July 28th, 2011
Surprise! I’m still not pregnant (nor have I been since the chemical pregnancy in April). Here’s what’s happened in the past three months:
RE or REally not impressed
My Obgyn broke up with me saying, “There’s nothing more I can do for you.” I’m not sure what she had really done for me to begin with so I only feel slightly rejected instead of broken-hearted. As a parting gift, she referred me to a reproductive endocrinologist (RE) otherwise known as a fertility specialist. I went back and forth on whether I should actually go. What, exactly, could this RE do that my OB hadn’t already done (except charge me $50 per visit instead of $25)?
After talking about it with some online friends, I decided that a consultation couldn’t hurt and I had my, now rather large, medical file sent to the specialist’s office. I went to the first appointment with just a little glimmer of hope that maybe, just maybe I would be getting some answers soon.
At the first appointment, the doctor reviewed my history and bloodwork results from the OB. She refused to speculate on possible causes of the miscarriages until she had the results of about 22 blood panels and a saline ultrasound — all of which had to be done on very specific cycle days. I walked out of the office after that initial visit with lab orders (for myself and my husband), prescriptions, and directions about how to prepare for my ultrasound.
With each test, I grew more excited, sensing a discovery was just around the corner. “Today’s test is going to show something! I just know it.” I imagined sitting in the office, getting the results and exclaiming “Well that explains it! And you say all I have to do is take these magic pills and it will all be ok? Why didn’t I do this sooner?”
The follow-up appointment didn’t exactly go like that. Instead, it went like this. Doctor: Well, I’ve reviewed the results of every test and everything is well within normal range. I have no explanation for your multiple losses other than to say it’s simply bad luck.” Me: Did you just say my diagnosis is bad luck?” Doctor: Well, that’s not a diagnosis, but yes. There’s nothing wrong that we can see.” Me: “So that’s it? That’s how this ends?” Doctor: “That’s up to you. I have a treatment plan.” Me: “You have a treatment plan for bad luck?” Doctor: “The plan is to get you pregnant as many times as possible and hope that one sticks.” Me: Stunned silence followed by tears and lots of nose blowing.
As a side note, my husband was with me for that appointment and he said the doctor looked truly shocked that was sobbing. Does this not happen frequently in this office? Hormonal women getting hopeless news on a nearly daily basis and the doctor is shocked that I am sobbing? Anyway…
I walked out of the office that day faced with choices that range from $400 per month to $4000 per month. Keep in mind that all of these choices are aimed at getting me pregnant as many times as possible and “hoping that one sticks.”
I’ve decided to not pursue any of the choices made available to me; not Clomid, not Femara, not IUI (inter-uterine insemination), not IVF (in-vitro fertilization). I’ve decided that reproducing really shouldn’t be this hard. And I have no idea where that leaves me or what’s left to do– except to write a break-up letter to my RE.
So that’s the update. I plan to finish out the summer with my own treatment plan: an endurance mud-run race this weekend, plenty of wine drinking on summer terraces, perhaps a cocktail of natural fertility boosting supplements, and reckless baby-dancing with my husband — you know — just in case one sticks.
April 25th, 2011
It’s been more than a year since I started my (mis)adventures in reproduction. Last April, I was convinced that I would be pregnant by July of 2010. When July rolled around and I found out I wasn’t ovulating, I re-evaluated my expectations and thought, “Surely, by October.” Then, October rolled around and I discovered a 7 cm cyst was taking up residence on my right ovary. Following surgery that month, I thought, “Maybe by Christmas.”
Christmas came and went and shortly after New Years, I found out I was pregnant. Now before you squeal, I should warn you that there’s not a happy ending. Read on.
After seeing two pink lines, one of which was very faint, on January 2, I phoned my doctor to ask about what to do next. She ordered beta HCG levels drawn 48 hours apart. The first level came back at 31. The second level came back at 29. Wrong direction. HCG should double every 48 hours in early pregnancy. I was officially diagnosed as having had a chemical pregnancy and lost that pregnancy on my 30th birthday.
Fed up, I started taking Clomid, a pill to induce ovulation, at the end of February, had a lot sex and thought, “This is the magic pill. Surely this month will be it.” Big. Fat. Fail.
