Weathering the Storm to Finding My Rainbow
Hello there, sweet friend, I hope what I am about to share brings you some comfort, or maybe even some perspective. My story will take you through personal experiences with infertility, miscarriage, and everything in between.
I will go back in the archives of my memories, and share where I believe my private battles began. The summer before I went away to college, I experienced a lot of trauma. I’m not referring to high school drama, but someone I knew tragically passed away in an accident. I had always been such a confident and happy person, but that summer rocked me to my core. In result, I had a roller coaster ride of highs and lows my freshman/sophomore year of college. This resulted in me developing an unhealthy relationship with food, and barely weighing 85 pounds soaking wet. I am only 5’2, but that low of a weight did not look attractive on my athletic build. Being anorexic made me physically and emotionally exhausted, and generally unpleasant to be around. I distinctly remember being so angry when my parents made me see a dietician, and a doctor, about my problem. They were right though, I was not healthy. It is not normal to go without having your period for over a year and a half, especially at the age of 20. Despite my parents seeking professional help for me, I continued to ignore the advice I had been given. I think that’s when my mom decided to pull out the “big guns”, and I don’t know if she even remembers saying it, but one day she finally said “do you want to have babies?!”. She went on to say, “because if you do, you can’t keep doing this to your body”.
After my mom made those comments to me in the car that day, so many years ago, it made me think about my childhood. I was never the little girl that dreamed about her wedding day, I dreamed about having a family, and being a mom. To think I was sabotaging my chances of having my own children, finally made me realize I needed to make some serious life changes. Fast forward a few years, and I am in a relationship with the man that, in my eyes, saved me. I needed him more than he will ever know. He loved me, all of me, and made me feel like I was always enough. He loved me, his family loved me, and they made me feel so incredibly good about myself. I think finding him helped keep me from relapsing, which oftentimes happens to people who are anorexic. When he asked me to marry him on Valentine’s Day of 2014, there was never an easier question to answer. I was so elated to get married, start my teaching career, and start our family.
Upon getting married, I was so ready to start having babies! My husband was on a slower track than I was, which seems to be par for the course for our relationship! I can sometimes be impulsive (I once brought home a toy poodle when he was on an all guys boating trip), and I think it was good that we enjoyed each other for the first few years of marriage. I will defend him and mention, we were young when we got married, so we had time on our side. Also, when I say we weren’t “trying” to conceive, I should clarify, I was never on birth control, or even charting! One might think I was hoping for an accident, sorry babe! After a few years, we never had any pleasant surprises, and one day he finally decided he was as “ready” as I was. I was so excited to start our family, but the months passed, and negative pregnancy tests became a household garbage item, to my dismay.
All the while, it seemed like the only thing I EVER saw in my Facebook and Instagram feed were baby announcements. Everywhere I turned people were announcing or expecting their bundle of joy, but where was mine? I think this was one of the hardest parts of my journey, because every time I saw someone’s post I got this sinking, punch in the gut, knife through my heart feeling, and then I would feel like the scum of the earth for having those emotions! I would think to myself, “what is wrong with me, I am so happy for this beautiful family, but why do I feel this way”?! I can honestly say I was happy for people and their joy, I just wished I could have a definitive answer of if/when I would be able to share my own news. I honestly was not able to even look at social media sometimes. I think it’s good to pinpoint triggers in ourselves, and avoid them, which was what I did. In the meantime, we continued to try, and I handled my stress the best way possible, by running.
I took up running in college, and started doing half marathons. After college, I decided to get more serious, and completed a full marathon. While we were trying, I was actually in the midst of training for the Chicago Marathon. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that extreme exercise can cause irregular cycles, so I decided to see my OB. She confirmed that I was of a healthy weight, and that it was most likely the running that was changing my cycles. After my appointment, we decided that it probably would not be feasible for me to get pregnant, until after the marathon. The marathon came and went, my normal periods returned, and still no positive pregnancy tests. They did blood work, and they discovered I was having anovulatory cycles. I wasn’t thrilled about the news, but I figured, there’s medication for that, right? I took Clomid for four months, to no avail, and finally decided I should go and see a specialist.
Once I started seeing a specialist, they made me feel a new sense of confidence in the whole process. The first thing a specialist asks before treatment is how long have you been trying, because true infertility means at least a year or more. We explained our journey thus far, and the doctor decided he would accept me as a patient. The first thing he did was suggest I have an HSG test. This test would check to see if my fallopian tubes were open, and confirm that my issues were not stemming from my anatomy. The test confirmed that it was not my anatomy, and they also tested my husband as well, (which he was thrilled about, not!) to make sure it was not an issue on his end. Once this was all cleared, my doctor upped my Clomid to 100mg, sent me home with an Ovidrel shot, and we scheduled a date for me to have an IUI, which stands for intrauterine insemination.
