1) What is your personal experience with infertility/miscarriage?
My lovely husband Phil and I got married in September 2016. We planned an amazing honeymoon for ourselves in March, and decided that would also be the time that I would go off of birth control and we would start the baby making game. My mom got pregnant with me on her first try. Phil and I are healthy and young (ish). We thought it would be no problem. I realize now that I was incredibly naïve about the whole situation – fertility, conception, my cycles, etc. I had been taking birth control for over ten years and had lost touch with my body. This all changed after going off the pill. First of all, I didn’t get my period back until August. The learning curve about my own fertility and cycle was huge. But I was coming back to my body and loved the feeling of empowerment that knowing all of this information gave me. Finally, that December, we had success! I woke up on New Year’s Eve and took a pregnancy test because I was told (by my naturopath) to do so on day 28 of my cycle. I was not expecting a positive in the least. In fact, my first reaction was to check the box for how to tell if you’ve purchased a faulty test. But it was not faulty – we were pregnant. It was at this point that I really became thankful for marrying a bartender. He made me mocktails all night at the New Year’s Eve party we were attending and then again, a few days later at my 33rd birthday party. The next three months were full of immense joy and excitement.
We made it past the scary 12-week marker and told all of our friends and family. But, on April 3rd I got a call from my midwife letting me know that something was amiss with the second round of blood tests. We went for an emergency ultrasound the next morning to make sure baby was still alive in there. She was. But, after another ultrasound and more tests it was determined that our baby girl had triploidy. This is a very rare (like 1 in 7000 rare) genetic disorder that results in the presence of three of every chromosome instead of the usual two. We were told our baby would not be compatible with life and we would need to terminate the pregnancy. I remember the moment of the call as clear as if it happened this morning. I was moments away from telling all of the teachers at my school (I am a teacher and an elementary school librarian) about the baby. I had been excited for weeks about this moment as I anticipated the love and excitement that would come with the announcement. But, before I could leave my classroom, my cell phone rang. The kids had just left. A very lovely and kind genetic counselor told me the details over the phone. I wrote two pages of furious notes as she talked. As soon as I hung up I collapsed into a heap under the tiny primary writing table and sobbed. I managed to text a co-worker and call my husband. She helped me down the hall and to the parking lot (I couldn’t even walk on my own I was so weak with shock and grief). A D&C was scheduled for the following week at BC Women’s Hospital. I had a week of time to say goodbye with my baby living peacefully in my belly. I talked to her every day. One night right before the end I felt two tiny kicks. I will always cherish that moment. The D&C was painful and traumatizing. Every doctor and nurse that I worked with was amazing. But this didn’t take away from the agony of the situation. We named our baby girl Luna. (We didn’t know she was a girl until afterwards but I knew with such conviction in my heart that we had already decided it was a girl and named her). She was born and died on April 12th 2018. I was 18 weeks pregnant. And then I wasn’t.
The weeks after were a blur. But eventually we moved on and got back to our lives. We began trying to conceive again in June. Fast forward to today (February 2019) – I am 34 and still haven’t fallen pregnant. Phil and I both have some work to do (me on my cycle and him on his sperm, both of us on our stress levels). We have been seeing a naturopath and an acupuncturist and are hopeful that we are on the path to meeting Luna’s sibling soon.
2) How has it made your life worse? How has it made your life better?
I don’t know if I would say my life is worse or better because of this fertility journey. Just different. Of course, awful things happened. By far the worst things that have ever happened to me. But my life in general isn’t worse. It is harder, but not worse. Harder because I am now 34 and still not pregnant. With every day that passes I feel a clock ticking in my body. Harder because when I look around me I see pregnant people everywhere. Every pregnancy announcement feels like a punch to the gut. And there are many. Currently I know ten people who are pregnant and ten people who gave birth within the last year (I made a list!). And then, when some of these women casually mention how easy it was to get pregnant, I feel like they just cut me and poured a little salt in the wound for good measure. Harder because I gained a little weight and my body changed during the 4 and a half months of my pregnancy. That weight isn’t all gone. And my body is different. Which would be okay if I had the wonderful reward of a baby to go along with it. But I don’t.
As for the positives – there are a couple. First is my relationship with my husband. We have always had a great relationship, but going through this together made us stronger and opened new lines of communication that we were lacking before but didn’t know it. We had to work as a team to get through the hard days. And are doing that still, as the hard days are not over yet. Another positive, and this will be hard to put into words, is that I think I feel love differently now. I feel it stronger and more intensely. Having loved Luna so much and then losing her without ever meeting her, I think a little piece of my heart, as the Grinch would say, grew two sizes that day.
3) When & how did you realize that you were going to be able to carry on after infertility/miscarriage?
On one of the last days with Luna in my belly, I went for a run. I had to stop every once in a while to cry. On one of these stops, in a beautiful forested area near my house, an eagle swooped low and slow right over my head. My best friend’s dad died when she was 12 and since then she has taken eagles to be her dad watching out for her. When I saw that eagle, I knew that he was letting me know he would watch out for my baby too. Later that day, on a walk, I found a four-leaf clover. My grandmother and I have a shared bond of finding four-leaf clovers on the regular. She passed away a couple of years ago. This, for me, was her telling me that she would also be looking out for my baby. Both events made me simultaneously heartbroken and hopeful.
4) What have you learned through this experience?
I have learned multitudes about my cycle, my body, and my fertility. I feel stronger because of this. I have learned (or am trying to learn) patience – this is a looooong road we are on but I am confident there is an end in sight.
5) What do you hold on to for hope/courage/strength on your bad days?
I try to hold on to the knowledge I feel deep down in my soul that I will have a baby one day. I just wish someone would tell me when that day would be!
6) How do you feel about your experience with infertility on your good days?
I like that I was asked about my good days and my bad days because that’s exactly how it is. Some days I feel like I’ve got this and I’m doing all of the right things and my baby is on its way to meet me soon. Other days I wake up feeling heavy in my heart. On the good days it’s just a matter of me feeling more confident in the fact that everything is going to work out the way I hope it will.
7) In what ways has your experience with infertility/miscarriage changed you as a person?
It has made me far more aware of the struggles that many women go through to conceive. It has stopped me from jumping to conclusions when I see a mother. I have no idea what she went through to get to where she is now.
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?
Everyone in my life who I have let in and shared my struggles with has been nothing but supportive and kind. Sometimes though, even with the best of interests at heart, some people’s support ends up not being so supportive. I find it most helpful when a friend or family member just listens and acknowledges my feelings. I don’t need advice. I don’t need little tricks and tips. I just need an ear and a hug.
One thing that I have found really hard is the fact that people tense up and get uncomfortable when I talk about my pregnancy. When my pregnant friends start to talk about certain things they felt or did, I feel like I can’t chime in with my experiences without making everyone uncomfortable. It feels as if just because my pregnancy didn’t end with a living baby, my experiences during those 18 weeks have become invalid. I had morning sickness and cravings too! I felt tired and nervous and hopeful too!
9) Tell us about you. What are your hobbies/passions/pursuits?
I am a librarian. I love to read books and buy books and talk about books. I am a runner and a biker and love to be outside exploring. I am an ocean swimmer when weather permits, and even sometimes when it doesn’t. In my few moments of spare time, if I am not outside in the sun, I love to knit, sew, and do puzzles (I swear I’m not 80!).
10) What is your favourite quote?
I don’t know about favourite – but this quote floated across my path at some point right after my D&C and I felt it was speaking right to me:
“Grief, I’ve learned, is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give, but cannot. All that unspent love gathers up in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in that hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go.” – Jamie Anderson