by Laura Dority
When I think back on our fertility journey, I’ve only recently been able to see the lessons in it. By identifying my weaknesses, it allowed me to grow personally. It added strength to our marriage by forcing communication and emotional reliance on each other. Embracing something positive from a negative has taken years and wasn’t an easy path.
But let me start at the beginning and hopefully, our story can shine a light in your dark time and provide you hope and perspective.
The Perfect Couple
My husband, Jason, and I met right after college and quickly were inseparable. We were what most people probably viewed as the ideal couple—gaining momentum in our careers surrounded by a swarm of supportive friends and family. We were both lifelong athletes and I had just earned my Registered Dietitian credential, so we naturally led a health-conscious and physically active lifestyle.
While we dated, I don’t remember having a concern in the world. Life just fell into place with ease.
We rescued a dog (our first “baby”), got engaged on a trip to Costa Rica, and then got married in Mexico with a small group of family and friends. After we got married, we decided we were sick of the cold, dreary Midwest winters. It had snowed in April that year and around that same time, a job opportunity had become available in Charleston, SC. It didn’t take much convincing before we were packing the house and heading south. We were enamored with Charleston—the beaches, the palm trees, the restaurant scene—we were living our best life.
One year later we decided we wanted to grow our family. I was 29 and healthy—Jason and I made it a point to exercise regularly and eat healthy with lots of outdoor activities and social time with friends. We gave the birth control the boot and four months later we were pregnant. We were ecstatic—our doctor had warned us it might take a year to get pregnant after coming off birth control but not for us—life just came easy…or so we thought.
At our first doctor appointment, our doctor estimated the pregnancy to be at 8 weeks based on the transvaginal ultrasound which showed a good heartbeat, and everything looked normal. And this is where I made my first mistake. We were naïve and started telling our close family and friends. We didn’t think we had any reason not to tell anyone. We were young and healthy and didn’t have a single health problem between the two of us. Why would we lose this baby?
Why would we lose this baby?
A pink, blue, and tan maxi dress—that is what I was wearing when the bleeding began. I remember the restaurant I was eating at when it started, and to this day, I refuse to go back to that restaurant. We were 11 weeks along—almost out of the first trimester. The cramping was excruciating—I was doubled over in pain as I struggled to get to the bathroom with my best friend’s help. Concern and worry written on her face. I always had light periods, so I knew with all the blood something was wrong.
I don’t know why I so vividly remember what I was doing when the first miscarriage happened—because emotionally it wasn’t the one that hurt the most, but I remember it the best. That night I cried alone in the bathroom for a long time. I knew I had miscarried. I was embarrassed.
I was embarrassed.
We had the miscarriage confirmed a few days later. Our doctor was reassuring and spent time discussing the statistics of miscarriages. She also guided us in terms of realistic expectations of trying to conceive again. Working in the medical field (especially pediatrics, which is my specialty) is a blessing but also a curse at times because you almost know too much. It’s easy to mentally self-sabotage with this knowledge. Even after that first miscarriage—I started going down a dark hole of what is wrong with me?
Six months later (almost to the day)—I was vomiting my breakfast. I didn’t get excited—I didn’t tell anyone about my symptoms. I took a pregnancy test alone, got blood work to confirm and then told Jason. At the first doctor appointment, we were estimating gestation around 6 weeks along but the ultrasound showed closer to 5 weeks. Our doctor warned us to be “cautiously optimistic.” She didn’t have to warn me—I knew how it would end—I had been spotting and the baby was already a week behind—these were my thoughts at the time—they weren’t healthy.
Three weeks later—the cramping and heavy bleeding started. The miscarriage was confirmed, and I withdrew further into my lonely hole. I had to have a manual vacuum aspiration (MVA) procedure for this miscarriage as I wasn’t passing the tissue on my own. That was traumatic—it was painful and invasive.
