Pregnancy and infant loss awareness day

A lot of us know this date. October 15th is pregnancy and infant loss awareness day. It’s a day where we should feel open to share our stories, where we lean on others for support, and where we raise awareness to help diminish the stigma that unfortunately is tied to pregnancy and infant loss.

March 2013 I experienced a miscarriage. It was unexpected and devastating. We spent two more years after that trying to conceive before our son was born in May 2016. I’ve shared my story of miscarriage on my blog but I’ve always left out one part of the story. In the moment it confused me but as time goes on I look back on my experience and I’m angry. 

It was a Sunday afternoon and I just wasn’t feeling right. I couldn’t tell if my stomach was upset or if that feeling of dread in my abdomen was actually real. Should I call my doctor? After a few hours of trying to convince myself I just had a stomach ache I finally called my doctor. She scheduled an ultrasound to check my pregnancy first thing Monday morning. I naively thought if I got checked out everything would be ok. 

As the evening grew later, I started spotting. It started to sink in that everything was not going to be ok. I sat in the shower just holding my stomach and holding onto the last hopes of our baby. 

I realized I needed to call into work and tell my boss I wouldn’t be in on Monday. I have never called off sick before from my job because I knew it was just easier to go in. At the time I was working for a private preschool. We didn’t have subs and it affected the strict student teacher ratio when someone called off. 

So I called my boss, let’s call her J, and told her I wasn’t able to come in the next day.

J: Why, are you sick?

Me: Yes

J: You don’t sound sick.

Me: I called my doctor and she wants me to come in tomorrow. I can bring a doctor’s note to excuse my sick day.

J: What’s wrong?

Me: I’d rather not say.

J: Why?

Me: It’s personal.

After this back and forth exchange I bluntly said I would not be in so make whatever accommodations needed. My boss never got to know any of the staff on a personal level so I didn’t feel comfortable confiding in her. I also could not even speak the words, “I might be having a miscarriage.” I didn’t want to say it out loud, like if I don’t say those words it would stop it from happening,

At my doctor’s appointment an ultrasound confirmed that I was miscarrying. Besides feeling emotionally devastated, by this point I was in a lot of physical pain too. While this was going on my boss continued to call my phone and leave messages that they needed me in the afternoon if I could come in. 

Reluctantly I went into work. Three hours after being told our baby was gone. Looking back, I should have stood my ground and said no. But I really needed my paycheck (teaching jobs were hard to come by in my area at the time) and now especially I needed my health insurance.

So I went into the preschool after lunch. The kids nap and then slowly start heading home. I could just sit and try to not think about what was pressing on my mind. I asked my boss if we could go into the office to talk. I decided to tell her what I just experienced.

Her initial response was pity. She was sorry I was dealing with this. And then our conversation took an odd turn. 

She told me that her sister in law had a hysterical pregnancy once. Her body was physically displaying pregnancy and she wasn’t getting her period. But when she had tests done she wasn’t pregnant. She said she ended up having a D&C to end this phenomenon. 

And then she asked, “Are you sure you were really pregnant?”

Needless to say, I moved on from that job as quickly as I could. I was astounded at the ignorance and insensitivity in my workplace after experiencing pregnancy loss.

Not only was I working a pretty physically demanding job while heavily bleeding, popping Tylenol like candy, but I was also insulted by questioning if what I was experiencing was even real. 

I’m sharing my story for other women. Stand up for yourself when it comes to your health, physical and emotional. I’m not going to let the ignorance of others shake me to my core anymore. I’m going to share my experience to educate those who need to support women experiencing pregnancy loss. 1 in 4 women experience pregnancy loss. It is time to drop the stigma and simply take care of one another. 

Advertisements

Dear loved ones,

Lately the scarlet letter I has been weighing heavily on my chest. Infertility. That dark cloud hanging over my thoughts and emotions. That ticking clock in my chest reminding me of every unsuccessful month that goes by. The piece of my heart that remains empty and longing.

This month my husband and I celebrated our third wedding anniversary. It’s been three years since we got married outdoors on the hottest Ohio day of that summer. Three years since we carelessly danced surrounded by everyone we love. Three years since we vowed to love each other endlessly, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health.

I never would have predicted that we would walk this path. When we were first married people asked us about having children and we would just smile. We agreed that we wanted to start our family right away. And after being married for 6 months, we had a secret. The best kind of secret. We were going to have a baby. We bought our first home with plans of a growing family. I started reading pregnancy books and we talked about possible names. We dreamed and planned our lives with this child.

But our plans disappeared when we lost our baby.

Now we had the worst kind of secret. Everyone around us was congratulating us on owning our first home, but my husband and I were mourning what could have been. We didn’t tell anyone. I was ashamed that my body couldn’t provide for our growing child. I blamed myself. I didn’t understand why it happened. I still don’t. I was completely heartbroken.

After celebrating our first wedding anniversary, many couples begin trying for a child. So we started trying again. But it didn’t happen. It still isn’t happening two years later. Instead of questions about children, we get looks of pity. We stand out among our married friends as “that couple.” That couple who’s having difficulties. That couple that can’t have children. That couple no one knows how to be around or what to say when the topic of children comes up.

