Photo courtesy of Alyssa Himmel

Trying To Conceive After A Miscarriage: Back To Zero

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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 second installment of her Trying diary. To read her first, go here.

Today, I’m prepping — emotionally and physically — for my final blood draw to confirm that my HCG levels have indeed reached “negative.” Honestly, a blood draw is a massage compared to eight hours of contractions. Monitoring trending-downward HCG levels is necessary to ensure all remnants of the pregnancy have cleared out, as well as rule out the development of any tumors.

What they won’t tell you in any manual or self-help book? I find it easier to cope with our loss by discussing it in scientific terms. The fate of my pregnancy was determined at the time of conception. It wasn’t anything I ate, ingested, or did that derailed the journey; the chromosomes likely didn’t align properly and the baby was unhealthy from the get-go. This is a scientific process, and as much as I tried to control its course, it simply wasn’t in my power to do so.

In terms of closing the chapter of my first pregnancy once and for all, I’m in the homestretch. My last blood draw revealed an HCG of 75 and… well, let’s just say that, after the last hospital visit, I’m confident that my uterus has a vacancy sign posted. The weekly visit with my doctor has taken on the form of a business meeting. I tend to come in on my lunch break, give my credentials, roll-up my sleeves and I’m out of there in a tight five. I chuckle at the notion that I was once squeamish about giving blood. Ha! A thing of the past.

Today, the nurse is unfamiliar, talkative, too. She asks if this is my first pregnancy. She seems unaware of the miscarriage; she knows she has to perform an HCG quant but hasn’t accessed my file. I somehow can’t blame her for being insensitive. “Unfortunately, my pregnancy ended in a miscarriage,” I state boldly. It was the first time I realized how comfortable I’ve become speaking my truth to strangers. (As you, dear reader, surely comprehend.)

The lack of education — or even just awareness — about the struggles of fertility and conception are baffling.

Reactions to my brazenness have become a social experiment; I feel like I’m back in undergrad psychology classes. When we hear that someone experiences a death in their lives, the first reaction is: “I’m sorry.” While the empathy is appreciated, “sorry” totally makes me cringe. That’s not why I’m being candid about my journey. I don’t care to pretend everything is OK. I find relief in being genuine. My bluntness — while maybe, at times, ill-advised — might make someone a little more self-aware, more willing to get their facts straight before asking something so personal.

The lion’s share of the awkward, crass experiences I’ve had since I began telling my story? Mostly women! Whether it’s certain people being uncomfortable, uneducated, or unable to empathize, it seems to be almost always women. The lack of education — or even just awareness — about the struggles of fertility and conception are baffling. I do my best to laugh off ignorant comments and unwarranted advice thrown my way. Remember all those movies and shows when we were young? Is it just me or did something always seem wrong with women who weren’t mothers? As if a woman couldn’t be fully complete without a child.

Sure, the circumstances aren’t something you usually celebrate but, again, living my truth.

I leave the clinic and fill my lungs with the deepest breath I’ve had in months. Hours later, my results are texted to me. (So much for “personal care.”) I log into my health account. HCG level: 2. Anything less than five is considered “negative.” We’re in the clear!

Photo courtesy of Alyssa Himmel

I drive home, windows open (it’s 45 degrees, but I don’t care), rush inside and pour myself a victory-sized glass of cabernet. Sure, the circumstances aren’t something you usually celebrate but, again, living my truth.

At my follow-up with my OB-GYN, she spares me the pelvic exam, possibly realizing my lady bits have been through enough. She says there’s no reason why my husband and I need to wait to try again. Music to my ears; I’ve been ready to go. I leave the office on cloud nine, clean-slated and overjoyed. Not so fast. One thing stands between me and passionate, baby-making sex: My period. Like clockwork. I’d like to hurry up and get the show on the road, but it’s more hurry up and wait than anything.