Maria thought she was pregnant with her third baby, but the gestational sac was empty

When Maria Gala found out she was pregnant for the third time, she was in shock.

“I wasn’t expecting it,” the 29-year-old says.

WARNING: Readers are advised this article contains details some may find distressing.

With a baby and toddler in tow, raising three kids under three seemed almost impossible.

“My first thought was ‘I’m never going to be able to do it’ … but then I was preparing myself to be able to do it and make it work,” she says.

Maria Gala and her partner Tyler had started preparing for life with a third child.(Supplied: Maria Gala)

Maria and her partner Tyler made significant lifestyle changes around work, accommodation, and budgeting.

“We were already loving this new baby that was going to be the addition to our family,” she says.

Initially, regular blood tests returned textbook results.

“My levels were rising, everything was just tracking perfectly,” she says.

Their excitement ended abruptly at Maria’s 12-week scan.

“She was rushing everything and seemed really awkward, she wasn’t saying anything and I’m like, ‘Is everything OK? What’s going on?’,” she says.

“Then [the nurse] said, ‘There’s no baby, there’s nothing’.”

A black and white scan of Maria's stomach, dark black bean shape.  Maria’s scan showed an empty sac.(Supplied: Maria Gala)

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The pregnancy ‘felt normal’

For the most part, this pregnancy felt just like her last two.

“I got the same morning sickness, [I was] very tired … it felt normal,” she says.

“But there was something inside me that was telling me something was wrong but I didn’t want to believe it.”

Maria has a tipped uterus, which previously made early scans of her sons Angelo and Mateo difficult.

“I went in at 10 weeks for a scan and they couldn’t see anything, but it could’ve been just the same because of my retroverted uterus,” she says.

“I told myself, ‘yeah it’s just the same so I’ll go back in two weeks and everything will be fine’.”

Waiting for her final scan was “the longest two weeks” of Maria’s life.

“I was 12 weeks, the sac was growing and everything, but there was no baby,” she says.

“I didn’t know what to do, I didn’t know if I should cry.

“[The nurse] was not very comforting, there was no empathy or anything, it was just very dry.”

Little boy Angel holding baby brother Mateo who is looking at the camera with his arm in the air. Maria says she’s grateful for every second spent with Angelo and Mateo.(Supplied: Maria Gala)

What is a blighted ovum?

Maria was given a short explanation — blighted ovum.

“I had no idea what it was and when they said it, I just started googling,” she says.

“I didn’t think that my body would do something like that.”

A blighted ovum is a type of miscarriage where a sac and placenta grow, but a baby does not. The cause is unknown.

Doctors discuss options with women including natural miscarriage or terminating the pregnancy with medicine or surgery.

Maria chose surgery to lower her risk of complications but after calling her doctor and “trying everywhere” she was forced to wait a week.

“I was in a lot of pain just physically and mentally it was really hard,” she says.

Maria in a blue surgical gown, blue surgical mask and orange surgical hair mask, taking a photo in a mirror. Maria shared her story on social media where she received an outpouring of support.(Instagram: mariabirgit)

“A part of me just wanted that chapter to be over as soon as possible.

“I couldn’t talk to anyone, I couldn’t do anything, I couldn’t even look after my kids for that week.”

Finding support

Maria, who lives half a world away from her close family and friends in Iceland, says it’s one of the hardest things she’s gone through.

“Even though I accepted the fact that I was not going to be having another baby, I still was so upset and sad,” she says.

Maria lying in a hospital bed with a newborn baby on her chest, her mum leaning over looking at the baby, smiling. Despite living thousands of kilometres away, Maria says her mum is one of her greatest supporters.(Supplied: Maria Gala)

“Some people say you don’t have to be sad because there was no baby and, in a way, it makes me feel better that there was not a baby that died, but at the same time it’s just as hard I think.”

Maria squatting down with Angelo and Mateo on her lap smiling, water and houses behind, colourful sunset reflecting. Maria hopes her boys can be reunited with their family in Iceland soon.(Supplied: Maria Gala)

Maria felt comforted by the responses she received from sharing her story on social media. 

“It’s so much more common than you would think,” she says.

“It made me really sad thinking that all these women went through it alone or without all the support they needed.”

She wants to normalise talking about loss in the early stages of pregnancy.

“We say that you shouldn’t tell anyone you’re pregnant before 12 weeks because anything could happen,” she says.

“If something happens, that’s when you need the support, that’s when you need someone to be there for you.

“You can’t do that alone.”

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