Last week I was contacted by an amazing young Mum who wanted to share her story about the struggles she had with infertility and multiple miscarriages. Typically we don’t hear about pregnancy struggles for a younger Mum and what we don’t realise is that there can be a different negative stigma to deal with! It’s quite common to hear “you’re too young to be trying for a baby” or “you have years ahead of you” or “you’re so young, it will happen” without completing understanding a young Mum’s situation.
Young Mums can still make the decision to plan a pregnancy, particularly if they are aware of fertility issues that may impact that. And they have every right to do so without negativity or judgment.
I want to introduce you to Michaela who so openly and bravely has shared her journey with us. For any young Mum who has ever faced fertility issues or suffered from miscarriages, please know you are not alone. Despite heartbreak and challenges in Michaela’s journey, there is still hope, inspiration and a beautiful, happy ending. Thank you for sharing your story Michaela.
An Unexpected Surprise
I fell pregnant with my beautiful daughter, April, at 22. I had just had my university graduation for my double degree in music and teaching a month before and had completed a certificate III in Beauty at Tafe night classes earlier that year. I was teaching singing part-time at a private school, also at home and working part-time in makeup artistry and cosmetics.
Finding out I was pregnant was an unexpected but extremely exciting surprise and something my boyfriend of 3 years, Bill, and I had talked about that was definitely in our future together.
I had always dreamed of being a mother one day, it was just going to happen a bit earlier than I had planned! Bill proposed when I was 4 months pregnant, at the same place we had our first date and shared our first kiss. We then got married not long after, as we both decided why wait? And planned a huge wedding when we were just about to have the most amazing thing happen to us- the birth of our daughter.
So we were married when I was 28 weeks pregnant, in between both of our birthdays in April (hence our daughter’s first name). When I was nearly 36 weeks, we moved into our first house together and then a few days later, April Melia was born! We were absolutely over the moon and so in love the moment we met her. She is honestly the best thing that has ever happened to us and is the light and love of our lives!
Planning Baby #2
Time went on and around April’s 1st birthday, my husband Bill and I started talking about baby #2. We both wanted more children as I am 1 of 4 and Bill was an only child, so we really wanted April to have another sibling to grow up and have that special bond.
We decided we would officially start trying in a few months time.
In October 2013, we started tracking ovulation and using apps that helped you figure out your fertile days to give you the best chance of falling pregnant. Little did we know that it wasn’t going to be that easy, in fact, far from it.
In December 2013, I got a positive test at 4 weeks and headed off to my GP for a blood test. My GP confirmed I was pregnant but that it was “early days”. On December 16th, I started having intense cramping in my lower abdominal area and started spotting. I called Health Direct and the nurse on the phone said I needed to go straight to Emergency.
Once we were admitted, I had a middle-aged nurse come and check me over and take my bloods. She was very judgemental of the fact that I was pregnant. After my blood tests came back, she came to tell me that I “was never actually pregnant” and that I shouldn’t be worrying about those sorts of things at my age because I was so young. Bill and I were in shock at how she was treating me and I tried to tell her that I had had my pregnancy confirmed by my doctor.
She simply said “well you’re not pregnant now” and told us that we were young and looked healthy, so it would happen when it was meant to.
We both were shocked at how she was treating us and couldn’t believe she would say such things when she knew nothing about us or our situation.
By 5.5 weeks, I started miscarrying and it was confirmed I was having a “chemical pregnancy” which is a very early miscarriage. We were absolutely devastated! That Christmas was extremely hard because even though we had only been pregnant for such a short period of time, we had started to think of what our future would be like with two children and how April would be with her sibling.
It was impossible not to think of those things.
I admitted to Bill that I was scared that I had experienced a miscarriage. As naïve as it sounds I never thought it would happen to me. My mum conceived and gave birth to 4 children, without any miscarriages, so why would I have any? Yes, it had been early days, but we had told our parents and I am glad we did as my Mum had to look after April while we went to the hospital.
The Roller Coaster of Pregnancy Loss
In January 2014, I started teaching at night again for a prestigious national choir which I found extremely rewarding. By February, we found out we were expecting again and were over the moon! Although this time, I was extremely anxious and was constantly worrying something bad was going to happen.
I had my pregnancy confirmed by my doctor and booked in to see my Obstetrician for when I would be 8 weeks. I was really struggling waiting until that point as I felt it was so far way and I just wanted to know that baby was ok.
When we went in for my 8 week appointment, my OB discovered that baby was growing a little behind by about 1.5 weeks and didn’t have a heartbeat yet. She said that the sac looked a little bit of an abnormal shape but because it was still so early, that she would get us to come back in another 2 weeks to see what was happening.
As soon as we walked out of her offices, we both broke down crying.
