Image: Title, Miscarriage and Doctor Google. Woman’s hands typing on a keyboard.
Content warning: The title of this article is “Miscarriage and Doctor Google”, it contains subject matter surrounding miscarriage, pregnancy loss, and infant loss.
Joining the Lil Helper Family
In 2014, before I started working for Lil Helper, I was just your average customer and soon-to-be-first-time mother. I was 8 months pregnant with my daughter and avidly searching for eco-friendly baby products when I joined the Lil Helper family. It was when I picked up my first Lil Helper Charcoal Cloth Diaper at a baby store in Ontario, Canada. I was drawn to the unique prints and playful packaging but what sold me was that they seemed easy to use compared to other cloth diaper options. When I read they were “Designed by Rocket Scientists” I knew they would become my favourite. These were my kind of people, my kind of cloth diapers and my kind of family.
“How soon do dollar store pregnancy tests work”
A year after my daughter was born, my husband and I were ready to try for a second child. I always knew I wanted to have more than one child. I’m an only child who found it lonely growing up – there was never anyone else to blame messes on! I also knew that I wanted my children to be close in age. My husband and his brother are only 11 months apart and his mom always talks about how wonderful it was. Potty training was especially easy, she said, as my brother-in-law announced one day, “I go pee in toilet like Ben.”
I was so excited to start trying for another baby. We started thinking about names. We talked about how we would rearrange our apartment to fit a new crib. Best of all, I promised myself that when we conceived I would celebrate by updating our cloth diaper stash so that we could use exclusively Lil Helpers.
I stocked up on dollar store pregnancy tests and became hyper aware of everything my body did during my cycles. I memorized the early pregnancy symptoms that I’d googled about a hundred times. My best friend likes to joke that I always think I’m pregnant and she’s right! Every twinge, every strange taste in my mouth, every time my period comes a day late or starts with spotting I indulge myself in thinking that maybe I’m knocked up. Even during the times we weren’t actively trying to conceive, when we were being careful to avoid ovulation days and using protection, I still entertained the thought that we had somehow created an “against all odds” baby. In the 33 cycles I’ve had since I’ve stopped using birth control, I’ve been right 3 times.
“Fun ways to tell husband you’re pregnant”
It wasn’t too long before I knew I was pregnant again. I had all the early pregnancy signs – the metallic taste in my mouth, my boobs were a bit tingly… but the most telling sign of all was that around when my period was due, I started spotting. This had happened when I was pregnant with my daughter so I knew something was up.
The dollar store pregnancy tests weren’t picking up any HCG, however, and I kept getting negative results. This happened with my daughter as well – I didn’t get a positive pregnancy test for her until I had missed an entire period. So I splurged and got a digital test, one of those ones that say “YES+” or “NO-”. Sure enough, it was a Big Fat Positive (BFP).
I googled “fun ways to tell your husband you’re pregnant” and went with the old classic – I put a bun in our oven and told him to check out what I was cooking for dinner. I recorded him opening the oven and turning to me with a big grin on his face saying, “No way!”
In the small town we were living in at the time, there is a midwife duo that are (seriously) known as “The Cool Midwives.” When I was pregnant with my daughter I waited too long to register with them and was disappointed to learn they were booked solid. So, the second order of business was to call up “The Cool Midwives” and make an appointment. On the phone, I mentioned I was having some spotting but was reassured that it was normal. It wasn’t something to be concerned about unless I experienced heavy bleeding that filled a pad within an hour or painful cramping.
So, after telling my partner and making a midwife appointment, I jumped on the Lil Helper website. I excitedly crafted a detailed list of all the new diapers I wanted for my toddler and her little baby brother or sister.
“Where can I buy cigarettes near me”
“Something isn’t right,” I told my husband, “the spotting isn’t stopping. It just doesn’t feel right.” I had missed a whole period, but the spotting continued. It would stop for a few days and then return. Finally, it started getting heavier. About 10 days after I got my BFP, I started bleeding red. The first time I heard the term “Chemical Pregnancy” was at 4am in the ER at the hospital.
