It wasn’t too long ago that I was drafting a blog post that talked all about our journey to IVF and how lucky we were to get pregnant during the first round. That happiness was short-lived, only lasting about 10 weeks until the unthinkable happened. Before I get into the gory details, let’s back up and start from the beginning. For a long time, Eric and I were really happy with our lives and we weren’t 100% sure we were ready for, or for that matter wanted, kids. We went back and forth between the excitement of starting a family to the fear of the unknown. We eventually decided, though not exactly at the same time, that we were ready to start trying.
We have lots of friends who have experienced infertility, but we were hopeful that our journey would be smooth sailing. Skip to December 2019, when we started trying. It wasn’t more than a few months before the pandemic hit. By that time, even though we had only been trying for a few months, I was ready to go ahead and do some elective fertility testing, just in case. The pandemic pushed our plans back a few months and, before we knew it, it was early-Fall 2020. We had been trying for months with no results and we were finally able to make an appointment with a fertility doctor.
After doing various tests and receiving results, both positive and not-so-positive, Eric and I decided that we were going to move forward with IVF. Overall, our experience with IVF was a disaster. I will get into the details in another blog post, but needless to say, we have since switched doctors. At the time though, we were just excited to be pushing forward with IVF and, to our surprise and excitement, we got pregnant during the first transfer!
A handful of friends and family had been coaching and supporting us through the process, so they were all waiting on bated breath to find out our results. From that point on, we had a team of people checking in on us daily. It was an amazing and really fun time. We “graduated” from the care of our fertility center to a regular obstetrician after 8 weeks and I was really excited to go in for my 10 week appointment with a new doctor who was recommended to me. At that point, both Eric and I were so relieved to be leaving the care of the fertility facility that we had come to loath and were excited to meet the doctor who would, ultimately, deliver our baby.
THE UNTHINKABLE HAPPENED
At the time, significant others were still not allowed to come to appointments, so I made my way to my 10 week appointment alone, but really excited for a new sonogram photo. It was my birthday, March 11th, and after meeting the doctor, who I liked immediately, he performed a sonogram. He had prefaced the sonogram with “this is going to look a lot different than the last sonogram you had”, but once everything was up on the screen, his face immediately fell. He apologized and told me that there was no heartbeat and that I had had what is called “a missed miscarriage”, where, for all intents and purposes, the fetus had stopped growing and was essentially no longer viable, but my body hadn’t quite realized it yet.
I think I was in shock, and followed the doctor back to his office to hear about my options for next steps. As soon as I got back to the car, I called Eric and could barely get out the words, “we lost the baby”, before bursting into tears. I did my best to try to explain what the doctor told me, but hearing Eric’s voice catching on the other end of the phone made it almost impossible for me to get through a sentence without breaking down. We stayed on the phone, mostly in silence, my entire drive home. It was one of the worst moments of my life.
Once I got home and Eric and I had a good cry together, we had to tackle the daunting task of telling our family and friends the terrible news. Basically, for the next few hours, we had to re-live it, answer questions and hear well-meaning platitudes. We also had a choice to make. Did we wait for the inevitable to happen and allow the miscarriage to happen naturally, or did we take our doctors advice and have a D&C where we could retrieve and test the tissue to see what went wrong. The doctor highly suggested that we do the D&C, not only so that we could test the tissue, but also so that we could be sure that everything cleared out properly and that we could be 100% sure that my uterus was ok. While there are risks with a D&C, as with any procedure, there was a risk that even if I decided to allow the tissue to pass naturally, which is supposed to be extremely painful and last days to weeks, I still might have to have the D&C anyway if there was remaining tissue that didn’t pass properly.
At that moment, we just wanted to get the whole process over with. We were also really curious as to what the tissue would tell us once it was tested. For these reasons and many others, we ultimately decided to go forward with the D&C procedure. March 11th was a Thursday and the earliest we could schedule the procedure for was the following Monday. That allowed us the weekend to begin processing everything that had happened and start getting ourselves to a place where we could start to move forward. We tried to stay busy over the weekend, but on Sunday night, I started having pains that felt like either severe mensural cramps or what I might describe as contractions. We were told that if we started to miscarry naturally and if the bleeding was severe enough, they would not be able to go forward with the procedure. At this point, we really wanted to have the ability to test the tissue so we could learn whatever we could about what went wrong in this pregnancy, so we were hoping that we could make it through to Monday morning. That night, I started to bleed lightly and the cramping became unbearable. I didn’t sleep for most of the night and by the next morning, the bleeding was heavier. We called the emergency number we were given for our doctor, to confirm that it still made sense for us to come to the hospital for the procedure, and he assured us that we should.
Eric again was not able to come into the hospital, which was really hard for me. I was already emotionally drained and not having him there with me was just heartbreaking. I’ll spare you the details, but between being alone through the whole process and the nurses having an issue getting my IV started, I pretty much spent my entire wait in tears. The procedure itself is quick, only about 20 minutes, and is actually very similar to an IVF retrieval. I was under anesthesia for it and then spent the rest of that day resting. I was up and about the next day and felt almost back to normal, at least physically. From there, it was a waiting game. We needed to wait until we got our results back from the tested tissue. We decided not to waste any time though, so we went ahead and switched IVF clinics while we were waiting to get to a point where we were ready to move forward with next steps. I am not going to go into detail about the results of our tissue testing, but basically there were severe chromosomal abnormalities that confirmed that this embryo would never have survived. While devastating, it was helpful in understanding more about our loss and, to an extent, helped us move forward.
A friend of ours recommended a doctor, and after doing research and meeting with him via consultation, we felt confident that he was a great fit for us. Upon meeting with him, going through our history and all the tests we had done, to date, he supported us moving forward with IVF and the associated genetic testing that would test for the types of chromosomal abnormalities that caused our first miscarriage. This is already a really long post, so I will keep the rest of this story short. Our experience with this doctor was like night and day as compared to our first. We never knew we could be treated with such respect, quality and care until we switched.
We went ahead and did a few retrievals, but after testing, we were left with no viable embryos that were chromosomally normal. It was a heartbreaking process, but also a relief to know that we weren’t going to transfer a non-viable embryo that would ultimately result in a miscarriage. It turned out that the embryo we froze from our first retrieval was normal, so we knew we had at least one and we knew we could produce a “good embryo”. People always tell you “it only takes one” and it’s true! After a few unsuccessful rounds – and by unsuccessful I mean we retrieved lots of mature eggs, fertilized them, grew them to blastocyst, tested them, but didn’t get any normal ones – we decided to go ahead and unfreeze our original Sweet Pea!
We transferred Sweet Pea on June 7, 2022 and confirmed a viable pregnancy a few weeks later! We are beyond thrilled and excited to finally be here after everything we’ve been through. Fertility and loss is such a hard topic to tackle, but just know that you are not alone. Once I shared my story with close friends and family, it was astounding how many had gone through their own fertility and loss journey’s.
I talk more about our overall IVF experience in this post – the good, the bad and the ugly.