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.
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