‘My mind kept thinking, ‘Don’t say it. Don’t say it!’ I started to panic. Something inside me knew it was bad news.’: Mom brings awareness to secondary infertility, ‘You are not alone’

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“First comes love, then comes… miscarriage?

I am such a planner. I always have been. I have back up plans for my back up plans. No one would ever describe me as a spontaneous person. In general, my life thus far has gone the way I planned it to, except for one area… and if you’re reading this, I am quite certain you can guess what it is.

High School, check.

College, check.

Dreamy Husband, check.

Having children, not so much.

Alex and I decided we wanted to expand our family in 2016. Getting pregnant the first time we tried seemed too good to be true… and it was. We made all the rookie ‘mistakes.’ Announcing early, buying all the things, assuming miscarriages only happen to other people… etc. You name it, we did it.

Courtesy of Lesley Mannen

Spoiler alert, that pregnancy ended in miscarriage at 8 weeks. The pregnancy after that one was a chemical pregnancy. That second line faded almost as soon as it showed up.

Then we had our rainbow baby, Matty. He is everything we dreamed of. Fast forward a year and we were ready to give Matty a sibling. Here I come with my plans again… but I wanted to have my children two years apart. I have no idea why I was so naïve to think we wouldn’t have more fertility issues. I assumed since we had Matty, I was ‘cured,’ right? Uh, WRONG.

Now, please don’t get me wrong, we know how lucky we are to have our son. However, no one really prepared me secondary infertility comes with its own set of stress, guilt, and unwelcome comments. People assume you don’t have fertility struggles because you already have a child. Without batting an eye, they start laying on the pressure. They’ve always got comments handy that start the imaginary egg timer in your mind. ‘Don’t you want him to be a big brother?’ ‘You don’t want them to be too far apart!’ ‘You’re not getting any younger!’ (Insert eye roll and awkward, unsmooth Segway to, well, ANY other topic.)

Courtesy of Lesley Mannen

What people don’t see when they make those seemingly ‘innocent’ comments is how much we have already struggled to grow our family. How could they? We’re not supposed to talk about these things. So, we suffered in silence for a long time.

We suffered two more early losses around 5 weeks in May and June of 2019. After my fourth miscarriage, my doctor agreed it was probably time to see a specialist. After countless hours with Dr. Google, I thought maybe I just needed a little progesterone. After all, I was good at getting pregnant… just not staying pregnant. After a few weeks and a natural cycle with progesterone, it seemed I was right! We were pregnant and it was sticking! The only other time we had gotten this far was with our son.

Courtesy of Lesley Mannen

My fertility doctor monitored us closely. Weekly blood draws and ultrasounds to make sure everything was progressing nicely and it was. Once I heard the heartbeat twice, I thought to myself this baby and I… we’ve got this. I was so proud of the little squish. We were on our way. I felt like we were out of the woods. The next box to check was ‘graduation day’ and we’d be back to my regular OBGYN. Everything was going great… or so I thought.

Courtesy of Lesley Mannen

Do you ever have a moment in time when you just want to go back and warn yourself? Sirens blaring, SOS flares, all to prepare yourself for the devastation and destruction that’s about to uproot your life?

My moment was December 2, 2019. We made it. It was ‘graduation day.’ My doctor walked in, we all exchanged pleasantries, and the ultrasound tech got started. As the ultrasound was underway, I started to panic. I hadn’t seen the baby yet, but something inside me knew this appointment was going to go sideways and fast. Call it mother’s intuition, I guess.

Courtesy of Lesley Mannen

The next few minutes were filled with the doctor and the ultrasound tech feverishly trying to locate our baby’s heartbeat. There was a long pause. My mind kept thinking, ‘Don’t say it. Don’t say it. Just keep looking! It has to be there.’ A heavy silence fell over the dimly lit room. She said it. The phrase I knew was true. I knew it had to be said… but I did NOT want to hear it. ‘I am so sorry, Lesley, it’s just not there. We can’t find the heartbeat. It should be right there, and it just isn’t. There’s no blood flow.’