It was so hard to hear and to think that something might not be quite right. It was an agonizing two week wait. We went in at 10 weeks and my OB said that the baby hadn’t grown or developed properly when we conceived and that I was going to have a miscarriage.
I couldn’t believe it.
After my first appointment I knew something wasn’t right but once again I didn’t think that I would have another miscarriage.
We were so heartbroken and we both were emotional and down for what seemed like forever.
We had told our parents when we were about 6 weeks that we were pregnant and then after we miscarried, they too, also were in shock and grieved with us. My OB said that there was a reason that baby didn’t develop or grow properly and that it was probably for the best that it happened the way it did. It was hard to hear, but later we would discover there was some merit to it.
I opted to miscarry naturally over a d&c and it took another two weeks for it to happen. So I was nearly 12 weeks when I miscarried the pregnancy naturally and it was such an emotional, lengthy process. It felt like it was going on and on and we would never get to experience a “normal” pregnancy again.
I opened up to a couple of close girlfriends at the time about what we had gone through as they had noticed that I had been “a bit MIA lately.”
Opening up to others and sharing the experience of miscarriage, it became more public knowledge that we were actively trying to conceive.
Some people made all sort of comments from – “you’re still so young”, “you have heaps of time”, “just enjoy April (our daughter)”, “have a break” to “stop trying and it will happen”.
All these comments (and some worse ones) were so hurtful and insensitive.
Who is anyone to judge whether;
a) We want to have any more children or
b) When we want to have more children.
It was none of anyone’s business and it was something Bill and I wanted and that’s all that mattered.
At this time, I started to notice more and more that certain friends and I were drifting.
They were in a completely different place in their lives to me – some still at uni or going out partying.
It was so hard, I started to feel more and more alone and I stopped going to April’s classes where I felt I was being judged for being a “young mum” and wanting more children.
I just wanted to spend time with my daughter and enjoy doing things together.
It also helped that we didn’t see too much of anyone to give them less chance of asking, “So when are you going to try for baby #2?” or anything along those lines.
Once we were feeling up to it, we started trying to conceive again and in June 2014, just before April’s 2nd birthday, we found out we were pregnant again.
I remember just before we sang her “Happy Birthday” that the next year we would be singing it with her sibling in our arms.
I had lots of pregnancy symptoms, even more than when I was pregnant with April. It was comforting but still in the back of my head I was extremely worried and anxious. I tried not to think about being pregnant too much, or get too used to the idea as I thought that would help by not getting my hopes up as such.
I tried not to think about what it would be like to have baby here as I was trying to protect myself.
As this was technically my 3rd pregnancy in a row, but still only 1 living child, my obstetrician decided it would be the best idea to monitor me from very early on in the pregnancy to check that baby had implanted correctly and to just keep an eye on everything.
As soon as my pregnancy was confirmed by my GP we went off to my obstetrician for an appointment at 6 weeks.
She confirmed that there was a pregnancy and there was a gestational sac and the baby even had a heartbeat!
Baby’s heartbeat was 118 bpm so she explained that it must have only just started beating within the last couple of days.
Cause For Concern
Straight away I was concerned that baby’s heartbeat was slow but she reassured us that when we came back at 8 weeks, baby would have a nice strong heartbeat.
I was measuring true to my last period, so that was good to know baby was growing. My OB said to us that we deserved a break and she was so sorry for everything we had been through at this point but she was feeling good about baby at this stage.
At 8 weeks, we went back in for an antenatal appointment and baby had grown but was a few days behind. This can be considered “normal”, however baby’s heartbeat was only 114 bpm.
We were anxious and we could see by my OB’s face that she was concerned.
Even though I had been “banned” from googling things as it seemed to heighten my anxiety, I had googled what a normal heart rate was for the gestation we were at.
I knew from my research that baby’s heartbeat should have increased by this gestational age and be a lot faster. Also, that it had dropped (albeit slightly) was not a good sign.
My OB said that she was sitting on the fence about the pregnancy and really wasn’t sure where it was going.
She said that ultimately all we could do was wait another 10 days to see how strong baby’s heartbeat was and to see what it’s growth had been like.
We were so upset leaving that appointment.
I had so many symptoms and had found that reassuring and was annoyed at myself. I started to feel that I just knew something wasn’t right.
It killed me inside waiting until the next appointment.
Every minute of everyday I was worried about what was going to happen to baby and if baby was still growing and if we were going to get to meet that baby.
A Devastating Discovery
When we went back at 10 weeks, I was sitting in the waiting room and I just knew something wasn’t right. We went in and my OB did another ultrasound. She said that baby had only grown 4 days over the last 2 weeks, which was a concern and that the baby’s heart had stopped. She said it looked as though it had stopped a few days prior.
