1. What is your personal experience with infertility/miscarriage?
My husband and I were married relatively young and didn’t start trying for a family right away. We wanted to travel, establish our careers and enjoy being Husband and Wife before adding the esteemed titles Mom and Dad. When we did start trying to get pregnant I had it timed perfectly. I like order, logic and a good solid plan. It was March 2013 and I had started at a new company in July 2012. We would get pregnant; I’d wait until the standard 12 weeks to announce – at which point I would have been at my new job for precisely one year. Perfect.
Month one. No double lines. Month two. Nope. Month three. Nothing. This was not the plan. We kept trying for a few more months before I seriously started researching the scary “I” word. Infertility.
The first time we walked through the fertility clinic doors I thought – “Who IS this? What am I doing here?” It was an out of body experience – this was NOT the plan.
Over time we did all the tests, all the procedures. And the answer? Unexplained infertility. Super. How was I going to come up with a plan for something unexplained?
We went down the route of so many others. Cycle monitoring, which escalated to medicated cycles, which escalated to IUI. We did multiple rounds of IUI before we just knew in our gut that it wasn’t the route that would lead us to our baby. And then the IVF decision. In September of 2014 we did our first round of IVF and ended up with two day-five blastocysts. They decided to do a fresh transfer, after which my on-the-fence ovarian hyper stimulationsyndrome turned into full blown, painful OHSS – and a negative pregnancy test. We waited two more cycles and transferred our last remaining embryo. Despite the clinic’s warnings, I calculated down to the minute as to when I could take a pregnancy test. TWO DOUBLE LINES! The next day my blood work confirmed what the pee stick had revealed – pregnant! We were ecstatic. Over the moon! Our hail Mary had WORKED!
And then things started to take a turn for the worse. That early heartbeat they saw started to slow down. Growth didn’t measure quite right. Things were not looking optimistic.
During this time, we had also been concurrently pursing a line of investigation around a varicocele (an enlargement of veins in the scrotum)that had been identified in my husband. It was now three days before Christmas and he had been booked for last-minute varicocele surgery the next day. Knowing that miscarriage was a strong likelihood, it was with heavy hearts we drove out of town for the surgery that was supposed to only be a back-up plan. It was supposed to be to potentially help make the journey to our second child smoother. With a brave face he proceeded with the surgery. The surgery itself was rather nerve-wracking – he had to lie still on an x-ray table, with isotopes coursing through his veins, as they threaded a wire from his jugular, down through his heart, body, kidneys, and into his testis. At that point they proceeded to repair the initially-discovered varicocele, plus another they identified during the surgery.
We had the worst Christmas that year. There was some recovery following my husband’s surgery and then the day after Boxing Day our fears were confirmed. The pregnancy had ended.
We were advised to wait three months for me to recover post-miscarriage and also for my husband’s sperm to replenish post-surgery. After that, they wanted us to try on our own again for six months. Six more months of negative pregnancy tests ensued. On a tear-filled Labour Day weekend in September 2015 my period made itself known – and we made the decision, once again, to proceed with IVF.
The next round was a little smoother. I knew what to expect, so it was easier to plan and prepare (big checkmark in my box). We each let a few co-workers and our managers at work know what was going on and we found it significantly helped to have support in the workplace. Our families knew how to better support us this time around, too.
We opted for PGS testing (pre-implantation genetic screening) this time around and in the end, we were left with only one viable embryo. It was déjà vu. The doctors and nurses kept repeating the mantra, “it only takes one,” but we had a hard time getting our hopes up.
And then… two pink lines. Once again, I broke the rules and tested at home. I crept out of bed and into the bathroom to take a pregnancy test at 3 am one morning. My husband found me sobbing tears of joy on the tiled floor. In my heart I knew this was it – our baby was finally coming home. The blood work, early ultrasounds and growth measures all looked so much better this time around. And after a smooth pregnancy and delivery our beautiful baby boy joined our family in July 2016. The morning we brought him home from the hospital was the best day of my life to that point. I was the happiest I thought I could ever possibly be!
One year later we took a trip back to the clinic to discuss plans for Baby #2. We knew what it would take to get pregnant this time andwe had a plan all set in place: another round of IVF, more PGS testing, frozen transfer, and pregnancy. I had the timing down pat. During my maternity leave I had been offered a new role in a new company and, tired of having my career plans in limbo due toinfertility, I took it. I knew how long it would take to get pregnant. I was, again, going to plan to announce my pregnancy once I had been at this new company for roughly one year. We would do all the preliminary tests and procedures slowly over the next few months so as to make it all as stress-free as possible. So, imagine our surprise when I got a call the afternoon of my first round of preliminary blood work with the nurse saying, “I have some news. You’re already pregnant….” NATURALLY! <throws carefully timed life plans up in the air>
Our second miracle joined our family in May 2018. Two miracles, in two uniquely miraculous ways.
2. How has it made your life worse? How has it made your life better?
Points of our infertility journey were the bleakest moments of our lives. We had our hopes rise so many times – only to have them come to a crushingly devastating end. I have stated I like things planned out – well, infertility laughs in the face of your life plans. You feel like all control has been taken away from you. It feels like the light has been dimmed on the things you previously enjoyed doing. It also becomes hard to schedule life around infertilitytreatments and appointments, and some activities become restricted– like vacations or even exercise, my go-to stress reliever. I often joke now about the “infertility hangover,” but it really isn’t a joke. You learn to temper happiness. You live in the “cautiously optimistic” zone rather than experiencing the full joy of some moments. It impacts every facet of your life – physically, mentally, emotionally and financially.
