I have so much to say and yet I cannot find the words. I've been staring at this page for ten minutes, unable to figure out where I should begin. Life right now feels like a dream. A really, really good dream. You guys... I'm pregnant. We're having a baby! And she/he is due to join us around my late brother's birthday in October.
I'm still in complete shock that this is happening. At the end of last year Ben and I adjusted our expectations that we would be having a second child anytime soon. It wasn't until our twelve week scan last week, when I saw our tiny baby kicking its legs and wriggling around in my uterus, that it began to sink in. Because we didn't expect this to happen. Not right now, at least.
As I shared last year, we had a miscarriage in June. What I haven't shared until now was that we suffered another pregnancy loss in November. We flew to Hong Kong thinking I was five weeks pregnant, however a few days into our trip I had a bleed. Right away I knew what was happening and I was devastated. I knew the odds of having two miscarriages in a row were very slim, and so when I tested positive at four weeks I thought this was it, that I was growing our second child. But that pregnancy was never going to happen. A visit to an Obstetrician in Hong Kong confirmed I had experienced a "chemical pregnancy". Chemical pregnancies are outrageously common, in fact many individuals are unaware it has even happened, believing their period has simply come or was just a little late. The body recognises at the beginning that the pregnancy isn't a viable one and so a baby doesn't form. You do begin to release pregnancy hormones, however, and so if you test early enough, you can receive a positive pregnancy test. That's what happened to us. And two losses in a row felt unbearably cruel.
The second time around my physical recovery was fine but emotionally I felt pretty bruised. Aside from losing my older brother, miscarriage has been the hardest thing I've ever experienced. Thankfully, I had this really strong feeling that it was all just bad luck. And so while I was heartbroken, I was also ok. Though I am certain that if I had experienced the same sort of miscarriage in a row, if I had once again turned up to my first appointment to hear that the baby wasn't developing, I would not have felt as fine as I did. The fact that the losses were so different helped, I think.
In moving forward, we began saving for IVF, should it turn out that something other than bad luck was causing these miscarriages. If we went onto have a third miscarriage and require fertility investigations and assistance, I wanted to be able to get the ball rolling right away. Because miscarriage is quite common, they tend to only do those sort of investigations after your third, though I did have some blood tests in December to check on a few possible causes, all of which came back negative. Another thing I did to help me feel better was completely release any expectations that we would be pregnant sometime soon. At the end of the day, all I really wanted was to eventually have another child or two. The time-frame didn't matter. This was different to my first pregnancy loss, when I was desperate to fall pregnant again as soon as possible. Back then, I kept thinking of all the couples I knew who had conceived right away and I so hoped to be one of them. After November, I knew that wasn't going to happen and I began to truly feel ok about it.
I'm usually really open about my feelings and experiences, however I didn't mention our second loss on social media out of self-preservation. I shared our loss with friends and family and people I see in my everyday life, but I didn't talk about it on Instagram or the blog because I selfishly didn't want to hear peoples' stories. I felt in my heart that we were experiencing some bad luck, and I knew that if I were to read about other people's experiences, I may start to believe that their story was my story. Mentally, I didn't think that would do me any good, not while we were in a stage of limbo waiting to see how it would all unfold. I say all this knowing I am sharing my story now and that it may not serve others to read mine. I hope we can all just listen to our own hearts and do what feels right. That may look like unfollowing people who make us feel discontent and seeking out that which inspires gratitude, growth and joy.
