As many of you know, we had quite a rollercoaster of a ride to get to this point, which makes us even more grateful. Today, I want to start sharing more details about our fertility journey in the hopes that it’s helpful if you find yourself on this path, too.
I always meant to write this in phases as I went through it, but I had a lot of resistance to putting pen to paper while I was still “in the thick of it”.
Now that we just announced our pregnancy and I feel like I’m coming up for air about the whole thing, I feel ready to get all of this out there.
My intention in writing this is that it helps someone out there who is navigating a similar path. We often don’t ‘expect’ to find ourselves on this path, and it can be overwhelming from every angle to figure out how to move through it. When I was going through this, reading about other peoples’ journeys sometimes helped me, and I hope that this provides you with hope, knowledge, and strength if this is what you’re moving through, too.
This is PART ONE of our Fertility Journey: from what I did to prepare for “trying” through deciding to go to a Fertility Doctor
BEFORE “TRYING” — FALL OF 2019
Our wedding was set for January 2020, and Ryan and I always knew that we wanted to start trying for a baby pretty soon after we got married. We both just felt “ready” to have kids and didn’t question this very much. Plus, as someone who got married a bit later than her friends, I felt the dreaded age pressure weighing on me and knew that if I already felt ready for a family, I wanted to get going sooner rather than later because of my age (btw I HATE the age pressure and think its one of the worst things we, as women, deal with).
Lurking beneath the surface, I always had this piece of me that was scared of my fertility. What goes on “down there” is such a mystery to most of us as women and it felt like this distant part of me that I knew very little about.
Am I fertile?
Do all my parts work?
Have I damaged my fertility because of some choices I’ve made up until this point or things I’ve put my body through? (for me, having struggled with dieting and binge eating for a decade, I was always concerned that this messed me up in some way)
Am I ageing on the inside faster than I should be?
^these are some of the thoughts that simmered beneath the surface for me.
So, in late 2019, in the months leading up to our wedding, I started trying to set myself up in the best way possible to be able to successfully get pregnant shortly after our wedding. I already knew a decent amount about fertility, with my health and nutrition background, but also started talking to friends and doing some research on what I could do to prepare.
Here are the steps I took before we got married:
- I started going to a fertility acupuncturist in San Francisco (where we lived at the time) once a week, for a few months leading up to our wedding. Acupuncture has been proven to have a really positive affect on fertility, plus with all the wedding stress, I figured taking an hour per week to de-stress was good for me overall.
- We did a basic fertility workup through my normal OBGYN. This included: I had a transvaginal ultrasound to check for polyps and fibroids (came out normal). They ran my AMH and FSH numbers through a blood test which are both indicators of ovarian reserve (came out normal). Ryan did a semen analysis because I know people who had fertility issues due to male factor (sperm issues) and we wanted to make sure we were okay on that end (came out normal). Lastly, we did a genetic carrier screening through our OBGYN to test if Ryan and I were carriers of any genetic disorders (I was a carrier of a few which is normal, Ryan was a carrier of none — so we were good). These are all basic tests that you can ask your normal OBGYN to do with you as you prepare for conception! It all took about a month to do and gave us some peace of mind knowing some basics checked out.
- I started using the Clear Blue Fertility Monitor to track my ovulation and make sure I was in fact ovulating every month the way I thought I was. I have always had a very normal period, so I assumed I was good on this one, but wanted to check. I did this for 3-4 months leading up to the wedding and it thankfully showed that I was ovulating very normally and regularly as I thought.
- I was already eating a nutritious diet, so I didn’t change much here other than just amp up the nutrition where I could. I figured more nutrients could never hurt. There are all sorts of fertility diets and things you’ll read about what to eat out there, but for me, taking a more simple approach has always felt good — just trying to eat a well rounded nutritious diet.
When my OB and I reviewed everything, I remember her saying “I have a feeling you guys will get pregnant pretty quickly and be just fine”. I was definitely hopeful!
