Today I am veering off-topic and getting personal. If you’re here for a DIY post, please check out my project gallery or stop by again soon! This post contains very sensitive subject matter. If you are uncomfortable hearing about issues such as fertility or pregnancy loss, I urge you to skip over this post. Thank you for understanding.
MY STORY: DEALING WITH SECONDARY INFERTILITY AND MISCARRIAGE
First of all, you’re probably wondering why I’ve chosen to get so deeply personal today. I will explain why toward the end of this post. This was an extremely difficult post to write. Bear with me. This is a long story.
Two years ago, my husband and I decided it was time to try for our third child. We were so incredibly lucky to conceive both of our boys very quickly, and while we didn’t necessarily assume it would happen as quickly the third time, we certainly didn’t anticipate having fertility problems. I was relatively young (29 years old), healthy, and had no history of any issues to speak of, so we had every reason to believe that the road to conception would be smooth sailing. We couldn’t have been more wrong.
After several months of trying, I began to have strong feelings that something was wrong. I knew my body, and something was just “off.” I went to the doctor and of course was given the usual spiel: “You’re young, you haven’t even been trying for a year. Give it time. It will happen.” Still, I couldn’t shake that little voice inside telling me that something just wasn’t right. But they basically told me that until we had been trying for at least a year, they weren’t willing to do anything for me or run any tests.
After about a year of trying, with month after disappointing month of wasted pregnancy tests and imaginary symptoms that had me wondering if “maybe this is it,” we finally got pregnant. I had so many mixed emotions. I wanted to be excited, but inside I knew something was wrong. I had been a week “late” before I even got the faintest line on a pregnancy test. I didn’t feel pregnant. I arranged to go in for a blood test, and literally within minutes of receiving the call telling me that my HCG levels were incredibly low, I began miscarrying.
It was very early – between 5-6 weeks – but completely devastating. I went through pretty much all of those stages of grief they tell you about. But I was never really angry. Just really, really sad. It hurt – like, physically made my heart ache. I allowed myself to feel whatever emotions I needed to feel. I balled up on the floor and just cried and cried. The sadness came in waves. One day I would be totally fine and accepting of what had happened, and the next day I would have moments where I just needed to cry for a while. We had prayed for and wanted that baby so badly, and now we would never know that child. That little life that existed inside me for such a short time. We wouldn’t hold him or her. We would never know if it was a boy or a girl. We’d never see that child grow up. I thought about the life that would never be, and what that life might have been like. The birthday parties and milestones that would never happen. Sure, maybe we could have another baby, but we’d never have that baby.
On top of all the sadness, I felt incredible guilt. I know that might sound strange, but I felt guilty for being so sad. I kept thinking, I have these two beautiful, healthy boys whom I am so thankful for, and my 5 week pregnancy loss is nothing compared to what some people go through. I know people who have suffered far greater losses than this. I know people who can’t have any children at all. I felt like maybe I was being greedy. I have two children, maybe wanting a third is just selfish. What right do I have to be upset? But that wasn’t fair. Each of our journeys and struggles are our own, and it was silly for me to compare my pain to anyone else’s.
Then of course there was the other kind of guilt. The “did I do something to cause this?” guilt. My doctors assured me that there was nothing that I could have done to cause this. To quote my doctor, “No amount of sex, drugs or rock and roll caused this.” He really said that. And regardless of his colorful way of explaining it, I needed to hear it. I needed to know that it wasn’t my fault.
Then there was frustration. I know that some people think that if you already have children, and then you lose a pregnancy, that somehow the fact that you already have kids makes the loss hurt less. Or maybe it makes it less unfortunate. “Well, at least you already have kids.” As if you’re not supposed to hurt as much. I disagree. Having children doesn’t make it hurt any less to lose one. Yes, I feel blessed and thankful to have my children, but losing one still hurts. A lot.
I finally reached a point of acceptance, and we were ready to try again. Five months later, I got pregnant again, and we were so excited! This time, I found out very early and the doctor began monitoring me right away. My levels were great, and everything seemed to be going well. I felt a little more “pregnant” this time, so we were optimistic. Besides, the doctor had told me after our miscarriage that it is unfortunately very common, and they had no reason to believe that it would happen again.
But it did.
It was early again – I was about 6 weeks along. It happened naturally again, and I was thankful for that at least. I was hoping to avoid any medical procedures. But man, did this hit me hard. Harder than the first time. My sister had recently found out she was pregnant, and we would have been due about 4 weeks apart. We talked about it often during those first couple of weeks and we were so excited to be going through this together. Our babies would be close in age. This would be so much fun!
Devastated doesn’t begin to describe how I felt. Heartbroken. So, so sad. Why was this happening again? I had so many emotions. I was so happy for my sister, truly. But so sad for me. For us. For our little family. I didn’t want my sister or any of my other pregnant friends to feel like they couldn’t share their happiness and joy with me, and I didn’t want anyone to feel like they had to walk on eggshells around me. This is part of the reason I didn’t share what we were going through with many people. That, and also because for the most part I just didn’t have the energy to talk about it. Not to mention it’s a pretty awkward thing to bring up. “How are you?” “Oh fine. Just had a miscarriage though.. so there’s that.” I mean, it’s just not the sort of thing you bring up in casual conversation.
Since two miscarriages in a row raised a little bit of a red flag, my doctor agreed to do some testing. After taking 11 vials of blood and testing me for everything under the sun, and also doing a special type of ultrasound, they basically told me that nothing was wrong. Aside from some ovarian cysts which they didn’t seem concerned about, they just didn’t have any answers for me. They told me that we will never know why this happened. (Twice.) They can only assume it was caused by chromosome abnormalities and that my body was doing what it was supposed to do by getting rid of what would have been a nonviable pregnancy. They basically diagnosed me with a case of really bad luck.
