1) What is your personal experience with infertility/miscarriage?
I remember returning from our honeymoon two years ago and my husband and I jokingly laughed about a calendar we made on conception and due dates. This schedule would help us have a baby just when we wanted. Like it was that easy!?! We had no major worries in the world just pure excitement for planning to have a baby….but it turned out that was not going to be our story.
Instead I am sitting here writing about my journey so far instead of putting the final touches on my nursery. I should be 38 weeks pregnant, but I’m not and that just really really sucks. Unfair just doesn’t do it justice but along the way I have learned to love greater than I ever thought imaginable.
My husband and I had been trying for a long, frustrating and depressing time. After a year we were just about to consider fertility treatment when I finally got pregnant. I cannot even describe how happy we were for our June baby. Everything was finally falling into place. The plan was to tell my parents at Thanksgiving weekend even though I wasn’t quite in the “safe zone” yet. I was too nervous to tell them Friday evening, so I went to bed and woke up to my worst nightmare. I knew this wasn’t good. I waited for my husband to arrive and we left for the ER to confirm what I already knew. I was no longer pregnant. I felt defeated, frustrated and in pain.
We held on to hope and two months later I was pregnant again! We were happy and afraid all at the same time. We knew a positive pregnancy test didn’t mean a baby. We passed the 12-week scan, the pregnancy announcement, the 20-week scan, the genetic tests, my nursery was 90% done (no procrastinator here), I did daily affirmations, I cleaned only with vinegar, I refused to take a bath; I was a bit too cautious. But I made it 20 weeks – we were safe, right?
On May 1st while at work, I started to notice what I later realized were contractions. I thought nothing of it until they continued very regularly non-stop for 3 hours. A lot of texts later, I drove myself to the ER. I remember just bawling uncontrollably as I tried to explain what was happening while also saying “I’m sure it’s nothing, I’m just overly anxious” to every nurse and doctor I saw. After 6 hours of tests, checks and ultrasounds I was told my cervix was too short and I was going to be sent to a hospital in Toronto for an emergency cerclage. I had no idea what that meant at the time (a procedure to bind together the ends of a shortened or malfunctioning cervix) but was relieved to know they had a solution. Alone in the hospital, I was in denial and didn’t think it was serious enough to tell my husband to leave work.
What happened once my husband and I arrived in Toronto is still a hazy blur, even now. I was so scared at one point that my whole body was shaking uncontrollably. After being checked by a third OB I realized something was wrong. After checking me, she calmly told us that they could not perform the cerclage, that I was too far along, and that I was going to have the baby.
Somehow, my husband and I fell asleep that night in the hospital. I woke up at 4:00am on May 2nd and knew it was time. The pain was so unreal but there was no time for epidurals or meds. At 4:22 am, we welcomed a perfect and beautiful baby boy named Noah into the world. Before they handed him to me, they took his heartbeat and told me he was alive. I took Noah and just stared in complete silence and utter shock. I’m not quite sure when I finally broke down and cried. But I’ll forever remember the moment Adam reached for his perfect hand and Noah moved it in response. We were so in love, so incredibly in love. Unfortunately, he was only 21 weeks and 4 days. Somewhere between 1-2 hours later his heart stopped beating peacefully in my arms. Holding Noah was the greatest moment of my life.
What happened after Noah passed away was traumatic. I can’t write in much detail about what happened at the hospital because it still gives me chills and I’m not sure I want to describe the horror I felt. So, I will leave it at that.
The next couple of days and weeks continue on in that same hazy blur. Leaving the hospital without Noah was heart shattering and dark. All I had to hold onto was a little white envelope of footprints and photos I will cherish forever. The decisions we had to make in those first few days are still raw: cremate or bury? Open or closed casket funeral? I remember after everything telling my husband that I never wanted to make a decision ever again. I refused to make even the smallest of decisions over those next few weeks and was completely numb.
Nobody told me about all the other things I may experience so I’m going to get real here. I had intense guilt and anxiety about everything. The constant flashbacks to the hospital that would literally send my body into hour long shakes on a daily basis for weeks on end. I had nightmare after nightmare and so I fought going to sleep. Not to mention I was petrified that everyone around me was going to die – I remember waking up constantly to check to make sure my husband was still breathing. The trauma was taking its toll on me and I knew I needed help before I spun out of control.
