Canadian Infertility Awareness Week: Holding out hope

For Canadian Infertility Awareness Week, we asked five incredible, strong women to share their infertility stories.

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Photo: iStockphoto

I was so happy the day I officially found out I was pregnant. Being in my 30s and working with a lot of women, I was all too aware of the heartache, prejudice and expense that comes with infertility. As I read the word “pregnant” on that digital stick, I was relieved that I wouldn’t have to have to go down that road.

It had all happened just the way we wanted. No counting days, no ovulation kits, no thermometer­­—we just left it up to fate, stress-free. After a few short months of throwing caution to the wind, our dreams came true.

My husband, Sang, was really excited. He wanted to share the news with the world right away. I thought it would be better to at least get a confirmation from the doctor.

The doctor’s appointment went just as expected. The pregnancy was confirmed. I booked my 12-week scan and even found a midwife. This baby was only the size of a lentil, but we were already fully attached. We are a very organized couple and dove into researching diaper services, parental leave, child-care expenses and furniture. We had big dreams for this little lentil. We loved him already.

At seven weeks something happened. There was a trace amount of spotting. I, of course, went straight to Dr. Google for a consultation. Most sites advised that this was a perfectly normal occurrence and just to take it easy. Other sites advised that I should panic; it’s all over, go straight to the emergency room.

Read more: An in-depth look at infertility >

After a few days of relaxing, the problem didn’t seem to go away, so off we went to the ER. The hospital personnel were very kind and understanding. They took me straight back to room No. 6, did an ultrasound and some blood tests, congratulated us and told us everything looked just fine. We saw and heard the heartbeat and went home feeling relieved and a little silly for having rushed to the hospital.

A few weeks later, the spotting recommenced. We returned to the hospital and learned that our baby was gone. My heart was broken; I felt empty. The pain of pregnancy loss was something I could never have predicted. It is something I will never get over.

A few months later, I was pregnant again. We lost this baby at six weeks. I got to spend some more time in room No. 6.

The second loss was enough of an alarm bell for the doctor to send me for a series of tests. All were inconclusive. The doctor recommended progesterone to help the next one “stick.” The days of stress-free procreation were far behind us.

In another few months I was pregnant for a third time. My blood test results were “perfect,” we saw and heard a heartbeat at the seven-week scan (a week after our wedding!). The ultrasound technician printed out the picture, which Sang promptly put in his wallet.

At the next ultrasound, a few weeks later, the heartbeat had stopped. I can’t even describe the grief.

When a woman loses three consecutive pregnancies, she is officially considered “infertile.” I don’t know if I understand or agree with the label, but it did entitle me to a referral to a fertility clinic.

Read more: The medical side of infertility >

I was able to get an appointment at a clinic that specializes specifically in the study and treatment of “unexplained,” recurrent miscarriage. I was really looking forward to this appointment. I was on the path to getting some answers and, if all went well, on the path to carrying a baby to term. Usually, when getting results from a doctor, the answer “nothing is wrong” is exactly what one wants to hear. In this case, it was my biggest fear. The results came in; they didn’t find anything. If nothing is wrong, how could everything be wrong? The information package given to me by the clinic said, “Regardless of how extensive the investigation of recurrent pregnancy loss might be, more than 50 percent will still be classified as ‘unexplained.’” I knew this, but I was really hoping to be in that other 50 percent.

After the first loss, I assumed time would heal all. For most of life’s tragedies, this is true. I’ve been through other sadnesses and all of them got gradually better with time. Something I’ve learned about pregnancy loss and infertility is that it gets harder with each passing month, and fertility being a race against time doesn’t help. I never could have imagined the way that infertility would affect me. It truly touches every aspect of my life. I am a changed person. I have lost much of the bubbly self I once was. Relationships have fizzled because it’s too painful for me to be around babies. My dental X-rays were years out of date because I was always pregnant. I’m hesitant to make plans because I don’t know what my emotional health or family situation will be. My life is riddled with painful arbitrary dates and numbers. I dwell on anniversaries of due dates, holidays and milestones. I was pregnant for two years, and I don’t have any children. My heart and my house still feel empty.

Read more: How to take care of your relationship through infertility >

The struggle is long from over. After countless tests and fertility procedures, my husband and I now waiting for an international adoption. There is still a lengthy and painful road ahead. We have each other, and we try to make the best of things. I can only hope that one day we will have our family.

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