I wasn’t buying it. Sure, that very well may have been the case. But like I said, I know my body and I knew that something in general was just “off.” I did everything in my power at that point to try to get as healthy as possible. I drastically changed my diet. I cut out as much sugar as possible, ate as many whole, natural foods as I could and cut out processed foods whenever possible. I started drinking green smoothies every day. Took my vitamins religiously. Went to the chiropractor. Joined a gym. Met with a personal trainer. Started getting acupuncture. You name it. I wanted – no, needed – to know that I was doing everything I possibly could to ensure a healthy pregnancy if and when it happened again. The rest was up to God.
The day of our first miscarriage, over a year ago now, something told me that I was going to share this story with you. In the midst of my grief and sadness, I just knew. It was like this feeling came over me that just told me “you are going to share this.” I can’t even explain it. I knew I wasn’t ready then, and that I wouldn’t be ready for a long time. During this whole ordeal, I learned a lot about miscarriage in general. Did you know that approximately 1 in 5 pregnancies end in miscarriage? One in five. That is a staggering number. That means that you know many people who have gone through it, and maybe you don’t even realize it. Maybe YOU have gone through it. Maybe you’re going through it now.
So, the big question. Why have I decided to go into “oversharing” territory and pour my heart out to you today with something so personal? Because even though miscarriage happens to so many people, no one talks about it. I’ve decided to talk about it. This blog has been such a blessing in my life. It has allowed me to share my passion and interests with so many people. I am able to reach literally thousands of people, mostly women, each day. If this blog gets over 100,000 pageviews per month (which is unbelievably crazy to me, by the way, so thank you) and most of you are women, then that means that thousands of you have experienced a miscarriage. Also, October happens to be National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month. It is also the month that our baby would have been born.
I can’t begin to tell you how “alone” I felt when I was going through this. Nothing can really prepare you for that sort of thing. If I can share my story and make even one of you feel a little less alone, then that is good enough for me. That is why I’ve chosen to share this with you. You are not alone. I have faith in God, and I have faith that all things happen for a reason. It was comforting to me at the time to read other people’s stories. I needed to know that whatever I was feeling was normal, and I needed to find hope somehow.
I want to tell you what a good friend told me when I was going through this.
“It’s okay to not be okay.”
It’s ok to let it hurt. It’s ok to allow yourself to feel sad and grieve. It’s ok to talk about it. It isn’t a shameful secret. Sometimes you need to talk about it. Acknowledge that it happened. And you know what? It’s going to be okay. I promise. Maybe not today, and maybe not tomorrow. But someday. Time heals. I still get sad when I think about what we lost. I’ll always feel sad about that, but I’m ok.
And for those of you who might know someone who is going through this experience, you might be wondering what you can do. Just be there. Be willing to listen. Maybe it’s uncomfortable for you, but you know what? Pretend it isn’t. I can’t tell you how much it meant to me when I had a friend or family member just text me that they were thinking about me, or send me a little card or note letting me know that they were there if I needed them. That was really all I needed. Just to know that they were there. There was nothing anyone could really do for me besides that.
I’d also like to add that this is my own personal experience, and these are my own personal emotions and feelings. I can’t speak for anyone else, as everyone’s experience is different. My husband grieved in his own way too and I don’t want to discount what he went through. It’s so important for a husband and wife to communicate during something like this. I can’t stress that enough. Men and women often handle these types of things differently, and while their perspective and pain may be different, it isn’t any less important.
I look at my children differently now. I’ve never taken them for granted, and I’ve always known what an amazing blessing it is to have them. But I think this whole experience has made me realize what a miracle it truly is to have a child. So many things have to go right in order to bring a healthy baby into this world. It’s such an intricate process, and to have two healthy children really is a miracle.
I really do believe that there is a purpose in all of this, even if we don’t understand what that is right now. I know that God hurts with us when our hearts are broken. There is purpose beyond our earthly understanding and beyond what our human perspective allows us to see. God sees the whole big picture, while we are only able to see a tiny portion of it. It’s kind of like staring at a huge, beautiful painting. If you stand so close your nose is touching it, you can’t see much of it and what you’re looking at doesn’t really make sense. But the farther you step back, the more of the picture you can see. God is standing back much farther than we are, and we just need to trust that. We are in the thick of it right now, and all we can really see is the part that hurts. Someday, the purpose will be revealed and we will know that God didn’t just allow us to suffer for no good reason.
Thank you for listening to my story, especially if you made it to the end. And thank you to all of you who were there for me, and for those of you who I know would have been there for me if you had known. To our friends and family, I’m sorry for not telling you and I’m sorry if you are finding out from reading it here. I just wasn’t ready until now.
If you have or someone you know has gone through this and you have questions, or just need to share your story with someone, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
Here is a great post about infertility (actually written by a man about his and his wife’s experience). I found it interesting how much I could relate and how much I felt the same emotions he describes, despite the fact that I already have children.
I hope that this isn’t God’s way of telling us “no.” I hope He’s just been saying, “Not right now.” We pray that another child is in our future. In our hearts we just aren’t ready to call our family complete. When I have an update for you, I will share. For now, our story is “to be continued…”
*Update: I have written a follow-up to this post which you can read here.*
*Update #2: We were so blessed to welcome our sweet baby Jonah on November 25, 2014.*
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