And then shit hit the fan…

It’s been 3 1/2 months since I wrote last. A lot has happened. Just one week after that last blog entry, my life changed A LOT, but not quite in the way I had hoped.

In September, I learned I was pregnant.

In November, I miscarried at 9 weeks.

Two months after that, I am sitting here at my parents’ house, waiting for my second period after the miscarriage to arrive. I’m back at square one.

I have a lot of positive ideas and thoughts for 2016. But, before I get there, I want to spend a blog entry filling in the whirlwind that has been the last 3 months (from the joyous to the totally shitty).

As I explained in my last blog post, we completed a much anticipated Frozen Embryo Transfer in September. After a few weeks of intermittent ultrasounds, bloodwork and estrogen pills, we went ahead with the transfer. We transferred in one hatched, 6-day blastocyst. They gave us a picture, and on the way home, we decided to call the embryo “Brodie.”   While I was absolutely terrified of a negative result, I had a hopeful feeling that this time, things would be different.  That night, about 8-10 hours after the transfer, I felt a weird crampy fluttering in my uterus.  It sounds crazy, but that gave me hope that maybe, just maybe, that little embryo was burying into my utering lining, and was there to stay.

That Sunday, I went to my sister’s bridal shower. When I got home, I was feeling mopey and upset for a variety of reasons. I was worried about taking a pregnancy test mid-week and being crushed.  But I was also wary of taking an early pregnancy test, because I’d been burned by that whole fucked up strategy many times before  (a negative pregnancy test taken too early tells you basically….nothing). Anyway, I got home from the shower and told Alex I wanted to get a pregnancy test. He was a little reluctant, based on his prior two-week-wait experiences. But, I convinced him.  So, we got a pregnancy test from Walgreens, and around 5:30 I took it. Just as I was starting to say, “It’s probably going to be negative” – a faint second started to appear. After 3 minutes, it wasn’t super dark, but it was definitely, definitely THERE. Cue me crying and yelling, “There’s a second line!” like a crazy person. And then we repeated our mantra, “no matter what happens with this pregnancy, at least we know we can get pregnant.”

And that was the first and only day of pure elation. After 24 hours or so, the fear and anxiety set in. I woke up the next morning with the unshakable worry that I would have a chemical pregnancy. If I hadn’t tested so early, I wouldn’t have gotten my hopes up.  I already had anxiety and was prone to catastrophic thinking long before this whole infertility bullshit began. Combine my natural disposition with the natural worry of any infertile person who has just gone through multiple invasive fertility treatments to get a much longed for pregnancy – I was pretty fucked on the emotional well-being spectrum.

That first day, I was googling “IVF chemical pregnancy rate” at work, when my 20-something coworker decided to announce she was pregnant.  She is a lovely person and completely deserves all the happiness in the world.  But oddly, even though I had just found out I was pregnant too, I privately reacted to her pregnancy announcement with the same jealousy and fear that I had as an infertile person. She was pregnant and I was…kind of pregnant?  Tentatively pregnant?

So, cue more crazy. I took a pregnancy test that afternoon, and got two dark lines. I breathed a sigh of relief. Until the next afternoon, when that nagging anxiety came back, and I took another. Two darker lines. I texted Alex  and let him know Brodie was going strong.

Public Service Announcement: Trust this crazy lady. DO NOT and I repeat DO NOT take obsessive pregnancy tests if you ever, one day, find yourself a newly pregnant infertile person.  It will get you nowhere, and it certainly won’t bring you joy. Put Down The Test!

Back to our story. So, all was good in Brodie-land.  I went in for my blood test, and got the official “Congrats, you are pregnant!” call from the nurse. My first BETA looked good – 127. I was thrilled. That elation lasted a few more hours, until the anxiety about BETA #2 set in – what if it didn’t double? I was starting to realize that early pregnancy just felt like a continuation of infertility  – the complete and total uncertainty, the waiting, followed by more waiting. But, things progressed well. BETA #2 tripled in 2 days – excellent!

We had an ultrasound at 5 weeks 2 days, which showed a gestational sac that looked good – still too early to see a heartbeat or fetal pole. Then the waiting and worry and uncertainty continued. My third BETA was stellar, though – it had gone from 380 to 9,9000 in one week. I was excited about that. Our next ultrasound would be at 6 weeks 5 days – and hopefully we would see the heartbeat.

