July 18, 2013 by Katia
I’m so happy to introduce Lizzi from Considerings today. Not only has she become one of my blog friends but her writing on the topic of miscarriage and fertility is extremely poignant and heartfelt and even funny. Lizzi’s personality shines through every post and the one you’re about to read is no exception. Please read and comment and to see just how much she loves comments, visit her blog…
I always assumed that it would be God’s plan for me to have children, after all, He (eventually) found me a husband when I prayed and left it in His hands. Over the past year, my certainty has been bulldozed repeatedly and now I can quite safely say I have no idea at all what God has in store for me, but I can tell you this – at the moment, ‘The Plan’ sucks.
When I met my husband for the first time, I had two thoughts which occurred to me – quite without my bidding – “He’d be a good husband” and “He’d be a good father”. There was a touch of destiny about him and it was no surprise that we ended up married. The event took place under a tiny cloud, though, as in the course of our courtship he’d been hospitalised with what turned out to be Type 1 Diabetes, which the medics suspected had been brought on by a virus. Since that time, he’d managed well, but had been depressed and had expressed doubts about getting married.
We put it all to one side and carried on anyway – we both wanted to grow old together; we both wanted a family; we both wanted each other. We were set. We chose our vows (“I will”) to reflect a choice and an ongoing commitment to our promises, rather than the more passive and transient “I do”. The vows also encompassed the usual ‘for better, for worse; for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health.” We joked later that we’d had enough of the ‘in sickness’ already, so let’s get on with the good stuff. Little did we know…
Since that time, almost three years ago, we’ve been on a downhill slope, littered with potholes and crevasses. He lost his PhD position due to ill health and battled depression. In the summer of 2012 we finally got a diagnosis – his hypothalamus is kaput, which has resulted in global endocrine problems. The diabetes was really just the tip of the hormonally-broken iceberg.
Nonetheless, with his spirits lifted somewhat by the news that a diagnosis meant treatment could follow, we decided that the time was ripe to start trying for a family. I was into my final year of a college course as a mature student, and if I could be pregnant by the time the course finished, having our first child (of many) could dovetail nicely into a relaxing Summer. We spent a long time thinking of names, how many we’d have, and that we’d plan to adopt a child as well, both having a heart for children in the care system.
As November approached, we were feeling excited. I’d had all the symptoms of early pregnancy, and my body was behaving in ways it never had before. My period was late, and we decided to leave it at least a week before testing, just in case it was just a weird cycle. At the end of the week, we got out the shiny, new, pregnancy kit and proceeded to use it.
Nothing! And later that day I began to bleed. Nasty, unusual bleeding which was textbook consistent with early miscarriage (and believe me, when you use a menstrual cup, you get to know what’s normal for you). But because we had friends staying, I didn’t feel able to do anything about it, to acknowledge it, or let them down. So I carried on and joined in with them and went out with them, denying what was happening.
I regret this the most.
If I was to offer any advice about miscarriage to someone just starting to go through it, it would be this: everything and everyone else can wait.
It’s not a pleasant experience, by any stretch of the imagination, and the temptation is strong to ply yourself with distractions and avoid the heartbreaking reality of the situation, but please don’t.
I ended up in a branch of Subway with my friends on the way back from a day out in town “Just need to pop to the toilet”. Logically, I know that what comes out must be disposed of, and all pans lead to the same sewer, but trying to keep it together after pouring away the pieces of your broken child in the public restroom of a low-grade sandwich shop is a herculean task I’d wish on no-one. I still can’t pass the shop without sharp pangs of anguish.
But still, I thought, we don’t know why these things happen, and presumably my child just wasn’t viable – his DNA got zipped up wrongly and that was that. But the thoughts kept pressing in – he *was* my child and I was pissed that God decided He wanted to meet him first. However, these things happen and I hoped that we’d ‘gotten it out of the way’ after all, 1 in 4 pregnancies result in early miscarriage, donchaknow.
It was around this time that I began searching the blogosphere for other people who’d gone through this, as their honesty gave me solidarity, comfort and hope. I decided to document my journey through my own blog, Considerings, with the idea that if even one person could read of my experience and feel in some way less alone, it was worthwhile.
In December, we received further information about my husband’s diagnosis – part of his problem was due to incredibly low testosterone (thanks, hypothalamus – when you bugger it up, you really do it properly) so the treatment he would ultimately require (testosterone replacement) would render him permanently infertile within a few weeks. Infertile? We’d only just started trying for a family! Fortunately the medics seemed to think that an alternative for now would preserve and could even boost his fertility. They recommended that he make some sperm deposits to save for later, which we duly arranged.
We brushed ourselves off and got back to trying (meanwhile I started receiving counselling to cope with my loss). It was really difficult to try again, and that’s something you don’t anticipate – that even moments of intimacy (which should be wonderful, tender expressions of love) can be scary and off-putting because what if it results in another miscarriage?