STARTING TO “TRY” – JANUARY 2020
In January 2020 we got married, and went away right after for a mini-moon. I happened to be ovulating on that trip, so we decided it was the perfect time to start trying.
It was surreal after so long of trying not to get pregnant to finally be trying for a little baby. I’ll never forget how that first time felt — the possibility of what could happen, the excitement, the thrill of it all.
The Clear Blue monitor shows you exactly when you are “peaking” and when to have sex, and we basically followed those suggestions. Plus, I am very aware of my cervical mucus which is one of the best indicators of your fertile window, and we factored that in, too (and it aligned with what the monitor showed).
But a week or so after returning from our trip, I got my period.
I was okay at that point — I mean we had only tried once — but I do remember having the thought of, wow, I can’t believe you can have so much sex and so much sperm go into you and it still doesn’t happen. This really is an intricate process. (sorry, parents who are reading this! 🤣).
The next month, as we were packing up our apartment to move out of SF, we tried again, and no dice.
A little piece of me starting to wonder — is there something wrong? But overall I knew it could take some time and I tried to just stay calm about it.
In Month 3, after road tripping from SF back to FL (we moved), we tried again. We waited the TWW (two week wait), and my period didn’t come. I remember saying to Ryan, “I don’t really feel like I am going to get my period”. I knew the classic signs of when my period was going to come — sore boobs, cramping in my back — and it just felt slightly different.
I took a pregnancy test a day or so after I was supposed to get my period… negative.
I remember being really frustrated.
But then another day or so passed and still no period, and I am never ever more than a day late.
THE PREGNANCY – MARCH 2020
I took another test… this time the one with the lines (which has a lower HCG detection, which is the “pregnancy hormone” that the tests look for)… and there was the faintest double line.
I will never forget that moment.
Our first positive pregnancy test.
We stared at it in every light — is this real? You see something, right? Is that a real line? Could it be? HOLY F*CKING SH*T are we pregnant?
I remember having this feeling of, “I guess my body can do this”, but at the same time almost not believing it. (This theme of “not trusting my body” would become a major theme during my fertility journey as you will see…)
Two days later, I took another test just to be sure — this time a digital one that says “pregnant” or “not pregnant” because I knew it had a higher HCG threshold.
Again, this one said “pregnant”.
Wow, okay, we are really pregnant.
THE MISCARRIAGE – APRIL 2020
On that same day that I took the digital test that said “pregnant” (or maybe it was the next day, I can’t remember now), I woke up one morning, went to the bathroom, got dressed, and sat down at my desk. An hour or so later, I went to the bathroom again, wiped, and there was a streak of blood.
My immediate thought was “it’s nothing” but then .5 seconds later my brain came-to and I knew… this is not good.
I walked into the dining room where Ryan was working and said — I just wiped and there was blood. I’m going to lay down.
He calmly came in and sat next to me and said, spotting is normal, this is probably nothing.
But I will never forget the terror I was feeling and how hard my heart was pounding.
Thankfully, one of Ryan’s cousins who we are super close with is an OBGYN, so we were able to call her immediately (we did not have an established OB yet in FL because we had JUST moved there a few weeks prior).
Ryan’s cousin walked us through what to look for. Some spotting is normal, she said, she told us what colors to look for, etc. etc.
But pretty quickly, I knew this was not just spotting. Every few minutes when I would get up to go wipe, there was more blood. It was only speeding up, not slowing down. It was fresh blood.
I knew we were having a miscarriage.
Ryan went out to the kitchen and told my parents who were there (we’re living with them) and I’ll never forget my mom’s concern, worry, fear and anxiety in that moment. It was one of the hardest times to experience WITH my parents right there. I hated having to absorb not only my feelings, but also Ryan’s feelings, and now my parents feelings. It was just so shitty and emotional and I wanted to crawl into a hole.
