The Pain Project

The Pain Project: When Your Body Fails You

Every girl has a vision of what her life will look like.

I would grow up and get married then we’d have two children and life would be perfect.

Except when it’s not.


Abigail

It was in 2009 that we got a positive pregnancy test and while we were in shock, we were also really excited. Abigail came into this world and she was the best thing that ever happened to us. I remember watching my husband hold her for the first time and I fell in love with him all over again.

Your body becomes a bit more broken after having a baby, though. There were so many hormonal changes and physical healing that took place that it’s hard not to want your old life back. One morning as I was feeding Abigail at 3 a.m., I remember feeling a sense of envy towards everyone who was out there still sleeping. The thought quickly was silenced by my immediate guilt. She really was the perfect baby and looking back, I probably had a bit of postpartum depression.

Nothing prepares you for that first baby and every life change that comes with it so I knew it would be awhile before we would be ready for another one.

Right when Abigail was 2, my younger sister got engaged and I thought to myself, “Maybe after the wedding, we could try for another baby.” That news came much sooner than I thought. As the wedding approached and Abigail was almost 4, I got a feeling that I might be pregnant. I took a test shortly after my sister’s wedding and sure enough, it was positive.

An immense sense of excitement came over me that was also tinged with a bit of fear.

I recall when Abigail was one, my sister naturally conceived and gave birth to twins. We didn’t think it was something that ran in our family, but now it was a very real possibility. A possibility that I didn’t want for myself. I made my first OB appointment after finding out we were expecting and my only thought walking into my appointment was “Please tell me it’s not twins. Tell me that you only see one baby in there.”

We did the normal bloodwork and discussed due dates, but then it was time for the vaginal ultrasound. As she was looking on the screen, I could sense something was off by her facial expression. She kept looking and looking and looking, finally turning to me and said, “I’m not seeing what I want to see.” I said, “What do you mean? I’m pregnant, my test was positive.”

I called Erik as they scheduled me to go upstairs for a second ultrasound and before he could get there, I got the news that somewhere between the 6-10 week mark that our baby had died. I was so selfish. My only thought going into this appointment was that I didn’t want twins and here I’m leaving without having even one. What did I do wrong?

Reassurance

I had a followup appointment with my doctor and she assured me that miscarriage is unfortunately normal, but since I had a healthy pregnancy once before that I could surely conceive again.

A year went by and I still wasn’t pregnant.

It was during my annual exam that my doctor suggested that I, along with my husband, get some testing done to ensure nothing was off. I for sure thought it was something with Erik as to why we couldn’t get pregnant, I mean he’s almost 6 years older than me so that had to be why.

Erik’s tests came back normal, however, my doctor told me I had a low AMH level and a high FSH which meant that I was perimenopausal. I was exhibiting signs of menopause.

What! I was only 35 at the time.

Fertility Specialists

My doctor recommended that I started seeing a fertility specialist right away as time was running out. The specialist that was recommended informed us of two options that we could take:

1.) IUI which is when they give you a shot that triggers ovulation and they would immediately inject you with your husband’s sperm.

2.) IVF which is when they extract eggs and sperm to fertilize in a petri dish. This method is more invasive than IUI.

We took a class to learn more about the logistics of each method and I recall hearing our instructor say, “If you overproduce follicle/ eggs, you may want to stay away from your husband for a month or you could end up octomom. If you do end up fertilizing more than two, we can always talk about reduction.”

Reduction was another way to say abortion and that wasn’t ok with me. She went on further to explain that they would have to send us to Kansas because it wasn’t legal here in Nebraska.

Reduction was not an option, and consequently, neither was IUI.

Alternative Methods

Time was our enemy. My body wasn’t getting any younger and neither was Abigail, it would only increase the age gap between them the longer we tried to conceive. I immediately hopped on the internet to find alternative methods for fertility. A friend referred me to a Natural Health Center that has a high rate of success in healthy women achieving fertility. They did acupuncture, chiropractic, and natural healing remedies. This had to be the answer to my prayers.

The expenses to going here kept increasing. I was taking pills every day and towards the end of my time here, I was dropping $500 every other week. I reasoned that this was the cost of trying to conceive and so we sucked it up and paid the fees.

My blood tests were showing that my FSH levels were getting better, but the end goal wasn’t being achieved. After nearly thousands of dollars, we stopped going and adopted the mindset that “if this happens, it happens.”

You’ve Got to Be Kidding Me

Fast forward to May 2015 and my youngest sister just announced that she was expecting twins.This has to be a cruel joke, God. She can barely take care of herself and you’re rewarding her with two babies and I don’t even get another one?

I had a lot of anger towards God and that fury came out to everyone in my family. I was telling my parents all the things they were doing wrong. Then I turned my sights towards my youngest (pregnant) sister. I told her all the things she was doing wrong and bringing a dose of reality to her about the costs of childcare, diapers, and babies in general. I had internalized so much that all those years of bottling up would reveal themselves in random outbursts.

