When the doctor said the words, “I’m so sorry. I have to give you the worst news.” everything went still. I could not believe what I was hearing; I was in shock. Yet somehow I still mustered the question, “Is there any way to know what happened?” He replied with a response that we would hear several times over the next 6 weeks, “Sometimes these things happen, and we have no way of knowing why. Fifty percent of stillbirths have no explanation.”
Half of all stillbirths have no explanation? How is that possible? With everything we know, how in the world is that possible?
During labor with Ginny, Daniel and I discussed it. We would have tests done on me, Ginny’s body, and the placenta to try to find what happened. We decided it was not because we needed to know what happened to Ginny (nothing would bring her back), but it was so we could have all the information to help in planning our future family. All the tests came back negative. No cause could be identified. Doctor’s gave us reasons why it wasn’t a cord accident, it wasn’t genetic, it wasn’t anything we did, it wasn’t anything we didn’t do, it wasn’t my thyroid, it wasn’t my antibodies, it wasn’t an infection… The list went on, and everything got crossed out. I was relieved and disappointed at the same time. All they could tell us was that Ginny was small for her gestational age and the placenta was small and unhealthy.
We entered into pregnancy with Chet holding our breath with our eyes wide open. We didn’t know what had happened; it could happen again. But this time we would be closely monitored. If it looked like Chet was showing signs of growth restriction, we could potentially take action.
Little did I know that all of Chet’s monitoring would actually shed light on what happened to Ginny. At the 11 week ultrasound, the technician identified that I have a septum in my uterus. The maternal fetal medicine doctors described what a separate uterus was. The interior of a normal uterus is shaped like a triangle, and mine is more of a heart. There is a divide at the top half of my uterus. It was something I was born with. Usually this anomaly results in recurring early miscarriages or preterm births. There wasn’t much data on whether it causes late stillbirths like mine. They couldn’t tell how large my septum was since my uterus was stretched during pregnancy. But if my septum was significant, they said it was possible that Ginny’s placenta had reduced blood flow. That aligned with the fact that the placenta was small and unhealthy, resulting in her growth restriction. The doctors explained that Chet’s placenta was growing up onto the septum, but we were already monitoring him. We would have to wait and see if it impacted his growth.
Thankfully Chet’s growth was never impacted! He was born at a healthy 8lbs 10oz at 39 weeks!
After Chet was born, my doctors referred me to get an ultrasound of my empty uterus to evaluate the septum. I was nervous to get the ultrasound for multiple reasons: 1) ultrasounds are always kind of triggering since we learned Ginny had died in an ultrasound and 2) I so badly wanted an explanation for Ginny’s death. I was afraid that this, like all the other tests, would lead nowhere. I postponed the ultrasound multiple times because of this, using COVID as an excuse. Once I was fully vaccinated, I had no more excuses and anxiously went to my appointment at the hospital.
God’s grace shows up again and again. He provided comforts for me during my appointment. As I was waiting in the crowded waiting room, I met a husband and wife who were staying at The Family House where I worked. They were there to get a check up after being 2 years cancer free! They told me how helpful Family House was to them and what a special place it is. Hearing that warmed my heart and helped me during the anxious wait.
When I got called back for the ultrasound, the technician was a sweet young woman. She asked if Chet was my first, so I told her about Ginny. She empathetically listened, and then shared that she had a miscarriage two weeks earlier. We were able to have compassion for each other. We discussed losing a baby, when to decide to try again, and pregnancy after loss. We said we would be praying for each other. She was the exact right person at the exact right time. We both needed each other, so God allowed our paths to cross.
After the scan, an OB who I’d never met came in. He said that my septum was in fact significant. He said that septums like mine do cause 2nd and 3rd trimester losses. The good news is that it can be removed with a simple outpatient surgery.
It was the answer I wanted. It gave me such peace. This explains what happened to Ginny, and it is fixable! I knew in my heart that it was my body and not hers that caused her death, but I didn’t have an answer until now. Ginny’s death could’ve been prevented if I had known about my septum, but I had no way of knowing. Some guilt was lifted from my shoulders. It wasn’t something I did, and I couldn’t have known.
A couple weeks later I met with a surgeon from the fertility clinic. He said my septum is 1/3 to 1/2 of the way down into my uterus and it is very wide at the top. It is more of a wedge. He said I am a great candidate for the surgery. The surgery only takes 30 minutes, and the recovery is only a day or two. When I asked him his thoughts on this causing my stillbirth, he explained that the portions of the placenta attached to the septum would not receive adequate blood flow to keep up with the needs of a growing baby. Then he said, “What I can’t explain is how you had a healthy pregnancy.”
We knew Chet was a miracle. This confirmed it. He is a miracle in so many ways. He beat the physical odds to be born big and healthy even though I have a septum. He brings us so much joy and love as our rainbow. And because of him, we now have answers about Ginny. I’m so grateful for our boy!
I’m scheduled to have my septum resection in early July. I’m a little nervous but mostly just relieved. After over 2 years we finally have an answer. It doesn’t bring Ginny back, but it does offer some rest. I am blessed to be part of the small percentage of loss moms who found out what happened and can do something to hopefully prevent it from happening again.