This blog post has been a long time coming… every time I sat down to write it I would find a reason not to. Having to go back through the hardest moments of my life was unimaginable even though every day of my life in some way, I think about these moments that have changed my husband and me forever. I wake up struggling in some capacity with everything that has happened every single day. As I watch people moving forward in their lives with happy news, our world has seemingly been at a halt in more ways than one. It all feels so unfair but I keep telling myself “that’s life”… “better times are coming”… and many of the other cliches that keep us hopeful.
Before I share our deeply personal story, please know it’s because I believe it’s important for women to share their stories so we can feel less alone when trying to start a family. It can be extremely isolating which I have experienced first hand and I hope this helps anyone feeling alone in their journey.
This is our story, here we go… Steve and I started trying for a baby in January of 2018. We did everything the “right way” we started dating in college, got married in June of 2017 and I went off birth control in October that year so my body had a few months to get it all out of my system. I use all clean and non-toxic products on my body and in my home, I went to a holistic doctor and did a ton of bloodwork to make sure everything was okay. We are happy, in love, and ready to start a family. In October of 2018, we decided to take on a fixer-upper (something I always wanted to do) which was a great distraction. I say all of this because I thought we were doing everything right and preparing the best we could for the next chapter of our life; the joke was on me! There is no right way or right time to start a family, being able to carry a pregnancy to term and have a healthy baby is a freaking miracle and any way that happens is a true gift.
Fast forward to January 2019 and still no positive pregnancy test. Every month for 12 months I would get my period and wondered “when was it our turn”- but still kept hope that it would happen when it was supposed to. I never wanted to obsess over it or let it take control of our lives…I tried to stay in the moment and stay busy while enjoying it just being the two of us.
I went to my annual OBGYN appointment and she gave me a piece of paper with 3 infertility doctors information to start that process since we had no luck for a year. Steve and I decided to put that on the back burner and just continue to try, letting it happen when it was supposed to. March of 2019 we got our first positive test and we were stunned and just beyond excited. The craziest part is that our due date was my birthday Dec. 30, it felt like fate and it was all happening like it was supposed to, we were patient, so ready and couldn’t wait for our first appointment. Fast forward two weeks, I was exactly 6 weeks pregnant and I started spotting. I knew in the back of my mind what that could mean but tried not to dwell on it. I went to church, prayed, and continued on with my day. Later that night the bleeding got worse so we went to the emergency room, they did some tests and we got to see the heartbeat of our baby which was everything we needed at that moment. I was put on progesterone and was told to see my OBGYN a week later to check in on the baby, over the next two days the bleeding got heavier. I didn’t realize at that moment, but I was miscarrying our first child. I was in total denial and tried to act like everything was okay; it was not. When I went back to the doctor they confirmed nothing was left, and just like that our whole world crumbled. As you can imagine, I did not take it well. While all of this was happening I was missing my best friends bachelorette party that I helped plan, only her and one other friend knew what was going on, everyone else thought I had the stomach flu. I sat at home crying for days and days trying to wrap my mind about what was happening and went dark on everyone and everything. It was a really tough time but I tried reminding myself that this happens to 1 in 4 women and I am not alone in this even though I felt like I was on an island by myself. My wonderful husband was my rock even though he was struggling with it as well, he was less aware of how many women this happens to and didn’t know much about it.
Construction on our home stopped because we were living in the house during the renovations. I couldn’t get up and put myself together let alone have a bunch of people in our home working. Little by little, we picked up the pieces and settled back into our new normal. Changed forever, we knew now how much we wanted to start a family. I got cleared by my doctor to start trying again after my first period post-miscarriage. We were again anxious to start the process and hopeful that it was going to be okay thinking “this is just one of those things that some couples have to go through”.
2 months later we saw another positive pregnancy test and this time my due date was at the end of April. I was so excited that it happened again so quickly but terrified of what I knew could happen again. Every. Single. Time. I went to the bathroom I prayed to not see any blood and held onto that feeling until we went to our 8-week appointment and got to see the heartbeat. We got photos of our sweet little baby and were beyond excited because we didn’t get that far last time. Now feeling hopeful, I told myself just to get through the next month to my 12-week appointment and I would feel even better.
