Motherhood, Miscarriage, & Secondary Infertility: Part 1 – Our Story

Over the past 5 years, I have experienced a healthy pregnancy, new motherhood, post-partum anxiety, miscarriage, post-partum depression, secondary infertility, many of the tests and procedures and medicine trials that go along with those things, and a second healthy pregnancy & delivery! It has been quite a rollercoaster of a journey, and I have decided to share about all of it this week in honor of Infertility Awareness Week. My hope is that this could be a light for another woman out there who could be going through some of these things as well, so if you’re that woman, then this one is for you. <3

I am really nervous to write these two posts because it is sharing a lot of personal details and requires a lot of vulnerability, but I am also excited to share it because, as I mentioned above, I think that it could potentially help other women out there that are experiencing similar situations as to what I experienced over the past 5 years. In Part 2, I want to share the solutions that worked for us, but I also don’t want to give anyone a false sense of hope because I know what it is like to see a negative pregnancy test month after month for over a year, and the heartbreak and frustration that it brings. I know what it is like to miscarry, to lose a child that you’ve never met, and to want to be pregnant again as soon as possible, but to also be terrified of pregnancy because you don’t want to experience pregnancy loss ever again, because you’re not sure if you can take it.

Obviously there are many women who have gone through both infertility and miscarriage and child loss to a much longer and deeper extent than I have, so I also don’t want this to be an “I feel sorry for myself” post, I really just wanted to share my experience if any part of it might help another woman.

In this post, and in my Part 2 post, I am going to recommend some products that helped me, but this is also not a fix-it for everyone type post because every woman’s body is different. If you are experiencing infertility, I don’t know what your diagnosis is, or why it is happening to you, but I thought it might be worth it to SOMEONE out there whose body could possibly be responding to things the same way mine was, and for whom this two-part post and information could be helpful!

Side Note: I do describe some of the events of my miscarriage, and the procedures I went through in some detail, so this may not be suitable for younger readers.

*This post contains affiliate links.

1st Pregnancy: New Motherhood

With my daughter (Now 4) I stopped taking birth control pills in August of 2013, and did not have a period before I became pregnant! It did take 5 months after stopping birth control to get pregnant, but at that point, I just blamed it on my body readjusting to not being on birth control. A friend recommended drinking Raspberry Leaf Tea (I’ll talk more about this in my post Motherhood, Miscarriage, & Secondary Infertility Part 2: Our Solutions) to help rebalance my hormones after birth control so I tried it for that last month, which is when I conceived! I had a healthy and fairly easy pregnancy & delivery, which lead me to believe that everything worked perfectly fine as far as my reproductive system went, and I had no worries about future pregnancies not being just as easy as the first.

However, I did experience post-partum anxiety and some post-partum depression after my daughter was born. When I hit a point where I was driving my car to work and I thought to myself “if I crash my car into a ditch on purpose, I’ll probably end up in the hospital for a few days and that will let me have time to be alone and sleep” I knew that this was a real problem. I started taking a low dose of Sertraline (Generic Zoloft), and it really helped my mind start to distinguish between the rational & irrational thoughts that would enter my mind every day. It really dulled that sense of anxiety enough that I could begin working through my thoughts, anxieties, and fears on my own instead of having to always talk them through with my husband and say “This is what I’m thinking right now, is that crazy or normal?” I still did this fairly often, but I was able to get better at it! (I’m planning to write another post on Post-partum emotional and mental states, so I won’t talk much about that here).

2nd Pregnancy: Experiencing Loss

By the time my daughter was 10 months old, I was pregnant again. This time, however, I was NOT drinking the Raspberry Leaf Tea (We had not been specifically trying, just not doing anything to prevent pregnancy). I was also still taking a low dose of Sertraline. During this pregnancy, I did not have much morning sickness as I did at the beginning with my 1st pregnancy, so I thought, “It must be a boy” or “Every baby is different” which is possible, but around 6.5 weeks pregnant, I started having weird, fast, and sharp pains. At first, I assumed it was maybe just my uterus or the muscles down there adjusting to prepare for another pregnancy, but when they started happening while I was teaching my high school class, and I had to stop talking in the middle of a sentence to wince, I knew something could be wrong.

