Guest Post by K.T.
Getting Pregnant with Our Daughter
My husband and I conceived our daughter, Katherine, with the help of IVF. We had been trying for a baby for about two years with a combination of infertility and recurrent miscarriage. During the first year, we had three miscarriages, and during the second year, we didn’t get pregnant at all, despite IUI treatments. Incredibly, our first round of IVF was a success. We were pregnant! Despite a rocky pregnancy (low amniotic fluid, IUGR, and a partial placental rupture), Katherine arrived safe and sound at 37 1/2 weeks. She was perfect. We were in love.
Trying for #2 – Resentment and Anger
When Katherine was 14 months old, we decided to pursue IVF again. After all, it worked the first time and, let’s face it, we weren’t getting any younger. I couldn’t imagine spending another 2+ years going through recurrent miscarriages and infertility. This time, we decided to combine IVF with PGD to increase our chances even further. I had high hopes for success. Our first round of IVF resulted in a chemical pregnancy. It was hard on me and brought back a lot of sadness from my previous miscarriages. I couldn’t shake the thought that my body had failed me and that I “killed” the embryo, a perfect little boy. After a couple months, we tried IVF again, transferring another normal embryo. That cycle did not result in pregnancy.
Meanwhile, my two closest girlfriends had both fallen pregnant, one of them on her second cycle trying and the other on her first. It felt like a slap in the face. I developed intense anger towards one of my friends, Ann. She was older than I was and had a 12-month old daughter, whom she’d conceived on the first try. Not the first month, mind you, but the first try. Ann and her boyfriend were in a long distance relationship and they’d had unprotected sex one time while she was visiting him. That one time resulted in their daughter. Now, here she was, pregnant again, still breastfeeding, blissfully unaware of her cycles and thrilled with the good news.
I, on the other hand, had been trying for a year. I’d weaned Katherine at 14 months to start IVF meds. Every day, I tracked my basal body temperature to chart ovulation. I faithfully used ovulation predictors, I checked my cervix for signs of fertility and every little cramp and twinge was noted in my mental fertility database. Getting pregnant was a personal project for me, and one that I devoted tremendous energy and effort towards. This focus on never giving up kept me from being sad.
Since my second miscarriage in 2010, my attitude towards getting pregnant had changed. I’d become defiant. I clearly remember laying in bed, still bleeding from my loss, thinking “Screw you, miscarriage. You will not beat me.” I was angrier than I have ever been in my whole life. It was an anger that was so intense that I didn’t even cry after my loss. I seethed. I simply set my jaw, put my head down, and charged ahead, fuming at my misfortune. I armed myself with my baby-making arsenal, and I set out to get back at nature. I was not to be knocked down so easily.
And then my efforts failed.
My Low Point
After our two failed IVF cycles, I reached a low point. In addition to pursuing IVF treatments, we had just moved across the country to a new city where we didn’t know anyone. I felt alone and off-center. Nothing was familiar and I had no friends or family nearby to lean on for support. During the day, I’d put on a happy face for our daughter and my husband, but when I was alone, I’d crawl into bed, exhausted and sad. I was beaten.
I experienced a breakthrough with Kristen Darcy during a coaching call in late October. Kristen helped me through the process of: 1) letting go of fear and control, and 2) feeling deep gratitude for the path life had given me.
Kristen started the call by asking, “how are you doing?” Tears filled my eyes and I started sobbing saying simply, “terrible”. I’d never said this in my life, always choosing something more positive such as “okay”, or “pretty good”.
Feeling Deep Gratitude
I was embarrassed by the anger I felt towards my newly-pregnant friend, but I took a deep breath and confided my feelings to Kristen. Kristen listened patiently. Then she said, “Hold on a minute. Do you remember what we talked about during our first call ever?”. It was then that Kristen reminded me of something critical that I’d forgotten. When I started the coaching program with Kristen, I was terrified of what another baby might bring. I didn’t want to lose the special relationship that I had with Katherine. After a year of failed attempts at getting pregnant, I’d forgotten all about it.
