26 Oct To our little butterfly, that flew away…
We all have a different story. No story is ever the same and they are always subject to change. 3 days ago my story was full of joy, happiness and excitement for my future. Today, much of it seems to have slipped away. Or is this just a temporary perception? 3 days ago, I thought there was new life inside me. I was an expectant mother with vivid dreams for when my baby was coming in May 2019. 10 weeks pregnant with miracle baby, my husband and I walked hand-in-hand discussing moving to a new house that had room for a baby. We chatted around names, we smiled, we laughed and we made plans with feverish excitement for our new life as parents. Today, our conversations are different. There is a fringe of sadness that clings to the end of our words. When I woke up this morning, I looked at my husband and he sighed deeply. That sigh communicates more than words can. A few days ago our mornings started out differently. Now there is no longer a reason to reach out and rub my belly. Instead, today, we stared into each other’s eyes – it is just the two of us again. While this is not what I had imagined this for my life right now. I refuse to let it dictate how the rest unfolds. While miscarriage tries to entangle itself around your happiness and pull you under with such hellish force – I choose not to let mine rip apart my truly wonderful life.
Infertility and IVF has challenged us for the past 18 months. I wrote previously about how IVF and infertility was the best thing to ever happen to me – It really is. I stand by it now as it has toughened my skin to the point that I know with conviction I can make it through the loss of a baby. Our children change us whether they lived or not. With a child no longer on our near horizon, we can take 1 of 2 paths. We could fall into a slump of sadness and blame for this unfair card we were dealt or we could take the path which still leads us to our happily ever after. We made the decision to choose the latter. I have the most beautiful and amazing life and while this aspect of it is rough, it is but one pillar in all the things that hold our world up high. Sure, our plans for a baby have crumbled in a heap for now. But, more importantly, we recognise that we are also held up by the much stronger pillars; of a strong marriage, excellent careers, amazing family, brilliant friends, a budding business but most importantly – the strongest foundation of all – our mindsets.
Almost fortuitously, I had started writing a blog post the morning of my miscarriage. My post came from a place of happiness but also was weighed down with guilt. Guilt for falling pregnant when so many could not. Guilt for having fallen pregnant while others were losing their babies before the 12-week mark and beyond. Little did I know that I was soon to become the 1 in 5 who lost the life from inside them. I was soon to be a statistic. I was hours away from the heartbreak. The words I typed before I got the terrible news were raw with emotion, not as cutting as they are now, but with empathy for others who were still on their way…
“Sometimes I feel as though my very novice experience with infertility means I am not worthy of finding things challenging, like maybe if I had another 5 years of trying, failing and/or miscarriages, like THEN I can feel the pain like others do. Since I have been open about my experiences with infertility and my IVF journey, people have shared their incredible stories with me. I have watched women cry as they describe their 8-year story, the loss of babies and the heartbreak that they experience year after year. I instantly feel guilty for even considering my 18-month battle to be of significance. Why is that? My story has all the components of a great narrative. It is filled with love, joy, heart break, suspense, characters that you love and hate, a beginning, complications, resolutions… but does it have an ending? Will this narrative end happily? Or does a new part in the series simply begin? I don’t know the answer to that question and I don’t know about other women either. All I can do is tell my story and pray beyond all hope we get our happy ending.”
