Our Journey with Secondary Infertility and Pregnancy Loss
By: Jessie Waddell
I was pretty shocked when we found out we were pregnant for the first time. A family is something we definitely wanted but weren’t actively trying for. I was glad that it happened that way so I didn’t have to make the decision to “try to conceive” but I don’t think my mind was ready for the change that was about to happen to my body, my mind and my life as a whole.
Before having kids, I focused a lot of my life on my appearance. A fit, thin body wasn’t something that just came easy to me. I was constantly striving for the “perfect body” by working out all the time and always making sure my nutrition was on point. After having Noah, I found myself in this body that I didn’t know or like. In my mind I was disgusting and it didn’t matter to me that my body had just made this amazing human. I had this healthy, beautiful little boy that I loved very much but I was miserable. I just wanted my old body and self back.
I didn’t really think my deep depression could have been postpartum. I correlated postpartum with not being able to connect with your baby or wanting to harm your baby and I never felt that way. I loved my baby, I just hated myself. It was the loneliest, scariest time in my life. My husband was wonderful and really tried to help or understand but there was nothing he could do. He said it was so hard loving someone knowing they couldn’t fully love him back. That hurt so much because I knew it was true. I couldn’t give him what he wanted or deserved because I had become a shell of my former self. My mom would tell me I just needed to wake up and decide to be happy and it became a strain on our relationship because she couldn’t understand. I remember asking her, who would ever CHOOSE to feel this way? I have a healthy new baby, a supportive husband and an all around good life and it wasn’t enough. It just added to my self hate because I wanted my new baby and life to be enough.
I finally got my medicine all figured out and I started to enjoy being a mom and a human again. I still had a hard time losing baby weight but I was a little kinder with myself for not getting there.
When we finally came to the decision that we wanted another baby I decided to go to the doctor and just see if she thought I was at an OK weight to have another baby and just to ask questions about postpartum and if it was something I would likely experience again. We were both excited with the head space I was in and she said I was good to have another baby. Later that day my doctor called me and said she wanted to rerun labs because she noticed something in my chart that seemed off. I redid blood work and found out some of my levels were off so she said to try on our own for 6 months and then give her a call if nothing happened. After the first month, I never got my cycle so I called to tell the doctor and it turns out I wasn’t ovulating. That’s where our infertility journey started.
Infertility was such a foreign subject for me. I was the oldest of 5, My mom was the second of 8, my grandma was one of 6 and there were no short of babies in our family. It wasn’t something that I even remotely considered happening to me. We did a few rounds of clomid and after getting the dosage right and my numbers back up, nothing was still happening. We then moved to clomid with ultrasounds and IUI’s. After 6 IUI’s we came to the decision that IVF was our next step. After meeting with the new IVF doctors and doing many more tests we were told we were suffering from unexplained secondary infertility. They really had no reason as to why it wasn’t working other than it was probably somewhere in the fertilization or implantation stages and IVF would be our best option. Secondary infertility is a pretty lonely process to be going through too because we didn’t really “fit” anywhere. People that were experiencing infertility for the first time looked at us as the lucky ones because we at least had one of our own. Then we’d get the typical, “well just stop trying and then it will happen” from people who had never experienced issues at all. It was a hard spot to be in because the guilt that we were going through wasn’t AS bad as what others were going through, but it didn’t make our yearning to add to our family any less.
Its crazy how simultaneously slow and fast time went from there. We hit another road block when we went for my egg retrieval and were told I needed to have cyst removal surgery before we could proceed any further. That surgery was going to put us behind another 6 months, and at that time we had already been in this process for well over a year so 6 more months seemed like an eternity. I found myself really struggling with time because I wanted it to pass by quickly so I could finally start the next step of our process but each day was also this numbing realization how fast time was going with Noah and I wanted to prolong every second of him being little.
We finally got cleared for our egg retrieval and we were given good news with the number and quality of our eggs and embryos. A couple days later we went in and implanted one embryo. Nine days passed and I went in for my hcg levels. They weren’t great and the nurse told me to prepare for a chemical pregnancy. I went back two day later and they told me my levels were more than doubling and we were pregnant! I almost didn’t want to be excited because it didn’t seem real. That pregnancy really never felt real or right from the start and about a week later after doing several more blood tests confirming everything was good, I started to bleed very heavily. I went into the doctor and was told the pregnancy had gone ectopic. The doctor actually told me she needed to consult with other doctors and see what our best plan would be because it was so rare for an IVF pregnancy to be ectopic. I then got the call telling me I needed to do a couple rounds of methotrexate to make sure we were getting everything out of my system.
When I went in for those shots I got the news that I was going to have to wait another 6 months before this toxic medication would be out of my system and I wouldn’t be able to start my next round of IVF until it was all gone and safe. I lost it. I felt so silly for being sad over this embryo that never even implanted correctly or even had a fetal pole. I felt like I couldn’t even relate to those who had suffered in my mind “real” miscarriages or infant loss because it had never gotten the chance to turn into that. I of course already imagined things about this baby and had hoped for this baby to come into our family but I think it was more the loss of hope that I was grieving.
Over the next 6 months, I thought a lot about life and our family. It was the first time in over two years that I wasn’t on any form of added hormones or infertility medication and I had a little mental clarity. Over time it truly became more about wanting a sibling for my son to go through life with than me needing another baby. We decided when the time came we would do one more try and then just be done. I really felt like I had given it everything I could and if we tried one last time with the two embryos we had left and it didn’t work I was going to be OK with that. I felt like I had done everything I could for my son to have a sibling and I was ready one way or another to be done with this journey in my life. If we had another baby, great. If we were going to forever be a family of 3(plus dogs), that was great too.
We went in and implanted our last two embryos. My first numbers came back excellent and continued to be good. We were finally pregnant. I had an ultrasound at 7 weeks to check on the baby or see how many took. I wasn’t surprised when the tech said there were two heart beats because I had been feeling absolutely miserable. (Which, after all that time I had welcomed the miserable feeling) but I was surprised to find out that only one of the embryos took and then split so the babies were actually identical. Just one more rare occurrence on our journey!
We now have three beautiful, amazing children and I still daily find myself in disbelief. I truly couldn’t feel more blessed. I find myself sometimes thinking of the embryos we had lost. I wonder what gender they were or what they would have looked like. But mostly I’m just so thankful for everything we have been given in this life. I feel like I have a new appreciation for life and I try to not take anything for granted, especially with my kids.
I still have some demons and I am in no means a perfect parent, but holy cow I LOVE my kids. Any time I get down about my body or looks, I just try to remind myself that it looks this way because I was able to carry my own babies in my body and that really is a gift that not everyone is given.