Each month, our hopes would raise, only to be dashed. Each month, I’d react terribly to the onset of my period as I was vividly reminded of how I lost my baby. Each month, my husband grew more worried as he was unable to understand what I was going through. Each month I’d try (and fail) to communicate adequately just how terrible I felt inside.
Throughout this time, lots of people from our church were praying for us, as a couple, as grieving parents and with hopes that a new pregnancy would result in a baby for us. We joked that the next baby would be so prayed for, it would come out with wings and a halo. We tried to stay positive.
It was very stressful, what with my anxiety, my husband’s general lack of energy, and that ever-nearing deadline of medically-induced infertility. We were thrilled when I exhibited all the same, early symptoms in late February. This time we waited two weeks to test because I wanted to be really sure, yet in an eerie reflection of November, the day before I’d planned to test, I began to bleed. This time I couldn’t bring myself to complete the test – I didn’t want a plastic stick providing confirmation of what I already knew. We lost our second child over Mother’s Day weekend in March 2013. Wings and a halo totally included.
Our relationship suffered after this, and I became very angry with the situation. My husband was too ill to really focus on the loss and impending infertility but began to engage a little more as increases of medication gave him more energy. He just wanted to get better. I just wanted a baby and felt guilty that I was more focussed on this than on his health.
Then in May we had a phonecall from the fertility clinic after his latest donation at the sperm bank. For those who don’t know, a low sperm count is considered to be <6 million per ml. The technician had spun down his sample to make the count. He had 1. Not 1 million, 1, solitary sperm. Apparently this was rather impressive. Needless to say, we found it less so.
Rapid trips back to the endocrinologist in charge of his case led my husband to discover that his body had performed a pre-emptive strike and he was utterly infertile. We were devastated – we’d been banking on three more months of trying to conceive before the final knell sounded.
It also rendered our losses rather ironic (certainly in the eyes of the people who commented incredulously “But you had miscarriages – how can he be infertile?”).
It left us in a very dark place. A place where people often gave us the ‘pity face’ when they heard our story, and I wanted to punch them, all of them, and make them hurt too. A place where I can’t look at a pregnant woman without jealousy and pain turning my eyes hard. A place where the sight of a newborn is not something to be enjoyed but something to be endured.
The most healing thing so far turned out to be alcohol. Not in a systematic manner, but in a one-off, can’t-be-inside-my-head-any-more binge, which loosened my desperate need to control, broke down a few barriers and allowed us to pour out gallons of honesty, fears, guilts and pains along with our tears.
They say that while there’s life, there’s hope, but when two, tiny sparks of life have both been extinguished within your body, hope wanes pretty thin. We’re currently faced with the moral dilemma of medically assisted conception in a manner neither of us is really 100% comfortable with, but were we to refuse it, then what does that mean for The Plan? That God, who’s given us both a real heart to be parents, doesn’t want us to have any? That He heard our plans to adopt in addition to having our own and thought “Nope, you can just adopt”? Or that there was some bigger message (still unseen) which He’s trying to teach us (in which case, the repeated bad news suggests we’re slow learners).
Whatever it is, I’m battling against The Plan at the moment. Whilst I’m not willing to place my hopes in the clinical method, I absolutely refuse to accept a future where we are not parents. In tatters as it is, my spirit will have to be considerably more broken before I resign myself to a world where my husband and I grow old, together, alone.
I have no words of hope to end with, but I will offer the one piece of explanation which seemed to really help my husband begin to understand how I was feeling.
Each month, my period, the grief of two losses and the reality of infertility leaves me in almost unbearable pain. I get very short-tempered, very fatalistic and my husband doesn’t really know how to help. This bothers him and he often takes it out on me because he can’t understand what it’s like, nor can he fix it.
It also bothers me that he is able to separate all the issues out and view them in isolation. The thought I came up with (and explained to him) is that our brains are wired differently. Men have lots of little vials, while women have one, big bowl. For men, the emotions which colour each situation can be poured into a vial and sit there, quite alone, to be engaged with or put on a shelf, neatly, to examine later. For women, the varying colours and feelings and situations are all poured into the one bowl, where they intermingle, interact, and all operate together to colour the outlook and emotional response to each situation.
If you’re going through a similar situation, have patience with your man. Sadly he’s unlikely to understand how it is for you, so accept with good grace whatever he can offer and get some sympathetic women around you – the ladies in my family have been my rock. Men and women are just wired up differently and as frustrating as it is to know that, it’s far worse not to.
I’m Lizzi (a.k.a. Considerer), a non-professional blogger from the UK. I have been married since 2010, blogging since August 2012 and discovered we were going to have fertility problems in September 2012. I love the platform the blogosphere provides to offer solidarity, comfort, humour and hope in the real stories of real people. I am pleased and honoured to be part of it, and that even such devastating experiences as miscarriage and infertility can be used to touch people’s lives and bring a little positive.