Let me preface this by saying—this is going to be an extremely personal post. I have opened up about our struggle to get pregnant before, but since we have announced our second pregnancy, it has been on my heart to open up about just how dark it got for me, for us.
When Caleb and I first got married, we said we were going to wait four or five years to start a family. We got married young (22 and 23) and wanted to truly enjoy one another before introducing another life into our own. Well, six months in and I was like, “Give me all the babies!!” I saw the way he took care of me, and I wanted to see him take care of our children. So we started tentatively “trying,” essentially just going off birth control. All through college the objective was not to get pregnant, so naturally that made me think that actually getting pregnant was really easy. I remember thinking, “In a year, we will definitely have a baby on the way if we just stop not trying.” I couldn’t have been more wrong.
A year passed, with it came a move (kind of two moves, technically…you know, military!), a couple small jobs, the last classroom portion of my graduate degree, and a new job for Caleb. But the one thing that didn’t come was a new baby. I thought it was odd—my numerous Google searches told me that the average couple will get pregnant in a year. Something about us wasn’t average, I suppose, so we scheduled an appointment with the doctor.
The tests began as seemingly simple. First they drew my blood on certain days of my cycle to monitor my hormone levels. Why I say “seemingly” is because my cycle was crazy. One time it would be a 34-day cycle; the next a 56-day cycle. I could never predict when it would or wouldn’t come. When you’re trying to have a baby and you’re “missing” a period—that should be a happy thing, right? For us…wrong. It was a roller coaster. Each month I would go through the same emotional cycle—hopefulness, cautiousness, excitement, severe disappointment—just to have it start over again the next “month.”
Results from my blood tests came back: my progesterone levels were on the low end of normal, but still normal. So: inconclusive.
The next step was to do a more invasive test where the doctor inserted a balloon in my uterus and blew it up. The goal was to see if my uterus had any torsions or dents making it an unsuitable environment for a fetus. Let me tell you—having your uterus inflated within a couple minutes, just to deflate again is NOT a comfortable feeling. I like to think I am a pretty tough woman, but that almost got me. I was alone because Caleb had a field exercise that week, and I wasn’t sure if I could drive myself home I was so queasy and light-headed. Results from that test: everything looks normal!
We had one more test to do for me—”the dye test,” as they called it. This one inserted dye into my Fallopian tubes to see if there were any blockages preventing the sperm from making it to the egg. While it showed a minor blockage, the dye still spilled from both sides. Results: while there was a slight blockage, the dye should “flush out my system” and it should be clear for a good six months. I was told many couples have success conceiving after this test because of that… Well, Caleb left a month later for his first deployment…for six months.
I just felt like all hope was lost. This was our chance, and it was wasted because of his deployment. My emotions were depleted; my hope was gone. My mind kept telling my body it wasn’t feminine enough to carry life. It was on repeat in my mind: There’s something wrong with you. You aren’t fit to be a mother or else you would be. You’re broken and can’t be fixed. It wasn’t fair to myself; I know that now. But at the time, I couldn’t rid myself of those thoughts. Every time I saw a pregnancy announcement on Facebook or one of my friends got pregnant, I was bitter. I could smile, but I couldn’t be happy for them…not genuinely happy. It was a terrible place to be.
After all the tests…for me and for Caleb…the diagnosis: unexplained infertility.
So with this diagnosis and all my pent up anger and frustration, I started my first year of teaching. Throwing myself into lesson planning, classroom decorating, cross country coaching…my mind was occupied, despite Caleb’s absence. But I unintentionally lost a ton of weight. At my lowest, I was at 102 pounds. I’m 5’7”. That’s not healthy. Not even a little bit. And I knew it would affect our ability to conceive once Caleb returned.
When Caleb came home, I was so thankful to have him there. There was a long conversation about my feelings (Caleb is very stoic, so while he has feelings, they’re rarely discussed) where he assured me that we WERE a family already. Even if there were no kids, when we said our vows we created our own family. He told me we may be the fun aunt and uncle for our siblings’ children who get to take them on fun travel trips during the summer and holidays. We would have a disposable income, and we would focus on the two of us. This was exactly what I needed to hear. I finally began to believe him—we WERE a family. I would LOVE to be able to focus on the two of us. It was a mindset change for me.
