As with almost everything that I share personally online, this update comes to you with a lot of debate.
I am slowly (and somewhat painfully) learning that I cannot hide behind privacy and 'professionalism' while also asking women to share their intimate struggles with infertility on a very public platform. A quick note about this post - my faith is placed in Jesus. If I were to conceal that from you, I would not be able to be truly vulnerable. If you would not consider yourself a Christian and you are reading this blog, please just know that you are welcome here.
In my original story, I ended with a note that I had an appointment scheduled with a reproductive endocrinologist. (If you haven't had the chance to read the original post, you might be a little lost with my update!) Much has happened since I last checked in with you.
We had our appointment!
And then another; and then another. We had blood work and an HSG and semen analysis testing and ultrasounds. We had medication recommendations and trials. We had good news - that my body responded well to the new medication that I was given. We had bad news - that my husband's semen analysis results were not what we had hoped. Out of respect for his privacy, I won't share the details with you. However, upon hearing these results I was once again reminded just how little power I have over my ability to become a parent.
The news of my husband's semen analysis left us feeling deflated. We were sure that it was going to take several months before the suggestions that our reproductive endo gave to improve sperm quality would come to fruition. I agreed to continue taking the new medications that I was prescribed while my husband added some supplements and diet changes to his routine. We continued our pattern of waiting and praying.
Many of you know that my husband is in the military.
As you can imagine, his career is a wonderful gift but it adds a level of complexity with infertility treatments. There are many weeks and months where he is simply not home because he is training, attending a school, or deployed. As if timing weren't already a stress, we had received notice that he was due to deploy in January. In the eyes of a couple walking through infertility, a deployment notification signals your internal monologue to start saying, "Okay. Now I'm on a timeline. I have to get pregnant before he goes or I will have to wait 9 more months to begin 'trying' again." Hello, added stress.
Christmas rolled around and we planned a much-needed vacation - a cruise to Haiti and Jamaica! We planned and packed and anticipated and dreamed of the redeeming quality time we would have together. Friends, this trip was every bit as glorious as we thought it was going to be. We enjoyed our time together, unplugged from all distractions and experiencing new things together. It was a temporary reprieve from the stress of life.
While we were in Jamaica we booked an excursion to swim with the dolphins!
We joined 6 other people in the dolphin cove and guffawed as the trainers showed us everything that the dolphins had been trained to do. We rubbed dolphin bellies, shared dolphin kisses, and danced with dolphin flippers. As we were nearing the end of our visit, the trainers jokingly said, "Another fun fact about dolphins is that they can tell if you are pregnant. They use their sonar capabilities to see a fetus."
My husband volunteered me as a guinea pig. A dolphin placed her nose on my stomach, made a noise, and closed her eyes (the signal that the dolphin detects a pregnancy). The trainer promptly shared, "Um... the dolphin is saying that there's something in there." I kid you not. I looked at the trainer and argued, "Yes. Yes, my intestines and internal organs are ALL in there." Trainer: "Well, no, the dolphin is saying that you have a baby in your stomach." I challenged, "Nuh uh! Try it on my husband!" The trainer signals the dolphin to start the 'EPT' test on my husband and, clearly, she did not give the signal that he was pregnant.
Five. Grueling. Days. later, I was finally able to pee on a stick. (Side note, WHY don't cruise lines cary pregnancy tests?!) Here was my result.
I could not believe it.
Our hopes of a pregnancy had just been utterly crushed weeks beforehand. We knew that this was impossible. But, alas, here we were. Containing our excitement was not an option. Though we didn't share our news with many, we quickly told my immediate family, my husband's immediate family, and our closest friends. The tears of joy were nothing short of overwhelming and we all praised God for this undeniable miracle.
And then the doubt set in. Although my worry was unwarranted, I grew concerned that something would go wrong. Blood work and follow up blood work looked great. My levels were doubling as they should, and an early ultrasound was scheduled. To my surprise, at one day short of 6 weeks, we could see my baby's heartbeat on an ultrasound.
