Grow Through What You Go Through (a personal blog post)
It’s astounding how joy and pain, hope and fear, and grief and healing, can all grow and entwine themselves together; entangling their vines as they take root in your heart.
I would like to share what has been on my heart for a while. It’s been hard, but I’ve come to the point where I’m ready to share, and in doing so, hopefully help others in a similar position. Additionally, it only feels right that with the announcement of our current pregnancy, that we give tribute to the losses that have come before.
My journey is complicated. I am still walking through it and have not yet found myself on the other side of it, so I write this while still healing.
For the last two years, I wanted answers that were out of reach, I felt lost, alone, and isolated. I didn’t know many people going through infertility and recurrent pregnancy loss. Most of the people I knew were able to get pregnant relatively easy, or at least it felt that way. It wasn’t until almost two years into our journey that I finally started connecting with other people going through similar situations. These connections have been just as helpful and meaningful as the doctors themselves. Recently, I realized that if I kept closed off and isolated in my own, I couldn’t help the next person to come along who didn’t know where to turn.
In the last 4 years I have been pregnant 5 times, with just my son here with us on Earth.
Sam was conceived quickly. I had a healthy pregnancy and delivery. Just before his first birthday in July of 2020 we decided to start trying for a sibling for him.
After a few cycles, I knew something was off. I was familiar with tracking ovulation and had normal cycles each month. I went to the OB who said nothing was wrong based on a few quick tests, and to “just relax”. I’m glad I listened to my instincts and went to see a reproductive endocrinologist (RE) doctor because it was there that we discovered through an HCG test, that my fallopian tubes were blocked by polyps (benign) meaning there was no chance of getting pregnant until they were removed.
This discovery took a few months of tests, which included driving us the road an hour or more, every few days. A quick in-and-out surgery cleared the polyps in June 2021, 11 months after we had started trying for another baby.
Wouldn’t you know, right after the surgery, that next cycle, and I was pregnant! We were over the moon and ecstatic that the problem was fixed! We thought, we’ve waited a year for this moment, we just want to enjoy this time and be thankful and happy.
We had Sam’s second birthday, where we told our family, and then got ready to head to the beach for a family reunion with relatives we hadn’t seen in a while because of covid. We got to the beach, and on the second night I woke up and instantly knew I was having a miscarriage. I waited out the process from the hotel, but it was too painful, so we went home. We were upset, surprised and confused.
After the miscarriage, we decided to wait before trying again. Well, that was short lived because without trying we were pregnant again on my next cycle! When I found out I was pregnant only a few weeks after having a miscarriage, I was terrified. I started looking up statistics, but realized the odds were in my favor, and lightened up a bit. Miscarriage was common, especially at our ages, but reoccurring miscarriage was rare, even at our ages (34 and 33 at the time).
After my first blood draw was high enough to schedule an ultrasound, I was ecstatic. I had an ultrasound and the baby had a beautiful heartbeat and measured on track. I had a second and third ultrasound weeks later, and everything looked great, she was growing, and her heart rate was on track. Statistically speaking, again, the odds of another miscarriage continued to go down, and I started to relax a bit more with each passing day.
We were pretty open with family and friends, as we had been on this journey for a year and a half already. Just a few days before my 12 week appointment I started spotting, then labor pains started. I was at home, already half prepared for what was to come. This miscarriage was physically more prolonged and painful than the one before. Mentally I was also in shock. We had been far enough along to know that we were having a girl and had just found out that she had Mosaic Trisomy 22 through the NIPT blood test.
Pregnancy loss of any kind, at any stage, is heartbreaking. No matter how it happens. Life is a miracle and life and death itself both bring us to our knees when it is something we care so deeply about.
I was angry and it was just before Christmas and there was no spirit in my soul. I’m writing this now on the same week we lost her last year, as I sit here 14 weeks pregnant with another baby girl, also due in June. This miracle doesn’t make it easier to type these words, and there is still a lot of healing I have left to do, but it gives me more hope than I’ve had in a while. God and the universe works in ways I will never understand and ways that are completely out of my control.
I wish this ended our losses, but there is another. I had turned 35 just after the second miscarriage and statistically speaking was now geriatric (or “elderly” as my recent OB paperwork stated) and time was not on our side if we wanted to have another baby.
It was honest in my heart that despite everything, I was still willing to try for a sibling for Sam. Jake and I both come from big families whom we are very close to (his immediate family and my extended family on both sides).
We went back to the RE doctor, and our maternal fetal medicine doctor who worked together to complete every test for the recurrent loss panel and additional tests to try to understand what might be happening. Jake had some testing done too. We found nothing. All of our tests came back normal. They all agreed that age could be a factor, 34 and 35, and that the rates of miscarriage go up with age.
