Recurrent Pregnancy Loss, Anxiety, and Moving Forward
I have always been an anxious person. When you throw in a dash of infertility and a sprinkle of recurrent miscarriages, they were basically the last ingredients to my personal recipe for disaster (Trust me, you don’t want the recipe).
No one ever says “Oh, recurrent miscarriages and struggling to get pregnant? What you need is XYZ!” There are no right answers when it comes to unexplained, recurrent pregnancy loss, no guarantees. There is still so much that is unknown when it comes to recurrent pregnancy loss and unexplained infertility. Doctors and specialists have all just shrugged and proceeded to offer me their educated opinions of different protocols to “try”.
Up until this point, I have endured five miscarriages over four years and the thought of “trying again” with another pregnancy is possibly the scariest thing that I have ever imagined doing. Do you know what’s equally as terrifying, though? Never having a baby, or never being able to get pregnant again. So, what do I do? I try.
When we found out that our fourth pregnancy had ended at 10 weeks, I had the option to wait 2-3 weeks for a D&C or to go home and wait to miscarry naturally. Having already gone through three previous losses, I knew the horror that was coming and asked the doctor to prescribe me pain meds if I was expected to wait it out. Unfortunately, he wasn’t willing to prescribe me anything. Tylenol and Advil were his suggestions. This is largely due to the opioid epidemic and doctors being afraid to kick-start a person’s addiction to pain killers.
Personally, I think a miscarriage is not something that women should be sent home to deal with on their own, without pain management or some sort of instruction on when it might be appropriate to go to the emergency room. So, there I was, faced with the decision of having a 10-week miscarriage with no drugs or waiting two weeks for a D&C and possibly starting to miscarry in the meantime.
I decided that these options were not okay and, instead, called an abortion clinic in my area. I was told I could come in the next day, as they offered walk-ins. I still find it so strange that women with live, healthy pregnancies are offered day-of service to terminate a pregnancy; yet, a woman who needs to terminate a pregnancy for medical reasons or who has had a missed miscarriage is forced to sit on a waiting list. We should all be a priority.
I had a requisition from my doctor to give to the abortion clinic. It instructed them to collect some of the fetal tissue that would later be tested at a lab to look for any chromosomal abnormalities. The clinic informed me that, because it was a weekend, I would have to take the fetal tissue home with me and keep it in my fridge before taking it to the hospital’s lab on Monday.
Yes, I had to keep my baby in my fridge. This is not something that anyone should have to do, EVER.
The support for women actively going through a miscarriage is lacking in a huge way. In Toronto, many hospitals have that same 2-3 week waiting list to be able to have a D&C performed. This type of procedure should be urgent and is not something that a woman should have to wait for. Awaiting a D&C for that long can be mentally and emotionally traumatizing.
It is starting to be recognized that the trauma of infertility and pregnancy loss can cause extreme anxiety, depression, panic, PTSD, and more. These are not insignificant conditions, and many of the effects can last a lifetime without proper treatment.
It has been really hard to go all the way back to the starting line after a fifth pregnancy loss. Trying to get my mind and body ready to do it all over again has been a complete mind f*ck. After our fourth loss, I took a 6-month break. The trauma and grief I felt were on a new level. At the time, I truly didn’t think I would be able to mentally handle a pregnancy ever again. But I surprised myself and have been back on the trying train once again.
But isn’t that what we all do? All of us infertile women? We somehow start every new cycle with renewed hope and try again, and again, and again. Whether it’s the same thing we tried last month, a new protocol given to us by our Reproductive Endocrinologists, or even trying NOT to try. Somehow, we keep moving forward.
We attempt to do all the right things, eat the right foods, and take the right supplements. There are books out there telling us exactly what chemicals we need to eliminate from our beauty regimens, how we should only be using all-natural household cleaners, eating more Brazil nuts, pomegranate, and pineapple if we want to get pregnant. I have done all of these things and more.
The reality is that these things will work for some people, but just because you weren’t doing everything right doesn’t mean that you caused your infertility or miscarriage. Sometimes, what we truly need is to just cut ourselves some slack and remind ourselves that none of this is our fault.
I’m glad to still have even a glimmer of hope after everything that I’ve been through. The fact that I feel like I want to keep moving forward on my fertility journey and be successful blows my mind sometimes. Other times, I can feel myself getting close to the end of my journey. I remind myself that I am doing this for my little family. For now, I’m still trying, but sometimes I see the finish line growing near, and that’s okay, too.
Alexandra Slate lives in Toronto with her husband (also named Alex) and her two hilarious kitty cats. She can be found writing songs, knitting, drinking Starbucks, and warming her butt on her spin bike. You can follow Alexandra’s story on Instagram @rockabyemaybe. You can also listen to songs by Alexandra wherever you stream music.