Riding the Waves of Hope & Loss

So often these days I’m asked “when are you going to have another baby?”  Of course, nobody means anything by it other than as a compliment- it’s clear that Henry has brought Andrew and I so much joy, and is, in my humble opinion, one of the cutest, sweetest kids on the planet.  And of course, nobody means to upset someone when they ask that question,  and for a long time I have not discussed my fertility battle on here, so it’s not obvious that that question is a triggering one for me.

Last week I lost a pregnancy. Again. My third failed pregnancy in a little over a year.  We’ve been trying to have a sibling for Henry since he turned one. Our first pregnancy was a surprise- I actually got pregnant naturally (something I did not think possible) and was amused that I had become that stereotypical fertility patient that struggles to have her first and then “accidentally” gets pregnant with the second.  You hear these “IVF urban legend” stories a lot when deep in the trenches and I was floored I was actually becoming one.  Unfortunately, it did not last.  The second pregnancy was a frozen embryo transfer and was an incredibly traumatic loss I am still grappling with.  Most recently, we transferred our second frozen embryo and when it took and I saw the two lines on the home pregnancy test I was suspicious but excited.  I kept waiting for other shoe to drop, but my numbers looked good and signs were pointing to “this is finally going to happen”.

Those who knew I was pregnant kept telling me they had a “really good feeling” about this one, and so I let my typical “glass is half empty” guard down and began to picture my swollen belly, and Henry cuddling with a sweet little newborn, his partner in crime for life.  And then we had our 8 week ultrasound and the moment I looked at the screen in that dark room, I knew.  I had believed we’d see that little flutter of a heartbeat, I really did, and that I would leave and be able to share our happy news. But instead there was an empty black hole.  No baby. No heartbeat. Nothing.

This loss has gutted me.  Frozen cycles are actually harder on me than fresh– the daily injections with needles so long I get nervous they are going to hit bone, the hormone pills, the knowing so much sooner that you MIGHT be pregnant.  It compounds on the loss when you have to work so hard to even get pregnant. And at this point, time is ticking away and I see the door closing on my ability to give Henry a sibling, and myself another opportunity to be a mother. A role I have relished, to my own surprise.  I remember barfing my brains out when pregnant with Henry and looking at Andrew and saying “I hope you’re cool with one kid because I am not doing this again”.  And yet all the motherhood tales they tell have turned out to be true- you forget the pain, you forget the sacrifices– you just want to experience the joy of bringing a child into the world one more time.

We have one embryo left from my “Henry cycle” when I was 35. “A beauty” as my doctor says, but so was this last one. I asked what my options are if this one also fails, but of course our doctor has told us to remain hopeful with this last “frosty”.  But to me, hope feels dangerous.  Hope makes me vulnerable. I much prefer to plan for disaster, especially after this last loss.  I turn 39 this summer,  an age that scares me when it comes to having another baby.  Of course, given our history, I respond really well to IVF and could do another fresh cycle,  but it scares the shit out of me.  What if it doesn’t work? What if I’m simply too old and my eggs too wonky? What then?

On top of all this, I’ve had to keep being a mother. To try to not let Henry see my tears through the pain, the miscarriage and the crushing thought that he may be our only child.  I’m trying to picture that life, to try to get comfortable with it, but it’s hard.  I know there are those that don’t ever get to experience motherhood at all who so desperately want to, so I do feel immensely grateful that I have Henry, I do, but in some ways it makes these secondary losses even harder.  Knowing now what could be, what is possible.

As I pick myself up this morning and try to move on,  I’m going to pledge to take better care of myself. I’ve been burning the candle at both ends and putting my own health last.  My kid and my job come first, but I have to at least make room for myself (and my marriage) third.  To be a little more gentle with myself,  to not scroll Instagram in my down time and let it make me feel less-than (or enraged and sad that everyone else in the world seems to be having babies with little effort) , but rather take that time to meet a friend or go to a workout class or just get outside and walk, that is if winter ever ends here in Boston.  I need to not feel guilty that I’m taking care of myself instead of spending that time with Henry– an all too common working mom feeling.

And I have to try to focus on all that is good in life right now, of which there is a lot.  And while I hesitate to remain “hopeful” (I just don’t operate well that way- I much prefer to prepare for the worst and be pleasantly surprised), I at least need to be open to what comes. Maybe it’s not what I pictured or hoped for, but it still can be really wonderful.

