‘The doctor starts clicking away on the ultrasound machine, trying to get a better look. ‘Well, you are pregnant.’ He said it looked ‘good.’ Then, he went silent.’

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“I knew very early in our relationship that I wanted to be with Kerry for the rest of my life. From the very beginning, we just had this connection that I knew was special. Kerry and I grew up in the same small North Carolina town, went to the same high school and knew a lot of the same people. There was a three-year age difference, so I believe that’s why we didn’t meet sooner. When I was a freshman in high school, he was a graduating senior and to be honest, I knew of him but was under the impression that he went to the rival high school so obviously he wasn’t on my radar.

In 2012 I came across his Facebook profile and thought that he was good looking, so I sent him a friend request. I knew his cousin and a few of his friends so he wasn’t a complete stranger. Shortly after I sent him a friend request, he accepted and sent me a message. From there we started talking daily, went on a few dates and considered ourselves smitten only a few months later. I was just 19 at the time and he was 22 years old. Kerry was an Insulation Installer in the commercial and industrial insulation business, and I was a server at Longhorn Steakhouse.

Boyfriend and girlfriend stand arm in arm smiling
Courtesy Arden Cartrette

Kerry and I moved quickly in our relationship and I think it’s because we knew that this was different. Something about it felt natural from the beginning and we had a lot of little things in common. We just felt like the perfect match. We moved in together after eight months of dating and then bought our house a year after that, in June 2014. Shortly after we closed on our house and had the keys in our hand Kerry proposed and I said yes. We bought a house on the street that he grew up on in Siler City, North Carolina.

We got married on September 26th, 2015 on the beach of Oak Island, North Carolina. It was a small ceremony of only about 40 people but that was perfect for us. Neither of us like attention or big fancy weddings, so we had a very laid-back wedding with food and drinks and had an after-party at a family member’s beach house. It was perfect.

Bride and groom stand beside each other at altar of beach wedding
Courtesy Arden Cartrette
Bride and groom stand smiling under pier
Courtesy Arden Cartrette
Groom smiles as he rests arm around bride as they stand on beach
Courtesy Arden Cartrette

He has always supported anything that I wanted to do in life. I wanted to finish college and continue on to pharmacy school, but I had bad credit, no help from family and struggled to pay for school myself and attend classes/keep my grades up. I’m the type of student that has to focus one-hundred percent because I lose my focus easily. I took some time off from classes around the time that we bought our house in 2014 and just worked to put some money in savings. Our real estate agent was absolutely terrible when we bought our house. We felt like we got taken advantage of, that she cost us unnecessary money and just had a bad taste in our mouth after our experience. Being the person that I am, I wanted to learn more about real estate because I thought if she could do it then I could. Plus, I wanted to learn all of the things that she did wrong. I went to real estate school, passed my exams and started with real estate brokerage in Raleigh, North Carolina in 2016, I’ve been with them ever since. I now think that this company is exactly where I was supposed to end up.

In January 2017, after a year and a half of marriage Kerry and I started talking about having kids and what that would look like for us. We were talking about getting a new car and we wanted this car to last us years to come so we discussed having kids and maybe upgrading to a bigger car to fit these children. A month later we bought a Hyundai Sante Fe Sport, and this started the baby fever! I started imagining filling this car with car seats and baby toys and I liked the way that vision looked. By June 2017 we were actively trying to conceive, tracking ovulation and all that fun stuff. We thought that it would happen right away, I mean that’s why we had been careful for all that time prior to now, right? You can’t see me but I’m laughing as I type that part because we were so wrong.

Husband and wife sit outside on ground smiling
Courtesy Arden Cartrette

Months went by and I would take home pregnancy tests and they were always negative. I never had a second line. I would take apart the tests and hold it to a light bulb to see if maybe I missed something because I felt pregnant every month. It was exhausting. Kerry wasn’t as involved as he is now because he didn’t really know how much went into it. He wasn’t aware that I had to track certain things, he didn’t know that I would sit in the bathroom at work and cry when my period showed. He had no idea what went into this because I didn’t let him in all the way. I would just send him a text message while he was at work and tell him that my period started, he knew what that meant. I always felt like he would be mad at me, isn’t that silly? I felt like it was my fault, like I was the one to blame for not being pregnant. Even though he never thought like that, it was my own insecurity. After ten cycles of trying to conceive (with tracking) I broke down. I couldn’t take it anymore. I didn’t understand why it wasn’t happening for us, my cycles were regular, I was getting positive OPKs (ovulation predictor kits), we were having sex – what was the problem?