That whole day was a traumatic shit show. We needed to figure out what to do as I was bleeding. We called two OBGYNs who we had heard of but neither of them would see me because of COVID / lockdown and being a new patient. They wanted me to go to the Emergency Room because they wanted to make sure it wasn’t an ectopic pregnancy (a pregnancy outside of the uterus — for instance if the pregnancy is in your fallopian tube, it could rupture your tube which is extremely dangerous). We were completely freaking out about going to the ER at that time during COVID, so thankfully Ryan’s cousin again helped walk us through it. She said as long as I wasn’t experiencing abdominal pain, it was very very unlikely that it was ectopic, and she told me how much blood to watch out for, and said most likely you will have a heavy period and it will be fine.
Thankfully, that’s all that happened. It was a shitty, emotional, heavy period, and that pregnancy was gone. Just like that.
We had what is called a “Chemical Pregnancy” which basically means you miscarry very early on, before an ultrasound can even detect the pregnancy. We were only 5 weeks pregnant.
Of course, I tried to look at the bright side — we were able to get pregnant fairly quickly (in 3 months), and miscarriages like this happen all the time for chromosomal reasons, and it’s very likely that if we were able to get pregnant, that we will be able to again.
But the shock and trauma of it all deeply impacted me, and is something that I still carry with me.
Feeling the fragility of the whole process.
Hating the unknown.
Not knowing why the miscarriage happened.
Not knowing if my body was capable of this.
Not knowing what our future held.
Wanting a baby so badly and having no control over it.
We were advised to wait a month, get another period, and then we could keep trying. And man, I needed that month break. It was so nice to just focus on processing the miscarriage, getting back on my feet, and just living my life without thinking about trying for a baby for two seconds.
I could feel the weight of what I was going through starting to get heavier, and not really knowing how to manage all of the emotions — impatience, fear, sadness, loss, grief, hope, feeling out of control, the unkown…
So, it was at this time that I reached out to my old therapist from NYC, who was now offering virtual sessions due to COVID. I felt like I could really use someone to talk to and process everything with. I ended up working with my therapist for about a year and found it immensely helpful during this process. She couldn’t say or do anything to make it all better, but she provided me with a dedicated space to process the 1 million emotions surrounding my fertility journey.
TRYING AGAIN AFTER OUR MISCARRIAGE – SUMMER OF 2020
It was May 2020 now, and we were back at it.
We knew we “could” get pregnant now, so it felt like fresh possibility.
But, May came and went — nope.
June came and went — nope.
July came and went — nope.
I think it was around July that I started REALLY struggling. I look back and July / August were some of my darkest months in this entire process.
It wasn’t just that we weren’t getting pregnant, but things were feeling “off” in my body since the Miscarriage.
My cycles were less regular than normal.
I was spotting mid-cycle which I have NEVER had before (except one random month years ago when I went through a breakup and was stressed). But now it was happening every month.
I was ovulating later.
I sometimes had more cramping leading up to my period than normal.
My body felt sluggish.
Things just didn’t feel right. So this coupled with the fact that we weren’t getting pregnant made me constantly wonder if something was “wrong”.
I distinctly remember one time – I think it was July – when I got my period after another two week wait, and saw those first couple drops of blood (IYKYK), I just got in bed and curled up. Ryan came in to try to comfort me and I aggressively pushed him away. I will never forget that moment. I was so angry and in such a dark place that I couldn’t even have my own husband touch me or be near me.
I was shocked at my own behavior and how dark of a place I had somehow gotten myself into around all of this.
I had a moment right around this time when I realized how much pressure I was putting on this little baby…
Pressure to make me happy.
Like, my happiness in life was dependent on this baby coming.
And I just knew that was unfair. Unfair to me and unfair to this child.
I knew I needed to find my happiness and joy again. I needed to create a fulfilling life outside of this future baby. I felt like I owed that to him or her.
So I started trying to focus on my happiness again.
- We booked a trip up north to see family and friends for a couple of weeks and had a freakin’ blast.
- I stopped tracking my ovulation, which was making me nuts, and we just started having sex every other day from Days 6-20 (around there). Not tracking was a breath of fresh air!! One of the best decisions I made.