The next two weeks passed, no spotting, and I was feeling sick which gave me comfort. I decided to have my girlfriends over for dinner at around 10 weeks to tell them everything that had happened up to this point and our happy news. Our fixer-upper was also coming together so I wanted them to see the progress as well. I shared our miscarriage with them and it was really nice to connect with them on something that had been such a struggle in our lives. It was nice to open up and also let them in on our big secret of being pregnant. I told them I was just ready for the next two weeks to be over and asked for any prayers they could send my way.
Fast forward to our 12-week appointment, I was terrified, excited, ready to see our baby…basically filled with every emotion you could think of. We go in and it was an appointment where they just listen to the heartbeat. They couldn’t find it at first but told us not to worry because it happens sometimes. We went into a different room, the ultrasound room… and there was still no heartbeat. I had miscarried for the second time. Once again our world had been crushed and my biggest nightmare was happening all over again. I have never been so gutted in my entire life. I couldn’t walk and I nearly blacked out. We were told that it seemed to have happened around 10 weeks. This time I had to get a D&C, I was SO thankful I did not have to do that with the first one but here we were having to do it. The next day I went in for the procedure and over the next two weeks I bled and bled reminding me of everything that I lost while I was put under. We had told our extended family and close friends. We even took announcement photos before the 12-week appointment. I wasn’t spotting or bleeding so to us that meant everything was okay and after being so terrified for weeks on end I wanted to do things to get excited and stay positive — nope, WRONG.
Once again construction on our home stopped and I could barely function, I was in the darkest place of my life and everything stopped even more than it had before. Life was cruel and terrible and I did not want to go on. I hid from everyone and everything just needing time to process what was going on. Never in my life did I think that this would be my path. The room that was going to be the nursery now was just a space that I hated. We had taken our announcement photos in our almost-finished house that I now was ready to move out of because of everything that had happened in it thus far.
The pregnancy journal and books on my nightstand, the mom and dad marble mugs I ordered in our cabinet, I had never had any “triggers” and now I was finding myself being triggered by everything around me. As the days went by we fell back into our new normal again but broken, sad, scared, and bitter. Nothing excited me, I was so unhappy and I truly had no clue if I would ever be able to move on from this. Society keeps moving forward no matter how much you want it to pause. I completely left Instagram not knowing if I was ever going to come back. I never wanted to be inauthentic and going on stories and saying “Happy Monday!” was not going to happen.
I took a step back to figure out what my life was going to look like moving forward. At that time we had no plans to get another dog but I knew I needed lots of love and a distraction from my reality so that is when Clark became apart of our family. It was fate, I heard about him on October 30th and picked him up the next day, on Halloween. I had not been that happy for months and my heart felt full again for the first time in a very long time. He was exactly what I needed at that moment and I am grateful every day for him coming into my life. He saved me and to this day I lean on him and our cat Mable when I need a little extra love or a laugh. I don’t know what I would do without them.
Fast forward a few weeks and just when you think things could not get any worse…there was an electrical fire at our house. Shortly after our second miscarriage and getting Clark we were displaced from our home. Click here for the blogpost.
We took the rest of the year to regroup after the two miscarriages and the fire. We had to move into a rental and deal with the aftermath of everything. It truly was the hardest year of our lives and I was so ready for a new year and a fresh start. January 2020 we finally made an appointment to seeing a fertility doctor. My sister, my OBGYN, and a friend who had been through multiple miscarriages all recommended the same doctor. It felt right, we were able to do some testing to try to figure out what was going on. Our doctor was a little baffled at first because she couldn’t find anything that stood out to her. It felt like a good and bad thing…still no explanation to the miscarriages but knowing everything was okay was reassuring.
Just when I thought things couldn’t get worse COVID hit. I just have to say…having the ability to have video calls with our doctor and continue to move forward in this area of our life was a blessing during a really challenging and still unknown time. We were so lucky to have been done with anything that I had to get done in the hospital so we could continue to move forward with video chats. My heart goes out to everyone who had to pause fertility treatments during the virus, it is heartbreaking enough to have to go through it but to have to push those plans to expand your family back must be torture.