To say we were devastated is an understatement. We were absolutely crushed.
I was a complete mess and I had this rush of questions juts cone to my head. What was wrong with me? Why do I keep having miscarriages? Why did we have to lose another baby? Why did we lose this baby? What happened to baby? Was there something wrong with baby? Will we ever have any more children?
My OB said I would need an emergency D&C. I was extremely scared and said to Bill that I didn’t know if I could go through with it. My OB said that because the baby had passed away a few days before, the longer we left it, the more chance I’d have of an infection which could leave permanent damage and make it harder to conceive again.
I opted for a suction D&C as that would leave the least amount of scar tissue and would also be a slightly easier recovery. What I was also scared of was the fact that I would need to go under a general anaesthetic. This would be the first time I would go under one and I was terrified.
My OB got me into hospital that night.
Bill had been supposed to fly out later that day for a conference in Melbourne but he said he wasn’t going to leave me to go through it on my own. I was admitted to hospital ad spent most of my time crying hysterically.
I was so scared and upset about what this all meant for our future.
A D&C is an intense procedure and should not be thought of lightly. As soon as my procedure was complete, I woke up straight away and all I wanted to do was be with Bill and April.
As soon as I was given the all-clear, we rushed home and all I wanted to do was hold April.
She is our lucky charm and she brightened all the down times we’d had. April gave us hope that one day we might have more children. She gave us so much love and fills our live with so many smiles, even in the hardest of times. We were the three musketeers and would do everything together.
A Medical Diagnosis
We had a follow up appointment with my OB and she recommended us to both have further testing and also for the baby to have a post-mortem. As we had had 3 miscarriages in a row but still only one living child, she wanted to rule out anycomplications or anything that could be causing the recurrent miscarriages.
After we both had our blood tests, my OB called with the results to say that they thought baby had a chromosome disorder.
We were completely shocked and were anxious to know more information about wether it had caused the loss of our baby.
Our results from our blood test came back with Bill given the all-clear. However, my results came back with finding that I had a balanced chromosome translocation. I was so upset and felt that it was all my fault that we kept having miscarriages and that I kept putting Bill through all the losses and stress.
My OB referred me to a Genetics Counsellor who specialises in Balanced Translocations (BT). It was a stressful wait as we couldn’t get in for an appointment for a couple of months and we weren’t sure what my prognosis or diagnosis would be and what it would mean for us.
We met with my Genetics Counsellor who specialises in Obstetrics and Paediatrics and she explained what my Balanced Translocation meant for me and for expanding our family. They collected my family’s medical history and also asked my mother and father to have genetic testing to see if they carried the BT and therefore that would mean that I had inherited it.
A Balanced Translocation can be a balanced rearrangement between 2 or more chromosomes. My Balanced Translocation is between the short arm of chromosome 6 and the short arm of chromosome 14. It basically means that a piece of one chromosome is translocated or exchanged with a piece of another chromosome.
Being a carrier of a reciprocal translocation is not a problem for the carrier because all the genetic information contained in the chromosomes is present. I don’t carry any symptoms or show any signs of carrying this and it doesn’t affect my day to day life. The only symptoms and problems occur when trying to conceive, my pregnancies and my children. When I produce my eggs they carry the translocation and it is possible that there will be a loss or gain of genetic material. This is associated with infertility, miscarriages, stillbirth or babies with birth defects and physical or intellectual disability.
My BT gives me 4 different types of eggs: – eggs with normal chromosomes, eggs with a balanced translocation, or eggs with either an excess or deficiency of chromosomes.
From this I have 3 different possible outcomes for future pregnancies:
* A baby with the normal set of chromosomes
* A baby with the balanced translocation
* A conception with an unbalanced chromosome translocation which would mean an excess or deficiency in either chromosome 6 or 14
Such a pregnancy would most likely end up in miscarriage or it would be a loss so early that it wouldn’t even implant properly. My rate of miscarriage is higher than the normal population with 1 in 2 of my pregnancies ending in miscarriage. If a baby were to be born with an imbalance of the chromosome material such as an excess or deficiency in chromosome 6 or 14 they would most likely have significant intellectual impairment, and may have other problems which may or may not be detectable at the anatomy scan around 20 weeks gestation.
However, the prospect of an ongoing pregnancy with a chromosome imbalance as a result of the translocation would be small.
My genetics counsellor discussed IVF and PGD (Pre-implantation Genetic Diagnosis) with us and if it would help reduce my chance of miscarriages. But unfortunately, even if it was able to optimise balanced chromosome embryos or normal chromosome embryos, it wouldn’t necessarily reduce my chance of miscarriages.
