Tessa and Stefan (Canada): Enjoy the journey!
Let's start from the very beginning.
Ever since I can remember, I have been obsessed with everything babies. My entire family and friends can attest to this. I'm a baby hog, nurturer and expert. Ask me anything to do with children and odds are that I will know the answer. I've always had this overwhelming feeling that my job in this universe is to be a mom and nothing else; it's all I think about day and night, seven days a week. Little did I know that becoming a mom would be the hardest, toughest and most emotional experience I would probably ever go through.
My husband and I have always known something wasn't right. We have been together over ten years. We wanted to get married, buy our first home and settle into our new town and be financially ready before seeking medical and professional help. In January 2016, we found a new family doctor, who undertook a lot of tests, blood work and ultrasounds. After we finally made the decision to get help, OF COURSE, I wouldn't get Aunt Flo for nine months, so we couldn't even try naturally. I've always struggled with irregular periods; we were so frustrated.
Finally, I had an appointment with a new OB/GYN. She had me do some more blood work and an HSG test at the hospital, which I couldn't do until Aunt Flo came. She prescribed me Prometrium, which was a progesterone capsule to bring on my period. Thankfully, my period came naturally! I was happy I didn't need to take the medication and that my body finally decided to work. I called in to book my HSG test for the following week. This wasn't such a great experience. They inject a dye into your fallopian tubes to see if there are any blockages, scarring or anything abnormal. It was painful, uncomfortable and it took longer than usual. But the procedure showed my tubes to be clear and in great shape, such a relief!
About a month later, I had another follow up with my OB/GYN, who indicated that I had high Androgens. She told me that I had met almost all of the criteria for Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome, which is an endocrine system disorder. I wasn't shocked about this news; me and Stefan had researched this months before and had our suspicions. We talked about our options from this point and decided to be referred to the Calgary Fertility Program. We also decided to try a few rounds of Clomid while waiting for our referral to be processed.
Clomid. We were warned about all the side effects, the risk of multiples, but we were all in at this point. I took it before bedtime on days 3-7 of my cycle as I wanted to sleep through the symptoms. I had the odd head ache and hot flashes, especially at night. By day 13-14, I could tell it was doing its job. I was so excited that I got a positive ovulation test on day 15, right on time. I stocked up on pregnancy tests but wanted to wait until the day before my period, which would have been a Saturday. It was the Wednesday night before and I woke up to a phone call from my mom. She broke the news that my Grandmother had passed away earlier that evening. Heartbroken and devastated already, Aunt Flo decided to add to the hurt and come that evening. I was a wreck: everything bad that could've happened, happened all at once. I felt like I had been hit with an emotional semi-truck. We decided to take a break from TTC for a couple months, as we felt like we needed to regain our positivity and get back on track.
Fast forward one year to January 2017, and we were ready to start trying again. Stefan and I both got FitBits for our early birthdays. I had lost 10lbs, was eating right, working out and I felt amazing. I knew this was our month. Clomid round two was a better experience, no symptoms besides the headaches and hot flashes at night again, which I could handle. Stefan may think otherwise, as he said I was definitely more emotional this round...he may be right! I was 12DPO and couldn't contain myself anymore and had to take a pregnancy test.
I took it bright and early in the morning, waited....waited...waited. Finally, five minutes was up and I took a look at the test. NEGATIVE, again. Full of tears I had to tell Stefan the bad news; he held me while I cried, so discouraged knowing we would have to do this all over again. A couple hours later I had to take a second look at the test, just in case I had missed something. And that I did, I missed seeing that second line...the line was so faint, you really had to squint to see it. But none the less, something was there, my first thought was an evaporation line. I was freaking out, Stefan couldn't see the line, I thought I was going crazy. I did another test that evening... A little bit darker, the next day again a little bit darker. Oh my god, was this really happening, was I really pregnant? It couldn't have worked, could it? My birthday was coming up in a few days and I decided to take a digital test that day. The morning of my birthday finally arrived and the first thing I did was head to the drug store. I bought four tests, two normal dye tests and two digitals. I raced home, ran to the bathroom and waited...waited...waited. "YES"!!!!. I've never been so ecstatic in my life. Stefan was at the gym so I got out the onesies I had been saving for over a year, put them on the counter along with the tests to surprise him and prove the lines were there! I cried while he looked at everything; I ran and hugged him and we cried together. We were PREGNANT!
We made an appointment with our family doctor to confirm the pregnancy; I was six weeks along. He didn't see the need to get any HCG blood work done; he told us that if our home tests were positive then theirs would be too. We just went along with what our doctor suggested. We booked our first pre-natal appointment for the end of March when I would be 12 weeks with yet another new OB.
Baby, baby, baby. For the next two weeks all we talked about was baby everything. I wanted to scream it from the rooftops but we decided we would wait until I was eight weeks to tell family, then 12 weeks for everyone else. We were cautiously optimistic. I bought the baby books, started new pre-natal vitamins, bought a few cute onesies. I felt great, I was glowing and I felt like everything we had done was finally worth it and we could relax and breathe. A weight was lifted off our shoulders. I called the Fertility Program after our doctor appointment and told them that I was pregnant and we wouldn't be needing our appointment anymore. Best phone call ever!