Husband and wife smile in selfie outside in winter weather
Courtesy Arden Cartrette

I remember this day like it was yesterday. It was the day that my period started, and it marked the beginning of our 11th cycle of trying to conceive. We were getting closer and closer to that year mark, that infertile mark, and I was breaking. I sat in our kitchen and cried to Kerry, he looked confused because to him this came out of nowhere. I told him that I no longer felt like myself, like the person I was before wanting to be a mother was gone and I would never get her back. I felt like a failure of a woman, I felt broken in more ways than one. I felt so many things and it felt so good to finally let him in. He cried with me, probably because it hurt him to see me hurt like this. We went for a walk on a local greenway and talked, a lot. Kerry cried while talking about wanting us to be pregnant so badly and not understanding what was wrong with us. It was an emotional day but it’s one of my favorite days because it’s the day that we grew closer because of this. From this point on he told me that if I didn’t want to take a home pregnancy test alone, to wait for him. He wanted to be kept in the loop and he wanted to be educated on the things that I was doing. He wanted to be involved and that felt so nice. I felt like I was no longer alone in this. If only I had let him in sooner maybe my breakdown wouldn’t have been as bad as it was.

Wife smiles in selfie as husband kisses her cheek
Courtesy Arden Cartrette

That cycle came and went and we made an appointment with a reproductive endocrinologist at Carolina Conceptions in Raleigh in June 2018. Our doctor was recommended to us by my primary care doctor. Going in to that appointment I felt like I could breathe. I felt like we were getting help and we were on the right track. Something else that you should know about me is that I am treated for OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) and anxiety so trying to conceive and worrying about infertility was really bad for my mental health. I didn’t accept help for this issue until a month prior to this appointment with a specialist. For someone with OCD, it felt really good to get help and to let someone else in on this journey. Someone who knew what they were doing because their sole job was to get you pregnant. At this point, I was 25 years old and Kerry was 28 years old.

Can I take a break in this story to vent about something that was told to us in a lot of appointments at this point? You’re so young! You have plenty of time. I’m not joking, I’ve had doctors, family, friends, strangers say this to me. What does it even mean? Why does my age matter? They didn’t know how long we had been trying, they didn’t know our personal goals to have our first child before Kerry turned thirty, they didn’t know that we live in a small town where people our age were on baby number two. I’m sure those people have good intentions and wanted to make us feel better but that made us feel dismissed. It made me feel like I was seen as a child by professionals and that was hurtful. But back to our story…

That first appointment with our fertility specialist went as expected. It actually looked a lot like how those type of appointments looks in the movies. Kerry and I sat in chairs across from the doctor who was sitting at his desk, taking notes on our medical history and basically asking very personal questions. We started with going over our medical history, talking about my cycles in depth, doing some blood work, genetic testing, and we scheduled an HSG (a procedure that takes a closer look at your uterus and fallopian tubes to check for blockages) and semen analysis. After we completed those tests were told to come back to learn our next steps. In early August 2018 we went in to learn our next steps and my doctor came to the conclusion that we are healthy and have no reproductive issues that he can see at this point however my luteal phase (the time from ovulation to the end of my cycle) was dangerously short. I had no idea that was a thing! All of my research and I was never educated on this. I ovulate late, on cycle day 17 or 18 and my cycle length is 27-28 days. Dr. Parkark recommended that we start with a protocol that he felt very positive about, ovulation induction using Femara (or letrozole), monitoring follicles with ultrasounds, and timing ovulation with Ovidrel (also known as a trigger shot). I left that appointment with a big smile on my face. We had answers.

I ordered all of the medications, paid for them, and waited for my cycle to start so we could get started.

My period was supposed to start on August 19th, 2018 but that day came and went, and Aunt Flo didn’t show. I had all the usual symptoms of my period about to start but no blood was to be seen. I was frustrated. I sat angry for the next 3 days thinking that my body was broken. I thought that my body was being late on purpose, just to hurt me. I laugh at this now because all of those months of feeling pregnant, it didn’t even occur to me that I should take a pregnancy test. On August 22nd, 2018 I felt sick. I was car sick, I was starving, I just didn’t feel right. So, I bought a few pregnancy tests on my way home from work and took them right away. Three minutes later, my digital pregnancy test gave me an answer. It read ‘PREGNANT’ and I was shocked. I filmed this whole thing on my phone in case it was positive so I could show my husband, I didn’t want to experience this without him. In the video you can see me stare at the test, look straight into the camera in disbelief and then I just start crying. I cried HARD. I couldn’t believe it.

