“The topic of kids came up again this weekend but it was the first time someone was blunt enough to ask me directly: ‘Are you pregnant?’
I get it. We’ve been married for over 5 years and typically there’s a baby (or two) by this point. I know the question doesn’t come from a place of hate or maliciousness, but rather ignorance. Because there’s so much more to that question.
How much do you want to know?
Do you want to know we’ve been trying for 4 years? That the OBGYN we first saw told us we ‘just weren’t paying attention to her directions’ and that’s why we weren’t pregnant? That we went through a year of trying before seeking further medical support and once we met with specialists, were told we had little to no chance of conceiving naturally? That it was ‘highly recommended’ to go straight to IVF?
Do you want to know the heartache of testing and decisions and struggle we went through for another year? The pain of watching a test be performed and not being allowed to have your husband by your side, having to explain it in the elevator because no one came out to have the conversation with him directly, except me. We battled what options we could or couldn’t take, trying to sort out medical insurance and how to pay for the steps we did want to take because it was the way we were going to be able to build our family.
We tried multiple low cost and minimally invasive options, but nothing happened. Everyone tells you in sex ed that it’s so easy to get pregnant, you have to be careful, you could get pregnant a million different ways. No one tells you it can actually be hard. That the least sexy thing in the world is having sex to make a baby. At this point, I could probably teach a course of biology with the amount I’ve learned about my body and my husband’s body and what’s needed or not needed in the pursuit of pregnancy. And in case you’re wondering — no, going on vacation doesn’t get you pregnant. Getting a puppy doesn’t get you pregnant. Timing sex is no guarantee. If you’d like a lesson on tracking your cycle by temping, cervical mucus, or OPK’s, I can give you that (do you know what an OPK is?!). I can translate hundreds of online acronyms for the TTC world now: 2WW, AF, BBT, BFN, BFP, BCP, DH, DOR, DOT, DP5DT, IF, RE, TCOYF.
Maybe you want to know about the hell of IVF: In 2016 alone, we did two egg retrievals and three embryo transfers with four embryos total. The unique pain of seeing your embryos, being told they look ‘beautiful,’ and you have every chance this one will take… or these ones… or this one. Each time, getting our hopes up. Analyzing every twinge or ache because of what we’ve heard pregnancy can entail and hoping for our own miracle.
Then there’s the ache of negative test after negative test after negative test after negative test. Not only does it bring back the pain of testing from our first year, but we were told over and over and over again, ‘No, you are not pregnant. No, the numbers were not high enough to support pregnancy. No, we don’t know why you’re not getting pregnant.’
Maybe you just want to talk about our recent trials: The pain of kidney stones in January 2017, and the irony of being asked over and over again in the ER if there was any chance we could be pregnant — despite telling each nurse who asked an abbreviated tale of our infertility woes. Getting a CT and prescriptions based on not being pregnant. And then, a week later, taking a pregnancy test because it was weird I was late. And it was positive.
Actually, I took two pregnancy tests at home (one of the cheap ones and then a fancy digital one in case the cheap one was just mocking us) and a blood test in the doctor’s office. All confirmed we were finally pregnant.
Then we found out the numbers weren’t growing fast enough. One week after that, we were miscarrying our miracle. No one tells you what to expect for a natural miscarriage. They assume a sentence or two will suffice, and the standard ‘it’s like a heavy period’ or ‘if you get fevers or you fill a pad an hour, give us a call’ is all the details you need. And then, waiting. Because with a natural miscarriage, it can take a few days, or it can take weeks. It took me another 10 days. It took every fiber of my being not to scream when it started, not to break down. Because other than my husband, no one knew. No one knew I was pregnant, and only for the weepiness did I tell my colleagues after the fact. We grieved the brief hope we had for just a few weeks.
But then, because our story isn’t complicated enough, we went through another three tests and procedures before we could transfer our last two embryos from our retrieval the previous year. Would you like to know what a uterine biopsy feels like? Or a hysteroscopy, where they go in and make sure the walls of my uterus are clear and ready for a potential pregnancy? We took every possible precaution with our transfer that summer, extra days off work, a mini-vacation to escape, and lots and lots of hope. And this one felt different. I tried to ignore the twinges and focus on the big signs — nausea, exhaustion, breast tenderness. Trying to get excited but fearing the worst.