Only 5 weeks from a road race, I took the month of March “off” and didn’t take Clomid. I ran my ten-mile race and a week later, got another positive pregnancy test. That was a little over a week and half ago. On Easter Sunday, I started bleeding.
That, my friends, makes three losses in 12 months. I’ve been awarded the less than coveted diagnosis of Recurrent Pregnancy Loss and have officially qualified for a referral to a reproductive endocrinologist.
More updates to come as we take this road less traveled.
As a side note, it’s National Infertility Awareness Week – certainly not a Hallmark holiday folks but if you know someone affected by this issue, send her a card this week and let her know you’re thinking about her.
December 31st, 2010
I believe in a God that can bless and teach through tragedy; not a God that causes tragedy. For me, 2010 was not a year of tragedy. It was a year of blessings in disguise.
I am a much happier person today that I was one year ago. The scary thing is that one year ago, I didn’t realize I was unhappy. I had a great job, great house, great husband, and I was making a great decision to procreate. Unfortunately, I was hinging my happiness on my great job, great, house, and great husband and the anticipated greatness of having a baby.
When losing just one piece of a ‘perfect’ life can send you spiraling downward, it quickly becomes very clear that not everything is perfect. You see, I didn’t realize how unhappy I was until I had the miscarriage. This year, I discovered just exactly how dark my perfect life was.
When I look back on 2010 and ask myself, would I do it again knowing what I know now, the answer is “yes.” I’ve come to realize that the experience of losing a child is one of the best things that could have happened to me. My miscarriage saved my life. Bear with me as I explain.
The miscarriage revealed to me just how small my world and my perspective had become. I always thought I was a person of faith, a person that believes God is good and that there is a heaven. This year, I discovered how ignorant I’ve been.
My short glimpse at motherhood, and my long glimpse at loss brought me to a place where I can say I know one thing for sure: there is a difference between thinking you are person of faith and truly believing that faith can save your life.
I learned this year that you simply cannot be a happy person without having God in your life. You can think you are happy. You can think you have it all together. You can have the perfect house, the perfect job, and the perfect bank account. Hell, if you’re lucky, God will let you live in that state of ignorance. I lived there for 30 years.
And then I was blessed. God used my miscarriage to reveal to me just how much I was missing out on and through my loss, brought me to a better understanding of what it means to be happy.
You might be thinking, “Wait a second sister. I’ve read your journal and there are quite a few places you sound hurt, and angry and bitter.”
Yep. Guilty. However, for each journal entry, and each minute, hour, day, week, and month of hurt, I’ve been blessed a thousand times over. I just had to open my eyes and look for it.
On many occasions, it came from you: words of complete strangers who read and follow my posts; women who send notes of encouragement and support as if they are my sisters.
In other instances, it came out of experiences that that only could have happened because I wasn’t pregnant: a trip to Colombia to help victims of abuse and prostitution; a white water rafting trip where I met a friend I can’t imagine ever not knowing; a new job that allows me to use the skills I’ve been developing over the past decade…
My husband and I are stronger as individuals and as a couple because of our shared experience. There is something about losing a life that you created together that strengthens the bond of marriage.
Those are just a few examples. I could write a book telling you about the relationships I’ve developed, the personal growth that has allowed me to take a deep breath and put my trust in God, and the happiness that comes from knowing that by this time next year, I’ll have even more light in my life…baby or not.
December 19th, 2010
If you or someone you know is trying to conceive, you know just how expensive a proposition this can be. In the spirit of holiday gift guides, I present the Top 10 list for TTC Couples!
The Clear Blue Easy Fertility Monitor – This digital device tracks hormones through the whole cycle and gives you a very clear picture of your two most fertile days in the cycle. The down-side? For accuracy, your cycle should be between 21 and 42 days long. This sucker will cost you big money: about $150.
Red Raspberry Leaf Tea – This herbal tea is widely known in infertility circles as drink for strengthening the uterus and promoting a healthy monthly cycle. It’s available from a number of brands. My personal favorite is Yogi.
