1) What is your personal experience with infertility/miscarriage?
Before getting married I was on the Depo Provera shot for a couple of years. I went off the shot in May 2015 knowing that we'd want to start trying to conceive in the next year or so. I knew it would take some time for my cycle to return, but when there was still no sign in October of that year, I went to see my doctor. She referred me to Fertility Check, where we did some testing. This revealed low ovarian reserve (AMH). Coincidentally the day I got that call from the doctor, my period started.
My husband and I decided that given the diagnoses we should start trying right away. I definitely had this expectation that we'd conceive immediately, so it was surprisingly difficult when we didn't. I did some cycle monitoring with the clinic and started seeing an acupuncturist who specialized in fertility. Before long I was I doing all the things - I took the vitamins, took my temperature every morning, had four different apps tracking my cycle, would get up in my business to check my cervical mucus every day, etc. If it was something I could do, I'd try it.
It took four months (relatively not much time at all) to conceive. We felt it all - relieved, excited, nervous, but above all else, we knew it was what we wanted. We were ready for the next stage.
However it was clear pretty quickly that something was wrong - my home pregnancy tests stayed very faint and within a week weren't showing anything. My GP tried to reassure me but in my heart I knew something was wrong. There were a lot of tears and desperate google searches during those long days. I was being followed by the fertility clinic that had done my initial testing, and they confirmed that HCG was present, but too low to be viable. I started bleeding that night. Over the next two weeks I had my blood drawn every other day, watched it climb but too slowly to be anything other than a pregnancy that wouldn't survive. Worried that it wasn't resolving itself naturally, my fertility specialist prescribed me misoprostol and percocet. I did two rounds of the misoprostol to ensure that the pregnancy was terminated, and slept through most of what happened to my body.
I wish I could say that that was the low point of my journey. The next few months we kept trying, but the loss had done something to us. It's hard to put into words. We were broken, I guess. I was, certainly. There was a lot of hurt to heal and it needed time. I took each month that I wasn't pregnant after the loss much harder. It was devastating. I was ready. I felt like I'd paid my dues. It was infuriating that this was something that I couldn't make happen out of sheer will. I felt totally helpless.
Finally we reached a breaking point. We realized that we couldn't stay the course of trying to conceive in the manner that we were and that it was taking its toll on our relationship. So in October of 2016 we stopped having timed intercourse. It was the right call, but it was awful for me and so hard to accept. I couldn't help feeling like we were missing our chance each month that we took off. We were still having unprotected sex and I was still testing, just in case, but we took a bit of a mental break from conception being the only thing on our minds.
In January 2017 we met with my fertility specialist again. We'd been trying for a year and so it felt like an appropriate next step. We discussed our options and landed on doing a medicated IUI. We geared up for our first medicated cycle, mentally preparing ourselves for what it would be like, only to have it cancelled at the last moment - my TSH was too high (I also have hypothyroidism). I remember getting that call from the clinic and feeling utterly defeated. I'd been working so hard on trying to be positive and optimistic, and that unexpected delay was too much. I think *that* was my low point. I put on a brave face and talked a big game about being hopeful, but we were heartbroken.
April 2017: My TSH was within normal range and we proceeded with the medicated cycle and IUI. The meds were fine (as much as daily injection and hormonal mood swings can be "fine") and the IUI was quick and painless. I spent the next two weeks after the procedure talking to our "eggies" and promising them the moon if they stuck. My husband would lay in bed at night with his hand on my belly, sending them love and whatever positive energy he could.
Something worked - we were so lucky and conceived with that first IUI. Our daughter is due this winter.
2) How has it made your life worse? How has it made your life better?
I've never felt so helpless as I did when I couldn't get pregnant. I am the type of person who has always believed that if you do X,Y and Z than you can achieve what you want. It took me a lot time to accept that this was something that was largely out of my control.
I also felt totally alienated from other people. Even those who knew what was going on didn't/couldn't really get it. They didn't understand how all consuming this was. How heart wrenching.
3) How as it made my life better?
That's a hard one. It's definitely strengthened my marriage. When we were in the deep dark depths of trying to conceive without any luck we had no choice but to rely on each other. We also realized that that dark place was not where we wanted to conceive our child. We wanted our family to come from a place of love, not despair and stress. So we put ourselves first, which was REALLY hard. But one of the best lessons I learned was to put my husband and our marriage first.
4) When & how did you realize that you were going to be able to carry on after infertility/miscarriage?
There came a point where I realized I had no choice. I am a sexual assult victim/survivor, and I have also battled an eating disorder my entire adult life. When I found myself thrust back into that really dark headspace by my struggles with infertility and the miscarriage, I made the decision to *not* let that awful part of my life take control again. I had been down that road and I knew the life that waited for me there and I had worked too hard for too long to go back there. So I made the decision to reject that trajectory and just give up control over my fertility. I made the decision to focus (sometimes really unsuccessfully) on the good things I had. This was really hard and was a decision I had to make every morning, moment to moment.
5) What have you learned through this experience?
I'm a lot stronger than I think. And that my husband is truly the best human I've ever known.
6) What do you hold on to for hope/courage/strength on your bad days?
My husband. I remember finding out we weren't pregnant (again) 2 days before my sister's wedding and just breaking down. The night of the wedding, high on their happiness (and a healthy dose of wine) I told him that he was enough for me; that if we couldn't conceive naturally we would find another way to have a family; that even if that didn't work, we would be okay. I didn't realize that I really believed that until I said it out loud.
7) In three words describe yourself before/during/after miscarriage (in miscarriage specific situations)?
Before - hopeful
During - empty
After - broken
8) How have others responded to your infertility situations? Has it impacted your relationships? What are some things you’ve been told that have been helpful/harmful?
This has been one of the most challenging parts of this for me. From "innocent" inquires as to when we were starting our family, to out-right insensitive comments from others during/following our miscarriage (at least you got pregnant! Everything happens for a reason. My toddler is being a nightmare right now, maybe you dodged a bullet) I found some comfort from other women who had experienced pregnancy loss - they really seemed to understand the hurt that it caused and the resulting need I felt to cling to something positive. I was spending all my available energy in keeping my own head above water that it was draining to constantly be reminded of the worst-case possibilities. Even my husband experienced all of this differently than I did. I was jealous that he got to spend hours of the day not thinking about it, whereas I over-analyzed every twinge and cramp. Ultimately, I realized that no one else could get me through it other than myself. I looked for support where I could, but no one else could go through it for me.
It's also been a struggle throughout this pregnancy. The trauma of infertility and pregnancy loss don't disappear once you conceive, and many others don't seem to understand that. I get a lot of "you must be so excited!"-type comments. And while we *are* excited, it is a very guarded excitement, laced with a lot of anxiety.
9) Tell us about you. What are your hobbies/passions/pursuits?
I love my garden and that was a huge source of comfort for me last summer and a place to heal this summer. It is modest, at best, but something I enjoy a lot. I am a voracious reader and that is my go-to activity on a crap day. Because of my past with an ED I can't really exercise or enjoy hobbies that are physical in nature, but I do love taking my dog for long (easy) walks. I also love to cook - especially for others. And travel!