My husband and I dated and then were married for eight years total before we decided to start a family. It was such a weird switch in our lives. We went from “We’re not totally ready to have children yet because we want to do x, y, and z” to “We want to be pregnant now!” literally within a month. Once we decided to start a family, we wanted it to happen immediately.
For us, it didn’t work out that way.
I did end up getting pregnant after three months of trying. We didn’t tell anyone. We decided we would wait until after our first appointment (which at my doctor’s office was 8 weeks). I don’t know why we didn’t tell anyone, really. At that first appointment, I was so nervous and scared and excited and ready to share our great news with our family and friends. My OB looked at me and very plainly said, “I’m very sorry but there is no viable fetus”. The official term was a blighted ovum. No baby. We were devastated. I was wholly unprepared for this possibility. There are no words to describe the pain, the feelings of failure, the heartbreak that accompany that news. I won’t even try.
My first pregnancy ended in a loss and I was trying to grapple with the fact that I may never get pregnant. We were relatively young (29) and healthy. Why was this so difficult? Friends were getting pregnant left and right and here I was, not pregnant any longer. That first loss tainted every pregnancy attempt on my journey to become a mother. Pregnancy for me would never be worry-free; it would be a nerve-wracking and tense nine months if I ever could get pregnant. After my first D&C a week later, the doctor told us to wait two cycles to try again.
It didn’t work out that way.
We weren’t trying but we weren’t not trying and I ended up pregnant just a month later with my oldest. It was as if my first pregnancy, which only our parents knew about, was just a fluke. Of course I can get pregnant and carry a pregnancy to term. Here was our precious daughter to prove that. There were moments in that pregnancy that were happy ones: the first sonogram when we actually saw a heartbeat, the first time I heard her heartbeat, the first time I felt her kick. However, much of my pregnancy with my oldest daughter was filled with anxiety and doubt. What if something happened? I approached each pregnancy milestone with trepidation and worry. I couldn’t enjoy being pregnant because I was so terrified that I would lose my precious baby girl. I truly don’t think I breathed normally until she was born healthy and they placed her in my arms. I was finally a mother.
We waited four years to try again.
We were so much wiser this time around. We knew how this process worked. This time, it took us two months to get pregnant. I was elated. We made the decision to tell family and friends this time. Everything was great, I just knew it. We shared the news with our parents, our friends, our play group, all of our people. The first appointment went okay. My doctor had me in at six weeks and everything looked fine.
It didn’t work out that way.
The bleeding started at work around nine weeks. I sobbed into the phone, hidden in the nurse’s office; the only place in my building to make a semi-private phone call. I went in that afternoon to the news that I had been fearing since I saw the word “Pregnant” on the test. My second D&C was scheduled for the day before Thanksgiving. In our grief, I had to figure out a way to now tell all of our friends and family that we were not expecting. How? I felt like I had failed again. Why couldn’t I just get and stay pregnant? What was wrong with me? Now I have to tell all of our people that I cannot do this. I had lost our child. What kind of mother am I? The pain was all-encompassing. After three days where I literally didn’t get out of bed, I knew I had to pull it together for my daughter. That night, after I tucked her in and cried into her hair as she fell asleep, I sat down to write a message to all the people who had been celebrating with us just weeks before.
After my second loss, I wanted answers. Why was this happening to me, to us? Why couldn’t I stay pregnant? My OB looked at me and said, “It will happen when it’s meant to happen. You just have to keep trying.” That wasn’t good enough. I had lost two babies. I was 34 years old. Relax and keep trying was not an option (nor was it what my OB should have been saying to me). I switched doctors and met with a Fertility Specialist. After months of testing, he diagnosed me with PCOS. We had a plan. On my second round of Clomid, we had a viable egg. Four weeks later, the test said, “Pregnant”. I was thrilled for a second before the fear set in. What if I lost this baby too? This was it in my mind. Emotionally, I couldn’t handle another loss. If something happened in this pregnancy, we decided would be a complete family with our one miracle baby.
At my 6 week appointment, my doctor watched the screen (turned away from me on purpose) and sighed. Tears sprang to my eyes. I just knew something was wrong. My heart stopped and my grip tightened on my husband’s hand. After the eternal pause (which included my doctor showing the screen to the nurse in the room before speaking to us), my doctor looked at me and said, “Well, I see two viable heartbeats.” I sat up on my elbows in disbelief. “Excuse me, what?”
My pregnancy with my oldest had been a roller coaster of emotions from day one but that was nothing compared to my pregnancy with the twins. There was not one day when I could just enjoy being pregnant again (finally). At week 10, they discovered a blighted ovum outside the sac containing the twins (yup, it could have potentially have been triplets). While I was celebrating the news of twins, I also had to mourn the loss of another potential baby; one that threatened the twins for 2 weeks until it reabsorbed. In week 12, the sonographer discovered potential lesions on the twins’ brains. It was a month before those “disappeared” (our doctor assured us that this process was normal with twins). From weeks 14 – 20, we monitored twin-to-twin-transfer syndrome and waited every week for news that we might have to spend the remainder of my pregnancy in Philadelphia and/or choose surgery that could jeopardize both of my girls (found out at 16 weeks!). I went into preterm labor at 28 weeks and was pulled from work at 31 weeks. My girls were born via emergency c-section at 33 weeks and spent 12 days in the NICU before coming home.
My journey to motherhood was never straight, never easy, never worry free. Even with three beautiful girls to call my own, not a day goes by that I don’t think of the beautiful babies I lost. Infertility and loss are lonely, lonely realms. It is frustrating, maddening, full of blame and sorrow and anger and hope that fades with each passing month. It is endless appointments, bloodwork, charting, medication that makes you crazy. It is lonely beyond measure. I see Mommas today who are so blissfully pregnant and part of me wishes I could have felt that for just one moment of any of my pregnancies. But that’s not how my road wandered.