My Non Linear Fertility Journey
I wasn't sure how I was going to talk about my fertility journey, but I knew it was an important story that I was ready to share. When I was connected with Emily Getz, founder of "Day 1 Podcast", I was intrigued by the anecdotal storytelling surrounding the unspoken side of fertility, and I knew it was the right time to speak up.
My fertility journey was not linear, similar to many others, and that is ok. I am sharing my story to help normalize the conversation around fertility and loss. It's a traumatizing and isolating experience, and for whatever reason, it still feels like a taboo subject matter that does not get enough attention.
In total I experienced 6 pregnancies, 3 miscarriages and 3 D and C's. Each and every one of them was challenging and devastating in their own way....let me explain why.
About after a year of marriage, Marc (my husband) and I decided it was time to start our family. Up until that moment, I had been trying my whole life not to get pregnant. The next thing I know, we pulled the goalie and it was game time. I started tracking my cycle and we got into the swing of things, aka having contrived/forced sex for as long as those ovulation sticks told us to. A few months later, my period was late and BAM, I was in complete shock when I saw the positive pregnancy test appear. Immediately, my whole perspective shifted. Mentally my head was already 9 months down the road, picking out baby name and practicing kegels.
At about 6.5 weeks we went for a dating ultrasound and to our surprise there was no heartbeat which was fucking tragic. And just like that, all that hyped up energy and excitement fizzled inside me too. 6.5 weeks was still considered early for detecting a heartbeat, so they advised me to come back a week later for another one. I was also left with the news that I had an irregular shaped amniotic sac. Not really sure what I was supposed to do with that, but it didn't sound promising. That following week was pretty much torture, wondering every second of every day if it was going to be a viable pregnancy.
Sidebar and something worth mentioning: the entire process was made so much harder due to the uncomfortable dynamic that took place with the ultrasound technician. FYI, typically your ultrasounds are not done with your family Dr or OB, they're done at a clinic with a random technician. This technician is "technically" not allowed to tell you anything regarding your ultrasound while it's happening. So, you can imagine, lying there alone in silence, pants down to your ankles with a random technician sticking an ultrasound wand up your vag, while you have NO IDEA what is going on. I know this comes down to technicalities because they can't speak directly on behalf of the Dr, but it's shit, and all the horrible feelings and scary thoughts start right at that moment.
So basically, that is what happened to me, at 7.5 weeks pregnant alone getting an ultrasound with a random technician who didn't say A WORD to me for 30 min until she blurted out "ma'am we're all done here, you'll need leave now and follow up with your Dr".
I didn't need to follow up with my Dr I knew exactly what was going on, the signs were obvious. My husband wasn't invited into room to see the heartbeat (which I knew was customary), and we didn't get that cute little print out of our ultrasound to show off to our family and friends how big our embryo was. I got dressed, walked out that door, and as soon as I locked eyes with Marc he knew. The tears started streaming down my face and I melted into his arms as our grieving process began.
My first miscarriage was probably the hardest on me. I had no knowledge around my circumstances and what this could mean for my future. The unknown is terrifying, and that's personally when I am at my worst. Will I be able to have kids? What will my journey look like? How long will it take? The questions go on and on. On top of the fact that, no one I knew had really experienced what I had.
I needed to have not 1, but 2 D and C's because I had retained placenta that still needed to be surgically removed after the 1st one. Once again, another disappointing turn in my journey, that only furthered this timeline of me getting pregnant. That was one of the first major road blocks that I was confronted with. I needed to let go of this fictional baby making timeline that was so deeply engrained in my brain. It felt like instead of moving forward with my perfectly envisioned life plans, I was being pushed backwards and forced to tackle all these additional steps and procedures that were preventing me from having my baby.
This was the first time in my life that I was confronted with the fact that no matter what I do, or how hard I try, the outcome is going to be completely out of my control. This was very very hard to come to terms with.
After many therapeutic discussion and much needed self reflection, I realized I needed to re-evaluate my relationship with control. One of the most challenging aspects of my personality (just ask Marc or Wren) is the need to control my surroundings and the people in it. My nonlinear fertility journey forced me to confront these parts of myself that were uncomfortable and pushed me to accept new perspectives, opinions, and values that differed from my own. Ultimately, helping me to step outside my stubborn Taurus ways, and deepen my relationships with those around me and most importantly, myself.
At this point I convinced myself I was going to "try" to only focus on the things that I had control over in my life, in a healthy balanced way. I dedicated the following 6 months to myself - being social, working out, traveling, partying it up - doing all the things that made me feel good and helped me get back to my baseline.
I also knew that educating myself and learning more about "our fertility health" would give me the answers I needed to move forward. Knowledge is power, and I wanted to find out more about our specific situation to ensure I could do everything possible to set myself up for success. After thorough testing and examinations, the results came back and everything seemed to be operating as it should - what a relief. However, I was surprised to learn that miscarriages are extremely common - 1/4 pregnancies ends in a miscarriage! I mean WTF, with a stat like that, why the hell was no one else talking about it? There was enough of us experiencing it!!