Not only do I feel the heartbreak of losing a child, I also feel the ache for a child that may never arrive. I feel the isolating sting of being left behind. We are bystanders as we watch people around us move forward into the next phase of life that is parenthood. I am doing anything I can to be there too.

I’m learning that as much as I don’t know how to navigate this uncertain, challenging time in our lives, neither do the people around us. I’ve slowly started to open up more about our experiences. I’m just tired of feeling so alone.

Of course, fertility treatments come with a wide range of physical side effects. But that is nothing compared to the emotional roller coaster of infertility. There is a constant monologue in my mind that ranges from self pity to self empowerment to self deprecating. I feel absolutely insane most days!

But worst of all, I feel so much shame in not being able to conceive a child. What’s wrong with me? Why did I lose my child? What am I doing wrong? Why is it so easy for everyone around me? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why?! It’s a unique pain of being diagnosed with unexplained infertility. There is no reason behind my nonstop wondering of why.

This is just a snapshot into our life right now. Of course, I have my amazing husband, our dog, our home, our careers, etc. But infertility is in the forefront right now. It’s consuming me. And I’m terrified. I want to leave this awful place but then I’m right back where we started. Incomplete and wishing for more. Left behind. Broken. I’m learning that the process of conceiving and being a parent is an amazing, wonderful privilege. Not a certainty.

The empty room

We bought and moved into our first home two years ago. We were expecting our first baby at the time and imagined filling our three bedroom house in the upcoming year. Unfortunately things did not turn out as planned.

When we toured our home and moved in, we chose the smallest bedroom as our nursery. We started to imagine the layout and color scheme. I have a whole Pinterest board saved for this exact purpose! But two years later, it’s still a plain white room. I guess it reflects our experience trying to have a baby for the past two years. Grand plans, but still empty.

I decided that this room needed a change. I’m tired of looking at the room of “what ifs.” I usually keep the door closed because it hurts to walk by peering into the room imagining a baby that’s not here yet. It’s a little jab to my already aching heart. And that’s not what I want in my own home.

I taped the baseboards and I’m planning to paint. I chose a buttery neutral yellow color. A happy color. Instead of being my room of despair, or failure, it’s going to be my room filled with hope. It’s my small way of saying we’re not going to experience this forever. One day, this room will be filled with love.


I also asked my husband to build a child’s bookcase. My teacher hoarder tendencies have stashed away my favorite picture books. I gave some away to expecting friends, and of course my students, but I think it’s time I start giving them to myself. I’m going to start honoring those books and our hopeful plans of having a family. It’s going to happen for us, one way or another. I have faith. And that’s what this room will symbolize.

Reflecting 

We’ve been on our journey to have a baby for 28 months now. Over two years of ups and downs. We had brief success and one overwhelming loss. I spent many nights crying, a lot of time feeling bitter and alone, and constantly asking why us?!

But with these two years of trying to conceive came maturity. I can honestly say I’m not the person I was two years ago. I guess loss and struggle can do that. I could let every unsuccessful month that goes by make me a little more angry, or a little more bitter or depressed, but I’m choosing to grow instead. I have to chose to take this experience and grow from it because I can’t live in this dark place alone. 

I’m not going to lie and say I’m grateful for this experience in any way. I wish no one would ever have to experience infertility or a miscarriage. I don’t have any control over the baby makin’ hand we’ve been dealt, but I do have control over the person I become because of it.

I’m extremely grateful for my husband and my marriage. I feel like we truly understand what it means to be partners, committed no matter what. After going through our miscarriage and a year of failed attempts of conceiving, we were in a really bad place. We decided to taketime “off” from trying and just spent time together. We had those important conversations and we got back to the people we fell in love with years before all of the mess. 

When we were both ready, we moved forward with our RE and started medicated cycles and all of the madness that comes with it. My husband is the only other person who knows what I’m going through and he’s my rock through the hormonal crazies. One thing we do is let the other person know when we’re having a “down day.” It’s a cue to let each other know when to give a lite extra love. We both have our down days but we don’t have them every day. I chose to let infertility make my marriage stronger, otherwise it will tear us apart. 

Recently, friends and family members have been announcing their pregnancies and parading around their bundles of joy. Initially, every single announcement feels like a punch in the gut. It’s a reminder of what I don’t have and want so badly. It’s a reminder of what could have been. I love children and spend the majority of my time teaching little kiddos (I’m a preK teacher!). So instead of  staying in a depressed and jealous place, I’ve learned to just love instead. 

When I’m surrounded by babies or littles, I think about my own one day child. I think about how overwhelmingly happy I will be when I meet my own child. I think about how much love I’ve been saving up for this baby and how many nights I’ve spent dreaming about changing dirty diapers and staying up with a crying baby. I’m not apprehensive about my child at all, I’m excited for every experience! Because I know how long I’ve waited and prayed for him or her. I chose to look forward rather than sink into depression. 

