Marrying My Best Friend
“David and I got married on October 13, 2013. It was truly the most beautiful day I could ever imagine. The weather was perfect, the grass could not have been greener, and the sun pierced through the clouds and shone down on David and me as an eagle literally flew above us as we said our vows to love one another forever.
We were young, in love, and pregnant with hopes and dreams for what we imagined our future together would entail. We dreamed of traveling the world, pursuing our passions, and ultimately bringing children into the world. We thought we would enjoy 3-5 years of newlywed married adventures before trying to start a family. We could have never imagined the journey through the desert that would begin just 6 months later as we conceived and miscarried our first child.
Finding Out I Was Pregnant
We found out we were pregnant in March 2014. I was on birth control pills at the time, but I remember feeling different. Something in me just knew. I went to the store by myself and bought a pregnancy test. I took it, and I remember sitting on the toilet watching the test and my heart was racing. I felt nauseated when I saw two pink lines instantly come up. I probably sat on the toilet for 10 minutes, staring at the positive test until my legs went completely numb. This was not a part of our plan. We had been married less than 6 months and both of us were still in college. I went to the store a second time and this time I bought a digital pregnancy test. When I got home, I took the test and the word ‘Pregnant’ showed up on the screen. My heart started racing again and the tears started to come. I went outside where David was with our dog Layla and told him, ‘I just took a pregnancy test. It’s positive.’ And immediately started crying. He just hugged me, and we cried together. Although we were both beyond terrified and nervous to be parents, we had so much love for this little one I was carrying.
We expected to have a drama-free pregnancy ending with a beautiful baby 9 months later. We went to Barnes and Noble that weekend and bought a book of baby names and an illustrated book on Pregnancy Day by Day. We read the book every day together and excitedly learned what was happening in my body and how our tiny baby was developing and growing every day. We happily told our friends and families we were pregnant and scheduled our first doctor’s appointment. What we naively imagined would be a beautiful adventure of life in abundance, turned into a journey through a seemingly unending desert carrying a burden heavier than we could have ever imagined. Eight and a half weeks into the pregnancy, I had some mild bleeding and cramping. David and I decided to go to the doctor as a precaution. He did a quick exam and an ultrasound, and we saw the most beautiful, tiniest flickering little heartbeat and our precious little baby snuggled perfectly right where they should be. The doctor told us ‘everything looks perfect!’ and I was relieved to learn that bleeding and cramping in early pregnancy can be extremely common. I went home expecting things to be OK.
Experiencing Recurrent Pregnancy Loss
The next day I went to work and started having contractions and bleeding heavily. I left work early. I almost couldn’t drive home the pain was so bad. I knew what was happening, but I didn’t want to believe it. When I got home, I got in the bathtub while having contractions and David read some of my favorite book, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, to me. I started to feel better and the cramps subsided. I stood up and it was clear the miscarriage had happened. No one really prepares you for what a miscarriage is. I knew cramps and bleeding were involved, but I was nowhere near prepared for the reality and trauma of what it entailed. We were finally able to see our doctor a few days later, and the doctor confirmed we had a complete miscarriage. Everything was gone, and my uterus was completely empty. It felt like my heart had been ripped right out of my chest.
My doctor diagnosed the loss as a ‘spontaneous abortion’ and told us that most likely it was just a fluke and that our next pregnancy would be perfectly healthy and normal. After all, we were young and perfectly healthy. Unfortunately, our hope was crushed again 5 months later in October 2014 when our second pregnancy ended the same way at 7 weeks. At this point, our doctor referred us to start seeing a Reproductive Endocrinologist for infertility.
The most difficult part of looking back on that six-month period in our first year of marriage is grieving the loss of the beauty of the innocence of that season in our life. The bliss of talks and dreams about one day growing our family. The expectation to plan for a baby after seeing two pink lines on our first pregnancy test. Recurrent Pregnancy Loss is a heartbreaking infertility diagnosis I would not wish upon my worst enemy. Never in a million years did I ever imagine we would be ‘that couple’… that couple who finds themselves in the unfortunate ‘less than 1% of all couples’ statistic. Yet there we were.
Since May 2014, David and I have been pregnant 8 times. We miscarried our third baby in June 2015 just one day after a positive pregnancy test and then our fourth in October 2015, the week after our second wedding anniversary. We found out we were pregnant for the 5th time in January 2016. We were terrified and very cautious, but also felt a glimmer of hope and even excitement that maybe things would finally work out for us because our doctor really believed in the infertility treatment protocol we were following. Unfortunately, some familiar symptoms of doom and gloom reared their ugly head and after several blood tests and an early ultrasound, my doctor diagnosed the pregnancy as ectopic and said the baby was growing in the wrong place. We should have seen the baby in my uterus, but instead, they were in my right fallopian tube. David and I found ourselves once more landing in another unfortunate ‘less than 2% of all couples’ statistic. An ectopic pregnancy can be fatal for the mother if the tube ruptures because a ruptured fallopian tube can cause massive amounts of internal bleeding. I was scheduled for emergency surgery to terminate the pregnancy and remove the baby and my right fallopian tube, because it had sustained too much damage to be able to function properly in the future.
