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Holding on to Hope

It’s the little things that give her the greatest joy now. Like hugs from little arms and snuggles after a long day away. Mrs. North Dakota International, Jennifer Mauch, doesn’t take these everyday moments with her children for granted. Now the mother of three, she nearly didn’t have her two youngest as multiple miscarriages and a life-threatening ectopic pregnancy altered her path to becoming a mother again.

Jennifer had her oldest daughter, Ally, 10, in a previous marriage with few complications. Later, when she married Chad, she assumed having another baby would go as smoothly as the first.

Unfortunately, it didn’t. Six weeks into her pregnancy, Jennifer miscarried.

“I struggled a lot; it was a very hard time for me,” Jennifer recalls. “I felt like I was failing my husband. No one around me knew what was going on.”

Like many women, she didn’t talk about her pregnancy loss to friends or even her husband. “I kept it to myself and felt like I was on my own.” She and Chad kept trying and several months later, she was pregnant again. A few weeks into her first trimester, she took part in a swimming party for kids. The pain hit and wouldn’t stop. Jennifer feared the worst, but a visit to a local emergency room resulted in a diagnosis of a bladder infection.

“They sent me home and we were so grateful that it was just a bladder infection. I drank cranberry juice and tried to rest,” she says. But the pain grew worse, much worse. Jennifer then started passing out around the house, and by morning was in serious pain. She went to the local clinic and they sent her to the hospital – an hour’s drive away.

“I almost died on that trip,” she recalls.

She was diagnosed with an ectopic pregnancy and taken into emergency surgery. “Jennifer is lucky to be alive,” says Dr. Stephanie Dahl, a reproductive medicine specialist at Sanford Women's in Fargo. “Ruptured ectopic pregnancies can cause significant hemorrhage and death.” Following her surgery, Jennifer was told pregnancy was still an option. And just a few months later, she was again pregnant, only to miscarry a month later.

It was then she was referred to Dr. Dahl and went through a series of tests. The cause of her pregnancy loss couldn’t be determined until she became pregnant again. When she did, they discovered she had low progesterone, a hormone that helps to maintain the body’s ability to carry a baby.

Jennifer began taking progesterone supplements to maintain a healthy level, a healthy pregnancy soon followed. She delivered a healthy baby girl, Haylee, now 4, and went on to have a son, Conner, now 2.

“The cure was actually pretty easy, but the journey was not,” Jennifer recalls. “I was thrilled to carry a pregnancy to full term, but I didn’t know what to do with the loss and pain from the ones that I hadn’t been able to carry. I internalized everything, not even Chad knew what I was going through. I looked fine so people thought I was fine.”

The silent suffering and loss took its toll, and fueled Jennifer to finally reach out to other women who have experienced pregnancy loss. When she ran for Mrs. North Dakota in 2012, she decided it was time to share her story. “You realize there are so many women out there dealing with this, feeling disconnected and alone,” she says. “But you don’t have to go through this alone.”

Pregnancy loss is not uncommon, with a 20 percent chance of loss in the general population and up to a 40-50 percent chance for women over age 40, according to Dr. Dahl.

“If you have experienced multiple miscarriages, it’s important to get an evaluation and find out if there is an underlying problem,” urges Dr. Dahl.

Jennifer credits Sanford Reproductive Medicine doctors and staff with helping her to hold on to hope. “They didn’t give me false hope. They gave me facts, but they did it with compassion, and helped me and my family get through this,” Jennifer says. “And when Haylee was born, Chad cried, we all cried, because it was such a miracle.”

Now, Jennifer is working to help connect women who go through pregnancy loss with support.

“Don’t lose hope,” she says. “That’s the most important thing I say. Keep your faith, reach out for help, and never give up hope.”

Posted Date: September 2013