Pregnancy after loss isn’t all rainbows

Pregnancy after loss isn’t all rainbows

It took me a lot of time to be able to sit down and write this blog. For the last 3 years, I have shared my journey through my personal social media - the good, the bad, and all that is in between. Aaron and I have been through a lot in that time and I have shared it all - our hope and excitement starting IVF, to battling the sadness of infertility during the holidays, our 3 crushing miscarriages, 2 after of our IVF cycles.

I have shared everything, feelings I sometimes didn’t even initially share with myself.

Along the road of infertility and miscarriage, we all ultimately hope and dream of the same goal. This entire situation, however, is so new to me, but I wanted to be honest about it all, while also making sure I was remaining respectful to those who are still at the height of their battle to their babies.

I honestly don’t even know how to write these words…We are pregnant.

After five and a half years of struggle and loss, we are finally at a point in this pregnancy where I feel safe sharing this in an official FMC post. There were many times before that I dreamed of being able to write a blog after a successful IVF cycle to share our news, but then when the time did finally come, I was terrified. Fear has been the soundtrack of my pregnancy, from retrieval to now, 25 weeks pregnant, my biggest emotion, besides feeling grateful, is crippling fear and anxiety. No one really warned me about that part of the journey.

Before our journey to Baby Bell, I had your every day run of the mill anxiety over things like school, money, wedding planning, you get the idea. It was never something that would have a huge impact on my life. Sometime around the 3 year mark of trying and getting ready to start our second attempt at IVF, after an initial cancelled cycle, was when things kind of took a different turn. I had more days then not where I just didn’t feel myself.

Everything made me panic, I was afraid of the unknown, I was sadder than I probably should have been.

As Aaron tends to remind me, I have been through more than most in a short amount of time. It was still hard to admit though that I couldn’t handle the burden of it all. I wanted to be strong, independent, a rock for my husband but I constantly felt like I was failing.

It was overwhelming, especially to someone who wasn’t familiar with this type of thing. I got to a point where I actually asked our RE for a referral to be able to talk to someone about it all. I am not really a person who likes talking about things out loud, just ask my poor husband, I am not always the greatest communicator, however, I could write the most eloquent words about our journey, my feelings, on life, etc… but the second you try and get me to talk things out it’s just all a bumbling mess. For me to say I needed to talk to someone, it had to be bigger than just a little anxiety and depression.

I did see someone in May of 2018 and I learned that that type of therapy wasn’t necessarily what was the best outlet for me, writing was, sharing our journey was, chatting with other women (and men) who just got it was. I started feeling more myself and even though we had 2 more miscarriages, I started to feel ok again. I started a new job which was a big help and my husband and I took a break from treatment to just focus on us, that in and of itself was kind of a breath of fresh air. A couple months passed and we both finally felt like we were ready, ready to jump back in the saddle and cycle again.

In August 2019 we started our second IVF cycle, our 3rd treatment attempt overall.

In the early days we were so hopeful, we had a new protocol, a new plan for what measures we’d take if we were successful and got pregnant and the appointments were all so perfectly streamline. It all felt like a dream, but soon became a nightmare. On retrieval day everything changed. The morning we go to the clinic I was in a lot of pain, but I just assumed it was all those nice big eggs getting ready for the big day.

We got about 20 minutes in to things when it got a little scary. I don’t remember exactly how it all happened but there was more bleeding then there should have been, I was being put on oxygen, and ice packs put on me. I guess I had a blood vessel burst and the pain I had felt earlier was a bit of internal bleeding. My blood pressure bottomed out and Aaron, because no one in the moment explained things, thought he was about to watch his wife die. Thankfully my body did what it needed and the bleeding stopped on its own. I spent a little while longer in recovery than the previous cycle but felt as ok as one could after that.

My first gut punch was finding out we only got 8 eggs. You’d think that’s great, since “it only takes one”, but when you have a dozen measurable follicles on each side, you’re kind of expecting a little more. However, the biggest blow was what came the next morning. A somber call from the embryologist, nothing fertilized. ICSI was never something Aaron and I thought we needed since we had fertilization on our own with regular IVF, so I really wasn’t expecting that call. We had 2 options, call the cycle a bust and shell out another few thousand to do it all again, or attempt rescue ICSI, which the embryologist was up front and honest about, they had never had a resulting pregnancy from it and it was an additional cost.

I was in so much physical pain on top of this news that I don’t think it initially registered what she was telling me.

Aaron was at work, so how do I make a decision like this without him in a less than 30 minute window. Like anything though, I went with the path of least regret. I knew we would both regret not trying to salvage this cycle. We had invested time, money and love in to the notion of one of the resulting embryos being our baby. Plus, in that moment I couldn’t even fathom doing it all again. We were told that because we were within a 24 hour window since retrieval there was a chance we could have fertilization occur. They had 5 mature eggs to work with so we crossed our fingers, hopped for the best and cried a lot of tears. Angry, disappointed, scared, sad, we felt a lot of emotions that day. Thankfully Aaron’s bosses were really understanding and gave him a week of compassionate leave so we could grieve what we assumed would be a failed cycle.

Somehow, against all odds, the embryologist called the next day with a better report, out of the 5 mature eggs we had 2 that fertilized with a 3rd one trying to. By day 5 we had a low grade embryo, at a 1DD and a morula, so not yet quite an embryo. I tried to remind myself that they were in reality a day behind and to not focus on the grading system. We transferred both and that was that. Neither of us expect anything to come of it, I mean with the 0% chance we were given what was the point to hope. I spent the next couple days googling the heck out of rescue ICSI success rates, but even finding positive outcomes it didn’t make me feel any better. Our clinic was the only stat I cared about, that was the one that mattered.

