Today’s post is one I’ve been working on for a long time. I decided to wait to tell this story because I didn’t want it to be about me or about Miles. I want this story to be about infertility. I want it to be a post about awareness. I want it to be a post that helps to pull back the blind on something many couples struggle with. I want to share my story because hearing other people’s stories made me feel less alone.
So, this is my story of infertility, miscarriages, and the truth about getting pregnant.
I’ll never forget it the first time I was pregnant.
I’ll always remember looking down and seeing two pink lines staring back up at me. TWO lines. For as long as Michael and I knew we wanted to be together we knew we wanted to have a family. We were patient and waited until we had careers and got married before trying – but now it was here! I waited a whopping 20 minutes before blurting out to Michael, “I’m pregnant,” while he was making toast. Very anti-climatic. No drawn out reveals like I’d imagined for so many years. No cute little boxes or filmed reactions. Just me, standing in my pajamas in our kitchen. We were ecstatic. Pure and utter happiness.
After a few whirlwind weeks, I awoke Christmas night knowing something was wrong. The next day we visited the doctor to confirm what I already knew deep down was happening: I was losing the pregnancy.
Miscarriage was always a thought. I certainly wasn’t so naive that I didn’t know that more than 35% of pregnancies miscarry early on. But just like everything in life, there is that little bug in your ear that says “that won’t happen to me.” Knowing that it could happen didn’t make it any easier. Having a miscarriage rocked me harder than I ever could have imagined it would.
I remember the doctor coming into the room and telling us “I’m sorry.” My typical emotional wall went up and I replied, “it’s OK.” She looked at me for a long second before reaching her hand out and placing it over mine saying, “no, it’s not OK.” I lost it, breaking down in tears as she tried her best to explain why these things happen. I fought back the tears as she walked us back out through the waiting room of happily pregnant women, and down the hall so I could have blood work done. Finally, in the safety of our own car, we were able to let the truth really sink in. I grieved for a long time… and Michael grieved for a long time, too.
I was able to miscarry naturally and my body took weeks to deplete itself of the pregnancy hormone. Every Wednesday morning I had to go to the doctor’s on my way to work to have blood drawn until that level finally fell off to zero. And then, more waiting. Waiting for my body to recover. Waiting for my cycles to be normal again.
For some women…it’s a lot of waiting…trying to get pregnant.
I felt a lot of emotions after the miscarriage. I felt confused. I felt impatient. I felt cheated. I was pregnant…and then I wasn’t. The best gift I’d ever received in life was taken away. I felt exhausted – both emotionally and physically. I found myself feeling angry at the people who got pregnant and then found myself feeling ashamed of being angry.
About four months later I found myself looking down, once again, at two pink lines. I couldn’t contain my instinctual emotion of happiness but knew in the back of my mind how risky these first few weeks would be. I tried to reason with myself. Certainly, I wouldn’t be one of the women who miscarried more than once. Surely it wouldn’t happen to me again. This time it was for real.
I miscarried for the second time in late April. I found out on a Friday morning before work and explained my teary eyes as allergies when I got into the office. Looking back at it I’m not really sure how I did it. I don’t really know how I held myself together at work when I was losing my second pregnancy. I guess you just don’t know how you’ll handle a situation until life throws it at you and then you just…do it.
When I miscarried the first time my doctor assured me it doesn’t often happen twice but if it did they’d run some tests. So after my second miscarriage, I found myself once again sitting at the doctor’s office. I remember waiting in the room with the door slightly ajar and overhearing the nurse in the hallway ask the doctor what she should put down as the reason for the blood tests they were ordering for me.
“Recurring pregnancy loss,” my doctor replied.
Hearing her refer to me with those words made it feel so real. All around me friends and acquaintances were announcing their pregnancy (four of our good friends would announce their pregnancies before the year ended.) They all talked about how quick it happened, how they didn’t even try, how easily it all had gone. And here I was. I felt broken. What was the matter with me that I couldn’t produce a healthy pregnancy? Although all the rational parts of your brain try to justify it to yourself and remind you that many women struggle with this – that it isn’t hopeless – there’s a small, instinctual part of myself that made me feel like less of a woman.
