When my husband and I decided in 2018 that it was time to grow our family, I was worried it was going to be hard. I had a family member struggling with infertility at the time, and there was something deep down in my gut telling me it was going to be tough for us as well. But only three months later, I found out I was pregnant! I was relieved. Panicked. Excited. Terrified.
After my first OBGYN appointment, my doctor wanted me to come back in for another blood draw. My HCG pregnancy hormone level was a little bit lower than they would have liked to see. My levels were increasing but not doubling like they should have been. We heard a heartbeat, but it was too slow. For six weeks, our lives were in limbo, and it was absolute hell. I could never truly feel excited about being pregnant. We were always waiting for test results and never getting definitive answers. At almost ten weeks pregnant, I had a miscarriage and a D&C.
Like so many other women, I was told it was bad luck. I was young and healthy and was encouraged to try again. After all, 1 in 4 pregnancies ends in a miscarriage. But it was the hardest thing I had ever experienced. Physically, my body was beaten up. My hair changed, I gained weight (emotional eating, anybody?) and I was getting acne for the first time in my life. But the emotional aspect was 1000x worse. I was so angry—angry at the doctor, the world, my husband, myself, and every pregnant woman who dared to cross my path. “Why does she deserve a baby, but I don’t? What did I do wrong?”
For the most part, we kept our first pregnancy a secret. That’s what we were supposed to do, right? But I soon realized that talking about my loss was the only thing that helped me grieve. First, I told family and friends. Then coworkers. Then strangers. I didn’t care who it was, I just needed to talk about it. Unfortunately, 2019 brought with it two more pregnancy losses.
My therapist told me that rage is repressed sadness, and that will forever stick with me. I had, and still do have, so many rage-filled outbursts—about next to nothing—that end with me crying hysterically. I masked my sadness with anger and blamed it on my husband wanting to watch hockey instead of This Is Us or the guy who cut me off on the highway.
After three miscarriages, my doctor finally agreed that something was wrong, and I desperately wanted answers. In February of 2020, I was diagnosed with a chromosomal balanced translocation—the structural re-arrangement of two chromosomes, which results in a very high rate of pregnancy loss—and low AMH, or low egg reserve. We could continue trying naturally, but my doctor strongly suggested IVF, and we agreed. I could not keep playing the genetic lottery.
At times, it’s overwhelming. Infertility and IVF are the first things I think about in the morning and the last things I think about before I go to bed at night. I am constantly reading blogs, researching treatments, and dissecting old test results.
Being vocal about our infertility and pregnancy loss has made me vulnerable in some ways. For one, it has subjected me to every cliche under the sun:
- “Everything happens for a reason.” [NO, sometimes bad shit just happens.]
- “It will happen when the timing is right.” [Okay, but what about MY timing?]
- “At least you know you can get pregnant.” [Well, I have had three pregnancies with no living children. I wouldn’t wish the pain of miscarriage on anyone.]
- “You’re still young.” [My age has nothing to do with my chromosomal structure.]
- “There’s always adoption.” [Adoption is a beautiful thing, but it’s not something we are ready to consider. And don’t make me feel guilty for wanting to have a child that’s genetically mine.]
- “Maybe it wasn’t meant to be.” [I have nothing to say to this, except LOOK OUT to the next person who says this.]
But for every one person who gives you a well-intentioned but misguided microaggression, there are ten others who are ready to support you with love and without unsolicited advice. So I urge you: Find your infertility community.
Even with the most supportive partner, going through pregnancy loss and infertility is a monstrous burden to carry. You don’t have to have an infertility blog or public Instagram. There are support groups, Facebook groups, and therapists who specialize in infertility. It doesn’t have to be your dirty little secret. You did nothing wrong to cause this.
Over the last year and a half, I have learned some valuable lessons:
You don’t have to be positive all of the time.
When you need help, ask for it, but do not beat yourself up if you’re sad about a loss or disappointed with test results. Not everything needs a silver lining. Yes, things could always be worse, but that doesn’t mean this situation doesn’t suck. You’re not weak, you’re human.
Everyone’s journey is unique, even for two people with the same diagnosis.
No matter what someone’s unique situation is, it’s their individual struggle and their feelings are valid. We all do it, but try not to compare stats.
- “She is younger than I am; no wonder she got more embryos.”
- “I have had so many more miscarriages, this is so much harder for me!!”
- “They didn’t do IVF, so are they actually infertile?”
- “Why was their 1 embryo normal, and all 8 of mine were abnormal?”
It’s okay to be selfish.
You are going through a lot, so now is the time to prioritize your mental health.
- Are you dreading that baby shower? Don’t go. Send a gift and politely decline. [PRO TIP: send a gift card, so you can avoid browsing a baby registry and seeing ads for onesies and strollers for the next 6 weeks]
- Are the daily Facebook “bump pictures” from the girl you went to high school with triggering? Hide, mute, or unfollow her! Most social media platforms have a hide/mute feature, and I can’t stress enough how much this can help.
Last but not least, be kind to yourself. This shit is tough, but so are you.
Taylor Ortiz and her husband live in Chicago with their 3 dogs, Vern, Norma, and Millie. She is obsessed with being a dog mom but hopes to be a human mom someday. After receiving an infertility diagnosis of a chromosomal balanced translocation & low AMH, they have turned to IVF. She became public with her infertility journey to connect with others and bring awareness. You can find her on Instagram at @infertileandimpatient.