miscarriage, secondary infertility

At age twenty-eight, I had no idea if getting pregnant would be easy or hard. I had a history of irregular cycles, so I went off the pill months before my husband and I thought we might be ready. After a few months, we were surprised with a pregnancy, and welcomed our first son into the world. We knew we definitely wanted another child, so after a couple of years, we tried immediately after going off the pill. After a couple months, we were blessed with another pregnancy. Nine months later, we welcomed our second son.

We definitely had our hands full with two active little boys. We moved across the country, and the thought of a third just didn’t seem feasible for quite awhile. “Two, maybe three” seemed to be our reply when the topic of number of kids came up. When our youngest son was almost four, it seemed like it was time to think about the “maybe three” part. Very aware of our blessings with two healthy boys, we decided to see if a third was meant to be for us. We started trying a few months before what I considered would be an ideal time to have our baby. After all, I had gotten pregnant pretty easily the first two times, so I figured there was a good chance it would be the same again.

At least once, I could have sworn I was pregnant, but all of the tests those first couple months were negative. Finally, on a July morning, just as I had hoped, we saw a line. It was faint, but it was there. This meant we would be having our baby in the early spring, just like I planned! That weekend, I took a couple more tests, and the darkness of the line seemed to come and go. I also felt a little cramping, but I didn’t think too much of it, my mind consumed by the thought and wonder of another baby.

On Monday, I decided to go the doctor to get a test and make it official. When I got the call back from the nurse, I didn’t hear a joyous “Congratulations!” like I would have hoped. I heard her say I did test positive for pregnancy, but it was very early. The tone of her voice did not disguise her skepticism. My gut told me something was up.  I questioned her about it, and asked if I should be concerned. Although her words tried to reassure me, I knew something was off. Still I carried on, purchasing decaf coffee and another new bottle of prenatal vitamins. It was in these first few days I started to see the smile on my husband’s face as he processed the idea of another baby. And in my mind, that “maybe three” turned into a “yes, we want three.”  

 Wednesday evening, just before bed was when the first signs of bleeding started. I called the on-call doctor, and he assured me bleeding sometimes happens, and instructed me to come in the next day for more blood work. By morning, I didn’t need a test to know what was happening, but I still went. Back in the lab, there was some confusion with what tests I needed, and it was there, in the chair, that I broke down sobbing and told the lab techs that I was pretty sure I was having a miscarriage. The blood work confirmed what I knew. The HCG level had decreased from Monday to Thursday.

Over the next couple days, I went through a slew of emotions from disbelief and shock, to dismissal, to sobbing in a heap on the floor, and then finally to anger. How could this be happening? The timing was exactly the way it was supposed to be. Why me? Why wasn’t the nurse upfront with me when she knew the numbers were not good? It was obvious in the sound of her voice.

I think I did an all right job of putting up a strong face in front of my boys, but I definitely grieved whenever I was alone. All of this happened right at the end of summer break, and soon I was back at work, thrown into the extreme business of getting a school year started for fourth graders. My doctor told me miscarriage was common. She said there was a good chance it would not happen again, and we would go on to have a healthy baby.

 I began to look forward to having a normal cycle so we could start trying again. My doctor didn’t see why we couldn’t.  And so it began, my first experience with the torture of looking at the calendar and waiting. When I saw “pregnant” in the window of a test on a Thursday morning in September, I was surprised. (I had now upgraded to the digital tests, and wasn’t messing with the line anymore.) Although the positive was what I hoped for, I suddenly wasn’t sure if being pregnant so soon after a miscarriage was good. Nonetheless, we were very happy and hopeful. We prayed a lot. A couple of my friends said they knew it would be fine. I didn’t go to the doctor for a test just yet, hoping I might have more reassuring numbers if I was a little further along. However, when another pregnancy test I took over the weekend said “not pregnant” I knew I needed to go in. 

The blood work from Monday came back with an HCG level of 40, and the doctor sounded hopeful. I would come back in two days, and the number should double by then. More waiting and more prayers. I was confident all of the prayers and positive thoughts would work. So when I heard the words “failing pregnancy” from the nurse over the phone, I was shocked and in disbelief.

My number had not doubled, and instead had decreased to 34. How could this happen again? There were so many prayers and positive thoughts. It just didn’t seem possible that I was having yet another miscarriage. I was at work when I received the news from the nurse, so the second half of the day I was on autopilot. How I got through that day, I’m still not sure.

This time was different in the fact that I actually had to wait for my body to have the miscarriage. It was the worst week. More waiting. I went through the denial, the grieving, and the anger all over again. Now I was worried that not only would I not have another baby, but that there was something wrong with me, which was causing the miscarriages.

After a few weeks I set up a consultation with my OBGYN. I had blood work done to test for everything under the sun, and they did an ultrasound. Nothing was found to indicate any issues, but she did agree to prescribe progesterone, a hormone I could start taking if I got a positive pregnancy test again, which could possibly help with sustaining the pregnancy.

Although it was great they didn’t find anything, it left me feeling frustrated. I just wanted to know an answer. The “not knowing” was hardest for me. Finally, I began to reach out to friends I knew had gone through miscarriages. Their words and guidance proved to be more helpful than anything.

