If you would have asked me 10 years ago if I would have ever thought I would have gone through what I went through, I would have thought it was unbelievable. But here I am, through it all on the other side, and oh so grateful. Let me take you back to where it all started, in 2008. I met my now husband on Match.com. We had our first blind date at Olive Garden. We still go to that Olive Garden often, and I walk past the booth where we ate and smile, and think “that’s where it all started”. Nine months later, we were engaged and on August 21, 2010, we chose to be each other’s forever.
Later that year, in December, I went in for my routine PAP, only this one was not “routine”. I was told it was abnormal, and I would have to come back in exactly one year and have another. On my follow up PAP, I was told it again was abnormal, and this time I had “low grade cell changes”. They recommended I get a Colposcopy and possibly a biopsy, if they see any possible cancer. At the time of this news I no longer had medical insurance so I was pretty much in a panic. Where do I go to get this test? Everyone wanted $1000+, money I didn’t have. After some Googling, I found I could get this test at the Planned Parenthood. Not my first choice of places to go, but hey, beggars can’t be choosers right?
Sitting in the waiting room of Planned Parenthood with my mom and Garret was so strange. There were people there for all kinds of things. STD’s, general care, birth control, and I’m sure, even abortions. They called me back to the exam room. This was my first time no one could come back with me and hold my hand. Planned Parenthood has a strict policy of patient only beyond the waiting room due to prior incidents. During the colposcopy, my nurse found several spots of cancer and took 6 biopsies. Six!!! She showed me a diagram of my cervix and basically said, it was pretty much covered with cancer and I needed to book an appointment immediately to get it cut out. A few weeks later, I had my LEEP, where they burned/cut out a thick layer of my cervix to hopefully remove all of the cancer. Those 7 days of waiting till I had a follow up appointment to find out if I had clear margins or not was the most stressful of my life. I received good news though, clear margins, they got it all, and I would not need any further treatment!!! The DR told me the side effects of the surgery could include difficulty getting pregnant, and possibility of a miscarriage. While this weighed on my mind some, Garret and I were not in a place where we were trying to have a baby, so it was put on the back burner.
About 3-5 months later, I started noticing that I seemed like I was ALWAYS on my period. Bleeding most of the month, but I honestly just thought it was because of the major surgery I had to my cervix. I thought well of course everything is all out of whack right now, I just had surgery to my cervix. I made an appointment to see a DR though, as I now had insurance and a new job. At that appointment, I got more bad news. I had Uterine Fibroid Tumors, and one was the size of a grapefruit. I had a moment where I thought, well that’s it, it’s definitely cancer and I’m going to die. I mean, now could it NOT be cancer right? I just had cancer in that same area, and a super aggressive kind too. I was told since my tumors were so large, I would need an Abdominal Myomectomy, which is basically a C-Section, except they don’t remove a baby, they remove the tumors. Some of my tumors were imbedded in my uterine lining which made it an excruciating recovery.
The worst pain I’ve ever felt in my life. I couldn’t sit up on my own for about a week. Luckily and shockingly, the tumors ended up not being cancerous, and I was able to just focus on recovery from surgery. I was told, again, I now had an even higher chance of a miscarriage, and I was told I needed to wait at least a year or two to get pregnant, as my uterus would not be strong enough to hold the baby full term at this point. I was 32, and my internal clock was now click click clicking! I knew I wasn’t quite ready yet for a baby, but the thought of the decision being made possibly for me, depressed me. I knew Garret would be such an amazing father and I wanted to experience it with him, as a team. I closed my eyes and pictured my life at 60, and I would have been sad not to have kids and grandkids.