The only thing my doctor had found at this point was that my progesterone levels were low for both pregnancies, so she started me an ovulation medication. The meds basically makes your body think it’s going into menopause by suppressing hormones. You take it for five days, then when you stop taking it you get a big rush of hormones so you ovulate really well. So I would do a round and then we would do a video call with our doctor after getting my period to talk about details to see what the plan was for the next month. We did the same plan for a few months in quarantine and started to notice that my period was coming very late which should not be happening. It was really hard because I would get my hopes up then take a test and be so let down and confused. So, I went into my doctor’s office in July (for the first time in months) to check things out right after doing a round of ovulation meds to make sure everything looked good. We did a sonogram and my uterine lining looked great and my eggs were large and sitting there waiting to begin ovulation. So, we knew it was time to get busy. My doctor also put in bloodwork at LabCorp to check my Insulin and Glucose to rule out any issues there, so I had to fast and go in and get that bloodwork done. She was still trying to figure out the mystery of the late periods and that was the first step. A few days later I went and got the bloodwork done and 24 hours later we found out that I am Insulin Resistant. Insulin Resistance is when cells in your muscles, fat, and liver don’t respond well to insulin and can’t use glucose from your blood for energy. To make up for it, your pancreas makes more insulin. Over time, your blood sugar levels go up. High levels of insulin are toxic to placenta cells so right then and there we believe we found out the possible reason for the miscarriages. Definitely a hard pill to swallow, on one end I am happy we may have figured out a reason for it but on the other end knowing my body could have done that to my babies is a lot to process. A lot of sadness, guilt, frustration — every emotion you can imagine. I was put on medication right away, I had to start taking the meds gradually so every two weeks I increased the dosage. It was such a shock to find this information out because I show none of the usual symptoms of having Insulin Resistance. I work out consistently and I eat healthily, I don’t smoke, etc. etc. Symptoms include:
- Obesity, especially belly fat
- Inactive lifestyle
- Diet high in carbohydrates
- Gestational diabetes
- Health conditions like nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and polycystic ovary syndrome
- A family history of diabetes
- Ethnicity — it’s more likely if your ancestry is African, Latino, or Native American
- Age — it’s more likely after 45
- Hormonal disorders like Cushing’s syndrome and acromegaly
- Medications like steroids, antipsychotics, and HIV medications
- Sleep problems like sleep apnea
The month we found out I am Insulin Resistant was also the month that we conceived for the third time but the first time in 2020. Finding both of those things out two weeks of each other was really scary, I felt good that I started the medication, I was eating very healthy and exercising which was everything that I needed to be doing. My doctor was happy to see a positive test after 6 months of fertility medications because she started to talk about moving to IUI then IVF. Obviously finding out the insulin resistance was huge but we just didn’t know if the timing was right. from the moment we found out we were pregnant at 4 weeks to the moment I went into my fertility doctor’s office at right before 7 weeks to see the development we were holding our breath. Having to go to that appointment by myself while Steve was in the car because of COVID was the most nerve-wracking thing I have ever had to do and was so cruel. Already having PTSD from our past experiences it felt like a sick joke. To be honest, we couldn’t find any joy or excitement, we were beyond anxious and scared knowing the outcome could be just like the other two times — which it was. When I went in for the sonogram there was a sack with nothing in it, we should have seen a yoke and possibly a little heart beating showing a growing baby. But we didn’t and my doctor gave it a 70% chance that it was a blighted ovum. A blighted ovum occurs when a fertilized egg implants in the uterus but doesn’t develop into an embryo. It is also referred to as an anembryonic (no embryo) pregnancy and is a leading cause of early pregnancy failure or miscarriage. We scheduled an appointment to go back a week later to make sure that is what was happening but the next few days resulted in bleeding which showed us even more than our chances of things being okay were even less. We had the option to do another DNC but I followed my gut and decided to deal with it at home. With COVID and the fact that the embryo never developed I knew I could handle the aftermath (I miscarried at home with our first pregnancy after seeing a heartbeat which means it was much further along than this 3rd time). I spent over a week at home mourning, bleeding, and trying to get thru it for the fourth time. There is nothing anyone else can say or do to make it better and all we could do was work to distract ourselves. I went back to the doctor a week later and everything was pretty much gone from my uterus and I got an HCG blood test which showed my levels were going down and then a week later showing my HCG was back to a non-pregnant woman. The fifth miscarriage was a chemical pregnancy. Since we were tracking very closely I tested right away and got a positive test but then the next day I started bleeding and it was determined to be chemical.