I hated myself. What was I doing wrong? I kept thinking—I did everything right—I was eating healthy, exercising, attending yoga classes, and getting 8+ hours of sleep. But that wasn’t enough? My body failed me yet again. At this point, I stopped talking to my friends that were pregnant or had kids…including my own sister. I was engulfed in jealousy and anger—so much anger. It was impacting my job, my marriage, my friendship—so I went to anger management. My counselor was great—she gave me tips on how to deal with my anger in the moment when I was about to boil over. It was extremely helpful to talk to someone.
At this point, I stopped talking to my friends that were pregnant or had kids…including my own sister. I was engulfed in jealousy and anger—so much anger.
The Work Up
Now here is where the benefit to working in the medical world came into play—you can push a bit harder to get what you want because you know how the system works. After the two miscarriages, our doctor was willing to start a work up for the recurring miscarriages which was likely a bit earlier than standard of care. Scans were done to check my uterine anatomy—normal. Labs were done to check for thyroid issues, genetic issues, blood clotting issues—all normal. Jason had genetic labs done—normal. Normal, normal, normal! So frustrating…in a way I wanted something to be abnormal because then you can treat it (potentially). But having everything normal, left you with nothing but chance which to someone who is a “planner” does not go over well.
Regardless, we put together a plan with our doctor that with any future pregnancies we would start Progesterone for theoretic luteal phase defect and baby aspirin for prevention of miscarriage (studies are mixed as to whether this helps or not) but the potential advantages outweighed the risks.
Shortly after that visit, we got pregnant again. I sent the following message to my doctor through the medical system e-mail: “Here we are again – another pregnancy – another future heartbreak – I’ll let you know when the bleeding begins.”
After she received that sunny message—she called me. We started the progesterone and the baby aspirin. I had no idea how far along I was because my period had never normalized after the previous miscarriage and MVA. At the first appointment, a gestational sac and fetal pole with a cardiac flicker were confirmed, so estimates were around 6 weeks. We went back the next week to confirm development—till normal—7 weeks with a fetal heart rate of 145 bpm. Two weeks later—the bleeding began.
This is the part in our story that I call pivoting. I was coming to terms with the fact we were not going to have biological children. We started looking at other avenues to parenthood and chose adoption. The adoption path led to a concrete plan that did not rely on my body—which had failed me 3 times.
We did our research and contacted a highly recommended adoption network. We were connected with an adoption counselor and had several meetings. We were fully prepared to write the check to get started. I really started to come around emotionally—my inadequate body can’t mess up this adoption. It was liberating—the pressure was off.
Then, my period never came. After the third miscarriage, it never came. I didn’t even notice until I started to gain some weight and had breast tenderness. In my mind—I thought no way! Why am I being tortured? I was pregnant. I called our doctor and started on the progesterone and baby aspirin even though it wasn’t effective the previous time.
I had 0% attachment to this pregnancy—I had 0% emotion about it. The whole pregnancy I waited for the bleeding to start—but it never did. He was pure perfection all the way to 40 weeks – passed every screen with flying colors. Then he was here with us— this perfect 8 lb 1oz little boy that we named Oliver. He is almost 5 now and is a mini-version of his dad—sweet, kind and considerate with a little temper.
I thought no way!
Round Five & Six
About 9 months after Oliver was born, we got pregnant again but lost that pregnancy around 8 weeks. Honestly this miscarriage was easier emotionally. I was thankful and appreciative of having one healthy little boy who kept me busy so I didn’t have as much time to dwell on it.
As fate would have it though, before I even had another period, we were pregnant yet again…with twins! Sadly, we lost one of the twins in the first trimester and the remaining twin had a marginal cord attachment to the placenta and a uterine synechiae was also present in my uterus. Both of these abnormalities led to concerns of restricted growth for the remaining baby which led to lots of extra scans. In addition, I had spotting throughout. So I think it goes without saying—the entire pregnancy I never thought we would end up with another child. I think my negative self-talk was a protection mechanism against further heartbreak—if you never emotionally connect with the pregnancy—it doesn’t hurt as much.
