FERTILITY | A FRESH PERSPECTIVE
If you had of asked me a year ago, almost four months after our first miscarriage, I would have sworn we would have our second baby in our arms by now. I guess the universe had other plans. The last 20 months I have been patiently sitting on the sideline watching friend after friend and scrolling past post after post of pregnancy announcements, growing bellies and bouncing babies. I mean, I picked the wrong line of work if I don't have a thick skin, right? To be honest, sometimes I do and sometimes I don't.
I still feel a longing when I watch those born at the same time my baby was due. My baby whose heart I heard beating, whose room I had planned, who did exist- be it less than three months and only in my belly- but did exist. I loved that baby with a fierce protective mother's love and I grieved it as a mother who loses a child. I took my first miscarriage incredibly hard. It was beyond traumatic and completely unexpected after my easy pregnancy with Archie. It took me a good three months of intense soul searching, meditation and therapy to heal and be ready to try again.
My second loss I was somehow prepared for. I was cautious and didn't allow myself to connect with the life inside me. I was protecting myself from that intense grief and pain. It was still extremely sad, but I wasn't blindsided like I was with my first.
We're often told to "relax and just let it happen" but long, irregular cycles due to my PCOS and a constantly travelling husband is not a fertility friendly combination. For us, it's going to take planning and preparation. Before I fell pregnant with Archie my husband and I went on 120 day pre-conception program to help regulate my cycles and produce the healthiest baby possible. That meant no processed food, no gluten, no caffeine, no dairy, no alcohol- all organic meat and vegetables. We detoxed our house to have a total chemical free zone- down to our personal hygiene products, make up. Everything. We threw out our microwave, turned off wifi every night, I wasn't even allowed to fly. We took foul tasting chinese herbs and up to 30 supplements a day. This was five years ago now, so clean living wasn't as readily accepted as it is now. People thought we were crazy, but the first month we tried after the program we fell pregnant with Archie. And many of these lifestyle choices we will maintain forever- with "10% for the soul" as my Fertility Naturopath says. (Often stretched to 20%!) And we will be forever grateful for her emotional and nutritional holistic support.
When we decided we were ready to try for our second, we didn't do the preparation to this extent. I had probably been doing it for a month at about 70% and we unexpectedly fell pregnant straight away. As silly as it sounds I blamed myself when we misscarried- "it must have been that weekly coffee or the half -glass of wine at my husband's work party the month before we conceived". So after our loss I decided to go back on the program. At first it's empowering and yes, you feel great, but this commitment consumes your life. I can't have a glass of wine with my husband on a Friday night, I can't go to a nail salon or have a cup of coffee with my girlfriends, I'm that painful person at restaurant who needs to create their own menu, I can't travel overseas even though I am offered free trips to the best destinations and I have to take my temperature which is a reminder every. single. morning. of what I can't have. That's ok for 1, 2 maybe 3 months, but by the fifth month (plus the three I was pregnant) I was getting frustrated - I felt like I was missing out on life. So I relaxed the regime a little (and beat myself up about it of course). I allowed myself a glass of wine for my birthday, I probably ate a little too much Nutella, I booked a trip to Europe and "didn't try" the month before we left. Well, of course I fell pregnant. And again I blamed myself for not being strict enough. "Must have been that plane trip."
After the second miscarriage in October I was determined to be as strict as possible and give my body a couple of months to heal and try again in January. I focused on fitness, exercising five times a week and was in a really good headspace.
I think the most frustrating part of our journey is that even though we have desperately wanted this baby for almost two years, due to various circumstances beyond our control we had actually only had maybe 5 attempts. Two of those resulted in pregnancy so we know we are fertile, but why are losing the baby?
In December we met with the IVF clinic to discuss IUI as my husband's work schedule and my irregular cycles mean it's almost impossible to sync up and if we miss a "month" this could mean 40+ days for me. We had all the tests done and everything was good (my Iodine and Vitamin D levels were really low after first miscarriage which could have been a contributing factor, but we rectified this), the genetic testing came back great, my husband's sperm count was 5 times what it was meant to be (yes, I never hear the end of this) and I have the egg reserve of a 25 year old (thank you PCOS).
After our meeting with IVF we were explained all the options from a monitored cycle right through to IVF where they select the healthiest embryo to insert. My head was reeling when I left. I cried all the way home. How did we end up here? We were not "IVF people". Were we?