While we had a minor breakthrough in mindset, we still felt we needed a getaway, so I took a day off and we did a long weekend in New Orleans. Little did we know, it was the beginning of Mardi Gras. Yes, we are totally oblivious and I realize that. Ha! That getaway must have done it for us because a short time later, we got the positive pregnancy test we had so longed for…for almost two years.
The OB office on base told me I had to wait till 10 weeks to hear our sweet baby’s heartbeat! So I went out to a sonogram place in town to hear it early. It was great…surreal. Until I realized that my sonogram didn’t look like all those I had seen on Facebook for the countless announcements I had seen throughout this process. Pardon my simple terms, but…the little black circle wasn’t a circle…it was bumpy looking. That’s when the ultrasound tech told me I should tell the OB this so that they could see me earlier. My heart stopped. I called. OB told me to wait. Had my appointment set up. But never made it there.
At seven weeks, during Spring break while I was coaching a Varsity soccer game, I felt a huge gush in between my thighs. Thank goodness it was half-time and I could quickly slip away to the bathroom. It was my worst nightmare. Blood everywhere. I cleaned up what I could, but didn’t have any feminine supplies, because, well, I was anticipating I wouldn’t need them for quite some time. Did the best I could with toilet paper, put the worst case scenario out of my mind, and went to finish the second half. On my way there—another gush. At this point, I was acting off instinct. I went directly to the head coach, told him we were having a family emergency, got in my car, and drove home hoping I didn’t stain my car seat. Caleb was gone at a two-week training about four hours away. I called him in a panic. As he always does, he calmed me down for the time being, but I knew it couldn’t be normal.
For the next two weeks, I spotted until I finally made another appointment with the sonogram tech out in town at nine weeks. I couldn’t wait anymore. I needed my worst fear confirmed…and they did. They confirmed it. No more heartbeat, no more baby.
FINALLY, the OB saw me when I said I had miscarried. My options: a DNC, some pills meant to flush all the remnants out, or let it happen naturally. All had pros and cons, but I finally decided the pills—guarantee to get everything out, but no risk of puncturing anything like with the DNC. Put politely…those pills were painful and scary and nothing at all like what I expected. Waking up in the middle of the night so nauseous and dizzy I could barely walk to the toilet, all the while trying not to bleed all over the carpet and bathroom floor. I’ll leave the detail at that.
This brought is to the end of April—a hell of a way for Caleb to spend his birthday. I still had a couple months left of school, which I again used as a distraction from what I felt was the disaster of our infertile life. But come the summer…I cracked.
Caleb and I went on yet another getaway. This one was fraught with fights and short, curt comments…because I felt like he didn’t understand how I felt. I wasn’t realizing that he lost a baby too. I was selfish and bearing the pain alone. Thankfully the trip we wanted to use to forget, actually forced us to heal. Not gonna lie, there was some alcohol involved so that I could actually open up and say what the hell I meant. Wouldn’t recommend that, but it worked for us.
At this point, I was SO opposed to using fertility medication. “If God wanted us to have a child, he would give us a child. We shouldn’t mess with His plan with science to fit our vision of how our lives should be.” That was what I thought. And, I mean, hey, it makes sense. So months passed…July, August, September, October, November (our original due date for the baby we lost…the feelings felt on that day could be a post in and of itself)… I had quit my teaching job, thinking it was the stress from that (oh gosh, I brought so much home—literally and emotionally) that was causing our infertility. This is also when I started my photography business while waitressing at a local restaurant. It was nice to have a job I could leave and not have it follow me home. But still no luck.