*Photo by Maureen Ford

 

209 comments

  1. My husband and I are both only children as are two of granddaughters. We don’t feel feel we have missed out on anything and nor are we lonely. Our granddaughters are well-adjusted, independent, mature beyond their years and loving, delightful young ladies. Contrary to some people’s belief, only chlldren are not spoilt, in fact, grow up with a great sense of responsibility and the ability to spend time on their own and amuse themselves. I feel your loss and your desire for another child. I don’t think we women ever outgrow our need to nurture but desire a child for yourself not your son. He will be content and happy with your love . Cherish your beautiful boy. I hope your hurt and pain grows less with each passing day.

    1. “desire a child for yourself not your son. He will be content and happy with your love . ” This is brilliant advice that I am taking for myself as well. I know in my heart that my daughter is so happy and well adjusted being an only, as I was, but society makes me feel that I have done her wrong based on quantity and nothing else. Thank you.

    2. Erin,

      Please take care of yourself and put your health first, especially at this time. Get together with friends, exercise, make time for you. Delegate work as much as possible. Possibly you may want to check in with another doctor to see if anything has been missed, so you will be in an optimum place for the next “frosty.” Take care.

  2. I am so sorry you are going through this. I had my children through fertility treatment and unless you’ve been there, it’s hard to understand the pain. Be gentle with yourself. XO

  3. I never comment but felt I should…..I’m about your age and have lost 2 in 6 months. I was already into my second trimester with one of them. It’s a very lonely grief. No one really understands, I don’t even know what to say myself…..my poor husband has no idea what to do. You see people have kids that don’t want them or can’t afford them and it makes you despondent. Everything seems to ridiculously unfair. I hid for a while, and then made myself super active and can’t say which is better!
    I will say that self care has helped me immensely. I’ve skipped out on baby showers and avoided people who were pregnant. You’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do. For now, I’m taking a step back and saying screw it. Enjoying life for a few months without being so hard on myself. Just know you aren’t alone and there are people out there in the world that understand. Hugs.

  4. Erin -my heart breaks for you. I am a long-time reader. In fact, I started reading 8 years ago when I was 42 and pregnant with my third child after infertility, miscarriage and an ectopic pregnancy. You have such strength and grace and I wish you relief from this heartache.

  5. I am so sorry for your loss and your pain. I got married at 37. After 9 rounds of IVF (some transfers only — not sure how to count!) over 6 years, (including one natural pregnancy that ended in miscarriage, cancelled transfers due to uterine lining problems, and three chemical pregnancies), I became pregnant via donor egg and had my little girl eight weeks ago, at 43. I know there’s nothing people can say to take away your pain, but infertility is such a hard road travel, and sometimes knowing you’re not alone helps. There are no easy ways to cope — whether people tell you to stay hopeful, or to accept the wonderful life you have and move on, for me it was all hard to hear. We have donor egg embryos left and are contemplating trying one more transfer (I would be 44 if it worked and we had a second baby!!). It’s so hard to decide – I would love to have another baby, but putting myself back into what was such a heartbreaking process is difficult. And I feel more attached to the frozen embryos now that I have a baby from that cycle, so I’m worried that losing them would feel even more traumatic, if that’s possible. I have read your blog for years but never commented, but just wanted to reach out and say I understand how hard and painful the process is, and how difficult the decisions are to make. I am sending positive thoughts and energy your way, even though I don’t know you!

  6. Powerfully written, thank you for sharing this. I went down a similar road and felt many of the same feelings as you. I felt like I had failed as a human being as well as a few other nagging thoughts of negativity were taking up too much space in my brain. I too was concerned my daughter would sense that I didn’t feel complete….and yet I was. Then one day, I decided to only see the beauty of what is. The beauty of my healthy family , the beauty of being alive in a safe country, the beauty of possibilities. It was truly liberating to let go of what I thought my life would look like and trust in God/universe. This allowed me to see everything in a deeper way. However, to this day, I get an ache in my gut that I had 2 miscarriages and was unable to have any more than one child. This is all part of our human experience though and some of it sucks. Be gentle with yourself and life will one day seem very very bright.

