If I could sum up the last two years I’ve spent seeing my (amazing) therapist, it would be with this sentence. At least every other session, she reminds me of this little mantra. We’ve discussed it in length. In theory, it seems pretty simple: Send what you want out into the universe as opposed to waiting for the other shoe to drop, and ye shall receive. Very The Secret-esque, which is a book I’ve read and really loved. If you haven’t read it, I highly suggest it. It’s all about the power of positive thinking helping manifest your thoughts into realities.
But repeating that mantra and actually having it be a calming force that centers you back to reality isn’t so straightforward when you’re a person plagued by constant guilt you can’t put into logic. While I understand (and have experienced firsthand) the fact that it’s important to take care of yourself so you can be the best version of yourself for others, it is so hard to put into practice. For every dollar I spend on something for myself or hour I spend playing a video game, reading a book, watching a movie, etc., I feel like I can be spending it on helping others or at the very least learning something new that I can apply to something constructive, as opposed to texting my friend after binge-watching Keeping Up with the Kardashians and being like, “Oh God, I finally got to the episode where Kris tells Kim not to take selfies in the car because they’re on their way to see Khloé in jail.” (Next checkpoint: the Todd Kraines prank call episode. I still don’t even know who Todd Kraines is.)
Guilt is my constant emotion that I can always count on, and it’s rough. The last time I can remember truly taking care of myself was when Ricky and I broke up in 2010 and Josh wasn’t ready to commit and I was floating along trying to distract myself from the thing I wanted. I felt like, because I was so hurt inside, that I was allowed to put myself first because no one else was going to. I lost some weight, started running, ran a freaking half marathon and felt like a million bucks. Now, I am experiencing pain that is much different but still as intense with all this infertility shit, so why can’t I do the same thing? Is it because Josh is here to support me? If I felt more alone, would that make me more apt to care for myself again or would I spiral down into a black hole this time? I don’t want to find out but sometimes I wonder what has to give for me to feel like it’s OK to breathe.
Speaking of. A couple sessions ago, once Josh and I had made the decision to charge deliberately forward with IVF, my therapist said, “You’re breathing more, I’m noticing.” I was like huh? She meant literally what she said, that I wasn’t holding my breath for such prolonged periods of time and that I was speaking more slowly and deliberately, and taking breaths like a normal human. It’s something I notice at the most random times, like in the shower. I’ll realize I haven’t had a good inhale or exhale in too long and scramble to fill my lungs again. The breathing exercises are the one thing I love about yoga. I just wish my wrists weren’t so weak.
I mean, I wish my wrists were stronger. “Ask for what you want.” I’m trying.
Yesterday I had brunch with a very dear friend I hadn’t see in years and he shared with me that he and his wonderful wife had a miscarriage over the summer. Not only that, but they had it around the same time in the pregnancy that Josh and I had ours in pretty much the same way and had to get a D&C, just like we did. It was such a gut punch to hear someone I care about so deeply recalling this, not to mention knowing exactly what it feels like. And it sucks. You start questioning everything, specifically what you did wrong (which, most likely, is absolutely nothing because miscarriage is insanely common and despite what you’ve been told, a healthy pregnancy is truly a miracle). Everyone deals with grief differently, but having to take two steps back when you think your life is about to completely change is never easy — and losing a child is something I would never wish on anyone. We were lucky in the sense that it happened so so early in my pregnancy. Even though we’d already started preparing, both mentally and environmentally, I cannot imagine losing a child later in a pregnancy or having a stillborn child.
And the thing is, all of these events are so much more common than people think. They’re just so rarely discussed openly because both men and women are taught throughout their lives that not only is sex shameful, but that one small slip-up during sexual activity can result in an STD or a baby. And while this is extremely true, so much emphasis is put on that idea that both girls and boys are not taught as much about equally important concepts concerning their bodies — the importance of getting seen regularly by a doctor, how the reproductive system works (I have learned so much about my body in the past two years it’s not even funny, and I probably never would’ve if we hadn’t had to seek treatment), how much fertility is affected as you age, practicing physically and mentally safe sex over abstinence, etc. These are such crucial things to start incorporating into health education — and no one should ever feel shame over them. If you are planning to wait until your thirties to start a family, I would highly recommend getting some baseline fertility tests because even though our case may be atypical, that shiz is scary. BE INFORMED. I find it appalling in hindsight how much I’ve had to explain to fellow women about certain parts of this journey and the truth is, if I wasn’t dealing with infertility, I’d be in the same boat. Our educational system has failed us big time.
