In this emotional post, I talk about my miscarriage and also the exciting news that I am pregnant with my second child via IVF. This blog post is largely a rough transcription of my YouTube video vlog here called “2019: The Year I Lost Two Babies and Found My Rainbow”. If you prefer to watch me speak through this, I recommend watching the video here.
The Good News FIRST
I don’t know about you but I’m usually a bad news first, good news second kinda girl. However, since you can probably tell from the thumbnail and title, I want to just tell you now that I am pregnant! It has been a really hard long road trying to get here, and I’ve fantasized about writing this blog and sharing this news with all of you for SO LONG because it means I am out of first trimester miscarriage pending hell. Here I am. I can hardly believe it.
Now of course the purpose of this blog post is to share this amazing news, but also because I really want to tell you about my infertility & miscarriage journey. Not for sympathy of course, but because people don’t ever talk about infertility and miscarriage, and yet as many as 1/6 couples deal with miscarriage and infertility, so I’m hoping to give you some hope if you’re struggling alone.
My IVF Journey
My long time readers may know that my son was conceived via IVF after a difficult journey with infertility and PCOS. I was on the pill for 14 years and when I came off of it right after my wedding, I just never got a period. My first fertility doctor diagnosed me with PCOS, even though it was an atypical case that didn’t meet most of the criteria – I just didn’t ovulate and my ovaries were SLIGHTLY polycystic. In an effort to get me to ovulate, I started metformin and letrozole to get me to ovulate. When nothing worked (even at progressively higher doses), we moved onto IVF. I was really lucky to get a lot of healthy looking embryos after our retrieval, but when we tried to do a transfer, my uterine lining wouldn’t thicken. The uterine lining is that thing that shreds when you get a period. It’s also imperative that you get it to at least an 8 mm for the embryo to properly implant and stay put. Well I couldn’t get my uterine lining thicker than 5 mm- even on prolonged protocols and higher doses of estrogen to help out. My first embryo transfer resulted in a chemical pregnancy, which is like an early miscarriage. My second transfer, we could only get to 4.5 mm, but we went ahead with it anyway, and miraculously, my son, Baby E, took and stuck! So that was miracle number one.
my miscarriage story
In April when he turned one, I weened and stopped exclusively pumping, and immediately started up on IVF again. Our first cycle was cancelled right before transfer because of fluid in my lining, which was so devastating. So many needles, hormones, money, emotions and time goes into the process and each cycle, so it’s horrible when it all gets scrapped and you don’t even get the hope of a transfer. The next cycle we got my lining to 6, which was really “good” by my standards. That pregnancy took, and I got to 6.5 weeks along. Then, I woke up on a Saturday morning completely soaked in blood.
I remember, that the night before that Saturday, my husband and I were out for dinner and we did a little cheers to our pregnancy. But in my head I was thinking, “I actually don’t think I am pregnant anymore.” Something just felt off. Gone. Over. I don’t know why. I found out a few days later when we could confirm in an ultrasound that I did indeed lose that one too.
So we tried again. This time, I got another “good” 6 mm lining, and yet another exciting positive pregnancy test. But then that weekend, I remember going to the Science Centre with my son and feeling the most horrible lower back pain. I literally could barely walk. My husband said, “oh yay, that’s a pregnancy sign!” but I just knew something wasn’t right. The next morning I went for another test to make sure my beta was progressing, and found out I lost that one too, just a few days before we were supposed to leave for Italy. Devastated, we decided to just take a break in Italy to hit a hard reset, hoping that I would come back in a better emotional and physical state. While we were away, we opted to have our clinic genetically test all of our embryos (PGS) to help us rule out that we weren’t just accidentally transferring bad embryos. That process involved thawing, biopsying and then refreezing our embryos which came with a lot of risk, but also a really huge bill. I have always regretted not PGS testing when we first did our retrieval, but our doctor at the time really believed that at my age, it wasn’t going to be helpful and the benefits wouldn’t outweigh the risks. At this point, I strongly disagreed.
