The Mom Who Felt Like She Was Failing

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Because no two paths to parenthood look the same, the Cut’s How I Got This Baby invites parents to share their stories. Want to share yours? Email gotbaby@thecut.com and tell us a bit about how you became a parent.

Photo: Constance Bannister Corp/Getty Images

Brittney and her husband started discussing family early on in their relationship. When they started trying to conceive, they never thought they would run into a problem — they were both healthy and in their late 20s. After a year of trying, Brittney had a positive pregnancy test; just a week later, she miscarried. She discusses feeling like all her friends were getting pregnant without her, bedside manner after a miscarriage, being overwhelmed and comforted by her fertility clinic, and what she thinks infertility adds to early parenthood.

On starting a family. I grew up with a stay-at-home mom, and I always pictured myself in the same situation with my kids, someday. My husband and I met when we were in college, but we’d actually gone to the same school district our entire lives — we just didn’t meet until our sophomore year of college. We dated for about 3.5 years before getting engaged, and got married after five years.

We’d been married for about two years when we started planning a trip to Europe. We wanted to do one of those “before we have a baby!” trips. Another year later, we made it happen: It was during that trip that we decided to really start trying. We were both 27.

I felt excited-nervous. I was excited because I really didn’t anticipate having any problems — I really thought I’d get pregnant right away and thought it would happen. I was nervous because I knew my mom had had many miscarriages, and because we were conscious that my husband’s family had had fertility problems of their own, even if we didn’t think that would happen to us. But I was more excited than anything else. One of my best friends had just gotten pregnant, after just a month of trying.

On an emotional week. I got a positive pregnancy test exactly one year after we started trying. It was so relieving. I did exactly what you’re not supposed to do and took a test at home, in the evening, when the hormone levels are likely to be lower. So when I came out of the bathroom and told my husband the test was positive, we were both in shock. He was like, We did it, we did it! I was like, Oh my gosh, it finally happened.

I remember thinking to myself, Even if anything goes wrong, at least we know I can get pregnant. I’m not superstitious but I do kick myself now, for thinking that. The positive test happened on a Sunday night. A week and a day later, that morning at work, I started bleeding. It was over.

On trying again. I called the doctor after I’d been bleeding for a few hours already. They told me it was probably a miscarriage, but that I should come in anyway. My husband and I met with the doctor, and I was crying the whole time. I just remember how cheery her voice sounded: She was saying, I’m so sorry. I hate having to do this to you. I feel so bad. I kept thinking, Why do you feel bad? This isn’t happening to you. It was upsetting, but anything would have been upsetting in that moment.

Going through so many emotions in rapid succession was really difficult. I felt that relief, joy, and excitement — after finally achieving something I wanted after a year of disappointment. Then I barely had time to grapple with the fact that it had happened before it was taken away.

At the same time, it was only a week. If I’d never taken a test, I probably would have just thought my period was late. While the experience was so sad, we’d also barely had time to get used to the pregnancy. It wasn’t devastating — we hadn’t gotten attached. It was still new enough that it wasn’t traumatizing.

On moving forward. They told us to wait a few months before we started trying again, because my cycles needed to regulate. It was hard to stop. I just wanted to forget that it happened and move right back into trying so that it could happen again, as soon as possible. The miscarriage happened in October; we waited until after the new year. I went to a new OB/GYN in January, just to see if she had any new suggestions or thoughts about what might be going wrong.

She was very casual about our situation. She wasn’t worried. She wasn’t alarmed. She told me we should just relax, that it would happen when it happens. She kept saying we were young and healthy. I left feeling so discouraged. It felt like she wasn’t listening to us. I wanted to do something, anything, to get this process to work. I’m sure she didn’t mean to be, but she came off as very dismissive of our concerns.

On finding someone to talk to. The one thing that she did suggest, which I did do — at that point I would do anything —  was acupuncture. I immediately made an appointment with an acupuncturist. Though I did leave that particular doctor because we decided she wasn’t a good fit, I am so thankful to her for giving me that suggestion. I recommend it to anyone trying to get pregnant. For me, it was life-changing.

The provider I went to specifically treated fertility. When I met her, she explained she’d had trouble getting pregnant with her eventual kids. She just got it. She’d gone through it herself. Through talking with her, I felt like, finally, someone understands what I’m going through. Sure, the acupuncture was great. But the emotional support I got from her — I can’t even explain how valuable it was. It was amazing to have someone, a third party who wasn’t my husband, who just got it. I’ll never forget how grateful I felt.

On continuing to try. We’d heard all the stories about going on vacation and being “so relaxed” and getting pregnant. Even a doctor told me about how that had happened to her. We went to Hawaii with those kinds of stories on our minds. Of course, it didn’t work.

In addition to the acupuncture, I was taking herbal supplements. I was tracking my cycle. I was trying new diets — gluten-free, dairy-free, going without processed foods. I was afraid to exercise — I didn’t want to overheat and interfere with any chance of getting pregnant. It was a roller coaster. We were trying everything we could to get pregnant again on our own. We wanted it to work without help.

