Make sure you’ve read part two of the story here before reading on.
Before you read any further, know these things:
- This is MY experience. I’m not here to compare myself to anyone else or weigh my hard against yours. I have a new understanding for difficult, high risk pregnancies and loss during pregnancy, but know that my difficult and my loss might not be the same as someone else’s. That doesn’t negate anyone’s experience!
- I don’t necessarily endorse every single tip or belief in the resources I’ve linked, but I still think they’re really great resources worth sharing.
- TRIGGER WARNING: loss, pet euthanasia
- I’m still learning! I might get some things wrong entirely here, or what worked for me might be wrong for you. Please give me grace and know I’m not writing to claim I know anything about babies or parenting. I’m just sharing what I’ve learned through my own pregnancy journey — I named my blog “Lessons Learned & Life Loved” for a reason. As I’ve already mentioned, every pregnancy is different, and one of the biggest things I’ve learned is there’s no such thing as a “normal” pregnancy.
- Expressing my honest dislike for and difficulties with pregnancy in NO way relates to my love for my daughter. More women SHOULD feel empowered to talk about the less-than-beautiful, downright awful parts of pregnancy. As always, I feel called to write about this, and if something I write in this specific post helps just one person, then it’s all worth it. If this post isn’t for you, move on.
Month 4: complications, sacrifice, loss
This month, things really took a turn. We were supposed to get a call with our NIPT results in week 12 but never did. When I finally called my doctor’s office, they called back in the middle of my roughest class of the day to tell me the test yielded no results. After running down the hall to get service to answer this call, I was devastated. We were so patient in waiting and so eager to know something, and they weren’t even going to let us know the test had failed had I not called first. Luckily, they said we could try again now that I was a little farther along, and maybe there would be more fetal DNA for the lab to read. At the time, I really didn’t know the right questions to ask or understand how the test worked, but that’s just how it is when you’re a first time mom.
Between the hypothyroidism and the NIPT tests, I had never had my blood drawn so much in my life, and I was frustrated. There are many reasons for a failed NIPT test, but I did begin to worry regardless. There could be a lack of fetal DNA, lab mishandling, or a chromosomal abnormality.
The day I was going to get my blood drawn for the second test, February 17, was a snow day for me, but not for my husband. He wanted me to wait for him to get home so he could drive us safely to the hospital. Shortly after he got home, I was in the shower and he was laying in bed with our two pups. I got out of the shower, walked into our dark bedroom to get dressed, and our dog with the cloudy eye, Sadie, attacked me. She did have a history of aggression, especially with me, but it never got this far (read her adoption story here). I don’t know if she didn’t recognize me or what went through her mind, but it was terrifying. Had my husband not been there to get her off of me, I don’t know what would have happened.
Instead of going to get my blood drawn, we went to the CVS MinuteClinic. Luckily, she only broke the skin on the inside of both of my knees and I didn’t need stitches. My husband knew this was the end of Sadie living in our home, but I was adamant that we’d figure something out. Sadie was our first baby and a huge part of our family. She was herself again when we got home, and for 24 hours, we tried to carry on with life like normal.
Three days later on the morning of Sunday, February 20, I was getting ready for church in the bathroom, and I could feel Sadie guarding the bathroom door out in the hall. I checked my Apple Watch, and my heart was racing. In that moment, I knew I was terrified of her, I knew there’s no way she could be around this baby we were bringing into the world, and I knew that we couldn’t keep her. I escaped the bathroom, got into the car with my husband, told him what I just realized, and we spent the entire ride, the entire service, and the rest of the day crying. We even went to see an Auschwitz exhibit that day because we were gifted tickets for Christmas, and this was an experience meant to be so heavy and somber, but we didn’t shed a single tear over it. This was the end of our time with our Sadie girl, and nothing could be as heavy as that realization.
Monday was Presidents’ Day, and we had a baby appointment that morning. Our doctor was delivering a baby, so we saw one of her nurses, which happened to be a Godsend. When we filled her in about Sadie attacking me, she was able to empathize with us because she and her husband also had to give up one of their fur babies for the same reason. By then, we had reached out to the rescue where we got Sadie and made a vet appointment the following day to see if something was wrong with her that could be fixed.
The weather was gorgeous that Monday, and we spent the entire day in the backyard with Sadie and Daisy. Sadie always loved sitting on our laps, and we took turns holding her and crying. She was so happy; we couldn’t fathom a life that wasn’t this.
The next day was not only Sadie’s vet appointment, but also the new principal interviews. I actually spent the night at my parents’ house the night before because I was scared to be alone with Sadie in the morning since my husband leaves for work before I do. I was grateful for the distraction of the interviews that day; Sadie’s appointment was that evening at 5:00 PM. I met my husband there, and going into it, I think he knew this was goodbye, but I was holding out hope for something the vet could do to help us help Sadie.
She immediately became aggressive with the techs as they tried to weigh her, and I couldn’t even go in the room. I waited in the lobby, hearing my husband absolutely sobbing with our poor muzzled girl as the vet tried to examine her. When the vet came out to consult me, I immediately became so stoic. My husband knew we’d be putting her down this evening, but he sent the vet to me to make the final call. He said that she likely had something in her brain that was making her unpredictably aggressive, and it’s just not safe to keep her. As much as I loved her, I was terrified to be in our home with her, and I would never forgive myself if we kept her and she hurt our helpless human baby.