We went back to the doctor, and they performed a Quantitative HCG test to check the actual HCG levels. The first time they had just done a Qualitative HCG test for pregnant or not since I had not experienced pregnancy loss in the past, there was no reason to worry at my first appointment. My HCG level at 7 weeks pregnant was only 267, which is not very high, they would normally be over 1,000. We then tested 2 days later to see if they were rising or falling, but wouldn’t get the results back until Monday. The doctor warned me of what might happen over the weekend, but honestly, I didn’t really process most of it, I just hoped for the best, and naively told myself they were probably wrong, my first pregnancy was healthy, so why would this be any different?

That weekend at 7.5 weeks pregnant, I started bleeding slightly, so Monday morning we went back into the doctor again so that he could check things, and talk to us about the results of the second HCG test. My level from the last test was down below 200, which meant that the pregnancy was not progressing. He again talked me through everything, but again, I did not really understand, because who does at that point?

The next morning, I woke up not feeling very well, my husband went to work, and I went back to bed because my daughter was still sleeping. I then woke up a little while later thinking that I was dying. I had cramps worse than anything I had ever experienced, I felt extremely nauseous, and when I went to the bathroom I was basically hemorrhaging blood. I called my husband and my mom, and my mom rushed over to my house to help me since my daughter was waking up, and my husband arrived shortly as well. All I really remember is the pain, nausea, and a lot of blood, but my husband said when he got there my face was totally pale and tinted green. We called the doctor and he said to just rest as much as possible, and let my body try to take care of the process of miscarrying naturally.

We ended up going back in a week later (still bleeding) to check on things and to make sure that my HCG levels were back at 0, which was a result that was incredibly painful to read, and we were expected to go on living our normal lives. This lead to a very difficult time for me mentally and emotionally as I began to experience Post-partum Depression (this can obviously happen even when you don’t have a new baby) and just to really struggle with this loss, which like I mentioned earlier, I will talk about in another post that focuses more on post-partum mental and emotional states.

After this loss, I felt this urgent need to be pregnant again, but at the same time, like I mentioned earlier, this intense fear of ever being pregnant again because of the horrifying and heartbreaking experience of losing my baby that I never was able to meet. The doctor recommended waiting 6 months to start trying again, but pretty much as soon as my body was healed, I wanted to start trying. I also had a deep sense of guilt because I had been taking the anti-depression/anxiety meds, and I felt like that somehow could have contributed to the miscarriage (not likely – based on further discoveries about my body it was most likely very low progesterone levels), so I told my doctor that I wanted to start weaning off of them as soon as possible. He told me that he did not think that would a good idea since I had just experienced something traumatic and it could trigger further issues with anxiety and depression, so I agreed to wait.

Secondary Infertility: Waiting Impatiently

About two months after the miscarriage, I felt like my body was healed enough (it was probably not, but again, I felt this urgent need to be pregnant) to start trying to get pregnant again. I started the process of weaning off of my medicine because I felt that the anxiety of being pregnant and on the medicine and miscarrying again was worse than the anxiety I was dealing with at the time. It ended up taking me about two months to completely wean off of the Sertraline. At that point, I felt that I was able to continue my practice of distinguishing between rational and irrational thoughts, and it really helped me to speak them out loud to a trusted friend or my husband. I also was able at this point to start to trust God with my thoughts and begin turning my fears and anxieties over to Him.

After another 4 months of trying to become pregnant again, I was having irregular heavy periods and cramping, and no success with becoming pregnant. Because of the irregularity and cramping, my doctor decided that we should do a hysteroscopy, in which you are put under anesthesia, and your doctor puts a scope through your vagina and cervix to look into your uterus, to make sure that there was nothing left in the uterus from the miscarriage, which could be causing the bleeding and pain. This was an in-and-out procedure but still caused more cramping and bleeding for a couple of days afterward. It was also just another addition to the heartbreak and the pain that I was still feeling from losing a pregnancy in the first place.This procedure took place in the month of my original due date from the baby we lost, so it was just a tough month in which to have a surgery with more bleeding and cramping.

After the hysteroscopy we found out that there was nothing “leftover” from the miscarriage in my uterus, I did have a small uterine polyp that they removed, which could have been causing some of the heavy bleeding, but shouldn’t have been causing issues with conception. So we just carried on with our lives, over the next 9 months we continued trying, with negative test after negative test, feeling heartbroken and just this urgency to have another baby.

