August 1st 2014 we said I do and life instantly changed. We came back from our honeymoon in September and decided that we agreed with everyone who ever rubbed a baby in our faces like we'd catch the syndrome. We agreed that maybe it did "look good on us" and maybe "we were next". And it was true. We were next to get pregnant. In November we found out we were expecting. Due right around our anniversary date. How perfect. We thought we'd tell everyone right away, what's the point in hiding it? So we made big plans. We'd do this or that, or we'd get all the family together on this date, or give them this grand surprise. But it never happened. Before we ever had the opportunity to pass on our excitement it came to a bitter end. Just as quickly as our hearts filled they were shattered into a million pieces for something we'd known for only a little over a week.
Miscarriage at 6 weeks. December.
How do you tell friends who didn't even know what was happening why you can't make the dinner and movie date you've had planned for weeks for that day? How do you call your parents and tell them you were but you're not? What do you tell work? How do you look at anyone? How do you look at yourself? Your spouse? How do you continue on with a hurt that no one around you understands?
Yet you push through and life does go on. Your hope of ever getting pregnant again is tainted by your own negativity. Because if it happened once, it could happen again right? Doctors indicated that it was very unlikely. It was a random thing, no reason, wasn't my fault, nothing we could have done differently. So we believed it, we tried to anyway.
Fast forward a year and everyone around us had taken the light hearted jokes of "you're next" and turned them into "so seriously now, are you guys going to have kids before you're too old?" I was 26 by the way, Colin 27. Give me a break.
But that's where we were. Seriously lost as to why nothing was happening we sought help at a fertility clinic. For anyone who’s done that, visited their doctor, asked for the referral, it sucks. I'm 26 years old. Everyone around me is getting pregnant on purpose, and those who aren't are certainly getting pregnant by mistake. Yet here I am.
We started testing. Everything. Then we moved onto IUI's. Intrauterine Insemination. I'll spare the details. It was our answer. So many pills and injections and checkups and days off of work. Insurance covered most of the meds but those small amounts each time started to add up into the thousands. Plus my sick days were dwindling and I'm no longer getting paid for my time off.
Month after month tests were still negative. They made changes, increased drugs, done further testing and all roads lead to "unexplained fertility". All we wanted was a reason. A solid reason why nothing was working. Something that could be fixed, and we couldn't even be given that.
6 IUI's in, April fool’s day, the test is positive. But its April fool’s so I do another one. Positive. Another one. Positive. Finally. Bloodwork confirms it. Extremely high numbers, everything looks great! Our 8 week ultrasound is scheduled and we wait. Scarred by our previous experience we debate telling anyone. What if it ends the same way? What if we tell everyone and then the worst happens? We can't UN-tell.
So we waited. But somehow convinced ourselves that we couldn't let all hope for this pregnancy be destroyed because of one moment in time that “wasn’t our fault”. So we let excitement in. We decided we'd tell all the family right after the ultrasound. We'd have pictures done and we'd let them tell the world. But the photographer was going away, and life was busy so we could only get them done at 7 weeks. One week before the ultrasound. It took days to make the decision, but we did it. It made it feel incredibly real. Too real.
The ultrasound was the end of April. I was terrified. Google had prepared me for every scenario. I knew what I was supposed to see on that screen. I knew what measurements we were looking for, I knew what the yolk sac should look like, I'd seen pictures of a fetal pole and I'd watched videos of what a tiny heartbeat should resemble at 8 weeks. All we wanted was existence. We needed this little white dot to be nestled in there real good with no intentions of leaving for the next 7 months. I had nightmares. All ending with a sentence "I'm sorry there's no heartbeat". We needed that day to be a good day and not another bad.
The day comes and the screen is turned towards me. Instantly I see nothing like Google showed me. I see what should be the baby but it's not what I had seen. I see the doctors face make emotions that couldn't be hidden. I watched the measurements appear at the bottom of the screen that made no sense for 8 weeks in. Somehow I thought I knew enough to speak up and say “it’s not right is it? It should be bigger, it should have a heartbeat." Nightmare confirmed. Our 8 week pregnancy stopped at 5 weeks, but my body didn't know any different.
Miscarriage #2 at 9 weeks.
All those wonderful exciting announcement pictures were received a day later. They were perfect. But life no longer was. Again we'd told no one. And here we were in the exact same scenario. Except this time we had been convinced that it wouldn't happen a second time. We had hope and it was ripped away again.
We waited a month, and then hopped right back on the IUI train to unexplained infertility. We did 1 more IUI. Negative. We took a vacation. We did another IUI. Negative.
