(1) ABOUT

In the spring of 2011, I became pregnant at the age of 37, and elated. I bought a journal and began to fill it with every symptom that my body experienced and  every thought that came to mind. I wrote gushing letters to our future child. I told my friends and my parents. I felt lucky to be alive. I had had the desire to become a mother since my early twenties (and maybe even before that), and I had finally found the man with whom I wanted to be parents. We were working on our degrees—my MSW in Clinical Practice, his doctorate in psychology—and we would soon be beginning our new careers and new family just as I’d hoped we would.

Except that’s not what happened at all. Seven weeks later, all my midwife could see on the ultrasound was a gestational sac. No fetal pole. “It’s blighted ovum,” she explained, as I sobbed, and as my fiancé quietly put the video camera away, out of sight. “It’s just a fluke thing,” she said. “I know: it’s a sucky feeling. But let’s start trying again right away.”

Sucky feeling?

Right away?

Imagine that you are about to dive into beautiful blue waters you have been wanting to dive into for decades and as you are airborne, mid-dive, those waters turn into a hard, cracked desert. Shock. Disbelief. Pain upon impact. Everyone else you know is swimming somewhere. You are here, rolling around in pain, alone. You have taken an unexpected trip to your worst nightmare.

I didn’t start trying again right away because I needed a little time to heal. But as soon as we did start trying again, three months later, I got pregnant. Our joy this time was at times heartfelt, at times measured. When ultrasounds and numbers showed that it was going to be another miscarriage, I took a drug to induce it (so as not to have to undergo another D & C, risking complications) and experienced the worst physical pain of my life, waves and waves of labor cramps that lasted for seven hours. I developed the classic symptoms of PTSD afterward, along with the symptoms of Major Depression and bereavement.

Doctors encouraged us to keep trying, and so, after another three-month break, we did. They said that I was most likely losing the pregnancies because of age-related chromosomal problems in the eggs. So we tried fertility treatments (stims + IUIs) to help me ovulate more than one egg, with the hopes of kicking out a greater variety, including “good” eggs.

At the same time, I was going to yoga religiously and learning about Buddhism and mindfulness. (As you progress through my blog posts, you will see what a spiritual journey this has turned out to be.) I was also learning that I could continue to give my patients excellent care even while going through a personal crisis. I was realizing that if I could forget myself and my needs during a time like this in order to focus on caring for others, this career path was profound. The work forced me to take care of myself and process my thoughts and feelings–if I didn’t do that, I literally could not help others do the same. What other job would demand so much of me and give me so much back in return?

In the spring of 2012, I conceived quickly and miscarried again.

And again.

In the summer, I conceived by accident, really, and miscarried again.

I have had, since the spring of 2011, five miscarriages. [Addendum: Now six.]

I started this blog at the time we were in the midst of deciditng what to do next (after miscarraige #4).

The Unexpected Trip has been a form of narrative therapy for me. As soon as I started to write posts, I felt a sense of relief at having a place where I could put all of my thoughts and feelings and deliberations. “My emotions are bigger than my body,” I have often explained to my fiancé, paraphrasing the artist Louise Bourgeois, as I have trashed a lamp or barreled my fists against the wall or sobbed for hours, until I couldn’t see through what I began to call my “Rocky Balboa” eyes.

The Unexpected Trip is also a way for me to access (to use the parlance of my field) the defense mechanisms of sublimation and intellectualization. We often think of the defenses negatively, but sublimation and intellectualization can be used for positive change. I am sublimating my rage, sadness, and confusion by channeling them into this socially acceptable format. I am intellectualizing my experience by doing a great deal of research on the treatment of women who experience infertility/miscarriage—analyzing stats and studies and assessing screening measures and interventions, trying to gain a sense of control over this unexpected chaos.

In other words, I am  becoming a clinical expert on the saddest and most traumatizing series of events that has ever happened in my life.

At the same time, I am also learning that control is not, ultimately, possible.

I want The Unexpected Trip to be a resource for women who are struggling, as I am, with the psychological effects of infertility/miscarriage. Maybe we can use the resources and research I have gathered here to inform our health care providers in how to treat us. I’ve created pages for guiding our friends and family, too, in what to say to us, what not to say to us, and how to listen to us and offer support.

Whatever my fiancé and I decide to do next, and however we end up creating our family, I know that in my future career, I want to help women who are enduring this unexpected trip.

The responses I have gotten to this blog so far have made me realize how important it is for us to reach out to one another and connect. Women have written such moving and intimate emails to me—about their nightly dreams in which they miscarry; the reunions they must attend that are filled with the children; the dogged efforts they are making to juggle yoga, fertility treatments, insurance claims, adoption conferences, IVF classes, and their strained marriages. Their responses make it all the more clear to me what I want The Unexpected Trip to be: a wellspring of support, for myself and my sisters.

*Addendum: Now we are moving on to donor eggs, most likely frozen donor egg IVF at RBA.

*We tried DE IVF with frozen donor eggs at RBA once, and miscarried a normal karyotype male fetus. We have little idea what is going on.

*Our second attempt at DE IVF at RBA has been successful! At the time of this typing, I am 11 weeks along, with no complications. We are utterly grateful, relieved, and filled with joy.

See also my first post, A Beginning

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10 Comments

  1. Hi there, I’m nominating you for a sunshine award :). Thanks for being so open and sharing your experiences here, even when things are really tough. I’m hoping things look up for you soon.

    Reply
  2. I discovered your blog when you commented on a recent post by Project Sweet Pea, and am so glad to have found you. I, too, am going down the DEIVF route and use (or try!) mindfulness as a coping mechanism. (My blog is password-protected, so feel free to email me for the password.)

    I just got here but will ‘enjoy’ reading your story. I’m sure we have plenty in common…

    Lauren x

    Reply
  3. I just stumbled across your blog and really find the resources and information you’ve provided here fascinating. Thank you for providing such intelligent, thoughtful, and sensitive writing. I am so sorry for your losses, but really admire the way you’ve navigated your journey. I have had two losses and have also spent a lot of time trying to understand the psychological effects of miscarriage and how to make sense of it all. So happy for you and your much overdue joy. Best wishes!

    Reply
  4. Elizabeth

     /  September 4, 2014

    Hello. I found your blog after googling Dr Goldschlag (who I am seeing now) and quickly became completely absorbed. Very excited to follow your pregnancy. So wonderful to see such a happy outcome.

    Reply
  5. I am so sorry this has been such a long journey for you!I hope everything is good now! It sounds like you are well. My daughter in law suffered 2 miscarriages and it has been devastating. Anyway my thoughts are with you!

    Reply
  6. anon

     /  July 1, 2016

    Hi I have been following your blog from last 6 months…around the same time I started visiting RBA for IVF. I have gone through 2 cycles of retrieval but couldn’t secure a blast for myself. Dr. Toledo is suggesting going Donor route.
    I am going to be 40 soon and have a 6 year old Son. Looks like I waited too long for second one.

    I have so many queries about Egg Donor, RBA and unfortunately these doctors, clinics don’t have time to sit and discuss all this with you.

    Since, you have already traveled through this, I was wondering if we could have a quick discussion to answer some of basic and non-so-basic queries….

    Reply
    • Sure! But it’ll have to be in a couple of months unfortunately –so sorry, but life is super hectic. Feel free to contact me then!

      Reply

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