Woman smiles in selfie while holding her hand to cheek after taking pregnancy test
Courtesy Arden Cartrette

All of these months where my test showed negative after negative and finally it happened NATURALLY. We didn’t track anything that cycle and we hardly had sex. It was a miracle. I ran to the closest store and bought onesies to surprise Kerry with. I laid them out on our bed, with the pregnancy test and our letterboard that read ‘we are finally pregnant.’ When he got home from work, I told him that our dog made a mess in our bedroom and I wanted him to clean it up. The sweet man he is went straight for the bedroom so he could clean up the mess. He walked in, looked around the room and then fixed his eyes on the bed. It took him a second but then he looked at me, confused, and I told him that I tested, and it was positive. WE ARE PREGNANT! It was the best day ever.

Three onesies lay on green blanket beside sign announcing pregnancy and two pregnancy tests
Courtesy Arden Cartrette
Woman holds sign saying, "we are finally pregnant" and positive pregnancy test in front of it
Courtesy Arden Cartrette

I quickly called my doctor and had bloodwork done, all came back perfect. We scheduled our first ultrasound at 7 weeks, on September 10th, 2018. The night before our ultrasound I Google searched photos of 7-week ultrasounds so I could see what to expect. I was so excited to see our little gummy bear in there and hear his/her heartbeat. I knew the chances of miscarriage, I knew that it was common, but I never thought that anyone would take our miracle baby away from us. Looking back on these days before the scan, I had a lot of anxiety. I think I knew that something wasn’t right, but I didn’t think that we would be given this miracle just to have it taken.

Kerry and I sat in the waiting room before our first ultrasound appointment and I was shaking with nerves. I looked at Kerry and told him that I was so nervous that something would be wrong with the baby and reassured me that it will be fine. I’m always nervous about things, he is the calm one. We get called into the room, I get all set up for the vaginal ultrasound and Kerry sits in a chair against the wall. Our doctor comes in, congratulates us, asks us some dates, and then we get started. Dr. Park starts clicking away on the ultrasound machine, trying to get a better look at what’s going on. He says ‘well, you are pregnant.’ and shows me my gestational sac on the screen. He said it looked ‘good.’ then he is silent for a few minutes. I’m looking at the screen and know that what we are seeing, isn’t right. I just knew it. My eyes started to fill with tears, and he starts to explain what he sees on the screen to us. ‘I see a yolk sac but I’m not seeing a fetal pole. I should see something right here that looks like a grain of rice, and I’m not seeing that.’ Dr. Park told me to get dressed and meet him in his office so we can discuss dates and figure out if what we are looking at on the screen is normal or not. I started to cry uncontrollably while he was saying this, he touched my shoulder and told me not to worry just yet. I can’t say enough amazing things about him, his bedside manor was amazing during this hard scan. He left the room and I continued to cry while Kerry held me. I told him that I saw the screen and it doesn’t look good.

We sat down in Dr. Park’s office and went over my HCG levels that were taken a few weeks prior, we talked about ovulation dates (which I didn’t use tests that cycle, so I honestly didn’t know when I ovulated) and I had marked the days that we had sex. So, from all of that information he agreed that we should be 7 weeks and what he was seeing on the screen looked more like 5 weeks. He didn’t feel confident that the pregnancy was no longer growing but he wasn’t confident that it was viable either. He told us to come back in a week and let’s see if there is any growth. Kerry and I sat in the parking lot crying for a while after that appointment. We felt angry, hurt, heartbroken, and useless. We couldn’t do anything to help our child or save our child. Our child. We both called out of work and went home for the rest of the day, we mourned, we cried, we tried so hard to not think about it, but it wasn’t going anywhere, yet.

The following week we went back for another ultrasound, this was on September 17th, 2018. The ultrasound showed there was some growth but still no heartbeat. I should be 8 weeks at this point and now I was measuring at 6 weeks. Again, we were told to come back in another week.

Can I just tell you, that pregnancy limbo was emotionally draining for me? I was given a prescription for Percocet just in case I miscarry at home, to help with the pain, and when I went to the pharmacy to fill the medication the pharmacist asked me ‘are you pregnant or breastfeeding’ and I replied ‘no’ and then started cry and told him actually I was pregnant. I didn’t know how to answer that question because I was pregnant, but I didn’t know how much longer I would be. It was a hard time.