Something that is helpful if you are in this situation of taking tests month after month is to order pregnancy tests in bulk from Amazon. I probably took about 4-6 tests per month because of the irregularity of my cycles. That really adds up if you’re paying normal store prices for tests. Here are the ones that I ordered, these cost me about 40 cents per test instead of $2.50-$15.00 per test at the stores:

During this time of trying, I had many friends who became pregnant with their second children, and while I was excited for them, it was also so heartbreaking to watch my daughter interact with their kids and think “she should have a sibling too, why did this happen?” If you have not experienced infertility, miscarriage, or child loss, this probably sounds mean or weird, but it can be painful depending on your emotional and mental state, to see pregnancy announcements, or new babies, or other siblings interacting with one another, and to know that this should have been you too with a new baby, it should have been your kid too, that had a new sibling. It is just a really difficult time, and it is so hard to process all of those emotions and thoughts.

At around 2 months after the hysteroscopy, I was still having irregular cycles & bleeding, so my doctor suggested that I take progesterone to tell my body when to have a period basically, and get it back on track. We had found by doing blood tests that my progesterone levels were very low (one time they were .72 which the normal level for a middle aged man!) Although it did help bring my progesterone levels up a bit, this did not really work for regulating my cycles for some reason, so at around 5 months after we had been trying post-hysteroscopy, (1 year post-miscarriage) my doctor tested my insulin levels, and decided to try putting me on Metformin to help balance out my insulin levels, and balance out my hormone levels as well, hopefully kicking my cycles back on track.

A couple of months later, and we were back in with irregularities and still no positive pregnancy tests, so I was officially diagnosed with “Secondary Infertility” which is when you’ve successfully become pregnant in the past, but you are unable to conceive after trying for one year without birth control. This again, was just heartbreaking because we did not really have any explanation as to why this was happening. We were referred to a fertility specialist, so we set up an appointment. Our first appointment with the fertility doctor was 14 months after my miscarriage.
When we went to the fertility doctor, they had my husband do some “testing” only to find that everything on his end was “impressively strong and healthy”, so it was obviously me that was the issue. Again, after feeling that I had failed to keep my last baby alive, this was just another heartbreak for me that I was causing the “issue” but we didn’t know how to fix it. Unfortunately, after testing me, we were told that I probably had Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome or PCOS, which is when the ovaries produce higher levels of male hormones than female hormones, and this can prevent ovulation.

However, they were unsure, so they wanted to do a Hysterosalpingography, a test to check my fallopian tubes to make sure they were not blocked. This test uses x-rays to take pictures of the inside of the uterus, and dye is put into the uterus while it is being x-rayed to see if the dye goes through the fallopian tubes into the ovaries. They also put a metal device through my vagina and cervix and into my uterus and cut a small piece of the uterine lining off to check for endometriosis. This was another procedure that was an in-and-out procedure, except for they did not put me under! They just said to take some ibuprofen. It was pretty uncomfortable, there was a definite pinch when they cut off a piece of the uterine lining, and I had cramping for the rest of the day. During the procedure, the doctor (not my regular OBGYN) said: “would you like to watch on the x-ray screen?” I’m like um no, please can I just pretend this is NOT happening right now!? Ugh.

So anyway, after this procedure, again everything looked fine, we were just told it was probably PCOS, and that we could pay a bunch of money for them to do ultrasounds to track my ovulation, take my husband’s sperm and put it into me at the right time, etc. They told us that most couples in our situation could take another 5-7 years of trying on their own without assistance to become pregnant. (Which seemed weird to us since they couldn’t officially tell us what was wrong.) Honestly, at this point, we were just so tired of testing and spending money that my husband and I decided we were just going to give this over to God, keep praying and trying, and trust Him with this.

I am not saying that we are against Fertility Procedures because I’ve seen a lot of miracle babies born because of them, and obviously, if there would have been specific issues that they said they could fix, we might have considered it, but for us at this point, taking a step back seemed like the right decision. By now it was 16 months post-miscarriage, two invasive tests for me not including intravaginal ultrasounds, trying different medicines, irregular bleeding, and cramping, etc. etc. and I was just so tired of it! At this point also, the baby we lost would have been close to turning 1 year old, which was just another heartbreak for me. I should have been planning a first birthday party, but instead, I was having procedures done, and crying myself to sleep from frustration.

Honestly, things felt pretty hopeless after all that we had tried, and I assumed that I was just not meant to have another baby, at least not anytime soon. However, God had different plans, and we were coming close to finding a solution! I talk about Pregnancy #3 & The Solutions that worked for us in my next post: Motherhood, Miscarriage, & Secondary Infertility: Part 2 – Our Solutions.

