My pre-birth story: Miscarriage and Infertility
Updated: Nov 16, 2021
Trigger Warning: There will be some parts of this blog and story that will leave you raw and emotional. The title is pretty self explanatory. I encourage you to sit with your emotions as you experience them if you choose to read through. Notice where your emotions resonate with you in your body and how they feel. Notice what thoughts are arising for you. If this story is resonating with you and reminding you of your own experiences notice what sorts of thoughts you are having. If you are having any negative thoughts, see if you can change them to positive thoughts. Change your story and internal dialogue. If you are able to, continue reading when you are ready... If not, I encourage you to leave this story for another time or day and get the support you need.
My own birthing journey did not start out as anticipated.
I didn't know that sometimes babies don't come and sometimes babies don't stay.
I was two weeks shy of 24 when I got married and we had dreams of building our careers, buying a house and starting a family. It's the unexpected things you don't plan for that often have the biggest impact on your life.
I had just moved back from Mexico less than a year before our marriage and my parents were freshly divorced. I had been living in a new community for less than 6 months and would be changing jobs in September. Needless to say, there was a lot of upheaval and stress in my life. Everything in my life was changing at this time and it was exciting and new. Unfortunately, I didn't always take the time to notice and acknowledge the impacts all of this change was having on me physically and emotionally.
I was from a family of predominantly women with just me and my sister, and my soon to be husband was from a family of 11 children who were all primarily men. Wouldn't the psychologists love to analyze us?
We were wed, went on a wonderful honeymoon and then immersed into the day to day of married life. We had an apartment in a rural community in Alberta. I had been providing family aid services through children's services in a nearby community and was going to switch jobs to the Family School liaison worker program. I found these jobs lucrative, respectful and of service, but I loathed the work that I was doing. Some of my employers were not supportive of the reality that social work is high stress and hard work and I was taking on more stress in my body as time progressed.
Since I was young, I'd had very painful moon times. Each menstrual cycle I would lose between 3 and 5lbs because I would vomit violently, suffer profuse diarrhea, and wind up in shock laying on a bathroom or bedroom floor at some point every month. I would miss work or school as a result approximately one day a month and carry on the other days. Nonetheless, I felt that my body wold be completely capable of carrying children and bringing forth new life easily.
Within a year or two of our marriage I recall thinking I had been pregnant because my womb had swollen immensely and my menstruation was late but nothing came of it. I did complete a pregnancy test but there were no positive results. This would happen every few months and in hindsight was likely caused from stress more then anything. I would usually get a pregnancy test and confirmed after seeking medical attention there was nothing truly wrong.
After two years of trying to get pregnant we were referred to the fertility clinic in Edmonton.
We underwent standard testing at the time and tried to maximize our medical efforts by complimenting them with acupuncture and Chinese medicine. After a hysterosalpinogram and acupuncture, I became pregnant for the first time.
It was Valentine's Day the first time I began miscarrying.
I was maybe 5-7 weeks when the miscarriage began. It began with brownish blood that after a few days darkened, reddened and became increasingly heavy. I had some menstrual cramps but nothing too serious or like my previous moon cycles. There was a small amount of tissue (really a skin coloured cell cluster) and a bit more blood than I was accustomed to with normal menstruation.
Although I was heartbroken by this loss, I recall being optimistic about my own ability to get pregnant. Additionally, as I was only 7 weeks pregnant or so, the toll on my body was not very hard. I was able to pass all tissues on my own without requiring extra medical care.
Waiting month to month for an elusive pregnancy is terrible!
After having so many months pass without any signs of pregnancy and endless cycle charting, I no longer felt like month to month charting brought me any closer to achieving my pregnancy goals, nor did it improve my perspective or support my mental health. Thus, I stopped charting my cycles and decided to try to let go of the time.
8 months later I found myself pounding nails into hardwood in our loft at the farm, wondering why I couldn't hit the nails with the hammer. I was swearing and becoming increasingly agitated because I was spending more energy and time hitting my own fingers and the surrounding planks than the nails...
We had been camping/ homestead living at our farm for well over a month. I'd been washing our laundry by hand, washing dishes outdoors, preparing our meals over a campfire, foraging, using an outhouse and showering in a solar shower everyday. After roughing it for 3 weeks, we went for a drive and it felt like the car was a luxury hotel! It was after the nail pounding that I thought something might be seriously wrong with me.
We returned to our home, which felt huge even though it was only 800 sq.ft., after having spent much of my time in a cabin that was 80 sq. ft. I completed a pregnancy test shortly after returning home and discovered the reason for the nail pounding problems- I was pregnant again.
This time, I had no idea of how pregnant I was as I had not been charting my cycles. I only knew that I was further along then the last time and that I was not past the first trimester. This time, I was really excited and rested a lot so that I could to stay pregnant.
It was Thanksgiving weekend when I first started showing signs of a miscarriage. Again, the brown discharge started which gradually turned to the dark red.
