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One in four. That’s how many women will experience a miscarriage in their reproductive lifetime. There are so many women out there that share this difficult, painful, and scary experience yet the discussion around it is minimal. Luckily, many women go on to have successful pregnancies after their losses, bringing a rainbow baby into their lives. There are others that have difficulty conceiving or keeping a pregnancy who are left grappling for answers. No matter what, for those who have experienced miscarriage or infant loss, the pain can still be found even years later.
My first daughter was born in 2011. She was a textbook pregnancy and birth, so when we decided to start trying for baby #2 thoughts of miscarriage were not even a glimmer in our minds. It took us months to get pregnant the second time, and when we flew home for the holidays, I didn’t yet know I was expecting. I had dreamed of telling my husband on Christmas Day, but as we reached our destination, I got my period. I shrugged it off and decided to enjoy the holidays with our family.
When we got home from our trip I was feeling a little off, so I took a pregnancy test. Positive! We were elated. I didn’t even consider my recent period when I went to get my standard blood draw done. When I told the nurse she seemed concerned and asked me to come back in two days to have a redraw. When the results came back, we got the devastating news that my period was actually a miscarriage, and I had been unaware.
This basic process happened two more times – once 6 weeks later when I became pregnant again and lost the baby in my bathroom, and then again 4 months later when the doctor couldn’t find a baby in my growing uterus. My whole body felt like it was being crushed at the news of each miscarriage. I spent days crying after each loss, my body shaking as my daughter played in the next room. I searched Google endlessly, looking for answers and for others who had experienced the same things. The sight of a pregnant woman (and they seemed to be everywhere) made me cringe. Friend’s news of their own new pregnancies made me want to cower in a corner. I had dreams where I was sleeping, holding three little bundles, and them all falling into a black hole in the middle of my bed as I screamed in horror trying to catch them. I didn’t know how I was going to overcome this, or if I ever would.
Secondary infertility is something that is rarely talked about when discussing pregnancy loss. Many people, including doctors, have the notion that since you had one (or more) successful pregnancies that you will have another if you just keep trying. For some, that is true – they may eventually have a successful pregnancy without the help of medical intervention. Others may need to seek treatment or take medications to help bring a new baby into life. Either way, the pain and confusion surrounding why miscarriages and/or secondary infertility is happening to you can be difficult to bear for any couple.
Secondary infertility is defined as the inability to conceive or carry a pregnancy to term after having one or more biological children without any medical interventions. There are many reasons secondary infertility can occur including the age of the mother, traumatic birthing of previous children, or new medical issues for the parents. But many times secondary infertility goes unexplained.
To read more about secondary infertility, check out 6 Things You May not Know about Secondary Infertility here on Daily Mom.
Despite rounds of testing, numerous doctors appointments, and hundreds of miles traveled to the nearest infertility clinic covered by my insurance, I still didn’t have answers as to why we were experiencing secondary infertility. My husband and I weren’t even thirty years old at the time, and we were both healthy and active adults. So why was this happening to us?
One night we had the heartbreaking discussion of possibly not having any more children. We knew our daughter would be an amazing big sister, and with both of us having siblings we wanted to give her the same type of relationships. But we didn’t know what else to do. Doctors didn’t think IUI or IVF would solve the issue since I wasn’t having trouble getting pregnant – I was just losing pregnancies – and we couldn’t afford it anyways. We discussed the possibility of adoption, but again, it wasn’t something we could afford. Like so many other families, we were at a loss. No one had answers for us, and we felt like we were stuck in this constant roundabout where all the exits were continuously being blocked off.
Healing. Or So I Thought.
It had been over two years since our first child was born, and we were feeling hopeless. Since we already had a child, friends and family would say things like, “You just have to relax – it will happen,” “You already have one so you know you can have another,” or “You should just be grateful for the one you have.” All of those sentiments, although well-meaning, can be infuriating. It can be hard to understand the pain that a couple is experiencing for someone who hasn’t experienced miscarriage, pregnancy loss, and/or secondary infertility, and it can be difficult to explain all the emotions you are feeling.
After a year of heartbreak, loss, and pain with no answers I decided to give up. It isn’t like me to quit on something, but I didn’t think I could handle the pain of losing another baby. I didn’t think I could make it through another doctor’s appointment where they couldn’t find the heartbeat. I didn’t think I could look at my daughter in the eye again and tell her that there isn’t a baby in her mommy’s belly anymore, giving her insight into death before she was even three years old. I resolved to just live the life we had for now and to stop beating myself up for things I couldn’t control.
I took all these emotions – anger, sadness, grief – and turned them into action. I couldn’t sit and do nothing, because that led to me searching Google and reliving the nightmare we had experienced so far. I had always been active, but that part of my life took a backseat during the second and third miscarriages. I was afraid to move during those weeks for fear that any activity would result in a loss. But after I was healed from my D&C and a secondary surgery to explore possible uterine cancer, I started running again. Working out almost became an obsession for me. It was a place where I could clear my mind, and it gave me the endorphins I needed to feel better if only for a few hours. I ran my first race, a 10k, six weeks after surgery. I continued to workout every single day, making it a top priority. I would get frustrated if I had to miss a workout for any reason.
My career in my previous, childless life was as a teacher. Given my background and my daughter’s age, I decided to start a preschool in my home. Opening my own business was quite a bit of work, and at times it was exhausting. But I worked at it every day. I opened my preschool only 2 months after my third miscarriage, and enrollment was full within one month after that.
In retrospect, these two things were simply coping mechanisms for dealing with the pain of losing my pregnancies. They helped me to forget about what our family was experiencing, and they took away my time from researching, pondering, and grieving. Since then I have barely given my secondary infertility a fleeting thought. I have been open about my losses to others, and even when talking about them I hadn’t felt any sense of sadness. Until now.
The Pain Returns
Since our last miscarriage in August of 2013, we have gone on to have two rainbow babies. Two more healthy, beautiful girls who came within almost a year of each other. I still don’t have an explanation for my secondary infertility, and I’m not sure I ever will. And I had thought I was over my losses, completely healed from that awful year, but as Miscarriage and Pregnancy Loss Awareness Day creeps up I realize that I am not.
The tears came on suddenly last week as I searched for a gift for a friend who has experienced loss much greater than mine. I began to think about her babies and about mine, and all of a sudden my heart broke. It crumbled into a thousand pieces. I thought about these three lives we could have known – about who they may have been and how they could have changed our family. My heart broke all over again for these lives we will never know. I cried on and off for hours for what our family experienced and for the fact that I have given little to no thought about these losses in the past three years.
It’s easy for me now to look back and see that I never really grieved over my miscarriages and secondary infertility. After getting pregnant with our second daughter, I felt I had no room to grieve anymore. I kept myself so busy with working out, teaching, running a business, and raising a family that thoughts of the miscarriages, other than to let other women know I was available to talk if they needed, were few and far between. I coped by pushing the thoughts back in my head and keeping myself busy. I know now that I will always feel the pain of these losses no matter how busy I am or how much time passes. They were a part of me and although it was only for a short time, those pieces will always be missing.
To read more about the causes of secondary infertility and how you can cope, check out Coping After Miscarriage here on Daily Mom.