Our journey to become parents started when I quit my birth control pill. At that point I had been taking them for 15 years straight so I figured my body would need some time to adjust to a regular cycle. So at first I was thrilled to get my first period about 6 weeks later, because I just assumed everything about my reproductive parts worked just fine. I was wrong.
By February 2019 my cycles finally became somewhat regular, making it easier to do some monthly reproductive planning. Since my husband has a work schedule that has him work abroad for two weeks and be home with me for two weeks, this would become crucial in our attempts to conceive.
Our first “interference” in the natural way of things, was when this timing did not align anymore after a few months of trying with the right timing and we sat in front of our family physician to ask how we could handle that. This is when I was handed a prescription for birth control to actively postpone my next ovulation for a few days. Easy enough. He also gave us a referral for a fertility specialist if this method would not work out. Surely we’d be pregnant within like another 3-4 months, right?
Still no luck. When my sister-in-law announced their relatively effortless pregnancy, I felt like someone punched me in my stomach. We would actually conceive that month, a week later, only for it to end in a chemical pregnancy. We know full well the possibility to end in an early miscarriage, so it was not too hard to look at this rationally the first time around. But I am still devastated because it has already been a 1-year struggle by now and nothing to show for it.
Our friends had baptisms and parties for their babies, one after the other this year. There are babies and pregnant bellies everywhere. They keep asking us when we plan to start trying to have a baby. We are the childless couple. I feel like we don’t belong.
I can’t do this. I am not okay in these situations. My husband sees me crack and takes me home. I want someone to help us.
By September 2019 we made our first appointment and had basic fertility tests done, just to ease our minds. We know that a year at this point was not very long yet, but we could not keep messing with my hormones either.
Our tests come back and they found nothing out of the ordinary. I am only on the verge of PCOS and I have high testosterone, but I have normal cycles albeit on the longer side. We can fix the testosterone. Okay I can deal with this news, it is good. Now what? IUI. I need to schedule appointments when my next period starts. I feel relieved we are getting help. I am almost willing my period to come sooner so we can get started. But it doesn’t come. Wait. Why doesn’t it come?
I am pregnant again! This is it! Right in between fertility appointments. Right before I was supposed to undergo the more invasive ovary checkups, right when we were going to start IUI. Surely there was no way that it would go wrong twice in a row? I count my blessings, I welcome all the symptoms, I am so sure that this would work out. This was meant to happen, right? I am almost feeling guilty for seeing a specialist so “soon”. I am so anxious and so ridiculously happy. I finally feel like I belong.
October 15, 2019:
I’m bleeding. It’s only a few drops, but it is bright red and I know.
I’m reading everything I can find online about other women’s experiences with spotting during pregnancy. I text the only 2 friends who were in the know, I text my mother. Most of them say it’s normal. So many experts say it’s normal.
I keep getting texts that this doesn’t mean anything yet, that I am pregnant until a doctor tells me otherwise. I know it is true, but the sinking feeling I have deep down is making it hard to focus and even harder to think that this is normal.
No, stop it, you’re only 6 weeks. You’re fine. Women spot all the time.
Every bathroom visit I’m wiping obsessively, willing the toilet paper to be white again. I try to convince myself everything is fine. My back starts to hurt, but my tracking app told me this is a normal new symptom.
I have a job interview. It is for the job I really wanted, this is important and I can not lose focus today.
Why did my boobs stop hurting? They’d hurt for weeks now. That’s OK, sometimes your body still needs to wake up, right? It comes and goes, right? I want more than anything to feel sore and nauseous again.
I try to focus on my interview, I need to listen to what the project is about and engage. I get hired on the spot. This should be the most exciting thing ever, but I feel numb while filling out the paperwork. On my way out I stop by the toilet again.
I call my fertility doctor’s office. I did not expect to get pregnant naturally again in the first place. I’d been taking folic acid supplements for way longer than an actually pregnant woman. Our first IUI was planned this month. The excitement I felt when the two pink lines I’d been trying so hard for appeared was beyond anything I ever felt before. It was work to plan this pregnancy, my husband is not even home now. He won’t be for another two days. They tell me I can come in around 6PM. It is 11AM now.
I tracked my ovulation. I took the sexy part out of procreation and this is what I get? My body finally succeeded in creating our baby, but now my body is rejecting what it created?
This isn’t fair and I’m getting angry. I dread going through all of this again.