  7. I have told you some of these things before, but I want to say them again.
    I have watched you from afar, like a second (or 18,924th) mom, and I really do feel so much for your struggle. I had that struggle too, it took me 2 years to have my only son, and I never did have another. I did not go as far as you have, as we could not afford it at that time. We tried for #2 for 5 years.
    It devastated me, when we finally made the decision to stop trying – I was 36 and EVERYONE was having their 2nd or 3rd, without any effort whatsoever. It was 1994…People have no idea how hard this struggle is on a woman, and on a marriage. My brain decided that we would concentrate on what we had, Whitten, and not on what we could not have. And after a while my heart reconciled .
    I did NOT want an only child, but was very grateful and we did our best for him.
    We lost him in 2012, and I had no hope for a very long time. But little by little, hope appeared here and there. And now I realize that hope is what I have. Hope is how I go day by day.
    Don’t let hope feel dangerous. You have to be vulnerable – that’s how you experience love.
    If precious Henry is your only, then you will be a precious happy family of threeAnd you will have hope that one day, he will get married and have 3 babies, and how great will that be?!
    I love you from afar.

  8. Erin, I’m so sorry you’re going through this struggle (again). Infertility and pregnancy loss are incredibly difficult journeys. I’m 30 weeks pregnant with our first baby, via IVF, after 5 years of infertility. Just recently, my best friend said to me (coming from a good place) that she thinks I’ll have this baby and then get pregnant again naturally without even trying. Sadly, I just don’t believe in those “IVF urban legends” anymore. Hope is such a delicate emotion when it comes to infertility. Take care of yourself. And remember what an amazing Mama you are to sweet Henry.

  9. Oh Erin, I am so incredibly sad to read this. I know ALL of the emotions, hopes, plans, daydreams, thoughts, and fears that go into the whole thing and it’s near debilitating at times. When I was young, I thought I could plan exactly when I’d have my kids and it would be as easy as that (hahahahahahahaha so naive!). Now that I’ve had many, many losses, as well as some successful pregnancies too, I realize that the power is in being comfortable and happy with what you’ve been given and not to let our fears paralyze us. There is such painfully little control we have over pregnancy and that right there can be debilitating. But you are going to be ok! And you still have time–don’t let the timetable you’ve set in your head drive what you think needs to happen. Be gentle on yourself. I know how hard it is.

  10. Erin, so sad for you, I cried for you last night, I have been there, you are young, you have time. But here is my question for you, while the last thing you want to do, I am sure is see another physician, do you think you have been adequately worked up for recurrent miscarriages, it sounds like you have now had three which would kick you into a work-up separate from your other fertility issues. Have you been tested for Factor Five Leiden and other blood clotting issues? The Brigham has a recurrent miscarriage program. I know your physician is great, but sometimes really good physicians get stuck on one track and it can always be good to get a second opinion as exhausting as it is.. good luck, we are all rooting for you…

  11. You are incredible. Strong, humble, determined, loving, vivacious. I do not know the depths of your struggle as I am not a parent myself but I can say that Henry will count himself among the luckiest for having you as his mother, sibling or not. That is all you and you have earned it. Thank you for all the joy, beauty, and honesty you bring to the world through your work. It really is inspiring. Praying that your journey brings you more days of joy than sorrow.

  12. I want to write so much to you, but I’m so afraid of messing up. Instead I will send you and your beautiful little family lots of love and good wishes.

  13. Keep the faith, beautiful Erin. I’m so sorry for you loss and sadness. Focus on extreme self care and self love. XOXO Nancy

  14. Giiirrrl! I’ve been there. Ended up adopting 2 girls who are the light of my life but still. There should be a special support group for type a driven ladies facing infertility. I mean, something about ‘I’m doing everything right and not succeeding’ just doesn’t compute amiright? From the other side…whatever happens, you will make the narrative fit. The easy 2nd, 3rd, 4th pregnancies won’t sting (as much). It won’t be like this forever! Funny (kind of) side note: I saw a therapist who tried to reassure me that the phase of life where people are always announcing pregnancies doesn’t last forever. True for most, but my husband is the 8th of 10 kids, so we went right from his siblings constantly announcing babies to his nieces and nephews! I can laugh now, but it was purely brutal when I was in the thick of it. Hang in there…your family will seem complete to you, one way or another, one day.

