By: Lisa Finkbeiner
Trying to decide what words and feelings to type and share regarding my personal journey through infertility and loss has been difficult this time around. My infertility journey began in early 2005 and I blogged in real-time throughout my experience with pure transparency. It was cathartic to blog about what I was going through because no one talked about infertility and I needed a sounding board whether it was virtual or not.
It is hard to believe it has been over 13 years since I learned I would have trouble conceiving. Most little girls dreams of wonderful futures, which include being a mommy; and, I was no exception. In fact, I wanted five little boys just like my great-grandmother and never did it ever cross my mind that that wouldn’t happen.
I could not wait to miss my period, sneak a pregnancy test from the store, and pee on that darn stick to see it explode with fireworks, screaming “you are pregnant”! Yet, month after month, I never had the privilege or surprise to see those positive results.
I got married at the ripe old age of 29, which was a little later than I had wanted or planned; however, the clock was ticking so we decided to start immediately working on our family. I could not wait to miss my period, sneak a pregnancy test from the store, and pee on that darn stick to see it explode with fireworks, screaming “you are pregnant”! Yet, month after month, I never had the privilege or surprise to see those positive results.
After nine months of trying to conceive, at a regularly scheduled annual appointment, my gynecologist suggested that we should have been pregnant by now and recommended infertility testing. Fertility problems? Not me! Everything went my way, and I am a female (a WOMAN) and the most natural job in the world for a woman was to get pregnant and have babies. Period! My body would NOT betray me of the most natural and common thing for a woman to accomplish in her life…to have a baby(s).
Sadly and heartbreakingly, infertility and loss was part of my journey.
My heart and body revolted at the thought and wanted to reject the “diagnosis”. In addition to learning about our infertility, we were told, (which made things worse) we fell into the small percentage of “I don’t know why you can’t get pregnant” statistic. My mind raced: we cannot conceive, specialists cannot give me a reason why, and I cannot fix it.
I remember numbness and the incapacity to comprehend what the dark road had in store for me.
I knew it would be hard and unknown; however, I had no idea how infertility would eat away at my physical, spiritual, and emotional stability leaving permanent and damaging scars.
While the initial, less invasive treatments began, the days and months turned into years. Visits to the fertility clinic became as common as brushing my teeth. I joked with the nurses and doctors that the vaginal ultrasound wand and I had become fast and intimate friends. We started with fertility drugs, moved to the first surgery for me, tried four intrauterine insemination (IUI) with no luck, had another surgery, and then we were at a crossroads since nothing was working out for us.
The next few years were a blur and the only thing that stands out clearly is big fat negative signs on dozens of pregnancy tests.
It sounds so scientific when you write out the details and facts, but there was such emotional turmoil, there would be a surge of hope and then a free fall of extreme disappointment and devastation. I remember clearly with my first IUI that my best friend and I were on the same menstrual cycle and we just knew we would be pregnant together. She had a three year old already and I was convinced the huge delay in me getting pregnant was for us to be pregnant together at the exact same time! My brain is forever seared with a picture of me in the middle of my big bed holding my phone bawling. She and I were supposed to find out that weekend we were pregnant together; however, she called me, practically apologizing, to tell me she was pregnant and, unfortunately, I was not. I bawled for another negative test; I bawled for another month closer to never having a baby; and I bawled because I was horrified at myself and how I felt such jealousy.
She and I were supposed to find out that weekend we were pregnant together; however, she called me, practically apologizing, to tell me she was pregnant and, unfortunately, I was not.
The only option presented to us out our “crossroads” meeting was to begin in vitro fertilization or IVF.
I won’t mention the success rates, I won’t mention the no guarantees of pregnancy, and I won’t mention the strain it put on my marriage. The timeline for our first IVF was scheduled: six months of drug induced menopause shots to help jump start my reproductive tract and hormones, another surgery immediately after my last shot, and then after about six weeks begin the IVF process.
My body laughed at me because I could not do the one thing it was truly made to do and the one thing I had always wanted.
Social media was on the rise and everyone was posting and announcing their pregnancies left and right and every time I saw another “I’m having a baby” post; it was a punch in the gut. My body laughed at me because I could not do the one thing it was truly made to do and the one thing I had always wanted. I continued facing each day with the reality that everyone made the “team” but me. IVF was an extremely expensive gamble and the odds did not fall in our favor.
