“Going through one miscarriage is traumatic enough, but in our case, going through 7 total losses was life shattering for our family. Before we had our daughter, Alice, everything was a struggle for my husband and me. Infertility changed the way our marriage clicked. The endless testing, the constant pokes and blood draws, the dreaded and awkward specimen drops for my husband to complete even more testing, the time spent there, the money spent there; everything had become too much. Before our daughter came along, we had gone through 3 losses. The first one, I will never forget. I remember crawling to the bathroom feeling like a knife was running its way from my navel down, unbeknownst to me that I was even pregnant at the time. I remember sitting there thinking, ‘I’m going to be one of those people who are on the show [I didn’t know I was pregnant]’ and felt the release of my baby. A trip to the Emergency Room determined I was nearly 9 weeks along. The ER doctor told me, ‘It was pretty much only cells, so nothing to beat yourself up about.’ Nothing to beat myself up about, oh that and the wonderful, ‘Use a heating pad for any pain.’ That was it. I was sent on my merry way to mourn the loss of a child I barely knew existed before they were gone. No follow up, no resources available, just to use a heating pad. Flash forward through two other losses with the same advice from the first and we found ourselves at the Fertility Specialists.
Breaking down to go to see a Fertility Specialist caused a huge overwhelming sense of guilt and a million other questions for me. I obviously could get pregnant, but why couldn’t I stay pregnant? Was I not going to be a good mother? Did I not deserve to be a mother? What was God having me wait for? Did he think I shouldn’t be a mother? And a MILLION other questions. We knew the issue wasn’t because of my husband because he had the fine ability to get me pregnant, so it came down to me. I remember praying for something to be wrong so it could be something that was fixable. I needed an answer and those answers never came. Then, I became spiteful towards my husband; thinking that he never had to work for anything or push through these hard, negative emotions because there’s nothing ever wrong with him. Going on dates and seeing babies cooing caused me to go to the bathroom to hide the tears, which in turn again caused problems within our marriage.
Finally, the doctors decided to try our luck with Clomid after finding no reason why we couldn’t stay pregnant. If you’ve ever been on Clomid, you know how crazy it makes you. I was on it for 2 months and then decided to stop taking it because again, the effects it was taking on my body and my hormones was truly affecting our marriage. Infertility sucks for everyone. At the time, I only saw it sucking for me. It wasn’t affecting his hormones, he was happy at work, he didn’t seem phased by my neurotic peeing on sticks every dang day, taking my temperature and comparing it to the day before, researching sex positions to best get the swimmers to the egg (don’t do this, you’ll see things you aren’t prepared for and will never get the images out of your head.) After a short separation, lots of wine and tears then some more wine, we worked through our issues and found out we were pregnant after nearly $142 in at home pregnancy tests.
Our precious Alice came along in 2015. My pregnancy was the worst and I hate saying that with everything we had gone through but I literally felt like Bella from Twilight. I was ready to sacrifice a spring chicken and drink blood from it if it meant I would feel better. I ended up with Hyperemesis Gravidarium (aka EXTREME morning sickness); Princess Kate had it, so that was a plus side to feel like I was part royalty. I was in and out of the hospital the entire pregnancy, I fell down the stairs while pregnant, she kept trying to come early, and all I could eat were pierogis doused in butter and onions. After a glorious labor, she was finally here after everything we had gone through, all the trials and tribulations finally paid off.
Once Alice was around a year old, we decided we wanted to try for another baby. Once you have one successful pregnancy, you feel like you can get pregnant and have a great ending again. Boy, were we wrong. After 7 months of trying, we finally got a positive pregnancy test. We were all so excited and that quickly came to an end when right before Christmas, we miscarried AGAIN. I ended up being at the hospital and having a D&C to where we could have genetic testing done. FINALLY, we may get answers. Our sweet baby (who we found out was another little girl) came back that she had Tetraploidy; something so rare that it doesn’t even have a statistic. So, our doctors told us that this was a onetime thing, too rare to have been the cause for all the previous losses, so they told us they didn’t see anything wrong with us trying again; and that we did. I thanked God for making me face this loss now rather than bring her into this world to lose her hours afterwards. Not long after we found out the genealogy news, we found out we were pregnant again the next month. Every other loss never made it past the 9 week mark and we finally hit that mark and felt like we were in the clear.