What's next? IVF. In vitro fertilization. We knew nothing about, we knew no one who had done it. We didn't give it a second thought. We were making this happen and that was it. It was now October 2016. Whoever said money couldn’t buy happiness has clearly never had to pay for IVF.
We had appointments and tests and information thrown at us from all angles. IVF isn't offered in NL nor is the financial burden of it covered. So we'd have to travel elsewhere. We chose Halifax. The statistics were on par with any other province that offered it, and it wouldn’t add an even higher bill to pay for a couple of flights and a place to stay there.
February comes and we're fighting to get on a flight during the two biggest storms the Maritimes has seen this winter. I've already taken thousands of dollars’ worth of needles and treatment. I had a bruise to prove each one and an empty bank account to back it up. Things were already started and I NEEDED to be there. WE needed to be there. After two days of begging airlines, double booking flights and living on standby we arrive in Halifax. The worst was over.
We arrive at the AART clinic and it's such a happy place. You can't be sad in a place where everyone is so positive. So we were hopeful. Hesitant, but hopeful.
Doctors unexpectedly went through my bladder during egg retrieval and I ended up with a "complication". That complication lead me to experience the worst pain I've ever felt in my life. A blood clot leading to a blockage in my bladder lead to a dramatic roadside pickup in an ambulance in downtown Halifax and a night at a hospital. Yet still I remained hesitantly hopeful that this was the worst and good has to come after the bad.
On transfer day, we were shown a live video of our two beautiful embryos, waiting in a dish to be placed right where they needed to be. All they did was bounce and move. The different parts were pointed out; including the "babies".
Not a hitch. 3 extra embryos to be frozen and after an afternoon of cautiously celebrating we were on our way home. PUPO. Pregnant until proven otherwise. Hopeful until given yet another reason not to be.
Then came the hardest week of my life. I'd been pregnant before, granted never for very long, but long enough to recognize the changes and have that gut feeling before ever seeing the lines. I'd also been not pregnant, month after month, now year after year. That feeling I knew all too well.
My emotions hit me like a truck that week. My life was consumed by fear, depression, anxiety, & embarrassment. My mind was a mess, I couldn't get out of my own head. I couldn't eat, sleep, work... I was useless. I could cry. I could sulk. I could mope around the house. I didn't want to exist anymore. Results were still a week and a half away but I knew deep down this was not my time. This had not worked. One more loss, one more disappointment, one more reason to wonder why I'm still here in the first place. A sadness that just swallows you and consumes your entire life.
I thought I'd become a disappointment to myself, my family, my friends, and my husband.
We dated, we graduated high school, we graduated post secondary, we had good jobs, we bought a house, we bought cars, we made a life, we got engaged, we got married. We made a decision that we would have kids. We changed things to fit that new lifestyle, we prepared, we got a bigger car, we bought a business, and we got better jobs. We worked hard. We done everything in order, everything by the book. Yet here we were.
The two week wait of IVF is the longest two week wait you will ever have in your life. Whatever you had riding on trying the natural way, trying timed, trying IUI's - it's so much more when you've spent all your savings, racked up a credit card, went to another province and changed your life. So imagine when we discovered for certain; once again...it failed...we failed.
It’s now May 2017. We are nearing on 3 years of infertility and preparing ourselves for an upcoming frozen transfer. A hand we never ever in a million years would have thought would be dealt to us. You go through your younger years doing everything you possibly can to avoid pregnancy. They teach it in school, your parents lecture you over and over. But no one prepares you for this. No one prepares you for the opposite. No one prepares you for the ugly, heart wrenching pain and despair that passes over you every time you see a baby, every time a friend announces a pregnancy, every time you see another negative test and every time someone asks when you will finally have babies. No one explains the pain of preparing a place in your heart for a child that never comes.
But we’re learning. We're learning to enjoy, in between bouts of disappointment, the small things like Colin's stupid puns or throwing an Easter party for the kids in the community. We're learning how to manage the cost of treatments with our normal life expenses, when to do without and when we need to treat ourselves. We're learning to talk openly about our challenges with others, and how to support one another as we muddle through another series of prescriptions and needles and appointments and pain.
We’re learning that conceiving truly is a miracle and we’re learning that our story should be shared. Infertility is lonely and scary. It’s an everyday, every hour, and every minute kind of struggle. No one wants to admit that they cannot get pregnant, us included. Like many, we have suffered in silence. It’s time to break it. It’s time to start the conversation. 1 in 6 Canadian couples experience infertility. We are 1 in 6.