1) What is your personal experience with infertility/miscarriage?
My partner and I got together when I was in my early 20s; he in his late 30s. When we decided to start trying, I was in my mid-20s. While most think it would be easy to conceive at that age, it wasn’t easy for us. We actively tried for 4 years before seeking professional help. It was 4 years of hell with everyone around us telling us to relax and that it would just happen. Every period I got was like a blow to my abdomen. I wondered why my body could not make a baby. There were a few times when I thought for certain I was pregnant, and in the end, was not. Your mind begins to play tricks on you after awhile.
When we finally went to the clinic, they ran tests and took all sorts of samples. The infertility specialist was straight to the point: despite being young, you have very few eggs left in your reserve and we are unsure you will be able to conceive. They suggested I go on hormones and try to conceive by medicated IUI. My now husband (partner at the time) was told he had a high quantity of sperm but they were slow moving.
With the specialist's recommendation we went ahead and tried IUI with no guarantee it would work. We ended up conceiving but at our first ultrasound, around the 7 week mark, the tiny blob had a very shallow heartbeat and was not measuring as the doctor wanted it to. We were advised to prepare for a loss. I prayed to God and willed that baby to fight. Unfortunately, at 8 weeks, it was the same situation. By 9 weeks, the baby’s heart had stopped beating and we began to prepare me for a miscarriage. Turns out, my body wanted to hang on to it. They ended up giving me Misoprostol (to cause contractions in the womb and expel the pregnancy) and sent me home with an explanation of how the whole thing would go down. I went home, took a tablet, and waited. The contractions started, and it all was short-lived, so I thought. I resumed work, caring for 4 kids under the age of 8. My partner and I took them to the zoo as we had done the year before, but I was definitely not done miscarrying… I remember shuffling through the zoo between contractions, sitting down and breathing while trying to hide my pain or concern from the kids. I was in rough shape. It was a terrible day.
Since it had taken us so long to conceive, when we did get the good news back at 4 weeks we told EVERYONE so naturally we had to tell all of them again that we had lost the baby. Many, as you can imagine, did not know what to say. And as a couple we did not know how to grieve. Turns out men may deal with it very differently than women. My partner internalized a lot of it.
After, we sought the help of an acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist who insisted on cleaning me up and getting me pregnant. This whole process took from August until November. She told me “I will tell you when you can try again, your body needs to clean up and get strong again.” The good patient I was, listened. “No sex” she said, not that either one of us was really in the mood to try at that point.
In November, she gave me the green light and we contacted the fertility clinic to start a new cycle of treatment. On Dec 11/12, we had unmedicated IUI (at my request) as I think the meds were what messed me up and caused me to lose the baby in the first place. In between August and November, we also met with the IVF doctor who told us flat out I was not a candidate for the process as I had not made enough eggs on the hormones the first time round. My eggs were 1.1 in the reserve (a low reserve is considered a score of 8.0). I begged the doctor to let me try unmedicated IUI cycle as he originally created the plan for us and so he agreed, but only for one cycle. He did said that it was a miracle that we conceived in the first place and that it was worth a try. This just tells you how unlikely they thought we would conceive again at all.
So on a hope and a prayer, we went through with this cycle and conceived. The whole pregnancy, I was walking on eggshells, afraid I would lose this pregnancy too. I went on to have a healthy baby at 37.5 weeks, but not before being also diagnosed with Cholestasis of pregnancy, which if left untreated, could result in a stillbirth, not the outcome I was looking for after the long journey we had already gone through.
As my son grew, I knew I wanted to have another baby, but I had resolved that he would be the only child. It took me 3 years to mentally wrap my head around it, and then through another round of IUI, the stars realigned, and I found myself pregnant again. I was mentally prepared that all the same things could happen but I had to stay positive. It truly was not until my second son arrived safe and sound in my arms that it sunk in, that he was here and he was ok.
Three months later after the birth of my second I still look at both of them and think, wow, I am lucky that we got to have two. Some people do not get so lucky.
2) How has it made your life worse? How has it made your life better?
It has made me stronger. I try not to take life or conception for granted. Not everyone gets to have children, and for many, it is not an easy journey. I have committed myself to sharing my story and offering to listen to those who are having trouble, being that cheerleader and safe space for them to to share their story, cry, scream, or vent. When I was going through it all, I often felt alone, and I don’t want others to have the same experience.
3) When & how did you realize that you were going to be able to carry on after infertility/miscarriage?
I have a few good friends that had gone through loss as well and they have allowed me to grieve and shared their support, regularly checking in on me, and being there to listen when I really needed to talk.
4) What have you learned through this experience?
Sometimes with enough hope, faith, and belief in yourself, miracles can happen. It has taught me to trust my instincts and advocate for myself and for what my body tells me it needs.
5) What do you hold on to for hope/courage/strength on your bad days?
That somewhere somehow there was a child waiting for me, however that would look like. At the time, I was unsure of how a baby would come to me but I knew I wanted to be a mom, no matter what. Support of others that had gone through an infertility experience has also helped me heal.
6) How do you feel about your experience with infertility on your good days?
I was lucky I trusted myself enough to reach out for help. I was fortunate to have great doctor on my side. Had I kept relaxing and trying naturally, like most said to do, I would likely have not found out that my eggs were going to be gone by 35. In many ways I think it was all a blessing in disguise.
7) In three words describe yourself before/during/after miscarriage (in miscarriage specific situations)?
8) In what ways has your experience with infertility/miscarriage changed you as a person?
In many ways, it has made me stronger and more resilient. Thankful and blessed, not taking anything for granted. In some respects, I am a bit more guarded.
9) 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?
It was really hard before I had a baby. When one of my best friends got pregnant before I did, after trying for one month, it was like a ton of bricks fell on me as we had been trying for quite some time. But I never let on that it hurt because I was truly happy for her. Same with when my brother and his wife got pregnant before us. I remember the night my niece was born I had to leave the hospital in order to go home and inject myself in preparation for IUI the next day.
The pain every time someone asked if we would have kids, and then subsequently after we had managed to have one healthy baby, they asked when the next one was coming. You make such beautiful babies, they would say. Little did they know that I was mentally trying to wrap my head around the process again, and that getting pregnant naturally was not in the cards. It hurt when people heard we were having another boy when they said, oh I guess you will just have to try again for a girl.
I could go on with all the hurtful things I have felt over the years, but truthfully I think people really don’t know how to relate and assume it will just happen and that you can’t be a 30 year old with a 50 year old’s eggs. I try to educate people and share my story whenever I can to help people understand.
10) Tell us about you. What are your hobbies/passions/pursuits?
I am now a mother of two. My oldest son is 4 and my youngest is 3 months. I work from home as a freelance graphic designer. I like the flexibility of being able to take my son to school and be there for both of them now. I love reading, baking, and making arts and crafts with my big guy. I’m passionate about giving back to the community and sharing my story with as many people as possible.
11) What is your favourite quote?
“For reality to reveal itself you must first believe.” Something I always told myself on the hard days ever since I was a kid.