Coping With Infertility and Miscarriage

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October 28, 2014 by Tammy

After trying to get pregnant for almost 2 years, I finally got a positive pregnancy test on September 3rd. It felt surreal, just like it did when we got pregnant after trying for 17 months for our first child. What finally clicked to make this happen? Was it some dietary change I made or some supplement I started taking? Did I stress less? Was it the single session of acupuncture I did? Did we finally just happen to get the timing right?

This last cycle, I never even got a positive LH surge (which predicts ovulation), so I thought something had gone wrong that cycle. But I got pregnant. Sometimes technology is great; sometimes it’s more of a stressor/hassle than it’s worth.

After trying so long to get pregnant, I worried about staying pregnant. I worried that my HcG levels and progesterone levels were lower than they had been when I got pregnant with our now two-and-a-half-year-old daughter. I worried that my breasts weren’t sore and that I just didn’t “feel” pregnant. I read articles about miscarriage, to prepare myself “in case.” There was just some part of me that thought something wasn’t right.

At the same time, I thought, For us to finally get pregnant after trying for so long, this must be one damn hardy egg and one damn determined sperm. I knew that nothing is ever guaranteed. But I also felt that after trying to get pregnant for so long, that we’d jumped all our hurdles and would be meeting this baby in May.

Regardless, every time I went to the bathroom, I sighed with relief when there was no blood. Until September 22nd. When I cried out in horror at the sight of blood.

I shook uncontrollably the entire drive to the emergency room. The last time I shook so much was when my water broke while in labor with our daughter.

Everything looked ok. My cervix was closed and there was no internal bleeding. But the next day at my fertility specialist’s office, a heartbeat couldn’t be detected yet and the baby was only measuring about 5.5 weeks. That didn’t seem right to me. I was almost certain I was about 7 weeks along. The bleeding stayed steadily heavy.

When a nurse called me to tell me my progesterone had dropped to between 3 and 4 and that this wasn’t a viable pregnancy, I hung up the phone and cried harder than I’ve cried in my life, sobbing and screaming into our bed sheets. Then our daughter woke up and called for me, and I cried harder. Now I had to be Mommy again and put my sorrow aside. I felt completely weak and so angry and so alone. How was I supposed to summon the strength to be a comforter, when all I needed was to be comforted?

I lost our unborn baby on September 25th while I was doing the dishes and our daughter was eating her lunch. It was a completely peaceful moment. There was no cramping, no big to-do, no chaos. Most stories I’ve read and most women I’ve talked to describe a lot of cramping and not knowing the precise moment when they lost their unborn babies. It’s amazing to me how every woman’s experience of pregnancy, birth and even miscarriage are so completely different.

I called my husband to come home from work and went back to being Mommy.

We drove to the specialist’s office to deliver the fetus for testing. On our way home from the office, we saw three rainbows in the sky. It felt like a message to me, my husband and our daughter. I cried and felt some closure.

Throughout that week, and in the weeks afterwards, I had tremendous support from family and friends. They listened to me cry, cried with me, and prayed with me and for me.

Since my miscarriage, there have been so many waves of emotions. I’ve oscillated between sadness and peace, anger and thankfulness. I’ve felt confused at times, and empowered at others. I’ve felt alone at times, and comforted by the love of family and friends at others. For me, talking was healing. I probably talked a lot more than people wanted to listen. Grief is a strange thing. You never know how it’s going to affect you. For weeks afterwards, I just wanted to be alone, at home in my pajamas, but when I did get out, I couldn’t shut up. Thank you, friends, for just letting me talk, even though the topic wasn’t pleasant.

When we first got the results back from the fetal testing, we were told there was “no evidence of pregnancy.” I knew in my heart that wasn’t right. How could what I had seen have NOT been the baby? There was no way! So we pushed and pushed and made every phone call we had to until we finally got the correct results. (Important side note: Always be your own advocate. Trust your heart.)

We learned that the egg that happened to be fertilized was a diploid egg, which means it had 2 sets of chromosomes at the time of fertilization. So, my egg, and the pregnancy, were “bad” from the beginning. It comforted me to know that there was nothing I did to cause the miscarriage and nothing I could have done to reverse it. This baby had minuscule chances of surviving.

After the initial comfort I felt from the results, I then felt angry. Why was my “plan” not working out? We had been trying since before our daughter was a year old to have another child. I had watched friend after friend decide to start trying, get pregnant, and experience milestones with their children long after we first made our decision to have more children. I wanted so badly just to be happy for them, but every pregnancy and childbirth was a raw reminder that something wasn’t working right for us. Now that I had a miscarriage, maybe something was totally broken in my system. Who knows how long we’ll have to try in order to get pregnant again? Who knows if we’ll ever have other children?

On top of learning how to manage my feelings and worries throughout the past twenty-some months, I’ve had to cope with many hurtful comments. I’ve had to make split-second decisions to ignore the comments and bury my feelings OR address the comments and risk hurting someone else’s feelings. My typical response was to ignore the comments and then cry when I had a moment of privacy.

