* As a special gift for readers, Trudy, who is a culinary nutritionist, has created a free downloadable guideline for nutrition that you can access here: http://eatliveandplay.com/feed-your-fertility/*
1) What is your personal experience with infertility/miscarriage?
In the Spring of 2014 my husband and I tied the knot. I was filled with so much excitement that day. I had married the love of my life, my family and friends had gathered from near and far to celebrate with us and witness the start of of our beautiful journey as husband and wife. We set off to Thailand and Vietnam for our honeymoon and like most young brides I just knew that when I came home there would be 3 of us as we started a new family.
Although I didn’t get pregnant on our honeymoon I did a few months later. I remember feeling happy but also so relieved that it didn’t take us long to conceive. The day I found out was Halloween 2014. I remember clearly because I was dressed up as Khaleesi, Mother of Dragons from Game of Thrones. That morning I realized that my period had been late so I took a test which confirmed my suspicions. To say I was overjoyed and elated would in no way be adequate to describe what I was feeling.
Sadly it was only the start of a long and rocky road…
Fast forward to our first ultrasound. I was 11 weeks pregnant and we were only a few days away from Christmas. At this appointment we would hear the baby’s heartbeat for the very first time. I had it all planned out. At Christmas dinner right after the main course, my husband Danny and I would make our big announcement that I was pregnant. I could see that day so clearly. But that announcement was never made. As the tech was doing the ultrasound I sensed that something was wrong, she was too quiet and nothing was appearing on the screen. “Why don’t you just go and empty your bladder and come back so we can take another look?” she said.
When I came back in the room and resumed the ultrasound, she shook her head and told me she was sorry but there was no heartbeat and no fetus. Shocked I asked her to explain how this could be. I had carried this baby for 11 weeks, talked to it, read to it, was so careful of what I put into my mouth and there she was telling me there was no life inside of me?? She again told me she was sorry and that the sack was empty. She said it’s what they call an incomplete miscarriage. The doctor advised that the miscarriage would happen naturally in the next couple of days and if not then to take a drug called Misoprostol to expel the pregnancy.
I left the office feeling numb, everything around me moved in slow motion; the world was still going on but I had just lost my baby. When I got home I fell to the floor, retreated to a corner of the room, pulled my legs tight to my chest and just cried. I stayed like that for 2 hours. My husband holding me, kissing my forehead and telling me that we would somehow get through this.
Never wanting to disappoint those that I love, an hour after that, I took a shower, put on some makeup and a cute dress to attend my best friend’s birthday party. I remember sitting there at dinner being a complete wreck on the inside, trying as best I could to keep my cheeks dry and mask the pain I was feeling. I thought to myself that it couldn’t possibly get worse, but it did. I ended up taking 2 doses of Misoprostol, but it didn’t work. I took the second dose on Christmas Eve. On Christmas Day instead of sharing my exciting news of my pregnancy, I spent the entire day on pins and needles waiting for the cramps and bleeding to start that would mean the end of my pregnancy.
I carried this failed pregnancy or “incomplete miscarriage”’ inside of me for 3 weeks. I don’t even know how to explain how agonizing it is to carry a pregnancy for 3 weeks trying to go about your life as you feel completely dead and hollow inside. To know that your body won’t do the job that it’s supposed to do naturally. To feel like my body had betrayed me because I couldn’t keep the pregnancy nor release it.
I felt completely broken, lifeless. I was a walking zombie during that holiday season. If I’m completely honest every holiday season is now a reminder of that pain, shame and devastation I had to endure in complete silence and isolation. Christmas used to be my favourite season and now I just want to shut my eyes tight while I wait for it to be over. I haven’t enjoyed Christmas since.
When the second dose of Misoprostol didn’t work I was told I would have to have a procedure called a D&C [dilation and curettage] to clear the tissue from the uterus. This is where my journey took a deadly turn. A few hours after the procedure I developed an extremely high fever, chills and an excruciating headache that I can only liken to someone squeezing both sides of my head trying to make it explode. My husband insisted on taking me to the hospital but I thought I was just getting the flu. I lost that battle and reluctantly I let myself be dragged to the hospital.
Not finding anything wrong, they gave me some pain meds and sent me home. The fever, chills, and headache continued until the next day. That morning I received a phone call. It was the hospital. They had received the results of my blood test back. They asked how far away I was from the hospital and I said “maybe about 20 minutes, why?” They urged me to come back asap as I had contracted a life threatening infection in my blood.