  15. Dear Erin, I am so sorry to hear about your loss. My daughter shared a book with me “The year of living Danishly” by Helen Russell. She got pregnant naturally after moving for a year to Denmark and researching on happiness topic (Danes are famous for that). You are my model-designer. You created a style that I follow and that never fails me. I really want you to be happy. Please do not lose hopes.

  16. Dear Erin – I am sorry for your heartache, but I feel hopeful that you’ll find peace with or without a sibling for Henry. I’m a bit older than you and unable to get pregnant naturally, so I know what you’ve been through. I’ll say a prayer for you and Andrew. All the best.

  17. I just had my third miscarriage in December 2017. I had my son 5 years ago relatively easily but very much struggled to get pregnant with my daughter and had 2 losses before having her. I surprisingly got pregnant just after she turned one but like you, at the 8 week ultrasound, we could see there was no heartbeat. I’m also 38 and I have a diminished ovarian reserve so time is not on my side. Try to be gentle on yourself and take good care of yourself. You’ve been through a lot. And try to keep the faith. I really believe that miracles can happen when you believe in them. As for me, I just booked an appointment with the acupuncturist who I saw when I got pregnant with my daughter and I’m starting to take all the supplements that are supposed to help my old lady eggs. Best of luck! We’re pulling for you!

  18. I know what you mean, Erin! We have been trying for a second and it’s not happening, and it can feel frustrating to see Instagram filled with baby pictures. I decided I can live just as fine with one child, if not better. I am an only child myself and I had the happiest childhood, filled with friends and pets and visits to grandma, so please don’t worry about Henry. He’ll be the happiest kid with or without a sibling simply because of his loving parents …

    Social media has its wonderful perks but it also promotes unrealistic standards. I’m sure you know that. For example, on IG I see working mothers with a crazy schedule , five kids under the age of 10 (one of them a new born) and I wonder how that could ever work. I have to make serious efforts and carefully plan baby & me time, hubby & me time, or just plain “me time” and it’s not always working, and I’m not even “drowning” in work. Some career oriented people have kid after kid without realizing it’s virtually impossible to spend quality time with each and every one of them, check and help with their homework, read them bedtime stories… The tank must be really empty at the end of the day!

  19. So sorry for your struggles. It isn’t easy. Just want to add that large families do not have a monopoly on happiness. Your family of three can be just as happy, even happier, than the bigger families you see around you. Every kind of family is special, embrace yours. That said, I hope you have the second child you dream of.

  20. Erin-
    Infertility is so very isolating, I hope you can take some comfort in all of these wonderful and supportive comments that you are not alone. We struggled with infertility through 6 rounds of IVF and had our son in 2010. We wanted to give him a sibling but it was not in the cards with my 42 year-old eggs. We used an egg donor, froze the embryos, and got pregnant on the first try. That decision was fraught with SO much worry that the child wouldn’t be mine biologically. We now have an energetic three year-old boy who completely exhausts us but I can’t imagine our lives without him. Egg donation is certainly not for everyone but it was the answer for us. Best of luck.

  21. Erin – I want to thank you for creating a community where random readers that aren’t going through the exact same thing can find comfort. More specifically, I have one child and have come to the decision that I think I might be good with one. The guilt I feel about not giving her a sibling really plagues me. And then I stumble on to this post and read the comments and the support – especially from only children saying that they were happy & content – is so calming to me. I am very sorry for the loss & grief that you’re experiencing. Please know that you’ve created life here in this forum for women to be open about what they’re struggling with and find support – and in today’s day & age, that creation is no small feat. My daughter and I (who’s only 9 weeks younger than your Henry) will keep you and your family in our thoughts and prayers.

  22. Sending hugs and peace your way, Erin. The hurt is so real and I remember deeply how infertility feels so lonely, like you are the only woman to feel what you feel. I am so sorry for your loss, and for the weight of the sadness in the trenches.

