Heather first contacted the 16 Percent with an open letter she had written to a woman she had encountered at her fertility clinic. This encounter touched Heather and sparked many emotions for her. Writing the letter was not only a way to reach out to that woman, but also helped Heather work through her own complicated emotions with miscarriage and infertility. In addition to sharing Heather’s story, we are honoured to be able to share parts of the letter she wrote. Thank you, Heather, for your strength and your empathy for others.
To the woman crying today at Markham Fertility Centre while getting blood taken, I feel you. My name is Heather. I wanted you to know I looked for you today to tell you it’s okay to cry. Infertility is sad. I cried after I looked for you. I went into a cold washroom stall and cried. I will tell you why I cried.
I arrived at the clinic. My husband doesn't come in anymore. He waits in the car. We save money on parking that way. I take my number, 56. The clinic has been open for 20 minutes and 56 women have gone through to get blood taken already. Fifty-six.
I watch as a couple sit, smiling and happy together, as I wait for my turn to give blood. Greg and I were like that when we started. When we had hope. I wonder what has happened to us. I know what has happened to us. Infertility has happened to us. I get sadder. We have only been married nine months and we are broken.
I hear, "Are you crying?" The nurse is asking a woman who is in the bloodletting room. My heart breaks for her as my number dings to enter the room for my 30-second blood test. Fifty-six. I sit down across from you. You ARE crying. I watch as a single tear sweeps down your face. You are getting up and applying pressure to your arm. You make zero eye contact. The needle pokes through my arm. It hurts. Blood is drawn. I say thanks and I apply pressure. I go out into the waiting room. You are not there. You are not on the elevator (thank God no one else is on the elevator, I can be by myself and not be awkward. I have nothing in me to give today). I can't find you. I wanted to find you. I wanted you to know I cry and it's okay.
Whether you are crying because this is your first cycle and you can't believe you are here doing this or because this is your last cycle and you can't believe it could be over. I have cried.
Whether you are crying because your arms hurt from being poked or needles frighten you. I have cried.
Whether you are crying because you are tired and financially broke or your relationship is falling apart. I have cried.
Whether you are crying because you are scared, sad, broken or simply so lost. I have cried.
Whether you are crying because you don't know how to stay positive anymore and you can't believe that this is now your life. I have cried.
I will continue to cry as I hold my head high... one step at a time, one day at a time. You are not alone. This is the scariest journey I have ever been on, but I want you to know I cry too. I am here for you too. You can cry with me. I hope this letter finds you, as I wasn't able to this morning.
What is your personal experience with infertility/miscarriage?
I had my first miscarriage 14 years ago and became very self-destructive. I ventured back into the world of fertility nine years ago and made the decision to work on myself. If I was to be a mom it would happen at the right time. I didn’t realize, in the world of “mom,” time was my enemy. During those years I worked a lot on myself; working through previous traumas, creating a better life for myself mentally and emotionally, getting a Masters of Education, and establishing myself in a career. I put being a mom on the back burner.
Three years ago I met my now-husband and, due to some health-related issues, we had to put having a child on hold. We are coming up to only two years of trying, but during these two years we have gone through hell. After six months of trying I was diagnosed with Low Ovarian Reserve and my husband was diagnosed with Male Factor Infertility. We conceived naturally right after our first infertility appointment and then lost the baby to a missed miscarriage, after hearing the heartbeat. My body never recognized the death and I had to have a D&C three weeks later.
After we were married, we started our 1st IVF cycle which was a fail. We did a 2nd IVF cycle, which yielded us one PGS (preimplantation genetic screening) normal embryo and one embryo that wasn’t able to be biopsied for further testing. Then we did a 3rd IVF cycle and transferred a fresh embryo. It ended in a chemical pregnancy the day after we saw the pink positive pregnancy line (which could have been the HCG shot). I just completed an ERA biopsy (endometrial receptivity array) to make sure we transfer our next embryo at the right time. We will transfer our PGS-tested embryo during the next cycle.
2) How has it made your life worse? How has it made your life better?
My body is sore, my mind is tired, my womb feels empty, and life is very different than what I thought it would look like.
3) When & how did you realize that you were going to be able to carry on after infertility/miscarriage?
I move on because I simply have hope. We have ONE embryo left and I pray to God it transfers and brings us a healthy baby. If it doesn’t, life will look different and I am not sure I am able to answer this question at the moment.
4) What have you learned through this experience?
Through this experience I have learned that even in my darkest hours I am one hell of a strong woman. I never thought I could feel so much pain and emptiness, but continue moving on. I have realized that there is a world that I never knew about and I had no idea that so many men and women suffer. I never knew how, even with strength, I could at times feel so weak. I never knew the beating that this journey would take on my husband, myself, us as a couple, and our family and friends. I have learned that helping others, meditating, talking, seeking help, and being at one with nature and animals would be the highlight of my recovery moving through this. I have learned that I can be my very own worst enemy or my best friend. I talk to the baby often, and my dog, Trance, who was my best friend who also died this year, and I talk to my higher power, whom I call God, to help me through the days.
5) What do you hold on to for hope/courage/strength on your bad days?
I remind myself that I don’t know my life’s plan. I have been blessed with a very supportive network of family and friends to whom I have learned to reach out to. I have recently taken up writing. I find it beautiful. I go through this process instead of shying away.
6) How do you feel about your experience with infertility on your good days?
On the good days, I want to empower the world. I want to give everyone hope and be the person people can lean on. I want to spread awareness and help others. Good days, unfortunately, have been hard to come by. This journey has changed me and I need to be constantly vigilant that hope and faith run hand in hand.
7) In three words describe yourself before/during/after miscarriage?
I was the glowing pregnant person. I felt fabulous. Pregnancy suited me and my body. I felt untouchable (although, I was secretly petrified of losing the baby to a miscarriage). During, I felt betrayed. How did I not know that the baby had died? How did I still feel pregnant and why did I secretly love carrying around the dead fetus in me until it became too painful and I didn’t anymore? After, I experienced death. I went through the hard process but I came through. EVERY SINGLE holiday and event this entire year I have felt the pain and the loss of our child.
8) In what ways has your experience with infertility/miscarriage changed you as a person?
I long for children. I watch them. I miss what could have been or the possibilities. I don’t cry at pregnancy test and newborn baby commercials anymore. I just feel numb. As if this entire year has gone by like Groundhog Day, but I have changed and become different. I am less hopeful and more realistic, it hurts less when the bad happens.
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 went through a period where I literally hated everyone and everything. I didn’t want to hear anyone’s comments or opinions although everyone was just trying to be kind and positive. I hated “positive”. Positive was exhausting for me. I sent people information on what IVF was actually about and I did my own research. I realized that I was VERY loved, but EVERYONE was affected by this.
Others listening to me was helpful. People asking me how I was, was helpful. People allowing me to feel was helpful, me yelling, me crying, me working through this process was helpful. Talking to others who had experienced the same was helpful. Going through this entire process with my husband was helpful (although it nearly broke us several times). Being honest with myself was helpful, and finding outlets such as exercise, volunteering, playing with puppies and writing was helpful.
10) What is your favourite quote?
I always go back to the piece of prose “Footprints in the Sand.”
I am often carried until I can walk again.
#infertilitysupport #infertility #infertilitycommunity #pregnancyloss #pregnancylosssupport #pregnancylosscommunity #infertilityawareness #pregnancylossawareness #the16percent #throughnotaround #dundurnpress