Did you know that this week was National Infertility Awareness week? I didn't until Melanie mentioned it. Infertility is something that you never think you'll have to go through until you do and it can leave you feeling frustrated, heartbroken and so isolated. I have decided to share my infertility journey with you in the hope that if this is something you are facing you can know you're not alone and perhaps my story can give you some hope. I'm sharing this journey in the first person but my husband was with me hurting and hoping every step of the way. Our relationship has grown so close and strong because of these experiences we have endured together.
I apologize for the lengthiness of this post, it's not my typical style, but this infertility journey has been a long one for us.
I first thought that I might have a difficult time getting pregnant after we had been trying for eight months and it hadn't happened yet. I decided to go to a nurse/midwife for a check up to make sure everything was okay. As standard procedure the first thing they do is take a pregnancy test. Much to my surprise the test came back positive! I was so excited, I couldn't believe that I was pregnant! Several of my friends were pregnant too and I thought it was so perfect that we could be pregnant together. A week went by and I didn't feel any different, I didn't feel pregnant. I was starting to feel a little uneasy and unsure, so I took another pregnancy test. I was devastated, It came back negative. I took another one, negative as well. I couldn't believe it, the test at the doctors office was a false positive. This was the first of many disappointments. It was so hard to watch my friends (with real pregnancies) talk about their ailments, grow bigger, and have their babies. I couldn't understand why it couldn't happen to me. I saw everyone around me with children, in some cases, more than they could handle and it felt so unfair. I also got comments from unaware people wondering "when are you going to start your family?" or "you shouldn't focus on your career and house so much when family is so much more important". Comments like these were very painful to hear and hard to forget. This taught me to never judge anyone! You never know what they are going through.
Many more months went by and at first I wasn't too stressed out about it but when the months turned into more than a year I began to worry. After reading every fertility awareness book and trying everything, we decided it was time to see a specialist. We tried several IUIs (Intrauterine Insemination) and they all failed. It is so hard when are you paying a lot of money out of pocket and there is so much hope wrapped up into this very unnatural procedure (think turkey baster). We decided it was time to just go for IVF (In Vitro Fertilization). I don't want to go into too much detail, but everything about this procedure is so hard physically and emotionally. I had to take daily progesterone shots, with a thick needle that left lumps and bruises all over my back side. There are so many procedures and check ups that have all melted into one very uncomfortable, humiliating experience for me. But I would do it all over again without any hesitation to have my son. After extracting several eggs from me and fertilizing them in the lab I only had one viable egg. It was so amazing to see this human life as four tiny cells in a petri dish. After the procedure I had to be on bed rest for five days. I remember this was during Christmas and I wasn't able to celebrate with my family. Two agonizing weeks later the blood test came back. I was pregnant! I was over the moon with excitement.
I had a wonderful, fairly easy pregnancy enjoying every minute of it. My labor was a different story. I decided to have a natural labor and prepared for it with classes, yoga, two doulas, a midwife and a birthing center. I had a very long labor(53 hours to be exact) with little or no progress and no pain relief. Finally in my very exhausted state the midwife decided it was time to go to the hospital. This was very difficult for me to do both emotionally and physically. Within minutes of being in the hospital the doctor determined that I needed a c-section, the baby was stressed and the umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck twice. If I didn't get him out soon he would die. They Wheeled me into the OR, gave me a spinal and finally...relief from the pain. I remember being violently jostelled around and all I could hear were a baby's cries. They briefly showed him to me and then had to tend to him and to me as well. After 3o long minutes of stitching and stapling everything back together I finally got to hold my 5 pound 12 ounce baby boy. The minute I held him I knew him and loved him so much I thought my heart was going to burst. I started sobbing. After several years of waiting and not knowing, I finally got to be a mother.
When Henrik was almost a year old I was shocked to find out I was pregnant again. It felt like such a blessing that we didn't have to go through all the difficult procedures and pay all the money to have another child. I looked forward to a new challenge of having children less than two years apart. At my first doctors visit They did an ultrasound to check on the baby. I knew something was wrong the minute I saw the little broad bean come up on the screen. Nothing was moving. The ultrasound technician went to get the Doctor to tell me the news I already knew, there was no heartbeat. The fetus had died. I was nine weeks pregnant. The next day we took family photos (I had already rescheduled and couldn't a second time). When I look at those pictures I see myself pregnant hiding my secret. I hated the feeling of walking around with a dead baby inside of me. I wanted it out, I wanted to move forward. I wanted to move on with my life like it never happened. Unfortunately it's not that easy and you can't walk away from your emotions. The months following the D and C were very hard and I didn't want to try for a while. I needed a break.