    I equally remember it can feel so hard to receive advice in infertility so I am almost hesitant to write, but these two books changed the course of my infertility treatment and really helped me to see ways that I could change my thinking and be kind to my heart and my body when I felt like a failure in my mind and that my body had failed me.
    Inconceivable by Julia Indichova and When the Heart Waits by Sue Monk Kidd. Julia Indichova’s book is specifically about secondary infertility – she had her first child and was told she would never conceive again. It is her incredibly hopeful and helpful story of her journey to birthing her second baby.
    In my four years of trying to conceive and keep a pregnancy, I ended up stepping away from my interior design business, started a lot of soul aching work with a counselor, took up collage and painting and decided to finally say no thank you to my infertility clinic and after an initial in person visit and loads of blood work, worked from afar for a year with a naturopathic doctor in Seattle (I live on the east coast) taking herbs and tinctures that specifically nurture the uterus and ovaries. I conceived naturally oddly after having way too many glasses of wine of which every infertility course would tell me not to do, but there you have it. I did nothing and I did everything. Seems it was a mix of both. All-that-I-am-determination, and total mind/body/soul/life surrender.
    It is nuts, totally unfair, and painfully maddening.
    Lastly, another book that really affected my four years of infertility is ‘The Emotionally Absent Mother’ (turquoise cover, I’m sorry I can’t recall the author). Oddly, it taught me how to mother myself, something my weary soul desperately needed to do, to learn a new way of speaking kindly to my body, my spirit, who I am. I had some personal work to do anyway, but this book really opened my eyes to the fact that I needed to intentionally learn how to mother myself, and re-mother hurting parts of myself, in the journey of readying myself to mother another. Love to you, Erin, and all of your readers who are hurting in this way. Xx

  23. Hi Erin,
    Sorry that this is so difficult for you and sorry for your losses. I hope that you are able to take care of yourself and that you realize your dream. Best wishes.

  24. Your family is complete and lovely, but I wish for you the family that you desire. So many of us are just heartbroken to learn of your loss. You did nothing wrong. There is nothing wrong with your body. Because your body is selective, you were able to have Henry. He is fortunate to have a Mom who fought to have him. Your next family member will be too. Love and hope.

  25. Hi Erin-
    Thank you for sharing. It takes a lot of courage to do so. I just lost my third pregnancy in a year also, and it has felt incredibly isolating. The most heart wrenching was losing our son at 24 weeks this past December (To compound the loss I was visiting in-laws over the holidays and over 1,000 miles away from my doctor and my side of the family). I’m saying this as much to myself, but hang in there. It sounds like you have an excellent support system that will help you take on whatever may come. Best wishes to you and your growing family. I’ll keep you in my thoughts and prayers.

  26. Hey, Sweetie. Want to say “Been There. Done That” but it sounds so curse and unfeeling. I too, experienced infertility throughout my entire 30’s. We did IVF and FET, neither which led to a viable pregnancy. During that strenuous time, I experienced four “unexplained miscarriages”. It’s definitely a shot to the heart and soul. In our case, our time was running out with the fantasy of “being pregnant” and switched to “I just want to be a Mama”. So, we pursued the path of adoption. Which finally happened at the age of 41 for me!! And today, our Sweet 13 year old will be starting High School next year!! (But don’t get me wrong……a teenage daughter can bring on their own set of worries and frustrations!!) There are many paths to completing a family!! I wish you all the best of everything, in whichever path you decide is best for you. Take time to heal. Your heart and mind will lead you……….((((HUGS))))) and Thank You for sharing.

  27. I admire you so much for letting people traipse through the deep heartache that is secondary infertility. It has not been my journey, but I’ve witnessed so many others walk this path. And it’s HARD. You’re very brave. It’s apparent the magic Henry has brought to your lives. Much luck and love.

  28. In the trenches here with you but also a bit longer in the tooth. These little ones bring so much joy. It’s hard to imagine that this might be all. Our last frosty is in another country (long story) and I don’t know whether to be hopeful or just terrified about even trying it. We tried another fresh cycle post successful delivery with #1 and my body just didn’t respond so we know we’re at the end of the line and I think that part scares me more than being a wrinkly exhausted ancient mom. Good luck. Hoping you and Andrew get what your hearts want.

  29. May God bless and keep you every day in every way as you press on toward all your dreams. I pray that each and every one of them comes true and fills your heart with immense joy. You all deserve that.

  30. Erin, I’m so sorry that you’re going through this. To miscarry, is heartbreaking and I so appreciate your willingness to talk about this very hard thing.

  31. I haven’t been on your site in awhile and this morning, after a hellacious night I decided to wake up here, with a cup of coffee. I’m really saddened by your news and I too hope you will rest yourself! Take your vitamins, put your feet up, read a book, do something that allows you to thoroughly unwind. I pray you will have that second baby soon.

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