I couldn’t sleep last night, so I thought maybe I would share my story of trying to conceive. Not that it’s an exceptionally unique story. In fact, quite the opposite. About 6.1 million women in the United States ages 15–44 have difficulty becoming pregnant or staying pregnant, according to the CDC (1). It is reported that miscarriage occurs in nearly 10% of known pregnancies (2). As common as that sounds, it seems like we still don’t really like to talk about it. And I think that’s dangerous. So, I’m going to talk.
I got married in 2014 at the ripe young age of 35. And then, (gasp!) we waited eight months to start “trying.” It was June of 2015 when we finally made that exciting decision. We were going to have a baby! It’s that easy, right?
Here’s what it actually looked like:
June: First month of trying. Lot of excited giggling, then that moment of “did we just do that??!” Then those two weeks full of excitement and anticipation. And then...negative. Oh well! We’ll try again next month!
July: Tried again! A little less giggling but still fun. Those two weeks still filled with anticipation. And then...negative. Darn, that’s disappointing. We’ll try again next month.
August and September: Tried again. No giggling, more business. Two weeks filled with anxiousness. And then...negative. Is there something wrong with me?
October and November: Keep trying. All business. Two weeks filled with nervousness and anxiety. And then...negative. Bring on the misery. Oh, and anger, right? Totally normal.
In December, we decided to move halfway across the country, and we travelled for the holidays — so it was a busy month, and I didn’t pay attention to anything. I was paying so little attention, in fact, that I didn’t even notice until my period was a week late. I was at my in-laws’ house; it was three days before Christmas. I took the test.
Positive! Five weeks along, and Google told me it was the size of a poppyseed. Did you know you could fall in love with a poppyseed??
Nothing entered my mind at that point except sheer joy. I ran downstairs to tell my husband and his family. I vowed to give up my “trifecta of perfection” (wine, coffee, sushi). The scary “M” word didn’t even enter my mind. We shared our news with everyone.
Ten days later, we were at the movies, and I started to feel strange. I had some mild cramping, so I went to the bathroom and saw something really scary. Blood. I got my husband and we headed home. From there, it was dramatic to say the least. More like heartbreaking, devastating, painful, and terrifying. And then came the un-telling of all the people we told. That was probably the hardest part.
It would be 14 long months before I got to see that positive again. Not for lack of trying, and not without a turbulent roller coaster of emotional wreckage. We saw doctors, we got tested for things, but there was nothing conclusive. What is wrong with me?? This was my job as a woman, for God’s sake. I was lost.
They call a baby after a miscarriage a “rainbow baby.” I like that term because rainbows are pretty, and they seem magical. It also feels magical to have a baby after a miscarriage and 14 months of trying. I gave birth to a healthy baby girl in November of 2017 whom we named Sadie. Two and a half years after we first “tried.”
Once we got through that crazy, hazy first year as parents, that little glimmer of “what if” started to surface. It is the year I’ll turn 40 — it felt like one of those now or never moments. So, cautiously, nervously, we decided to try again. This time, just to keep me on my toes, I got that positive the very first month we tried. Yay?
I was chasing a 17-month-old. I had just been promoted. I had brutal pregnancy symptoms. I was nauseous 100% of the time, from waking to sleeping. I was vomiting often. The exhaustion was UNREAL. I was sure I was having multiples. (No source for that folks...just my active imagination.) Given my history, I had my first ultrasound at 7 weeks. That (one) little nugget was measuring perfectly with a healthy heartbeat to go along with it. The last thing my doctor said before I left the room was that the chance of miscarriage was less than 5% now. I could breathe a sigh of relief. We cautiously shared our news with family and close friends.
At 9 weeks, I went to see a midwife, as I was considering changing hospitals for my second delivery. It was supposed to be an informative appointment, just paperwork and chatting. I told my husband that there was no need for him to leave work for it. Once we got through the paperwork, the midwife decided to do an ultrasound to record my first day of care at the new practice. We stared at the screen together, and I could see my little nugget! But the midwife looked confused. I knew there was something wrong immediately.
“I can’t find a heartbeat.” She said it so matter-of-factly.
I don’t remember much from there. There was another technician, a doctor, and some pamphlets. After that, a tearful phone call to my husband, and I think some aggressive beating on my steering wheel in the parking lot. I furiously texted my family and close friends. I didn’t want to talk to anyone. I didn’t want to say anything out loud. One text just read: there’s no f***ing heartbeat.
I was so confused. There was no blood. There was nothing dramatic this time. I didn’t even know it could happen like that. I still felt pregnant, I didn’t know how to mourn it.
Based on how far along I was, my doctor recommended a procedure (a D&C) (3) instead of waiting for the miscarriage to happen naturally. I wanted it to have it immediately, but I had to wait three days. Three whole days I would hold this nugget inside of me, feeling like I had failed it. Then my insurance company called to discuss my benefits. I think they said, This procedure comes at the low, low price of utter heartbreak and $3,300. $3,300??? I collapsed on the kitchen floor. Then I prayed it would happen naturally...but of course, it didn’t.
The surgery itself was mostly uneventful, much harder emotionally than it was physically. It happened in a day, and I didn’t feel any pain. I woke up to cranberry juice and orange jello. (Side rant: orange jello?? After everything, I expected cherry.)
I left the hospital feeling no different than the day before. Except I knew there was no longer a nugget, and I knew I needed to figure out how to mourn.
That was yesterday. Hence, why I couldn’t sleep last night. But this is my world. Kindara is filled with a community of women who are all on their own journeys of TTC. Some of those journeys are easy and some are much, much more difficult. I perused some community charts for inspiration during my insomnia. I came to work this morning feeling a sense of silent solidarity with my Kindara community (and really with all women trying to become moms, in absolutely anyway they can).
Here is what I learned: The female body is AH-MA-ZING. It can endure. It can be pricked and prodded and it can birth and it can heal. But it doesn’t always do the things we want it to do. We can be told we have “unexplained infertility” (really??), we can experience stillbirth, we can have failed IVF or insemination treatments. We can struggle getting pregnant.
But the female spirit? Wow. In that Kindara community, in between the stories of loss and heartbreak and despair, I saw hope and encouragement sprinkled everywhere. Women lifting up other women, saying I hear you, I understand. And when we are heard, when we are supported, when we are uplifted and reassured...amazing things happen. Our bodies might fail us, but our spirits are unbreakable. And that is how I am at work today. Because of that spirit. Because of that silent solidarity. Because I’m not afraid to say it out loud. It’s okay to mourn, and that is how we begin to heal.
If you need a message of hope or encouragement, you can find me over here at Kindara. Email me anytime at email@example.com.