“But what if we get pregnant before May?” I asked my then-fiancé when we discussed stopping birth control about three months before our wedding. It was February. I wasn’t sure if I would still fit into my wedding dress at two months pregnant, and I sure didn’t want to risk it. After careful deliberation, we decided to wait until a few weeks before the wedding to stop preventing pregnancy.
And then we waited.
A year later, it seemed silly that we had the conversation about when to prevent pregnancy. It seemed our bodies were doing that well enough on their own. But every month there was a glimmer of hope that ultimately lead to dashed hopes and dreams as my period came again and again. Even if my period was late, I was too afraid to test. Deep in my heart, I knew I wasn’t going to be pregnant. Seeing that stark white test somehow made everything worse.
When the country shut down for the COVID-19 pandemic, I finally decided it was time to seek help. When my OBGYN’s office reopened, I called and got an appointment for early May — over one full calendar year of trying for a baby. When I got there, they told me I had PCOS and that losing weight would help me get pregnant. I lost 50 lbs. from May to November, and it still didn’t help.
Finally, I decided it was time to go to a fertility clinic. I called, and we got in to do our initial testing in February 2021. We got the call a few days later that everything came back normal.
How could this all come back NORMAL?! I didn’t even have PCOS like the OB’s office had theorized. Everything was perfectly normal. Normal people don’t struggle this hard to have a baby. We couldn’t be normal.
In April 2021, two years of trying for a baby, we started fertility treatments. We started with IUI. Round 1 failed. We picked ourselves up and brushed off to try again. Round 2 failed. Third time’s the charm?
In July 2021, we found out our third round of IUI was successful. Our initial beta hCG numbers were great, and we were over the moon. We had planned to tell our parents the following weekend. We finally felt like the wait was worth it, but the universe had different plans.
We found out later that, although we were pregnant, my hCG was not rising appropriately for gestational age. At 6 weeks, we were told to prepare for miscarriage. Although my numbers were still rising, the overwhelming consensus was that they would eventually stop rising and begin to fall. We were going to miscarry our first child before they even had a chance in this world.
We had already paid to go on a vacation the next week, so our doctor said to just go. There was nothing we could do. When the embryo stopped developing, it would pass. I spent the next week crying over the fact that I was finally pregnant, but I wasn’t going to have a baby. Our pregnancy was doomed from the start. On the way home from vacation the next Sunday, I began actively miscarrying. I saw my doctor on Tuesday, and the embryo had passed. I was no longer pregnant. The thought that haunts me to this day is that I birthed the tiny embryo that gave me hope without even knowing when or where I had done so.
Later, my husband and I decided to give our first baby an androgynous name: Quinn. We truly believed the baby was a girl, but we just won’t ever know. All we know is that Quinn was loved so deeply from the moment we knew he or she was there.
We had plenty of support through the worst time of our lives. A friend reached out to Sweet Grace Ministries out of Chambersburg, PA and they sent us a memorial package that I used to create a shadow box for our little Quinn. Friends and family sent us cards and sent messages of sympathy and hope. As closure for our little one, my husband and I got matching memorial tattoos for our baby. The next day, we started our IVF journey. We were still reeling from our loss, but I felt so strongly that our little one was going to ensure that we got our rainbow baby. I needed to keep trying.
IVF was by far the most emotionally and physically draining part of our fertility treatment. I spent a lot of time asking why I had to go through this when other people could just get pregnant. Was IVF even going to be worth it?
On October 9th, we found out that our first retrieval had produced 5 embryos. On the same day, we transferred one with a fresh embryo transfer. I truly had no faith that I would stay pregnant. My husband kept the faith for me, but he couldn’t convince me to remain positive for very long. One day before our first beta test, I took a home pregnancy test at 6am before my husband was awake.
Oh my God! Two pink lines!
Oh my God. Two pink lines.
The excitement turned to fear that quickly. I had been here before. We knew how it ended. I held my breath through the first beta: 124. I waited with anxiety for my second beta: 350. The fertility clinic called to tell me that the rise was good enough that they didn’t need a third beta, but to come in for an ultrasound two weeks later. Two weeks was an eternity.
We went to the appointment. I held my breath when the doctor came in. When he began the ultrasound, I closed my eyes. I couldn’t look and see my fear had come true: this pregnancy also failed. But, to my great surprise, there was a grain-of-rice-sized embryo with a heartbeat on the screen. The doctor congratulated us on his way out and said he’d see us again in two more weeks.
The moment he closed the door, I started sobbing. We did it. After nearly three years of unexplained infertility, we finally were pregnant with a baby. A baby with a heartbeat. A baby with a chance.
The anxiety never left, though. Once you suffer a loss, you know that you cannot take anything for granted. Each scan I held my breath until I saw a heartbeat. At 8 weeks, my first words with the baby on the screen were “oh thank god, it’s grown.” I still feel that at every appointment.
Pregnancy after loss has changed a lot of things for us. It is never “when” when we talk about our little man, but “if.” Even when we hit viability and the third trimester, it still didn’t feel like it was quite a sure thing. Maybe 80%, but never a sure thing. Every appointment we have I obsess over the results. Is this measurement too small? Too big? Is he okay right now? Is he going to be okay?
I don’t know those answers. I just have to have hope that our angel baby is keeping a good eye on their little brother.
For the other mamas out there struggling with infertility and loss, it’s okay not to be okay. It’s okay to question why this is happening to you. It’s okay to be okay one day and sad the next. Grief isn’t the same for everyone. Some days the pain hurts a little less; others it hurts a little more. You are NOT broken and no matter what kind of day you are having — there is always room for hope.
Our rainbow baby boy, Jude Thomas, was born safely on 6/15/22.
Photos taken by A Little Contrast.
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