I feel like my mind raced through all seven stages of grief in ten seconds, except maybe ‘acceptance.’ I wanted so desperately to go back in time. Even if just 10 minutes when everything was right in my world. I went through the full range of emotions of ‘I miss my baby already and I need it out of me right now.’

Courtesy of Lesley Mannen

I didn’t know my mind could move so slow and so fast at the same time. ‘How am I going to tell everyone this happened?’ ‘Did I drink too much caffeine?’ ‘Is this a dream?’ ‘How am I supposed to move on from here when almost all of my friends are pregnant??’ ‘There was only a 5% chance of this happening once we saw the heartbeat.’ ‘Why is there a freaking mobile with Killer Whales on it hanging from the ceiling?!’

I was paralyzed and in shock. I felt like I was underwater. I forced myself to cry hoping it would relieve some of the pain and pressure in my chest. It was a futile effort, it didn’t work.

Courtesy of Lesley Mannen

They quickly whisked us into a consultation room. I am sure it’s unsettling to hear someone sobbing in the fertility clinic. I knew I was too loud, and I honestly couldn’t have cared less. The next thing I knew, we were talking about my options. Options for removing the baby we wanted so badly. Part of me wanted to do it that day and just get it over with. Another part of me thought I needed just a little bit longer to say goodbye. I chose to move forward with the D&C and it was scheduled for the next day. There was something especially sad realizing this would be our last day together in this life. I chose the D&C because I wanted answers. I wanted to be able to find out whether the life we lost was a boy or girl. I was hoping these types of questions being answered might bring me some closure.

The last few months have dragged on forever. My body is still recovering. About a week after the D&C, I got the call that revealed our baby had Turner’s Syndrome or Monosomy X. It was relieving to hear there was a reason. They also told me this is one of the most common causes of first trimester miscarriages. This left us with no answers for the other 4 pregnancy losses as they do not suspect they all had Turner’s Syndrome, but we will never know. This also meant our baby was female.

Courtesy of Lesley Mannen

I knew it was a girl. I was confident from the second I found out I was pregnant. I know we only spent 9.5 weeks with her, but we spent every single day wanting her and preparing for her. We looked at Matty and saw the world’s best big brother. We saw our spare bedroom and saw the place where we would spend so many sleepless nights complaining about the lack of sleep we’d be getting. We looked at Matty’s baby pictures and that’s what we feel like we have lost. We know we are lucky to have our beautiful son but having a child does not take away the pain of losing another.

Courtesy of Lesley Mannen

As time moved on, I felt like a liar. As if I was hiding this huge secret thing that happened to me. I felt like I wasn’t supposed to talk about it. After all, I didn’t want to make anyone feel uncomfortable. But then I thought… what about me? What about my comfort? Why should I hide this because others don’t know what to say? I can teach people what to say. I decided to put my story out there. I started an Instagram. I started a blog. I have met so many amazing women who are walking a similar path as I am. I found out I was so far from alone, it wasn’t even funny.

Courtesy of Lesley Mannen

In March of this year, we found out we were pregnant with our rainbow baby. I am now 27 weeks along and still holding my breath. The worry and the ‘what ifs’ never quite go away. That’s the thing about this journey, the pain and anxiety don’t stop with a positive pregnancy test. That’s why it’s so important to normalize talking about these things. We don’t have to suffer in silence or alone.

To some of you reading, this story is probably eerily similar to yours. This journey is heartbreaking, and it doesn’t come with an instruction manual. It’s painful, raw, and ugly but it doesn’t have to be so isolating. I am on a mission to break the ridiculously unfair ‘rule’ of society that we don’t talk about these hard things. If there’s one thing I want you to take away from this, it’s your story is important, your story matters, and even though I know it feels like it, you are not alone.”

Courtesy of Lesley Mannen

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Lesley Mannen from Indiana. You can follow their journey on Instagram. 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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