Jenna’s Story

After over a year of trying to conceive naturally, my OBGYN suggested we try IUI. We did 4 IUI cycles with her before she recommended we move on to see a fertility specialist, who then tried 2 more IUI cycles before ultimately recommending IVF. We proceeded with IVF and that was an absolute rollercoaster. We went from the high of a fruitful egg retrieval, to an above average number of eggs fertilized. Then we were suddenly rocked to learn on day 3 that our embryos weren’t looking great, and that we needed to brace ourselves for the possibility of nothing viable to transfer. This was our first taste of what we believed to be absolute heartbreak. So naïve. By some miracle, we ended up having 3 viable embryos on day 5. Those 2 days felt like an eternity then. Only 2 of those embryos ended up being good for transfer, so we thawed and transferred one and began our 2 week wait. We were floored to learn at the end of it that we were pregnant (spoiler: this one ends well, don’t worry).

My first pregnancy was absolutely perfect. A dream pregnancy, our daughter’s heart was strong, it was a smooth pregnancy for me, and I loved, loved, loved being pregnant. I was that annoyingly perky pregnant lady with the basketball belly. Every symptom, pain, and emotion was a blessing and trivial after our journey, and I wouldn’t have traded a moment of it. We were blessed to welcome a healthy baby girl into this world, who is 4 years old today. There are no words to express the gratitude I have for this ending, especially during this month that is intended to recognize and normalize being open about pregnancy and infant loss. 

Unfortunately, I became entitled and took this for granted as time passed. When my girl was over a year old and I’d finished breastfeeding her, I anxiously awaited the return of my period so I could immediately get started on another frozen embryo transfer with the one we still had waiting from our first round. I remember going into that transfer so cocky and overly confident, as though I had some control of the situation. I felt like after what we’d been through to get to our daughter, we were owed this one working too. And why not, the first one when so smoothly after all. Clearly, this would just work. Seriously, so entitled, I want to go back in time and shake my silly self!

That transfer didn’t work. It was a chemical pregnancy. We went back to square one of IVF with a new retrieval that was nearly as tumultuous as the first IVF round. So many hormones. So many emotions.  So much crying. This second retrieval round resulted in 2 more transfers, a negative pregnancy test and then a big fat positive! My numbers and the pregnancy seemed to be progressing just fine, so around 6 weeks we took some “big sister to be” pictures at the Arboretum (my happy place) and went into the doctor’s office a few days later to hear the heartbeat!

There was nothing. No heartbeat. No gestational sac. No baby.

My body thought it was pregnant, but nothing was actually progressing.

We were completely blindsided and emotional wrecks in the office. Turns out to have been a blighted ovum. My first miscarriage. And again, what I thought would be the lowest moment in my fertility journey. The doctor sent us home to wait for the miscarriage to physically occur, and it was such a non-event. Our grieving had all but processed in the intense days following that appointment, so when we were out to lunch at a local pizzeria with our daughter, I didn’t think much of going to the restroom for what I had misidentified as gas pains, and miscarried into a public toilet. It just felt like a really heavy period had come on, so I moved on with our day. 

This sounds so crass and callous, and I think it was some strange coping mechanism, to be honest. I still can’t quite understand how I walked back out to lunch a little miffed and in pain, but otherwise seemingly oblivious to the magnitude of what had just occurred. I didn’t even explain it to my husband until a little later. It was an almost out of body experience.

After that, we took only one month off from fertility treatments before beginning another round of IVF. This retrieval resulted in two more embryo transfers. One chemical and one negative. And we were done. This was 5 embryo transfers in total in trying to have another child, and that felt like all we needed to do. I felt like I was missing out on watching my daughter grow up. Like I wasn’t the mother she had had before and deserved to have still. That little ray of sunshine deserved my all and wasn’t getting even half of it.

So, we ended treatment and set out on rebuilding ourselves, our relationships, and our home routine.  And we did, well. Very well actually. My husband and I are among the lucky people that grew closer together during all this, rather than drifting apart or having a wedge driven in, and I can’t believe how lucky I am for that. I’ve seen other marriages stripped to the bone over fertility treatments and miscarriages, and I just thank God for my husband. He was always by my side and continues to be an amazing man and father.

About 6 months after the last treatment, he and I suddenly reopened the conversation of IVF randomly.  Independently, we had both realized how happy we were again, and how stable everything was. And thought to ourselves that maybe, since we were removed from the despair, stress, and general unpleasantries of fertility treatment, maybe a new round of IVF with our back-to-normal selves would have better chances. One last Hail Mary because now we knew with certainty that we could be happy regardless of the outcome of giving birth at the end of it all or not.

Thus, we embarked on our 4th and final egg retrieval. It didn’t go great. It resulted in one kind of medium to good graded embryo and after discussion with the doctor, we decided to go ahead and do a fresh transfer, rather than freezing like we had with the previous 6 embryos.

It worked! We were pregnant again!

