Some might be surprised to hear that I’m kind of a private person. While I share a lot on social media and the blog, I tend to keep the really personal stuff to myself. But I’ve decided to share something extremely personal today. My husband Damien and I have been actively trying to conceive for two and a half years. After two miscarriages, surgery, thyroid issues and a failed round of IVF, I decided to share our story.
WHY AM I SHARING NOW?
Even with the most supportive man in the world (Damien has been a f’ing champion throughout all of this), infertility is hard, lonely and depressing. I want women going through this to know they are not alone. I also feel as a woman of color, I needed to share my story. Latino & African-American women are stereotypically seen as baby-makers. A shitty stereotype that seeps into your brain as a young girl. I always knew I was going to be a mom and never once did I think it would be this hard. My mom had 4 children throughout her life, giving birth to my baby sister at 38. My great-grandmother had my grandmother at 45 back in 1941! My aunt had 3 children with ease. I thought I would be fine.
So here’s how it all went down. It was the summer of 2015, when Damien and I decided, “Hey, we’re not getting any younger! Let’s make a baby already!” Before the summer was over, I was pregnant. “Wow! That was fast! The stereotype is true! My Latina DNA did its damn thing!” The night before my 6-week doctor’s appointment, I miscarried. While physically a miscarriage is nothing more than a really bad period, emotionally, it’s the worst thing ever. I was devastated. I felt like I did something wrong, even though I knew I didn’t. I was sad but I tried to focus on the positive. At least I knew I could get pregnant and that was a good thing. We would try again and it would all be fine.
A year of trying past and I didn’t get pregnant again. At this point, my OB/GYN thought it was time to see a fertility specialist. So we did. After routine testing we found out that Damien was fine but I had a fibroid in my uterus, endometriosis and one of my fallopian tubes was blocked. I would have to have surgery to take care of all of these things, before we could conceive.
In November 2016, I had laparoscopic surgery. My angel of a mother came to LA for a week while I healed. The surgery was successful and the fibroid and endometriosis were removed. My fallopian tube was opened to about 40%. But even with a successful procedure, our doctor thought it was time to consider IVF. My egg count was dropping and conceiving naturally would be challenging. But, I wasn’t ready. We decided to wait a bit longer and continue to try naturally before taking the IVF plunge. Six months later, when I was still not pregnant, we decided to go for it.
Before I get into the IVF process let me say this: I am someone who 100% believes that everything happens for a reason. Because of this belief, IVF didn’t feel like the right choice for me. I kept thinking, “Maybe I’m not supposed to have a baby.” “Maybe this is not happening for a reason.” But I didn’t know the reason. So I started to think differently… “Maybe this is a test. Maybe this shouldn’t be easy.” I had and still have no idea. At the end of the day, I was confused, scared and didn’t know the right answer.
IVF sucks. There I said it. There is nothing fun or pleasant about it. The only thing great about IVF is the potential for a beautiful, healthy baby at the end of the process. If that beautiful, healthy baby doesn’t come, it feels like a big waste of time, energy, emotion and money. I started my first round of IVF in April 2017. We paid the fee, I picked up my meds and for a week injected myself with hormones every night with Damien by my side. I was bloated, emotional and exhausted. What got me through was the hope it would work. It would all be worth it in the end.
The next step in IVF process, is the egg retrieval. A minor surgical procedure to have matured eggs removed from my ovaries. That same day, Damien gives his sample and the embryologist joins the two. Embryos form and develop in a dish for future testing. They were able to retrieve 8 eggs from me and 5 embryos developed. When we heard the news, we got very excited. Five embryos is a great number! You only need one to make a baby! But sadly, none of the embryos matured enough for implantation. We were back to square one.
After this failed round of IVF, I needed a break. Though overall I felt lucky that my experience wasn’t as terrible as I expected. (I’ve heard so many horrible IVF stories that I expected the worst.) It wasn’t pleasant but it wasn’t a nightmare either. But still, it ended with disappointment. It was now May 2017 and we decided to take the summer off. I had a lot of travel coming up for work and Damien and I had an end of summer trip to Bermuda planned. So, we were going to take June until the end of August to not think about infertility. We had an amazing summer of fun and for a brief moment, forgot about our baby-making issues. It was lovely.
