***May 7-13, 2017 is Canadian Infertility Awareness Week and the theme this year is "Out in the Open: Tell Us Your Story". I am taking part by sharing stories from people who have experienced infertility first hand. Did you know that 1 in 6 couples experience some form of infertility? Help break the silence and raise awareness by sharing these posts on social media or with friends and family. For more information about CIAW, please click here. This post is the third in my 2017 CIAW "Out in the Open: Tell Us Your Story" series. To see more stories, scroll to the bottom of this page for links.***
I've thought about sharing my story, but it never seemed like the right time. I know that as I have been dealing with secondary infertility the most helpful and encouraging thing has been to hear others' stories, so when I was asked to write this blog I knew I should.
In July 2013, my husband and I learned we were pregnant with our first child. It had taken us 6 months to get pregnant but we had been able to conceive naturally. Throughout my pregnancy I experienced severe cystic acne which left my face raw and it could not be treated properly because I was pregnant. I hid from friends and family as much as possible and was not comfortable having any pregnancy photos taken. In February 2014 our son arrived 4 weeks early and after 3 days in the NICU we were sent home. Life with a newborn was everything I thought it would be except WAY more exhausting.
Fast forward a year and I was heading back to work with the hope to be off on another maternity leave very soon. We tried for 3 months and in October 2015 learned we were pregnant with our second child. Everything seemed to be going as planned. I was so excited and I vowed to appreciate this pregnancy because the acne I had previously experienced had removed much of the joy from my first pregnancy. In November we took our annual trip to Disney with our extended family and we had a shirt made for me with Mickey ears printed over my belly that said "Arriving June 2016." Our family was thrilled and we all had our picture taken with the "Big Cheese." On that trip I began spotting despite avoiding all rides that moved faster than It's a Small World. I called my midwife and she said not to be concerned unless my bleeding was filling a whole pad in an hour. Phew. I was only spotting a little.
Two days after we got home we had our 12 week ultrasound. The doctor only had to put the ultrasound wand on my abdomen for about 0.01 seconds before he said, "That's not what we want to see." I was so in shock all I said was, "OK." He said to my husband and I that the fetus hadn't developed and there was no heartbeat. He gave us some time to compose ourselves and to be alone. Then he moved us into another room to tell us our options. Because my body had not naturally miscarried I could have a D&C or take a pill. We chose the pill and went home. I took the pills over the weekend and they didn't work. I had to wait until Monday to call the doctor about a second dose. After taking the second dose I began to miscarry my baby. I felt numb. None of it felt real and it was a couple days before I was able to cry.
I returned to work three days later and tried to carry on, but it was so much harder than I could have imagined. There were pregnant women everywhere and each holiday or "should have been" milestone was crushing. Many supportive things were said to me as were very many hurtful things. The hardest part for me to grapple with was feeling grateful for my son, but still feeling the immense loss of my baby. People would say, "At least you have your son," or, "Don't worry, you had one healthy child, you'll be able to have another." While I know I am so blessed to have a son, having him did not reduce the pain I felt from my loss. I had still hoped and prayed for another child and that child was now gone.
We started trying to conceive again six weeks after our miscarriage and it is now a year and a half later. We have not been able to get pregnant again. My cycles have been beyond irregular since the miscarriage and I have been seeing a fertility specialist and a naturopath to get some help.
Many acquaintances have been saying, "It's time for another," or "When are you going to give your son a sibling?" These statements are so hard to handle because I know people mean well, and believe me- I want to give my son a sibling, but I don't know if that will be possible. I have begun to seek out others who have experienced pregnancy loss or infertility and it has been wonderful to have others to talk to. Infertility can feel so isolating, whether you already have another child or not, but it is often difficult to feel like you fit when experiencing secondary infertility. Those who have only experienced healthy full-term pregnancies do not understand the loss and those who have experienced pregnancy loss would give anything to have one child which can make someone going through secondary infertility cautious to share their story. One kind friend who does not have children and who has experienced pregnancy loss and infertility recently surmised that although our stories are all different we all share the common pain of not having the family that we had wanted. Whether I am able to get pregnant again or not, my children will never be as close in age as I would have hoped and I may never be able to have 3 or 4 children. We all experience our loss, grief and pain differently, but we are stronger when we share that pain together.
If you are someone who has been blessed not to experience pregnancy loss or infertility and so feel like you can't relate or don't know what to say to those who have, I would say to you that you don't have to have the right words, just remember to ask how they are doing occasionally and do not forget about them. Your friend or family member's feelings of anger, grief and pain may last much longer than you (or they) thought. If someone wants space they will tell you, but it is much harder for them to reach out in the first place than for them to tell you thanks, but I'm not ready to talk.
As I continue along this journey I am honoured to have been able to hear the stories of other women experiencing their own journeys and I have been blessed by their strength and willingness to share. I hope and pray that my story will encourage you in whatever trials you may be facing.
2017 CIAW "Out in the Open: Tell Us Your Story" Series
2017 CIAW "Out in the Open: Tell Us Your Story" Series