Anyway, that’s a tangent. My miscarriage never really “happened,” per se. I got pregnant for the first time ever about a year and a half after we first started trying, which was this past February, after our third IUI. We were in shock. I took pregnancy tests every day, twice a day, for at least two weeks because I didn’t believe it.
We told most of our family and close friends and started buying a few baby items here and there, planning renovations to the house, etc., as a way of prepping for baby and indulging in some of our excitement, but also to quell our fears and misgivings — instincts that, unfortunately, turned out to be not unfounded. We saw the beginning of a little person when I was almost six weeks pregnant, but still could not quite feel that connection. And when I was about seven and a half weeks pregnant, there was no heartbeat or growth.
The most surprising part of this was that neither of us felt taken aback. We were like, “Oh. Well…yeah.” At that point, any positive news was something unexpected, sadly, so as difficult as it was to deal with the aftermath of losing a baby (and it WAS difficult, but thankfully involved lots of wine, sushi, caffeine, Brie, and other things pregnant ladies are supposed to steer clear from, plus lots of tears), we were more mentally prepared than we realized we were.
Not that it was easy. I have never seen Josh in so much pain, and I hope I never have to again. I know I will, because life is inclusive of those moments however much we wish it wasn’t, but seeing the person you love most in the entire world feel that kind of pain and not being able to do anything about it is such a horrible thing. Also, around that time, we also knew approximately 678435 people who were pregnant. I gained 10 lbs. in a month from depression eating. It wasn’t a good spring/early summer, guys.
Not only did I opt to induce miscarriage by taking medication, but I tried that route about six times (each a little less painful than the previous attempt) — meaning I wasn’t able to miscarry fully on my own despite the repeated attempts and writhing on my bathroom floor in pain, so I had to get the D&C. My doctor told me he had only seen the medication not work for someone one other time ever. LUCKY ME! Fortunately, the D&C procedure itself went as smoothly as it possibly could’ve. We are very thankful for that, and that my mom flew in for emotional support. It was so much easier having her here with us. My cycles also went back to normal like clockwork, thank God. They are actually even better/more normal than they were before.
The most difficult part of the D&C wasn’t the surgery itself (or even the bill, which added up to about as much as an IUI cycle), but the moment I had to sign a consent form about what to do with the tissue and I did a double-take at the “Mother” signature line, thinking it meant my mom because up until that moment, it always had — and she was right next to me at the time, so I assumed it was for a witness signature or something.
When I realized it meant me, it felt real in a way it hadn’t up until that point, and I don’t wish that feeling on anyone. It was the first time I had ever been called a mother by someone I didn’t know, or signed anything that referred to me that way, and thank God I went under anesthesia shortly after that because I almost lost it. It was like a punch in the throat and the moment I felt like I was truly saying goodbye.
Another thing I shared with my friend today is that I am still grappling with feeling like this is the universe demanding payment for something, like it’s Rumpelstiltskin taking my firstborn child from me because of something I didn’t even realize I was gambling for or did wrong. According to my own internal dialogue, it could be a lot: breaking off my engagement eight years ago and leaving my fiancé for his best friend, waiting until my thirties to have children, getting annoyed at crying kids in public, not living in the same state as my aging parents. Take your pick. Payment? For the amazing 2015-2016 Josh and I had. We both got great jobs (mine literally at my dream company), bought a house, went to Europe. So my brain was like, something is going to be a payment here. (Yes, I’m talking to my therapist about this.)
My friend today was one of the first people I’ve told this to who hasn’t shot it down cold. He of course said it wasn’t true — which is what I would tell anyone else who wasn’t me, to be fair — but he also said he understood why I’d feel that way and that it wasn’t unreasonable or irrational to feel it. Oddly, that made me feel kind of empowered about it. These are feelings I continue to work through and I am a lot better about it now than I was a year ago. To be honest, Josh and I both still grapple with the way we got together, but not nearly as much as we used to. It creeps in when we’re both feeling especially insecure and has shown its face in a very ugly way throughout this infertility journey, during the times when we both feel defeated and the “when” is an “if.” It’s still a “when” for us at this point and we’re trying to be optimistic, but that ebbs and flows and I think that’s probably OK.
