of February and at that time I thought I was pregnant. It was a little secret that only a few family members/close friends knew. I told Rob on Valentine’s day with a cute “Big Sister” shirt for Hannah and all was well with the world. I even had a cute little video of when he realized what her shirt said. Sad to watch now but still, it was special. Next came out first doctor’s appointment. It was on a Tuesday and I was so excited! Then on Thursday, that’s when the miscarriage started.

I still remember waking up and going pee, per usual when your first get up, and when I stood up there were 3 tiny clots in the toilet. I just lost it and sank. I wasn’t even thinking about miscarrying. I was more concerned about having another preemie (Hannah was 6 weeks early and I had just gotten literature about it a few days prior). Then, when I saw the blood, my heart just dropped. I knew this wasn’t normal “spotting”. I just felt it.

I went back in the bedroom and woke up Rob, who was still asleep at the time, and just said – with lots of tears – “I’m bleeding”.

Next up was a haze of calling the doctor, calling my boss (who had no idea I was pregnant at this point since I was only 7 weeks). taking off work, and going in for an ultrasound. At the appointment they confirmed that they saw the gestational sac but, said it was too early, they couldn’t get a heartbeat. They weren’t sure if maybe my irregular periods messed up when they thought my date of conception was or if maybe the baby had already stopped growing. Being 7 weeks, usually you can detect a heartbeat at that point so who knows what happened. Either way I was told to monitor my bleeding/cramping and if I spiked a fever, passed any larger clots, or got nauseous to call the doctor again. If nothing happened, the next appointment was set for 2 weeks out.

Over the next few days the bleeding didn’t get worse and no additional symptoms cropped up. I just had a terrible stomach bug (this started a day before the miscarriage did so I’m not sure if it was related or not) and light bleeding from Thursday until Sunday. Monday rolled around and the bleeding had stopped. I thought that was it and I was in the clear. No other clots were passed and I started to feel relieved that the “spotting” was over.

Having those weeks go by, thinking I was still pregnant – I think that made it worse. At the time of my next appointment I was 9 weeks. It was on a Thursday and it was an ultrasound and Rob went with me. I was so nervous and I just wanted good news. I didn’t think I miscarried since my symptoms never worsened as the doctor described and no other clots were passed. I figured it was spotting (I didn’t spot with Hannah at all nor do I in my regular cycle so I didn’t have anything to compare to). I was instead more concerned at this point to just know the baby was growing at the right rate.

Shortly after checking in, they called me back to see the ultrasound technician. As far as the tech goes, she really made matters worse, to be honest. I know she might have not meant for her actions to be hurtful but they were. She was the same technician I had seen just two weeks prior but she didn’t remember me and, I guess she didn’t bother reading my file. When she started my scan (I could see it all on the TV) I didn’t see anything and just felt that sinking feeling all over again. Some more poking and prodding and she asks “When’s the last time you took a pregnancy test?” and – at this point, I hadn’t taken one in weeks. Why would I? I thought I was already pregnant. I told her and she said “well your uterus is empty. There’s nothing in there. If there was a gestational sac it would be here (showing me on the screen).”

At that moment tears just filled my eyes and I laid there and started to cry to myself. She left the room to go talk to the doctor and asked me to get dressed. Next we went to another office room and got the “it looks like you had a miscarriage” conversation.

“Its normal.”

“It happens to at least 1/5 pregnancies.”

“It isn’t your fault.”

Nothing felt comforting. I just cried and cried. Even still today I cry about it. Of course you go through the self blame – should I have not walked on the elliptical the night before? Was I not drinking enough water? Am I too overweight? I was supposed to be due in October and seeing all my friends on Facebook posting about due dates or new pregnancies just makes me jealous. I do feel lucky that the miscarriage happened naturally as I can’t imagine the shape I’d be in if I had to have a D&C. I think that’s the only positive. I also know that if the baby didn’t have all of his or her puzzle pieces it was for the best but that doesn’t really make it easier either.

Sharing this feels right. I’m sad people don’t talk about the hardships of trying to conceive and it makes women feel so isolated I think. At least that’s how it made me feel. Going through the miscarriage and countless negative pregnancies tests since then feels so lonely. People don’t talk about it and they get uncomfortable when you bring it up which makes you feel even worse. It’s like you have a scarlet letter how people just shut the conversation down. I can only imagine if I feel this way how others feel that had more traumatic experiences. I at least figured that, if I was open about what happened to me, someone would feel support from it and that’s a win in my book.

Until next time.

P.S. – send baby gugu vibes our way! I want to have a baby Ruwe #2