“I’m not afraid of anything in this world. There’s nothing you can throw at me, that I haven’t already heard” –Bono, U2
We were young and naïve (make that ill-informed) when we decided to start “trying”. I was 29 years young. Old by mother’s standards, but right on target with my friends. All around me people were having babies. One by one my girlfriends announced their exciting news. It was time for us to give it a try. Who knew the word “try” would take on a whole new meaning?
My husband was sure that getting pregnant would be a breeze. To some degree, he was right. Three months into the process I saw those coveted double lines on the stick. We hugged and cried and danced around like maniacs. We were on the road to starting our family.
12 weeks later our dreams were crushed. We walked into the ultrasound happy and confident. We were ready to share our news with our friends. We walked out with our heads hung low, a steady stream of tears pouring from my eyes. No heartbeat. The baby was gone. We were sure he was a boy.
My doctor held my hand and told me what no one tells you until it happens to you: 25% of first pregnancies end in miscarriage. We could try again. The miscarriage did not indicate future miscarriages. It was likely a chromosomal issue.
I had a D&C a couple of days later. Nothing could have prepared me for it. The drugs took away the pain, but the sound of the machine sucking that little life out of my body would stay with me for weeks and months to come. Probably forever.
Still, we tried again
We (make that I) used ovulation predictor kits obsessively. We (make that I) made it a project. We (make that I) thought of little else.
Four months later we got our second chance. We had ultrasounds every two weeks. At 9 weeks, the baby was growing and that little heart was beating away. We were sure he was another boy. We named him James, for my father. We couldn’t wait to meet him. At 11 weeks, the heartbeat was gone.
Complete. Utter. Heartbreak.
They started to run some tests. Because this miscarriage did increase our likelihood of future miscarriages.
Luteal phase defect.
What? These are things women don’t discuss. Everyone talks about the ease of getting pregnant, the sleep deprivation that ensues when you have an infant, and the overall joy of motherhood.
No one talks about miscarriage. No one uses words like “luteal phase defect”. No one tells you that if you manage to get pregnant again, you will become dependent on vaginal suppositories to increase your progesterone levels. Come to think of it, no one even tells you what progesterone is.
The stress set in. Baby-making became a full time job for me.
My husband watched quietly as his wife slipped away. He tried to talk, he tried to distract, he tried to fix it for me. It was an impossible task.
All around me, friends started to have second babies. It felt unfair. It felt like we were being left behind. It felt like we were stuck in a moment.
And so we stuck together. I took a leave of absence from work and toured with my husband’s band for 6 weeks. We drank wine, we cooked nice dinners, we hoped, we (make that I) prayed. We talked to each other, but not really to anyone else.
We did what everyone else did: We suffered in silence.
We were broken. We didn’t need the world to know about it.
Almost 10 months after that second miscarriage there was still no pregnancy.
The doctor put me on Clomid. He said there would be an increased chance of twins. He said there would be mood swings and possibly ovarian pain. We didn’t care. We wanted results.
I got pregnant on the first cycle of Clomid.
I used those vaginal suppositories without complaint, drank milk, took the vitamins, and slept as much as possible.
At 7 months, the bleeding and cramping began. I was put on bed rest, followed by couch rest. I rested and rested and rested. We tiptoed through three anxious months.
Our miracle daughter arrived almost three years after we started trying. I cried my way through the C-Section. I couldn’t believe it was finally happening. I held my breath and waited for those first screams. I pushed my husband away and said, “Go, go hold our baby”. And then finally, she was in my arms. She was a dream come true.
Nine months later I was pregnant again. We couldn’t believe our luck. We just knew it was a boy.
9 weeks later, the heartbeat was gone.
We worried that our daughter wouldn’t have the gift of a sibling. We didn’t want her to be alone.
But 21 months after the birth of our daughter, our son arrived. Again, I sobbed. He managed to make it through two weeks of heavy bleeding and cramping early in the pregnancy. He was a fighter. He was small, loud, and cute, and he snuggled into my arms immediately. He loved to be held close. He still does.
We counted our blessings. Our family was complete.
And then…a funny thing happened.
We weren’t “trying”. But we weren’t “not trying”. We were just living. Our daughter was just over 4, and our son was nearing 2 ½. And we got pregnant. Just like that.
And so we would get a third. An unexpected blessing.
7 weeks in, the bleeding started. But the heartbeat was just fine. Every two weeks, the heartbeat was fine. The baby was growing. I was feeling good. Things were going as planned.
He was a little boy. Another beautiful baby boy.
At 18 weeks, he was gone. Just as we prepared to share our news, he was gone.
They had to induce me. I had to birth my deceased baby boy.
Words can’t describe the horror of that scenario.
The drugs used to induce me didn’t work. They increased the doses and watched and waited, but it just didn’t work.
I started to bleed. A lot. More medicine.
Finally, with my big sister by my side, the lost life was freed from my body. But the placenta…that just wouldn’t budge. I continued to bleed.
I went into shock. Three times. I worried. My husband worried. We slept a little.
And then, at 4:30AM, they woke us. I needed emergency surgery.
I signed away my uterus. Twice.
I was told that I could suffer a fatal rupture. Several times. This time, we both prayed. We prayed to anyone who would listen.
In a drug induced state I said goodbye to my husband of nearly 8 years. I tried to find the best words…just in case they would be my last. In my heart, I knew that somehow I would get through this. Somehow, I would return home to my husband and my babies.
I did. In the end, they saved my life and my uterus.
For a moment we felt relief. Our family was whole again. The horror was over.
Except that we had to cope. How do you cope with something so traumatizing when two little lives depend on you every second of every day?
You suffer in silence for a little while.
You cry out loud…when they sleep.
You talk to your husband. You seek comfort from your mom.
You watch your children like a hawk and pray that no such horror ever comes their way.
You find the small moments of greatness in each day and soak them up.
You call your girlfriends.
You reach out to someone who you think might understand and, thankfully, that person is willing to become your lifeline.
You stick close to your little family of four and remind yourself that they are your happiness.
You allow yourself time outs…because right now you need them.
And then you start to talk.
You write it down. You reach out to others. And you just keep talking. Because you hope that, in doing so, you might save someone else from suffering in silence. Because if 25% of first pregnancies end in miscarriage, you can bet that someone you know is suffering.
We will suffer in silence no more. We will talk. Because everything’s not lost.
How has infertility touched your life?
Katie is a Child & Adolescent Psychotherapist/Parenting Consultant in Los Angeles, CA. She has a four year old daughter, two year old son, and a rock and roll husband who makes her life complete. Katie has a parenting advice blog at http://practicalkatie.com/and can also be found on Twitter.