the first doctor i could trust

“You’ve been through a lot,” were the first words she said to us. Despite hearing over and over from respected Los Angeles doctors that all we needed to do was just try again, I had decided to see a fertility specialist. Her response to us was soothing. She understood, as opposed to the shrug we received from the perinatologist, followed by his telling us there was nothing else we could do. Making us feel silly for even asking.

We went over all the testing that we should do. My regular OBGYN had tested us for basic chromosomal problems and blood clotting disorders, but our fertility doctor would fill in all the holes and do a full fertility workup. She decided I needed a saline ultrasound, so she could check for uterine abnormalities. I had asked my OBGYN just a few weeks prior if I should have something like that done. She told me no. The likelihood was low that we would find anything wrong. I had hesitantly believed her. But when my fertility doctor suggested it I eagerly agreed. I wanted to test everything.

While performing the saline ultrasound she discovered I had a uterine septum. A uterine septum causes infertility and miscarriage, she explained. An embryo has trouble implanting on a septum, and if it does, it will not get proper blood supply and you will miscarry. And even if you don’t miscarry and the pregnancy progresses, the fetus is likely to run out of room to grow, and in that case you will have preterm labor. In other words, it needed to be out, and I needed surgery to make that happen.

When she gave me the news I felt an overwhelming urge to cry. Not because I needed surgery. I didn’t care. I knew it was a good thing that they found a likely culprit. No, I wanted to cry because I had been told by 4 doctors already to just try again. Told not to see a fertility specialist. Told that there was no more testing we needed to do. Had I listened, I realized in that moment, we would have been staring straight in the face of loss #3.

I had felt so alone after my second loss. Alone in the research I was trying to do, alone in trying to solve the medical mysteries that so often define recurrent pregnancy loss. I could never trust my doctors, feeling like they were basing their recommendations on probabilities and likelihoods, rather than the thorough, thoughtful approach I was hoping for. Antiquated medical advice based on limited research. I was looking for someone to help me do everything in my power to avoid another loss. But I was constantly skeptical of every doctor, and the generic advice I constantly received.

In working with my fertility doctor, for the first time I stopped feeling alone. I started to trust. I knew she couldn’t predict the future, and I knew there was always a chance of more losses, but she was my advocate. She wanted me to succeed. I finally felt like I could put down Google.

embracing the dark

“Just think positive.” Well meaning advice I heard over and over, but those words made me cringe, grating on my grieving heart. I grew tired of that cliche during my short-lived pregnancy following my first miscarriage. Feeling positive was a risky place. How could I let myself feel positive, only to feel soul crushing disappointment if the pregnancy didn’t last? Wouldn’t feeling positive make the fall that much harder? I thought that if I could somehow manage my feelings enough I could make the grief of a second miscarriage less devastating. I wavered between not wanting to get my hopes up, counting on my inner pessimist to keep me grounded, and daydreaming of our baby, full of hope that the next ultrasound would show us exactly what we wanted to see. Feeling negative wasn’t going to make another loss any easier, I decided every once in a while, and would slip into another daydream of when we would get to make our pregnancy announcement.

Once I miscarried a second time, I still received the same advice. “Positive thoughts! Third times a charm!” It was true, when you’re carrying the grief from a fresh loss, choosing a positive outlook makes you feel like a strong person. That this blow wasn’t enough to rock your faith in the world, that it couldn’t take you down. But somehow getting that advice from others made me feel like they didn’t truly understand what I was going through. That they didn’t get how hard it is to trust that you will get your healthy baby one day. Or what it’s like to harbor the increasing fear that something could be truly wrong, that this could happen again and again, and perhaps ultimately end with childless arms.

In my darker moments, I would confide in those closest to me that I did not think I would end up ever being able to have a child.  And of course, everyone told me that wasn’t true. I would have a child. But just because they thought that didn’t mean I wasn’t embroiled in my own dark grief, believing that I was facing the reality of motherhood lost.

Eventually, I came to feel positive and hopeful, with only sporadic pockets of fear and pessimism. But I couldn’t be told. I didn’t want to feel like everyone else thought all it takes is positive thinking to overcome this battle. I knew it took embracing all the negative emotions first. All the fear, the anger, the despair and the grief that have led me to my darkest place and shaken me so hard I wanted to explode. I needed to sort through these feelings, let them have their place and time, and then when the time is right put them away, and breath in the positive thinking that would ultimately carry me through this.