Vitamin/Nutrition Store Gift Certificate – There are a number of herbs and vitamins that holistic doctors often recommend for couples that are trying to conceive and while most of them are fairly affordable, buying them frequently adds up. Why not buy a gift certificate so your favorite TTC couple can purchase Vitex, Red Clover, or B6 supplements?
Pregnancy Tests – For the woman addicted to peeing on a stick. Available on Amazon.com, you can buy these in bulk and she can pee on a stick everyday.
Basal Body Temperature (BBT) Thermometer – The BBT thermometer is available at most drug stores for about $10. The BBT is one of the most frequently used methods for tracking ovulation because a woman’s temperature will slightly rise between 24 and 48 hours before she ovulates.
Visa Gift Card – All those doctor appointments really add up. A Visa Gift Card can help defer the cost of anything from the office visit to the blood work to an IVF treatment! Pick one up at your favorite big box or grocery store.
Taking Control of Your Fertility – A book that women on “Trying to Conceive Naturally” community chat boards swear by. The 10th Anniversary Edition is available for less than $15.
A cute tote bag – Let’s face it, some couples who are trying to conceive go to the doctor several times a month. Why not give a cute tote bag so she can carry around some great waiting room material and her latest temperature / cervical mucus chart.
A bedside calendar – Every TTC woman needs a place to track her cycle, her temperature, and her baby making activity. Bundle it with a pen and some heart stickers (just to make tracking the baby-dance a little fun)!
A handwritten note saying you care – OK, so a few of the gifts above might just be a little too personal for you to add to the stocking. But a handwritten note saying how much you care? That’s a great gift!
December 17th, 2010
It’s the most wonderful time of the year…If you’re not getting photo cards from all of your fertile friends.
What happened to sending a card with a tree on the front? We got five cards today and all five cards had pictures of our friends and their babies. Awesome. One after another, I opened them up and by the time I was done, I was in a miserable mood. So much for glad tidings and joy.
Though it’s seeming more impossible month by month…if we ever have children, I am thoroughly committed to not sending cards with pictures of them, or me for that matter. The practice of sending a photo card is something I’ve only witnessed from families with children and seeing them is another reminder that I’m not in the club.
In my experience, sending these cards is not something that childless couples do. I mean, I have never seen a photo card with a husband and wife. E-cards from JibJab where my head is superimposed over a character like Ralphie from the Christmas Story? Heck yes. But a photo card that comes in the mail? Um. No.
Can you just imagine me and my husband posing in front of the tree in matching sweaters and then mailing that to all of our closest family and friends? I can see an aunt opening that and shaking her head, “What a shame about these two…Harry, run this to the bedroom will you? I’ll have to write them a letter and see how they are. Did you see this picture of Karen and her kids? What cutie pies. Here. Put this on the fridge. I can’t wait to show the girls when they come over next week.”
And that’s how we couples who are trying to conceive live our lives. We end up in a place behind all our twenty and thirty-something sisters, brothers, cousins and friends who are having kids. All around us, those we love and care deeply about show off their growing families, their lives, their fertile accomplishments in Christmas cards, and ornaments, and homemade gifts from Toddler This and Toddler That while grandma and grandpa, aunts and uncles, and the “club” of mommies and daddies talk about how special Christmas morning is going to be.
And us? Those of us not in the club? Well, we pretend not to notice and we pretend not to care that everyone else is getting all the attention. We pretend that getting cards of our friends and their kids is not a reminder of what we don’t have. We pretend that we’re not dreading the family gathering where someone says “I’m surprised you don’t have a little one yet.” We pretend that seeing just two stockings hanging from the mantle is A-OK.
Ah yes. Tis the season for pretending. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go write emails to my friends telling them I got their cards and the family looks simply beautiful.
November 29th, 2010
It was November 14, 2009 when I took my last birth control pill. My husband and I decided that 2010 was the year we were going to have a baby. I went to the OB in December for my yearly well-woman visit and talked to my doctor about our plans to try to conceive. She wrote me a prescription for prenatal vitamins and said, “It takes most couples your age six to eight months of trying before the they are successful. Just have fun.”