Then, shit hit the fan. On the Wednesday morning that I reached 6 weeks, I felt a little crampy at work. I dismissed it as nothing, until I went to the bathroom. The minute I sat down, I saw bright red blood dripping into the toilet bowl – like the beginning of my period. That was the worst feeling in the world. This was definitely heavier than spotting – I wasn’t gushing blood, but this wasn’t a little bit of pink on the toilet paper either.

I called the doctor and texted Alex. I noticed the bleeding at around 9:15. By 9:45, I was on my way to the doctor. By this time, I was having cramps equal to my worst period cramps and actually considered stopping at home, because I felt nauseous and sick. I was cramping so heavily that I was convinced that I was miscarrying, and called Alex to tell him to prepare himself if we got bad news. I knew there was nothing the doctors could do about it.  But I just needed to know – was I miscarrying?

I walked into that doctors office, convinced that I was going to hear bad news. But, the minute the ultrasound began, my doctor said, “I can see the heartbeat.” That was the craziest feeling. I was convinced that this ultrasound was going to confirm our pregnancy was over, but instead I saw the heartbeat of our baby for the first time. The Doctor said that everything looked great. The bleeding was a fluke.  We just had to wait for blood test results to confirm everything was progressing normally. The next day we got the call – good news. My HCG had risen, and my progesterone had dipped a little, but they weren’t overly concerned. I was given the all clear.

Well, that’s the simple version. In retrospect, we now know this might have been the beginning of the end. After the bleed, I noticed that my HCG level wasn’t doubling any more.  At 6 weeks it was only 16,000. Everyone assured me that it had risen. But, all I could think was that it had REALLY slowed down. Previously, it had gone from 380 to 9,900 in one week. That means it had been tripling every two days. Now, it wasn’t even doubling in a week.  I know that your HCG is supposed to slow down and plateau as it gets higher. However, I was under the impression that happened a little later on (closer to 10 weeks).  Despite everyone’s reassurance, I could not shake the feeling that the rapid slow-down in my HCG levels, combined with the bleeding, did not bode well.

Despite this, our ultrasounds continued to look great. We saw the heartbeat again at 7 weeks and 8 weeks. The baby was measuring two days behind, but we were told that was completely normal. At 8 weeks, we officially graduated from the fertility specialist. We were ELATED. Finally, we would be like a normal couple with a normal pregnancy. No more getting up at 4:45 to wait outside the fertility specialist for bloodwork and ultrasound. The nightmare was finally over – we had done it.

Still, I couldn’t shake the fear that something would go wrong. I knew that we weren’t yet in the “safe zone” – we were still in the first trimester.   In my worst moments, I was starting to see pregnancy as a never-ending obstacle course  – every time we cleared one hurdle, another one loomed in front of us. Something could ALWAYS go wrong… we would never really be safe, until we held a baby in our arms.

And this brings me back to HCG. My last HCG level at 8 weeks was only 21,000.  It had been 20,000 at 7 weeks. Was it normal to only increase by 5%? Again, everyone encouraged me to relax. It was rising. That’s all that matters, right? The doctors would tell me if something was wrong. So, after one particularly bad evening where I was overcome with fear of miscarriage, I finally managed to relax a bit. (Coincidentally, we would later learn this was probably the day the baby’s heart stopped).

I had a few days of happiness. I was excited for the upcoming four day weekend and my first OBGYN appointment. I could see the finish line from here – I finally started to let myself believe that this was really happening, that good things DID happen for us.

And then shit hit the fan, again. I got home from work on Tuesday afternoon and saw some super light pink spotting. At this point, we had just stopped the progesterone injections and estrogen pills. We had switched over to a vaginal insert of progesterone called Endometrin. That afternoon, I saw pink mixed in with the Endometrin discharge. It was so light, it was almost peach. It scared me, but I also knew that Endometrin could irritate your cervix.  At least I had a reason to be spotting, finally, right? I tried to take my mind off it.

When I  got up the next morning, the spotting had increased. It was now rust colored, like old blood.  I was afraid to go to work, worried that this would be just like the last bleeding episode at 6 weeks. But Alex assured me that everything would be okay, and that I should go to work. So  I attempted to be brave and not such an anxiety ridden nutcase.

