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Leaving the ultrasound that day felt like an exhale after years of holding my breath, rain pouring down after a summer of drought, a cold Aperol Spritz on a summer day on the deck. Relief. Comfort. Confidence.
I had no problem buying a $10 USB stick filled with photos of my tadpole child. A white dot amongst a sea of black uterus was the ultimate prized possession.
Before leaving the parking lot that day, Rob and I both snapped a photo of our blinking shrimp baby and ensured all our close family and friends received the happy news. Our close knit crew was well informed of our struggles and it would be ignorant to think they weren’t holding their breath for us too. Sending those texts and receiving those calls felt like a warm hug of community support: this baby was so loved already, WE were so loved.
Rob and I began our tradition that day: lunch and an Oreo cookie at our favourite spot in town to celebrate all prenatal visits, appointments and ultrasounds. Like a proud toddler wearing their MVP medal into the restaurant post-tournament: I brought my babies photo to the table that day. This tadpole wasn’t leaving my sight. Our first outing as a family. I’d kept the photo flipped upside down at the table to avoid confusion and would turn it over periodically as if my baby would magically start growing up in front of me. I couldn’t get enough.
After consuming something out of the ordinary from the menu and dropping my husband back at work with a kiss: I headed to my moms house with my bestie to soak in the July sunshine and lounge in her backyard pool.
Hours later, tanned and at peace, surrounded by my family and best friend: my phone rang. The phone sat across the yard as I floated luxuriously in the pool. My Apple Watch telling me the doctors clinic was calling. On a Friday. At 5pm.
Squeamishly I hollered for someone to pass me my cell as my heart began palpating out my chest. The breath I exhaled 3 hours ago was trapped again and my anxiety returned in an instant.
Ever have those one of those frog-in-your-throat moments? When your gut instinct kicks in from the last time the world cheated you? When trauma from your past resurfaces with a momentary jog of your memory? Yeah, this was it.
“Hello Ashlyn” the consoling voice of my angel-patient doctor began. “How was your ultrasound today?” she began the call by posing a question.
“Well, we finally saw our babies heartbeat, it was 170bpm, my due date was correct to the day” I started… “Everything was so great”... I went on.
“But, wait- was everything great?” I too, finished my first run-on sentence with a question.
“Well…” she began.
Fuck. My heart dropped. My family peered in my direction with eyes like laser beams as they could sense my bodies tension and facial reactions.
“Your ultrasound is showing signs of a threatened miscarriage”
The word miscarriage was traumatizing enough that my breathing laboured: you could surround that word with ANY opposing sentence structures and that’s all I would hear.
She went on:
“There is a blood clot between where your placenta and your uterus is” she described in more detail.
The questions instantly began consuming me.
“What does this mean?”
“What should I do?”
“What can I do?”
“What are the chances I…?”
“Why didn’t they tell me this 3 hours ago?”
“There is nothing you can do to prevent the inevitable Ashlyn” she continued with facts, “you are still in the first trimester and this stuff does happen. I also need you to know that this does NOT mean you are going to miscarry this baby, this just means we need to take a few precautions and be aware”
A few precautions? Sure! Throw them at me. Tie me to a bed post for the next 30 weeks. I’ll never go to the gym again. Who needs sex? Orgasms? Pffft. Food, water, tea, meds: I don’t fucking care.
“We have an appointment on Monday and we can talk more then, but in the chance that you began bleeding this weekend, I really wanted to touch base with you before I left work”
Bleeding? This weekend? My whole world shifted from perfect-baby-tad-pool-relief to blood-miscarriage and horror all over again.
She wrapped up the call by explaining that the blood clot could be dangerous to my baby if it became dislodged, and therefore, the best thing to do was: nothing.
Nothing. For me, nothing was everything and all I wanted to do was something.
I hung up the phone, removed myself from the pool and paced the backyard in my extra-tight swimsuit contemplating a hysterical reaction which would have no benefit. Then, I did exactly what every doctor and health professional tells you NOT to do when in health crisis panic mode.
“Threatened-miscarriage-blood clot-placenta-uterus” a handful of key words I remembered from the conversation that would populate a search generating a fuck ton of worry and anxiety.
After Googling, pacing and calling a dear friend of mine for clarification- the term: “subchorionic hematoma” or “SCH” was confirmed for me. Another thing to obsessively Google.
I joined Facebook groups and virtual support circles with other moms experiencing the same thing: NOT SMART. Everyday I read stories with captions reading *TRIGGER WARNING* and engrossed myself into a forum that was meant to be supportive but completely rocked my world with worry and stress.
When I told Robbie about the news, he again, calmly and collectedly, told me everything would be A-OK. That’s what Robbie does: he packages all his feelings into a sweet little box and tucks it away so I’ll never see it. A big glittery bow of confidence atop a pandora’s box of news that terrified me.
The weeks ahead were filled with anxiety, not celebration. The Russian roulette of bathroom breaks continued and gym dates of any kind halted. Sex and orgasms were non-existent.
The food cravings you hear about in the first trimester kicked into overdrive as I sat on my ass diligently. I was avoiding social interaction due to COVID and any form of movement due to my newest diagnosis. This period of time rocked my identity to the core.
Everything I once used as a coping mechanism for stress was on the other side of a healthy pregnancy:
Hugs and hang-outs
and I would have none of it.
The picture perfect “fitness influencer nutrition coach turned healthy pregnant lady” image I dreamed of was washing away in my third cup of pomegranate juice.
I was losing myself in hundreds of dollars of Skip The Dishes: on top of a daily Tim Hortons sausage breakfast sandwich and loafs of sourdough bread I would dunk in olive oil and eat for breakfast: all whilst unable to continue my formally established fitness routine. Who was this woman?