But we did it, another positive pregnancy test, our second in four years, after three years of nothing.
Everything seemed to be progressing nicely, the symptoms were strong, strong enough the few who knew our struggles made jokes about being pregnant with twins (which secretly what my husband and I had actually been hoping for with my family history and the challenges we’ve experienced). It was thrilling to finally be able to wonder a little and dream of the future. Then at our first ultrasound, it was quiet. Never having been to this point, we didn’t know what the sonographer’s silence meant but she eventually explained. There were clearly two sacks. One appeared small and had possibly stopped growing but possibly just needed more time. She was having a hard time finding the other’s consistent heartbeat. She brought it a second sonographer and confirmed we had ‘an inconclusive heartbeat’ in the second sac. We were told of their concerns, and given the glimmer of hope maybe we were just on the early side, maybe this would all be fine. A week of torture later, we repeated the ultrasound. The same second sonographer came in and confirmed there were now no heartbeats. No heartbeat in either sac. Our twin pregnancy was no longer viable.
Would you like to know what it’s like to try and choose the lesser of two evils to end your long-awaited pregnancy? We had to make that choice over a matter of days: natural miscarriage, which could take up to a month to even start, with unpredictable pain levels, given the size of the sacs, or a D&C. It would be done quickly, and we would just need to wait for the bleeding to stop. We consulted with our friends who had gone through this before, as the doctor’s office provided no additional information or support. After the second ultrasound, they ushered us out the freight elevator of the office, as if reinforcing the shame that already felt palpable. Clearly they didn’t want us to ‘infect’ other couples eager to start their own joyful pregnancies.
Ultimately, we opted for the D&C. I couldn’t bear to carry our babies longer, knowing they were no longer living. And so, 6 months to the day, we lost our second pregnancy.
I took three days off work, but it wasn’t nearly enough. In hindsight, I wish I would have taken two weeks — then maybe the numbness would have worn off more before I had to interact with people who didn’t know or didn’t seem to understand the pain I was in, emotionally more than physically. Actually, the day you’re asking me, we’ve run into another complication. After four weeks of bleeding and spotting, another provider convinced me to reach back out to the clinic because evidently, that wasn’t actually normal. With yet another ultrasound, the clinic informed me of ‘the slight possibility there was retained tissue.’ In other words, they messed up and didn’t get everything. This was confirmed with more blood tests and another ultrasound. They’re hoping it will pass on its own in a week or two. If not, they’ll need to go in for another procedure, to eliminate the risk of infection and further complications. And so we wait. And this time, we hope for more bleeding, so we can fully mark the end of our twin pregnancy.
So when you ask if I’m pregnant, the short answer is no. No, I’m not pregnant.
I wish you cared enough to know the whole story. Actually, I wish you cared enough not to ask. It’s none of your business and unless someone has already said ‘I’m pregnant’ or is literally giving birth in front of you, you have no right to ask. You don’t know my story, you don’t know my pain, you clearly don’t know how loaded that question is. I am here in public because I need to force myself back into regular interactions with others. I need reasons to leave the house, not because I necessarily want to be here.
On the one hand, I’ve waited 4 years for someone to think I was pregnant so I could glowingly tell them our news. But it’s not supposed to happen like this. I know enough not to start talking about our babies that died – to me, they will always be my babies. And that’s not the answer you really want to hear.
Honestly, I don’t think I look pregnant now. Of course, our round of meds for the last embryo transfer and two miscarriages in six months does add to the weight and bloating of my body. But this body? This one you think looks larger due to a budding pregnancy is still the body that got pregnant.
This body, which I hated and fought with for years since starting this journey, is the one that got spontaneously pregnant WHEN DOCTORS TOLD US THAT WAS ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE. How many impossible things has your body done?
This body is trying to give us back the hope we had almost lost over the last 4 years. This body has proven, twice, embryos can implant and it’s working hard to carry a pregnancy to term. This body gave our em-babies a home, no matter how short, and helped us make them feel loved and cared for as long as we could.
I truly believe this body did the best it could with our pregnancies. It’s learning this new phase and working hard to carry the life (or lives) we so eagerly are waiting for.
So this body — no, it’s not currently pregnant. But it will be.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Lesli from Seattle, WA. You can follow their journey on Instagram and Facebook. 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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