Did I know deep down that this wasn’t the final chapter? How amazing and instinctual is the human body! Our baby came about and left us in the most dramatic fashion. Having over stimulated on my first IVF cycle, I was told I would have to wait 2 months until they would transfer an embryo. That call was so disappointing as my hopes were riding on the potential of a pregnancy later that month. Patiently, I waited and we had the transfer late August. The 2-week wait is absolute agony. For any woman who tracks her cycle and is trying for a baby, you spend 2 weeks of your life analysing every little twinge, searching for implantation bleeding, feeling your boobs for any sign of pain or growth. You drive yourself insane searching for the signs you could be pregnant. When the day of my blood test rolled around, I was a nervous wreck. My poor husband planned back-to-back activities to keep me busy. I was the worst person to be around on this day because I was so ravaged by anxiety. When we finally got the call to hear that I had SOME HCG (pregnancy hormone) in my system – it didn’t even make me feel better. My levels were still too low to call and I would have to wait another couple of days to see if they were increasing. The next 2 agonising days were even worse! Finally when the Monday rolled around, I got the disappointing call that my levels had risen, but not by enough. The nurse indicated that some extra hormone injections I was on was probably causing the registration of HCG and that I wasn’t actually pregnant. I spent the afternoon sobbing into my pillow with my husband watching on in despair. 2 days later I got an interesting call from my doctor. He told me that he had just reviewed my file and thinks the nurses had prematurely booted me from the race. He said that even though I had a slight increase in the hormone, I could still have a chance. I screeched out of my work car park and bolted to the nearest pathology to get a blood test. Later that day, I got the next disappointing call that my levels had dropped so I wasn’t in for a shot. I was to await my next period and contact the nurses again to schedule the next round.
Almost a week past and still no period, puzzled, I contacted the nurses again. I was a week late and very curious as to what was happening. They were just as interested and in I went for ANOTHER blood test. This time, my HCG had more than doubled…what the eff? I almost jumped out of my chair with excitement, only to be met with warnings that my excitement was premature as I displayed very abnormally low HCG levels. They would need to keep tracking them and couldn’t rule out an ectopic pregnancy. To cut an agonizingly long story short I spent the next 2 weeks worrying my pregnancy was ectopic only to finally reach the point where a scan revealed a baby in the right spot. Interestingly, the pregnancy should have been 6.5 weeks along but was only 5. The clinic came to the amazing conclusion that I was likely not pregnant with the transferred embryo and that Matt and I had conceived naturally a week later! It was also at this appointment (just to add to the drama) that I was told I could have a second pregnancy that was ectopic. If this was the case, it could be managed by simply removing my fallopian tube whilst still maintaining my viable pregnancy (ummmm – great…). We waited 2 weeks and finally at 7 weeks along, my husband and I saw a heartbeat and the joy and love all wrapped up in one that I felt in that moment is unforgettable. The second mass shrunk in size. We were in the clear.
It is true what they say – The greater your storm, the brighter your rainbow. For the next few weeks, we lived on cloud nine. We told family and close friends. We were given the cutest gifts. My mother-in-law started crocheting the most adorable baby items. The whole trajectory of our lives changed and we were in heaven. I will never forget those weeks. It was in that short time that I experienced not one glimpse of sadness. Everything in my life was aligned. I marveled one day to my husband about how lucky we were. Everything was just perfect. I noted how we needed to take a mental picture of how amazing this felt as it was a rare experience to feel like you had it all. I am so glad I took the time to be present for this because it is a treasured memory.
A couple of weeks ago were when I got the warning signs. I started spotting and instantly panicked. A trip to the doctor reassured me that I was okay and that small amounts of bleeding were very normal. While I walked away somewhat reassured, a seed was planted and I still had whispers of anxiety that caught me at varying times of night and day. The nightmare finally caught up to me a few days ago when I felt what was the beginning of what I now know was the end. I rushed to the bathroom and my fears were confirmed – I was bleeding. Matt and I raced to the hospital and we spent the morning in the clinical surrounds of emergency. My bleeding stopped and I was given the all clear to go home, they didn’t think I was miscarrying. Once I was given my discharge sheet, I spotted my HCG levels – they were only 7000 when they should have been in the hundreds of thousands. This was a huge warning sign. I still don’t know how that didn’t alarm them. I pushed to get in for a scan the following day.
