I’d be lying if I said that this post didn’t take a long time to write. This story is no doubt a painful one, and putting it into words to share with the world makes it all the more real. As easy as it would be to pretend that getting—and staying—pregnant was carefree and fun like it is for so many, it just wasn’t that way for us. Instead, it was a long journey, filled with a lot of heartbreak.
Since the beginning of my being, I can remember wanting children. Don’t get me wrong: I was never the girl who planned her life around getting married and settling down. I was more concerned about school and my career, but the thought never crossed my mind that I wouldn’t be able to have my own kids one day.
After Trevor and I got married, we didn’t immediately start trying for a family. Instead, we focused on traveling, spending time as a newly married couple, and really enjoying life without too many responsibilities. We weren’t ready to give up those late nights, last minute travel plans and overall freedom. A little while before I turned 30, though, we finally decided we were ready. I couldn’t believe that we’d come this far together, and was beyond excited about our future.
Sadly, month after month would pass us by without result. Days became focused on ovulation kits, imagined pregnancy symptoms, stress, sadness and always a negative pregnancy test. Gosh, if I could count the number of tests I took…
As quickly as I may brush over that year of us trying now, it didn’t pass quickly at all. Each month was more painful and stressful than the last. We started how everyone does “not not trying” so we didn’t put any unnecessary pressure on ourselves. That quickly turned into “trying trying.” The ovulation kits were ordered, the app’s were downloaded, my diet was altered and it quickly became something else entirely. I was consumed by the lack of result each month and was mentally counting down the minutes till my biggest fear came true, an infertility diagnosis. Every possibility and form of guilt rushes through your head day after day: “Should I have waited this long?” “Why did I put my career first?” “This is definitely an egg problem!”
The most essential part of you feels broken and you don’t know why.
With time, I have come to learn that this isolating experience is a lot more common than my heartbroken self could have ever realized. At the time of our diagnosis, we were not ready to shout it from the rooftops. We were filled with a lot of mixed emotions, and opening our story up to the world would have meant dealing with things we hadn’t even faced ourselves.
Trevor and I both decided recently that it was important for us to be open and honest about our journey. People so often feel alone when experiencing fertility issues, and it doesn’t have to be that way. We personally found so much solace and encouragement in meeting and talking to other couples going through similar struggles, so I’m happy to share our story.
After trying for a full year, I knew my suspicions were right. I felt like there was constantly something wrong with me while everyone around me had no problem getting pregnant. I would smile through baby showers and phone calls from friends announcing their happy news, and cry my eyes out afterwards. Let’s not even get started on the Facebook and social media announcements. It’s not that I wasn’t happy for them; I just couldn’t process why it couldn’t be us, too. Hoping that it was all just a bad dream, we decided to make an initial appointment at the best fertility clinic we could find in Chicago.
While that first appointment was met with anxiety and stress, all of our tests came back “normal” and we were briefly relieved. Then, I heard a few words I’ll never forget:
“We don’t know why you’re not getting pregnant, but you’re not. So you may want to try something.”
This advice along with the doctor’s tone gave me all the answers I needed. Something was wrong and they just didn’t know how to fix it. These “good” results placed us in the dreaded “unexplained infertility” category. For us, it was hard to wrap our heads around what may be the proper solution when we had no clear idea of what the actual problem was. And since our insurance was through Trevor’s job and the hospital he worked for was a Jesuit institution, fertility treatments were not covered.
Our doctor recommended trying a round of intrauterine insemination, otherwise known as IUI. And since it was vastly cheaper than most of our other options, we decided to give it a go. The process was relatively easy: I had labs drawn, took a few pills, gave myself one trigger injection, and returned to the office for a quick 10-minute procedure.
Two weeks later, much to our surprise, we found out that I was pregnant! We couldn’t believe it and felt like we had cheated the infertility beast. How could this have happened the first time? How had we been so lucky?!
Following the positive test, I had to return to the office every other day for lab work to monitor my HCG levels for about two weeks. I quickly learned that fertility treatments are made even cruel by the constant monitoring that’s required. Each test result gave us more to be anxious about. And sadly, after a few days, my levels started to drop off, indicating that something could be wrong. Trevor, who’s a radiologist, tried his best to keep my mind off it, as levels tend to fluctuate. But it was all I could think about. We went back for our eight-week appointment, hopeful that we’d hear a heartbeat. According to our phone app, we knew our baby should be the size of a blueberry, and we just couldn’t wait to see that on the screen.
