I'm Unable to Separate Pregnancy from the Pain Of Infertility and Miscarriage, and That's Okay
By Nina Correa White
I have always felt like my infertile life seemed imaginary to others. Despite confirmed diagnoses, years of trying to conceive that included tests, meds, shots, procedures, timed intercourse, ovulation kits, countless visits to a fertility clinic, IUI’s, and a miscarriage, the darkest days of my life seemed invisible to everyone around me.
That feeling only grew after we had our first miracle daughter when people wasted no time to start asking when we were going to have another as if they hadn’t seen all of the tears we had cried. I would hold my breath each time I would hear the question before responding with, “We still don’t know if we can have another.”
Our second pregnancy came after two reconfirmed diagnoses, more meds, more shots, twelve months of trying to conceive, and three IUIs. After we miscarried, I spiraled. I couldn’t grieve both infertility and miscarriage. So instead, I disregarded the miscarriage and channeled my energy into hating infertility.
For weeks, the reality of our infertility was burying me. And the fact that we didn’t just lose a baby, but a miracle we had fought like hell for, seemed to escape everyone around me. I compensated by grieving our infertility so hard that I had no time to process and grieve the baby we lost. When it finally hit me, I nearly suffocated beneath the weight of our loss.
When I found out I was pregnant after our miscarriage, I had no emotional reaction until the panic set in. Instead of tears of joy, I cried tears of confusion, fear, anxiety, sadness, grief, and tears for the fact that my initial reaction was panic. I battled weeks of guilt, feeling I didn’t deserve the pregnancy because I didn’t want to believe it was real. I was terrified that anyone would find out, and I spent weeks anxiously hiding it from everyone around me. When we finally started telling people, it wasn’t because I was ready; it was because I could no longer physically hide it anymore.
People would smile and congratulate me when they would hear the news, and I would hate myself because I couldn’t be excited with them. Pregnancy announcements of friends made me ache because of how easy they made celebrating pregnancy look. People would tell me we must have just been too stressed before, and internally, I would scream, feeling like they were blaming us for our own suffering. People would call our baby “baby number two,” without even thinking about the fact that this was actually baby number three. People began asking again about us having another baby as if nothing had ever been wrong, while in reality, I was so traumatized that I couldn’t imagine us ever trying again.
At around 20 weeks of pregnancy, after being in counseling to manage my anxiety and depression for three months, we found out we were having another daughter, and for the first time, I finally found myself able to celebrate.
Just like our first miracle daughter, I know this baby is a miracle. My prayers for her are on autopilot inside of me every moment of the day. Some days, I can picture her with us perfectly, a little girl who looks a lot like her big sister, with my husband’s eyes and my smile. Some days, I’m so convinced that something will go wrong that it feels like just a matter of fact. I relive the losses of our 5-and-a-half-year journey to our daughters almost daily. I sometimes fear that I will never be able to separate them from it.
I still can’t think about parenthood apart from infertility and miscarriage. What I realized, though, is that our first, precious daughter is the perfect, untainted piece of our experience with parenthood that infertility and miscarriage can never touch. I felt that power in the image of our newest daughter as we saw her on the ultrasound at 20 weeks. It was the first time I realized that while this pregnancy is tethered to our painful past, she is still her own, exquisite presence, one that will be as untouched by infertility and miscarriage as our first daughter is. And even though our experience with parenthood is entangled with infertility and miscarriage, our daughters don’t have to be. They are the perfect, untouchable bit of our parenthood journey.
I sometimes still cry for the things we’ve lost and instinctively hold my breath when I see a pregnancy announcement. I’m terrified of someday wanting a third baby and the thought of going through it all again—the tests, meds, shots, procedures, timed intercourse, ovulation kits, and visits to a fertility clinic. It hurts to remember the days where I pictured myself with three or four children. My heart may never stop dropping in my chest when people talk about pregnancy as if it is guaranteed. I may always feel uncomfortable talking too much about children or pregnancy around others because I remember how much it once destroyed me to hear it.
But now, as I hold my daughter close, the memory of my once-empty arms leaves me savoring her precious hugs even more. Now, as I touch my hands to my belly to feel my newest daughter moving around inside me, the memory of those years of emptiness leaves me marveling at her presence even more. Those moments where my heart drops in my chest and those twinges of pain that may never go away are catalysts for the empathy that I can now extend to others.
My awareness is not a curse, but a gift, a doorway that allows me a foot into both worlds—a world of incomparable sorrow, and a world of incomparable joy. With my sorrow comes a deeper appreciation for the joy I experience; with my joy comes a deeper empathy for those who are still in the depths of their own sorrow. My lingering grief charges my love for others, no longer unseen, but now extraordinarily real.
Nina Correa White dreams in words and acrylic. She prides herself on being a Virginia Beach native, and you may spot her paddleboarding in one of the city’s many bodies of water come summer. She is also known to brag on her alma mater, Old Dominion University, from which she received her Bachelor of Arts in English/Creative Writing in 2013, and her MFA in Writing/Fiction in 2020. Her happy place consists of a warm, cozy space surrounded by family—bonus if ice cream or mac and cheese are included.