Have you been struggling to get pregnant? Perhaps you dealt with Infertility already in your lifetime? Maybe you have not been through any infertility difficulty and are thinking this isn’t an article for you. If so, think again. Infertility is a struggle that is sweeping through our generation except it’s not openly talked about at the water cooler like the latest episode of Game of Thrones. Which if you know Infertility can be a show you closely align with as both assimilate similar, intense emotions. With this affecting 1 in 8 couples and 7.3 million American women though chances are either you and/or multiple people around you are struggling, have struggled or will be struggling with infertility at some point.
Until I experienced each phase on my infertility road I really had no idea the struggles I would encounter. After four years that encompassed surgery for a coconut sized uterine fibroid tumor, a failed attempt at fostering to adopt and two rounds of IVF I thought I was finally successful. When I saw the two lines on multiple pregnancy tests, it felt like I had just crossed the victory line after running an intense, taxing marathon. And I hate running… I was done. I had achieved my ultimate goal of pregnancy and my excited brain went immediately into planning to take care of the little life quickly growing inside of me. Sure, I had heard how your not supposed to announce your pregnancy until after the first trimester because “something could go wrong.” That’s always said in the most hushed voice like there is danger lurking near you. “That wouldn’t happen to me though right?; I’ve already been through so much,” I stupidly thought. And if it did, wouldn’t I want people to know what I was going through? I reasoned it away, dismissing the idea quickly that this would be something I had to deal with and focused more on pregnancy related things.
At five weeks pregnant when I called in to get the latest results of my bloodwork, my elated pregnancy-filled mind was crushed. My HCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) levels weren’t high enough. I had no idea what that meant except for the fact that the medical professionals explained if they didn’t rise drastically I may lose the baby. Then the praying for a miracle, researching HCG levels and reading blogs of other pregnant women began. Sadly, my HCG levels plateaued. They didn’t go down which would have meant a clear sign of miscarriage, but they did not rise nearly enough either. I never thought I would care so much about HCG levels in my life. More waiting occurred and although I was still praying for a miracle, trying to will the little life inside me to grow healthily, it was hopeless.
At the next sonogram, my doctor confirmed it. She saw a pregnancy sac, but it was empty. This was what is called a blighted ovum. This meant my baby was developing abnormally and had stopped growing, but for whatever reason, the sac remained. Then came the choice that sucks to think about immediately after having lost your child: do you want to pass the tissue naturally or go under anesthesia for a D&C to have the tissue removed? At this point, it’s never referred to as your baby, just “the tissue.” It’s very disheartening, especially when you as the mom have already connected so much with the little life that lived inside you. It doesn’t matter how little of a time I was pregnant for. I couldn’t believe this was the incredulous choice I had to make. For so long I wanted “this tissue” and now I was choosing how to get rid of it. Knowing the sac was empty made it easier to decide. I definitely did not want to see “the tissue.” I knew it wouldn’t actually look like a baby but having to pass it naturally while going through a labor like process seemed like torture that I couldn’t handle in my already fragile, emotional state.
The D&C was scheduled right away. The staff at our fertility center had become like family. They were equally saddened by our return for this procedure. The embryologist came in, kissed me on the head and said: “I’m so sorry to see you back here for this.” My favorite nurse told me about her own D&C and how at that time her doctor said she would be back pushing a year later which she confirmed came to fruition with the birth of her child. She wanted the same for me. In a time where I felt hopeless, this was beyond comforting.
I had thought after the D&C it would be easier. That my mind would come to terms with having the miscarriage. After-all I logically knew my body had done the right thing if my baby wasn’t developing in a healthy way. I knew I would need recovery time but nothing could have prepared me for the cramps, bleeding and mental anguish I endured for the two weeks that proceeded the surgery. To say that it was a spectrum of hopelessness, depression and despair would have been putting the battle my mind went through mildly. The only solace I took was the outpouring of support I found in my circle of friends, family, acquaintances and co-workers. I had let everyone know what happened and I was amazed at the multitudes of women in my life who had gone through having a miscarriage. Some of them had even had multiple miscarriages. Hearing their stories and the sympathetic way they commiserated with my emotions as if they themselves were still in their miscarriage moment was truly inspirational. It was also the kick in the rear I needed to stop my depression spiral. If these amazingly strong women could get through the experience of losing their babies, so could I. I had entered into a club which no woman would ever want to be a member.
One supportive friend put it best when she said: “You never get your naivety back in your mind.” Although she had a successful pregnancy after her miscarriage, she shared she never relaxed in her mind during her pregnancy until the doctors handed her a healthy baby.
I have one frozen embryo left that is hopefully being successfully implanted today. I’ve done so much research that I know woman are more fertile after a D&C. My friends who have been through multiple rounds of fresh cycle IVF resulting in miscarriages all had more success with frozen cycle IVF. The sad thing for me is after my frozen embryo is implanted and I once again get that positive pregnancy test, I know the excitement I once experienced will now be replaced by anxiety and worry. For hopefully nine months, I will be thinking: “Is the baby ok?; Am I going to lose it?; What can I do to ensure this time the baby develops properly?” For each sonogram and blood work appointment, I will be holding my breath at the results and analyzing each nurse’s tone of voice on the phone in bated anticipation of the results. Every cramp or pain I will feel I know my mind will go into worry overload.
Will it be worth it to live with this miscarriage mindset in order to have the baby I’ve always wanted? I believe it will which is why I keep navigating my way down this rough, bumpy road of infertility.