After my initial bloodwork results came back “all good,” my doctor ordered an HSG. The procedure isn’t very pleasant and I’ll do my best to spare you the TMI details. I found myself laying on a cold, metal exam table in one of those awful gowns and stupid hospital socks. Everything was situated and inserted and they called in the x-ray technician. “Infertility?” he asked my doctor in reference to the reason for the procedure. “Recurring pregnancy loss,” she corrected.
There is was again. Those three little words that were starting to define what felt like my entire world. In hindsight, I think hearing myself referred to as having “recurring pregnancy loss” made it feel real. In some ways, I also think it allowed me to accept it – to truly understand that this might not be an easy road for us.
Four months passed without getting pregnant and then six and then nine. We’d gone from getting pregnant easily but losing the pregnancies to not being able to get pregnant at all. Our doctor decided it was time for us to see an infertility specialist and that’s how we were referred to the Center for Reproductive Services. Going to The Center for the first time was, in so many ways, a relief. I found some solace in knowing we’d finally be somewhere that I felt like they might actually, truly be able to help us. The past year was full of so many unanswered questions and “wait and sees.” Meeting our doctor and team at The Center felt like we were moving forward for the first time in a long time.
I can’t say the beginning of infertility treatment is fun – unless you like endless blood work and getting asked to “undress from the waist down” so you can be poked and prodded on a frequent basis. But, my doctor and his team made me feel knowledgeable and safe during a process that is mostly confusing and unpleasant. They set up an infertility plan for us, and I began treatment.
Finally, in February, I once again found myself looking down at two little pink lines. There wasn’t a lot of excitement between Michael and I. I crawled back into bed that morning and said, “well, I’m pregnant.” It was sort of this feeling of will this end in heartbreak again? While we were both hesitantly excited, after losing a pregnancy, and especially after losing more than one, you put your guard up. Because we were in an infertility program, I went into The Center about four times in the first 8 weeks. They did bloodwork to see if my pregnancy hormone was increasing. It was. I remember the first ultrasound around 7 weeks and getting to hear my baby’s heartbeat for the first time. I cried. I couldn’t control it. Tears welled out as I sat there, holding Michael’s hand hearing that little pumping heart. I cried happy tears because I was excited about the pregnancy. But I was also crying tears of relief knowing that the little babe was actually alive and growing. I also think I was crying a little bit out of nervousness knowing that the next few weeks still held uncertainties and the thought of losing another pregnancy at this point seemed totally unbearable.
Pregnancy after miscarriage and infertility treatments is different than had we just got pregnant. You’re more cautious and guarded. You wait longer to truly let yourself get excited. You worry more than the average person. My first trimester was rough. I had multiple emergency visits for various reasons, but at the end of it all we ended up with a healthy pregnancy and beautiful baby boy, and that’s all that really matters.
Why am I Telling My Story?
Like I said, I really don’t want this story to be about me. Michael and I found so much solace in hearing other couples’ stories of miscarriage and infertility when we went through it ourselves. I think in some ways it is comforting to know you’re not completely alone. At a point when I felt so broken and inadequate, there was strength knowing other couples had gone through what we did and come out the other side. So, my hope is that my story can be that solace for someone else – even if it’s just one person.
I also feel very strongly about sharing my story because I believe there are some strong taboos around those who struggle to get pregnant that are unfair – and I hope to help break those down in another post at some point in the future. Mainly, people tell you that you should “stop trying to get pregnant and it’ll happen.” People will judge you for seeking help from a specialist. They’ll say you’re “trying too hard.” I believe this is the worst thing we can put on someone struggling to get pregnant. The truth is, many of us NEED medical help to get pregnant. Many of us have medical issues that once diagnosed can be easily treated. To me, the idea of sitting around waiting, enduring miscarriages and months (or years) of being unable to get pregnant when there’s a medical solution is totally ludicrous. I encourage women not to wait. Don’t force yourself through the torture just because there’s a stigma that you’re “trying too hard to get pregnant.”
As we went through this journey, it was hard to stay positive. But, I constantly reminded myself that eventually, our time would come. Whether it was naturally, through support, IVF, or any other way. Eventually, we would be parents. And I knew every teardrop, every procedure and needle and month that passed would be worth it. Now, on the other side, I can assure you 100 times over that it is. If you’re struggling, don’t give up. Seek help if you need help. Advocate for yourself. Every struggle will be worth it when you hold your own miracle in your arms. Trust me on this.