Sitting silently side-by-side in the waiting room the next day was like everything was in slow motion. I held my belly and begged out loud for our baby to be okay. Matt looked me in the eye and promised me that everything would be alright. I was exactly 10 weeks and that was the day that it should have been the size of a butterfly. I would soon find out that my little butterfly had flown away…
As soon as the sonographer put the probe on my stomach, I saw the blob that was once my baby. I knew in almost a heartbeat, that it no longer had one itself. At my 7 week scan the flicker of that pulsing heartbeat was so obvious and so was the sonographer’s excitement. This time, she said nothing and the vibe in the air was entirely stale. I held my breath and I searched that screen for even a glimmer of hope. But I never found it. She stopped, put her hand on my arm and I felt my ears ring. “I am so sorry.” Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Matt’s head tip backwards and he took a sharp breath in. When she stepped out of the room, I turned to Matt, he held me in his arms and we cried together in silence. When two hearts break at once, time stands still. I closed my eyes tight and hoped that this was a horrible nightmare that I would soon wake up from. But under those clinical bright lights, I knew it was real. I spent the next hour listening to instructions for what would happen next. I could wait for nature to take its course, which could be weeks, or have a procedure done the next day. I opted for the next day. I didn’t think I could sit around waiting for the inevitable and to go through the whole experience.
I didn’t sleep a wink that night. I was up early at 4am the day of my D&C (removal of pregnancy) and my tears were never ending. I slumped on my living room floor cradling my dog and cried for what felt like hours. By the time Matt woke up, I was so exhausted I could barely lift an eyelid. As I got into the car, the tears continued to spill down my face. I couldn’t believe I was on my way to do what I was about to do. Once we made it to the hospital, the whole process was to be over by lunchtime. Just before they wheeled me away from Matt and into theatre, my hospital bed was parked in front of a wall. On that wall hung a picture of a path surrounded by trees and thick bracken. You couldn’t see where the path led – that part was a mystery. As I sat there, blank, sad and hopeless, I squinted my eyes to search that picture for an answer to where that path was going to take me. It was in that moment that I realized that the end point was entirely up to me. It didn’t have to be dark, foreboding grief-stricken destination – it could be sunny pastures.
I squeezed my husband’s hand tight and concentrated on all the amazing things I had to be grateful for. I honestly have the most amazing life. The support that holds me together is what keeps me going. When I first shared my story about IVF, my blog traffic boomed. My vulnerability magnetised people. I had messages from strangers, people from high school, colleagues, family and friends. I felt cocooned with support, love and encouragement. Since then, a dark and sometimes hidden battle started feeling a little brighter. People shared more, and in-turn, I saw more healing occur. Not just in others, but in myself. No longer plagued by secrecy, things seemed less dire. This is what is getting me through. Sharing my story, sharing my pain and sharing my joy is holding my shit together. The day I posted that first life-changing post, I found out I was pregnant an hour after I hit the publish button. Today’s outlook is a little different but I know great things are to come. Telling our family and friends has been heartbreaking. No one knows what to say to make things better. We have felt unbelievable love. We have had visitors, phone calls, flowers sent to our house and endless encouraging words. This helps us to be sure that this one has simply made way for another.
I know that – Life has thrown me lemon after lemon and I have become the world best and most efficient lemonade machine.
‘There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside of you’ – Maya Angelou.
Tell your story… My story is important, no matter how long or short – and so is yours. If you even felt disappointed for 1 cycle that you didn’t fall pregnant, you are worthy. If you feel pregnant straight away – you are just as worthy. If you are decades deep – you too have a wonderful story to tell. Write it down, tell it to friends around the dinner table, just talk to your partner or a family member, but don’t keep it locked up inside of yourself. I practice what I preach as a health coach. I encourage all my clients to open up, to find what it is that is at the root of any problem. When you tackle the root, you manage what grows and what doesn’t. I choose to harbor positivity, no matter the circumstances and I have each and every one of you to thank for it. We are all here to hold each other’s hands, to laugh, to cry and to celebrate. I welcome you and your story into my life and I hope you too can receive mine.
To our beautiful butterfly – We never met you, but we miss you. I carried you for every second of your life, and I will love you for every second of mine.
If you or anyone you know is struggling with infertility or IVF please reach out. I run a regular get together of both women and men each month. We have a get together this weekend 26/10/18 and another in November. Alternatively I am always here as both a health coach and an excellent listener. I encourage you to seek support and share your story, however short or long x