- I focused on creating as much joy as possible in my business and started loving my work more than ever before
- I did anything and everything I could to try to relax and believe that this would happen when it was supposed to happen
And while these things all added to my quality of life and my happiness and did “help”… there was still no positive pregnancy test.
STARTING TO THINK ABOUT SEEING A DOCTOR — FALL 2020
I think it was in August that we decided to at least just call our OBGYN (that we had now established) and see her for a fertility chat. We weren’t ready to go to a “fertility doctor” but felt like seeing our OBGYN was a first step.
We called and scheduled it for sometime in September. Scheduling this felt scary — I was freaked out about what we might find out if we went down this path. But it was also reassuring — knowing that we were taking some sort of a step forward.
We went to see our OBGYN in September (Ryan was on the phone as he wasn’t allowed to come) and she went over the basics. She looked at our prior test results from our OB in SF, and offered to run a couple of tests again.
She redid my AMH (normal) and FSH (normal) and did a transvaginal ultrasound (also normal).
She said to us “You guys don’t need to do anything right now, you can just wait it out for a while. BUT, if you’re anxious about it, why don’t you just get an appointment with a fertility doctor on the books in the next few months and you can see how it goes. They run more tests than I can do here. It can’t hurt to just get it scheduled just in case.”
She also told us, “I had to go through fertility treatment for two years for my kids. Everyone in life needs help with certain things. Some of us need a little bit of help with fertility. It’s OKAY.”
I loved that she could relate to us and what we were emotionally and mentally going through. I also loved that she didn’t make it a dire situation and made it less of a “big deal” to go get checked out.
She gave me a recommendation for a fertility doctor, who also happened to be the same person my friend went to and loved, and that was enough “vetting” for me to call that day and get an appointment scheduled with her.
In October, we’d go see Dr. McCarthy, our fertility doctor, and our worlds would totally change!
Some lessons and advice from this first phase:
- While everyone will tell you to “try to relax” about trying to get pregnant, it’s easier said than done. Do your best, but it’s okay if you’re anxious and nervous and impatient and feeling what you’re feeling. Do your best to manage your stress and enjoy your life outside of “trying for a baby” but also be understanding toward yourself that this is something you really want and OF COURSE you feel this way about it. It’s okay.
- Looking back, I kind of wish we had gotten checked out sooner. I was so scared to even dip my toes in the “fertility doctor” realm, but to me, I felt better the more information I ended up getting. If you’re feeling nervous, it’s really not a big deal to either run some tests through your OBGYN or even go to a RE (reproductive endocrinologist / fertility doc) to gather all the relevant information.
- Two of my favorite books I read during this time were Yes, You Can Get Pregnant and Awakening Fertility. They both provided so much hope and soothed me on a soul level. I was not someone who wanted to read ALL THE BOOKS and know ALL THE INFO out there — I found that overwhelming — but having a couple books that lifted me up was helpful.
- People say that this journey feels lonely, and I did find that to be true. Even with a wonderful husband and so much support, it somehow did still feel very lonely. I think it’s because YOU as the woman are going through so much internally that nobody else really truly gets unless they’ve been through it too. Finding a therapist was really helpful for me, as well as talking to other women who were experiencing something similar (which became even more important as I continued on in my fertility journey).
- Listen to your gut. It’s VERY easy in the fertility world to try to do “all the right things that you think you should be doing”. You think there is this special formula of things to do and you need to just do them. But often times, this can be incredibly stressful and can override your own intuition and what you WANT to be doing. So, try to follow your gut and let go of some of the shoulds. If tracking your ovulation feels stressful, don’t do it. If eating all the “right foods” feels stressful, try to relax about it. At the end of the day, your own wisdom still needs to be #1.
PART TWO COMING SOON where I’ll go into what it was like to go through all the tests with our fertility doctor, what we found out, and why we decided to go down the IVF path. Stay tuned!
Love you lots and hope this was helpful!! Let me know in the comments if you have any questions.