The sympathetic doctor told me all the relevant facts. My HCG level was 4 and that was considered negative for pregnancy. She said that maybe there had been something genetically wrong with the embryo. I was also informed that maybe there was never any embryo at all, that the egg might have implanted and then failed to progress. I’m sure I’m getting this all wrong, my memory of that night is really hazy. What I remember most of all is being cold, trying to cry quietly and desperately wanting a cigarette.
“Can HCG levels go down then back up”
The human memory is proven to be incredibly fallible. But of course, Google has a record of what I searched during this experience. For the next month, I basically fact-checked the doctor against BabyCenter forums. I googled “misdiagnosed miscarriage”, “heavy implantation bleeding” and “vanishing twin.” I found all the stories of hope I didn’t need.
Every time I found a story that sounded like mine, I read it out loud to my husband. He was very supportive throughout the whole process but the stories were wearing him down. He gently told me I needed to trust the professionals for real information and not the random strangers on the Internet. I called up the Cool Midwives. I had to cancel my appointment anyway. Over the course of two separate phone calls, each lasting about half an hour, one of the midwives patiently answered every single one of my questions honestly and truthfully. I stopped googling and waited for my period to return.
Trying for a Caniwi
The day after I found out I had miscarried, our family got some really exciting news. My husband had been offered a job in New Zealand, scheduled to begin around the time I would have been due to give birth. We took it as a sign that we weren’t meant to have another baby at that time. Even though I hadn’t fully given up hope until I’d spoken with the midwife, I did feel a sense of immense relief that maybe there was a reason this had all happened.
We started the visa process and decided to take a break from trying to conceive. We didn’t know what our medical coverage would be like in New Zealand and to be honest, we just weren’t ready.
“Pregnancy BBT charts”
It took us a little while to get settled in New Zealand. It’s pretty tough moving halfway around the world with a toddler and no family or friends around to provide support. But that’s a whole other blog post (or 50). After a few months of adjustment, we began to feel comfortable and started talking about trying for another baby.
I’d always wanted to chart my cycles using a BBT thermometer, so I picked one up from the pharmacy and started googling. I looked at hundreds of charts, plotted every ovulation symptom and religiously took my temperature first thing in the morning.
“How heavy is implantation bleeding”
In September 2016, I had a “great” looking chart. FertilityFriend detected ovulation from a dip in my temperature. My temperature rose and stayed relatively steady. But the most tell-tale sign of all happened again – I started spotting.
This time, it came a bit earlier that when my period was due. I had “implantation bleeding” – a small amount of vaginal bleeding that happens when the fertilized egg attaches itself to the uterine wall. It happened at just the right time: 7 days post ovulation. I knew that as early as 3 days later, I could get a positive pregnancy test. I tried to resist taking a test, as I knew it was possible that it could be another chemical pregnancy and that testing early could just lead to disappointment.
Alas, I couldn’t resist temptation. I took a pregnancy test and got another BFP. It was a very faint line, but it was a line and as the forums say – a line is a line. I was pregnant again!
“Faint line after darker line pregnancy test”
A line might be a line but if it’s faint in the beginning, it’s supposed to get darker as the days go by. My lines didn’t get much darker. I took 7 home pregnancy tests over the course of 8 days and didn’t see any improvement.
To make matters worse, I was still spotting. There was a point when I realized, however, that I didn’t actually know what spotting really looked like. Was it a few flecks of blood on the tissue or was it enough to require a panty liner? I spent about 2 hours googling “What does spotting look like?” I also messaged a handful of friends asking them the same question. The consensus? No one really knew for sure.
Let’s take a moment to talk about how strange this is. I have been a menstruating since I was 12 years old and I didn’t feel confident that I knew what spotting looked like! Parents, we need to talk about periods more, especially with our daughters. I had thought spotting was only a little bit of pink or brown flecks on the tissue. What I learned was that it can, in fact, require a panty liner. It can also be pink, brown, or red. I took comfort in the fact that the spotting I was experiencing was only pink or brown coloured, meaning it was light bleeding or old blood.
