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Gestation, Genetics, and Grief

I have to be honest, outside of a base college genetics class, I had never given the topic of genetics much thought. In fact, if you asked me five years ago, I would have written the topic off as boring. I thought it was boring until it became extremely personal, and then I became an amateur geneticist spending hours sleuthing and researching the topic every single day. Five years ago, I was forced to learn all I never wanted to know about pregnancy loss and genetics.

If you have read my previous blogs about our infertility journey you are aware of the emotional rollercoaster ride that we went on, but I want to touch more on the impact that genetics had on our journey and my psyche. Both of my pregnancy losses were due to genetic abnormalities. Two unrelated, rare, and fatal genetic diagnoses. I was a statistical exception not once but twice, and doctors told me multiple times how “unlucky” I was. My emotions surrounding these two pregnancy loss diagnoses swung like a pendulum. On one side, I was angry that I had to be the exception, and on the other side, I simply did not believe that there wasn’t more to it. The pendulum and emotions swung back and forth violently, but eventually settled somewhere in the middle in a place of resignation and acceptance.

After each pregnancy loss and each diagnosis, I spent hours upon hours researching the genetic abnormality that I read on each report. I wanted to know exactly where things went wrong, what I could do about it for future pregnancies, and most pressingly why did this happen to ME. I consulted a genetic counselor, a stranger in Ohio, who had probably the largest impact on my emotional well-being in my entire infertility journey. She patiently and empathetically walked me through my losses and the genetic component of each one. She gave me facts, research, and statistics all while showing me such gentle compassion for my losses. She helped me to make sense of what occurred in my body and ultimately make peace with myself and my pregnancies.

Like so many women before me, I spent hours, days, and months, ruminating about what I did wrong to cause the loss of my pregnancies. Was it the cup of coffee each morning? Was it the workout a few days a week? Was my prenatal vitamin not adequate? I would come to learn and accept that no, it was something far more complicated and out of my control. Two genetic abnormalities, completely random and unavoidable, occurred before I even knew there was a tiny embryo growing and dividing. Despite all the anger and disbelief, that such a tiny coding error would cause me to lose two pregnancies that I so desperately wanted, I found comfort in having an answer to all of the “was it” questions. I was able to let go of what I did to cause this and instead, very slowly, accept that my babies’ mortal fates were determined before I even knew they were there.

Jessica Hadwin

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