Resources from this post:
Bulk Pregnancy Tests
Raspberry Leaf Tea

Let me know in the comments if you’ve experienced any of these things, and what has helped you through it so far! And make sure to check out Part 2 because there is hope on the horizon. <3

With love,

Alyssa Joy

30-Day Be More Positive Challenge: Days 1-6 Reflections

A couple of weeks ago I sent a message to the other women who help lead women’s ministry at our church and asked them to pray for me: “I’m so tired, Levi won’t sleep through the night still, all I want to do is stay in bed all day. I don’t feel motivated to get up in the mornings. I’m in a really down and negative state of mind a majority of the time. I’m also feeling a lot more anxious than normal. Please pray for me.” I don’t know if you’ve been in that place (it isn’t always because of a baby), but it is really difficult to break that cycle of negativity.

Especially since becoming a mom, I’ve had to learn to handle a lot of anxiety, and even some depression. I suffered from post-partum anxiety after my daughter was born, which was alleviated by anti-anxiety meds. However, while I was on them I miscarried a baby, and could not get myself to continue taking them after that. I then suffered from post-partum depression, was eventually diagnosed with secondary infertility (which was unexplained), finally was able to become pregnant again, and had a healthy baby boy! At this point (after a lot of support from friends and family, and prayer), I finally felt like I was in a place where I had my negative thoughts and anxiety under control. I was at a point where I could distinguish my crazy thoughts from reality. During these several years, my go-to verse has been 2 Corinthians 10:5 – We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ:

(Thank you YouVersion Bible App for the Image!)

This, along with staying in prayer & conversation with God throughout the day, is a HUGE comfort, and brings me a lot of peace, especially during times of intense anxiety. Committing my thoughts to Christ allows me to recognize what is going on inside of my head as set apart from reality; which of my thoughts are coming from a place of fear and pain, instead of confidence in the goodness of God.

However, over the last several months when I have only been sleeping for 2 to 4 hour stretches at a time, (Yes, with a child that is almost ONE!) it becomes much more difficult for me to maintain that daily commitment to taking the time to read the Bible, and taking the time to pray. This ends up just spiraling to the point where I am texting my friends asking for THEM to pray FOR me!

So one of these friends, who works in the mental health field, calls me to encourage me during this time and gives me the suggestion of doing a 30-Day Positivity Challenge. *Sigh* One more thing to do, right? Again, this is coming from a place of exhaustion and negativity. But I tell her that sure, she can send me the link and I’ll check it out. Here is the Challenge she sent me (That this post is based on!) It is called the 30-Day Be More Positive Challenge.

What I really liked about this was that each day was just a short, simple suggestion. “I can handle that.” I thought. Then, while thinking about it I realized that I usually don’t follow through with this sort of thing. So, I decided to BLOG about it! I knew that once I posted the first day, I would have to follow through and post one every day, so if you are reading this, thank you for being that motivation to keep going through these challenges!

In honor of REALLY doing this Challenge, here are my reflections on each day of the challenge so far. (Days 1-6):

Day 1: For every worst case scenario you think of, imagine the best thing that could happen.

This was actually a HUGE help for me, and I’m glad this came on Day 1 because it helped motivate me to do this challenge. Worst case scenarios are kind of my thing. My husband is always a little in awe of the things I come up with that could happen in any normal, everyday situation.  Here is an example:

Brandon: I’m going to take Joy to get some ice cream.

My brain: Should I let them go? What if he crashes the car and I lose half of my family in one afternoon?

Now, to someone without anxiety this sounds made up, but its the first thing I thought. So once I recognized that was a worst case scenario, I instead said to myself:

What if they have a really fun time, Joy gets to have a special memory with her daddy, and I get a break for an hour from having two kids with me?

Woohoo! Success for Day 1. This stopped me from feeling anxious and wasting my free time worrying and allowed me to enjoy some one-on-one time with Levi.

Day 2: Spend 5 minutes imagining your dream life, & write down what steps you need to take to get there.