So here I am almost 4 months later, and light has started to shine through. It was not easy and is still a rollercoaster of emotions. I needed help and reached out for it: I got a naturopath and did acupuncture, massages, daily meditation, joined support groups and found an incredible therapist. I was also surrounded by an amazing husband, friends, family, colleagues and strangers. I feel grateful for the support system and ability to seek help and constantly feel for those that may not have that type of help readily available to them.
2) How has it made your life worse? How has it made your life better?
After I lost Noah, I lost a sense of certainty in life. I’m not sure I’ll ever get to fully enjoy the joyfulness that pregnancy brings. Sure, I can be hopeful, but I will always have a fear that things may not work. Pregnancy does not mean a healthy baby. I hate that I’ll always feel that way. This experience also shined an intensity on my anxiety and fear which I’m slowly coming to terms with, but it seriously impacts your life and the people around you in so many ways.
On the flip side, over the last couple of weeks I feel like my sense of life and its meaning has changed dramatically. I like to think I love more fiercely. I’m grateful and more aware of my surroundings. I’ve slowed down and really started to focus on who and what is most important to me. Noah has made me stop and be grateful and with that has come some incredible pain and also incredibly joy.
3) When & how did you realize that you were going to be able to carry on after infertility/miscarriage?
I guess I’m still trying to figure things out. Over the past couple of months, my focus has been on overcoming my fear and anxiety before I even think about trying again. I’ve just recently realized that the fear will never go away, and time is precious.
As cliché as it sounds, I also realized I wanted Noah’s story to be a story of love and joy. Not a traumatic and depressing story. I’m doing this all for him. That is what helps me carry on.
4) What have you learned through this experience?
To speak up for myself. To prioritize self-care. To be grateful. That meditation can change your life. To be mindful. That thoughts can be changed. To protect my energy. To slow down. To not push my emotions away but to instead acknowledge them. I’ve learned patience. That you can still be strong even if you bawl on the Go Train. That to be calm is a superpower. That there can still be Joy. That pain from loss is tough AF.
5) What do you hold on to for hope/courage/strength on your bad days?
That it’s okay to feel the pain and sadness and not to push it away on those days. I have been through the worst thing imaginable, but I know this darkness will pass and I will find moments of joy. I think of Noah and how his love inspires me to live with as much love as I can since he can’t be here with us. He pushes me forward towards the light.
That I am not alone, because there is an army of incredibly courageous women out there.
6) How do you feel about your experience with infertility on your good days?
I’m thankful for the time I did have with Noah and how he has changed me forever. He has reminded me to care more about the people, relationships and meaningful moments of life. That life is worth trying for again because he brought so much love into mine I can’t imagine the possibility of bringing more love like that into the world. I also hold onto the fact that my husband will love me unconditionally, living children or not. He is simply incredible.
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?
I am a mother now. Sure, it was only for a couple of hours, but I still love Noah as my son. I’ll have him in my heart and think of him forever. No other baby will change that. I will always wonder what his personality would be or how tall he would have gotten.
Because of him, I feel forever changed and that I’m in this major transformative time of my life. It’s exhilarating and exhausting. I’m learning something new about myself every day and experiencing more joy than I ever have before. I care less about things that don’t matter and love more about the things that do. I feel like my journey has only just begun.
I also carry an intense sadness around that I didn’t before. Yes, I’ve found gratitude, joy and happiness but I still have days where I can’t get out of bed and could literally just stare at the wall for hours, or I’m exhausted from holding it together and break down as soon as I get home. I may look normal, but the pain is always there just camouflaged with a smile.
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?
I have been lucky to have an incredibly amazing support system and with many this has made our relationships stronger. I’ve been open and vulnerable and not everyone has backed away. They respect me when I tell them I can’t look at their newborn photos or run over to meet their newborn but know I’m still incredibly happy for them.
The things that have been the most helpful are when people recognize and talk about Noah; Anytime anyone says his name; and when I’ve been told that I don’t need to rush my grieving and can take my own time.
The things that have been the most harmful include silence, avoidance or giving advice. All I really wanted during both of my losses was to feel understood and to find a way to overcome the guilt and shame. Advice back almost made it feel like I didn’t do enough, or I failed because I didn’t do or try that the first time.
10) Tell us about you. What are your hobbies/passions/pursuits?
I love to spend time at the cottage, golfing, walking with our dog. I also practice daily mindfulness meditation and workouts at home which help immensely with keeping my mind and body calm. Mindfulness has become a big topic of interest and I’m so intrigued in understanding more, I’ve bought books, read countless articles and I’m realizing the potential impact it can have on you, your relationships, everything.
11) What is your favourite quote?
“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerability is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy – the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light” – Brene Brown