This time there was no cell cluster. This time there was something that looked like a very tiny human being. The spine was fully developed, the eyes were dark, there were two little hands, an ear fold, a huge brain/head, and other distinguishing features that passed into the toilet. I sat and stared at it for a long time. I was really sad and wondered how I could be so attached to this tiny being that was sitting in my toilet so undignified. Then I called my husband and asked what he thought we should do with it. His response was logical: it's like a goldfish, which meant flush the toilet. I flushed the handle and immediately regretted this action because I was essentially sending my dear sweet child into the sanitation system.
I was a mess.
We had friends who had just become pregnant and carried their baby to term at the same time. My in-laws, all 10 of them were popping out babies left and right (for a total of 23 grandchildren). My own mom had never had a miscarriage and my mother-in-law could not relate to the experience that I was going through. I had one friend who was going through infertility as well but she was already a mom to a beautiful little girl. There were no miscarriage support programs available in the town that I lived in. I felt like I was a failure as a woman, wife and human because my body could not do the one thing that I thought would come easily to me.
I cried for a really long time. I was jealous of people who were pregnant or who had babies for a really long time. I was furious with God who kept killing my babies and denying me motherhood. I could not see anything else in my life except for infertility and miscarriage. Mother's Day was the worst with every single holiday and family gathering a close second. Relatives kept making us godparents which felt like a consolation prize, but did not fill the void of loss in our hearts.
My husband never spoke to me about his feelings, and in hindsight, I probably wasn't capable of integrating his emotions as well as my own.
Eight months later, I was pregnant again while we were renovating. I knew it wouldn't last because my body did not feel strong and all of the conditions that had been present previously, did not exist. This was my shortest pregnancy. Yes, I was sad. Yes, I felt like a failure again. Yes, I subjected to myself to greater infertility interventions- none of which proved fruitful but which did succeed in completely shutting down my cycle of getting pregnant.
This was when I lost hope of becoming a biological mother.
My husband and I moved to Australia for a year. During this time we rediscovered our relationship, and we reconnected with who we are and what our future goals were. We did yoga, Qi Gong, meditation and travelled whenever possible. We learned about life Down Under and didn't focus on pregnancy or infertility but rather on each other and ourselves. We used our year away to heal and redisocover what matters in life.
After receiving confirmation that there was no genetic reason for our miscarriages, and returning from Australia, we began exploring adoption. Together, we decided that international adoption would be the best option for our family. I will not go into the details of adoption in this blog but know that international adoption is arduous and not for the faint of heart...
5 years later we brought our adopted baby home. We received a referral for our little boy on December 21, four days before Christmas. He had been born on September 20.
We loved him and were so excited to finally be parents. He brought us laughter, lightness of heart, and an acceptance of what parenting looked like for us. He is still sheer energy and joy. His name means miracle, and he was definitely our miracle. We did everything as a family and had a smooth transition to parenthood: adopted children are often institutionalized and learn quickly how to nap, and sleep through the night when there is no one there to respond.
People say that we saved him with adoption, but in truth, he saved us. He saved us from not being parents, from heart break, from a complete mental breakdown, and from the reality of not having children in a very fertile family. He showed us how to be parents and how to love unconditionally.
Within 8 months I was pregnant again after eight years without any pregnancies. It was April when I miscarried this time. Suddenly, all of the resentment, anger, frustration, fear, and sadness was in my face again. Even though I had grown so much and journeyed so far (literally around the world), here I was faced with yet another miscarriage and the same emotions that had happened eight years earlier.
At first, I was angry again.
My initial thoughts were why would I get pregnant again if I couldn't carry a baby to term? Why would I feel like my little boy was not enough to fill my heart completely as a parent if I was so angry again?
This time I decided that my reaction needed to be different. I decided to be happy in spite of the miscarriage. I had a child and he was enough to fill my heart with joy as a parent, even if it meant that I had lost biological children. This time I did not define myself by infertility and miscarriage nor missing children because I had someone who needed me to take care of him always.
I felt myself get pregnant on December 20.
I was petrified. I was afraid of losing this baby, I was afraid of a change in the relationship with my son, I was afraid to tell anyone, I was afraid I wouldn't be healthy. We told our parents under strict confidentiality when I was 3 months pregnant. Only my employer found out at 4 months because I needed to go on modified duties. At 5 months it was impossible to hide so we decided it was time to tell people. My fear was still lucid though.
I never bonded with my baby in utero because I was always expecting her to die. I never went a day during pregnancy where I didn't wonder if this would be my last day of pregnancy. My husband and I never discussed the pregnancy or our tangible fear of loss. I never acknowledged that there could have been a baby inside of me that would live beyond birth. People would congratulate me and I would accept it with hesitation. She was born September 20th- the same day as her brother.
This. is. fear.
Miscarriage had drastically altered my great expectations of pregnancy. Miscarriage had changed my expectations of easy parenting. Miscarriage had changed who I was.