1) What is your personal experience with infertility/miscarriage?
The year I turned 30 was the year my husband and I decided to start trying to have a baby. We had been married for 6 years and had worked hard to establish ourselves as ‘responsible adults’. We both had secure jobs, made decent incomes, and recently purchased a house. I personally felt like I was completing the little checklist of life and we were ready to tackle the next category of starting a family. Little did we know at the time that we would be embarking on an 8 year journey full of life lessons and self reflection.
I had read that it could take 1-2 years to get pregnant. I didn’t really think much of it when a full year had gone by and we had no luck conceiving.
During our second year of trying, I started to pay attention to my ovulation cycle and spent a bunch of money on ovulation testing strips and a special computer that reads the results. Once that second year ended, I started to get a bad feeling and so I went to see my doctor. After some testing I was diagnosed with borderline PCOS. I changed my diet, started to exercise, and do acupuncture. I was doing great and feeling great and the PCOS symptoms slowly went away.
Unfortunately, during our third year of trying, my husband had some testing done and the results were disappointing. He was diagnosed with low sperm count and motility. We were given a 12% chance of conceiving naturally on our own. Not long after that, upon a suggestion by the doctor, I went and had my fallopian tubes flushed out. The doctor said that sometimes this process can easily clear out little bits of tissue that can hinder the fertilization process. What he didn't mention was just how uncomfortable the process would be.
At that point, something inside me started to change. My husband had declared he was very happy with it just being the two of us. He said he never really was sold on the whole having kids thing. I was secretly hoping he would do more to try to improve our odds. I felt that I had gone to great lengths to improve my body, monitor my cycle, and research alternative medicines. I resented him for not wanting to do the same himself.
Suddenly, despite the low odds, I found myself pregnant that year. I remember my period being late. I took a home pregnancy test and my husband and I were elated and completely shocked by the results. Positive! It was finally positive!
I went to work the next day with the biggest grin on my face. I felt like the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland. I was bursting with excitement. I confided to my co-worker right away. She knew how hard and long we’d been trying. I made plans to leave work early to go get officially tested by my doctor.
Two hours before I left for my doctor’s appointment, I began to feel cramping in my abdomen. I went to the washroom and found I was bleeding a little. It felt like I was getting my period. Nervous, I left straight away for my doctor’s office. When I got there, I went to give a urine sample and realized something was very wrong. They confirmed that I was most likely 5 weeks pregnant; however, the amount of bleeding and cramping could be the first signs of a miscarriage.
In less than 24 hours, I went from being on Cloud 9 to losing the baby. All of this, one week before Mother’s Day. I spent two weeks physically recovering at home. The emotional recovery would take much, much longer. I felt like a failure. I felt I had let my husband down as well as my parents and my husband’s parents too.
After the miscarriage, I would get angry when I’d hear about parents abusing their children in the news. I would be upset about stories of teenage girls getting pregnant so easily and often by accident. I felt that the universe was so unfair because I couldn’t have a baby but these other people could. It became a dark and personal battle. During this time I began lashing out at my husband. As more time passed and we didn’t get pregnant again, I became more and more resentful.
Finally, one day my husband said I should think about getting some help to deal with my emotions. That day, I realized that I was pushing away the greatest man I had in my life. I didn’t want to lose my husband over this. I told myself that I had to start thinking and behaving differently. I had to start preparing myself for the ‘What if?’ scenarios: What if it never happens? What if it really is just the two of us?
During our fourth year trying to conceive, I began to try to strengthen my communication with my husband while balancing my desire to have a baby. We made sure to do ‘couples things’ and go out on dates. We made an effort to travel more and see parts of the world together. We made sure to create great memories as a couple.
On the other end of the spectrum, we went to see our first fertility specialist. We decided to start small and try an IUI one time. It didn’t work.
By year five we decided to take the plunge and try IVF. The countless doctors' appointments, blood tests, ultrasounds and injections were exhausting for me; however, it made me feel really good and excited because I felt like I was in control for the first time in a very long time. I was really trying to do something that might actually work.