At work, I kept wondering, “am I still bleeding?” I thought I felt blood – I was definitely cramping. But every time I ran to the bathroom to check, my pad was white. Every time, I breathed a sigh of relief. I was still cramping, but, maybe it was nothing.  Then, before lunch, I went to the bathroom and there was bright red blood on my pad. I wasn’t gushing blood, but this was not pink spotting. I started to doubt that this was from the Endometrin.

And so ensued a frenzied 2 hours of trying to discreetly call a doctor and figure out WTF was going on while trying to keep students and coworkers from overhearing my phone conversations. My OBGYN wasn’t supposed to see me till the next day, so they told me to go back to my fertility specialist. My fertility specialist was perplexed that my OBGYN wouldn’t see me.  So, I went back and forth. My OBGYN’s office finally told me not to worry and to wait till tomorrow. I said okay, with a sinking feeling.  Luckily, my nurse at the fertility specialist called me back  – she had sp0ken to my doctor, and he said he’d fit me in for an ultrasound ASAP.

This time, I was much less panicked than the bleed at 6 weeks. I called Alex and told him not to worry – not to leave work. That I’d update him when I got out. It occured to me that it would be NOW – the time I was calm, and that we were sure it would be okay because this had all happened before – that I would get bad news. And, that’s how it worked out after all.

The minute the doctor began the ultrasound, I knew something was wrong. This time, he started with “I can see that there is blood in your uterus.” And then he squinted at the screen for a long time. And finally, “I am having trouble finding a heartbeat.”

It only took a matter of minutes for him to confirm that the heartbeat had stopped, and that I was miscarrying. He took measurements, and guessed the baby had stopped growing just a day or two after our 8 week ultrasound. I asked to do a D&C, and they scheduled me for one on Friday – two days later. I was terrified of miscarrying on my own, of waiting to miscarry at any time. I wanted it to be over. I wanted quick closure, not days or weeks of waiting.

It progressed quickly after that. I called Alex and gave him the bad news.  He had to catch a train home from the city, so it would be a while. I didn’t want to be home by myself, so I got practical.  I went to the store and ran some errands, including picking up super heavy duty pads. I was still bleeding and cramping, and had a sinking feeling that this miscarriage might happen sooner rather than later.

And indeed, it did. Alex and I ordered out that night and watched a movie. By 8:00, I could barely concentrate on the movie. I had terrible cramps (like my worst period – and I have pretty bad periods). I kept going back to the bathroom, and eventually, the the miscarriage just happened naturally. The sac passed relatively early, and intact, with barely any blood. I fished it out of the toilet bowl to save in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. Crazy, right? But, they told me to do that, so we could have it tested. Then the heavy bleeding started.  That part wasn’t too big of a deal, because the cramps got better from there. I just bled a hell of a lot. Seriously. The inside of your toilet ends up looking like a murder scene. At least those super heavy pads didn’t go to waste.

I felt a great feeling of relief after that – it was over, and I had done it. I also had a sense of closure. We confirmed that everything had passed at the doctor the next morning. We sent the sample out for testing. And, then we went home.

It took about 4 1/2 weeks for my HCG levels to go back down to normal. I got my period in early December. But my body isn’t quite back to normal yet – I’ve had yeast infections twice already, super heavy periods, the first UTI of my life, and crazy bloating that STILL makes me look pregnant. It’s just a sucky little reminder of what has happened.

On the mental front, we are taking a break. I think we are doing pretty okay. I’lll talk more about the positive side of this in a future post – because there is a HUGE positive side. Alex and I are actually feeling more hopeful and centered now than we have in a while. I don’t believe that everything happens for a reason, but I do believe that when one door closes another one opens. We just opened another door, and even though we didn’t choose for the old door to be closed, there is a whole new path ahead of us. So, we see that as a gift. Fertility treatment has been a roller coaster ride, and by the time I  got pregnant, I was already going off the rails – the anxiety and fear just got worse and worse as my pregnancy progressed. So, now that we have a forced do-over, we are going to take a serious look at ourselves and our desires and needs, and make sure that our little family is strong and centered and in a good mental space before we try to  introduce a child into the mix again – whether it is through adoption or biological.