I did get to spend my birthday at Walt Disney World when I was still pregnant, which was so fun. Josh bought me a bottle of non-alcoholic wine for the AirBnB and a little silly bell to ring when I want a kiss, and a coffee mug that had the name we’d picked out if our baby was a girl (spelled differently, but still). We had felt it was a boy before that, but that day we changed our minds because we took it as a sign that the gift shop had our girl name but not our boy one.
We had fun deciding what would be baby Haupt’s first ride, and made a video on Dumbo where we talked to the baby about how much we were excited to take her to WDW one day. We told our waiter at dinner that we were expecting our first child and he was so excited for us and took great care of us. He even tracked down non-alcoholic wine for me. It was probably my best birthday to date.
We never did find out the sex of the baby for sure because we opted not to have the D&C tissue tested since most of it had cleared out from the meds before I went in for the procedure, but my mom thinks it was a girl too.
We mutually decided to call her Genevieve (my mom’s idea), because that was what my mom had wanted to name me initially.
We cried for Genevieve a lot. We still do sometimes, but not nearly as often. She will always be our first baby and she will always be any future babies’ (and Penny’s!) big sister.
Let me preface this by saying that I am NOT a patient individual. Anyone who knows me knows that, and so the very first thing I did when we decided to try getting pregnant (besides get down to 15 lbs. less than where I am now, but that’s another story) was buy a shit ton of ovulation tests. Now if you don’t know what these are or have never used them and you have children, congratulations. Also, as an aside, please know there is going to be a lot of “GOOD FOR YOUUU”s in my posts and it is not directed at ANY one person who didn’t have trouble conceiving. I hate you all equally. :o) Not really, of course. I love you, especially if you’re reading this and especially if you have Reese’s you are willing to part with in exchange for literally nothing. But those complex emotions are, again, another story for another time.
Sorry to use a Dane Cook joke because it’s not 2005 nor am I an asshole, most of the time, but let’s Tarantino this and go back in time. I used ovulation tests – which, like a pregnancy test without the pregnancy part, is a stick you pee on to tell you when you’re going to ovulate, therefore your most fertile time – on our EUROPE TRIP, in September/October 2016, the first month we started trying. The night I got a positive result, I will not go into massive detail about, but let’s just say we’d spent the evening at Oktoberfest in Munich after spending the day in Salzburg in ANOTHER COUNTRY and had to get up at like 3 a.m. for a flight to London. It was…not the most laid-back experience, let me just put it that way. I don’t have many regrets but if I could go back I’d probably just chill the fuck way out on that trip because the timing was not ideal. At the airport, I literally fell backwards down an escalator. Luckily no one was watching except my equally terrified and amused husband, who still calls me Doodlebug to this day because of how I just. Kept. Fucking. Rolling. (And in New Orleans, where I’m from, that’s what we call roly polys, pill bugs, whatever the rest of you weirdos say.) Also, to be fair, the suitcase Josh was “holding” fell into me. I was the overpacker though so Josh 2, Doodlebug 1 I guess. I’m not mathing right now. I’m in the bathtub and I’m tired.
Speaking of chilling out, ever have anyone tell you “Just relaaaxxx, it’ll happen!” LOL BECAUSE I HAVE HAHAHAHA yeah. No. There is no scientific proof that NOT trying to time sex properly and enduring a little bit of stress to make that happen won’t lead to a baby but gosh golly, we tried it anyway. Josh and I went away for weekends a couple of times, I tried not tracking my basal body temperature (oh we’re about to get real educational and maybe even a little TMI up in here because I have learned A LOT) and symptoms. I tried drinking more water to help with my fertile cervical fluid (I warned you), eating and drinking out of glass instead of plastic, every vitamin you can think of, reading books about how to get pregnant faster, and nonnnne of that worked, guys. None of it. We are a case of unexplained infertility, which – you guessed it – is a case that the doctors can’t figure out. My Fallopian tubes are open. I don’t have endometriosis or PCOS. I seem to be ovulating on my own and have regular periods. I’m a human. I’m not THAT old. Josh had three – THREE – analyses done on his situation and those came (no pun intended ugh SORRY) out fine. A little tip (lolz) if you’re a type-A individual and have unexplained anything: don’t.
