It was a snowy January, and I was going through my first evaluation cycle at the fertility clinic to determine the cause of my infertility.
At this point we had been trying to conceive for about a year, with three positive pregnancy tests resulting in three miscarriages occurring between four and six weeks. I was tired from feeling every emotion possible, every month, at an intensity I hadn’t experienced before in my life, and I had no idea getting and staying pregnant could be this hard. I was ready for some answers. And I had hope for the first time in awhile. Someone was finally taking the situation as seriously as I was.
The findings: Uterus was clear. Tubes were clear. Blood work showed elevated prolactin (the hormone responsible for lactation), which was causing my irregular cycles. The cause remains a mystery.
The treatment: I was given medication for the high prolactin and sent on my merry way. After a few weeks I was given the go ahead to continue trying to become pregnant. My cycles were still irregular, but I was told there wasn’t much that could be done about that. I was still having five or so days of spotting before my period started, but there was no explanation for that, either. We were candidates for IVF — our best chance of conceiving and having a full-term pregnancy, we were told. But I didn’t have $15,000 to spend, so we passed. Plus, I couldn’t buy into that idea quite yet. Something still felt wrong with my cycles.
I decided to meet with a different doc in the clinic for a second opinion. He reviewed my labs as I sat nervously in my chair, and he immediately said, “You have elevated TSH, which means your thyroid is slightly underactive.” Guess what — our thyroids are responsible for all the metabolic processes in our bodies, including hormone production and the symphony that is our reproductive system! He said it was in the normal range for the general population, but for someone trying to conceive it was a red flag. AH! Finally! (Lesson learned? Advocate for yourself! Ask questions and listen to your gut when something doesn’t feel right.)
They assured me that synthroid would normalize my cycles, making it easier to determine ovulation. I went to visit my primary doc to explore the cause of my underactive thyroid, and she diagnosed me with Hashimoto’s disease. She upped my synthroid, and soon after, my cycles normalized. Voila!
Along the way, I had another positive pregnancy test with a period to follow, so I begged my fertility specialist for progesterone supplements to have on hand. He agreed. (Again, be informed, listen to your gut, and ask questions, ladies. We have to be active participants in our medical care.)
We were now two years in to trying to conceive, and I realized that if I didn’t get off the emotional rollercoaster soon, my marriage and sanity were at risk. Getting pregnant had become my sole focus. I was depressed, and my life felt small and empty — it revolved around my menstrual cycle, and my mood was directly correlated to which day of my cycle it was. I’d had enough.
So in an effort to shift my focus, I decided to get a second job. I had the time, and I desperately needed to focus on something I could actually have influence over.
I started my new job, and guess what — I got pregnant that month! As soon as I got the positive pregnancy test I began administering the progesterone supplements. Six weeks… a heartbeat! Ten weeks… she has arms and legs! And 13 weeks… first trimester is over! I stayed pregnant. It didn’t even feel real.
When you have lost a baby, whether it’s a ball of cells, an embryo, fetus, or whatever, it is incredibly painful, and everyone experiences this loss in their own way. When you have experienced that kind of loss, it makes future pregnancies that much more uncertain. It makes pregnancy an even bigger mental game. During my pregnancy I was able to, a day at a time, balance my fears and anxieties with hope and excitement. Some days better than others. Honestly, I was, and still am shocked that my body was able to create and grow this amazing tiny being.
I’m grateful and very much in awe of my body’s ability to do such an amazing and miraculous thing, but in this relatively short journey through infertility, I learned a valuable lesson. I learned that my ability to get and stay pregnant was part luck, part science, part planning, part medical intervention, part self-care, and a lot of letting go. It had zero to do with my worthiness as a woman, my organizational skills, my desire to have a child, or the universe’s appraisal of my ability to be a good enough mother.
Ironically, as I write this I am experiencing yet another miscarriage. This time we saw a heartbeat at 7 weeks but just days later lost the pregnancy. I’m very sad for this loss, but I don’t view this as my body hating me or the universe judging me as an unfit mother. I’m not beating myself up for doing anything wrong or, worse, BEING anything wrong. I see this as bad luck. It sucks and it’s sad, but I’m not going to make it worse by creating feelings of shame and guilt on top of the horrible pain that comes with losing something that just a second ago was all yours.
I will give my body the rest it needs and try again in a few months. I would love to add to our little family, but I certainly don’t have to prove to myself or society that I am worthy as a woman by bearing another child. It’s freeing when we don’t attach our self-worth to things that have nothing to do with our self-worth, doesn’t it?