The joy was paralyzing.
I remember the feeling of instant relief and gratitude after seeing this beautiful looking bean with a clear heartbeat. Because I was so early in pregnancy, my reproductive endo wanted to bring me back for a second ultrasound two weeks later to make sure that baby Metheny was growing appropriately and that we had an accurate due date.
Two weeks later, I paid another visit to my doctor, saw my sweet baby again, was assured that everything looked perfect, and was discharged to resume my care with a regular OB/GYN or midwife. I chose to schedule an appointment with a midwife-led birth center, and the earliest appointment available was another two weeks. No big deal! Things looked great, I was 9 weeks pregnant, and it was statistically improbable that anything would go wrong at this point. As an added bonus to my joy, my due date fell on my birthday! We were beside ourselves.
We decided to share our news with you!
Hearing so many friends and family praise the Lord for our gift of a pregnancy flooded my heart with gratitude. Gratitude and excitement and love and joy washed over me consistently during this time. I may have spent a significant amount of time puking, but I was thankful for each moment of sickness because I knew that sickness was the signal of a healthy pregnancy.
Meanwhile, my husband's deployment was becoming more and more unpredictable. We learned that it was cancelled (yay!), and then it was pushed for 3 weeks, and then it was moved back up, and then it was cancelled again, and then it was postponed until March. The moral of THAT story - hold your plans with an open hand. It's all you can do.
The weeks passed and the tummy bloat became more noticeable to me.
I had the utmost confidence that sweet baby Metheny was growing as he/she should. My midwife appointment rolled around and I left early from work, carrying all of my questions and preferences of care with me. The intake appointment was AMAZING and I was confident both I and baby Metheny were in good hands. The very last step of my appointment was to check for a fetal heartbeat.
I laid back, lifted my shirt slightly, and my midwife searched for a heartbeat using a fetal doppler. And she searched. And she searched. And she searched. And she brought in a 'better' doppler. And she searched. And searched. And searched. And she brought in the ultrasound machine. And she covered my stomach in goo. And she looked at my baby.
I laid back and viewed my baby, motionless and without a heartbeat.
My midwife uttered the words, "I'm so sorry," and I don't remember much afterward. Regrettably, my husband could not be with me for this appointment. One of the hardest things that I've ever had to do was call him and tell him that our baby had died.
That was the first time I had ever said those words. "Our baby died."
Unfortunately, my body did not know that my baby was no longer alive. My uterus continued to grow; my symptoms continued to present themselves. Because my husband was deploying so soon, I was given the option to wait until my body passed the baby on its own, take medication to help my body pass the baby, or schedule a D&E. We opted for the D&E - from which I am still physically recovering.
Emotionally, it's hard to describe my current state. I am both crushed and hopeful. When people ask, "How are you doing?" I am often left without words. The best I can come up with is, "I don't know." There may not be an answer more true right now. We aren't sure what our next steps are, and we are ever at the mercy of military plans. So, we are back to waiting and praying.
So, what is my motivation in sharing all of this?
I have a few motivations.
I now know that the pain resulting from a miscarriage is sharp, debilitating, and horrifying. But I also know that it is different from the pain of infertility. The pain of infertility is also sharp, debilitating, and horrifying, but it is also unique and deserves to be discussed.
I am learning, slowly and painfully, that my community will love me well and support me when I need it (and so will yours!). I just have to allow them.
Vulnerability is a strength worth pursuing.
I believe in this project. When I found out I was pregnant, this project was not null or void. When I found out that I lost my baby, I had no intention of changing this project from matters concerning infertility awareness to miscarriage awareness. I may be in the thick of grief because of miscarriage, but that does not negate the grief of infertility nor does it negate the need to draw attention/understanding/compassion to it.
I have no answers to the hard questions. I don't know why things have to be the way that they are. I don't understand the role of suffering in this world. But I do know that there is a God with the answer to those questions and in Him I place my faith.
I don't know what kind of background you come from or where you are in your walk with infertility, but know that you are not alone. You have a voice and a home here.