We continued to use protection until January and in our first unprotected cycle were blessed enough to get pregnant. I was that woman: the one whom women who have been trying to conceive for years, want to punch in the uterus.
Here I am, a year later, a year after stopping my birth control pill, one unsuccessful pregnancy later wondering, “What the hell happened?”
I know I’m being a whiny little…ahem. I know there are women out there who want to punch me in my uterus and say “At least you were able to get pregnant once. That means you can do it again.” I know that I have no room to complain because we haven’t been actively and unsuccessfully trying for more than 12 consecutive months and therefore, I’m not technically infertile.
But I do wonder, what if my first pregnancy was my last pregnancy? How does this story end? Is it happily ever after as so many people try to reassure me? Or is it simply The End? How do I know if I’m on the last page of the last chapter or if I’m just in the middle of the book?
My mom is the kind of person who reads the end of the book before she reads the beginning. If the end is worth it, she’ll go back and read the rest. I wish I could skip ahead to the end of my story to see what kind of ending it has.
November 8th, 2010
There are days — and thankfully fewer and far between — when I look at my reflection and I don’t know who is staring back at me. I’m surprised by how “normal” I look. I don’t mean that to be funny; it’s just that if what appeared in the mirror was a reflection of what was going through my mind, or my heart, then it would be ashen, bruised, exhausted.
My best friend gave birth a week ago. I was looking through her pictures and saw life in her eyes, color in her cheeks and a joy that I’m not sure I’ve ever seen on her face. It’s the kind of joy that’s in your eyes and in your soul. Unmistakable. More than just a smile. What’s funny about joy is that you can recognize it immediately. But pain—well that’s a different story.
That’s because pain hides behind a smile and behind, “I’m good.” Pain hides behind normal. Pain won’t show up in the mirror.
You can hide pain and you can fake joy. I’ve gotten pretty good at both. It’s an exhausting existence though. Also exhausting is the battle between joy and pain when they exist in the same space. When I look at my friend’s pictures, I am simultaneously caught in her joy and suffocating from pain. It leaves me craving and dreading. Thirsty and saturated. Full and starving.
I want to celebrate and love and at the same time it feels treacherously deceitful to my feelings.
I pick up the phone to call her because I want all the details and I want to hear how she is, and how the baby is. I want to gush and God, I miss her. But every time I pick up the phone, I freeze. My heart skips a beat and I’m reminded of what was lost and I can’t breathe. Joy. Pain. Joy. Pain. Joy. Pain.
I will call…soon. But at this moment in time, this is how I show love and joy:
Welcome to the world Aiden James and my sincerest love and congratulations to your wonderful parents.
October 27th, 2010
“Pain, you just have to ride it out, hope it goes away on its own, hope the wound that caused it heals. There are no solutions, no easy answers, you just breathe deep and wait for it to subside. Most of the time pain can be managed but sometimes the pain gets you where you least expect it. Hits way below the belt and doesn’t let up. Pain, you just have to fight through, because the truth is you can’t outrun it and life always makes more. Meredith Grey, Grey’s Anatomy
This week should have been the week that changed my life forever.
The nursery doesn’t exist. There is no car seat in the back of our Altima. I don’t have closet full of tiny hangers or a dresser full of diapers. There is no bassinet, no baby monitor, no rocking chair.
There’s just me and my husband, and the ghost of our baby who was due on October 29. I’ve been waiting for this week not so I can forget, but so I can give closure to this pregnancy. It’s time and I am ready.
I feel strongly that the baby was a boy so I named my son. I wrote his name on his ultrasound picture and placed it inside his baby blanket (lovingly stitched by a good friend), along with a pair of booties, and his pregnancy date wheel. On his due date, I will write him a letter and sign it “Love, Mom.”
It’s not much but it’s my memorial to his time in my life. His tiny beating heart forever changed who I am and I’m grateful that for nine weeks, I was his. He will always be mine. My first. My son. Abraham.
October 18th, 2010
In February, I had planned to spend a day or two in the hospital in October. Funny how things work out. Or don’t.
Walking into the hospital, my husband and I both realized that had it not been for the miscarriage, we could have been walking that same sidewalk at the same time but for a very different reason. “Right around this time, right?” my husband said. “Yeah, it should have been any day now,” I replied as I stared at the Maternity sign that hung just below the Registration sign.