My husband and I had discussed giving her back to the rescue to be readopted (to a fifth family…) or giving her to one of our friends or family, but what if she did it again to someone else? And how could we live knowing our baby wasn’t ours anymore? Wouldn’t we just be putting another family in the same situation as ours was in now, except without the immense love we had for her? The vet told us that putting Sadie down was the hardest right decision we’d ever make.
After I signed the forms giving them permission to euthanize Sadie and they had given her some anesthesia, I joined my husband in the room. I hated seeing her muzzled. Together on the floor we held Sadie, kissing her, telling her she was a good girl, and telling her we loved her so much. She was such a good girl. As I mentioned in my blog post about how we adopted Sadie, she was a special needs puppy, and she had a heart murmur on top of her cloudy eye. Her heart rate hardly even slowed with the anesthesia, but we finally felt it slow down for the first as the vet injected her with the euthanasia and her life left her body.
This was the most gut-wrenching experience of my pregnancy and, frankly, of my life. I now know why dads are the ones who take family pets to be put down, and I know why my husband didn’t want to get a dog in the first place. Again, I became stoic, taking off Sadie’s collar while my husband begged Sadie to get up and come home with us. That broke me. I’m glad I was there holding her in her final moments, but those moments are some that will forever replay in my mind and be the hardest to remember. Not a day goes by where I don’t wish it was different and I don’t wrestle with the equal fear and love I had for Sadie in the end.
When we got home, we loved on our sweet Daisy and continued to cry. The following days and weeks were filled with one or both of us saying, “we killed her,” and trying to convince whoever said it that that simply wasn’t the truth. We made the hardest right decision for our family. Because of her build and coloring, we’d sometimes call Sadie our Sadie deer. Our house backs up to the woods, and for weeks after we said goodbye to Sadie, so many Sadie deer would graze just beyond our fence, reminding us of our girl.
Daisy has become a different dog since losing Sadie. I think she too was more afraid of Sadie than we ever realized. At first, I had moments in our house where I’d think Sadie was hiding in a dark corner waiting to attack me again, and sometimes I’d even mistake Daisy for Sadie in our bedroom. My whole life I’ve never been afraid of dogs, but that fear lives in me now. A few times, luckily when my husband has been with me, dogs have escaped their backyards or been off leash when I walk Daisy in the neighborhood. Memories of the attack come flooding back to me in those moments, and I can only hope one day I’m no longer afraid.
After that loss, we really needed some good news from the second NIPT test. It didn’t matter if our baby did have genetic abnormality; we just wanted to know something. Unfortunately, the second test yielded no results too, which sent us to a high risk OBGYN. We suspected we might have to go there already because I had COVID early on in my pregnancy, but because I’m young and healthy in all other regards, my doctor didn’t think it was necessary until the failed NIPT tests.
This sent me into a spiral. I was mad at God. I was mad at the “thing” growing inside of me. This baby made me give up my fur baby, my Sadie, and I didn’t know how I could love something who caused all that. I knew it was wrong to think that, but I didn’t care. The pain of losing Sadie, having to CHOOSE to lose Sadie, to choose to sacrifice her for our human baby, ran so incredibly deep, and the baby just didn’t feel real.
Ultimately, I knew where loving something who had such special needs, high risks, and limited time got me, and I couldn’t put myself through that again. If I was this grief-stricken over a dog we had for three and a half years, how would I handle something so tragic happening to the child growing inside of me? I was scared to love this baby. I didn’t want to love this baby for fear of losing it. But I also knew, deep down, that I never pictured our lives with Sadie and a baby in it. I don’t know why, but God always told me the two couldn’t co-exist. Maybe that’s why I loved Sadie so hard and often cried just holding her or looking at pictures of her; her time with us was always going to be so short, but in that short time, she taught my husband and I how to truly love someone unconditionally, even when it’s the hardest thing in the world.
Opening up about what happened with Sadie has been extremely challenging. In fact, I didn’t tell many of the people I’m closest to for the longest time, and probably some of those people are finding out what happened as they read these words. It’s hard to talk about let alone write down in permanent words. I cried through writing this, and my husband cried just as much proofreading it. There’s a hole in our family from this loss, and while our baby will fill it in some ways, I think in others, a part of our hearts will always be a little broken.
Unfortunately, two of my close friends have had extremely similar experiences with pets and pregnancy, and my heart equally breaks for them. My prayer is that this particular blog post in the series will reach other people who find themselves in the same impossible situation we were in with our Sadie girl. There is a bit of strength in knowing you’re not alone in the most terrible circumstances.
On March 3, we met with our high risk OBGYN for the first time, and we felt a sense of peace as he explained that it wasn’t that there wasn’t enough fetal DNA in my blood either time; rather, it was that the “key” this particular lab had couldn’t read my results. He also explained all of our options moving forward. We knew we wanted to do something that was the least invasive — so no amniocentesis — and I refused to have any more blood drawn to do another brand of NIPT. That left us with continuing to see the high risk doctor and monitor my pregnancy and our baby as if it was high risk. Though we still didn’t have answers, we felt better and just had to believe things would get better from here.
Read the next part of the story here.