At 34 weeks, I was giving Oliver a bath and fell which led to a placental rupture. Luckily, we received treatment in a timely manner and our second son Ellis was born at just under 5 lbs. He spent one week in the step-down NICU for some feeding issues but otherwise was healthy. He is now almost 3 and has his momma’s personality.
Luckily… our second son Ellis was born!
Looking back on our journey, what am I thankful for?
Thinking back on our journey, I am thankful for understanding and considerate doctors—our doctors throughout the whole process were amazing. They listened and were open-minded. They explained things on our terms. We weren’t a couple that needed warm and cozy words – we wanted data. They were always available—whether we needed to come in to the office or just chat by phone- they were accessible. I cannot thank them enough. I am thankful for my medical knowledge. I’m appreciative I work in healthcare. I knew what questions to ask—I knew how to navigate the system quickly and efficiently. If you do not, ask for help. Keep your medical team informed. Ask questions and then more questions. If you aren’t being heard, get a new medical team. Advocate for yourself.
I am thankful for my husband who went to every doctor’s appointment—and we had a lot. He is a quiet guy—doesn’t say much but he was present every step of the way. Even when I would say—you don’t have to go today—we know what she is going to say—the miscarriage is confirmed. He didn’t argue with me—he just showed up. He held me many nights while I cried and cried in anger and frustration. He never wavered.
He never wavered.
Looking back on our journey, what would I have done differently?
I wish I would have found a way to enjoy being pregnant. Even my successful pregnancies were riddled with negative self-talk, anxiety and constant concern for when the bleeding would start. I wouldn’t allow myself to get excited over kicks or somersaults. I didn’t read or sing to my babies in utero – in fear of attachment. I cannot get that time back to create these simple but important memories. I wish I would have lived in the present versus always looking to the “what-ifs” of the future.
I wouldn’t have isolated myself from my friends who were pregnant or had children. It’s not their fault. Plus, once I started talking about it – I found that a lot of my friends had experienced a miscarriage at some point. We had common ground to talk about our feelings with these experiences – it would have helped if I had talked to them about it sooner.
If you are going through recurring miscarriages, my best advice is this:
1) Talk about it – I should have talked to Jason more during the process. I should have asked him how HE was feeling. They were his losses too. I should have gone to counseling more – especially when my anger turned into nothing (a void of emotion). Jason and I should have went to counseling together – to help us better help each other.
2) I should never have felt embarrassed – It’s not embarrassing. I didn’t do anything to cause my miscarriages- there was no fault. The negative self-talk did no one any favors. It likely was a main factor in leading to my emotional void. It prevented me from connecting to my precious babies.
Overall I hope my story provides you with some hope and perspective. Learn from my mistakes, share your feelings and remember you are not alone.
Q & A with Allison, Founder Miscarriage Hope Desk
How many miscarriages & how many live births?
I had 4 miscarriages and 2 live births at 31 and 33 years old (natural with progesterone and aspirin treatment).
Looking back, what, if anything, do you wish you would have done differently?
I wish I would have reached out for emotional support/support groups/faith-based reliance earlier in our miscarriage journey. I kept my emotions/anger in for far too long and it ate away at me. I was embarrassed to talk about it, and I wish I wouldn’t have been.
What were you told was the cause of your miscarriages?
A cause was never found.
What do you truly believe was the cause of your miscarriages?
Honestly, I don’t know. Stress? But not for my first miscarriage because I was elated and naïve. But I think it’s possible for miscarriages 2 & 3, it definitely could have been stress.
What advice would you give to someone going through recurrent miscarriage?
Seek emotional support immediately. Talk about it. Talk with your friends. Talk with your family. And most importantly communicate and talk with your significant other. Hold each other. Cry together because they are hurting too and are likely struggling to deal with the emotions as well.