As I laid in pre-op, my hands folded over my flat stomach and hubby by my side, I was surprised by how unemotional I felt about the fact that I wasn’t there to have a baby; that if things would have turned out differently, we would have been giggling nervously in anticipation of our newborn.
Without a crack in my voice, I recounted the details of my miscarriage to the pre-op nurse who asked three times if I had a dilation and curettage. “So they never went in and scraped?” she asked, adding hand gestures as if I was suddenly going to remember that I had a D&C when in fact, I did not. “No. It was a missed miscarriage and I took Misoprostal.”
“So they never went back and looked inside? They never cleaned you out?” For heaven’s sake lady, are you trying to get me to crack? Once we cleared up all the details and she determined I was healthy enough for anesthesia, the conversation turned to my People Magazine and how healthy Michael Douglas looked as he stared from the cover.
Just like that, my eight-month-long saga, one that I’ve told many times and in various emotional stages — my story – was nothing more than clinical pre-op details. Not worthy of People Magazine, just a medical chart. And you know what? I felt the same way. I felt so far removed from my miscarriage story, even in spite of the obvious irony of being in the hospital so close to my due date.
The surgery gave me permission to be the patient with the ovarian cyst instead of the patient who had the miscarriage. Describing my miscarriage, I was describing someone else. That was her story. The person having surgery – that was me – and boy was I glad to be me for once.
I’ve gone from, “I just had a miscarriage,” to, “I just had surgery.” It’s less emotion to reconcile with. This is a much easier place.
I’ve gone from dealing with a pregnancy loss to dealing with an ovarian cyst. For right now at least, I get to be the person recovering from surgery, not the person grieving from a miscarriage or trying to conceive after a loss. The best part? I. Feel. Free.
For months, I’ve grieved over losing my pregnancy and obsessed about becoming pregnant again. Isn’t that I what I’m supposed to do? Isn’t EVERY conversation supposed to be about my miscarriage and getting pregnant? Isn’t the white elephant ALWAYS in the room? Isn’t the world revolving around ME? I’ve felt like there was this unwritten expectation that I will get pregnant right away and that with each passing month I didn’t, I was letting the world down. I’ve felt like it’s wrong of me NOT to obsess over becoming pregnant again.
I’ve been looking for a way to let go without feeling guilty. I’ve been looking for an out. I’ve been desperate for a rest but didn’t want to admit that I was tired. Of course, now that I’ve had surgery, I don’t have to. For the next month, I don’t have to think about my temperature, or charting my way to conception. I don’t have to neurotically pee on sticks, or obsess about my cycle day. For the next month, I get to focus on healing. That feels good. I think it’s what the doctor ordered back in April but I’ve decided to finally fill the prescription.
October 12th, 2010
Tomorrow is the day! I decided to have the surgery to remove this thing growing on my ovary. In honor of tomorrow, I wrote the sucker a letter.
It’s time we parted ways. You’re a little too attached to me. I mean, you’ve grown to roughly three times the size of my ovary. You are basically the size of a large Grade A egg. I would keep you around but unfortunately, I’m not competing in a state fair for the largest organically grown product. Tomorrow, you will be surgically removed, and you are not invited back. Thanks for playing. –Emily
Ah yes. The size of an egg – at least that’s what my Google image search for 7cm revealed. I’m horrified and, morbidly curious. I mean – I can’t grow a baby but I can grow a fluid-filled globe the size of key lime? That got me thinking…
Anyone that’s familiar with literature on pregnancy knows about the comparison of embryos and fetuses to foods. So here are some other comparisons: a large date, a small tomato, a red potato, a large strawberry. See, it’s not just the pregnant women who get to have all the fun!
My husband wants me to bring it home in a jar. I tried to explain that the surgery doesn’t exactly work like that. Thanks to the wonders of science, it will actually be sucked out through my belly button. Well, maybe not my belly button but some small incision near there. Either way, it’s not going to remain intact enough to store in a jar and put on display. And even if we could keep it in a jar, it wouldn’t match with our pillows and couch.