Throughout this long journey, I’ve realized infertility comes in seasons. Some seasons I've lived through and others I’ve only heard about.
The Utter Bliss Season
This phase I often look back and relish in these moments and these feelings. Moments that were innocent, unblemished by prior experiences and untainted from knowing too much.
My husband and I started trying immediately after we were married. I knew very little about the process, just that you pee these sticks and when they are darker than the control you have sex.
So that's what we did ... and viola, just like the storybooks said, pregnant on our first time! I think we all dream of a way to "share the news" with our spouses, and looking back I’m so thankful we have this moment. I took a bottle cap container that said “cat dad” on it, crossed-out cat and wrote human (clever I know), and placed the test inside. It's amazing that a test with two lines can instantly switch your visions of the future, and how quickly you can attach your identity to "parent". He was thrilled and so was I.
This bliss lasted a full week. That's when I learned what a chemical pregnancy was.
The Denial Season
Looking back, we were in denial. Although the statistic that 1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage feels impactful, it also has a way of making you feel as though, because it happens so often, it's perhaps less significant. I denied the miscarrige even mattered and certainly denied the fact this could happen again, we would not be "those" people, who struggled. Silly me.
We were told “It’s very common, it happens all the time. Feel free to try again when you are ready.” So that's what we did, try again. Boom.. Pregnant again!
This time, the ignorant bliss was gone. Replaced with a shell of a human driven by anxiety from previous loss. I demanded blood tests every other day until the levels indicated our baby was growing.
A week later I started bleeding so we were immediately made an appointment with the first available doctor (not my doctor) at our clinic.
To this day I will never forget the room, his voice, the temperature of the room, the image in the screen and his words. “Based on what I’m seeing I would prepare yourself to miscarry.” His brash demeanor gave me chills. I needed an explanation and he gave one. “Do you see how the sac looks squished?” I nod and forever imprint on my brain the pear shape on the screen. “Well that typically signals your body is forcing this baby out. We will run numbers but your HCG will need to come back at 18,000 for this to be viable.”
The next day we got the call and our HCG was 22,000, growing and clinically viable pregnancy. And even then, that blissful feeling didn’t return.
A week later we were back at our clinic to gain the reassurance of a heartbeat before Christmas, this was December 23, 2019.
We saw my doctor this time, whom comforted me with chit chat while she prepped the machine. Chit chat continues, then the chit chat stops and her entire face floods with fear. I could tell right then she was seeking absolute certainty before delivering the news. “I’m so sorry Emily, but there isn’t a heartbeat. And the baby is measuring smaller than last week.”
At 7.5 weeks pregnant that’s when I learned the term “missed miscarriage”.
The Trauma Season
We endured Christmas knowing that the baby inside me was no longer living. I was barely functioning.
The day after Christmas was our DNC. A normal procedure, that works 99% of the time, to remove miscarrage remains. About 10 minutes into the DNC the doctor turned off the machines and grabbed another doctor. He let us know that unfortunately the instruments never reached my uterus, instead they were in my uterine muscle, the tools had created a false cavity. They would have to stop the procedure, uncompleted.
He sent me home with pills that would encourage my cervix to contract and release our baby. 4 pills should do the trick. Except over the course of 2 weeks I took 40 pills and my body never responded.
A week later our second DNC also failed. I don't actually remember a lot of this point in my life. The depression and sadness is something I can’t describe, and wouldn’t want to, because it’s so dark. Our baby went from something I had wanted my whole life while it was living, to something that felt like it had taken over my body in it’s death.
The Search for Answers Season
It took my body 11 weeks to fully release our baby, my body made it explicitly clear it wasn’t ready to let go.
After the 11 weeks we spent months searching for answers. I needed answers because I knew emotionally I couldn't go through that again. Every week a new appointment, surgery or test to help us understand "why".
A scope procedure into my uterus would reveal that my uterus was almost completely covered with a septum. This septum does not conduct blood flow, aka dead tissue and right next to the septum on my left hand side, was the implantation site of our sweet baby. As the baby grew the septum restricted our baby from ample blood flow. Thinking back to when the awful doctor said it looked like my body was "pushing our baby out", we were actually seeing the outline of the septum, and further explains why it took my body so long to let go.
The Trial Season
My husband and I decided that since this had taken almost a year to resolve, we wanted to pause and “bank embryos” as the doctors call it. In anticipation of wanting a second child, due to my age.
Even now through IVF I’m continually learning that things are not as they seem, blissful ignorance again. That we would do one egg retrieval, bank a bunch of embryos and be on our merry way! Except our first retrieval failed and we got zero embryos.
We are now in the midst of our second retrieval in which we only got 3 eggs. Apparently on top of having a septum, I am also a "low responder" to IVF meds. This journey is far from over, and there are days I question how much fight I have in me.
But then I think about the baby we lost in December and realize the strength I possess is stronger than any circumstance.
I wear a morse code bracelet that says "You are never forgotten and are always with us." I think about the fact that had I known about this septum, we would most likely be holding our 2 month old. That guilt is something I don't think will ever go away.
For anyone who has experienced loss at any stage, you are not alone. Your grief matters and you are stronger than you give yourself credit for. This will not last forever, seasons never do.