Well, that is when I opened up - to Marc, to my friends and family, basically anyone I could lean on to get the support I needed. At the time I knew only 1 other close girlfriend who had gone through a similar situation, and for that, I am so grateful we had each other. In the same breath, I also learned that no matter who you compare yourself to, there will always be differences. I allowed myself to lean into the optimistic stories but resisted holding on to the negative ones.
A few months had passed, and I was ready to jump back on the horse (lol no pun intended) and try again. Luckily, I got pregnant a few months later. The first trimester was extremely emotional for me because I was petrified. Petrified it was going to happen again. While I overheard others complaining about first trimester symptoms like nausea and food aversions, I welcomed every single one as small confirmations that my body was still pregnant. Every day I was grateful that I was moving 1 day closer to my due date. In the 2nd trimester I felt like I could relax a bit, knowing my chances of miscarrying had dropped significantly. But truthfully, it never left my mind, not until that first moment when I held my screaming baby boy in arms.
After our first crazy year of figuring out how to become parents, we decided it was time to do it all over again. Luckily, we got pregnant quickly and everything was moving in the right direction, strong heartbeat, healthy growth rate, etc. Don't get me wrong I was still nervous and anxious as hell, my first loss had become triggering for me, and the emotions were still quite raw. At the 10.5 weeks Marc and I decided to get genetic testing done. Because my pregnancy was considered low risk, we needed to pay for the test ourselves. Given the hefty fees, out of precaution, my OB advised us to get an ultrasound before we pay, just to make sure. So, we did, and this is when I found out I miscarried for the 2nd time, the baby didn't have a heartbeat.
I was completely thrown off guard. In my mind I was nearing the 2nd trimester and had already seen 2 ultrasounds with a growing embryo. This completely rocked me - I was blindsided and couldn't believe it was happening again. This time at least I had been through it before, so I knew what to expect in terms of the D and C, but emotionally it was really hard. I had my sweet 1.5-year-old at home, who continued to give me love and hope, but it was really difficult to stay positive in those early days.
I once again consulted my fertility specialist where we did more testing, and thankfully no issues or red flags, just another random miscarriage. So don't get me wrong, knowing there were no serious issues with both Marc and I was a huge relief, especially knowing the serious fertility struggles that so many women are challenged with, but that still did not mitigate the pain I felt for our loss.
Another D and C and several months later, we got pregnant with our middle son Westley. I thanked my lucky stars every single day there were no setbacks, and only positive news that kept us moving in the right direction. Overall, it was a normal, healthy pregnancy. The cute little bugger came 2 weeks early and during my labour I managed to pull him out myself, Kourtney Kardashian styles right onto my chest.
After him, we knew we wanted 1 more. I was starting to see a pattern develop so in my mind I had already convinced myself that I was going to have another miscarriage. And that is exactly what happened. My premonition was spot on. Who knows if I was putting that energy out into the world blah blah blah, but how could I not, it was basically an AB pattern at this point. I had come to terms with the fact that miscarrying didn't mean that I would not be able to have the family I wanted, it was just going to be a different process than what I once envisioned for myself, and that was ok.
This miscarriage was the least traumatic of them all. I was pregnant for just under a week. If I hadn't known my cycle like the back of my hand, I probably could have mistaken it for a late period. No D and C, luckily my body was able to resolve it on its own, and I could start to move on. Don't forget, at this point, I had 2 little ones at home while trying to run a business, so my hands were very full. I had way less time to sit and dwell, which in retrospect was probably a good thing.
And as the story goes, I got pregnant a few months later, and had my precious little baby Jones in Oct 2020. While it was a healthy and easy pregnancy, we were also knee deep in a global pandemic, a covid baby, fun. Never a dull moment!!
So, there you go, my fertility journey summed up into 45 lengthy paragraphs lol. While this was not an easy piece for me to write, it was important for me to share. I am proud of myself. It was not a subject I was comfortable discussing before - it was too raw and hard to publicly talk about it in the moment. I'm at a place in my life where I can look back at my journey and can own it. While those very challenging moments seemed like roadblocks at the time, they are now fundamental stepping stones in my journey. If I hadn't gone through all those hardships, I wouldn't have my Xander, my Westley or my Jones.
I recognize it is so much easier speaking about this being on the other side of it now, which is why I want this to be a story of hope for anyone that is going through a tough time. Uncertainty is scary, so is giving up control, but at some point, you have to let your journey play its course. That doesn't mean to surrender to your circumstances, advocate for yourself, educate yourself, take care of yourself, and most importantly have faith in yourself. While it may not be the journey you envisioned, it doesn't mean it's not one you won't be happy with.