Regardless of my feelings towards the cycle I honestly couldn’t help myself when it came to testing. Why wait until beta to know it would be negative, I would rather prepare myself ahead of time. I started testing 4dp5dt (4 days post 5 day transfer) and low and behold, there was a squinter. I reminded myself though, it was more than likely still trigger, we wouldn’t be lucky enough for it to work, and if it did somehow, we would just miscarry anyways. That remained my mindset for the next few days, but then the lines got darker, and quick. Aaron and I still sort of remained in this suspended feeling of hope and doubt. Sure, I was pregnant, but it likely wouldn’t stick, it was probably a chemical, or our embryo was too weak to really grow. The weekend before beta we had a hurricane, it knocked out power not only to where I went for blood collection, but also to our clinic. On the Monday morning the blood collection location had power but their systems were done so they had to log everything manually and our clinic was still on back up generator. Usually the clinic calls before 12 with results but between storm clean up, power outages and transport delays of the sample I was well past noon and hadn’t heard a peep. My husband was at home so I had him hounding our sweet nurse for updates. She promised to call as soon as she could tell us something. At around 3:20pm Aaron texted me a number. 922.21…. It took me entirely too long to realize they called him with my beta results. Then it took me emailing the clinic to confirm he hadn’t messed up the number before I realized that was our official “you’re pregnant” call. The day after beta I got my first ever 3+ on a digital test.

Even with positive numbers, beautiful blazing tests, we both spent the time between that day and our 8 week scan waiting on the other shoe to drop. I opted to not to do a repeat beta, because I just kind of wanted to ignore it all as much as I could. We didn’t know how, after 3 losses and a horrible retrieval/fertilization, to just be hopeful or remain in the moment. We were both dethatched from it, neither of us really wanted to get comfortable with the idea because we felt like it would be easier on us when we ultimately lost the pregnancy. There was honestly never a moment that in those first 8 weeks where we thought things would actually have a positive outcome. We didn’t get excited, we didn’t tell anyone outside a couple people in our immediate circle, we just kept it to ourselves. I was on progesterone 3 times a day, estrogen twice a day and a daily blood thinner injection. I felt like a human pin cushion at this point between stims and then lovenox.

On October 2nd 2019 we made the 25 minute drive to the clinic for our 8 week scan. It was a quiet drive, both of us terrified, since we had been in this position before, only to be told nothing was there.

We had been in that position too many times. We have a couple nurses at the clinic who we consider “our nurses” and we were beyond thankful that one of them, Karen, actually requested to be the one there with us. She had shared our ups and downs, she’s made us laugh, she’s kept us sane, so having her in there in those tense moments was a little bit of an added calmness for Aaron and I. Our doctor came in the room, followed by a fellow and a student. I could see the colour drain out of Aaron’s face, the idea of then having to hear all those people tell us they were “sorry for our loss” was what was on his mind, but it’s a teaching clinic and we had been patients there for years so I assume that’s why our appointment was chosen for learning. The next couple minutes seemed like hours, it was pure agony watching the screen as our doctor started the scan. All I could see was that tell-a-tale greyscale of a blurry internal ultrasound, but an eternity later we saw it, our little “rotini pasta” as Aaron calls him. Before our doctor even saw it, I saw the flicker of a heartbeat and the waterworks started. I didn’t know I knew how to cry happy tears.

Even though I am now 25 weeks, and I can feel our little boy moving around most of every day, I am still constantly filled with anxiety and fear. I have all the “what to expect books” but none of those tell people the real stuff, the stuff after you’ve had 3 miscarriages, gone through IVF and are looking for the answer to “is this normal, are my feelings about this normal, am I going crazy”? It breaks my heart most days knowing I am over half way through my pregnancy with our MIRACLE (because he truly is) rainbow baby and I haven’t let myself enjoy more than a couple moments of it. I still panic at each appointment and ultrasound, waiting to be told the worst. I panicked writing this blog thinking somehow it would cause bad things to happen, and I definitely panicked the day we bought our travel system for our little guy because my first thought was how hard it would be, emotionally, if we had to return it. I try and remind myself how far we’ve come, of the milestones we are hitting, how he is growing perfectly, and even with how he was created, there are no signs of issues, but it’s hard. It’s hard to focus on the good and the pure when your experience for over 5 years has been of loss and tears and disappointment. There are still times I try to “forget” I am pregnant, but the bigger he gets (and I get too) it’s hard. I didn’t know a love this pure existed and I am afraid every second of that going away. There’s no guide for dealing with everything honestly, one for after you’ve gone through loss and assisted reproduction. One that tells you, it’s normal to feel terrified, you’ve been through hell and back multiple times. If it wasn’t for my tribe of friends who have been in the trenches with me or the ones who were routing me on from the sidelines I am sure I actually would have become certifiably insane these last 6 months. And if it weren’t for Aaron, who somehow managed to keep some of my crazy at bay and remain hopeful on the days I presumed the worst I definitely truly would have lost my mind.

I wish I was writing a blog about how wonderful and magical pregnancy is when you finally achieve it, but often, for those of us to do experience it after loss, IVF, IUI, or whatever course of treatment you pursued it’s not always that way.

It’s scary and unpredictable and can be filled with constant panic and dread. None of that however means you don’t love or appreciate the miracle growing inside of you, it just means that unlike a lot of the pregnant population, you know just how fragile it all can be. I know now, more than ever how precious life is and how it isn’t always a guarantee, but I will tell you, I am so thankful every day to our clinic for making any of this possible, and I hope that when the next couple is in the position Aaron and I were in in August that they can find some reassurance in the fact that against all odds, good things can happen.

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