Everything was progressing well. We retrieved 13 eggs and had 7 embryos forming. I was excited to find out how many embryos we would have to work with when Day 5 rolled around. I was already debating whether to try implanting 1 or 2 when the time came. I even started to panic about what to do with leftover frozen embryos. I just assumed that I would have to worry about these many "typical" scenarios I had heard about.
Day 5 rolled around and we got the call from the doctor. NO embryos survived. I was completely confused. Not one embryo? I’ve never heard of this. How could we spend all this money and invest all this time and emotion and not even have ONE embryo to work with? The doctor apologized and said she couldn’t give us any clear answers. Sometimes this just happens. It could be a genetic reason or just a reaction to the specific fertility drugs. There was no way to know for sure unless we tried again and used different fertility drugs. Feeling completely defeated and devastated, I told my husband I wanted to stop and take some time off trying to conceive. He agreed it was a good idea.
After taking about a year off, we approached year 7 of trying to conceive. After a great deal of time and reflection, I was much more at peace with the idea of life without children. I knew I still had my husband and we'd be fine, just the two of us. However, I still wondered why no embryos formed when we tried the first round of IVF. After a lengthy discussion with my husband, we decided to try one last and final time. We figured that if a second attempt with different fertility drugs produced no embryos, then at least we would know it was due to a genetic problem and it just wasn’t meant to be.
For our final attempt, we switched fertility clinics. I was turning 37. We remortgaged our home to get the almost $30,000 needed for our last attempt at starting a family. We were going for the Cadillac of fertility treatments.
I was put on different fertility drugs and I was closely monitored. At the end of the process, we had 5 embryos to work with. This time I was updated on their status on a daily basis. As each day passed, my hope was being chiseled away little by little. Every day seemed to bring bad news as the embryos began to die off. Fortunately, by the end of day 5, we were blessed to have 2 embryos to work with!
Since we were doing the Cadillac of fertility treatments, we paid the lab extra money to have the embryos genetically tested before being implanted. Once again, we had to wait for more results. It was excruciating and terrifying. We had come so far. I had a bad feeling in the back of my head but I tried so hard to hang onto some hope.
After a few days, the doctor called us with mixed news. Of the two embryos, one had an extra chromosome. If successfully implanted, it would have most likely miscarried within 5 weeks. There was no way for it to survive. However, the other embryo was absolutely perfect. An A+.
I no longer had to ever worry about whether to risk having a multiple pregnancy due to implanting more than one embryo. I no longer had to worry about having a bunch of embryos on ice in a lab and wonder what to do with all of them. Here I was at the end of the line. My husband and I had given it our all and we literally had ONE SHOT LEFT.
The doctor told us, “It just takes one.”
In the end, he was right. That one little embryo was meant to be.
2) What have you learned through this experience?
I want you all to understand some things I learned from this 8 year journey. I learned that you are no more or no less when you have a child. Children don’t define who you are. You do. Life is no more or no less when you have a child. It’s just different and different isn’t bad, it’s just different.
The other thing I learned is that sometimes things happen for a reason. I think that the universe helps guide us in many directions. As odd as it sounds, having to wait 8 years to have a baby may have saved my life. You see, while I was pregnant, I was diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes. As a result, I had to see an Endocrinologist. Endocrinologists also specialize in the Thyroid. While being treated by this doctor for the GD, she noticed a lump in my neck. It turns out I have Stage 2 Thyroid Cancer. There was a cancerous nodule the size of a plum growing in my neck. There were no signs of this in any of my (many years) of blood work because my thyroid was working just fine. This expert was trained to look for these kinds of lumps and here I was sitting in her office because I was pregnant with Gestational Diabetes.
I truly believe that the universe aligned all these stars to help me not only start the family I always wanted but also to save my life.
3) Tell us about you. What are your hobbies/passions/pursuits?
I have been a Montessori Upper Elementary Educator for over 15 years. In time, I hope to go back to school part time, to get my Master in Education. I’ve also illustrated a children’s book and there are talks of a sequel being published in the future that I may work on. As my son gets a little older and my health stabilizes, I hope to reignite the travel bug and with my son and husband, pick up exploring different places, foods and cultures in different parts of the world. In my down time, I enjoy reading about world events and exploring social media. You can never watch too many cat videos.