I’m bleeding slightly more now. Maybe it’s not slightly, maybe it’s a lot, but I can’t admit that. Not yet. I tell myself that a panty liner is enough, but is it really if I spend most of the time sitting on the toilet, watching the blood fall out? I’m usually a strong woman, but right now I feel like a little girl and I feel like I failed. Isn’t this what my body is supposed to be best at doing? I have spent my entire student life dreading accidental pregnancies and now it just doesn’t work?
My mom doesn’t know I’m bleeding heavily yet. She’s out without a phone connection. She doesn’t know I am waiting to see my doctor. My two close friends are trying to drag me through the rest of the day. One sternly tells me to stop googling things. I can’t. The other lets me rant and cry since I also can’t reach my husband. I’ll be your husband now, she says. They keep telling me that spotting is normal. I keep telling them they are wasting their words trying to convince me.
I go to the fertility clinic. I cry in my car and pull myself together in the waiting room. When my doctor opens her door I can see it on her face that she can feel I am about to fall apart. She knows why I am there and she just lets me cry, telling me she needs to examine me either way and we’ll go from there.
I’m lying on the bed and I’m shivering. I stare at the ultrasound screen and see nothing. The doctor says, “Well, your uterine lining is really thin right now, it does not look good.” She goes on to examine my ovaries and proceeds to tell me nothing looks abnormal. It is a good thing for the future apparently. Her voice is really soft and comforting somehow. She probably sees this all the time. I look at the probe as she pulls it out. It is covered in blood. That is not just spotting anymore. She lets me get dressed before taking a blood sample. I am crying again while she reassures me that this just means my body is capable of successful implantation and that there is nothing I could have done. There was always a 17% chance to miscarry. My body is still raging with pregnancy hormones, we’ll need those to drop back to zero before we continue our fertility treatment. We’ll take it step by step she says, first step: see where my hormones are at right now.
I go back to my car. I am crying too much to drive home right away so I text my husband and close friends to update them. I don’t wait for a response before driving home. I don’t want to feel this. I don’t want to feel like I’m a failure somehow. Like my body doesn’t know what to do. Like I’m less of a woman. I know these feelings are irrational, but I can’t help them.
I’m on my couch crying again. No, get over it. Women deal with this all the time and you can, too. Time to be a big girl. But it hurts so bad. I wanted this baby. I cry again. My miscarriage is in full swing now, I made it home just in time with only the stupid panty liner. There is so much blood. And a lot of pain. I chuckle at the thought that I can take ibuprofen again, which will definitely do a better job than paracetamol.
I throw all my positive pregnancy tests in the bin, I can’t keep them because those were from a baby I don’t have anymore. I am angry again. I kept those to show to my husband. To show him he was finally going to be a father. He’s not anymore and I feel weirdly detached.
My mom texts me that she had no reception all day, asking how I am doing. I have to tell her that it’s over, that I lost my baby. I text another friend who wasn’t in the loop yet. She drops everything and comes over just to sit with me. I shouldn’t be alone now. She’s right. She stays until my doctor called to confirm from my bloodwork that I am having a miscarriage. I need to come back in next week to see when my body is fully not-pregnant again. It is nearly 10.30PM now. I should try to get some sleep.
I’m in bed already planning when I can start trying again; already feeling myself obsessed again, but it’s the only way I know how to cope.
I am alternating between disbelief and anger. This shouldn’t have happened. I am desperate to find a reason. I have fleeting feelings of envy and hatred for my pregnant and mommy friends. I’ve had those before when we were only struggling to get pregnant. Now it is mixed with grief. I don’t want to feel this way about them, it is not their fault.
I have recovered from the miscarriage and we get to undergo our first IUI! My fertility warrior friend assures me she just knows it won’t take us too long to have a healthy pregnancy. I have so much hope for this! It feels weird to try and conceive without my husband. His sperm is frozen in a lab and he is off at work. If this works, I conceived without him. Kind of. It’s these kinds of thoughts that make it surreal. Unfortunately, 11 days after insemination, I start bleeding. This is too early, that should not have happened. Didn’t the doctor tell me it should be 14 days? I feel deflated again. I try to set up my appointments for our next IUI attempt, only to be told that we can’t do that this cycle. Since we have to use a cryosample instead of fresh sperm, our procedures are in a different hospital than our checkups. And their lab would be closed for any and all cryo-procedures over the holidays for maintenance. What?! I needed this to hold myself together this month! I had been actively trying to avoid the pregnant sister-in-law, how can I smile at Christmas when looking at her bump while our chance is taken away? I decide to take some days off and join my husband in Germany to at least try and make use of this cycle. It is this kind of control over the situation that I need to stay sane.
