One of the things that first attracted me to my husband was that he knew he wanted to be a father, and had a very definite idea of how he wanted to parent. When we got married, we started trying right away. Then, month after month, nothing. We were referred to a fertility clinic after a year, and started the usual tests, which didn’t turn up any issues. For the next two years we progressed through escalating medications and procedures until we finally did IVF. On our first transfer (a frozen one), three years after we started trying for a family, I got pregnant.
I was terrified that I would miscarry. We didn’t publicly announce the pregnancy until I was at 19 weeks. I finally felt safe. But at 23 weeks and 2 days gestation I was sent straight to the hospital from a routine OB appointment with severe pre-eclampsia. The doctor woke me in the middle of the night (when my husband wasn’t there) to tell me she didn’t think I would make it to viability (24 weeks at this hospital) and she strongly pressured me to accept only palliative care and say goodbye to the baby. The next day, the staff changed, and my new doctor was more positive. I made it to 26 weeks and 1 day, and our beautiful boy Cole was born, weighing 730 grams (1 lb 10 oz). For no reason except bad luck, he had terrible lungs, even for a preemie. I held him for the first time when he was 1 month old, dressed him in clothes when he was 2 months old, gave him a bath and picked him up from his crib without help when he was 3 months old, finally breastfed him at more than 4 months old. He was bright, expressive, and alert, and he never looked or acted as sick as he was. We spent 166 days (5 and a half months) with him in the NICU. It was a rocky, stressful journey, full of ups and downs. Finally, we needed one miracle too many, and he died without ever having seen the sun. There are many causes for his death, direct and indirect, but it is simplest to say it was complications of prematurity. Our last week was horrific and in the end his body and brain were completely overcome. We said goodbye to him, alone with him for the first time, and he died instantly on removing his breathing tube.
After spending 6 months at the hospital, surrounded by noise and action and staff and support, I was suddenly alone and without purpose. The isolation and loss of those relationships made my process of grieving for my son harder and more complex. To make matters worse, my husband and I had been on the same page through the infertility, my pregnancy and hospital stay, and our time in the NICU… but we found ourselves grieving in different and incompatible ways, unable to stand together or support each other.
Knowing that we still desperately wanted a family, we started trying again a few months after Cole died, unsure if we were really ready, but focusing on our long term goals. We had four embryos left, and transferred the first, only to have a very early miscarriage (a chemical pregnancy – first pregnancy test was positive, but a test a few days later showed the beta numbers going down). We may have been ready to start trying, even ready for a positive or a negative, but that rollercoaster was hard. We transferred another embryo as soon as possible – which was still a delay of a couple of months. This one was simply a negative. The third transfer was a pregnancy – at 6 weeks there was a heartbeat on the ultrasound, but at 8 weeks the baby had died, and I miscarried a few days after finding out. We couldn’t face using our last embryo that was from the same set as our son (his popsicle twin, in my mind), so we did a new retrieval cycle. This time we did PGS testing to hopefully prevent another miscarriage. We transferred the first embryo from that set (we had three after screening) in a cycle that turned into a mess of confusion, with me bleeding just days after the transfer, and finally having another early miscarriage. With this third miscarriage I officially fall into the ‘recurrent loss’ category. My doctor is searching for an answer that includes what happened with Cole, as the causes of preeclampsia are not understood. Clearly with IVF I can get pregnant, but so far that has only opened us up to loss after loss instead.
It has been over five years that we have been trying to take a baby home. My life is so different from how I imagined. We didn’t even start trying to conceive until several years after I had wanted my first, and then I just watched the years passing with nothing. I had imagined three children, nicely spaced out… and I can’t even bring home one living child after all these years. Sometimes I wonder how we can find the willpower, the energy, the money and the hope to move forward. But we still desperately want to parent a living child, and so somehow, we keep going.