I am a planner. I always have been. I have backup plans for my backup plans. No one would ever describe me as a spontaneous person. In general, my life thus far has gone the way I planned it to, except for one area, and if you’re reading this, I am quite certain you can guess what it is.

High School, check.

College, check.

Dreamy Husband, check.

Having children, not so much.

Alex and I decided we wanted to expand our family in 2016. Getting pregnant the first time we tried seemed too good to be true…and it was. We made all the rookie mistakes: announcing early, buying all the things, assuming miscarriages only happen to other people, etc. You name it, we did it.

Spoiler alert: that pregnancy ended in miscarriage at 8 weeks. The pregnancy after that one was a chemical pregnancy—the second line faded almost as soon as it showed up.

Then, we had our rainbow baby, Matty. He is everything we dreamed of.

Fast forward a year, and we were ready to give Matty a sibling. Here I come with my plans again, but I really wanted to have my children two years apart. I have no idea why I was so naïve to think that we wouldn't have more fertility issues. I assumed that since we had Matty I was 'cured,' right? WRONG.

infertility warrior lesley mannen and her family

Now, please don’t get me wrong, we know how lucky we are to have our son. However, no one really prepared me that secondary infertility comes with its own set of stress, guilt, and unwelcome comments.

People assume you don’t have fertility struggles because you already have a child. Without batting an eye, they start laying on the pressure. They’ve always got comments handy that start the imaginary egg timer in your mind. “Don’t you want him to be a big brother?” and “You don’t want them to be too far apart!” and “You’re not getting any younger!” (Insert eye-roll and awkward, un-smooth segway to, well, ANY other topic.)

What people don’t see when they make those seemingly “innocent” comments is how much we have already struggled to grow our family. How could they? We’re not supposed to talk about these things. So, we suffered in silence for a long time.

Speaking of suffering, we suffered two more early losses around 5 weeks in May and June of 2019. After my fourth miscarriage, my doctor agreed that it was probably time to see a specialist. After countless hours with Dr. Google, I thought maybe I just needed a little progesterone. After all, I was good at getting pregnant, just not staying pregnant.

After a few weeks and a natural cycle with progesterone, it seemed that I was right! We were pregnant, and it was sticking! The only other time we had gotten this far was with our son.

My fertility doctor monitored us closely. We had weekly blood draws and ultrasounds to make sure everything was progressing nicely…and it was. Once I heard the heartbeat twice, I thought to myself this baby and I, we've got this. I was so proud of the little squish. We were on our way. I felt like we were out of the woods. The next box to check was 'graduation day' and we'd be back to my regular OBGYN. Everything was going great, or so I thought.

fetal ultrasound image

Do you ever have a moment in time when you just want to go back and warn yourself? Sirens blaring, SOS flares, all to prepare yourself for the devastation and destruction that’s about to uproot your life?

My moment was December 2, 2019. We made it. It was 'graduation day,’ My doctor walked in, we all exchanged pleasantries, and the ultrasound tech got started. As the ultrasound was underway, I started to panic. I hadn’t seen the baby yet, but something inside me knew that this appointment was going to go sideways and fast. Call it mother's intuition, I guess.

The next few minutes were filled with the doctor and the ultrasound tech feverishly trying to locate our baby’s heartbeat. There was a long pause. My mind kept thinking “Don’t say it. Don’t say it. Just keep looking! It has to be there.” A heavy silence fell over the dimly lit room. She said it. The phrase I knew was true. I knew it had to be said, but I did NOT want to hear it. “I am so sorry, Lesley, it’s just not there. We can’t find the heartbeat. It should be right there, and it just isn’t. There’s no blood flow.”

I feel like my mind raced through all seven stages of grief in ten seconds…except maybe “acceptance.” I wanted so desperately to go back in time. Even if only for 10 minutes when everything was right in my world. I went through the full range of emotions from "I miss my baby already” to “I need it out of me right now.”

I didn’t know my mind could move so slowly and so fast at the same time.

“How am I going to tell everyone this happened?”

“Did I drink too much caffeine?”

“Is this a dream?”

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"How am I supposed to move on from here when almost all of my friends are pregnant?"

“There was only a 5% chance of this happening once we saw the heartbeat.”

“Why is there a freaking mobile with killer whales on it hanging from the ceiling?!”

I was paralyzed and in shock. I felt like I was underwater. I forced myself to cry hoping that it would relieve some of the pain and pressure in my chest. It was a futile effort and didn’t work.

They quickly whisked us into a consultation room. I am sure it’s unsettling to hear someone sobbing in the fertility clinic. I knew I was too loud, and I honestly couldn’t have cared less. The next thing I knew, we were talking about my options. Options for removing the baby that we wanted so badly.

Part of me wanted to do it that day and just get it over with. Another part of me thought that I needed just a little bit longer to say goodbye. I chose to move forward with a D&C, and it was scheduled for the next day. There was something especially sad realizing this would be our last day together in this life. I chose the D&C because I wanted answers. I wanted to be able to find out whether the life we lost was a boy or a girl. I was hoping that these types of questions being answered might bring me some closure.

ornament on a tree that reads i carried you every second of your life and i'll love you for every second of mine

The last few months have dragged on forever. My body is still recovering. About a week after the D&C, I got the call that revealed our baby had Turner’s Syndrome or Monosomy X. It was relieving to hear there was a reason. They also told me this is one of the most common causes of first-trimester miscarriages. This left us with no answers for the other four pregnancy losses, as they do not suspect they all had Turner’s Syndrome, but we will never know. This also meant that our baby was female.

I knew it was a girl. I was confident from the second I found out I was pregnant. I know we only spent 9.5 weeks with her, but we spent every single day wanting her and preparing for her. We looked at Matty and saw the world’s best big brother. We saw our spare bedroom and saw the place where we would spend so many sleepless nights complaining about the lack of sleep we’d be getting. We looked at Matty’s baby pictures and that’s what we feel like we have lost. We know we are lucky to have our beautiful son, but having a child does not take away the pain of losing another.

To some of you reading, this story is probably eerily similar to yours. This journey is heartbreaking, and it doesn’t come with an instruction manual. It’s painful, raw, and ugly but it doesn’t have to be so isolating. I am on a mission to break the ridiculously unfair ‘rule’ of society that we don’t talk about these hard things. I want you to know that your story is important. Your story matters and when you’re ready to tell it, I’d love to hear it.

infertility warrior lesley mannen

Lesley Mannen is a 29-year-old Wife, Mama, and Software Sales Architect. She was born and raised in Indianapolis, IN. She's a proud Midwest Mama and can't imagine life without experiencing the joys of all four seasons. When she's not perusing the aisles of the Target Dollar section, you can usually find her spending way too much time in a Starbucks line or doodling her dreams in a Bullet Journal. She's a quirky, overthinking loyalist with a passion for her family. Speaking of family, she and her husband have had quite the ride trying to grow that little family of theirs. She has been battling recurrent pregnancy loss and secondary infertility for almost 4 years. (With a rainbow baby sprinkled in between the storms). After 5 miscarriages and endless testing, she was finally given the 'diagnosis' of Unexplained Infertility with Recurrent Pregnancy Loss. She is currently healing from her 5th pregnancy loss and recently shared her story with the world. She is on a personal mission to make sure every single woman battling with infertility feels a little more validated and a lot less alone.