“Activities to do with toddlers when you’re on bed rest”
The spotting continued and so did the googling. I found information about subchorionic hematomas and breakthrough bleeding. I noticed the spotting got more intense when I was active and it stopped when I was at rest. So I put myself on bed rest and made a doctors appointment.
The doctor couldn’t see me until the following week and I was a tightly wound ball of anxiety. I spent hours googling different variations of the same searches. I found it hard to focus on tasks. My mind would wander and I would find myself typing www.google.com before I even realized what I was doing. When my daughter grabbed my phone from me and said, “Please play with me, Mommy,” I knew my relentless Google searches had become a serious problem. But I was stuck in this state of limbo, not knowing what was going on inside my uterus. The spotting would stop for a day or two only to return for a few hours. I kept getting faint lines. Deep down, I knew something was wrong but I couldn’t give up hope.
“Slow rise HCG pregnancy”
The spotting had stopped completely by the time the doctor was able to see me. Despite the fact that my home pregnancy tests kept displaying faint lines, I was feeling optimistic. So when my husband told me he had to go work in a different city 3.5 hours away for a week, I said I would be fine. That was the longest week of my life.
The doctor informed me that my HCG level was very low, 46. She said I had miscarried again. But the spotting had stopped! Maybe she was wrong, maybe this was just a slow start. There are plenty of stories online that gave me hope. Stories about slow HCG rise, vanishing twins and mixing up ovulation dates.
A couple days later, the spotting started again… but this time, it was red and it was getting heavier. It quickly became evident that the doctor was right, the pregnancy was not viable and I had miscarried again.
It was over and I was emotionally exhausted. I was also alone with a toddler who knew I was sad. I tried to hide it from her but her comforting hugs meant the world. Of course, I wished my husband were there to comfort me as well. We talked on the phone about 10 times a day until he returned home. I reached out to family and friends in Canada and I had so much love and support during this time, yet I still felt empty and alone. I caved and bought a packet of cigarettes and a bottle of wine. Band-Aids.
What I Learned
- I’m an optimist until the bitter end. For weeks after my first miscarriage, I was googling “misdiagnosed miscarriage”. I would find these miraculous stories of women who had periods throughout their whole pregnancies. That could be me! Eventually, I realized this behaviour was unhealthy for me. Which leads me to the second thing I learned…
- I really need to stop googling things. For every example of search terms I shared above, I had googled essentially the same thing 3 different ways. (To see a list of what I searched during my miscarriages, click here. Repeat searches have been removed.) I was constantly searching for the answer I wanted. It was always found buried on the 4th page of a BabyCenter forum post. But did reading those stories ultimately do me any good?
During my miscarriages and subsequent obsessive googling, I saw the same two pieces of advice come up over and over again,
When you get a positive test result, stop taking tests. Stop charting your basal body temperature.
Simply, enjoy being pregnant.
Following this advice wouldn’t have changed the outcome of my pregnancies. It would only have made the experience less stressful. I wouldn’t have wasted money on all those pregnancy tests only to see the lines get fainter. Maybe I would have spent less time on Google and more time with my daughter. If my Granny were here she would tell me,
“Should’ve’s and Could’ve’s are words we don’t use, they only depress us and give us the blues.”
She was a smart lady, my Granny. She knew it isn’t healthy to have regrets or to think too much about what you could have done differently. Moving forward, when we decide to try again, I will do my best to avoid “Doctor Google”. If we are blessed with another pregnancy, I promise to follow the advice above. I only hope that if I concentrate on enjoying being pregnant, I won’t ask Google if I’m not.
Image: Title, Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Month
October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month
On October 15th, all around the world, those affected by pregnancy and infant loss light candles at 7pm to create a “Wave of Light”.
Pregnancy and Infant Loss is something that we care deeply about at Lil Helper. We think of our customers like family and, as a family, we need to support each other through difficult times. That is why we have the God Forbid Guarantee. This policy states that, “God forbid, if something unexpected were to happen during your pregnancy or birthing, Lil Helper Cloth Diapers will refund your entire purchase.”
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