Trigger Warning: This story contains mention of miscarriage that may be triggering to some.
“Our infertility story started in a unique way. In September of 2018, I started having a lot of gastrointestinal issues and pelvic pain. I wrote them off as likely just an ovarian cyst and that it would resolve itself on its own. Finally, when I noticed my stomach was actually bulging on one side, my husband, Sam, pushed me to be seen. I went to work the next day and then stopped into Urgent Care. The PA was able to order an x-ray for me and I waited for him to review the results.
When he came back into the room, I could tell something was wrong. He was serious and told me he wasn’t sure exactly what was wrong and I would need to go to the hospital for a CT scan to determine what was going on. I asked him if I needed to go that night, to which he replied, ‘If you were my wife or daughter, I would want you to go immediately.’
My husband came to pick me up and we went to the Emergency Room. After what felt like an eternity, the ER doctor came in with the results of the CT scan. I had a large mass in my left kidney that would need to be removed. What’s worse? It is ‘likely’ kidney cancer.
This led my husband and me into a spiral. We ended up having my case taken in by UNC Chapel Hill’s Cancer Hospital. I was to see the nephrologist (kidney doctor) there and have my left kidney removed on October 5, 2018. I was scared. My husband was scared. But after an intense and much more difficult than predicted week stay in the hospital, I headed for home.
We were told the tumor was much larger than anticipated, with my kidney and tumor weighing in at 10 pounds! An average adult woman’s kidney is less than a pound! We were amazed I had no idea something this large had likely been growing for years! The pathology team was to review my tumor and for a long month, we waited for the results. Finally, it was determined my tumor was not cancerous (thank god) but was actually a very rare solitary fibrous tumor, seen in less than 1000 cases ever.
All of this felt like such a whirlwind. Time moved slow and fast all at once. Our world was totally rocked. The night we received my diagnosis, Sam and I knew we were ready to start a family as soon as it was safe to do so. There’s something about scary news that makes you realize how everything can change in an instant. We felt ready.
My doctors gave me the go-ahead to start trying to conceive (TTC) in December 2018. I asked them if my surgery would have any impact on my fertility and was reassured it wouldn’t. This was the start of a year of trying on our own. I timed ovulation and we scheduled sex. Each month, my period would show up (pretty much) right on schedule. It didn’t take long for the heartbreak to set in. I remember thinking after ‘only’ 6 months, I was so sad and kept wondering, ‘Why hasn’t it happened yet?’
A year later in December 2019, my OBGYN ran a list of bloodwork to check on my hormone levels. Everything came back in the normal range. My husband, Sam, had a semen analysis, which came back as normal. Next on the list was to check my fallopian tubes through a procedure called an HSG. This is a procedure where dye is inserted through a catheter into the uterus, and if all is clear, will flow through the fallopian tubes. If the dye does not flow all the way through, it can be an indicator of blockage and other concerns. Although the HSG was incredibly painful, it also came back as normal.
That brings us to January of 2020. We went to a few different fertility specialists also known as Reproductive Endocrinologists (RE’s) to see what clinic would be the right fit for us. Once we decided on the fertility clinic we wanted to proceed with, we did some additional preliminary bloodwork and a repeat semen analysis for Sam. All of this left us with options as we were categorized as ‘unexplained infertility.’ We could try medicated cycles with ovulation induction drugs, Intrauterine Insemination (IUI), or Invitro Fertilization (IVF).
By February of 2020, we had decided. We were going to do IVF. Even though the HSG showed my tubes as cleared, our RE was concerned there could be damage to them from 2017 when I had Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID). We were scared my potential for damaged tubes could lead to an ectopic (pregnancy outside the uterus/in the fallopian tubes) pregnancy, so we wanted to do IVF which bypasses the tubes altogether.
Enter March 2020. We all know what this means – COVID19. What some may not realize is many fertility clinics were forced to shut down during this time. Even though we had made our decision to begin IVF, we were told we had to wait. And worse, they couldn’t tell us how long. Waiting is the name of the game with infertility. But that doesn’t make it any easier. I remember refreshing the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) page daily, hoping I would see an update that allowed for the continuation of fertility treatments.