Or maybe I’ve lost sanity a long time ago.
We get to try IUI again! This time around I am getting an extra hormone booster because of the shorter luteal phase with our last attempt. I am hopeful as always, but unfortunately two weeks later my period shows its ugly head. Luckily I can call the hospital to immediately set up appointments for our third attempt.
But something is off.
I am having trouble processing our journey.
I have not come close to accepting our last miscarriage and I am having flashbacks and nightmares. Time to find a psychiatrist to help me. This is something I found was very hard to admit, but I can only applaud women seeking help. It is tough to go through monthly cycles of hope and disappointment. Combine that with loss, grief and so many people who push you deeper due to lack of support or understanding, and you find yourself in a position where you can no longer hold yourself upright.
February 29, 2020:
We get to see our psychiatrist. He looks like a kind grandfather. He looks calm. He looks at me in a way that tells me I am safe. It helps to tell him everything that happened. He lets me cry. I feel like someone is finally listening. We can do this.
Third IUI day! Third time’s the charm, right?
I do not know what it is but I am hanging on to this number three. Third IUI, third conception, lucky number three.
Three is a good thing.
I have never been this calm. I have been seeing my psychiatrist for a few weeks now and he
has helped me so much. I feel like I can deal with our journey now.
I feel happy?
8 days after the IUI, despite the booster hormones, I am bleeding.
How did this happen?
In a panic I call the fertility clinic again and they see me right away for a blood test.
Implantation bleeding? What?
A few days later I start to feel nauseous again and my boobs hurt. Oh I know this feeling! I had it before, this is good! You see, three is lucky!
I meet my nephew for the first time, since my sister-in-law gave birth by now. It took so much strength to look at him. He is so cute. I love him. I tell my brother that I might be pregnant again. I might. I know I am, but I am scared. So for him, for my mom, for my friends, I only “might” be.
I am bleeding again. I know what this is. Why am I not nauseous? It hurts. Again? Am I miscarrying again? I tell myself I’d rather have the chemical pregnancy than a later miscarriage.
I don’t believe myself.
It hurts all the same.
I need to have follow-up blood tests again until hCG drops, but by now my country is going in lockdown. I am processing this loss differently due to everything going on. I don’t have time to grieve. What is going on.
I see my psychiatrist for the last time and I am eerily calm. I’m accepting? We chalk that up to me being able to just allow myself to feel and let go.
Our follow-up appointments in the fertility clinic are cancelled, suddenly we are without a plan.
I needed that plan to stay sane. I needed to keep trying. And we do.
I am shifting my cycle again to align ovulation with my husband’s calendar. It’s all we can do now. The doctor won’t see us, there are no answers and no prospects.
This journey has already cost me over a year and a half, three pregnancies and so much grief. I feel selfish for being angry our fertility treatment got cancelled in the midst of a pandemic. But I am. I am angry and I am hurting. I wanted my answers, I want to know why I won’t stay pregnant and I want to know what we are going to do from here. I need a plan.
I have been able to avoid triggers while in lockdown, but just as unexpectedly, some pregnancy announcements are made by people I did not expect it from. I am angry at them.
We are angry. It was our turn.
My friend then announces her early miscarriage. I want to support her, I really do, I cry just as much as she does. Until I can’t function anymore. I have flashbacks, nightmares, panic attacks, anger.
It is not your pregnancy, my husband said, so what is going on?
I don’t know, but I can’t breathe. I can’t sleep, I can’t go outside. I don’t want to hear about your babies, I don’t want to see your babies, why couldn’t ours live?
I need help.
The world finally starts to open up. Non-urgent treatments are slowly resumed. I scheduled an appointment with my psychiatrist in June and I hope it will be here soon enough.
We finally get to see our fertility specialist again. We are longing so hard for answers and solutions at this point. We put on our facemasks and let ourselves feel hopeful again.
The doctor tells us that this time around we could maybe try IVF, since they can’t pinpoint what is happening for us.
Is it genetic? Something wrong with my uterus? Are we just the 1% with 3 miscarriages and plain very bad luck?
IVF would give us a chance to transfer the most viable embryo. In the meantime we will undergo genetic testing as well as hysteroscopy to see whether or not something might have been wrong with my uterus.
Couldn’t they have done that months ago? What if they find something?