Before I go any further, I'd like to talk about our experience with fertility assistance. Because I have shared quite openly about this topic in the past, I want to follow through and complete the story. As I have mentioned in previous posts, my menstrual cycle didn't return after I came off the pill. I spent two years trying to bring it back, however positively nothing worked. Despite many investigations, none of the medical or holistic health professionals I saw knew why this was the case, as the typical reasons for this kind of issue weren't present. And so it was decided that when Ben and I felt ready to begin trying for a baby, I would take Clomid - a medication that works to induce ovulation. In November of 2014 we started to get the itch for a bubba and were lucky enough to conceive Joan on the first round. When it came to trying for baby number two, despite intentionally spacing out my daughter's breastfeeds when she was around 13 months old and completely weaning around 18 months, my cycle didn't return, and so I started taking Clomid again. I knew we were insanely lucky to conceive Joan on our first go and I didn't assume it would be the case second time around, so we didn't delay trying. After our third round we got pregnant, and that is when we had our first miscarriage. My period actually returned five weeks after the D&C procedure, however I jumped straight back onto Clomid. Looking back, I wish I had waited, but I wanted to be pregnant again straight away and Clomid was all I knew. This time it took us four months to conceive, though in hindsight I can see that my body was absolutely not ready those first two months. Off we flew to Hong Kong and that is where I was faced with the reality that our journey to a second child was truly not going to be smooth sailing.
After our second pregnancy loss I decided to wait and see what my body would do. I knew I couldn't keep taking Clomid forever and I needed to be more patient. Four, five, six weeks passed and there was no sign of my cycle returning. But then, six and a half weeks after that bleed in a Hong Kong cafe toilet, I got my period. I was SO happy. Right away I bought an ovulation predictor kit (OPK), in the dreamy hope that I may be lucky enough to ovulate on my own. I assumed it wouldn't happen right away, that it may take some months to get things working optimally, and that was ok. But then I started to get signs that things might be flowing in the right direction. For those who also use OPKs, I got a couple of flashing smiley faces leading up to a freakin' BEAUTIFUL non-flashing smiley face on day 18 of my cycle. I was ecstatic. Upon telling my wonderful OB the news of my cycle returning and an apparent surge of hormones, she suggested I try acupuncture. Back in 2014 I had acupuncture in an attempt to bring my cycle back (I also drank the most disgusting herbal tonics *shudder*) and then I visited again during pregnancy when trying to get Joan to flip from the breech position. I didn't have successful outcomes with those two endeavours, however I was keen to go again for hormonal support. My lovely acupuncturist also provided me with emotional support and taught me more about tracking my temperature and cervical mucus patterns. We also got Ben's sperm tested again. Before I ever took Clomid back in 2014 he had a sample analysed, and then again after I started acupuncture. So much of the focus is placed upon the woman, so it was frankly refreshing to feel as though it wasn't all on me. Ben is totally fine with me sharing this information, by the way. We know how it can feel as though everyone except you is falling pregnant easily, when that is really not the case. These kind of issues are common and in many cases a crazy amount of patience is required to conceive in the first place (let alone conceiving a healthy baby), and that can be so hard! Hearing that it's not always easy can help you to feel ok with the process.
So, where was I? Ah, yes. The ovulation predictor kit told me I was going to ovulate somewhere around day 19-20 of my cycle. My cervical mucus confirmed this and these signs, together with a progesterone blood test later on in my cycle, indicated that I did indeed ovulate. On my own. Without medication. My body. Upon hearing this news, I felt like THE LUCKIEST PERSON IN THE WORLD. I was so proud of my body and was on cloud nine all week long. All that was left to do was wait. When taking Clomid, my luteal phase (the time between ovulation and your period starting) was bang on 12 days and this time around, in the lead up to my period, I experienced common premenstrual symptoms, which for me is cramping and tender breasts. But then the cramping changed. Things felt different. And the day before my expected period, which is when those sensations are usually most intense, the cramping wasn't there. I tried to not read too much into it. In the past I've been convinced I was pregnant only to have my period show up. But part of me just knew. Four days after my period was due there was still no sign of it, so I took a home pregnancy test. It was a Saturday and Ben was travelling back from Sydney, so only Joan and I were home. As soon as we woke, I went into the bathroom to pee on the stick while Joan danced around the room. Practically instantly two lines showed up, and for the rest of the morning I just kept smiling and nodding. I wasn't surprised with the result, as my gut told me I was pregnant, and yet at the same time I was in complete shock that it happened without medication and on our first month of trying. That's fairy tale stuff. After that I really felt like the luckiest person in the world. At this point we didn't know if we'd get past the first trimester, when the risk of miscarriage greatly reduces, but no matter what happened, to get pregnant on our own felt amazing.
