Despair, Hope and Love: One Woman’s Journey to Pregnancy After Pregnancy Loss
As I entered the treatment room my heart felt like it hit the pause button. My eyes got misty. It’s the same reaction every time I come upon this scene: a woman lying on the treatment table, her hands resting on her belly that is bulging with life growing inside of her. A soft, peaceful smile across her lips that says, “finally, it’s my turn.”
And, for this particular client, it’s been quite a journey. Almost two years later, several miscarriages, just as many heartbreaks and close to $100,000 dollars spent on fertility treatments and specialists, she is finally at the stage of her pregnancy where we can actually celebrate. This pregnancy is not only a miracle, it’s the courageous and resilient triumph of the human spirit.
You see, it wasn’t that long ago that I walked into the same treatment room, to see the same client in tears feeling petrified and desperate about not only whether or not she would get pregnant but would she carry the pregnancy to term. Would it ever really happen. The doubt and the fear consumed her. It became all she thought about. It was alll she and her husband wanted. Forget everything else. Nothing else mattered. That’s what happens when people are trying to have a baby and can’t. It’s mercurial.
This case began like many others in my clinic- a thirty-something, recently married, overachieving New York City woman, coming to me in the hopes of conceiving a healthy child as naturally as possible. Then it veered off path, as cases sometimes do. She got pregnant right away. She miscarried. She got pregnant again. She miscarried. She sought out help from New York’s top fertility doctors. She got mixed advice. She did IVF (in vitro fertilization). She miscarried. She saw more fertility specialists. She got different advice. She finally got tested for a clotting factor disorder that can cause ‘habitual’ miscarriages (a test that was urged by her sister — a gynecologist and by me — an acupuncturist; not by her top fertility doctor). One doctor urged another IVF, another said, “You don’t need IVF.” She and her husband decided to wait on doing another IVF and the next month they conceived naturally again. She took a blood thinning medication from the beginning of the pregnancy (to treat the clotting factor disorder that she tested positive for). And, she is now nearing the end of her second trimester. She made it, she finally made it. Can we breathe more easily now? A little. As this is the farthest along any of her pregnancies have ever made it, and the chances of anything going awry at this point are low. But, the truth is: we will all breathe easily and cry joyously and celebrate like mad when that baby is in her arms.
Women facing challenges when trying to conceive and carry to term feel broken, unfixable and completely powerless. The common term for this condition — infertility — is a harsh and toxic word. It’s barbaric and cruel. In my clinic, women who are facing fertility challenges just need a little fertility rejuvenation. But, no they are not infertile.
It’s a glorious moment to see that fraught, heartbroken woman one day be a woman lying on my treatment table with a pregnant belly. In this case, because of all she’s been through, we held back on celebrating until she made it past the 20-week mark. And, even still her husband is cautious. How could he not be? The trauma that this couple went through and the amount of time, energy and resources has reframed the way they look at life. Something as ‘simple’ as getting pregnant and carrying to term became the biggest race of their lives. And, now they are almost at the finish line. For her husband, the celebration likely won’t happen until that baby is in their arms. For her — and her baby in belly — she’s finally at ease.
What I see is a woman who won the battle. Now, we relish in gratitude for the miracle but we also understand that the strength that the heartache created was part of the journey. Although that heartache and the losses are never forgotten, they do dissipate. As the healthy life inside of her grows, the sadness and sorrow become obscured with joy and hope. I don’t think one ever outweighs the other, rather one gives the other more meaning. I wonder will that child ever truly know how loved and sought after they were before they were ever even conceived? I wonder will others ever really know what this woman and her partner went through?
Becoming a parent after dealing with years of struggling to conceive is special. There’s a rebirth that happens — hearts soften, perspectives shift, life is forever different. These women and their partners suffered real loss and tragedy, often for the first time in their lives. They have come out on the other side of a disease. They are survivors.
I pause at the doorway and just take it all in. Her smile. Her hand on her belly. Her radiating joy. Her relief. Her strength. Her motherhood blossoming. For me it’s a site like no other; it’s the day I long to see when I take on a new fertility case. I knew all along that we would get to this point. That’s — in my opinion — the most important part of my job: being obstinately hopeful and optimistic. I am celebrating. My heart is jumping up and down. This moment is what it’s all about: life and love and perseverance.