A note from Amber:
When I initially set up this blog, I wanted it to be focused around the stories of moms everywhere, telling the stories of motherhood. Up until now, I haven’t really had anyone interested in guest blogging…
I have many friends that have been battling infertility. While I haven’t dealt with it myself, I can imagine (and have been told) that it can be a lonely road. One of my friends mentioned her battle to me and told me that she had been journaling, as coming out about it might have an impact on her business. I asked her if she’d be interested in guest blogging, and she was eager to share her story.
Get your tissues and step into one woman’s story of her struggle with fertility:
I didn’t know much about what I wanted in life when I was young. I didn’t know if I really wanted a husband, or what kind of work I wanted to do. The only thing I ever really knew I wanted was to be a mom.
At 19, I was a nanny for a ten month old little boy. I had always loved babysitting and even worked at a daycare, but this was a different kind of love. I rejoiced and felt proud at his first words and milestones, as if he were mine. I didn’t want him to give up the bottle because I loved holding him and snuggling when I fed him. When he was hurt, I hurt. I wanted to protect him and shelter him from harm. I loved this little boy. I still didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life, but I knew I wanted this love of my own some day. I knew if I loved this little boy this much, the love I would have for my own child would be immeasurable.
Not only did I want this love, but I wanted to be a great mom. I wanted to show unconditional love and support. I wanted my child to always feel valued and feel worthy. I wanted to be a genuine, loving mother, and I knew I could do it.
Fast forward ten years: I married the love of my life. I found this man that I didn’t know existed. Someone I could love infinitely, never get sick of, and share my hopes and dreams with. I have this amazing business; I managed to find something I’m passionate about, and have this wonderful husband, and life just couldn’t have been more perfect. When we finally decided to take the next step, I thought my life would just continue down this road of perfection, and we would skip off into the sunset together.
That’s when the brick wall of fertility issues hit.
We tried for four months to get pregnant. It felt like eternity. I didn’t think the disappointment I felt when I got a negative test could ever be topped. I didn’t think I could ever want it more than I wanted it when I saw those negative tests. I really had no idea.
All I wanted for my 30th birthday was to be pregnant. My period was one day late, so I did have hope. Hope made my day good. The chance made me happy, and filled the hole that had previously been filled with (what I thought was) an unprecedented amount of disappointment and frustration. In retrospect, that hole was simply a crevice in comparison to the canyon that it would be.
Then it happened. My birthday wish came true. After four months of trying, and what seemed to me like eternity, my period was late. At six days late and a dozen negative tests, I decided to try a different kind of pregnancy test. Sure enough, it was positive.
I’ll never forget the bliss I experienced that day. It’s amazing how much that little plus sign can change everything. My heart changed in that moment, I knew life would never be the same. I hugged my husband for a long time and we both smiled continuously.
Weeks went by as we anticipated our first doctor’s appointment. I told far too many people and felt far too confident about everything being ok.
At 7 weeks I woke up with no symptoms and knew something was wrong. My breast soreness was gone, my nausea was gone and I just didn’t feel pregnant anymore. I tried to push out the worry, but I knew something wasn’t right.
I was having a lot of cramps and was not feeling great about my situation, but I wrote it off to my typical worrying and went on with the day. Later that evening, I was laying on the couch in more discomfort than I felt I should have been. I knew something was wrong.
My husband came over to see how I was and kissed my belly. It was one of my favorite moments ever. It made me feel like he was just excited and happy as I was. It’s still painful to feel like that precious moment was the beginning of the end. I started bleeding that night and miscarried the next morning. I remember sitting on the floor of my bathroom, with the sac and remnants of my perfect life sitting in the toilet. I waited a while to flush it. I kept thinking, “Am I really supposed to flush this and just go about my life? Send my baby into the sewer? Really? Is this real life?!”
In that moment, I became a part of this club that I didn’t even know existed. I found hundreds and hundreds of women just like me, desperate for answers, and longing for a child that they feared may never come. I tried to unite with these women, and sometimes I felt the unity among us, but more than anything, I felt frustrated with the constant pity parties. As many as I might throw myself, I couldn’t be a constant attendee. It was dragging me down. I felt each of these women climb onto my back and weigh me down, until I crumbled. Their stories didn’t bring me hope, or make me feel un-alone in a comforting way, they made me more afraid. There was a pang in my heart every time I saw a story of someone who had more miscarriages than I had. “That’s going to be me”, I thought. Trying to connect with women I didn’t know, had no previous connection with was far from therapeutic for me. I longed to connect with someone I already knew for some reason. Or someone I could have a real conversation with, beyond a forum.
