I came off birth control the night of my wedding, and after three months I still hadn’t gotten my period. The first thought that went through my head was, “oh my god, maybe I got pregnant right away!” how amazing would that be? One negative pregnancy test, after negative test, and three months without a period, I finally checked in with my doctor.
I knew it was common and expected for it to take some time to get my period back after many years on birth control pills, but I didn’t expect for it to take as long as it did. After being diagnosed with endometriosis in my teenage years, two surgeries later, some scar tissue and discomfort, I began to accept that this idea of “achieving pregnancy” may require reproductive technology and medication. But fertility help is not like other help, it comes at a big price … one that effects your pocket and your heart.
Not to mention, accepting the need for fertility help doesn’t even begin to prepare you for the process of getting it.
As a perpetual planner, I had planned my whole life out:
- Get married
- stop the pill
- track ovulation
- get pregnant.
Well, you know that saying, “you plan, and god laughs”? Well, whoever god is, they must be rolling on the floor by now because none of my plans worked out.
Thats the other thing about trying to conceive
YOU CAN’T PLAN ANYTHING
After a bunch of delayed periods and 45-60 day cycles, I was diagnosed with PCOS. Then the idea of needing help to get pregnant became not just a thought, but a reality. I remember the day my OBGYN said, “you’re not pregnant, your blood work shows that you didn’t even ovulate. I am sorry to say this but I think this may be a little more difficult than we expected”. I felt like a ton of bricks fell down and hit me over the head.
Infertility, or “fertility issues” is not a common topic of conversation. In fact, infertility is something we’re told not to talk about. As a sex therapist, I figured my journey to pregnancy was an opportunity for me to normalize something that is already so incredibly normal (12% of women 15-44 years old experience infertility) despite the fact that it is not normally spoken about.
I was taking medication to make me ovulate, checking follicles, and going for constant blood work, trigger shots to induce ovulation and lots of timed intercourse. I was seeing a fertility doctor at the time who took at look at my follicles and lining, and she said that there was really no chance of me conceiving without #IVF. Turns out many doctors say this. It may be because IVF has higher success rates, and more efficiency than IUI’s and medicated cycles, but I’m curious if its also a ploy to make faster money through IVF. Despite what the doctor said, I wasn’t convinced, so we used the trigger shot, had timed sex, and prayed.
After all that, I developed a sore throat and a fever. I wasn’t sick, but I had a fever and a sore throat, and I knew that progesterone can cause a feeling of being very hot, and some women experience sore throats in early pregnancy… so like any other woman who is desperately wanting to be pregnant, I bought an early pregnancy test. It was positive! I was ecstatic, but then the weirdest thing happened. I expected to be super happy, and very excited but after about 1 minute of celebrating in my head, it hit me. I’m pregnant, this is great… but now I need to be able to maintain it.
7 days after finding out I was pregnant, I found out I miscarried. Those are not words we often read, nor is it something we talk about publicly, despite the fact that 10-25% of pregnancies will result in miscarriage, and 50-75% of these miscarriages are chemical pregnancies (American Pregnancy, 2017). A chemical pregnancy is when a pregnancy is lost shortly after implantation occurs, which results in bleeding around the time of an expected period.
In today’s world it may seem like miscarriages and chemical pregnancies are occurring more frequently, that may be somewhat true since we don’t know the long term effects of medicines and chemicals in our food, products and environment… but it may really just be that we weren’t able to test “early” in the past.
While we miscarried at 4 weeks, which is incredibly early, there is nothing to prepare you for losing something you’ve been dreaming of gaining your whole life. Getting pregnant is not just about the ability for sperm to meet the egg, fertilize it, implant and test positive on a pregnancy test, its about getting pregnant and holding on to it long enough to achieve and complete a pregnancy.
The miscarriage was emotionally and physically painful. I know this may seem a bit graphic, but getting your period and seeing blood becomes a monthly occurrence to a woman after she gets her first period. But for me, that first sign of blood after they told me I miscarried was the most traumatizing part. It was like all I wanted was being flushed away, and there was nothing I could do to stop it. The cramps felt worse than your normal period, and emotionally everything made me cry. It’s so hard to hold on to hope, especially when it feels like it is no where to be found.
After days of crying, I told my friends in an effort to find support. Infertility and miscarriage is like anything else in life, unless you’ve been through it yourself, you can’t expect people to understand it – but you should expect people to respect your experience and provide support.
I’ve also come to learn that going through infertility alone is a lot more exhausting than going through it with the support of friends and family. I will tell you this, if you’re going to share about your fertility journey, expect ignorance and don’t take it personally. Ignorance is not only bliss, it comes from a lack of experiences.
During a conversation with friends about trying to conceive and miscarriage, one person mentioned another friends’ miscarriage that occurred at 6 months. Technically, a pregnancy loss under 20 weeks is considered a miscarriage, and over 20 weeks is considered a stillbirth.
After expressing my sorrow for this person she knew, I said, “you know, I had also had miscarriage a month ago”…
“yea, I know you did, but yours wasn’t that bad…
at least you can get pregnant”
If only she knew the weight that statement had on my heart. I heard what she said, and immense sadness took over me. I was hurt, disappointed and so discouraged that my friend told me that my miscarriage wasn’t that bad. Granted, a miscarriage at 6 months may very well be more traumatizing than experiencing one at 1 month, but no one should ever have to endure the pain and agony of losing a pregnancy, at any age, at any time. Most importantly, it’s never anyone’s place to tell you that your feelings about your experience in the world aren’t valid because they believe it could have been worse.
The other thing was, sure, I got pregnant, but who was to say that I would be able to do that again? Just because I got pregnant once, did that mean that it would happen again, or that I wouldn’t miscarry again, or at another time?
I know she didn’t mean to upset me, or make me and my miscarriage feel insignificant, but there is nothing that should invalidate my loss, or anyone else’s loss.
There are plenty of things to compare in life,
losses are not one of them.
Emotionally dealing with miscarriages while trying to conceive is difficult regardless of when they happen. So whether it happens or doesn’t happen, or when it happens, it is important to respect that every person goes through experiences in life in their own way. It is never our place to invalidate or belittle someone’s feelings, especially when we never know when we may need their support in ours.