After my first miscarriage and over a year of trying for a second child we decided to go back to our fertility doctor and do IVF. In my mind I thought that it had worked to get Henrik, it should work again. I thought that this was the only way we could get pregnant. So there I was going through all the painful, humiliating, expensive procedures again. I hated doing it all and resented the fact that I had to get pregnant this way. Everything felt extra hard and unnatural. This time around I had two viable eggs and I was excited with the idea of possibly having twins. Two weeks later, I was pregnant but my numbers were very low. Nick had to race an hour and a half to a pharmacy to get some expensive hormone (I don't remember which one anymore) to hopefully save my pregnancy. But it was not to be, a week later I miscarried. I was devastated and grief stricken. I had lost my last hope of having another child. I had no more faith in modern medicine and faith in general. It was very hard for me to be around people who got to have children so easily and got to choose when they have them and how many they have. It felt so unfair when I wanted it so much but couldn't have it. I didn't want to try IVF again, I was done.
We decided to take a much needed one month break and in the meanwhile I started to see my naturopath (whom I've been seeing off and on since I was 16). She took many, many blood tests, put me on a strict diet: No meat, dairy, grains of any kind, sugar, chocolate. I could only eat a limited variety of fruits and vegetables. I was hungry a lot but felt so good. She determined that I was iodine deficient and had Lyme Disease which was affecting my fertility. She put me on a long course of antibiotics and some supplements. The next month following our break I got pregnant. It was a miracle! It is interesting that at that time I had also come to terms with the fact that I might never have another child. I was sad about it but I was okay with it. I was just so grateful that I got the opportunity to know what it felt like to carry a baby and have a child. If I only had Henrik I was okay because I was so lucky that I had him. And I was going to enjoy every moment with him. As soon as I let go of all my expectations and was happy in the present, that was when I got pregnant.
During my pregnancy with Maja I was very sick but so happy to be pregnant. She came two weeks early and it was a difficult labor and I almost had a c-section again but luckily in the last minute I got to have a VBAC. Having my little baby girl made me feel so complete. Both my husband and I felt overwhelmed with happiness and joy. We decided that were weren't going to try anymore or go to the lengths we had before to have any more children. It had taken such an emotional, physical, and financial toll on us and we were happy with our little family just the way it was.
And then I got pregnant with my baby boy. This was yet again another shock. We hadn't planned it and were really surprised that it happened so easily...or so we thought. I was very sick during this pregnancy but was really excited to welcome another little baby into our family, to meet him, see what he looked like, get to know his personality. During this pregnancy I felt guilty, like I didn't deserve it because I hadn't fought as hard for it as I had for the others. When I was about 20 weeks along we had our Ultrasound and got to see our little boy moving around. He looked perfect and healthy in every way. He was however measuring two weeks smaller then he was suppose to. I also started to notice that my belly wasn't growing, and my baby wasn't getting heavier like he should. I was starting to get worried. My husband, who is an eternal optimist, told me I was fine and that I was just being overly worried as usual. But deep down I knew I should worry. I think I was being prepared for what was to come.
When I went into the Doctor's for my routine check up at 23 weeks, I was a little nervous but I thought all my fears would be washed away as soon as I heard the heartbeat and talked to my Doctor. But this was not to be, I never got to hear his heartbeat again. My Doctor dug around for what felt like an eternity to try and hear a heartbeat, but there was nothing only my racing heartbeat. She then called in the Ultrasound tech. The 20 minute wait for the Ultrasound Tech was the most painful time of my life. My mind was racing, going places I never thought I would have to go, the whole time trying to keep it together and not cry. When The Ultrasound Tech finally came and I looked at the screen all I could see was a skeleton baby. There was no heart pumping blood or lit up organs. My baby was dead. I couldn't believe it.
This loss of my baby boy has by far been the hardest in our infertility journey. I know bad things can happen to good people because I have experienced it. There have been a lot of lessons learned and I don't know why we learn so much more when our hearts are broken, but we just do. Through these heartbreaking experiences I have learned so much about myself. I've learned I'm strong, brave, tough, determined and stubborn. This infertility journey has given me confidence in myself in ways I may never have gained otherwise. I've learned that it's okay to be a little broken, it's what makes us who we are and gives us compassion for others. We would be such boring people if we didn't have a good story to tell. I've learned to not ask the question "Why?", but ask "What can I learn?", "What can I do?" Most importantly I've learned so much about love. That when it comes down to it, "All you need is love" (The Beatles were on to something here). I am convinced that my capacity to love my children is deeper and greater than it would ever have been because of what I've been through.
So I guess the reason I am writing this insanely long post is to say: I understand. I know what you're going through. It's okay to hurt. I still hurt. But when I look into my children's beautiful big brown eyes I know I've gained more than I've lost.
P.S. The photographs were taking by the lovely Yan. This was the last family photos we've taken. I think it's time for some new family photos.