real life

"I am longing for another baby. But just months ago, I learned pregnancy could kill me."

This post contains mentions of miscarriage and may be triggering to some readers.

I was late.

Those three dreaded words most woman on earth have muttered worriedly to themselves at least once in their lives.

Well, I think I was late. I hadn’t kept a good record of my periods – who does when you’re not trying to have a baby? And we were certainly NOT trying for a baby.

I tried to think of the last time I had to pack my emergency stash of tampons in my work bag and I could not for the life of me remember, which could just mean my memory is crap, or that it was over a month-and-a-half ago, which roughly now put me in the danger zone.

So I rummaged through my bathroom cupboard and buried at the back behind the half empty bottles of kid friendly bubble bath and QV Moisturiser was an open pregnancy test kit. I’d obviously bought a pack of two and luckily (or unluckily depending on how old this test was and what part of my life it came from), kept one for when this type of scenario popped up.

I found the latest TV addiction, Bluey, to keep my four-year-old entertained for the six minutes an episode goes for, quickly consumed a bottle of water and headed for the toilet. In my younger years, I would have dramatised this scenario to the death. I would have mulled over it for days, googling every possible complaint and good ol’ Anxiety Annie (it helps if you give your anxiety a name, it’s in all those self-help books I’ve borrowed from the library) would have guestimated me at about three weeks pregnant.

However, in my current life, I realised Aunt Flo hadn’t visited in awhile, noticed how tender and “on point” my nipples were and thought I better get the possibility of being pregnant out of my brain so it can stress about other important things. You know, like getting my kid ready for preschool and fifth birthday party preparations.

The wait is always the worst part. Image: Getty.
ADVERTISEMENT

Now, I’m no naïve spring chicken. I understand how you get pregnant and also how you NOT get pregnant (which, I’m telling you, are two VERY different things). I’ve had two pregnancies, I get it. But the problem with my brain is once there is a teeny tiny possibility, Anxiety Annie creeps in and doesn’t leave until I have ruled it out. My objective brain knew I couldn’t be pregnant. The whole unprotected sex part hadn’t happened (“or had it?” smirks Anxiety Annie sitting in the background tapping her fingers together).

I sit and wait. Bluey is still playing in the distance, so I’m safe for now. Suddenly Anxiety Annie is in full fury, “of course you're pregnant, you know the symptoms, you’ve had tender breasts and even though you also have tender breasts before your period, this has to be different. You're late god damn it, you're never late! Well except for 10 months of the year, but surely that’s not one of these months!”

I’m listening to Annie and I am freaking out. I can’t be pregnant. I shouldn’t be pregnant. Not now. It’s the worst possible timing.

I take a deep breath and peek at the test. The stupid hourglass is still turning. Anxiety Annie tells me how it only ever takes this long if the test is positive. “Negative tests show straight away”, she irks.

So I wait another eternity (truth – 20 seconds) and look again.

Not Pregnant.

I’m not pregnant.

I can’t be pregnant.

And then I realise how I can be totally relieved and utterly devastated in one moment.

Because I would do anything to be disappointed that this was a negative test. I hate the fact that I’m trying NOT to fall pregnant, because to be honest, I am longing to be pregnant. I am longing to have another baby. I am longing to give my four-year-old the sibling they desperately want.

But I can’t.

Because falling pregnant could kill me.

I was born with a hole in my heart. Over my 33 years, I have had three open heart surgeries to repair and ultimately replace my pulmonary valve with a donor valve, which was done in 2007. Since this last surgery, I have been mostly heart healthy.

Before I fell pregnant with my daughter in 2013, my cardiologist encouraged me to start a family. "You should have no problems with carrying a baby – your heart is strong," she told me. Even though I was considered high risk during my pregnancy and couldn’t give birth in my regional town (travelling 500kms to the closest capital city), no complications with my heart arose. In fact, after having my daughter, I actually stopped taking the medication I had been prescribed years before to combat my palpitations. I often joked with my cardiologist that pregnancy cured me.

Despite how well my heart went during my pregnancy, I suffered from hyperemesis gravidurum (you know, the illness Princess Kate had with all three of her kids?) so I didn’t want to go back for number two child anytime soon after. Washing powder and raw meat still gave me memories of throwing up in the sink.

ADVERTISEMENT

In 2017, my partner and I decided to start trying. I had nearly forgotten how bad the first pregnancy had been and I wasn’t getting any younger.

We found out we were pregnant in January 2018.

As the days went by, I could never relax. I didn’t want to admit it, but something didn’t feel right. My partner tried to ease my concerns constantly. He knew we were having a boy he said. He wanted to call him Cole.

The anxious feeling was confirmed when I started bleeding at eight weeks.

I took my pre-schooler to her first day of preschool hours after the emergency room doctor scraped my uterus free of our unborn child.

I grieved.

I cried.

I suffered.

And then I knew it was time to try again. Women have miscarriages all the time. It was unlikely you would have a second miscarriage following your first, as long as you gave your body time to heal. By May 2018 we were ready to start trying again.

Mia Freedman talks about feeling lost after miscarriage.

Video by MMC

I was due to have a check up with my cardiologist in June 2018. This time he wanted to give me an MRI to check on my aorta, which had shown in previous scans to be enlarging gradually.

A few weeks after the scan, my cardiologist called me. It was after five on a Friday afternoon.

“Your aorta has grown dramatically. Probably due to your pregnancy. It’s not a good idea to fall pregnant right now.”

I argued. That’s the thing with chronically ill people, when they hear bad news, they don’t accept it straight away. We’re stubborn like that.

“I understand you're telling me the worst case scenario, and you have to do that Dr, but my heart was beyond fine last time, surely it will hold up again this time.”

“No. If you fall pregnant your aorta will not cope and it will burst. A burst aorta means death instantly. It may not happen while you're pregnant, but it will happen in the few months after.”

ADVERTISEMENT

I grieved.

I cried.

I’m still suffering.

I don’t want to be stupid. I have a four-year-old daughter whose world starts and ends with me. Despite her nagging for a baby brother or sister just like all her friends, she would rather have me – my objective, smart brain knows that.

But then comes Anxiety Annie who says that she needs a brother or sister to fight the world with, to make her stronger and give her everything her father and I can’t.

It may be possible to get pregnant in the future if I have surgery that will correct and fix my aorta. It’s a risky procedure which I may have to have one day anyway. I have another appointment with my cardiologist this month to discuss all our options.

I’m dreading that appointment.

And I just got my period.

If this has raised any issues for you or if you would like to speak with someone, please contact the Sands Australia 24 hour support line on 1300 072 637.

For anyone who has had a miscarriage, this is your digital care package.

You can download Never Forgotten: Stories of love, loss and healing after miscarriage, stillbirth, and neonatal death for free here.

If you want to read more or watch more, we have a hub – just for you – with all our content related to pregnancy loss, called Never Forgotten

Join others who have lost a child in our private Facebook group.

Beautiful, expecting women. Take our short survey to win $100.

MMSurvey
00:00 / ???