Even with the amazing, advanced science we have today, there’s equally as much we don’t know. We decided to try again naturally for 6 more months and if we were not successful, we would consider IVF (in-vitro fertilization) with PGT genetic testing.
A few months later, I got a positive on a home pregnancy test. I went to the doctor to do a blood draw and they confirmed the pregnancy. But again, it ended in a loss. The emotional toll of loss after loss, continued to wear me out. It was also a demanding time at work which requires a lot of physical labor. We felt depleted and decided that it was time to consider IVF.
I’ve put more information about IVF with PGT genetic testing in the resources section below, but in a nutshell, it helped us to select embryos that were genetically normal and implant one, thereby reducing the risk of continued miscarriage. This is not the reason for all miscarriages, there are many, but in our case this was the best educated guess.
The process of implanting the embryo was quick (30 mins) and relatively painless. However, the process of retrieving the eggs to get to that step was essentially like having another full-time job for a few months. I spent the summer driving to and from appointments over an hour away, taking multiple timed shots per day (thank you to my husband with the steady hand and patience of a saint), or taking medicine that didn’t make me feel well. To retrieve my eggs, they had to put me under, and the recovery was uncomfortable for a few days after.
We were lucky that our first IVF cycle was successful in September 2022.
IVF doesn’t always work the first time, even when you and your doctor get everything right. We were lucky because we only had two healthy embryos that were viable for transfer of the 14 eggs that were retrieved. This was an interesting result, as many couples have more viable embryos at our ages. This helped me to know that we probably made the right decision to go through with IVF, or we may never have had the chance to give Sam a sibling.
We are only halfway through this 5th pregnancy, and we are not sure what the future holds. While I’m holding my breath, I’m also holding out hope. I’m stronger than I’ve ever been, while still healing. We also have the love and support of our close family and friends. We would not be here if it wasn’t for them, and there persistence through every loss, every surgery, and every shot we had to do to get to this point.
While our journey has been hard, I’m sharing because I want to be a light, a positive voice, and a resource for anyone else on this journey. Even if it feels uncomfortable for me still, I want to be open about it. I think generations after mine are more open and willing to talk, but for my generation we are still quiet when it comes to this kind of vulnerability. It was a few people who were brave enough to open up to me that helped me tremendously through this process.
I’m sharing this on my business page because I do not have another platform to write longform on, and also because when you’re a small business owner and entrepreneur, your life and your work are completely enmeshed. It was hard to work through the pain, in a job that is so physically demanding. When you own a small business there is no calling out of work, even when you’re going through a miscarriage; you push through to get the job done. I got through it thanks to my husband and a group of people who really helped me through those times. If that’s not what a community is in a small business, then I don’t know what is. I hope sharing this does not deter you from our business, but instead helps you understand that companies are run by humans, not machines, and we are not perfect.
For everyone reading this, thank you for taking a moment to hear our story. To anyone going through pregnancy loss or infertility; you are not alone. I can commiserate with you over painful shots, the ups and downs of the emotional rollercoaster, and the feeling of being stuck on a hamster wheel you can’t get off because the clock is ticking; but I try to remember the saying, “the biggest risks offer the biggest rewards.”
Resources. Below is a listing of resources that helped us through this process.
-Journals: Navigating Greif. Additionally, keeping a notebook solely dedicated to IVF was helpful for tracking appointments, data, medicines, procedures, symptoms, etc. It’s a lot to keep track of. Also if you do a second round, it helps to track week by week your symptoms and info.
-Fertility Specialists: Shady Grove Fertility (specifically, we worked with the Waldorf, Rockville, K Street and Annapolis offices) Dr. Kimberly Moon was my doctor. Pros: She’s straightforward and to the point, gives you facts/data/stats on your health and fertility information to make your own decisions.
-Maternal Fetal Medicine, MedStar Health at Brandywine, Dr. Mokhtari. Can’t say enough good things. She called me at 9pm on the night of one of my miscarriages on her way home from work to ask how my doctors appointment went earlier that day and to walk me through the rest of the miscarriage. She called every day that week to check in. I wish she was my doctor for everything.
-Various private Facebook groups. There’s so much information to digest and you only have so much time with your doctors and nursing team, so talking with other people who are going through IVF and the day-to-day changes/ups and downs, is invaluable.
-Insurance: If you live in the state of Maryland and have state insurance, IVF is covered for up to three rounds, which is wonderful. We had federal insurance so had to enroll in the Shared Risk program, which we highly recommend. You pay in full up front for all IVF costs but get a refund if IVF does not lead to a live birth. All fertility testing, surgeries, and procedures up to the point of ART technologies (IVF, IUI) were covered by our federal insurance as part of routine testing, which was nice.
Special thank you to Shelby Watson-Hampton, freelance writer and friend, for helping me edit this post.