Finally…in November, when we were supposed to be holding a newborn, I told Caleb… “I think it’s time. I want to start using Clomid.” Clomid is basically the “first stop” for couples in our position. It triggers your ovaries to tell them to ovulate. For whatever reason, that due date triggered something in me. It was time. I don’t know what changed my heart, but something did. So we started Clomid. You take it on certain days and do what you need to do on certain days…very clinical. Yet when it was time for my period to come (yes, this also regulates your period for the most point), it didn’t. I took a test—negative. Called the doctor and they told me to come in. Results from blood test: You have HCG (the pregnancy hormone) in your system, but it’s not strong like it should be. Come in again in two days and we will see if it has increased. Two days later: gone.
Finally, on Christmas Day…my period came. We boarded the roller coaster once again. Typically doctors give you three rounds, or tries, on Clomid before trying a new drug/method. It was time for our second, and what we knew would probably be our last, try. Caleb was due to deploy again in a month. It was a crazy time—holidays, preparing for deployment, I was working a lot for holiday parties at the restaurant. We actually messed up the specific days we were supposed to do what, so I just wrote off that cycle.
My period was supposed to come literally the day Caleb was leaving for Japan. At 5am that morning, before getting in the car to drop him off at the airport, I took a test. Left it on the counter while I was getting ready and almost forgot about it. Like I said, I had mentally written off that cycle. At the last second I went back to it, and called Caleb upstairs. “Is that a line? I can’t tell if that’s a second line or not.” Imagine us squinting at 5:30 in the morning, holding this thing up to the light trying to figure it out.
It was a very faint line. I told him I didn’t want to get excited after everything we had been through, but I would take another test the next morning. I vividly remember saying, “Hey, when you land in Japan, I’ll let you know if you’re gonna be a dad!” Lo and behold, he was gonna be a dad. The line was darker and unmistakable in the morning.
We had an easy pregnancy (thank goodness because Caleb wasn’t there for most of it!), a little less easy delivery, but a healthy baby girl at the end of it all. Now, I don’t want to gloss over the fact that we were elated to finally become parents, even if it was with some medical assistance. But for the sake of this post, let me continue…
A family of six has always been our dream—us with four sons. Of course, when our first baby was a girl, the genders of our “dream children” changed, but the number didn’t. We knew, though, that it would probably be a struggle each time we wanted to have a baby. With that in mind, I never went on birth control after Huxley. We were told it’s easier to get pregnant the second time; many moms get pregnant while breastfeeding because you still ovulate even if you don’t have a period (also a myth for some women—I had a period while I breastfed); you’re more fertile directly after delivery. Well…a year passed with no luck and so we thought…here we go again! We imagined our children being close in age, and thankfully our midwife was supportive of that and let us begin Clomid about fourteen months after Hux was born.
The first cycle was unsuccessful. So I wanted to pause for one cycle to avoid being due in “busy season” for photography. A selfish decision, I’ll admit. But I knew I already had couples I had committed my time to. Just like the last time—my mind had written off getting pregnant this cycle. Lo and behold—the day I was supposed to get my period, I took a test earlyyyy in the morning, just like the last time.
It made me double take—the test line popped up before the control line, so there was no mistaking it. I was pregnant. And now we are expecting baby #2 in September.
I don’t tell this story to rub my “success” in anyone’s face. I tell this story as a sign of hope to others going through similar scenarios. I understand the battle that you are enduring. I/We have been in those trenches. We have lost those battles, only to be told there’s no reason they were lost. Mentally, physically, emotionally…I have been at rock bottom searching for answers, Googling all the blanks I felt the doctors left open.
When people would tell me unhelpful advice like, “It’ll happen when you least expect it!” I wanted to tell them to shove their advice up their ass because they had kids and couldn’t understand. I’m not telling you that it’ll happen when you least expect it. I’m telling you that you need to give yourself some grace, regardless of whether there’s a diagnosis or it’s unexplained…you’re not broken. You ARE enough. I can’t promise you children, but I can promise you that if you’re criticizing yourself and your body in your head, that will manifest itself into your physical body and have detrimental affects on your conception process.
Remember, just like Caleb told me—the day you said your vows…that’s the day you became your own family. Love your family and find peace in that. Don’t give up, just find peace in where you are in your story.