A bodybuilder who was once certain she would rock solid obliques and chin ups through her pregnancy was now engrossed in a pot of Kraft Dinner and emotional catastrophe.
It was during these weeks that I also learned that my sister-in-law was expecting too: her due date only 2 weeks behind mine. I was overjoyed to share this experience with my sister but would be lying if I didn’t admit to the pure terror of losing this child while watching another baby enter into our family. This would be my fourth niece or nephew born since my first miscarriage. My limiting belief of my bodies ability to carry this child full term whispered in my ears constantly: the fear of once again being left behind while our family continued to grow petrified me to the core.
Depressed, isolated, constantly hungry and continually anxious I discussed the repercussions of pelvic rest with my doctor.
“I’ll do ANYTHING” turned to “WHAT CAN I DO?” : this approach allowed me to focus on having a form of control and a handful of small action steps I could take to ensure I didn’t lose my baby, or myself, in this process.
After searching Google, my online SCH forums and picking my doctors brain- a small list of TO DO’s was compiled:
> Swimming: you can move your body in water as long as you were not actively bleeding.
> Pomegranate juice: Don’t ask me why, but it was recommended online for blood clots and SCH management religiously.
> Water: ensuring I was hydrated was key to avoiding cramping or contractions that could dislodge my blood clot.
> Drop the Omega 3s: high doses of Omega 3s can inhibit blood clot formation: getting a new prenatal vitamin without Omega 3s was key.
> Pelvic Rest: no sex, no orgasms, no lifting over 10 lbs. Apologies to my husband.
> “Choose to Believe”: this message was given to me along with a story from a mother who had experienced a ton of heartbreak and loss- followed by an eventual successful pregnancy. She suggested the need to celebrate EVERY milestone, fall in love with the process, eliminate doubt in your bodies capabilities and connect with your baby: even when it’s hard.
I checked-off my little list daily. I enrolled myself in lane swimming 5x per week, purchased the biggest sugar-free jug of POM juice you’ve ever seen, tracked 4L of water intake and upheld any sexual tension for a month.
And the hardest part of it all: I chose to believe. I chose to believe this time would be different. I chose to believe I was destined to be a mother. I chose to wake up every Sunday morning and rejoice in a high spirited voice to my husband “WEEK 10” or “WEEK 11” or a week I had never shouted previously: “WEEK 12” (this one hit different).
I would wake Robbie with a smile every Sunday before downloading our weekly “What to Expect” baby video. It became tradition. Sunday mornings became my favourite part of the week. Weekly bump photos became a way of believing in our family. I was choosing to believe.
Sharing the news with my extended friend group and family felt premature since an SCH put this babe at risk but I was becoming increasingly more excited to tell the world my secret. I’d been waiting years for the classic “Baby Gunderson Coming Soon” Instagram photo.
To gain some form of confidence before sharing our news, we had made the decision to complete genetic testing at the end of my first trimester-this would rule out a few chromosomal disorders (it would also confirm the gender of our babe). And, in addition, my doctor would begin checking weekly for babies heart beat to best monitor my SCH. No chromosomal abnormalities and a steady heart beat would provide me the confidence I needed.
I completed the genetic testing at the Lethbridge hospital and results would be given at my doctors appointment 10 days following. That entire week I dreamt of every issue that could result and every disease they could diagnose my tadpole baby with.
10 days later, no chromosomal abnormalities were found and the gender of my babe was given- disclosed in a tiny envelope which I immediately gave to a close friend to avoid the rapid desire to peak before our planned reveal A MONTH LATER. One month folks, I will-powered through an entire month without discloser.
Next, heart beat. She placed the goop on my lower abdomen and pressed the cold doppler on my skin with added pressure. Her eyes shifted from me, to Rob, back to my belly, with no sound resulting. She navigated the Doppler to the left… then to the right. Static from the Doppler filled the room: the white noise held within it a million fearful thoughts.
“We’re not going to find it today” the doctor spoke softly to my awe-struck face.
“I am going to send you for an ultrasound just to be sure everything is OK” she continued.
I lifted my body off the table, held back welled up tears, slipped on my pregnancy romper from the nearby chair and reached for my husbands outstretched hand.
I walked in silence down the hallway: Rob attempting to make light conversation.
“You know babe, it’s common to not find the heartbeat at 12 weeks, I’m sure everything is OK”
Nothing he could say could eliminate my stress. I had 3 hours until my ultrasound and I sat in teared-up silence until then: racing thoughts filled my mind.
When we arrived at our ultrasound, anxiety ran rampant through me. My body trembled in the waiting room as my husband continued to place his sweaty palm on my jittering knee.
We walked into the room, I dropped down my pregnancy romper, and we waited. We waited… and we waited.
And then, as if God himself was in that room: the blinking light of hope. It appeared. My babies heartbeat.
“Everything looks great” the tech explained- baby must just be hiding from the doctor today.
My entire body exhaled. A wave of relief washed over me.
“And what about my blood clot?..” I followed up with all the questions I was supposed to wait to ask my doctor.
“Oh, I could barely see it” the angel tech said with a soft shrug of the shoulder accompanied with a side smirk and head tilt. “It looks like it has shrunk by over 50%, your placenta must be absorbing it”
I wasn’t meant to have an ultrasound for another 8 weeks- and on this day, I got all the clarity and confidence I needed.
My baby didn’t have chromosomal abnormalities
My babies heartbeat was strong
My body was eliminating the hematoma that was threatening my child
and my babies gender awaited my perfect Gender Reveal party in an envelope.
I was finally ready to tell the world my news: I was going to be a Mom.
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