I don’t say all of this to say, “Oh, boo hoo for me.” I say all this because this is a real dilemma that I, and everyone I know who is going through infertility, faces. How do you protect yourself without hurting others?

As the hurtful comments kept rolling in, day after day, it became too much and I needed an outlet. That’s when I wrote my article a few months ago, entitled “A Little Less Painful.” My goal in writing that post was to help make people aware that certain comments are hurtful. It was the only way I knew that I could possibly make a real difference, to possibly stop the hurtful comments, to possibly protect my heart.

However, one reader pointed out to me that my words came across as: “You are mean and hurtful and meant to cause me pain.” This person had put a lot of thought into deciding how to announce her pregnancy while causing me minimal pain, since she knew I had been trying to get pregnant for a long time. Though she went to great lengths to protect my heart, the words she chose still felt painful to me, and I used some of her quotes in my post. She felt sad that I could think she was intentionally trying to hurt me. And then she withdrew, understandably, because she was terrified of saying anything to hurt me again.

When I went back and re-read my post through her eyes, I cried. I thought about all the thought she had put into deciding how to tell me she was pregnant. I cried as I imagined how it must have felt to read my post, which used her words as examples of what NOT to do.

I finally realized, the vast majority of people are not trying to hurt me or anyone going through infertility. It is a very difficult thing to relate to someone’s experience when you haven’t been through that experience yourself. I’ve encountered this same phenomenon in situations I don’t understand. It’s natural to immediately try to comfort, to try to “fix” the problem, to try to relate, to make light of the issue, or to ignore the issue.

But on a very basic level, I think all of these responses come from a good place. I think most people just want to be there for one another, to erase the sadness, to bring the happiness to light. Some of us do that by trying to make small talk. Some of us do that by trying to relate. And some of us do that by doing nothing at all. Somewhere along my infertile path, the part of me that always finds the best in people began to find the worst in people. I began questioning others’ motives. I started thinking, People just don’t care what they say. I also started thinking, Most people don’t think before they speak.

Over the past week, I’ve emerged from a very dark place to a place of light. It took me almost a month to get here, but I got here. I’ve had three realizations that helped me the most:

1. I’ve realized that most people really want to be there for others in times of darkness. I think the Rascall Flatts lyrics say it perfectly: “I know it’s dark, this part of life. Oh, it finds us all. And we’re too small to stop the rain. Oh, but when it rains, I will stand by you. I will help you through.”

I think this realization will help me the next time someone says something hurtful. I can say to myself, “They are trying to comfort me.” Or for someone who doesn’t know I’m struggling with infertility, I can say to myself, “If they knew how much I was struggling, they wouldn’t be saying this.” I think this kind of self-talk will enable me to let the comments go. Alternatively, I might even say something like, “I appreciate you trying to comfort me, but I’d prefer not to talk about this.” If someone’s not able to provide comfort, that doesn’t make them a bad person or a person with ill intent. It just means that their style of comfort isn’t helpful to me. I can nurture myself by, one, believing the best in people, and two, choosing my own support group.

2. I’ve realized that, though this is not the exact path I would have chosen for myself, it’s the path that I’m on. I can choose to live the life I’ve been blessed with or withdraw until I get what I want. This is the same conclusion I came to when we were trying to get pregnant with our first child. I realized that there were so many things I loved about my life, and I wanted to enjoy them because none of us are guaranteed another second of this life. I want to enjoy this stage in our daughter’s life. I want to better myself as a mom and a wife, treasure our dog’s senior years (she’s 14!), rediscover old hobbies, and live a lower-stress life. I find this stage of toddlerhood to be a challenging one, and instead of focusing on a future child, I can learn to be a better mom right now, which will also help if and when our family grows.

3. This is an important off-shoot from my second point. The paths that others are on change NOTHING about the path that I am on. When someone gets pregnant before me, it doesn’t make me less likely to get pregnant. It doesn’t make me want to be a mom any more or any less. It doesn’t make them a “winner” and me a “loser.” I can be happy for my friends who are pregnant and who have babies, and happy/sad/hopeful for me all at the same time. It’s not “right” to have children who are two years apart and “wrong” to have children who are ten years apart (my oldest brother and I are ten years apart, and I wouldn’t have it any other way). A friend recently told me, “Other people’s blessings would be our burdens.” This really got me thinking . . . I painstakingly prepare our daughter’s diet, making sure it’s mostly vegan and organic and balanced with all the food groups. I agonize over every decision I make for her — trying to make the healthiest choices in furniture, bedding, toys, etc. I take forever to get out of the house in the morning, making sure we have everything we need for the day — hats, sunglasses, sunscreen, changes of clothes, etc., etc. I don’t personally know anyone who is as meticulous — or as slow — as I am. If I had a baby right now, maybe I’d feel like I couldn’t provide for either of my children as well as I wanted to. Maybe I’m supposed to have children who are several years apart, for the well-being of our entire family.

Maybe someday, I’ll look back and everything will be clear to me, just like it all became clear when we had our daughter. In the meantime, I’m going to believe the best in people. I’m going to reflect on my blessings and live in the moment. And I’m going to believe in the beauty of my very own path. Wherever it may lead.

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