In a fucked up way I am thankful that the last two were the easiest miscarriages of the five and I was able to move through the mourning process a little faster and more logical than the other ones. Both my OBGYN and fertility doctor kept telling us to not give up hope because we have come a long way. Currently, we are taking some time to let the medication get into my system and heal from the hell we have been through. Between the world going through the craziest stuff and our personal issues, it has been a lot to process. Working with a fertility doctor is so stressful and can feel like a part-time job. There is so much that has to be done at any given time, so taking a step back from all of that and relaxing has definitely been necessary. It put me in a really bad headspace because I was doing everything in my power to make it work and it just wasn’t. Then when it did, it ended up just like every other time. It’s beyond frustrating and sad, it’s hard to understand unless you have been thru it and I have not even gone into the space of IUI or IVF. I can only imagine how much harder that is both mentally and physically. When our doctor gives us the green light and when we are ready to try again, we will. As terrified as I am we are trying to stay focused on the goal and praying things are taking a turn for the better. My goal in 2020 was to have a successful pregnancy but it doesn’t look like that is in the cards for us, a hard pill to swallow for sure. January 2021 will be 3 years on this fertility journey, another very hard pill to swallow; but here we are.
I am so lucky to have a husband who has stood by my side through all of this. He has been so compassionate, loving, and there for me in my darkest days even when he was going through it as well. We both have our moments of struggle while the other stays strong to be there and I am beyond grateful. We have had our moments where we have had to overly communicate to understand each other through the grief. Men and women have different experiences through pregnancy loss because women physically have to go through it, watch other women get pregnant, deal with the emotional side, etc. etc. but at the end of the day, he listens and truly hears what I am saying to learn how to be a better partner for me. A relationship could go one of two ways in such hard times and ours has only grown stronger and we have become closer than ever. It is just amazing and I will forever be thankful to him for sticking by my side.
The past few years have come with so many challenges but so much growth as well. I am not the same person I was and in many ways, I am grateful for that. I am more compassionate and know more than ever that everyone is going through something so it’s always important to be kind. I am thankful for every little moment of happiness because they can be few and far between these days. I cherish relationships that add value to my life and don’t give energy to the ones that don’t. I know that stuff does not matter — we lost almost all of our material items in the fire and it just further shows that is not what creates happiness. I am more honest and open than ever, I want to share more of the real and raw me. My Instagram has changed a lot over the past few years and I am still trying to figure out the balance between fun and light-hearted posts vs. the deep, dark, and raw ones.
Please know I am here if you ever need someone to talk to…I have been there for a few friends during their pregnancy struggles since going through ours. To connect that deeply with others about such a tragic event has been healing in a weird way. A lot of them have now moved past that and successfully gotten pregnant again and are preparing for their rainbow. Other friends got pregnant right away or a few months into trying. It is so hard to still be struggling while everyone else is finding success. Our journey is not over and I hesitantly but hopefully continue forward into the unknown. Knowing I have made it through some of life’s hardest events, one after another, and we are still standing gives me hope. The strength I have now is more than I ever thought I would and I feel empowered by that.
Every time my mind goes to a dark place of “why us?”, “Why do they get what we want”, “why do we have to deal with another setback”, “why can’t things be easier for us” etc. I sit down and list out all of the things I am grateful for and reset my mind to get into a more positive headspace. I am a completely changed person in the best way possible. I know one day all of the struggles we have been through and are going through will make all of the successes and happy moments that much sweeter. Happiness does not come from everything going perfectly according to plan, it comes from getting through the darkest of days and being able to recognize the best ones. The pain will always be there but over time they transform from open wounds to scars. Our life will never be the same and our view of the world is very different but these experiences will help mold us into better, more compassionate, and ultimately wiser human beings. There is no more taking the good for granted and we truly are becoming the best versions of ourselves. If you are going through a tough journey of your own, whatever that may look like, please know you are not alone. I am always here if you need to talk.
I want to thank all of our family and friends who have been there for us during these times. No matter the distance between us, we are so lucky to have you all and are so grateful for everything you have done for us.
As for what the future holds….we shall see.