Nearly four years ago, in the heat of July, I found out I was pregnant. It was a year of trying that finally resulting in exciting news. During our first visit to the doctor, the doctor warned us that 1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage. I distinctly remember shaking it off and thinking, "that will never happen to me."
But a few months later, it did. On September 23, 2015, it did. Our baby stopped growing at around 9 weeks but we found out close to 12 weeks. Off I went to the “women’s clinic” for a D and C. It was an odd experience, cash only, as if we were doing something illegal. Of course, I blamed myself for this miscarriage, although in reality there was NOTHING I did wrong and this would have happened had I been on bed rest since day 1.
A few months later, in January 2016 we found out I was pregnant again. This time, I was overly cautious. My anxiety got the better of me. Thankfully, my doctor understood and allowed me to get multiple blood tests. At 6 weeks, the ultrasound was normal. A week later on February 9, 2016, there was no fetal heartbeat. Thankfully the ultrasound technician broke the rules and told me, with a very heavy and kind heart, that there was no heartbeat. Although I was devastated, at least I didn’t have to wait the rest of the day to hear from the doctor. The next day, I went to the hospital for another D and C. We were the 1 in 4 twice, lucky us.
At the end of February 2016 we had our first appointment at a fertility clinic. The doctor asked us to each write down on a piece of paper how badly we wanted children. My husband was a “9” and I was a “10”. We really wanted a family. That day, we spoke about some options but didn’t think about it too much because there were plenty of tests that needed to be done in order to determine the course of action. One of the many tests revealed that my husband was a carrier for a genetic disease, 21 Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia. Because he was a carrier, it was a good idea to find out if I was a carrier. As luck would have it, I was a carrier too!
If you remember Mendelian genetics from high school, you will remember, there is a 1 in 4 chance we could pass this on to a child, which could be why we miscarried (although we will never know for sure.) As we did not want to knowingly have a child with 21 Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia, the only safe option was to do in-vitro fertilization (IVF) with preimplantation genetic screening and preimplantation genetic diagnosis. These tests would screen for genetic abnormalities, missing chromosomes and 21 Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia.
The multiple D and Cs left me with Asherman’s Syndrome, causing scarring in my uterus and delayed a return of my period. Once my period finally returned in July 2016, we started the protocol to get my body ready for the egg retrieval. This meant lots of drugs, hormones, injections, suppositories, needles and ultrasounds to see how many eggs my body was producing. When the doctor was satisfied with the number of follicles, we booked the retrieval for August 10. I think we got 8 eggs. The eggs were then inseminated with my husband’s sperm and “developed” over 5 days. After 5 days, 3 embryos were of high enough quality to have a biopsy sent to be tested for the various conditions. Of those embryos, 1 was a carrier, 1 was unaffected, and 1 was missing a chromosome. So we had 2 viable embryos, better than nothing!
In September 2016 I started the hormones to make my body ready for a transfer, my body did not respond well and, as a result of the uterine scarring, my uterine lining did not thicken to the desired level. I had a cancelled cycle. And then another cancelled cycle the next month.
After varying the protocol and multiple cancelled cycles, we decided to switch doctors to THE fertility doctor in Toronto. At our first visit with the new doctor in December 2016, he said we had 4 options, a brand new treatment he was testing, granulocyte-colony stimulating factor, do a transfer and “hope for the best” or surrogacy. The thought of surrogacy was not something either of us wanted. I wanted to carry our child.
In January 2017 we started another round of hormones to get my body ready for a transfer and we introduced granulocyte-colony stimulating factor as well. Although my uterus did not thicken to an ideal level, the doctor suggested we do a transfer with one of the embryos. He said, there were 2 embryos and that we ought to at least give it a try. I was scared shitless but on January 26th, 2017 we did a transfer. One long week later, I had a blood test which showed I was pregnant.
As a result of the two miscarriages and issues getting pregnant, my anxiety was at an all-time high, which lasted throughout the pregnancy. Before every ultrasound, I feared the baby no longer had a heart beat. The technicians always confirmed a fetal heartbeat before they did their measurements. There were also several trips to the ER and unscheduled doctor’s visits to confirm the baby was alive. I rarely felt the kicking you hear of because of the placement of my placenta. It was a tumultuous time. My husband, family and friends and doctors were my rock. Their unwavering support was everything.
On September 19, 2017 at 2:04am (a month before my due date) my water broke. My husband quickly packed my bag (life lesson – pack your hospital bag in advance) and off we went to the hospital. 36 hours later, at 2:30pm on September 20, 2017 (almost 2 years after the first miscarriage) we welcomed a baby girl. Although not everyone has a positive outcome, I am so thankful we did. Some day, I forget what we went through to have this baby and all the disappointment along the way.
One in 4 experience loss and 1 in 6 have fertility complications—chances are, you aren’t the only one going through it. Which is why I believe it's so important to keep the conversation going.