When in April it didn’t look like things were going to be resuming anytime soon, Sam and I decided to reach out to our RE and ask to begin a medicated ovulation induction cycle. While only 2 months ago I was worried about a possible tubal pregnancy, I was desperate. I just wanted to move forward. Our RE assured us ovulation induction was still safe to try. Oftentimes, ovulation induction is monitored through blood work and ultrasounds to help time intercourse. However, since COVID still had our clinic shut down, we took Letrozole on our prescribed days and I tracked my ovulation from home. We timed intercourse (sexy, right?) with ovulation and waited 2 weeks to see if it worked.
The day before my expected period, I took a pregnancy test. PREGNANT. After 15 months of trying to conceive, it was the first time I had seen a positive. I was elated. And in shock. I believed whole-heartedly this finally worked and I would bring home our precious baby in January 2021 when I was due.
Unfortunately, that’s not how my story ended. My first pregnancy was not growing according to schedule. At first, I was told my due date would just be pushed a little farther out. Then we found the heartbeat. I was so reassured. A few weeks later, the heartbeat was weaker and there had only been a few days of growth. I knew at this point things were not looking good.
At 11 weeks, I had a Missed Miscarriage (MMC). The baby had stopped growing but my body held on. I still had symptoms. But at this appointment, I heard, ‘I’m sorry. There’s no heartbeat.’
I was given a drug called Misoprotosol for an induced miscarriage. I have blocked out most of that day, June 22. The physical pain that followed was indescribable. I didn’t realize when a woman miscarries, her body goes into labor. It is very early labor, and I obviously do not know what it is like to birth full term, but this shocked me. Cramping is not a strong enough word. These were contractions. The bleeding followed and continued for 2 days. There were several moments I was afraid I was going to pass out I was bleeding so heavily. I passed tissue that was the size of my hand. It was so traumatic. I think of that baby every day.
The weeks that followed brought more surprises. I started lactating. This is extremely uncommon at a loss in the first trimester. Yet, it happened to me. This brought another level of emotional and physical trauma to my miscarriage.
I allowed time for my body to recover. Mentally, I was ready to try again after a few months. This brought us to our journey with IUI. After we realized we could get pregnant with little intervention, we decided IUI was the next best option for us. Our first IUI was October 2021. Funny enough, I had to go through the IUI process alone, because Sam would be away for a few weeks for Army training. I thought it would be such a funny story to share I got pregnant when my husband was out of town! Unfortunately, this round did not result in a pregnancy.
November 2020, we jumped into our second round of IUI. This time it worked. I was pregnant again. I was excited. But I was even more terrified. I have had generalized anxiety since I was a teenager, but this was becoming overwhelming. I felt absolutely consumed by my anxiety. On the morning I was scheduled to have my 6-week ultrasound, I started bleeding. I knew. I knew I was losing this baby too.
My fear was confirmed at my appointment. I had miscarried. This time was different. I didn’t bleed non-stop. I didn’t have debilitating pain. I didn’t pass tissue. It was fast. My second baby would have been due in August 2021. I think about this baby every day too.
Now in January 2021, we are back in a season of waiting. We are waiting for bloodwork to check recurrent pregnancy loss issues. We are waiting to resume IUI. We are waiting for our double rainbow.
Our story with infertility and pregnancy loss is painful. But I know I am not alone. One in four pregnancies will end in miscarriage. One in eight couples will experience infertility. These statistics are hard. Waiting is hard. I knew I needed hope, and I wasn’t alone in that either.
I decided to start Rainbow Mama Waiting as a way to craft hope for myself and anyone else struggling. A rainbow is a symbol of something beautiful that comes only after a storm. In the infertility and miscarriage community, a rainbow baby is a baby born after loss. I am waiting for my rainbow so while I am waiting, I make yarn and macrame rainbows to spread hope and connect with my community of sisters going through this journey with me.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Samantha Good from Fayetteville, NC. You can follow their journey on Instagram and their Etsy. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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