About six months later, one of my best friends and another close friend both got pregnant within a week of each other. They told me on back-to-back days. My friend texted me one day when I was on the way home from work and said she had some news. I wrote back, “If you’re pregnant, just tell me now.” She said she was.

That night I wrote a huge long note to all my girl friends — we have a group text going — about how I was so happy for the pregnancy news but that I didn’t think I could hang out with everyone because of how emotional it was for me. I didn’t want to be a downer. The next day, my best friend came over. I thought she was coming over to talk about the message I’d written. That was when she told me she was pregnant.

It was a hard time. Those two friends were my closest friends. That was when I really started feeling depressed and anxious. I cut myself off from my friends, thinking I was protecting myself emotionally. But not having a support system doesn’t help an already emotional support system.

On taking the next step. While my friends were getting pregnant and I still wasn’t, that’s when my husband and I sat down and had the talk. When do we take the next step — and what is the next step? We decided that if nothing happened over the next few months, we’d contact a fertility center. We really didn’t know what to expect — we weren’t well-versed in our options. My husband is very pragmatic, and pointed out that fertility treatments are very expensive. He wanted to think about what we would do if the expense got to be too much — did we want to look into adoption?

But I couldn’t really look past any of the fertility treatments not working. For the past year and a half, my entire self-worth had been tied up in this. As a woman, not being able to get pregnant — I felt like a failure, every single month. My husband wanted to talk about what would happen if we couldn’t get pregnant permanently. He was very optimistic and encouraging about other ways we might become parents. While I know those ways are great, emotionally, I just couldn’t go there yet. I kept feeling like, I have to get pregnant. It was what I was supposed to be able to do. It had to happen.

On trying intrauterine insemination. Our first introduction to the fertility clinic was through a free introductory seminar. I won’t lie: It wasn’t the best. The entire seminar was like, You can’t get pregnant? Here are the things that might be wrong with you … They detailed all these medical conditions that could mean you can’t get pregnant, and then described how their practice could help. When I left, I just kept wondering if I had any of those conditions — or all of them!

Next we met with the woman who became our long-term doctor. She went over our options and reminded us that we were young and healthy. She wanted to do some tests, and then, dependent on what those found, move to doing an IUI. She said we were prime candidates for the procedure. It was very reassuring.

After the IUI procedure, they scheduled me for a blood draw ten days later. I remember them explaining what they were looking for — the hormone levels they’re looking for, how they need to rise and double. That first day, they called and said my levels were higher but not as high as they wanted to see. They asked me to come back in a day. I was like: Okay, am I pregnant or not? At that point, they weren’t really willing to make any promises. They were just like, “Well, we’ll see.”

The next day, they said my hormones were higher and doubling, but still not as high as they should have been, post-IUI. They wanted me to come back again. Still, I was optimistically happy at that point. Finally, the next time, my levels were skyrocketing. It was a multiday process, finding out I was pregnant.

We’d known it could take a few tries to work. When it worked the first time, we were ecstatic.

On feeling grateful for a C-section. At 36 weeks, my blood pressure was starting to rise. They monitored me for a week and at 37 weeks, confirmed I had preeclampsia. But it was super mild — nothing was dangerous or too worrisome. Still, because I was full-term, they did decide to induce me.

It was definitely a shock: We went to our OB appointment on a Friday afternoon after work thinking I had three more weeks of pregnancy. The doctor was like, “Come back to the hospital tonight and we’ll start an induction.”

We went home; I did two loads of laundry. We stopped at DSW to buy slippers. It was surreal. Then we went to the hospital and I was given Pitocin. By Sunday evening, I still wasn’t dilating. My doctor came in and said, “You’ve been here for a while. I think it’s time to call it.” I was totally fine with having a C-section. I think three days of being in labor will do that. In the end, I was actually grateful for the C-section — it turned out the cord was wrapped around our daughter’s neck.

On infertility and new parenthood. The first few weeks were crazy and stressful. It was awesome to experience the miracle we’d been trying so hard for. Obviously, nothing compares to holding your baby, bringing your baby home and having your child in your arms. At the same time, your entire life has changed. It changes so abruptly. And you’re operating on very little sleep. It was kind of startling — how not-perfect it was.

We’d been wanting this for so long that I thought I’d love every second of it, once it happened. In a way, I did. Other times, I felt guilty — because it wasn’t the way I thought it would be. I think every new parent probably feels this way, but I think it’s especially jarring when you’ve experienced infertility. New parenthood is a roller coaster, and I think infertility can really add to that.

Since our baby’s birth, we’ve opened up on social media about our difficulties. We didn’t do that before she was born. I put it out there because I felt so lonely while I was going through it. Who knows who else is? So much of the response was from people being supportive. I also got a lot of private messages from women currently going through it. I’m just always surprised by how many people are going through a miscarriage, not getting pregnant, dealing with fertility treatments like IUI or IVF. Infertility is lonely, which makes it even more important for us to talk about.

The Mom Who Felt Like She Was Failing