Over the next several months, I read a lot of books and articles. One of my friends taught me you have to take your situation into your own hands and be your own advocate. I began extensively charting my cycles, and started a gluten-free diet. I prayed. I waited. I hoped. We decided to wait a little longer before trying again this time. This way I could really look at my charting and see if I could figure something out. It was a hard time. Everywhere I looked I saw someone who was pregnant or had a baby. There was a friend I knew that was due at the exact same time as I would have been with my July pregnancy. I could barely stand to see her, and would purposely avoid her if I could.

There was a grey cloud around me for quite some time, and nothing anyone did or said was quite right. I decided there should be a separate waiting room at the doctors’ office for those of us going through miscarriages, or who had previously experienced loss. I decided doctors and nurses needed to be educated on how to properly talk to women who had just experienced loss. I saw young college girls out and about all carefree. I wanted to sit them down, shake them, and ask them if they had any idea how complicated the female body was, and how hard it could be to have a baby. I was forever changed, and I felt like a huge innocence was taken from me. I would never see a positive pregnancy test and solely jump for joy after what I had been through.

My charts showed my cycles were extremely long. This only added to the disappointment of a negative pregnancy test, in that I had to wait so long for the next cycle. All of my efforts with the charting and temperature taking started to take a toll on me. It was a constant reminder every single day. I started to come to terms with the fact that maybe it just wasn’t going to happen for us. After all, we were already so blessed with our two boys, and I knew that. However, I just couldn’t shake the feeling that someone was missing from our family.

After nearing the end of another cycle, in which I was certain I wasn’t pregnant, I took a test on a Friday just to be sure. It was negative. Over the weekend, I talked with a friend who had seen a fertility doctor, and I decided this was the new route I wanted to try. I wasn’t quite ready to give up the fight. I started looking for a doctor online Sunday night. On Monday, I still hadn’t started my period, so I decided to take another test just to be sure. I had to have my husband confirm that “PREGNANT” was really the word I was seeing in front of me.

Once again, we were on the rollercoaster pins and needles ride. I went to the doctor right away to get blood work done.  The number came back much higher than before, but we weren’t out of the woods yet. I had to wait two days for the follow-up test. (I knew the drill now.) We prayed. We waited. We hoped. It got to the point where I would call the doctor’s office myself to see if the tests were in. I thought I might faint with relief when I heard the number had beyond doubled. We were so grateful, and although it was so nerve racking, we just kept pressing on. Praying. Waiting. Hoping.

A couple weeks after the good news on the numbers, I had some spotting. I seriously thought I might lose my mind. I talked with the on-call doctor, who said once again, “This sometimes happens, and there’s a good chance everything will be just fine.” But the next day I felt achy, and I was convinced I was having a third miscarriage. I went through the whole weekend as if I had jumped off of an emotional cliff, on the verge of tears at every second. I couldn’t believe this was happening again. I didn’t know if I could take it. I went in Monday for blood work. We prayed. We waited. We hoped. Turns out, everything was just fine. The numbers were climbing and climbing.

My pregnancy was filled with all kinds of twists and turns, issues and scares. In the beginning, I was fortunate to have an awesome physician’s assistant who let me come in once a week to do a handheld ultrasound. I held my breath every single time she put the machine on my belly, and breathed out with relief every time I saw there was a heartbeat. I tried to focus on one appointment at a time, and leaned very heavily on my faith throughout the entire pregnancy. I was lucky to have a very active baby, so it was so reassuring to feel the movement. Sometimes if I hadn’t felt a movement in awhile, I would actually poke around until I did!

I was diagnosed with Fifth disease shortly after I started my third trimester. The biggest risk with this viral infection was the possibility of the baby developing anemia. They monitored me with a non-stress test every week, and an ultrasound every other week. It was nerve racking, but the sound of the heartbeat every week was music to my ears. Right at the end, at thirty-nine weeks, my blood pressure shot up, and I started showing signs of preeclampsia. We did one final stress test, and it took the nurse what seemed like an eternity to find the heartbeat. I’m positive my blood pressure was higher than ever until she finally found it. It was so hard to ever truly relax during this pregnancy. But finally, on a rainy November morning, we were blessed with the delivery of our sweet baby girl, Lilah Elise.

I am brought to tears as I write this, because even after three months, I am still in awe of this precious, precious gift we were given. I always knew the creation of life was a miracle, but my appreciation for this miracle has increased exponentially. In an instant, we went from a world of constant waiting, wondering, and uneasiness to caring for a baby girl. Writing this piece has given me time to reflect on what I went through. Although my story may only be a drop in the bucket compared to the pain and loss many women have gone through, it was still very real, and very hard. I was in a dark place for quite some time.

If you are reading this, and are in that dark place right now, please know that you will not feel this way forever. I won’t pretend to have the right words to heal your heart (so many people try to say the right thing and it only makes you feel worse), but I can say, with confidence, that you will not feel this way forever. Get educated, advocate for yourself, and keep the faith. Know that there are so many people around you that have experienced pain and loss. You are not alone. You might see a pregnant woman with several small children at her heels, but you have no idea what she went through to have those babies.

Like I said before, talking with women that had previously experienced loss was what was most helpful for me. This website is such a wonderful way to offer comfort and hope during such a personal and trying time. Life is full of ups and downs. My wish for you is to soon find yourself swept away into the busy world of caring for a newborn, after that long and difficult time of waiting. Rest assured, it is beyond worth it.