She said that it was so uncommon that someone so young would be in her clinic and finding out they had a Balanced Translocation and discussing their options. She mostly saw women in their mid-late thirties, who were in a much harder position than me. She said that I had age and time on my side but from the age of 27, my egg quality and quantity would reduce.
In her experiences and research, my genetics counsellor had not come across anyone else with my specific chromosome translocation.
Leaving our genetics appointment, I felt so overwhelmed. We had been given so much information and we still felt so worried and anxious about what it all meant for us. It was good to get answers and to talk about our recent loss of our baby, who my Genetics Counsellor told us was a little girl.
I found it hard to know that we had lost a little girl as I felt so close to her and that I could have imagined her playing with April and watching her grow up.
From the information we were given at our appointment, we decided for us our best way forward was to keep trying naturally until we came to a point where we felt we needed to explore other options.
Finding Support Online
After my diagnosis, I took to the internet to try and find out more about BT and also in the hope to meet other people that might be going through something similar, as I was feeling quite alone.
Surprisingly, through Facebook I joined 2 groups for people of Balanced Chromosome Translocations and also those who are Pregnant and/or are already parents. These groups are made up of thousands of member from all over the world, all with different chromosome rearrangements and some who have experienced multiple miscarriages, pregnancy loss and some have experienced stillbirth or have a living child with a UBT and intellectual or physical disabilities.
It has been so amazing to “meet” even if it isn’t in person, all of these truly amazing people and to feel like I am a part of a big family. Without these wonderful ladies and men, I wouldn’t know as much as I know now about BT and I wouldn’t have the hope that I do.
Trying to conceive a baby can be an anxious time for anyone, but for someone with BT it can be a daily struggle. The daily cycle tracking, ovulation tests, the pregnancy tests and then the excruciating wait to find out if you conceived that cycle. If and once you have conceived, then comes the daily worry that something could happen to this baby and you could lose the pregnancy at any moment as well as the decision about whether to do further diagnostic testing and take another big risk.
For most of us, the rollercoaster doesn’t stop until we are holding our miracle baby in our arms.
At my time of joining, there was not one single member in either group who carried the same translocation as me. A couple of months after joining, a lady from America posted calling out for anyone else with a BT of 6 and 14. I couldn’t believe it! She was the first person I had heard of or been told of having the same BT as me.
Even though our specific arrangements are slightly different, they involve the same chromosomes. She also has one living almost 3 year old daughter and is on the journey of trying to conceive her second child. We have kept in contact and talk every so often. She is amazing and has been so supportive through my own journey.
Unwavering Strength & Support From Loved Ones
From everything we have learnt about my BT and all that we have been through with our recurrent miscarriages and the loss of a baby girl, it has made us even more grateful for our beautiful miracle daughter, April.
It may sound cliché to some, but we are so blessed to have her and to be her parents. She has endless amounts of energy and is always happy, making us laugh and every day with her is a fantastic, and imagination filled adventure. She provides us with so much happiness, love and purpose in life and we could not imagine the world without her gorgeous, sparkling smile.
I’m also extremely grateful for my close girlfriends who have been there for me every step of the way. They have listened to me, been a shoulder to lean on and been so supportive.
And it goes without saying, I’m so unbelievably grateful for my truly amazing and supportive husband, Bill. He has been a rock for me and has been there every step of the way. He is always there to listen to my worries, comfort and console me when I am upset and he always tries to help me stay positive. He is such a generous, wonderful, loving man and he does so much for our little family and I will be forever thankful. I would not have been able to get through everything that has happened, without him. We love each other so very much and we have such an exciting and bright future together ahead of us.
A Miracle Christmas Gift
Christmas of 2014, something truly magical happened. We were pregnant! We had made it past 12 weeks for the second time ever!
It has been a relatively easy pregnancy in terms of symptoms, although I did have some spotting in my second trimester which I naturally freaked out about.
We had a gender reveal party after my anatomy scan and found out we were expecting another little girl! Every week that goes by in this pregnancy, we get some sense of relief and it feels like a little celebration of a milestone. April is so excited to have a sibling and loves singing to “baby sister” in my tummy and giving her kisses and cuddles.
We are now on the countdown to meeting baby #2. I never would have thought I would have the privilege and honour and be so lucky to be this heavily pregnant again and have the chance to be a mother to another miracle princess.
We absolutely cannot wait to meet our baby girl and we are looking forward to our new journey as a family of four!
Thank you so much for sharing your brave and inspirational story Michaela. I’m with you every step of the way and can’t wait to share the wonderful news of your 2nd baby’s arrival! Wishing you so much love and blessings on this new journey that awaits your little family.
For any young Mums who are going through something similar or who have experienced pregnancy loss, know that you are not alone. You can contact me here if you wish to share your story too.