We started trying to grow our family in the fall of 2018. We had just moved to Houston, TX where all of my family lives, found a beautiful house in the suburbs, and both were feeling grounded and set in our jobs. It seemed like we had all the pieces in place to start our family.
After two miscarriages, recurrent miscarriage testing, and lots of tears, moments of anger, grief, and finally joy, we had our rainbow baby this April (2021)!
One of the most challenging aspects in trying to grow our family was living in the unknown. So many questions swirled through my mind as our fertility journey progressed. First, would we be able to get pregnant? Now that we are pregnant, will it be a viable pregnancy? After our first miscarriage, will this happen to us again? And after our second miscarriage, can I endure this happening to us again?
I was never able to find a satisfying or concrete answer to many of the questions that circulated through my mind. Instead, I had to accept that living with uncertainty and some level of anxiety would be a part of our process and decided that our dream of starting a family was important enough to me to endure this uncertainty and all the challenges that came with it.
It’s an interesting question to ask yourself what it feels like to want to grow your family. For many of us, we assume it’s a given that we will have a family and we don’t need to even pause to consider why we want to have children or what that journey will be like. It’s just part of that adult equation - find your person + get married + have baby = “normal”/expected adult life.
Experiencing pregnancy loss and/or infertility does not fit that neat, linear equation and so you are given (or forced to) consider why and what it is like to grow your family. For me, it was an experience of hope, exploration into myself, my relationship, and even the history of my family. It was continuous moments of discovery as I had to identify why I wanted to be a mother and why I wanted to grow a family with my partner - I needed the clarity and strength these questions gave me to keep going and keep trying to grow our family.
In the summer of 2020 (still in the full swing of the pandemic), I found out I was pregnant. Trying to conceive and finding out you are pregnant after loss is a unique kind of experience filled with excitement and hope just as much as it is filled with anxiety and fear.
My silver lining during my struggle was exactly this - being able to connect with others who have experienced pregnancy loss and/or infertility. In my work as a psychologist, I often tell my clients that we heal in our relationships with others. We cannot heal in isolation. It was through my connection, conversations, and moments of deeply painful, cathartic, and wonderful understanding with those in this community that gave me hope.
Speaking of hope, one lesson that really sticks with me from my fertility journey is the importance of allowing yourself to hope. With my first pregnancy, I was so anxious about the possibility of loss that I did not give myself permission to fully enjoy, embrace, and celebrate the life growing within me. I had this idea that if I gave myself hope, the possible loss would destroy me. With my second pregnancy, it took a herculean effort, but I did allow myself slivers of hope as I imagined and daydreamed with my partner what this little life growing in me could be. After my second loss, I found that rather than making me more vulnerable to the eventual grief I experienced, the hope I allowed myself to have gave me strength in the darkest moments after our second loss.
So, what I learned is how important it is to allow myself to hope. Dress rehearsing the worst anticipated scenarios did not better prepare me when they did eventually happen. But allowing myself happiness, joy, and moments of connection with my loved ones when I can gave me the fortitude and light I needed to survive the hardest days.
I have definitely changed as a person from going through our fertility journey. I found parts of myself that may have been here all along, but that I didn’t allow to see the light of day very often. I found myself advocating for my needs in a way I never had before. While this first came from a place of necessity, it eventually empowered me to continue to ask for what I need when and how I need it.
Pregnancy loss and infertility have a way of consuming our lives. We lose ourselves in not only the emotional pain, but also the appointments, the planning, and the mental and logistical preparation. It can be easy to lose ourselves, our identity, and all the beautiful facets of us that we need the most in moments of hardship. My encouragement is to remember that you are SO strong and have strengths that have been there all along and they can still serve you now. Use that indomitable sense of humor, that wondrous ability you have to see the bigger picture and/or allow yourself to dip into your passions, your hobbies, those pursuits you can just lose yourself in (mine was writing) to support and guide you during this time. You are and will be stronger than you know!