By the time I got back to the hospital I was ushered into a room where two doctors from the infectious diseases unit [Public Health Agency of Canada], fully dressed in almost hazmat looking suits spoke to me. They advised me that I had a very serious blood infection and that they had no idea what it was so they were sent as a precaution. By this time my panic escalated to shear terror.
I had a CT scan, more blood tests and a spinal tap. I waited and waited for the results. My headache was bad, they had me on morphine, but that didn’t even work. After 2 days in that hospital, still not knowing was was wrong with me, they didn’t believe that they were equipped to treat me so I was rushed via ambulance to another hospital. I remember being in that ambulance terrified wondering what was happening to me, how serious it was and whether I would survive.
My case at the hospital was so intriguing as everyone tried to figure out exactly was was wrong with me that I had groups of fellows at the foot of my bed reading my chart and reciting my stats. This is when I started to realize just how serious things were. I felt like I was in an episode of Grey’s Anatomy. I had an ultrasound that confirmed that all of the tissue was not removed after the D&C I had several days earlier. The diagnosis I was given was sepsis and my body was going into severe septic shock.
Sepsis is “the body’s overwhelming and life-threatening response to infection that can lead to tissue damage, organ failure, and death. In other words, it’s your body’s over active and toxic response to an infection.” [from sepsisalliance.org]. I later found out that sepsis is the third leading cause of pregnancy-related deaths so that’s when I knew I had to share this part of my journey. It is also responsible for 15% of all maternal deaths worldwide.
In severe cases it can affect the function of your organs, such as the heart, brain, and kidneys. Once it hits your organs, it’s fatal and my body was on the brink of that happening. I was booked for an emergency surgery to remove the infection and save my life.
As I went into surgery, my body was destroying its platelets due to the infection so my platelets were low. I remember them placing a bag of blood on the edge of my bed right beside my foot as I was wheeled into surgery so that in case I started severely bleeding in the surgery, they would be ready to intervene. I was terrified that I wouldn’t wake up, would never see my husband or family again. I was mad that just 8 months after getting married I was about to make my husband a widower.
Thankfully the surgery went well and I was discharged from the hospital a few days later. It was a long road to recovery following my illness. I teetered back and forth between being angry about almost losing my life but being grateful for surviving to being in pieces about losing our baby to being scared that my body was ruined and that I would never get pregnant again. That was a very dark time for me and I still don’t know how I managed to get through. A few months later we were given the all clear to try again. After several months of trying with no luck we were referred to a fertility clinic.
For the next year and a half I was subjected to cycle monitoring each month, hysteroscopies and another surgical procedure to repair my uterus. They had concluded that I had a thin endometrium or lining that was preventing the fetus from implanting. My lining was half the thickness that it should be to support successful implantation. I became my own fertility specialist and tried every supplement, tea, yoga, acupuncture -- you name it and I tried it.
In early 2017 I was told by the clinic that there was nothing that they could do for me and that I would never carry a child naturally. I was urged to consider a surrogate. At that suggestion I stormed out of the office signaling my offence that that option would even be presented to us. I was broken, devastated and depressed at the thought that something that I wanted so badly may never happen. Time went on, friends got pregnant, family members got pregnant and I was forced to plaster a smile on my face and be a good sport as I participated in yet another baby shower trying to figure out which baby food was in the jar.
Fast forward 6 months and we found out that I was pregnant. We hadn’t even been trying and I got pregnant. I was beyond filled with joy that we had beaten the odds and were on the way to having our miracle baby. Because of the circumstances around my pregnancy I had an ultrasound at 8 weeks. I was not looking forward to the ultrasound after my previous experience but then I thought surely this would not happen to me twice. But ultimately the worst did happen. The tech started the ultrasound and on the screen was a fetus. My heart exploded with joy but that joy quickly deflated the moment she excused herself to get the doctor. We quickly whipped out our phones and took a picture of our beautiful child we saw on the screen. That would be the first and last time we would see our baby.
The doctor came into the room a few moments later and advised us that the fetus was measuring smaller than it should be and there was no heartbeat. She advised that sometimes this can happen and that we should return in one week for another ultrasound to see if there was any further development. In the same breath she also asked us to prepare for the worst. After the longest week of my life, the ultrasound confirmed our worst nightmares that the pregnancy wasn’t viable and we began the process of grieving another child that was not meant to be. Since the medication didn’t work the last time, it was strongly suggested that we have a D&C. I was reluctant to have a D&C since my lining was already thin. I didn’t want to volunteer to remove any more of it.
