Disclaimer: I know infertility, miscarriage, and preterm loss are heavy and personal topics. I cannot speak for anyone else going through this, and I know some of what I write may be triggering for some. However, I believe it is important to give space for all voices of those who have walked this road. Thank you for giving space for my experience and thoughts on this subject.
National Infertility Awareness Week
This week is National Infertility Awareness Week. I have to admit, I have only recently been informed that this is a thing. I applaud its timing at the end of April. It’s just before we’re bombarded with Mother’s Day through seemingly every outlet imaginable.
Years ago, when I was facing what seemed like an impossible battle with infertility, everyone around me seemed to get pregnant at the drop of a hat. Initially, I found it difficult to find anyone to talk to about what I was experiencing. I felt alone in the heartache of it.
That loneliness I experienced is what spurs me to be so open about our infertility journey. John and I are the parents of three incredible daughters, but it was a long road to get here. There’s a soft spot in my heart for anyone fighting their way to parenthood, and a flower on my arm for each of the babies we lost before we knew the joy of being parents ourselves.
Our Infertility Journey
My husband and I tried to get pregnant for over a year with no success. We decided to consult a doctor to see what was preventing us from conceiving. This led to a slew of blood tests and physical exams. I had an extreme fear of needles, so each blood draw was enough to make me almost pass out.
The conclusion of these tests: I don’t ovulate on my own. This means I needed assistance in ovulation. We tried a drug called Clomid initially. It comes in pill form, and it has proven very successful for many women. It did nothing for me but cause massive hot flashes and bouts of irritability (fun!).
The next step was an injectable drug which stimulated the ovaries to prepare eggs for ovulation. During the week of those injections, I was monitored by blood tests and ultrasounds to see how things were going (checking hormone levels and size of follicles). At the proper time, I’d do another injection of a different drug (progesterone) to trigger the ovaries to release an egg. That’s it. The rest of it happened exactly like you were taught in that awkward sex-ed lecture. The good news? It worked! I got pregnant. Then lost the pregnancy. Then tried again, got pregnant again, lost the pregnancy . . . again. Repeat.
Finally another test was ordered. The verdict: my blood may have a tendency to clot, which could prevent proper blood flow to a growing fetus. The next time I got pregnant, my doctor prescribed heparin injections to combat this. Now the girl who was petrified of needles somehow found the courage to inject herself in the belly every 12 hours.
The heparin worked and all was going well. The challenge this time? I was pregnant with multiples.
The Worst Day I’ve Experienced
I went into preterm labor with triplets, fought hard for a few weeks in the hospital to keep them, then gave birth to them too early for them to survive.
After they were born, I needed emergency surgery and a blood transfusion. It was definitely the worst day I’ve been through. I was pretty sure that that would be my only moment of mothering: holding our lifeless babies after waking up from a lifesaving medical procedure. Pretty grim.
We decided to halt our fertility treatments. John and I both needed a break. However, later on that same year, we were completely surprised to find out that I was pregnant. It was completely out of the blue! My doctor again prescribed heparin along with a weekly injection of progesterone to hopefully ward off preterm labor.
I don’t think I can adequately express how nervous I was for those nine months. It just felt too good to be true. I kept waiting for the rug to be pulled out from under us again. I was still in shock and disbelief when they laid our gorgeous baby girl on my chest.
Adelaide is five now, and I still catch myself staring at her face and wondering how on earth we wound up here. Being a mom was something I had dreamed of for so long. I soaked up every ounce of it . . . every ounce of her.
Risking Heartache Again
We never prevented any subsequent pregnancies, but it was clear that increasing our family may require another round of ovulation induction. Making the decision to go down that road again was not an easy one. John and I went back and forth for quite a long time. There were so many factors to consider. Ultimately, we decided to risk heartache again. A few months later, we discovered we were expecting twins!
This pregnancy was another one marked with anxiety and uncertainty. The fact that it was a twin pregnancy reminded me so much of what we had been through years before. Once you’ve known that sort of loss, it is incredibly hard to shake the feeling that everything will come crashing down again in a nightmare scenario. I am endlessly jealous of people who sail through pregnancy seemingly without fear or worry. Somehow, we made it through the waiting and welcomed our healthy baby girls, Edith and Vera.
Marked by Infertility
It would be great to say that these three incredible daughters of ours completely wipe out any lingering heaviness of our years of battling infertility, but nothing can erase that. I am forever marked by it. No matter what our family looks like, we still feel the tug of all of the losses that we have experienced. We are parents of more than the children happily running through our house.
Joy does not wipe out grief. I have found that the two can be tethered together. Joy and grief are woven together into the fabric of what makes me the mother that I am today.
Everyone who has trouble conceiving–no matter how long–has a different outlook on the impact of infertility. Everyone who experiences a miscarriage (no matter how few, how many, or how far along she was) has her own way of handling the heartache and where she goes from there. This is HARD to navigate. There is no pattern to follow. There is no concrete plan for what is the right or wrong way to handle any of it.
When experiencing infertility and pregnancy loss, we all desire to feel seen. We are all longing to know that we are not alone. Being willing to share your story, and willing to genuinely listen to the stories of others, helps tremendously.
Thank you for listening to mine.