Day 2 is something that I actually did when I started this blog, but it was nice to just think about the things that I want for myself and for my family in the future. Some of the things from my “dream life” include being able to travel, doing missions work, having more kids and/or adopting a child. It also includes living somewhere warm! Our most important step to make it there is to make good financial decisions, pay off all of our student-loans & mortgage & be debt free! On a smaller “step” scale, we are going to only eat out once or twice a week. (This still might seem like a lot to some people, but this is one of our biggest struggles financially! We don’t buy random things, we buy food)

This practice is helpful because it helps you to look beyond the struggles & irritations of today. Instead of dwelling on the negatives and picturing miserable outcomes, you see that best version of your life and work to start creating it! For me, being able to pray over those things is vital too. Obviously, you don’t always get what you pray for 🙂 but God knows the desires of your heart, and I think that praying for His glory in all of it allows him to reveal his plans for you to bring Him glory in ways you never imagined.

Day 3: Do 3 things to cut negativity out of your life. Unfollow, delete, & remove negative feelings from your life.

I took this from more of a “social media” standpoint, and went through my Instagram & Facebook and unfollowed anyone who consistently posts things that make me feel anxious or create negative feelings. This is something that I try to stay on top of anyways, so it did not take long. This is not to completely shield yourself from reality, but when you are already anxious about irrational things, it doesn’t help to read crazy or super negative news stories or horror stories online. So that is something I don’t do!

Some funny things I did get rid of in my home that made me feel negative were some workout DVDs and at-home workout equipment. I NEVER use it, we don’t even own a DVD player, and every time I saw it I just felt negative and guilty about not using it like I had planned. Now it is gone, I don’t feel negative, instead, I use that energy to get myself to the gym (with free childcare) for some free time & exercise.

Day 4: Have lunch with someone you admire, or someone you run into today.

This one was easy because I already had lunch plans with someone I admire! My friend Katie is someone who gives her heart & soul to the youth in the area as a director for Youth For Christ’s Campus Life. She is bringing light & life in Christ to kids who are seeking something bigger than themselves, many times hurting, and at a crucial stage in their lives! She is passionate, fun, encouraging, honest, and real! She is a friend who checks in, builds you up, helps you find your strengths, but is there when you need someone to talk through the tough stuff. She even teaches me house renovation tricks because I am helpless with tools. She also loves & encourages my kids! We went to Chili’s for the amazing chips & salsa, and little Levi even joined us. (I admire him for obvious reasons). <3

Going to lunch with someone you admire might be a big step for some people, but maybe even just having a conversation with them can be an encouragement. When you’re feeling negative and/or anxious, looking outside of yourself and caring about someone else’s life can be uplifting because it stops you from caving in and only focusing on your own life. You probably admire people for good reason, and they most likely have an ability to be encouraging to you in a way that you can’t do as well for yourself right now!

Day 5: Choose a positive mantra for the day. Google a mantra if you can’t think of one.

Mantras always seemed kind of weird to me, but in the spirit of committing to this challenge, I decided to go for it. I googled a few, and wanted something light & fun so I chose, “I don’t sweat the small stuff.” Because I DO sweat the small stuff, and it was a mental state I wanted to change. So throughout the day, every time I thought “Ugh, why is life so HARD!” instead I said, “That’s ok because I don’t sweat the small stuff!” And then I convinced myself that it was no big deal, dealt with it quickly, and moved on. For example, getting poop on my hands while changing a diaper, my preschooler peeing her pants because she wanted to keep playing instead of running to the bathroom really quickly, forgetting the diaper bag at a friend’s house. ETC.

Day 6: Give a genuine compliment to 3 people.

Again, the focus here is not ourselves, but others! Looking out is essential in finding positive mental health. When we seek and find the good in others, we are better able to find it in ourselves as well. This isn’t something that always comes naturally though as we go about our day in a rush. This one required me to slow down a bit, actually look the people around me in the face, recognize what they were doing, and point out the great things to them! Most of mine on this day were more surface compliments like, “I like your haircut!” or “Cute jacket!”, but in the future, I definitely am looking for opportunities to point out things I love about my friends in regard to their actions or character. I also am seeking out opportunities to compliment my kids & husband especially! This is something that needs to be done constantly with the people closest to you. I think it lets them know you are not taking them for granted, and that you truly appreciate the small things they do for you. <3

Okay, that is it for now! Hopefully, this was encouraging or helpful to you in some way! If you want to read more about this challenge check out my Reflections on Days 7-12! Also, check out some more of my suggestions that have helped me with my struggles to get out of bed in the mornings: Three Morning Essentials for this Momma

With Joy,