I became the bitch of the family.

She had her twins and with that, we started losing hope in our own efforts. We knew a friend that had gone down the road of adoption. Adoption can be complicated, especially when you have a biological child of your own. After much discussion and weighing out our circumstance, it was something we didn’t pursue.

We had an epiphany this last Christmas, though.

Our entire family drove back to my hometown to surprise my mom for her birthday. After we cleaned up from the party, my twin nieces mentioned to my daughter how they were going to spend the night at Grandma/Papas house that night. Our family had intended to drive back to Omaha because it would be pretty crowded to sleep that many people comfortably. Abigail pleaded with us to be able to stay and spend the night and Erik relented.

The next morning he turned to me and said, “Do you know why I told Abigail that we could stay? When we go home, she just has you and I. Spending time with her cousins is as close to siblings as she’ll ever have. She needs more than just Mom and Dad.”

Those words hit me like a ton of bricks.

We decided we would start trying again.

Alternative Alternative Methods

We went back to Methodist in February of this year and said, “We’re ready to do whatever it takes” so they started off with some more tests.

During this time, my youngest sister was selling essential oils through a company and told me about a fertility line they carried. Within a month of taking these oils, I got a positive pregnancy test. Is this real life? I spent thousands of dollars with fertility specialists and all it took was buying a few oils to get a positive test?

Yet something inside me was scared, hoping for the best but always expecting the worse. We notified my OB right away and they called me in for blood tests to measure my HCG levels. It wasn’t as high as they had hoped, but they told me to come back in 48 hours to check back on progress.

I was back 48 hours later and the HCG numbers did increase, but only barely. A week goes by and I come back for more testing and my numbers had dropped. They’re not supposed to drop. In fact, they’re supposed to keep doubling or tripling. And here I was experiencing my second miscarriage.

All the feelings from my first miscarriage came rushing back, I couldn’t stop crying.

We had to wait a few more months before we could start trying again and this time, I scheduled an appointment with another well-known acupuncturist in town. We started seeing her in April and I kept taking the oils. We got a positive test on the 4th of July.

I felt really good about this one because 8 years ago, we got our first positive test with Abigail on the 4th of July. This has to be it.

We found out we lost the baby as quickly as we found out we were pregnant.

When we had our first miscarriage, my mom has suggested a religious-based reproduction center that made claims of naturally helping women achieve pregnancy. She even went as far as being a trained consultant with them to help map out cycles.

I was turned off right from my initial consultation. They asked how I planned on paying for services, our income level, our insurance, etc. Their model for treating infertility was the same for every woman- exploratory surgery to “check” my insides and diagnose/treat every woman with endometriosis. It felt very cookie cutter and nothing indicated that they were truly out to help me.

So we walked away.

At my mom’s urging, we reconsidered them again. She reasoned that “All Methodist is doing is helping you to get pregnant, but how are they helping to keep a healthy pregnancy?”

I was torn.

Erik said, “Your mom’s right. Our problem isn’t achieving pregnancy, it’s keeping it.” With those words, we are pursuing the religious-based reproduction center again. (But I’m still not open to their “exploratory surgery”.)

We were given tests, vitamins, and medicine to help create an environment for reproduction in my body. At the time this story is published, we still haven’t achieved pregnancy.

When you’re dealing with infertility you feel isolated navigating this process. Everyone claims they can help, but all the information can seem to contradict. It’s all so confusing.

Concluding Thoughts

Before I was very angry, but now I’m more at peace. There are moments of divine intervention where I sense that this could still happen for us. After our first miscarriage, we always said we would stop trying at certain milestones in life. Those milestones have come and gone.

Understanding that this journey is difficult. There’s no magic pill or wand to make this happen. I just want somebody to tell me what I need to do. Unfortunately, none of this exists. I don’t think anybody really knows the answer- leaving us to navigate all of this on our own.

Infertility is becoming more common, people are talking about it more. But at the same time, I feel so many people and clinics are making a profit at our expense. There are so many hormone and reproductive centers popping up and advertising on TV – it really feels like people are playing with our money.

I look at Erik and think to myself “what a wonderful father he is.” Abigail is wrapped around his fingers and he would do anything for that little girl. It pains me to know how much he wants another child and how I can’t seem to do that for him. I’ve had to come to terms with my own disappointment, but also the disappointment of letting him down and being unable to give Abigail a sibling.

For all those women struggling with infertility, I would say to trust your gut. If you don’t feel like you’re done, then keep trying. If something doesn’t feel right or makes your uncomfortable, don’t do it.

I trust this is all part of God’s plan for me.  As difficult as it is sometimes – it is much easier to live believing this than be angry. For me, I don’t feel like I’m done trying.

 

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