The pregnancy progressed just as it should, and we went into the doctor and saw our little fetus, undersized by a little bit, but otherwise growing and progressing. Our very prudent fertility specialist (RE) warned us that it was very early in the pregnancy to be off track at all, so we should try to remain cautiously optimistic because the sonogram coming up in 2 weeks, would be the real tell, and that he suspected we may be met with no heartbeat at that point.

We returned 2 weeks later praying to hear the heartbeat, unbelievably nervous, and did hear one! We were over the moon! But our excitement was very short lived. The sweet sonographer saw our excitement at hearing our baby’s heartbeat, and warned us that it was not in fact healthy. The heartbeat was wildly irregular, and she called in the RE. As soon as he entered the room, we could tell that this was his “worst case scenario” for us. After all, we have seen this man for years now, been through a lot together, and had what felt to be a very personal relationship with him. So he read like a book in our eyes. We could see it all on his face. The disappointment at having had a heartbeat, that he knew wouldn’t last. We could see that he had hoped that there would be none at this appointment so we would know how to face it, and not experience knowing that our baby still lived, but had a limit.

I went cold, like I stopped seeing the world around me. I had no tears. No anger. Almost no emotion besides wanting to hug this man, this professional, who surely sees this more than he’d like to, and feeling like I had selfishly just caused him, and the love of my life man beside me the most unnecessary pain. We were happy. Why did a Hail Mary even come to mind? And why were we so naïve as to think that a blighted ovum could be the worst thing we could face in doing IVF again?

The doctor informed me that it would likely take a while to pass naturally, and would be painful, and asked me if I wanted a D&C, but I refused. I thought, after all the surgeries to have this baby in the first place, I at least owed myself and it, a natural exit from this world.

As open as I am about things, I can still barely talk about the physical miscarriage that I waited forever to occur. I thought it was be a simple non-event, like before, but again, I was so very wrong. (see a pattern here?) Our second child passed from my body just as it should physically, but mentally, it was like I was slapped awake and disoriented in a deep dark pit. I lost my ever-loving mind as I salvaged the remains of our child for my husband to deliver to the crematorium the next day. 

That fall, I met true depression. The kind that swallows you so completely that your whole world is dark, and crying becomes more routine than laughing. I was someone else. And I was once again unrecognizable from that mother and wife that I wanted to be. And too blind in my own darkness to realize than the man I love was also shrouded in shadows, and in a deep dark pit all his own. We were no longer a team. Not against each other either. Just shadows of ourselves occupying a similar space.

So we got help. We both got therapists, and I asked my OBGYN how soon I could get back on birth control. I needed to slam that door shut. But she advised me that she didn’t believe that I would be happy with that decision, and to consider waiting until I got my head right before making any life decisions. From one little annual checkup she recognized how depressed I was and just short of refused me the BC I’d asked for and instead asked me to consider that I might be depressed, and that a prescription for that might help. I left the office thinking she had overstepped to be honest, but slept on it that night, and called her back the next morning to say that she was absolutely right. I wanted the antidepressant, but not the birth control pills.

Slowly but surely, I came back to being me, and my husband and I came back to being us. And we were that loving couple, raising our beautiful 3-year-old daughter again. I hate that “lost time”, but I think it took all of that for me to realize how great God’s love is. It took the deepest pit of despair I’d yet to face, and so many friends and family and even doctors who wouldn’t give up on me, and the love and determination of the man I love to be “us” again for me to recognize the true value of the blessings the Lord had given me. He granted me that amazing man, and my perfect daughter, and all these angels in my life. I could finally see all of that and stop wanting for what I felt was missing. We were complete, and content with being done growing our family, and started really embracing our loving community once more.

Life continued on uneventfully for a little while, and in the spring I got the flu and just as I was getting better, I decided that as soon as my cycle came around again, I would ask my OBGYN again for a birth control prescription…but, wow, it had been some time since my last cycle, hadn’t it… let me check…OMG 5 weeks! That’s late, even for me! And you know, I finished Tamiflu and still wasn’t feeling 100% yet. Huh, strange, but my body’s always misbehaving.

None the less, I grabbed a digital pregnancy test the next day at the store, just so I could quell any rising excitement (and thus potential anxiety). I mean, clearly that wasn’t even in the realm of possibility. We were done, we had just rearranged finances and our life plans to settle happily into our family of 3, and were so happy with it. 

Looking at that display screen reading “pregnant” I laughed to myself and thought “goodness Jenna, you would get a defective one.” I set it down on the counter wondering why the word “pregnant” showed up so clearly, but I couldn’t see the “not” above it. I must have picked that thing up 3 more times anticipating the “not” to appear above the word “pregnant.” But it didn’t. I was pregnant. By the grace of God, or his odd humor (I’m still not sure which), we were expecting a baby. Conceived quite by surprise, and naturally. Who would have thought?! 

Thank you God for our Rainbow Baby, we can’t wait to welcome little sister into this world on Election Day 2020.

Jenna wears a pink dress and the rainbow skirt.  There is a small waterfall in the background.

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