The whole experience was exciting and scary, but I already felt the dread of “what if” it still doesn’t work this time. The thing about timelines, and trying to conceive, is that your body doesn’t wait for a “convenient” time. I had to give myself the Ovidrel injection at work, which at the time I was a Kindergarten teacher. One afternoon I had to have my assistant to take my students out to recess so I could give myself the shot, which made me feel extremely strange. To add to the pressure/stress, my husband travels for work, and was conveniently suppose to be gone when I ovulated. The thought of missing another cycle about gave me a nervous breakdown, so it was not even a question about whether we would go ahead with the IUI or not.
The IUI worked, and in February of 2016, I finally saw the news I had been waiting for, a positive pregnancy test! You would think this would be a sigh of relief, but it was only the beginning of the worry. I went in to have bloodwork to confirm the pregnancy, and this is when they told me that my HCG levels were not doubling like they should. To say I was worried would be an understatement, I think it consumed my every thought. At 6 weeks, they had me come in for my first ultrasound, and I was so nervous, but that day I saw and heard the most beautiful thing, two heartbeats, twins! I was filled with so many emotions, and all of them being some derivative of happiness! As the next few days passed, I continued to fear I would lose one of the babies, I am not sure why I kept thinking about it, but I did. I almost felt like I couldn’t enjoy being pregnant because I felt like it was too good to be true.
On March 5th, I went in for my 8 week ultrasound, and I just had a sick feeling, and it wasn’t just the morning sickness. It was as if I had a sixth sense that something was wrong. When they did the ultrasound, there was only one heartbeat, and only one baby. The other baby had vanished. Apparently with twins, it is not unlikely for one to pass before 12 weeks, and their sack is absorbed by the other baby, as if they were never there. It happens to 1 in 4 women pregnant with twins, and I was one of the unfortunate 25%. Many moms that this happens to simply never even knew there was another baby, because they do not experience any symptoms. Many women do not have an ultrasound before 12 weeks either, unless they have extenuating circumstances, like I had. In that moment, my heart sank. I hate to admit it, but the joy of finally getting pregnant dissipated, and all I felt was grief. I remember being embarrassed, and now when I think back,I have no idea why? While tears silently streamed down my face, I can still remember my doctor handing me tissues, and I wanted to hide the fact that I was so upset. My hormones were going crazy, and I could not help but dwell on the baby I had already made so many plans for and his/her future.
This part of the journey was so difficult, and what made it even more difficult was that I felt like I could not share my miscarriage with anyone. I have no idea why I felt that I had to keep it private, but I did. I almost felt ashamed, as if I couldn’t do or fulfill what I was suppose to as a mom. I also didn’t want to make other people feel uncomfortable when I told them I was pregnant, but “oh by the way it was twins, and I lost one of the babies”. So I just carried my burden silently. It hurt, physically, to tell people my news and have them be so excited for me when my heart was still aching. I also felt incredibly selfish and ungrateful because some women would KILL to just get pregnant! And here I was sulking and mourning, because I lost one of my babies. Shouldn’t I be thanking God that I was given one at all?! I think the most shameful feeling I experienced was the thought, “how is this fair, one baby gets to live and the other one doesn’t? Why should this baby get to live and not the other?”. I felt anger, and then denial, all of the emotions that are coupled with grief. These emotions are so irrational and raw.
Despite not openly talking about my miscarriage with the world, I did have the blessing of being able to share my journey with my mom and sisters. Not only did my mom have miscarriages, but more than one of my sisters did as well. One of my sisters had a miscarriage at 18 weeks, which was horrific. My sisters helped me so much during this painful time, and they never treated me like it “wasn’t a big deal”, because my miscarriage was early on in the pregnancy. I hate that, absolutely hate it, when people act like you can shake it off because it was “barely developed” or a “ball of cells”. This is so false, my baby had a heartbeat, was a life, and will always hold a place in my heart.
Now I can say, with so much joy in my heart, I had a wonderful rest of my pregnancy, despite the miscarriage. Feeling the kicks, flutters, and constant need to pee, haha, were the best months of my life up until that point. I loved every minute of being pregnant, and giving birth. It was life changing in the best way possible. My baby girl is about to be one year old, and I honestly do not know how I ever lived without this sweet angel in my life. They call a baby after a loss a “rainbow baby”, and Giada is exactly that, she is my rainbow after the storm. If you are trying to conceive, or experienced a loss, I hope you can take some comfort in knowing that you are not alone.
If you would like to continue to follow Emilee’s journey (and see the cutest photos of her family) you can do so by following her on Instagram @emileevales