For almost 2.5 years now, my husband and I have been trying to grow our family. At the beginning of 2015, we started to officially try to get pregnant. After going off birth control, we thought it would happen right away! We tried for a year on our own, but we didn’t have any success. Within that year we were referred by our family doctor to our local fertility centre, the Ottawa Fertility Centre (OFC), where I was eventually diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) and hypothyroidism.
For those of you who’ve struggled with infertility, you most likely already know about PCOS, but for those of you who don’t: 1 in 10 women in Canada have PCOS. PCOS can prevent women from ovulating naturally, among having many other rotten side effects including, but certainly not limited to, weight gain and acne. PCOS is currently the most common endocrine disorder for women of reproductive age.
During our 2nd year of trying to conceive in 2016, and while under treatment with our local fertility centre, I took ovulation-inducing medication for 12 months. I took Clomid/Serophene for the 1st 6 months and Femara/Letrozole for the next 6 months. Unfortunately, all that those medications came with was a year of shitty side effects (weight gain and hot flashes were the worst for me). After 2 full years of trying to conceive, we still weren’t pregnant.
At the beginning of 2017, after 2+ years of trying to conceive, the fertility centre finally allowed us to have our 1st attempt at Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) with super-ovulation (SO). To put it very simply, this involved giving myself daily injections, going to the fertility centre for blood work and multiple transvaginal ultrasounds, my husband producing his sperm, and a nurse inserting his perfectly timed sperm into my uterus. It worked and we FINALLY got pregnant! We were ELATED, to say the least. The best way we could describe it was we felt light and airy, like weights were finally lifted off our chests!
Unfortunately, during our 7-week early dating ultrasound, we found out that the pregnancy was not progressing normally. At that 1st ultrasound, the ultrasound technician showed us the flickering heartbeat; however, we were told by the doctor that and we should expect to miscarry because we were measuring a week behind and they could not officially measure the heart rate. At 7 weeks and 4 days, we were measuring as 6 weeks and 2 days. Measuring behind in other pregnancies can be normal; however, with a perfectly IUI cycle, this was not normal. We were booked for a follow-up ultrasound the following week.
At almost 9 weeks, we had our 2nd ultrasound. Again, the results were not positive. They could no longer see the flickering heartbeat, let alone get a read on a heart rate. By then, we were measuring 2 weeks behind, with zero growth since the last ultrasound, and we were warned again that we would miscarry. However, they still could not officially medically diagnose a miscarriage so we were booked in for a 3rd follow-up ultrasound at almost 10 weeks. At that ultrasound, the doctor confirmed that we had a "missed miscarriage" meaning that there was no more growth and there was no longer a heartbeat. We were devastated. The first few weeks were the worst… I did not know how to function or what to do, but I somehow made it through those first few weeks.
After being diagnosed with a missed miscarriage, we were given 3 options of what to do next. We could wait and see if nature would take its course, we could take medication known as Misoprostol/Cytotec to induce a miscarriage, or we could elect to have a surgery known as a D&C. We elected to take medication to induce a miscarriage since my body didn't seem to be doing what it needed to do on its own and I was already mentally exhausted from waiting for definitive results during the previous 3 weeks.
If you would like to know more about my experience with miscarriage, I would encourage you to continue reading this paragraph, but if you do not wish to know those details, you can skip this one. I took the medication to induce the miscarriage at exactly 10 weeks. The medication was tough and it was definitely painful, but fortunately my doctor prescribed me pain medication to make the process a little easier. I thought the medication worked and I thought that I officially miscarried. At this point, I was anxious for the physical process to be done and over with so that I could try and emotionally heal. After taking the medication, our local fertility centre monitored my hcg-beta levels through bi-weekly blood work. My levels were dropping at relatively normal rates so they did not think anything was wrong. However, as our luck would have it, I continued bleeding. In total, I started bleeding on March 17th and it is currently the beginning of May... I continued to advise our fertility centre of this, and I was regularly informed that “it can take awhile”. Finally, our fertility centre decided to bring me in for an ultrasound where they discovered that I had retained products of conception (RPOC) – meaning there were still remnants of the pregnancy left in my uterus and my miscarriage was not complete. I had what the medical community calls an incomplete miscarriage. At that point, I was given more medication. I took the medication but unfortunately, it didn’t work. The next step was to have a day-surgery to remove the RPOC. My reproductive endocrinologist (RE) at the fertility centre recommended that I have a Manual Vacuum Aspiration (MVA) instead of the traditional option of having a D&C because it is less invasive and comes with less risks of creating scar tissue (which can cause even greater fertility issues down the road). At this point, I am STILL very anxiously waiting being scheduled for an MVA... I am desperately hoping to complete the physical process of our miscarriage, not only to continue emotionally healing, but also because I am very worried about the greater risks of infection the longer this process carries out.