When the tech put the probe in place, she seemed to have some trouble finding the baby, and I knew immediately that something was up. I’ll never forget Trevor saying, “Blueberry! Everything’s okay, Babe,” when he saw the screen. He soon realized, though, that he was simply looking at the sac. Our baby only measured 5.5 weeks, even though we were at our eight-week appointment, and there was no trace of a heartbeat. A few minutes later, a team of nurses and staff we had never met came in to apologize. They explained that I’d likely suffered from a “missed miscarriage”—a miscarriage that occurs without the usual symptoms, and without expelling the pregnancy. Before the news had sank in, we were walking out of the office in shock, numb from the news, depleted of hope.
The worst part? We needed to wait two long weeks to confirm that a “missed miscarriage” had, in fact, occurred. These were some of the of the hardest weeks of my life. Deep down, I knew I wasn’t pregnant anymore. Yet I was still attached to the life I imagined inside of me.
Finally, though, after two weeks of Trevor trying to distract me and keep me happy it was time to return to that fertility clinic. The doctors confirmed that since there still wasn’t a heartbeat, I had suffered a “missed miscarriage,” and they presented me with two options: I could have a D&C—the dilation and curettage surgical procedure to remove miscarriages—or I could miscarry at home with the help of medicine. For fear of scarring, I chose to miscarry at home.
I’ll never forget that weekend. It was one of the most painful and emotional weekends I’ve ever experienced. As difficult as it was for me physically and emotionally, miscarriage can be a cruel beast for your partner too. They aren’t physically experiencing what you are and all they want is to take the pain away. Trevor has always been a constant source of positive encouragement and support for me, but it often left me wondering how I could ever do that for him? I was in no state to support him and he still never wavered. That man is my everything.
After the miscarriage, I had to return every two weeks to the clinic to have my blood drawn. The doctors wouldn’t discharge me until my HCG fell below “1,” to make sure no debris was left. I’d heard that most women take about a month or so to drop, but it unfortunately took me over five months. Returning to the clinic every two weeks was torturous. However, there was a silver lining to it. We weren’t allowed to try to get pregnant during those five months, so in a way, this time served as the mental break we so badly needed.
Even after those five months, though, Trevor and I decided that we weren’t ready to start trying again. We wanted to get back to living life and loving each other; no more ovulation kits, no more stress, and no more disappointment. Infertility can put a lot of strain on a marriage and often times, it can become the focus of a person’s life. I wanted us to be in a happy and healthy place before we started up again, and we focused on just that.
The next few months were wonderful. We spent time with our families and went on countless date nights, and we truly started to feel human again. Getting pregnant was no longer consuming my thought process and much of the stress slowly started to fade. But Trevor was about to start his fellowship: his last year of speciality training so we decided to sit down with our families to discuss the next steps.
The Chicago clinic just wasn’t for us. We were (and still are) both in healthcare, and well aware of the fact that the clinic wasn’t responsible for our loss. However, it felt cold, impersonal and overcrowded, and our care had been average at best. Infertility can be a very emotional ride and we wanted the smoothest experience and the best help we could find.
After researching on SART (the database that publishes fertility clinic statistics), talking with family and friends, and weighing all options, we decided that CCRM was our next step. The clinic is located in Colorado and was made famous by Giuliana and Bill Rancic but has always been known as one of the best in the country. Its stats were off the charts and its embryology lab was world-renowned. We thought that if we gave CCRM a shot, we’d have peace of mind no matter what the outcome.
One of the biggest hurdles we faced in our battle with infertility was that we were constantly searching for answers we knew we might never find. Whether or not we were destined to have a baby, we never wanted to wonder, “What if we’d tried CCRM?”
Since the clinic is outside of Denver, it required some travel, which was actually kind of nice. We headed out a couple of days before our initial appointment, and made a little trip out of it. We went hiking, out to dinner with friends and explored Denver’s neighborhoods. Then, we had our first appointment at CCRM.
It was such a calming space. Everyone was so friendly, and we immediately felt comfortable and cared for. It was great to chat with other couples going through the same thing, and we loved our doctor. “Love” may even be an understatement. After a full day of more extensive testing than we’d ever had, we headed back to Chicago, full of hope and excited for our next steps.
Thank you so much for making it to the end of this very long and personal post. I’ll be opening up more about our journey to pregnancy next Monday and am always here to talk in the meantime. We are extremely open and honest about our experience and even if we have never met before feel free to send me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org.