After the surgery we doubted getting pregnant naturally would be an easy option for us. Month after month we pursued timed ovulation natural cycles, and every month I ovulated on my right side, which of course, was the side with no fallopian tube. Yet somehow, we conceived in July 2016. Unfortunately, we miscarried again in August. The whirlwind of emotions with our sixth loss was unreal. Sadness, anger, confusion, resentment, numbness, bitterness, hopelessness, shame, guilt. What is wrong with me? What am I doing wrong? Why does my body keep failing me? What did I do to deserve this? Where is the light at the end of this dark tunnel? Why me?
Going Through With IVF
At this point, the miscarriages have been spontaneous and so early that the doctor hadn’t been able to do any testing on the babies, or ‘products of conception,’ as the doctors so affectionately call them. Our fertility specialist had a theory that despite David and I both having normal genetic karyotypes, some couples for whatever reason create embryos that are more susceptible to chromosomal abnormalities. Our doctor recommended IVF with PGS (pre-implantation genetic screening). This was a big step for us, but we felt it was right.
I will never forget when the packages containing my medication arrived on our doorstep. It was boxes and boxes and boxes of medications. Needles, vials, some required refrigeration, some did not. Then there were the pills I had to pick up at my local pharmacy. I laid it all out on my kitchen counter and it completely covered my large island. We had a great response to the treatment and scheduled our frozen embryo transfer in March 2017. Unfortunately, we miscarried again. A perfectly healthy, genetically normal baby girl. Now I knew for sure. The problem wasn’t that there was something wrong with our babies. The problem was there was something wrong with my body and its ability to sustain a pregnancy. There was something wrong with me.
After our 7th pregnancy loss, I began to observe how little I knew about true grief despite having endured so many repeated losses over a 3-year period. I buried my emotions. I didn’t know how to sit with them. I didn’t know how to feel them. I certainly didn’t know how to share them. Feeling anything at all was terrifying because it brought the experience of death and loss right back compounded 7 times over. I felt numb, I felt exhausted, and I felt overwhelmingly terrified I would never learn how to hope or dream again. The innocence of elated excitement paired with the slight fear and panic of preparing for a baby 9 months after seeing two little pink lines on a pregnancy test had been stolen and replaced with dread, paralyzing horror, and preparation for another loss when seeing those terrifying pink lines on a pregnancy test. The anxiety crippled me with fear every time I had to use the bathroom in the middle of the night to the point where I would bargain with myself if I could just hold it until morning, until David was awake and could be with me in the bathroom, just in case there was blood.
Experiencing An Ectopic Pregnancy
We found out we were pregnant for the 8th time in mid-January of 2018. We hadn’t been trying to get pregnant and haven’t done any fertility treatments. The HCG levels started off low, but they continued to surprise us and rise appropriately for several weeks until the doctors felt like things were progressing well. We stopped checking levels and booked an ultrasound for late January where we expected to see a 6-week baby. I showed up for my appointment and the ultrasound showed nothing in my uterus. It was completely empty. We rechecked the levels and they were still rising and doubling appropriately. Due to our history of having an ectopic pregnancy and the findings of the ultrasound and blood work, our doctor greatly suspected another ectopic pregnancy. We were sent home for the day and were instructed to come back a few days later, on my husband’s birthday. When we went to the doctor, we received familiar bad news, but still no answers. When we went home I tried to hold my emotions together as I wrapped my husband’s birthday gifts in silence in the empty nursery. It was supposed to be a day of celebration, but instead, we both just tried to push through and keep from falling completely apart amid incredible grief.
When we went back to the doctor a few days later, we were faced with an incredibly difficult decision to ‘treat’ the ectopic pregnancy with Methotrexate. ‘Treat’ is another word for terminate in this situation. I decided to take the Methotrexate injection, which is a chemotherapy treatment to prevent further growth in rapidly dividing cells. It is 90% effective at ‘treating’ an ectopic pregnancy. This drug is not without side effects, and I began experiencing many symptoms including fatigue, weakness, nausea, and skin peeling on my hands and feet.
