Ever since I made the decision to openly discuss my personal journey of pregnancy loss, infertility and the road to motherhood I receive the most amazing emails from people thanking me for my honesty and sharing their own powerful stories. Each story is unique and yet there is a common bond; women struggling in silence because pregnancy loss and infertility are rarely discussed in public. There’s no doubt it is a challenging subject in part because the experience is filled with pain and confusion. While some people are not comfortable discussing their experiences I made the decision following the loss of our first baby to openly discuss the journey to parenthood, my journey. This is how I healed. If my story gives one person hope, or makes one person feel less alone then it will be worth it.
My husband and I were lucky to easily get pregnant soon after we were married. I’ll admit it, I remember thinking to myself, that was easy, what’s the struggle? I was young and naive and just so caught up in the excitement of being pregnant. As soon as I learned I was pregnant I started knitting this little cute purple hat overjoyed that some day my very own baby would wear it. And then everything fell apart. I was teaching my Kindergarten class and on my lunch break noticed I was spotting. The world suddenly was moving in slow motion. What do I do? I have a room full of 5 year olds waiting for me. I went into my classroom and quietly whispered to my assistant what was happening. I had to go. She gave me a huge hug, and I wiped away tears. I looked up to see a room full of concerned students looking at me. Crap, I can’t scare them. I need to make this okay. “Oh I’m so silly,” I said, “I forgot I have a doctor’s appointment.” I left and didn’t return for 4 days.
If there is one image that will forever haunt me it is the ultrasound image of my little baby. I could see the head, the arms, the legs, and a small heart, but it wasn’t blinking. I knew it was supposed to be flickering. The tech didn’t have to say anything. I knew my baby had died. I remember feeling so ashamed to tell my husband (he was rushing in from NYC). I felt like this pregnant was an amazing gift and I had taken it away. Every doctor, every nurse, my husband, everyone repeatedly told me it wasn’t my fault and yet I felt so guilty that I couldn’t grow a healthy baby.
This guilt continued for the next year as I tried to get pregnant again and was unsuccessful. As a woman I just assumed that getting pregnant was inevitable. I felt like such a failure. It was so hard to watch other women happily walk down the street with their growing bellies. Every pregnancy announcement made me ache inside. Oh, and I swear that if one more woman bragged about how easy it was to get pregnant I would scream. The most difficult emotion I dealt with during this time was the fear that I would never be a mom. This thought debilitated me.
Finally fed up I went to see a reproductive endocronologist. I was actually excited for all the bloodwork and tests. Perhaps they could solve this problem for me. Minor things came up, but I was still given the dreaded diagnosis of “unexplained infertility”. That diagnosis is so frustrating! After four more pregnancy- free months my husband and I made the decision to enter the world of fertility treatments. I was emotionally exhausted and content to have modern medicine take over. What a weird experience. When you start working with a reproductive endocronologist you give up a lot of your privacy. We were incredibly lucky to get pregnant on our first round of IUI with Clomid. Every day I look at my little boy and tell him how incredibly lucky I am that I became his mom. Someday he’ll understand the enormity of my words.
I always knew I wanted to have children close in age. I didn’t want to go through the emotionally rollercoaster of attempting to get pregnant again and went straight to the doctors. We assumed that since the fertility treatments with Quinn were fairly easy so would future treatments. 4 failed IUIs later we were faced with the decision of whether or not to try IVF. Let there be no mistake about it, IVF is a difficult journey. It is emotional and physically exhausting, expensive and time-consuming. We took the plunge. The IVF journey felt all-consuming. It was overwhelming to watch the used needles from the daily injections pile up. On the day of the implantation we had to make the choice- one embryo or two. How do you make that choice? I was told if we implanted both we would have an 80% chance of twins. I knew that in some ways my life would be more difficult with twins, but I also knew how much love I was eager to share with our growing family. We could do this. Those two little embryos they put up on the screen prior to the procedure became my remarkable daughters. It was the best decision I ever made. We followed our hearts and I will forever be grateful. Luca and Charlotte made us whole.
I know as I write this there are so many women still struggling. There are days when a woman contacts me to share her story that I feel guilty that I have three children while many would feel overjoyed just to have one. I know my story can’t make that pain go away. I know this because at one point I was that woman. I know this because parts of my story still feel raw. My only hope is that it is clear that I think of you daily. That I support you always. Despite often times being strangers we are connected. There are many journeys we all go on, and if we can support each other perhaps the paths we take, sometimes chosen, sometimes not, will feel a little less scary, a little less foreign and hopefully a little less lonely.