When Jamie Lynn Gernert discovered she was pregnant last fall, she thought she would be sharing much happier news with her friends and family this spring. But rather than posting a celebratory pregnancy announcement on Instagram, she is instead grappling with the grief of her second miscarriage.
Although Jamie and her husband, Nick, had a relatively easy first pregnancy with their son, Hudson, the couple's journey to conceive a second child has not been an easy one. As I chat with Jamie over the phone, she explains difficult medical terms—blighted ovum, chemical pregnancy, and chromosome abnormality—with a sense of optimism that's uncharacteristic of someone who has actually experienced them firsthand. Despite the devasting hardships Jamie has had to overcome, I can hear the positivity in her voice as she shares her story.
"We're optimistic," she explains. "A miscarriage happens in one of 10 pregnancies. A chromosome abnormality happens in one of 400. So I know I'm not alone," she says in a knowing and hopeful tone.
Here she opens up about confronting the grief of back-to-back miscarriages, finding solace in telling her story, and looking to the future with optimism, as told to Megan Beauchamp.
When my husband and I got married in 2013, we were ready to start our family right away. In January of 2014, we went about trying to conceive in the most organic way we knew how. Three months later, we found out we were pregnant with our son, Hudson. With him, we had a perfect pregnancy—we never had a hiccup. It was rapid, it was quick, and it was exciting. My husband and I both come from families with siblings, so we always knew we wanted to have two kids—we just waited for Hudson to turn 2 before trying again.
After Hudson turned 2 in January of 2017, we started trying for our second child. Again, it was an organic process. I wasn't peeing on an ovulation stick and I wasn't tracking anything on a calendar yet. In March of 2017, we found out that we were pregnant again. In retrospect, after our first pregnancy, we were kind of naive in thinking our second attempt was going to be just as easy as our first. We assumed the process of having our next child would be similar—after all, everything in our life was the same, except for the fact that we already had a kid.
When we went in for our nine-week appointment, something was off. The doctors told us that it didn't look like we were very far along. It only looked like we were six or seven weeks pregnant, rather than nine weeks. My immediate, gut reaction was that the dates didn't add up. When we went back to the doctor two weeks later, an embryo hadn't developed. They told us the technical term for what we were experiencing was a blighted ovum. Basically, an embryo doesn't develop but your body still thinks your pregnant.
There's an embryonic sac, but there's no embryo in it.
My first miscarriage was probably the best worst-case scenario. I didn't technically feel like I had lost anything because there wasn't anything to see on a sonogram—but I really didn't think that this was something that was going to happen to me. I thought, "We have a healthy kid, and it was easy. What do you mean this isn't going to happen again?" At the end of the day, I didn't feel empty or lost, it was just something that happened. It was just a setback. What I thought could have been a baby at the end of the year, wasn't, and that was okay.
I ended up taking a prescription to induce a miscarriage. I don't remember what was called, but basically, it flushes your system out. It sounds simple, but I ended up needing to go take the prescription three times to make sure every bit of tissue was removed so that my body could recover. By the time the whole process was over, it was June.
After my first miscarriage, my doctor ran a blood test to examine my hormone levels. She noticed that my progesterone level, which should be high in the first trimester of a pregnancy, was relatively low. While there's no scientific cause for a blighted ovum and it's just something that happens on its own, she recommended that I take progesterone, a hormone supplement. At the end of the day, again, if I compare my story to others, taking a supplement really wasn't that bad, so I was all for it.
Before we could start trying to conceive again, we had to skip a month, so we skipped July to make sure my cycle was regular again. Then we got a positive pregnancy test in August, which was a little bit of a surprise for us. I really didn't know how my body was going to react after that first miscarriage. But it turned out to actually be a chemical pregnancy. Basically, if you take an early pregnancy test, it just tries to find that pregnancy hormone. I had a pregnancy hormone in my body, but an embryo never developed.
My doctor basically said, "Well, it's a late period—just happens sometimes. Keep taking your progesterone hormone and try again."
At that point, I was a little defeated. I didn't think that another positive pregnancy test wasn't going to come to fruition. But I was optimistic. I didn't technically have a miscarriage. I didn't need to have surgery or take a prescription, so we just continued on our path. I realized my body was probably trying to figure itself out, so I started using ovulation sticks so I could track things better.
Our next positive pregnancy test came in November—two days before Thanksgiving. And I felt like, "Holy crap. Again? This one has to stick." I starting googling, "If you have a miscarriage and then a chemical pregnancy, what are your odds of actually having a successful full-term pregnancy?" Google can be your worst nightmare. And WebMD can be your worst nightmare. If anything, through this process, I've learned to just trust my body and my instincts.
We went to see our doctor at five weeks, and everything looked good—there was an embryo. Then we went in at seven weeks—and there was a heartbeat. At this point, my doctor thought my pregnancy hormones were a little low, but after a sonogram, she felt really confident that things were going in the right direction.
Our next appointment wasn't until the end of our first trimester, which happened to fall over Thanksgiving and Christmas. In a social setting, with our family knowing we were trying to have our second child, I think they would have figured it out on their own. So we just ended up just telling them, "We're a little early still, but we've got good news. We have a sonogram. We have a heartbeat. Keep your fingers crossed for us." We went into the New Year feeling like 2018 was going to be our year.
After the chaos of the holidays, my husband and I take an anniversary trip every January. While on vacation in Mexico—at this point, I was 11 weeks pregnant—I developed a really awkward bump. But two days after we came home, I started spotting. I immediately called my doctor to let her know, and at first, she wasn't worried. She said, "If it gets worse or if you experience any pain, I would recommend that you go to the emergency room."
Part of me was completely let down because I felt like we were so close, but part of me was comforted by the fact that I knew what was happening. If I went to the ER, I knew what they were going to tell me. But I knew my body could do it. I knew I could do it. I knew that this was a natural thing. When I was admitted to the ER, they took five vials of blood, they gave me a pelvic exam, they did a sonogram, and in the end, it looked like I was eight weeks along (instead of eleven weeks) and there was no heartbeat.
Over the next two days, I was in the worst pain I'd ever experienced.
On Monday, I had a doctor's appointment with my OB-GYN to have our first-trimester sonogram. I walked into her office with my ER paperwork knowing exactly what my body had just gone through. My doctor explained that because this embryo developed and had a heartbeat, this miscarriage was most likely a chromosome abnormality. My body had naturally detected that something was off and then basically discarded it. As hard as that sounds, in a weird way, it was almost a relief. My husband and I would take any baby that came our way, but I have to trust that my body knows what it's doing.
At the end of the day, my doctor explained that she couldn't correlate the two miscarriages. It wasn't like I had two chromosome miscarriages in a row or I had two blighted ova in a row. They were both very different. Therefore, I ended up falling into the percentage of women who have multiple miscarriages in a row, which is a real downer.
The two things I was hoping to get out of that doctor’s appointment, which I knew wasn't going to be a beautiful sonogram, were "Hey, is my body okay?" and "When can we start trying again?" I think, for every woman who's trying to conceive, all you need to hear or want to hear is that you are capable. At that appointment, my doctor explained that my body had managed the second miscarriage on its own and advised that we wait two months before trying again.
As a woman that has gone through two miscarriages in a row, it is comforting to see women, like Leandra Medine of Man Repeller, being so open about their experiences. You just want to hug them through the phone for a second and be like, "Girl, I got you. I know. You're going to be fine."