Despite the odds, the Methotrexate was unsuccessful and our little fighter continued to grow. When I went back to the doctor, my HCG levels had risen to a dangerously high level and I was strongly encouraged to get another Methotrexate injection. Something in my gut didn’t feel right about taking a second injection, so I refused without having more information about what was going on in my body. I pushed the doctors for another ultrasound, determined to locate where this pregnancy was in my body. I wanted to see my baby. The doctor agreed to another ultrasound but didn’t expect to find anything. The ultrasound tech looked in my uterus and around my ovaries again and didn’t find anything. I pushed her to keep looking. At this point, the doctor turned from the screen to look at me and explain that sometimes we don’t see anything on the ultrasound but that he still strongly recommended another Methotrexate injection. The ultrasound tech interrupted and said, ‘Wait, what’s that?’ The doctor turned back towards the screen and I saw our little baby for the first time. I instantly wept as I saw a tiny little heartbeat flickering away on the screen. The baby was measuring 8 weeks along and had grown so much that my fallopian tube had displaced to an odd location. There was a pool of blood surrounding the pregnancy. My doctor explained it was now medically necessary to take me immediately to surgery due to the size and location of the pregnancy and risk to my health. I asked the ultrasound tech if she would print a picture of the baby for me, and the doctor immediately left to cancel the remainder of his afternoon appointments and begin preparing for emergency surgery.
I remember every detail of the ultrasound room. The color of the walls. The decorative mobile hanging from the ceiling above me. The cold gel and the ultrasound probe. The flickering heartbeat on the screen. Signing that consent form is probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
In all honesty, this time last year was the darkest season of my life. I lost my 8th child and my hope of ever conceiving naturally again. The hopes, desires, and expectations I had for the future felt like they were being torn away and it left me feeling more broken and vulnerable than I had ever felt before. But I learned I couldn’t…no, I wouldn’t, run away from the reality of these emotions.
My husband and I decided to take a break from family building/planning after our ectopic pregnancy last February. We aren’t giving up, but we needed time to heal. Time to heal that we hadn’t really taken before. I decided I needed to figure out how to learn to love my body again and celebrate the incredible things it can do, even if pregnancy wasn’t one of them. Despite the many pregnancies, losses, treatments, and surgeries my body has endured over the last 5 years, I knew deep down it was still incredibly strong and incredibly capable. My baby taught me that.
Getting Into A Cycling Accident
After the wounds of the surgery healed, I signed up to do my first ever triathlon. I couldn’t tell you the last time I had run, cycled, or swam before I made this decision. Working out had not been a priority or a part of my daily lifestyle. I knew it would be hard and would challenge my physically, but triathlon training wasn’t what I expected. It’s not that I expected it to be easy, but I did anticipate things would fall into place with a little bit of hard work and commitment – like most things in life. Instead, three weeks into training I had a cycling accident that resulted in a concussion, a need for stitches, a broken bone, a nasal surgery, and a ton of road rash in between.
I nearly quit training after that. But then I remembered my ‘why,’ the reason I decided to train in the first place. I wanted to rise strong, overcome adversity, and to persevere and finish the race. My child was resilient, I could be too. I picked myself up off the pavement, allowed time for the wounds to heal and fade to scars, and got back on the bicycle. The race took on even more meaning for me and I not only finished the triathlon, but came in second in my age group!
But of course, this isn’t one of those ‘I can do all things [like win triathlons] through Christ who strengthens me’ kind of stories. The reality is, few things work out the way we think it will. The ‘Prosperity Gospel’ is a sham. We don’t know the race marked out for us, we don’t know what we will have to persevere through, we don’t always foresee the darkness, depression, and anxiety that will hit us in the face harder than concrete.
Remaining Resilient After Loss
Triathlon training taught me many things, but above all, it’s taught me to celebrate the amazing and incredible strength of my body. Some days, I feel energized and completely invincible. Other days, my joints ache and I feel completely drained. But today, no matter what I’m feeling, I’ve gotten stronger and have already achieved goals for myself I wasn’t sure were possible a year ago. Training is a daily journey of consistently showing up and accepting myself, my feelings, my flaws, and my shortcomings while also challenging myself to push my limits and challenge negative beliefs about myself and my future. Each day I’m becoming a better, stronger, more resilient version of myself than I was yesterday.
Recurrent pregnancy loss isn’t the end of my story, and I don’t need to wait for my circumstances to change to run the race in front of me and play the cards I’ve been dealt. My story doesn’t define me, and my circumstances don’t change the truth about who I am. I’m stronger today than I was 5 years ago, and for that I have the lives of my 8 babies to thank. Those little fighters who taught me more about resilience and survival and defying the odds. Their short little lives inspire me daily. Although my body couldn’t sustain their life here on earth, my body is incredibly capable of much more than I thought it was, and my race isn’t over yet.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Lindsay A. Blair of Greenville, South Carolina. You can follow her journey on Instagram. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.
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