May 9, 2013 by Katia
I often read the other writers’ posts that I publish here and I learn from them. While I did go through this myself, I still make discoveries like “I wish someone had told me THIS when I was going through my miscarriage” or “I wish I didn’t say THAT to my friend who miscarried, before I ever went through my own ordeal”.
I am so happy to continue receiving posts from women from all walks of life. I ask that if you’re able to do so, please share this content on your social networks by retweeting and sharing on Facebook and other platforms. You never know who might benefit and which sentence could find its way to someone’s heart and provide them with much needed support.
The lesson I’ve learned from my fertility journey is one that was brought home to me in a sermon I heard while grieving for a miscarriage: God works in mysterious ways. God knows what you need and when you need it; this isn’t always on your own schedule. This is a hard lesson for someone who struggles with patience on a daily basis.
It’s also hard given that, based on my career, our timing can be less than flexible sometimes. I’m an officer in the Foreign Service, which is America’s diplomatic corps. I’ve served in various countries all over the world, for 2-4 years at a stretch; these assignments are set at least a year in advance, and mean that our lives are hard to plan in advance, in the long term, yet have to be planned to a tight schedule in the short term.
After our wedding, I spent a few months getting ready to get pregnant. We both come from very fertile families, so didn’t anticipate any major problems. I wanted to make sure our baby would get the healthiest possible start, so I met with my doctor right after the wedding, got myself off of medications you’re not supposed to take during pregnancy, etc. We gave it a few cycles to make sure everything was good, then got busy. With immediate results.
Except that I lost the pregnancy. I have – well, to avoid getting overly technical, I have a weird uterus. If you’ve heard of Müllerian anomalies, you know what I’m talking about here; if not, just leave it at “weird.” Thanks to the whole Foreign Service thing, I learned about it very early, when I was living in Israel. The standard of OB/GYN care there is better than it is in the U.S., and so the anomaly that various gynecologists never noticed in 17 years of annual exams back home was spotted, referred to a specialist, and reported in very detailed ultrasounds that I now have in my permanent medical file. At least I knew about my problem; most American women who have these anomalies don’t learn about it until after repeated miscarriages. It’s a condition that can make it hard for the embryo to implant, though once it does, it should be just as viable as any normal pregnancy.
So we kept going. Six cycles, at least 2 of which resulted in conception, but failed implantation. By this time, it seemed everyone we knew was pregnant. And by this time, I was in high panic mode. We were due to finish our overseas assignment the following summer; if we didn’t conceive soon, timing would be a major problem. Now I was seriously freaking out. I started contacting fertility clinics, researching IUI and other interventions that could help.
As the old proverb goes, “Der mentsch trakht und Gott lakht” (Man plans and God laughs.) What we didn’t know yet was that I’d conceived that cycle without any intervention, and this one was for keeps. 9 months later, our beautiful daughter was born via C-section – not planned, but as I learned later, the most common outcome for mothers with my condition. The anomaly makes it very unlikely that you’d ever be able to deliver normally. In the meantime, my obstetrician, who is the head of OB at the leading medical college in Berlin, made a point of cycling his students through my exams, so they could all see my anomalous uterus. I’ve gotten used to it but there’s nothing quite like feeling like a sideshow freak.
Two years later, we were ready to start trying again. A few cycles in, we got lucky again, and the timing couldn’t have been more perfect. After 2 incredibly stressful years posted at the State Department’s headquarters, we were starting language training in preparation for our next overseas tour. A year of being paid to be a student = perfect time for a pregnancy. We were giddy about it as we started training and regular OB visits at the same time. Everything to plan, everything on schedule.
The first red flag was from bloodwork that showed abnormal HCG levels. Then our first ultrasound turned up some weird results. It seemed like we’d actually conceived twins, but one was vanished. Before we had time to absorb that information, we were off to the emergency room one weekend as I started bleeding. In and out of the doctor’s office all the next week as the tiny heartbeat finally stopped. My body held onto the pregnancy as stubbornly as my heart wanted to, so two rounds of misoprostol (which was awful) weren’t enough to complete the miscarriage; it took a full D&C, with ultrasound guidance because of my anomalous uterus, to finally end it.
We were advised to wait a few cycles before trying again. These were very sad months for me. All of a sudden, I’d gone from happily pregnant, looking forward to telling our daughter she would be a big sister, planning delivery around our move overseas… to feeling sad and empty and hormonal and just generally depressed. From joyfully shopping for clothes for a friend’s baby shower and dreaming of the adorable little one I’d get to meet in just a few months to dreading Facebook posts announcing that yet another friend or loved one was expecting. (You who have gone through fertility issues or miscarriage, you know what I’m talking about. That hard, hot burn of jealousy that you try to quiet right away, because you know you should be happy for your friend/sister/cousin/colleague, but that leaves you in tears afterward.) It wasn’t the same frantic panic I’d felt a few years earlier, before my daughter was conceived; it was more of an aching sadness, and a mounting despair that we’d only ever have the one child.
And then, just after I listened through tears to a sermon on learning to come to terms with God’s schedule, not mine… we conceived. We waited longer to tell anyone, though couldn’t wait too long – I was showing very early. As soon as I could start telling people, I had to make arrangements to change our departure dates, change my training schedule, make sure our daughter would have a place at her preschool into the next school year, etc. Which was a hassle, to be sure, but not the huge problem I had built it up to be. So we had to push back our plans by a few months. So what? I had to start seeing a maternal-fetal specialist, because my 35th birthday would now come before the baby would, officially making me of Advanced Maternal Age. (My chart at the specialist listed me as an “elderly multigravida.” Elderly. At 35. Lord help us if we have any more kids.)
As the time grew closer, we had a few complications: gestational diabetes, which we expected; full breech position, which we didn’t, but which meant Baby #2 would be delivered via C-section for sure (despite a valiant attempt by the specialist at an external version). All manageable. The kind and very skilled OB who’d operated for the D&C operated again for the C-section, which went much better than the first one. We were just happy to get to work with her again, in much happier circumstances.
And as I sit here and type, with a beautiful milk-drunk 7 month old passed out on my lap, I know she came at exactly the right time. Her right time, not mine; God’s right time, perhaps, and not mine; but if this is the trade-off for those months of despair, I got a wonderful bargain. One I would wish for anyone going through those long months or years of waiting.
The guest blogger is a Foreign Service Officer with the U.S. Department of State. She has asked to remain anonymous, as the views expressed in this post are her own and do not reflect the views of the State Department or the United States Government. She thanks IAMTHEMILK readers for their patience and understanding of the demands of the bureaucracy.