Finally, at 34, we got pregnant! We were thrilled!! I couldn’t believe it! I thought we would have months and months of trying, and months and months of disappointments. But here I was, PREGNANT, after only 1-2 months of saying “let’s give it a try”. We were so excited, we told everyone! I was on cloud 9. On 7 weeks, 4 days, I went in for my first ultrasound. Garret was waiting in the lobby. The technician was taking pictures and moving the wand around. I kept waiting for that part to be over and for her to flip the screen so I could see our little baby and hear the heartbeat. She never did. I asked if I would get a picture, she said no. This was strange. Everyone on earth I know who’s ever had a baby said they got to see the baby and left with pictures. She told me she just takes pictures and sends to my DR and that’s it. I left with a sinking feeling something was wrong. Garret kept trying to assure me I was just overthinking it and everything was fine. All day I was an emotional wreck, why I went to work is beyond me. I should have just gone home. At 3:30pm on November 6, 2014 I got the call from my OB. “It looks like a fetal demise”. A what??? “The baby passed away, there was no heartbeat”. I honestly didn’t even know that was such a thing. I thought the baby could just never get a heartbeat at all, but to have a heartbeat at 5 weeks and grow to 7 weeks, and then just stop? I had to give blood every day for a week to check my HCG levels. They were actually rising instead of dropping. My body didn’t know my sweet baby was no longer alive. Therefore, I wasn’t going to pass it on my own, and honestly, I didn’t want to. I booked my D&C. The night before, I called the hospital to get my surgery time and they didn’t have me on the books. My DR’s staff forgot to fax over my surgery request. So I had to wait an additional week. I have to admit, at first I felt traumatized that I had to walk around with what I felt was “a dead baby inside me”, but my dear sweet mother put it to me a different way. She said I was providing my sweet angel baby a safe loving home until he/she went to heaven.
After the D&C, we were told to wait several months to try and get pregnant again. Waiting wasn’t hard because my menstrual cycle was completely crazy for a few months. Then, I had to get my tonsils removed which took me out of commission for a few weeks in June/July 2015. By now, it was October 2015, and I still wasn’t pregnant. It was almost a year since I had the D&C and I was 35, and starting to feel maybe I wasn’t going to ever get pregnant again. Garret and I went and got an ovulation predictor kit. We actually never used it because that night, I tested positive. I was pregnant again!!! Baby Irelan was due July 2, 2016!!! I was about 3-4 weeks pregnant, but my DR wasn’t going to see me for my first ultrasound until I was 9 weeks. Those were the longest 5 weeks of my life! I had so many mixed emotions. I would be so excited at times, and then so depressed at times, thinking I couldn’t let myself get excited until I knew there was a heartbeat. Like, it wasn’t real, until I heard the heartbeat. The day after thanksgiving (Black Friday), I had my first ultrasound with our rainbow baby. As he placed the ultrasound wand, I wasn’t breathing, my heart was beating out of my chest. I was tearing up. I didn’t want this to be the end again! That’s when he turned to me and said, and there’s the heartbeat, and turned on the sound. Garret and I heard Olivia’s heartbeat for the first time. I started crying. I’m kind of tearing up right now just writing about it. I left that appointment with 5 pictures and a heart full of hopes and dreams!
I was high risk though. I was now 36, with prior surgeries to my uterus. From week 13 to 25, he wanted to see me every 2 weeks to make sure my cervix did not weaken from the weight of the baby and I would need a cerclage. Before each appointment I would stress and cry. They weren’t enjoyable for me, because I kept thinking, this is it….this is the appointment where I’m going to get the bad news that something is wrong….or that our baby has no heartbeat. At about 11 weeks pregnant, I took a genetic blood test since I was over 35 to determine if there was anything wrong with the baby. I found out my baby was healthy, and I was having a girl!! I’d wanted a little girl so bad! A little mini me. And oh the shopping began (and it’s never stopped, haha).
After 25 weeks, when I was cleared for my cervix not giving out, I now was again high risk and was checked weekly to make sure my uterus didn’t rupture. Even though I would say looking back I had a very easy pregnancy, it was very stressful. Every step of the way I had risks and fears. At 33 weeks, I tested positive for amniotic fluid outside my cervix and I was told I was having contractions. I was taken off work and told to take it easy. I already was going to have a scheduled C-Section 2 weeks early at 37 weeks 6 days because I had to have Olivia before I went into labor. Large contractions could make my uterus rupture due to all the scarring inside.
I made it to my C-Section date, June 17, 2016. At 11:45am, Olivia Nicole Irelan was born. She was perfect and so beautiful. My sweet rainbow after the storm, and what a storm it was, but it was worth it. She was worth it.