When we returned from Italy, we found out all of our embryos were genetically normal, which is actually really rare and absolutely amazing. What that told us was that it was very likely that my thin lining was the reason I couldn’t hold onto these pregnancies. My doctor suggested we try a new protocol that instead of taking estrogen drugs to thicken my lining, we would stimulate me to create my own estrogen (by giving me the same drugs on a lower dose that I took to grow my follicles), hoping that may be more favourable “natural” environment to thickening my lining. This was such a long painful cycle. I was in the clinic for blood tests, ultrasounds, and nurse visits every day for about 1-2 hours a day, then I would wait around all afternoon for the news that my numbers went up a bit, then went down a bit, then up a bit, then down a bit. We were chasing the hormones every day, and the whole process was totally physically and emotionally exhausting. It completely consumed my life. Eventually after weeks of this, my doctor called me to tell me it was time to pull the plug on this one. At this point she wasn’t sure what was going to work and we all started to think about surrogacy. She referred me to speak to the head of the clinic I’m at (Dr. Hannam) who deals with all of the surrogacy patients.
The idea of surrogacy was super scary for me and I absolutely felt a real sense of failure. But I went to that meeting eager to get moving on my next steps, because I knew that finding a surrogate could be a really long journey.
trying an experimental “miracle” ivf procedure
In my meeting with Dr. Hannam, we spent an hour going over all of the potential issues that could be going on. He agreed that with my age and situation, that the ratio of early miscarriages to live births was exceptionally low. Since we had ruled out a likely embryo issue with the PGS test, we both agreed that it was likely a lining issue, but possibly an immune issue as well.
While I am all for evidence based practice he asked me if I was willing to go into uncharted untested territory with him and at this point, I was desperate and would have done anything at all. We decided to give it one last shot, adding in a ton of experimental adjuncts and procedures to my already complicated regime. If you’re interested in hearing about the legitimate miracle experimental procedure that got me pregnant, leave me a comment below and I’ll do a whole post on my IVF protocol. But in short, he was suggesting an experimental procedure that had been done on 8 ppl in the world with no studies to back it up. I signed up in desperation to be number 9.
That experience deserves it’s own post, but to skip to the punchline, this miracle procedure got my lining to 8 mm, which was way thicker than my previous highest at 6 mm. I was honestly in shock. We transferred, I got a positive beta and everything was looking amazing. Until Christmas eve.
was christmas ruined?
The night before Christmas Eve I started having terrible back pain again. It was so bad I could barely stand or move for more than a few minutes so I spent most of that day laying on the couch. Christmas Eve morning, I woke up and I called my clinic concerned because I knew that every time I had miscarried, I had felt these back pains. My nurse assured me it was all normal and common, and to just continue with my drugs and enjoy my holiday. An hour after I got off the phone with them, I went to the washroom and saw blood in my underwear. Not just a little spotting, but a solid gush of blood. I started having PTSD of my earlier miscarriage that year and I immediately called my nurse crying. She told me to come in and we would do another blood test to make sure my HCG level was still rising correctly, as well as an early ultrasound to see what was going on.
I was only 5 weeks and a few days at this point, so it was too early to see a heart beat, but the ultrasound miraculously showed the yolk sac and the gestational sac, plus a subchorionic hematoma which is like a little bruise next to the uterus and can cause these scary bleeds. I was happy to see this, but still wanted the added reassurance from the blood test since I was supposed to fly to Florida the next day on Christmas. Unfortunately, since it was Christmas Eve (just my luck), all the staff went home early before I could get my HCG result. So in a panic to get some answers before I flew out of the country, I went down to a local life lab clinic and got my blood drawn there too since they post the results online by end of day.
I obsessively checked my online portal all day and all night, literally refreshing every 5 minutes to see if the “results pending” notification had been replaced with an actual value.
