Part of a special exploration of fertility and reproduction from Romper & Radiolab.
Romper's Trying project follows five women with very different stories through a year of trying to conceive. Where discussions about fertility often focus on the end goal, they'll document what it's like emotionally, physically, and spiritually before you get there — the anxiety, the hope, the ovulation kits, the tests. How do you function when getting pregnant or carrying a pregnancy to term isn't a given? Read on for one woman's answer to that question.
Alyssa experienced a miscarriage during her first pregnancy, and she and her husband are still trying. This is the first installment of her Trying diary; to read her second, go here.
At 10 weeks pregnant, our ultrasound technician confirmed the following: Our baby had stopped developing at six weeks. There was no cardiac activity present. My husband and I drove home from the appointment numb. My doctor had been extremely vague. Our options were not clearly laid out as to whether we wanted to miscarry naturally or schedule a D&C (dilation and curettage) surgery. Not having any children yet, I felt that if there was a natural way to do this, I could handle it — I preferred it. I didn’t want to risk complications stemming from surgery that could harm future pregnancies. I was also terrified of being put under general anesthesia.
My body hadn’t started the miscarrying process on its own yet, so my doctor prescribed Cytotec to jumpstart things. Four of every five women who take Cytotec to miscarry are successful after one dose. (Isn’t that a funny word? “Successful.”) I’m a data-driven person and the odds seemed favorable, so I filled the Cytotec prescription and called out of work for two days. My doctor had also prescribed me 800 milligrams of Advil, so I figured the pain wouldn’t be unbearable. She would have written it for something stronger, right?
Eight weeks later, 13 blood draws and two trips to the emergency room, I am still actively miscarrying.
After the news, I had an overwhelming desire to “start over,” to try to conceive as soon as possible. I took comfort in the fact that the nightmare would soon be over, and painlessly. I envisioned a future-me — a future-us — happily rejoicing over the fact that I got pregnant again so soon thereafter, so seamlessly.
The reality of this hell is that eight weeks later, 13 blood draws and two trips to the emergency room, I am still actively miscarrying.
Miscarriage was always a foreign concept to me. It’s taboo to discuss. When my husband and I learned I would miscarry, we were hesitant to tell family and friends. But being transparent with loved ones actually aided the healing process tremendously. Even more surprising? We learned that the vast majority of our loved ones had endured similar experiences. It was eye-opening to learn how normal and common miscarriage is, yet so rarely openly confronted. To me, this didn’t measure up. I felt compelled to break the silence. I give you my fertility diary.
I’m just shy of 30, living with my husband in Columbus, Ohio, the city where we met all those years ago. We both work full-time at incredibly fast-paced and demanding jobs, globe-hopping as often as possible in the meantime. After being fully embedded in the hustle and bustle of Manhattan for six years together, settling down in suburbia was a welcome reprieve.
I had been on birth control since I was 15, but decided to stop taking it after we got married. We weren’t trying to conceive back then, but I felt better mentally and physically without unnecessary hormones being flushed through my body. After all those years, I didn’t know if my cycle would be regular; I wanted to be a mom someday, and wanted to start tracking as soon as I could.
Having heard horror stories of couples perpetually trying and failing to conceive, I was grateful we weren’t going to face that sort of failure and devastation.
Two years — and, ahem, many successful "pull-outs" later — we are amid contract talks on our first house in the ‘burbs. My husband and I shared (for the most part) the “whatever happens, happens” mentality. We were finally homeowners and secure in our careers. All our ducks were in a row, let’s go for it, we thought. It was as good a time as any to start a family — spoken like the true planner I am.
The day after we closed on our home, I conceived our first child. We were shocked, but thrilled. Having heard horror stories of couples perpetually trying and failing to conceive, I was grateful we weren’t going to face that sort of failure and devastation. I made my prenatal appointment, began to take my daily prenatal vitamins, continued working out moderately, cut out processed foods and switched to decaf. All in. And then, nearly as quickly…
An oft-uttered quote from a once-friend chimed through the bliss: “If something seems too good to be true, it likely is.” No cliché seems more relevant in retrospect.
Losing something you were just getting comfortable having is an incredibly lonely, nearly ineffable feeling. The trove of rapidly changing emotions is bafflingly disorienting... rage, sadness, guilt, loss playing on shuffle like some deranged, malfunctioning iPod.
I began reconsidering everything I ate, drank, and looked at over the previous five weeks that could’ve been the catalyst. I was depleted, unsure of how I could make it through the hour. I was raised Catholic, but I don’t consider myself a religious person. Yet somehow, after work, I’d find myself in a vacant church, kneeling, sobbing and begging for answers. Once I felt as stable as could be — satisfied with my level of grief that particular day — I stood, ready to keep moving. My body had other plans.
There is no greater humiliation than lying on a hospital bed, gushing blood, being probed with an internal ultrasound machine while simultaneously having labor-esque contractions every five minutes. Lying on the gurney, roiling in agony, a doctor could’ve asked to remove a vital organ and I wouldn’t have objected — anything to stop the pain. Anything to make me feel like I wasn’t dying. I curse my OBGYN. Advil? What a joke.
After what seemed like an eternity, I’m wheeled out and face my husband. Though he looks helpless, disheveled, haggard even, his face fills me with hope. He asks what he can do.
I reply, “I’ll take an IV of Maker's Mark please.”