Summer was over and it was time to get back on the baby-making train. I mean we tried naturally all summer long (woo hoo!), but we knew we had to do more to conceive. Summer travel and fun, meant a lot of booze and “bad for you” food, so I wanted to cleanse. I figured if I’m going to do IVF again, I wanted to make sure my body was in top-notch shape. So, Damien and I did the Whole30 and I started seeing a naturopath and a fertility acupuncturist. I felt great! No booze, healthy food and weekly acupuncture proved to be exactly what I needed. Then on October 10th (a month into my healthy living), I realized my period was 3 days late. I took a pregnancy test and it was positive. I was pregnant! Again, it happened naturally but because of my fertility issues, I immediately called our doctor.
When you have a spontaneous pregnancy (not from IVF) while seeing a fertility doctor, they closely monitor the first few months of pregnancy before you return to your regular OB/GYN. I went into the office the next morning to test my HCG (pregnancy hormone) levels. It was confirmed! I was indeed pregnant and my levels were great. I then had to be tested every 2 days to make sure the HCG levels were doubling, which is what they should do with a normal pregnancy. The levels were perfect for two rounds of testing, then they were not. They stopped doubling and after further testing and an ultrasound, we were told that this was not a viable pregnancy and I would miscarry. At this point, I was 5 weeks pregnant. At 7 weeks, I miscarried. That was a very shitty two weeks of waiting and another heartbreaking miscarriage.
It’s now then end of 2017 and two and a half years later. Since the 2nd miscarriage, I’ve revisited my OB/GYN, talked to my fertility doctor, have had a full physical with my naturopath/general doctor, made another endocrinologist appointment to check on my thyroid that now has hyperthyroidism, goiters and nodules and have a holistic doctor who has me on Chinese herbs and body work. (Yup, all of that.) They all agree that before I try to get pregnant again or do another round of IVF, I need to get my thyroid in order. Thyroid health is very important to fertility and needs to be “fixed” before moving forward. While I knew about the goiter for a year now and have been closely monitoring my thyroid, the nodules and hyperthyroidism are new.
So now the plan is to do just that…get the thyroid sorted out then try again in about 3-4 months. As of now, we only plan on doing one more round of IVF that will hopefully be successful. If it’s not, not sure what the next step will be. We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. It’s too hard to think far beyond that.
WHAT I HOPE YOU TAKE AWAY
I’m sharing this so that other women who may be going through similar or worse situations realize they are not alone. There are so many women who deal with infertility and who have had miscarriages and both are still rarely talked about. Well, I think they should be talked about. It’s part of life and more common than people think. So I repeat…YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
Finally, I have three tips for anyone who may be friends, co-workers or family members to any woman of child-bearing age:
- Don’t ask when they are having children. It’s none of your business and unless they bring it up, you definitely shouldn’t. I know you mean well, but you have no idea what they may be dealing with and if they want to share that with you, they will. Also, they may not want to have children and that’s totally okay too and still none of your business.
- If you are one of the people they have confided in, please don’t offer unsolicited advice. Trust me they have researched the sh*t out of the subject and saying things like “You just need to relax/not worry/not think about it and it’ll happen” are annoying AF to hear. There is literally no way to “not think about it” when you’re going through it. Again, I know you mean well but it’s just not helpful.
- Overall, just try be as sensitive as possible with the topic of pregnancy, infertility and miscarriage. I’m not saying to not bring it up but avoid being preachy or a “know it all” about something that is so very personal and a very unique experience to each individual.
And that’s all I got. It’s been a challenging couple of years but I’m not down about it. It’s made me a stronger person and has brought Damien and I closer than ever. I know we’ll have a baby one day. It may happen naturally, it may happen through IVF or it may even happen five years from now through adoption. Whatever the case, we will be parents one day and all these ups and downs will make it feel all the more special.
I want to end this by thanking Kim of Eat, Sleep, Wear for her candid documentation of her IVF journey. We started trying for a baby around the same time and it was her courage to speak about it, that inspired me to do the same. And, thank YOU for reading this and listening to our infertility story. I promise to share more as we continue down our path to baby. xo