Once more, we had to wait. Wait and see if I would bleed again. Wait and see if I didn't bleed, then if we'd see a growing baby at our first scan. Then wait and see if we'd make it to the twelve week ultrasound and see a healthy-looking baby. After the last two losses, we didn't assume we'd reach these milestones, but fairly early on I thought that perhaps we would. Around six weeks I was overcome with nausea, and unlike with my miscarriages, it was precisely how I felt when I was pregnant with Joan. I knew this didn't necessarily mean anything, as many individuals experience the same symptoms each pregnancy only to continue having losses, while others have completely different experiences with each of their pregnancies. But to feel as I did when I was pregnant with Joan - worse, even - was of immense comfort. And we did reach those milestones! We're now 13 weeks along and the baby is growing beautifully. Though we're still waiting. Not waiting for something to go wrong, but the reality is that you're never really out of the clear. Growing babies is a vulnerable process. However all signs point to a us holding our newborn baby in our arms in October. Another daughter! Or perhaps a son?! Like we did with Joan, we won't be finding out the sex until the birth. And that's only 6 months away. My goodness. After everything we've been through, life right now feels so, so sweet.
I know how hard it can be to see pregnancy announcements when it's not happening for you. Not everyone gets the fairy tale ending of a healthy pregnancy after multiple losses. Ben and I know we're lucky and do not for one second take it for granted. I look down at my belly and am overcome with gratitude that this seems to be happening. My thoughts are with everyone struggling with the grief of not yet or ever being able to have a child they so desperately want. It's really, really hard. And even during our relatively short time of trying and conceiving and losing, we received comments from well-meaning people who either weren't aware of the struggle we were going through or didn't realise they were being insensitive. I say this in the hope that we can all be aware of the fact that for many people, making babies isn't without its challenges and, moreover, it's an especially heart-wrenching kind of pain, one that requires compassion and, often, very few words beyond a gentle and sincere, "That must be so hard... If I can support you in any way, please let me know." I also appreciate it when people threw an "F***" in there, too.
I want to end this post by talking about Joan. Our daughter has been so loving and patient these past few months. Whenever I have a retching/dry-heaving attack, she'll tell me to "spit in the sink" then "Lie on the couch, Mum" or "Have some hot water". If I have to pause and deep breath through a wave of nausea while reading her a book, she usually (not always, let's be real) waits patiently until I'm ready to speak again. And she understands that Mummy sometimes needs to rest and cannot play. Though she knows that when this happens, there's a chance she'll get to watch our favourite Peter Rabbit show from the '90s, so she doesn't mind that one bit! I've also stopped by Grill'd a few times to buy us little tubs of hot chips, which we eat while driving in the car. She thinks that's the best. Oh and Joan chose the baby's womb name. If you recall my pregnancy with Joan, Ben decided we should call our baby Parsley until she was born, when we'd give her a real name. Well, this time around, after our very first scan at 8 weeks, we asked Joan if she wanted to choose a nickname for the baby while it was in my tummy. First she said "Charlie", but quickly changed her mind, stating "It should be a softer name" (I have no idea where she got that from) and, after about thirty seconds of deep thought she suggested the name "Croissant". Ben and I thought it was just perfect and so our baby is now referred to as Croissant. It's quite funny, not to mention heart-burstingly beautiful, to see Joan lovingly rub and kiss my growing belly while saying "Hello, Croissant".
Gee, after not knowing how to start this post I sure wrote a lot. It's been quite a time for us and it felt really good to get it all out. There'll be more soon but for now I'll sign off with a grateful heart.