I am one in six, I am the face of Canadian Infertility. I am also a successful fashion industry professional, part time college professor, and a devoted wife and mother. Indeed some may be surprised when I say I'm a mother when I'm writing about infertility, but that's my reality, and it's more common than people think. I have been dealing with secondary infertility and repeated pregnancy loss for about two years. One of my biggest annoyances in this struggle has been the incredibly insensitive views of certain people who are so quick to say things like, "Well, at least you already have one child". To me, this is one of the worst things people can say to someone who is experiencing a pregnancy loss after having a living child. It somehow implies that the parents' grief is ill-placed, or unwarranted. People seem to want to make me feel guilty for mourning my lost babies because I already have one, which doesn't make any sense. Loss is loss...no matter what. They also seem to want me to feel better quickly, thinking the old saying, "time heals all wounds," should apply. However, what I've discovered is that time only bring fresh heartache, with every turn of the calendar.
Time brings milestones, or would-be milestones, I should say. Things like "this would have been baby's due date", or "this would have been baby's first Holiday" pop into mind. In fact, holidays are the worst, because a grieving parent can't help but realize that there's a little less laughter in the air, than there should have been. To say it's been hard, is an understatement. I'm not just referring to the actual PHYSICAL losses and hardships, it's so much more than that...
When trying to conceive our daughter, I was 35 years old, and it took almost one full year, with one miscarriage. The very next cycle after the loss though, was our successful one, and not too long after, our beautiful little girl was born! When she was turning one, we decided it was time to try again so she could have a sibling. I was mentally gearing up for another long wait, and perhaps "some" heartache. I wasn't prepared for what was in store, at all. Eight months went by uneventfully...
Then, on Boxing Day we got our first positive pregnancy test of the "Baby #2 Journey." We were elated, and were cautiously optimistic that the pregnancy would last, considering we knew we "could" have a baby. The happiness was short-lived, however, and I started spotting in my 7th week. After a trip to the ER to get the customary antibody (Rhogam) shot, due to my RH negative blood type, we learned that baby had a very slow heartbeat, and the pregnancy could go either way. Less than a week later, I was in full miscarriage.
That brought us to our next cycle, and our next positive! We thought, maybe that's just how my body works...it needs a "warm-up" cycle, and this 2nd one, for sure, was going to work out. At least, that's how it worked for our daughter. Things looked great early on. We saw a healthy heartbeat at 7 weeks - morning sickness was VERY strong, fatigue, the whole nine yards. We thought we were home free, and then my world came crashing down. I was 11 1/2 weeks and felt faint as I rode the transit into work one day. I sat down and waited for everyone to leave the train at the station, and then went for help. They called me an ambulance and the hospital said I was severely dehydrated due to my morning sickness, and decided to keep me for a while on an IV while I waited for an ultrasound.
The doctor came in with a portable one, and tried and tried, but couldn't "get a good picture," and said I'd need to go get a more thorough one, down in the ultrasound department. A few hours went by and they performed the second ultrasound without sharing a single detail, so I knew right then something was wrong. Shortly after, they explained that I had what's called a "Partial Molar Pregnancy", where the placenta grows into an abnormal cluster of growths and acts like a cancer; no baby can survive. Baby was only measuring 9 weeks, so it had stopped growing more than two weeks earlier. They said I would need a D&C, and if the growths in the uterus persist, chemotherapy to remove and prevent any new growth. Early the next morning, I had my first D&C (my third loss) on my 40th birthday. Happy Birthday to me. After the D&C, I had some time off of work, which was great, because I had to deal with weekly blood tests to track the status of the molar pregnancy. Along with losing another babe, I was dealing with the possibility of cancer treatment, which my brain could simply not grasp, and I ended up requiring therapy to work through all of my feelings. Luckily, levels continued to drop at a healthy rate, and there was no evidence of any malignancy or returned growth (thank heaven for small victories!), Things slowly went back to "normal". Surprisingly, shortly after I reached zero with my HCG we managed to get another positive pregnancy test! I was terrified! Was this one doomed like the others?? Was it too soon after the molar? I had so many questions...but, my doctor just kept telling me to relax and take it one step at a time.
I half expected this pregnancy to end as a chemical, or very early miscarriage, but, to my surprise, the HCG kept climbing. Things were looking good, and morning sickness arrived right on time. We also moved into a brand new home, preparing for the day when we needed more space for our growing family. Unfortunately, about a week after we settled in, spotting started again, which meant another trip to the ER, another shot of antibodies, and another emergency ultrasound. This one showed everything that a normal pregnancy should be...except a baby. "Possible blighted ovum" they said, and I'd need to go back in a few days. Waiting was excruciating, especially when you are struggling to stay positive, but it turned out to be for nothing, as the next ultrasound showed no improvement.
I was told to expect to miscarry any day, and that's exactly what happened. Again, I was in my 8th week of pregnancy.
This prompted me to take action. I was tired of being passive and just continue to lose babies and not understand why. There HAD to be a reason, something we could do differently, something they could fix. I requested a referral to a fertility specialist, who ordered a whole series of tests on both me, and my husband. After about five months of preventing, while the doctors did their investigation, they decided that there was absolutely nothing wrong...well, aside from the fact that I was not a young girl anymore. They suggested some progesterone supplements and to continue trying on our own for a little while, and hopefully the supplements would help us maintain a pregnancy the next time around. Well, that's what we did, and the very next cycle, BAM, pregnant again. I thought this was going to be it, because now I had all these tests to back things up and I was on the supplements...this was going to be different...this was our rainbow baby! Problem was, I didn't feel terribly ill, which for me, is not usually a good sign. Sure enough, the ultrasound at 7 weeks 3 days showed a too small baby, with no heartbeat. Pregnancy #6 had become loss #5 in an instant. We clung on to a small amount of hope that perhaps it was just too early, but almost a week later, the bleeding began, which meant I needed to head to the ER to get yet another shot of Rhogam. (By now, every time I am in the hospital for Rhogam, it's like I have to tell THEM how to do their job, I know the procedure so well...it's ridiculous).
So, that's where we're at. We are now potentially looking at escalating to the next level with medicated/monitored cycles and IUI's, and it's making me wonder if I'll ever be able to provide a sibling for my little girl. Every time she pretends her dolly is her brother, it feels like a shard of glass in my heart, and I so want to give her this gift. If I had known that her first steps, her first giggles, her first words were potentially going to be OUR last, I would have perhaps cherished them even more, but for now...we're still hoping for just 1 special egg to make it through the journey of becoming our Rainbow Baby.