It was then that a light-bulb went off for me. Although I had spent a year chasing a goal that I didn’t achieve, I had gained something wonderful: all of this time spent completely focused on Katherine. I thought of my pregnant friend whose baby was much younger than Katherine and all of the alone time they’d never have together. Suddenly, I felt so lucky! I’d been so focused on what wasn’t working for me that I’d completely ignored the thing that had been so precious to me from the get-go: enjoying the special bond that I had with Katherine. From that moment on, I no longer felt anger towards my friend. I simply felt tremendous gratitude for the time I’d shared with Katherine. Even though she was pregnant, I truly felt like I was the lucky one.
Letting Go of Fear & Control:
During that fateful call, I also told Kristen what a hard time I was having between the move and the failed IVF attempts. It was then that Kristen asked me something that I will forever be grateful for. She asked me, “do you think maybe you need a break?”. Taking a break hadn’t really occurred to me before, and once I heard this option, I knew it was what I needed. It was mid-October and Kristen suggested taking time off fertility options to enjoy the coming holidays. Later that night, I talked the plan over with my husband. I remember telling him, “I just want to have some eggnog this year for a change”. I instantly felt lighter.
Letting go was exactly what I needed. In the past, I’d distracted myself from the sadness and disappointment by putting 100% of my energy into making a pregnancy happen. There was no way that I was going to miss a chance to get pregnant, and the daily temping, OPKs and fertility charting made me feel like I was in control of something that deep down I knew I was not.
I also realized that fear played a big role in the reason I’d been so focused on trying to get pregnant. Once I stopped trying, I’d no longer have the anger and determination to hold onto. I’d have to face my feelings of sadness. I’d also feel like I was giving up, and giving up meant I’d never reach my dream of a baby.
Despite being afraid, I was miserable enough to try anything. I knew that I needed to do things differently, and my heart told me this: “For once, Elizabeth, give yourself a break. A couple of months won’t matter in the long run. Just relax and enjoy what’s right in front of you”. And so I did.
Focusing on The Now
I shifted my focus from making a baby to my family: my daughter and David. We went to the park every day, we started our Christmas shopping, I made a huge Thanksgiving feast. I can’t describe the sense of peace and relief that I felt. Every day felt lighter and I began to appreciate those little moments that I’d otherwise have overlooked. Holding David’s hand, singing songs with Katherine, reading a book I’d been putting off. I felt truly happy and at peace.
October was the first month ever in four years of trying to conceive that I did not use OPKs or track my BBT. Still, since I’d spent so many years trying to get pregnant, I was aware of my body’s signals. We took a different approach to trying that month. We had intercourse based off intuition and also how we felt in the moment. It was so refreshing not to feel pressure to have sex because of a little stick that I peed on twice a day. I had let go of any expectation that we might get pregnant. I felt happy.
I had an appointment with a new fertility doctor on November 12th. We’d planned to discuss starting IVF again after the holiday season. My cycle had been strange that month and I hadn’t seen any sign of my period. It occurred to me that I should probably take a pregnancy test in case the new doctor wanted to run testing. Even though I wasn’t expecting anything, I never let go of that glimmer of hope. As I was literally running out the door, I took a pregnancy test. I instantly saw that beautiful 2nd line. My mouth dropped and I stood there in disbelief. I put the test in my purse and drove to the appointment, checking it every few minutes as I was driving to make sure I wasn’t seeing things. This was our first natural pregnancy in 3 ½ years.
The first few weeks of pregnancy were a roller coaster of emotions. I’d go from feeling blissfully excited to hopeless and defeated, sure that I was going to miscarry again. I think that this is something that every woman who’s miscarried goes through. A weight was lifted when we saw a strong heartbeat at 6w4d and a beautiful baby measuring right on track. Was it possible that after four years of trying on our own, we actually pulled this off? It’s still early, but so far we are feeling very optimistic and hopeful.
What I Learned
Interestingly, when I look back on this story, it’s not the positive pregnancy test that I focus on. The outcome doesn’t feel as significant to me as the process that led up to it. Kristen was able to listen to my story and play it back to me in a way that made me see things differently. She offered a perspective of hope and gratitude that I hadn’t been able to see on my own, stuck in my fear and anger. Once I realized how lucky I was already, I felt a shift. This enabled me to appreciate exactly what I already had, and to not wish for anything to change. Although we never stopped hoping and trying for another baby, I let go of all expectations that anything would happen. I stopped trying to control the outcome and accepted that whatever would happen would be the right thing.
As it turns out, another Christmas has come and gone and I missed out on the eggnog again this year. I’m not complaining though.