Fast forward to Valentine’s Day, only 18 days after we found out we were pregnant. I woke up in the morning and it felt like any other day. Stefan had made reservations at my favourite restaurant and got to leave work early, which NEVER happens; we were both in such a great mood. A couple of hours later, I started having a sharp pain on the left side of my lower tummy and back. I thought I maybe had just pulled a muscle; I took a shower because I thought that the hot water would make my back feel better. Another half hour went by and the pain was getting stronger and stronger as I laid in bed. I knew something was wrong at this point, I ran to the bathroom with tears in my eyes. Our worst fear had come true: I started bleeding. I called Stefan and he rushed home from work. The 30-minute drive to the hospital felt like an eternity; I was in so much pain that I started feeling nauseous and began sweating immensely. When we arrived, I was so thankful; I didn't think I could bare the pain any longer. I explained to the nurses and doctor what was going on. I got a morphine shot with gravol, which slowed down the pain; I felt like I could breathe again after just 10 minutes of receiving the medication. They made me do a urine sample, and I was asked a few more questions. We ended up getting sent for a trans-vaginal ultrasound as well as an abdominal ultrasound. I took a look at the request for the ultrasounds; at the bottom of the paper it said "Ectopic." My heart dropped knowing that, if that was true, it would end in bad news. After a long wait and multiple tests, FINALLY, a OB/GYN came in to talk to us. She proceeded to tell us that it was a suspected ectopic pregnancy; my ultrasound showed a small gap between my ovary and fallopian tube and there was no sign of a baby in my uterus. My HCG level was so low at this point that it didn't do any damage to my tube and didn't require surgery. She also said it was basically a mystery as to what had happened and when it all started, because I had never received blood work to confirm the pregnancy and HCG levels. I was to pass everything naturally; my numbers didn't require medication. I was sent home. We left with two immensely broken hearts – it was a long, quiet drive home. We both just didn't have any words. This was devastating for us, we had worked so hard to make this baby and it was taken away from us in an instant. I was mad at my body, I couldn't believe it had let me down again. For a couple of days, I hated myself, believing that I did something wrong. I cried all day for a week straight, I couldn't think of anything else: our baby was gone, we were going to have to start all over again. I hated this.
I'm so lucky that Stefan is such an amazing person: he held me every time I cried, he bought me treats and snacks to make me feel better, he took the dog for his walks, he cleaned and did laundry. I felt horrible that he was doing all of this and all I could do was sit on the couch or lay in bed in a pool of tears. We both were concerned that this would trigger my depression and anxiety, as I have fought through these two disorders my whole life. Stefan helped me lift my spirits and would not let me fall back to my old ways, and I love him for that. I know he had his moments and I tried my best to support and comfort him; we were both in this together. It took me a good week to finally start feeling a bit like myself again: I stopped crying every five minutes, I had a shower and put normal clothes on. The emotional toll of miscarrying is insane: you’re fine one minute, the next you’re a wreck, and it's so hard on you and your partner emotionally.
To this day, we both have our moments when we are sad, angry and confused. It's really hard to move on after a tragedy because you feel like you are forgetting everything that happened. And you know what? It's okay to feel like this – it's okay to be sad, angry and confused. You just lost a piece of you; you lost nine months of planning for a child; you lost your baby shower; you lost renovating the nursery; you lost your three-year-old, you lost your 10-year-old. The future you saw is gone. But as long as you have support you can get through it and make that future a positive and amazing journey. Tell your mom, tell your dad, tell an aunt, tell anyone you feel safe with. Talk to your partner and communicate how you are feeling, don't hold your emotions in. I want anyone going through or who has gone through pregnancy loss, stillbirth, infant loss to know there is always someone there to talk to.
About six weeks after our miscarriage, we tried a few more rounds of Clomid and Letrozole while waiting to get into the Fertility Program again. These were all unsuccessful as well; we were ready to try something else.
In January 2018, two years since asking medical professionals for help, we moved onto IUI. I got my new prescriptions for Letrozole at a higher dose. After a bunch of paperwork and payments, we were all set up! We just recently did our first IUI at the end of March 2018 and we are praying for some good news! Stefan’s numbers were excellent and the procedure went great! Now we wait with fingers and toes crossed!
Infertility is a whirl wind of emotions. Infertility is sacrifice. Infertility is hard on your bank account. Infertility is full of highs and lows. Infertility is tears and worry. It is a full time job for both you and your partner no matter what stage you’re in. You need days off, you need to get tests done on your lunch breaks, you need to drive hours to see specialists, you need to look back on your past and write it on paper for strangers to read. The beginning is a lot to digest, the middle is a lot of uncertainty and the end will be worth it. It's ALL WORTH IT. Being positive and optimistic is the best way to go through this journey. Embrace it, talk about it and enjoy the journey!
If you would like to follow Tessa and Stefan’s journey, you can find them on Instagram @ttcbabybakoway.