When I tell people I’ve had 4 miscarriages, I generally get a version of the same reaction. “Well at least you can get pregnant, so if you keep trying, it’ll work eventually”, or “why not just keep trying and see what happens”?, or worse yet, “well, they’re all early losses, what’s the big deal? Just don’t get your hopes up”. These reactions drive me completely insane, and so I feel the need to put out there into the world the reasons why it IS a big deal, and why I don’t want to (can’t?) just keep trying forever until it works (if it ever does).
First of all, although its not actually my primary reason anymore, there is the horrible roller coaster of emotions. When you find out you’re pregnant, even when you know miscarriage is a (strong) possibility, it’s IMPOSSIBLE not to have thoughts of tiny pink dresses and new baby smell, and whatever other form of torture you prefer. No matter how much of a wall you put up to protect yourself, the hope insidiously seeps in until suddenly your discussing names and plans for day care, as irrational as you know it is. It is impossible to forget because your body is suddenly different and reminding you of its changed state every couple minutes. I would kill to be one of those people who doesn’t know they’re pregnant until week 8. But no, I get every pregnancy symptom. So every cramp, every dizzy spell, every time I feel nauseous, I’m reminded that yes, I’m pregnant. I can’t just choose not to think about it to keep my hopes in check. My brain becomes a hamster-wheel rotating the same thoughts around and around and around but getting nowhere. It’s maddening. Then of course when its clear that it’s going to be another miscarriage, the hamster wheel goes away but I get depressed and spend a few months struggling to force myself out of bed in the morning.
Secondly there are the pregnancy symptoms themselves. As I said, I’m not in the lucky group of women for whom pregnancy is a beautiful process. I become a complete and total mess (independent of my emotional state even) by week 6 or 7. The symptoms start about 4 days before my missed period, and its all down hill from there. There’s the little stuff like peeing a lot and sore boobs. Then there’s the slightly more annoying, but still handle-able stuff like cramping and exhaustion. All of this is fair, and honestly really welcome because its reassuring that things are still plugging along. The parts I don’t handle well are the nausea, low blood pressure, and general weakness. From about 5 weeks onward, I start to feel nauseous just about all the time. It’s rarely bad enough that I could actually throw up, but it’s just constantly there distracting me from whatever productive thing I’m trying to do. At first you think, okay, I’ll just have a cracker and power through. But after two weeks of it, I’m ready to curl up in a ball on the couch and avoid all human contact. Along with this is the flu-like weakness and low blood pressure. I would love to hear if anyone else has had this problem, because I don’t think it’s normal in early pregnancy. It’s not really tiredness or even fatigue, it’s more like your body is too heavy to hold up. It gets to the point where I’m sitting down to brush my teeth or shower because I feel like I can’t stand up that long. Similarly, my blood pressure gets so low that every time I stand up I loose vision for about 10 seconds and I have to grab a door frame or piece of furniture so I don’t fall over. Granted this happens to me sometimes when I’m not pregnant, I do have low blood pressure in general, but not to the point where it’s every single time I stand up and I regularly almost pass out.
Throw in some bad acne, weight gain (mostly because of the nausea and difficulty exercising), and gushing blood completely out of the blue, and this is how I’ve spent 7 months out of the last 2.5 years. Needless to say, it’s nearly impossible to continue to go through every day life as normal. Its a huge struggle to keep up productivity with work, get any form of exercise, and have normal interactions with other human beings. But I can’t just stop my life for two months out of every six months.
I do want to say though, I’ve never had to deal with these symptoms in a normal pregnancy. That is, I’ve always known that things were not going well 5 weeks in when I start to bleed, which is not coincidentally when the symptoms really start to bug me. I’m sure my psychological state adds to how bad I interpret them to be, and I keep telling myself if I had a normal pregnancy I wouldn’t be nearly as bothered by it. In fact, I’ve made pacts with myself that if I can JUST have ONE normal pregnancy, I won’t dare complain, even for a second. I’ll grin and bear it and say thanks afterwards. Fairly sure I wouldn’t be able to stick to that if it came down to it, but I’d try :).
Thirdly, there is the cost and physical risk of having surgery over and over. I’ve never ever had a pregnancy end naturally, or show any signs that it was going to do so. Presumably it would have happened eventually if we had waited long enough, but the sac always continued to grow even after the embryo was gone, so my Doc felt that it was not smart to wait and let it keep growing indefinitely. The longer you wait the greater the risk of excessive bleeding, so it was always safer to get things moving sooner rather than later. I did have the option of chemically bringing on the miscarriage once or twice when it was still early enough, but the idea of that is horrific to me and surgery was always the easiest option in my mind.
And finally, the biggest reason not to keep trying for ever and ever is that there is ABSOLUTELY no reason to think it will ever work. Statistically the odds are supposedly in our favor, with idiopathic recurrent pregnancy loss in a 30 year old, even with no treatment at all there is supposedly a 40-50% chance of success with the next pregnancy. The problem with that statistic is that when you don’t know whats causing the problem, there’s no reason to think that the statistic is relevant. Maybe the successful women in the studies had RPL for a different reason than I do. Maybe all the ones who were not successful actually had the same underlying problem I do, and the odds are really 0%. All of my pregnancies have been extremely similar (bleeding at 5 weeks, heartbeat at 6 weeks, no heartbeat at 8 weeks) despite apparent differences in the embryos (some looked normal, some didn’t), so it just doesn’t seem like there’s any reason to think it will be different next time.
So, there are the reasons why I don’t want to keep trying. G and I have talked seriously about adoption, and even tried to move forward. And yet, here I am still trying to get pregnant. There is really only one reason why we haven’t stopped, despite all those reasons. I have no idea how to accept that its over and move on. I have no idea how to wrap my brain around the fact that I may never feel my baby kicking inside me, never hold her for the first time after giving birth, never see what the combination of G and I would look like together. How do you accept it and move on, when everyone else gets to have it all? Everyone else gets the joy of pregnancy AND the kids. It’s just so unfair and that isn’t going to go away even if I give up trying and move on.