Meanwhile, I was so consumed by this stupid HCG issue plus the idea of Christmas morning and travelling the next day that I accidentally swallowed the progesterone drugs I had set out for myself that were supposed to be taken as a vaginal suppository. I didn’t know if I should take another two capsules the right way as a suppository, not worry about it, or if I totally f*cked everything up. I was literally freaking out. And of course, it’s 8:30 PM on freaking Christmas Eve. I’m frantically emailing everyone I know on my team including my doctor, nurse, after hours nurse, anyone, but no one is at the clinic to help me. I then tried posting in my Facebook mommy groups and infertility groups (everyone said “call your clinic!” – ugh duh, I did), and then I texted my naturopath. Collectively we decided the safest course of action is to take one more as a suppository in combination with the two orally taken, thinking it may equal the absorption of two suppositories. But really, who the F knows.
Anyway, knowing I had a busy day with my family in the morning and travelling in the evening, I eventually fell asleep. I woke up to pee at 12:05 AM and thought, hm I wonder if those blood test results are online. Now, the HCG number I needed based on my calculations for a healthy HCG progression was around 8700. When I opened my portal, the number on the report was just over 7000. I knew I was losing the pregnancy. I was crushed. I was so excited for this to be our little holiday surprise to our families, our little Christmas miracle, and now instead I would have to tell them horrible sad news, and then come back after my holiday to the stress of finding a surrogate and starting all over again. Not to mention, I was about to fly to States (and a Conservative one, at that), where none of my doctors have any authority to prescribe me the drugs to support the miscarriage. With my summer miscarriage I had to take pills to help ensure I expelled all of the tissue, and even here in Canada where abortion is very very legal, they were very hard to find. One pharmacist told me that people were buying them here, and selling them on the black market in the States where they’re unavailable. I was terrified of not having a life line if I needed help.
Sorry, getting worked up, so let’s do a recap – HCG was low. I was miscarrying. Christmas was ruined. Etc.
I woke up my husband and was crying like crazy all night long. Obviously, my insomnia remedies and strategies were not helping me out much. We decided to change our flight until we could see our doctor on boxing day to determine our next steps and any drugs I would need for the trip.
my christmas miracle
When I walked in that morning, tears in my eyes, the nurse said, “well your HCG is perfect, 8900!”
I was shocked.
How can this even be possible?! Why were the numbers so so different?!
She explained that different labs use different solvents to process the blood so you cant compare betas from two clinics, it has to be apples to apples to be accurate. In other words, I was still pregnant. Very pregnant. Perfectly pregnant. It was literally a Christmas miracle.
My Rainbow Baby
The day we landed in Florida, it had rained and I went out to the beach to see an amazing full rainbow. In fact it was a double rainbow, it was so magnificent. That’s when I thought to myself, “finally, this hell is over, I’m on the other side, this is my rainbow baby”.
And that brings me here. I’ve had weekly ultrasounds both in Florida and Toronto, and everything has shown baby is measuring perfectly. I just did the early genetic screening so I’m awaiting those results, and then next after that will be the anatomy scan. Obviously I’ll be nervous until this kid is out but my mama gut is telling me this ones for keeps. I’ve been pretty nauseous this pregnancy and really crazy tired. But I just got to ween off my prednisone, estrogen and progesterone, so I am feeling so much better.
To close off this long winded post, I guess aside from me telling some of the trolls out there to not body shame me as I get bigger because hello, I’m growing a human, I want to give some hope to the people out there who are struggling with infertility, miscarriage, and their dream of growing their family. I know how absolutely heart breaking this process is, so if you’re struggling, feel free to reach out.
Also, if you have any questions or any topics you want me to explore with regards to infertility, IVF, miscarriage, pregnancy, supplements, drugs, anything, please leave me a comment. I will be doing a lot more of these posts and updates over the next little while so definitely stay tuned for that.
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Have you or someone you known struggled with miscarriage or infertility? Let’s keep the comments respectful and support one another here!
Updated on July 29th, 2020
Abbey Sharp is a Registered Dietitian (RD), regulated by the Ontario College of Dietitians. She is a mom, YouTuber, Blogger, award winning cookbook author, media coach specializing in food and nutrition influencers, and a frequent contributor to national publications like Healthline and on national broadcast TV shows.