Just after this appointment my body physically started rebelling, I began to get chronic back pain and digestive issues. I physically could not keep taking the 30+ pills a day- yes, they were beneficial supplements to get me and my ovaries in optimum health, but I physically could not swallow them any more. My body was saying enough. I still wanted that baby, but I was getting bitter. I was over this all consuming "work" it was taking. The whole of January I was in and out of Doctors getting all sorts of diagnosis. I had stomach scans for gall stones, got put on PPI's for acid reflux. I couldn't exercise and because this was my only saving grace I started to spiral. I was in constant discomfort- there was no way we could try for a baby.
I wish someone simply asked me "have you been stressed?" It took two months of tests for GI specialist to finally ask that question. After an endoscopy ruled out anything bad, I was told I didn't have acid reflux and should never have been put on that medication. It did more harm than good. Stress can do crazy things to the body and after a year of loss and all consuming fertility issues, I had just had enough.
In February we got offered a free trip to Bali and we discussed whether we should take it or start our IUI. We decided that a relaxing 10 day holiday would be just what the Doctor ordered to de-stress and be ready to start treatments when we returned home. Well, Dengue Fever x 2, Salmonella x 1 and Giardia x 1 later- NOT SUCH A GREAT IDEA.
It took me three months to recover. I was told that the PPI medication I was put on probably contributed to me getting Salmonella poisoning as it neutralized my stomach acid when I didn't need it to. It took a month to wean off these nasty pills and two months of reactions from the Salmonella entering my blood stream. My throat would swell and I could hardly breath, every day there was peeling skin or a new rash, I had anti-biotic resistant UTIs, swallon lymph nodes, couldn't sleep and was incredibly uncomfortable. I was in such a bad way that I remember saying to my husband. "I don't even care if we have another baby. I just need to be healthy for us, for Archie. This is what matters- what I have, not what I don't." It was like a lightbulb. Was this the lesson I was supposed to learn?
"LIFE IS 10% WHAT HAPPENS TO YOU AND 90% HOW YOU REACT TO IT"
I feel like my life has been on hold for the past 20 months. I have had three alcoholic drinks, I have not had one coffee, I have a restricted diet, have not been able to travel, BUT I have also gained so much. Being so sick made me put it all in perspective. To be content with what I have. I am so grateful I am finally healthy enough to be able to try again. I am grateful that because of my losses my friend Jacqui reached out and introduced me to vedic meditation (it has been my saving grace). I am grateful for the crazy diet, that we have access to amazing organic produce and that I can afford those foul tasting herbs.
I have had to reframe my journey. Yes, absolutely there have been low points- some of the lowest of my life. I have sobbed, I have begged, I have prayed I have asked "Why me?" "How is this fair?" but then I read stories of others that are truly suffering and I am humbled. Women who cannot have children, Mothers who have passed away and left their children, children who have a terminal illness. And you know what? I am truly blessed. Yes another baby would be the icing on the cake, but our family is complete, just as it is. Each night I go through all that I am grateful for, and there is so much. This life can be harsh, but it can also be so damn beautiful- the more rain, the brighter the rainbow, right?
There are few things in our modern, fast paced society that we can't control- if and when we have children is one of them. And there is so much beauty in that. Sure there is the help of IVF and wonderful science but there are no guarantees. There is a reason they call it the miracle of life. It doesn't matter what we do, there is a bigger plan that we cannot control. I'm sure it will all make sense one day and I know there is a baby coming for our family- one way or another- my double rainbow is coming.
"GRATITUDE IS A MAGNET FOR MIRACLES"
So here we are FINALLY in our FIRST TWO WEEK WAIT since our last miscarriage. Can you believe this is the first month we have been able to TTC since October last year?! The IUI was a little more full on than I anticipated. I was put on a drug to make me ovulate (also made me CRAY-ZY), I had to go in and get bloods and an internal ultra-sound every two days and give myself a trigger injection the night before. The procedure itself was painful and left me cramping and bleeding and now the progesterone pessaries I take twice a day are giving me ALL the pregnancy symptoms, right down to the frequent urination, which in itself is a head f%$k. BUT I AM SO HAPPY WE CAN TRY! I know there is only a 25% chance with IUI and we'll give it a few months of our 100% committed focus. I have slowed down the work front, learnt to say no, to focus on my family because yes, you can have it all, but for me anyway, not all at once. So please send us your baby dust for the next few months.
We're ready for you- mind, body and spirit little one! I hope one day you get to read this story to know how much we fought for you.
Love, your Mama. xo