I tried my hardest to put on the happiest of faces when hearing of friends’ great news or having to attend baby showers, but emotionally I would cry myself to sleep on the brink of exhaustion. It was just not fair. What was wrong with me? Was I not good enough to have a baby? I was a planner, a “fixer” and getting pregnant was beyond my control and that frustration added to my emotional roller coaster.
The grueling ride of IVF had begun and every minute under my doctor’s care was critical and calculated.
Shots, appointments, ultrasounds, counting and measuring my follicles, bloodwork, and just plain worry were part of my every day schedule. My first fresh embryo attempt went according to plan and pretty textbook. I had four follicles that fertilized. I had four potential little embryo babies! Dr. B decided to transfer two embryos into me with BIG hopes; the other two embryos were frozen for a later “FET” or frozen embryo transfer.
I thought the first two weeks of prep for IVF were bad, I was wrong.
The two-week wait before going back to the clinic for bloodwork to see if we were pregnant was much worse. My days were filled with crying, laughing, anxiety, fear, doubt, negativity, and always preparing for the worst. After the end of the two-week waiting period, I went in for a blood test and waited for the dreaded call; however, my dreaded call turned into a shocking and joyous conversation: WE WERE PREGNANT!
My hormone levels looked great and I was told to come in in 48 hours for more bloodwork and at that time my HcG number should double (which tells us the pregnancy is progressing normally). I was on a cloud higher than nine and was so honored and humbled I had a baby growing inside me. I went to my second HcG blood draw and my numbers didn’t double like they were supposed to; they had only increased by 60%. After that phone call, the insane roller coaster took off. Our pregnancy was so early most “normal fertile” people didn’t even know they were pregnant yet; however, we knew everything from hormone levels to the exact days from conception.
The next several weeks were full of highest of highs and the lowest of lows.
My numbers were not increasing fast enough or high enough to support a pregnancy so I was told not to get my hopes and come back in another week. My six-week appointment was not a positive one and I was told my only hope was if my HcG was at 3000 or higher. I went home silently grieving and bawling knowing I miscarried; however, after a few hours the clinic called and said my HcG was a little over 3000. My hopes soared! Maybe this baby was a fighter and we had a chance! I was scheduled to come back in another week.
I jerked my head up, looked at Dr. B and said “is that a heartbeat?” and sure enough it was. I was shocked and elated, my baby had a heartbeat! A heartbeat!
At my seven-week appointment we were far enough along to have an ultrasound. I had mixed feelings on what to expect at this point. I glanced at the monitor, saw my tiny “bean” and then looked up at the ceiling waiting to find out what side of luck we fell on this week. As I stared at the ceiling in silence, the sweetest, most precious sound filled the room. I jerked my head up, looked at Dr. B and said “is that a heartbeat?” and sure enough it was. I was shocked and elated, my baby had a heartbeat! A heartbeat! My emotions were over the top excited, but my excitement didn’t last long. My doctor told me that even though we had a heartbeat, the ultrasound showed an extremely low amount of amniotic fluid. He explained that the amount of fluid present would not sustain a full term pregnancy and I needed to prepare myself. My emotions bottomed out once again. There was nothing to do but wait at this point.
I continued on a steady path for three more weeks until one morning I woke up spotting.
After an ultrasound, my fears were confirmed. I had lost the baby.
My angel was in Heaven, yet I was so thankful to have had her for at least those ten weeks. Grief enveloped me. My long six year journey of infertility almost fulfilled my biggest heart’s desire. I was dead in the water. I was infertile; it wasn’t like I could wait a month or two and “try” again the conventional way. Losing a child is devastating; her due date would have been April 5 and she would have been eight years old this year. I still grieve and she will always be a part of me.
I had frozen embryo transfer a couple of months later with negative results and we decided to try one more fresh IVF and whatever the outcome we would live with it. Thankfully, our third IVF worked and I was able to have a healthy and strong pregnancy, which gave me my miracle baby, D.
Born and raised in Arkansas, Lisa Finkbeiner, 42, is a single mom to her IVF miracle baby, “D”. She is extremely passionate about the three careers she juggles: 1) Being an educator in the public school system, 2) Serving in the tremendous world of non-profit, specifically, www.holysews.org, and 3) Raising and being momma to seven year old, “D”. Lisa believes in sharing her journey through infertility, pregnancy, miscarriage, and loss, with the hope of connecting with others, sharing in their grief, and letting them know they are not alone. You can read more about her story on her past blog, www.mytimetosimplify.com or at www.facebook.com/lisa.fink114.