I wanted to share details of our miscarriage because I think the media often portrays miscarriages as happening in an instant – 1 bloody trip to the bathroom and it’s over. For some, this can be the case, but for many others, this is far from reality. As you can see from the description of my miscarriage above, our experience is far from that case.
So this brings us to the current day… and as you’ve read, our journey to have a child does not have a happy ending… yet.
THE LOWS OF OUR JOURNEY...
In addition to the medical journey described above, our process through infertility and miscarriage over the last 2.5 years has been emotionally taxing. Both my husband and I have suffered with anxiety and bouts of depression. We’re very drained by the emotional rollercoaster – all of the highs filled with hope and all of the lows filled with disappointment. We’ve consulted multiple resources to help us through this. Specially, we’ve reached out to counsellors at my work, a physiologist from our local fertility centre, and online support groups. I have to say that the local online support groups have been the greatest aid to me thus far! We’ve also tried (and are still trying) to compliment our journey of infertility with naturopathic therapies and continually trying to improve our health through diet and exercise.
One of the biggest things I’ve struggled with is feeling like infertility was becoming my entire identity. We’ve been very open about our journey with friends, family and on social media, but it also means that we tend to talk about our journey a lot. Recently, we’ve been trying to make sure that we are more than just our journey with infertility. We’re better at prioritizing our time spent with family and friends, and participating in past times that we enjoy.
THE POSITIVES OF OUR JOURNEY...
Through all of this, we were reminded we have an amazing support network! We can’t thank our family and friends enough who’ve went out of their ways to support us, particularly through our miscarriage. Also, major thanks to anyone online who’s ever supported me!
Although the last 2.5 years have been extremely tough, it’s also made us so much stronger as a couple. Neither of us can imagine going through this with anyone else. There is this weird but amazing intimate connection between us now, which seems to have developed through getting through these crappy times together.
Infertility and miscarriage also have a funny way of making you reassess what’s important in your life. It’s helped remind us to prioritize our time with family and friends, and spend our time doing activities we love. It’s given us a new drive to ensure that even if our story doesn’t have the happy ending that we hope for, that we will still look back on our life with positive thoughts and experiences! Regardless on if we can have children or not, we plan on making the most out of our lives!
Recently, I’ve been trying to redirect my energy from the struggle of infertility and miscarriage into something more positive. I started volunteering for Aaron’s Butterfly Run Ottawa/Gatineau. This is the 1st charity run of its kind in my community as it seeks to raise awareness around infertility, pregnancy and infant loss, and raise proceeds for Roger Neilson House in Ottawa. I’ve spent my time building a website for the event (www.butterflyrunottawa.ca) and managing the social media. This has been a great outlet for me to make me feel as though I might be making a difference! I feel proud of myself for using what could be negative energy and putting it towards something more positive.
So this brings us to the current day… and as you’ve read, our journey to have a child does not have a happy ending… yet. We’re hoping that our miscarriage journey will be over very soon. We plan to take a little break over the summer, to ensure we are mentally more resilient for our next “try” and hopefully in the fall we will be able to try IUI again. I hope that by the time the CIAW rolls around next year, I’ll have a story with a happy ending to share! Until then, I plan on making the most out of every day!
And if you’re going through infertility or miscarriage, my heart goes out to you through this trying process, but know that you are not alone!