We go over the procedures I will undergo, the drugs I will be taking. My husband looks at me with guilt in his eyes. He knows this will suck. He knows he won’t be there for all my appointments. I don’t care. Whatever it takes, I’ll do it.
Then all hope was knocked back as soon as it had returned, after two months of doing nothing. Due to the pandemic, women who have a very low ovarian reserve get to go first.
This makes sense. I get that, I really do. I am young, I have plenty of time. Well, about 4-5 more years in terms of prime fertility, but still.
But when is it our turn? We don’t know. Just wait and see. Be patient.
We made a wedding vow, for better or worse. Now we know what that means. I love him, I love us. We will come out stronger.
It has been almost two years.
When will I get my healthy rainbow baby?
Clinics are reopening!
Nothing was found with the hysteroscopy and genetic screening, diagnosis still unexplained. That does give us some hope that the IVF might work. I don’t feel so good though, why would that be? I can’t be pregnant, can I?
Yet there it was, when for the very first time I had let go all hope of naturally conceiving, my very last untreated cycle, a positive test. I did not want it to be, yet it terrifyingly was. Just as soon as the positive tests showed up, I tested negative again. Period 3 days late. Another chemical pregnancy. Will that affect our IVF chances? I don’t know, but I kept my mouth shut as if it was just a blip. I mentally skip over what just occurred the past few days, call my doctor’s office that my period started so I can come in this week for checkups to start follicle stimulation.
Reckless? Maybe. But I feel physically fine and now I am unstoppable. The ultrasound shows my ovaries are at rest, I get my hormone prescription and am told to start injecting the next day. I’ve got this, this is how I am getting my baby! Oh how I underestimated it.. Soon enough I started swelling like a balloon. At checkup after five days, 21 follicles are counted and I need to lower my dose immediately. At the next checkup I am told I am at risk for OHSS and get a new prescription. Maybe I don’t get to take the trigger shot before follicle aspiration. This would mean I would also not get an embryo transfer this cycle. I am so terrified of doing all of this for nothing! I know it won’t really be lost because any eggs would be frozen, but I really needed an embryo transfer to happen too! In the evening I get the relieving call that my hormones have gone down enough for me to do the planned trigger shot and prepare for pickup surgery. That went so fast! Only 9 days after starting hormones, I am prepping for surgery. 21 follicles were aspirated, 10 eggs retrieved, 6 fertilized. For the following few days I am in so much pain I can’t move. The recovery is way worse than I ever imagined it would be and the progesterone supplementation does not help in the least. Luckily, by day 3 I feel a bit better and am allowed to have an embryo transferred. I see the first picture of our little embryo! Isn’t that amazing? To see that only three days after fertilization? Two of the remaining five embryos made it to blastocyst stage that week and were frozen. My doctor jokes that if my transferred embryo is a boy, I need to name my baby after him. It sounds so ridiculous yet I briefly contemplate it, because if this pregnancy is successful, he is my miracle doctor.
I’ve been carrying an embaby in my womb. Baby, I really need you to hold on. Maybe the extra progesterone was all we needed. Maybe selecting a good looking embryo is all it takes. I am terrified for the pregnancy test. But that about sums up this fertility journey: terrifying. If this pregnancy does not last, at least the next time there won’t be a stimulation round. Maybe my completed family is in that freezer in the lab, isn’t that weird?
But then the dreaded call came. Yes, I am pregnant, hCG levels are elevated. However, levels are so low the odds of a viable pregnancy are next to nothing. I have to stop taking the progesterone and schedule a followup appointment. This IVF journey very quickly turned to miscarriage management. I can not wrap my head around this. As I type this up, I am still pregnant, for the fifth time. Today I feel sick, my ovaries hurt, my head hurts. I can not place the fact that my actual miscarriage hasn’t even started yet, I was simply told that it will happen. How did this happen to us again? I need them to run more tests, I really need them to listen to me this time. I am in pain. And for the very first time we are considering other options. There are two more embryos to transfer. Will we switch clinics after that? Will we try and adopt a baby? Here I am, waiting for another miscarriage to happen, looking at the paperwork to start the adoption process. I just want to know my options. I am not ready to stop trying, it was only our first IVF attempt. But it is my fifth pregnancy, no matter how short. I need to know what we can do if that time ever comes. Not being parents is never an option.
We made a wedding vow, for better or worse. Now we know what that means. I love my husband, I love us. We will come out stronger.
It has been almost two years.
When will I get my healthy rainbow baby?
You can follow Lauren on Instagram @laurylizzle