After my first miscarriage, two more followed in the next six months. I felt like I let my husband and child down. I felt like I was supposed to protect this child, and I couldn’t do it.
I thought back to that moment, so many times, when I was laying on the couch and my husband kissed my stomach. I wasn’t sure if I was angry that moment ever existed, or if I wanted to hold it close to my heart and never forget the happiness I felt. A big part of me wanted to erase it all. I felt naive and stupid in this moment. And angry. Extremely angry.
After crying myself to sleep night after night, more often without even my husband knowing, I woke up countless days wanting to cry. But I’d tell myself to get it together. I’d want to literally throw myself on the ground and say “I quit!”. Not in regards to “trying” to have a child, but in regards to life in general. But I’d tell myself to get the fuck over it and get up. And I would. I’d put a smile on my face and pretend that I was ok. Every day I’d have to remind myself to keep going. That life isn’t so bad. It wasn’t easy, but what option do you really have other than to keep going? My life was perfect in every way beyond this. I would get upset with myself for being ungrateful of my wonderful life. People have cancer, children are dying, and you’re throwing yourself a pity party? But I think this is all a part of the struggle that goes with recurrent pregnancy loss. It’s a roller coaster of emotions. Some days, you hate yourself, some days you hate other people, and some days you hate the world and yourself at the same time. It’s all so confusing.
After the second miscarriage I requested some general tests from my doctor. I did my own research and requested additional tests in addition to the ones she recommended. The tests all came back normal and I was told to be patient. It was just a case of bad luck. Or maybe it was even stress.
I ended up going to a fertility specialist after the third loss. He did even more tests and also concluded that I was “normal”. Luckily for me, I was overeducated and determined to find something wrong that they could fix. It turned out that my prolactin, the hormone associated with lactating, was high. Increased prolactin can decrease progesterone, which is a crucial hormone that allows the embryo to develop. My prolactin tests came back normal, but prolactin levels are highest very early in the morning. So, you can have a normal test at 8am, after having a prolactin spike and decrease at 4am. I started a medication to decrease my prolactin. It’s a medication for Parkinson’s disease with the random side effect of decreasing prolactin.
I knew that my chances of a successful pregnancy next time we’re extremely high after being on this medication. The success rate was 86%. At the same time, the doctor told me this might not be the solution. The prolactin could have everything, or nothing to do with my miscarriages. I decided to start therapy to better manage my mental health, because I was not doing great. I think the combination of these two was the answer.
So, I got pregnant again, and just like that I felt like I was on the other side. The side of success. The side all of us want to be on. The side that felt right. This time it felt right. I didn’t know if it was right, but I felt this peace within me this time, that made it feel so right. I think I realized I can’t fight the inevitable. If this isn’t my time, it’s ok. I have to accept that.
So, I gave up. Not in a way that was bleak of optimism, but rather the contrary. I surrendered to my optimism. I decided rather than waking every day telling myself to get the fuck over it, I’d merely get the fuck over it now and skip the daily. I decided to smile whether it was ok or not. But genuinely smile. I felt at peace with whatever life was going to bring me. Every part of my being still wanted my baby, but I had to let it go. Not the dream, but the desire to control it.
I stayed calm. I lost my breast soreness at 6 weeks and I wondered. I definitely wondered, but I didn’t obsess. I didn’t stress. I didn’t try to control it. I just kept living, as I should. It came back a few days later, but I knew that still didn’t mean it was ok. I stayed so calm that I didn’t recognize myself.
Then we heard a heartbeat. After 3 failed pregnancies, and never having our baby develop past 5 weeks, we heard it. And in that moment, the struggle no longer mattered. The hard road we had been down no longer hurt. Knowing it was finally going to be ok, made it all worth it somehow.
I really don’t know that it’s going to be ok. But I’m going to keep being positive and allow myself to feel that way until I have reason to feel otherwise. I don’t know if this truly is my rainbow baby, but I feel hope in a way that I haven’t felt in a long time.
Infertility is hard. It’s a lonely road that is frustrating and disappointing and every other negative descriptor you can think of. The best advice I can give to anyone struggling is to be your own advocate. Learn everything you can, question your doctors. Be that annoying patient. Also, consider therapy. I didn’t think it would help. I told my husband that a therapist couldn’t change my situation. It’s true, the therapist couldn’t change my situation, but he could change my outlook on it; and he did. Last, find someone who understands your struggle and connect with them. I have a friend who had a second term miscarriage, and she has been my sanity and my saving grace. It’s completely different to confide in someone who truly understands how you feel. We were just Facebook friends before I reached out to her, and now we’re a great support system for each other.