What I Lived, What I Learned, & Where YOU Can Start {Infertility Awareness}

:: What I Lived ::

It was finally time! After almost three years of marriage, we were ready to expand our family. We took a fabulous trip to Greece and Italy, and we were ready to hit the ground running. For my husband and I, it was never a matter of if we wanted children but when and how many. Naively, we both assumed it would happen immediately. After three months of “winging” it, my control freak side took over. I knew I needed to get more methodical with this whole TTC thing. My dear friend Sarah had been telling me for at least two months that I need to read Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler. I finally complied and read the entire book in one sitting. I was on my way to becoming a “charting” guru, and three months later I was pregnant with our first child. My pregnancy was absolutely wonderful, and we were blessed with a beautiful baby girl on September 11, 2009.

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By the time she was nine months old, we were ready to try again. Again, I, for some strange reason, assumed it would happen immediately. After six long months of intense charting, I was pregnant again with what I assumed would be our second September baby. The thought of a miscarriage never even crossed my mind. We were so excited to go for our first ultrasound. I had visions of a round belly and bringing Sloane in for the later ultrasounds to see pictures of her new baby brother or sister. Those dreams came quickly to a halt the second I saw that empty black hole on the screen. The look on the ultrasound tech’s face said it all. Many of you know exactly what look I am talking about. It was the absolute look of pity. The next question out of her mouth was, “Are you sure you have your dates right?” “It could just be too early to see anything.” “Sometimes you can’t tell this early if you are even a few days off.” In my head I was screaming, “Lady, I know the exact second I became pregnant, okay?! I am an expert charter after all!”

The beginning of the roller coaster started at that ultrasound appointment. I was then scheduled to measure my HCG levels and have a follow up ultrasound in two weeks. My HCG continued to rise like everything was great. The amazing thing that I wasn’t fully aware of until this experience is that HCG is what makes you feel awful in those first 13 weeks. The comfort of “if you feel sick then everything must be fine with the pregnancy” went out the window. Sadly, the HCG continued to rise, but the next two ultrasounds only showed an empty gestational sac. The final diagnosis was missed miscarriage or blighted ovum. I was scheduled for a D&C at 12 weeks, and my heart was broken.

Two months later, I was pregnant again. I was confident that the blighted ovum experience was exactly what my doctor said it was, just a fluke. Unfortunately, we very quickly were back on the same path of an ultrasound showing an empty gestational sac. Again, my HCG continued to rise, but no baby developed. Finally, at around 11 weeks I had my second D&C. Within two weeks of the D&C, I had an appointment with a Reproductive Endocrinologist. I knew my miscarriages were no longer a fluke, but I had no idea the road we were about to travel in order to find out the “problem.”

To say my experience with the RE was overwhelming would be the understatement of the year. Twenty-six vials of blood later after my first consultation, it was obvious I had jumped down the rabbit hole. I found out things about my genetic make up that I absolutely never wanted to know; however, many of those things were absolutely necessary to get me to the end of my rainbow. Ultimately, I was diagnosed with a “minimal” thyroid problem, a “non-significant” folic acid disorder, and the big diagnosis of POF {PREMATURE OVARIAN FAILURE}. I felt those words were being screamed at me every time I heard or read that diagnosis. Even though I have always relied heavily on my Christian faith, I was in such a dark and desperate place at that point. I really didn’t know what to do about being told I essentially have limited eggs left that are likely unhealthy.

In my professional career, I strongly advise against Dr. Google. However, I was desperate for additional information and support that I did not feel the “traditional” medical community could provide to me. I devoured any information I could on ways to naturally improve egg quality and hormonal balance. I began taking several herbal supplements that are the favorites of those in the TTC community. I also started to investigate this “minimal” thyroid problem. It turns out that my thyroid problem is far from minimal, and I thankfully began to see an Endocrinologist that has successfully gotten that part under control. Months went by, and I was desperate to get pregnant again. After seven months of trying naturally, we decided to try an IUI. I was not given much hope for success with IUI due to something called low AMH, which goes along with my POF {yes, you do start to feel like you are playing the alphabet game}. I met with three different REs within the same practice, and they all agreed that I would likely need to do IVF to get pregnant and possibly even need to do IVF with donor eggs. This was a tremendous blow to my heart. I just wanted a baby. I just wanted a sibling for my sweet Sloane. I just wanted to be normal and whole and unbroken.