I started spotting on September 20th while at work. I knew that this meant things weren’t good.

We went in on September 25th for another ultrasound and Dr. Park now felt confident that the pregnancy was no longer growing. He explained to me that my gestational sac was continuing to grow and now measuring at 9 weeks but that the actual baby was not growing and had not been growing for some time. The growth that we saw the week prior was my gestational sac and my hormones caused that to grow because my body still thought it was pregnant. We were given our options to go home and wait, to take a pill to induce the miscarriage or to schedule surgery. We scheduled the surgery for September 27th because we didn’t want to do it the next day, our wedding anniversary. I chose the surgery even though it would cost us a lot of money out of pocket because the thought of miscarrying at home brought me to tears. I was terrified of it.

I woke up at 1 a.m. on our wedding anniversary, September 26th, 2018 and felt like I needed to go to the bathroom. This wasn’t unusual for me at this point because I had been pregnant for well over a month and took many late night/early morning trips to pee. Looking back, something didn’t feel right. I was still spotting so I had a pad on (luckily), and it felt like I had possibly peed in my sleep. I ran off to the bathroom, pulled down my pants and saw that the miscarriage had started while I was sleeping. When we were preparing to miscarry, I asked a lot of questions because I wanted to know my options and every doctor told me that it would be a ‘heavy period’ and ladies, I am here to set the record straight. What happened to me during those three horrible hours was not a heavy period. It was traumatizing, it was the most intense pain I’ve ever felt. I was physically ill from the pain, I couldn’t keep anything down (including the pain medication I was prescribed) I couldn’t understand why me in this moment because this felt like a punishment.

Kerry sat with me in the bathroom all during the miscarriage. I couldn’t have gotten through it without him. I know that seeing me in that amount of pain was hard on him, he felt helpless, he felt useless, he felt so bad for what I was going through but he stayed with me and even ran out to the store at 3 a.m. to buy me adult diapers and pads. He cared for his child before, during and after its life existed and he never let me feel alone during the hardest parts.

Woman who suffered miscarriage takes selfie
Courtesy Arden Cartrette

I took three days off work to recover, my bosses were honestly incredible during this time. They made me regret not telling them that I was pregnant sooner. I was very lucky to have their support. After our miscarriage, I felt like a warrior. I felt so strong, I felt proud of myself and let me explain that a bit more because I know it sounds silly after something as terrible as a miscarriage. I spent a year or so thinking that my body was broken. I didn’t understand why it wouldn’t work, I was setting everything up right and it never worked the way I wanted it to and then it finally worked. My body got pregnant naturally, held on tight to that pregnancy even after it should have let go and then it quickly pushed the pregnancy out. When we went in for an ultrasound to see if all the tissue had passed, we learned that it had. My body was actually working for me, in my best interest. I like to refer to my miscarriage as a traumatic, beautiful thing that my body did for me.

I quickly recovered, my period came back exactly a month later and as I type this, I’m on my third cycle after loss. This cycle we finally went back to our original plan and are doing to monitored cycle with timed ovulation.

Kerry and I feel like we were meant to experience these hard times for some greater reason. We have openly talked about our struggles with family, friends and coworkers. I’ve made myself available to people all over the world so they can feel a little less alone. Through the online community surrounding infertility, I’ve actually made friends. Friends that support me in every season of our journey and that I can support right back.

Woman who miscarried holds sign saying, "Thank you 2018 for showing me how strong I am"
Courtesy Arden Cartrette

Infertility and miscarriage have taken a lot from me, don’t get me wrong but it’s also given us a lot. Our marriage and relationship with each other is even stronger than it was before. I’m a better human, wife and friend because of what I’ve gone through. I am more knowledgeable on infertility and all that falls under that umbrella. Somehow, what has happened to us has not made me bitter, it’s made me better and I’m so thankful for that.’

We are gearing up for the end of our first medicated cycle, we are set to test and no matter what we plan on keeping our heads up and to keep going.”

Woman who miscarried sits at ultrasound appointment with thumbs up
Courtesy Arden Cartrette
Husband holds and kisses wife who miscarried outside their home
Courtesy Arden Cartrette

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Arden Cartrette. Follow her on Instagram here and her website hereDo you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your journey. Submit your own story here, and subscribe to our best stories in our free newsletter here.

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