Desperate to avoid the surgery I took matters into my own hands and tried natural ways to release the pregnancy. Trying to get rid of a pregnancy that you longed for and wished to have is an agony beyond measure. I had thought this baby was a miracle and now I found myself willing my body to release and googling “natural ways to induce miscarriage”. By now some of my friends were on second and third pregnancies. I had to attend a family member’s baby shower when my body was trying to miscarry. All the while painting on the brightest smile that I could to show my love and support.
That day I decided that it was no longer serving me to be in situations that were a trigger, so now I politely decline those invitations. As someone who always loves to support and be there for others, giving myself permission to do that was necessary but also very difficult for me. Each day I am mindful of the need to honour myself and all that I’ve been through and to be compassionate towards myself like I would be to a friend.
So why am I sharing this now?
For a long time I was afraid of sharing my story because as a nutritionist it was hard for me to overcome that hurdle of shame and fear of how it would be perceived because of my career.
I then realized there's no reason that something that affects 1 in 4 women should be shrouded in secrecy, guilt or shame.
Although it continues to be a roller coaster ride and I have no idea how my story will end, I’ve finally arrived at a place where I’m hopeful and at peace with knowing that I’m doing everything that I possibly can to get pregnant and to love myself through this situation. I've learned so many things about myself along the way and have recognized the importance of being mindful of the thoughts I tell myself because what you focus on will grow.
I’ve decided to turn my break down into my break through.
In the words of Brene Brown: “Shame hates it when we reach out and tell our story...it can't survive being shared." truly believe there’s something so powerful about vulnerability. hen we're open and vulnerable and share our stories, we allow others to do the same.
2) How has it made your life worse? How has it made your life better?
It’s definitely difficult to always feel like the odd woman out. To be the only one in my group of friends that doesn’t have children. It’s awkward to not be able to participate in those conversations where women are talking about their children. Although I’m still not part of the mom’s club, I’ve come to realize that it doesn’t make me any less of a woman.
It’s odd but I feel like this journey has been a gift and see it as my virtual mentor Gabrielle Bernstein calls it ‘a universal assignment’. The way that we perceive our life’s circumstances will determine how we respond to them.
3) When & how did you realize that you were going to be able to carry on after infertility/miscarriage?
Oddly it was shortly after my second miscarriage. If I had listened to that doctor and given up, I would’ve never had received that renewed faith in my body and the miracles it could accomplish.
4) What have you learned through this experience?
That things in life don’t happen to you they happen FOR you. I haven’t quite figured out the why yet but have the intuition that I’m on the brink of figuring it out. Perhaps it’s for others to feel inspired by my story or to know that they’re not alone.
Whereas before I worried that by coming out with my fertility struggles my clients would see me as not “good” at my job or less than because of this, now I see how my intimate knowledge with what it’s like to deal with fertility issues can help me be a support and a resource for people seeking to use nutrition to help with fertility. And the reason is because I know all too well how important it is to keep a balance and to find a calm amidst the storm of doctors and specialists and websites and acupuncturists. I know that telling a person who is already under so much stress to cut out that one cup of coffee or that one glass of red wine that brings them joy or helps them relax is not going to make the difference. I did all those things and I know many people who’ve done the opposite and had no trouble getting pregnant.
I believe that fertility is a complex thing. I believe that food is medicine. And that somewhere in between is where I fit in.
5) What do you hold on to for hope/courage/strength on your bad days?
My spiritual practice and gratitude for all the things and loving people that I have in my life.
6) How do you feel about your experience with infertility on your good days?
Hopeful and at peace with knowing that I’m doing everything that I possible can to get pregnant and to love myself through this situation. I’m determined to see this situation from a place of love and to lead from a place of joy. I’ve recognized the importance of being mindful of the thoughts I tell myself because I know what you focus on will grow.
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?
For a long time I allowed this situation to shake my confidence. These days I feel the most confident that I ever have as I’m certain that God will not give me more than I can handle. It’s also taught me to be more compassionate and loving towards myself.
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’m fortunate that I have a very strong supportive network of family and friends that have helped me through this situation. Many of them have remarked that I’ve handled the situation with grace and strength. What they don’t know, is that even until this day, it's something that I work on daily and is definitely not something that comes to me naturally.
10) Tell us about you. What are your hobbies/passions/pursuits?
I’m a culinary nutritionist and author and I help busy ladies create healthy eating habits. My meditation is cooking! I love being in kitchen while I dance to my favourite music and whip up meals that help to nourish my mind body and spirit.
11) What is your favourite quote?
“The wound is the place where the Light enters you.” ~ Rumi