After the IUI did not work, I was devastated. I distinctly remember sitting in my closet on my knees praying and crying like I never have before. At that moment, I knew that I simply had to let it go. {Too bad Frozen wasn’t out yet, or I would have had a theme song.} I had to allow God to direct my path instead of me trying to control the outcome. I continued to take multiple herbal supplements, and I began acupuncture. Acupuncture was extremely cathartic for me. For some reason, it helped me to let go of the anxiety, stress, feelings of inadequacy, feelings of jealousy for friends that easily got pregnant with healthy children, and of the loss that I felt for the two pregnancies that did not come to fruition. I feel like I finally allowed myself to heal. Three months after the failed IUI and almost ten months after my last D&C, I got a positive pregnancy test the day after Mother’s Day 2012. Amazingly, I had a peace in my heart that we would one day hold the precious baby that I was carrying. Words cannot express our happiness when our sweet miracle daughter was born on January 22, 2013.

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:: What I Learned ::

The journey of pregnancy loss and secondary infertility has taught me more than I could have every imagined, and I feel I am better off because of what we went through. I have learned that a support system means everything. Without my faith in God, and the support of my husband, family, and friends, I think our heartbreaking journey could have ended very differently. I know the answers that worked for me do not work for everyone, and my situation was fairly “quick” compared to others that have struggled through this. However, I think the principles of faith, hope, and love shine through for anyone going through infertility and pregnancy loss. One of the themes for RESOLVE, the national infertility association, is that no one should have to walk this journey alone. I cannot stress the importance of finding a support system if you are the one going through this or the importance of being part of that support system if you know someone dealing with infertility/pregnancy loss. Sometimes it is easy for friends and family to ignore the elephant in the room because they don’t know how to approach it. My advice is to be open about your support for the men and women in your life that may be struggling with issues of fertility and pregnancy loss. For those of you going through this, my advice would be to never give up, don’t take no for an answer, and don’t be afraid to think outside of the box. Anything is possible and miracles do happen!

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:: Where You Can Start ::

These are resources I found helpful in my journey. In no way am I advocating anyone do anything that goes against medical advice. I think a consultation with a physician is always the safest place to start. I simply found these resources empowering tools that were extremely informative on issues that I was trying to understand. There are multiple support groups, particularly on Baby Center, that cover just about any issue anyone could be facing regarding infertility/pregnancy loss. It was the advice and recommendations of many of those strangers that helped me tremendously when I was trying to make sense of my issues.

Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Tony Weschler

BabyCenter

Natural Fertility Info

The Axelrad Clinic

Fertility Friend

In honor of National Infertility Awareness Week, we are dedicated to raising awareness and educating our community about the varying types of infertility and the many options available.  Our hope is that this series will open your eyes and inspire you in a really dynamic way, so please join us as real local moms open up and share their stories all throughout the week.  To read more, please click here.

Shala BioAbout Shala S.

Shala is a Louisiana native that moved to Houston in 2005. Although she and her husband never imagined Houston would be their permanent home, she couldn’t imagine living anywhere else. She has two precious little girls, and she is proud to be raising them as Texas LSU Tigers.

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4 Responses to What I Lived, What I Learned, & Where YOU Can Start {Infertility Awareness}

  1. Jessica and Sarah
    Jessica and Sarah April 22, 2014 at 10:09 am #

    Way to put it out there Shay!!! So proud!

  2. Ashley T. April 22, 2014 at 10:12 am #

    Thank you for sharing! Your faith is evident and inspiring.

  3. Nicole April 22, 2014 at 2:20 pm #

    This is so many things… Lovely, heartbreaking, inspiring. Thank you for sharing. You are so strong and brave and beautiful. I’m a lucky girl to have you in my life.

    P.S. I adore that picture of you and Sloane. You are radiating with joy, love and pride.

  4. Shala S. April 23, 2014 at 9:13 am #

    Thanks everyone!

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