Then, I started spotting and the doctors assured me it was nothing but an infection. I was sitting at home singing to my daughter on the couch when I felt a gush. Was it pee? Did I really just pee myself? It didn’t feel like pee. I called my OB and they scheduled me for an appointment later that day. The gushes kept coming. Then, I stood up and had blood down to my ankles. I picked up Alice and ran to our bathroom while frantically calling my OB back, then my husband at work, then my mom, dad and mother in law. I was 15 weeks, this couldn’t be happening. After a horrible experience at the ER department, I found out I was again losing a child. The demeanor of the nurses changed tremendously after my ultrasound, from thinking I was just an over-googling expectant mother, to being a mother losing her 5th child. This was by far the worst loss. The heart was still beating as he was pulled from his home, where he should have been safe, where I should have been protecting him and without rhyme or reason, he was gone. No more flutters. No more sickness. Just pain and emptiness. I was angry with my doctors, the nurses, God. My faith had been shaken. I knew the previous loss was a blessing in disguise but this. This was unimaginable. Our house soon became filled with family and friends dropping off groceries or dinner or things to keep Alice occupied and flowers; SO MANY FLOWERS. It wasn’t until that point that I said to my husband, ‘It looks like a funeral home in here,’ and that’s when the realization hit me; someone died, we lost a part of ourselves, we should be mourning.
Every other loss had been emotional but to see all the blood at my ankles, coming home and seeing the blood trail into the bathroom, the rags I tried to use to clean it up before we left, my daughter’s toys in the bathroom while she was crying and asking me if ‘mommy okay?,’ feeling like I caused her trauma as well seeing me in the state I was in, not being a safe haven for any of my children; I had SO much guilt. I was shaken, our family was shaken, friends, and my faith. I felt like everything had been taken away, so we stopped trying. I switched doctors so that maybe they could find something wrong or help me stay pregnant but a chemical pregnancy and another 6 week loss later proved that nothing could help me. The best part was after all of these losses, doctors still would not consider me ‘high risk’ because we didn’t have a pattern or reason for our losses. 7 losses. That’s when I knew I had to do something.
I met with my best friend, Tiffany, who has an amazing photography business and told her my ideas for a remembrance session; of course she was up for the challenge. After receiving the finished product, all I could do was sob and picture how our lives would look if we had all our children here on Earth.
My daughter released balloons to her brothers and sisters in heaven and Tiffany recreated images of her playing and walking with them. I still cry when I look at them.
These photos have opened up a platform for me to share my experiences with people who all too similarly are told to, ‘use a heating pad for the pain.’ That doesn’t suffice. There needs to be more options for women who go through infant loss and miscarriages.
I remember my OB Coordinator calling me after my 15-week loss to check in and see how I was doing. I told her I honestly understood postpartum depression and how these women can take their lives. I felt like I didn’t classify as having postpartum because I didn’t have a baby to show for it. I didn’t feel like I faced infertility because someone who gets pregnant as many times as me is considered ‘Fertile Myrtle.’ Where did I belong? I struggled and struggled and thought about things in a way as if I wasn’t here. It was an awful feeling to be riding along the highway thinking, ‘if this tractor trailer truck blew a tire and I had to swerve and hit in the exact right spot, this pain would go away.’ I hate feeling like that and remembering what it felt like. I look at my daughter here on Earth and praise God I didn’t finally break down and commit to something like that. It got better after sharing with others my pain via Facebook; it just felt like it was lightyears that had passed before it was manageable. So many other women reached out and shared that they too, had suffered losses and experienced the same ‘care’ I did after miscarrying.
Since these photos, I am happy to say we are 19 weeks pregnant with another little girl. (Lord, help me if she’s anything like her big sister). Again, I am feeling like Bella from Twilight, she hates Taco Bell, gives me heartburn from Rocky Road ice cream and I’m almost positive will be a black belt by the time I give birth. But being pregnant after so many losses changes pregnancy for someone. Instead of the happy ‘We’re Pregnant’ announcement, it’s met with, ‘Oh, we’ll be praying.’ Every test or ultrasound we have, I get nauseous before, thinking something will be wrong. Every time I have a certain twinge of pain, I have to stop myself from having a full blown anxiety attack. Every time I end up dribbling in my pants (thanks motherhood), I’m questioning if its pee or my water breaking again. Everything changes. But not everything has to be bad.
We’ve started a nonprofit charity called ‘Hopeful Halos’ where people nominate mothers who have endured miscarriages or infant loss to receive a free remembrance gift from us. Our long term goal is to offer better bereavement care for mothers who are going through postpartum depression without having a baby to show for it, as well as having options for friends and family to get advice on what to do or say when someone close to them goes through this pain. You would think that if 1 in 4 women experience this unimaginable pain, there would be better after care options readily available to us, but there aren’t.
In the end, you matter. Your babies matter. Their lives mattered, no matter how fleeting it was. I was ‘1 in 4’ seven times. I know the struggle. I’ve lived the pain, reach out to people that offer help. Reach out to the women and families who have been through this. Be angry, be sad and then use that to push yourself to do extraordinary things. I was recently listening to ‘Girl, Wash Your Face’ and the author said a quote that has stuck with me through this infertility journey and what we’re doing to help other women: ‘Don’t you dare squander the strength you have earned just because the acquisition of it is painful.’ Wow. All I am trying to do is be a light to others in the darkness of infertility; to let you know I see you, I see your pain, and I’m here too. No matter if you lost once, or a thousand times, they all matter. Remember that.”
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