We’ve been dealing with failed cycles and a lot of uncertainty lately. My first cycle on clomid was 16 days and my second cycle is 48 days and counting. I had my first beta check and my first phone call with bad results. I’m not pregnant, my uterus just decided it had enough. As I type this I’m on day 8 of provera with no period in sight. I’m more than a little frustrated. I’m angry at my uterus. I’ve had regular cycles my entire life and now you decide to not work anymore?!?! Instead of being angry, I have to keep looking forward. This month didn’t work but there’s still hope and options. Now I know what doesn’t work with my body. I’ve learned to love myself no matter what my body is choosing to do. I’ve learned to take care of myself because I’m important in this baby makin’ process! I’m excited for our upcoming IUI and still hopeful for success. 

What I’ve found comfort in recently is something my husband said to me. He said we were going to have our happily ever after one day, no matter what. We will have a family, whether the children come from my womb or another woman’s. One day this will all be over and we can just be happy. It’s not a conventional story, but it’s our story. 

By far, the best thing I’ve done since our trying to conceive struggles 28 months ago was to start blogging. It’s the best way for me to process all of this crazy fertility stuff. I’ve learned so much from the other women and I’m inspired by all of your strength and perservesrance. I think we could all say we’re stronger people because of our journeys. 

So I guess what this long, rambling post was intending to say was I’m choosing to take these experiences and learn from them. I will not let infertility change me into someone I’m not. I definitely still have my bad days, weeks, and even months. But all I can do is just take each day as it comes. I’m going to continue to love myself, my husband, and all of the people around me. I’m going to keep praying for our happily ever after and lean on others when I need strength. I’m going to share my story because I know how lonely infertility can feel. I’m going to smile knowing that one way or another we will have a family. 

Tired

Provera is kicking my butt. I took my first pill last night and within an hour I was sleeping on the couch with my mouth wide open! Knocked out to the world! I slept ten hours last night and already took an hour nap today too. I’m not having any other side effects yet and AF is still a no show.

Besides being physically tired, I’m emotionally exhausted. Many people in our families know we’ve been doing medicated cycles so I feel like I keep getting asked optimistically, “Soooo…. How are things going?!” I’m trying to stay positive, but I’m just so damn tried of letting others down too.

On another note, I was talking to a woman yesterday who had pregnancy issues and she was telling me to look into progesterone. Some doctors write off having low progesterone as not a big deal, but other doctors prescribe progesterone supplements and are constantly measuring hormone levels. She was convinced that progesterone suppositories were the only reason she didn’t have an early miscarriage this pregnancy. I plan on asking my RE about it when we go back in on the 20th, but I wanted to put it out there in case anyone has experience with this or studies about low progesterone and infertility/early miscarriage.

The questions…

We’re right in the middle of the holiday season, which means gatherings with friends and families. Living out of state, I love traveling back home to see my family and friends who we don’t get to visit that often. This also means being asked the infamous question.

Being a twenty something married couple means at every holiday gathering there’s always the, “So when are you going to have kids?” question. We get it every year. It comes from grandparents, aunts, cousins, friends, and of course, our parents.

We initially kept our plans on having kids to ourselves. We would coyly answer, “It will happen when it’s meant to happen.” It felt like a private matter between my husband and me. We also kept our struggles to ourselves. How do you tell your family and friends about a miscarriage? Or about infertility? So we kept the burden to ourselves because we knew the pain we felt and didn’t want to pass that onto others.

We did this for a year. And finally after being ask “the question” for the hundredth time, my husband snapped and it came out. He first told his mother about our struggles. And you know what? It felt good. She empathized. She told us her story of having my husband and his sister. I felt like I finally had someone I could talk to without being judged, pitied, or bullied.

So we told more people. I opened up to my mother. I told my sister. We told friends. The more people we told, I started to feel a weight lifting from my shoulder. I found friends who were also struggling with the same issues.

Looking back, I was ashamed of our struggle. I felt inferior as a woman that I lost a pregnancy and couldn’t get pregnant. It was so hard to take that first step to open up to someone, but once we did, the next few steps felt that much easier.

I can’t say that I no longer struggle with these feelings. Because I still do. Even though we opened up to friends and family, I still feel like infertility and loss is a hard subject to talk about. I find that people don’t know how to react. I find that most of the time I’m sensitive and emotional about the topic. I have broken down crying in my OB/GYN’s office and subsequently the parking lot!

Personally, all I’m looking for is someone to share my story with and listen. Someone that can listen to the ups and the downs. Someone who can listen to my feelings without judging. Someone who can be by my side during those invasive and sometimes painful infertility procedures. Someone I can lean on during those bad days and celebrate with on our little triumphs. I have that in my husband, but like I said he’s out of town for work a lot, so it helps to catch little glimpses from friends and family.

Back to the topic of this post: How do you answer “the question” from friends and family? The people we have clued in know enough to stop asking. Most of the time they only ask questions if we bring up having kids first. But our extended families, coworkers, and long distance friends still don’t know our story. So I’m prepping myself for the rounds of questions and comments this year.

Sometimes I want to say something snarky like, “We’ll have kids when my ovaries decided to get their shit together!” or “I guess using birth control all those years was pointless!” But I usually refrain from that. We still revert to the answer of, “When the time is right.” Maybe I’ll switch things up this year and say, “I would love children whenever that happens for us.”

How do you answer the big question?