On the other hand, it led us to our two amazing boys. Their light removes almost all shadows left from our journey. A journey thatshowed me my own strength. It revealed a level of perseverance I didn’t know I had. It strengthened our marriage. It taught us to read each other like no other experience could. It left me with a new level of empathy. And it granted me a super power: the ability to sense when others were going through similar struggles.
3. When & how did you realize that you were going to be able to carry on after infertility/miscarriage?
We met with a counselor at our clinic following our final round of IUI. She talked to us about how we had a choice – we did not have to proceed to IVF. If we didn’t think we could take any more of this – we didn’t have to. We could just stop.
But I was nowhere close to giving up at that point and her helping me understand we had a choice revealed our answer with crystal clarity. We had a choice. That means we still had some control. And we were going to choose to dig down and find the strength to continue. I revisited that conversation after the miscarriage and made the same choice again. We could do this. We would keep going.
4. What have you learned through this experience?
So many things:
Life isn’t fair.
You are stronger than you realize.
Always have a back up plan.
There is SUCH strength in support.
Miracles do exist – I call ours Bronsen and Sawyer.
5. What do you hold on to for hope/courage/strength on your bad days?
We held on to each other. We became each other’s rock. We boosted each other’s spirits and reminded each other we could go on. We had this. We were a team and we were going to win.
But we also learned to ask for help. We learned the value of support. We leaned on family, close friends and the other Fertility Warriors we had found along the way. And the strength in numbers helped get us through.
6. How do you feel about your experience with infertility on your good days?
It was an awful experience from which beauty bloomed.
It has altered the course of my life. Not only did it, most importantly, bring us our two amazing children, but it made us stronger as a couple, taught us a level of patience and empathy that other experiences would be hard pressed to deliver, and it changed the course of my career.
7. In three words describe yourself before/during/after miscarriage (in miscarriage specific situations)?
Buoyant. Devastated. Guarded.
8. In what ways has your experience with infertility/miscarriage changed you as a person?
I’ve spoken a lot about what infertility has granted: patience, empathy, appreciation for life, a stronger relationship with my husband, being attuned to others’ own struggles.
But it has also changed the course of my career. I mentioned my “super-power” above – recognizing when others may be similarly struggling with infertility. I think this might be a super power granted to all Fertility Warriors. Once you’ve been in the infertility trenches, you recognize the signs when others are going down their own bumpy road to parenthood. The sadness in their eyes. The isolation, even in social settings. The frequent early morning appointments.
I have tried to make myself available over the years to those I think may be struggling with infertility. I might mention something about the challenges in creating our own family, and more often than not,they will then open up about their situation. This occurred with a friend, who is now my business partner. I tried to provide her support, encouragement and a shoulder to cry on during her infertility journey. After her own long battle, she and her husband finally became pregnant in the fall of 2017 – at the same time I was pregnant with our second. During an evening walk she approached the idea of launching a business to help others struggling with infertility. She outlined the idea of creating a supportive community that provided evidenced-based resources on nutrition, exercise and mental well-being during infertility. She is a trained nutritionist; I have an undergrad in biochemistry, an MBA, and have been a certified fitness instructor for over 15 years. I was at an interestingpoint in my career and I loved the idea combining our passions to help spread awareness of, and support for, infertility.
After careful consideration, I decided to jump into the business venture with her 100%. We began early plans for myMindBodyBaby (www.mymindbodybaby.com) during our pregnancies, built the bones of the business with infants suckling (very literally) and during their naptimes, and officially launched in April 2019. We are in the midst of growing our online community to help support others going down the rough road of infertility by providing tools and resources to help them along their way.
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?
People who didn’t realize what we were going through at the time are usually fairly surprised to learn what was going on in the “background”. Co-workers said they had no idea we were struggling. Friends said they didn’t have any indication of the pain we were hiding. Silently struggling with infertility, while maintaining your same public façade, takes a great toll.
We were told many things over the course of time we were trying to get pregnant. Comments that weren’t helpful were ones around what helped others get pregnant.
“have sex more often…”
What was helpful was a shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen – and empathy.
“This must be so hard.”
“I am here for you.”
“Is there anything I can do to help?”
“Let’s go on a walk and just chat.”
10. Tell us about you. What are your hobbies/passions/pursuits?
I feel very fortunate to now be able to state that I am the mother of two beautiful sons, Bronsen and Sawyer. I have been married to my best friend, Mike, for the past 11+ years. We have a cottage up north that we love spending time at – playing in the water or snow and hosting friends and family. I enjoy crafting, DIY projects, baking recipes I create on the fly, and exercising – with a special love for running, which I often do with the two boys in tow in the double stroller. I am extremely close with my family. We live around the corner from my parents, across the street from my middle sister, her husband and their two kids, and five minutes away from my youngest sister and her husband.
Professionally, I have learned so much and gained so much fulfillment from myMindBodyBaby. Each day we hear from those currently fighting their own infertility battle on how our community is helping ease their journeys, even just a little. And it makes metruly believe in the sentiment behind the quote, “You have been assigned this mountain to show others it can be moved.” – Zig Ziglar
11. What is your favourite quote?
Well – I just shared one! But I have two others – the first one isattributed to Eisenhower and is probably pretty self-explanatory given my story above: “Plans are worthless, but planning is everything.” The planning got me through the tough times – having something to focus on and direct my energy towards, even though my original plans didn’t come to fruition!
The second is a verse from Comeback Kid, a song by The Band Perry. I relied on it heavily during our infertility battle (I’d blast it on my earphones while running… and sometimes concurrently crying…) and shared it with my business partner and friend during hers. In fact, she included this verse in a little card she wrote me to thank me for my support during her journey – and to announce she was pregnant!
I'm a comeback kid
Down for a minute, I'll get up again
Looks like I'm breaking, but it's just a bend; it's not over yet
'Cause in the end
I'm a comeback, I'm a comeback kid