Turns out I DO have a weirdly positioned and difficult to penetrate cervix (imagine that!) and something called diminished ovarian reserve (DOR), which is a likely lower egg count than most women my age (33). So maybe these could be issues? I don’t know. But I had an ovarian antral follicle count (AFC) of 12 the last time I went to the doctor, about three weeks ago, and I believe most women my age have 15-25? Definitely more than I have. And the higher your AFC, the better because it means you have more fertile years left and if you undergo fertility treatment (more on our history of that later), you’re likely to get more eggs on one round of stimulation. My AMH hormone is also very low, which signals DOR as well. However, AMH and AFC tell you absolutely nothing about egg quality. Know what does? IVF! What a coincidence. The possibility of paying thousands upon thousands of dollars to potentially be told your eggs are a complete Dumpster fire. What a steal. Luckily my doctor believes I’m a very good candidate for IVF and that my eggs aren’t all hot garbage, which is probably just something he says to all the girls but alas. Josh and I are meeting with him next Wednesday to go over our schedule and get a few questions answered and cry over the price they give us so that should be a really fun time.
I joke but we actually are excited about it at this point because it’s something new to explore that we haven’t failed at before, which I know is a very glass-half-empty way to look at it but it’s almost impossible not to feel that way at times. Over the past two years, we have been through five intrauterine inseminations (IUIs – lots of fun acronyms when you’re dealing with infertility), one miscarriage and dilation and curettage (D&C), at least 10 friend/family pregnancies (three during months we had failed IUI cycles), approximately 73 bottles of wine – shout-out to that for playing its part in these 15 lbs.! – and roughly $15,000 spent (between medications, IUI treatments, a surgery, pregnancy and ovulation tests, vitamins, acupuncture, a crib that is sitting forlornly in the room we don’t feel right calling a “nursery” anymore, etc.) that has gotten us nothing tangible, so it’s safe to say we’re ready for this next step. And despite my sarcasm through 85% of this post…I am thankful for it. It has made me so much better of a person, and I’m excited to explain why to you guys.
But for now…bed. The water is cold and I regret everything.
So this blog has been a long time coming, I guess. It started as a few very informal, very wet-haired selfie-recorded videos on my iPhone (like, some in my bathtub, guys), and then morphed into a Facebook post draft that I continually updated every time something new happened in this now-two-year journey of Josh’s and mine. Once that Facebook-post draft got over 2,500 words long and the big question mark in my head took the form of “if” instead of “when,” I knew it was time to go back to writing my thoughts down in a blog.
Josh and I have been trying to have a baby since our trip to Europe. For those of you not keeping track of my personal life, that was two years ago. In fact, Oct. 4, 2016 was when we returned and we were both so excited knowing the new chapter of our life could be right around the corner. I had a feeling I’d get pregnant the first time we tried because, up until that point, I had succeeded at everything I had tried my very best at without having to do it more than one time. Some things took longer than others, but there was always a known end/goal date and a defined way to achieve that goal. Not this time, Jen.
I’ll get into some of the more specific aspects of what has gone down in the past two years in subsequent posts, but I just wanted to start out with something to say thank you to everyone whom we’ve reached out to in this time period, even if you don’t read this. The group of people we shared our struggle with started out very small, but has grown large enough to the point where, when we miscarried in March, I was having trouble remembering whom all we had told about finally achieving a pregnancy so that I could go back and tell them it didn’t work out. At first, this upset me — I felt like maybe we had jinxed ourselves by telling so many people.
But looking back, I’m so glad we did, and we’d probably do the same thing if given the chance to do it again. Josh and I are both very stubborn, proud, textbook oldest children, which can be a good thing but can also be very difficult because when both people in a relationship have trouble asking for help, they are both prone to emotional drowning a lot more easily. So to those of us who have asked how we’re doing, sent us messages of encouragement, “sat in the shit” with us (as my therapist likes to say), thank you. We know it’s not easy when you don’t know what to say, and we’re very thankful for each and every one of you who have tried anyway.