Reducing the Stigma Behind Infertility

Sunday, May 5 is Infertility Survival Day and in honor of that day, I want to share with you our struggle to get pregnant and use this platform to tell my story and let everyone else who is struggling know that you are not alone. I want to help reduce the stigma behind infertility and one way to do that is to talk about it.  

My husband and I married in April 2017 and began trying for a baby right away. I had been off birth control for three months to regulate my cycle and get us ready for conception. I found out I was pregnant in June after coming back from a hiking trip with friends in Colorado. My husband was in Canada with his family on a fishing trip at the same time, so I planned to surprise him on the day he returned (Father’s Day). I woke him up with a little gift from baby and a picture of my positive pregnancy test. We were both so overjoyed that it happened so quickly and started counting the days until we could tell people.

Three weeks later was my first doctor’s appointment at Moreland OB-GYN (approx. seven weeks pregnant) and because I was having some spotting, I was seen by a doctor to perform an ultrasound to confirm everything was fine. I got to see my little bump jumping around in my belly and it was the most amazing moment. Tears of joy streamed from my eyes and I felt so much love for that little bump already. I was reassured that everything was going just fine, but to keep an eye on the spotting. Two days later, the spotting got much worse and included some back pain, so I went back to the doctor’s office. I was sent for another ultrasound.

This time when I looked at the screen, the bump wasn’t moving and the tech had to break the news to me that I had lost the baby. I stared at that screen for a long time hoping and praying the bump would move, because I didn’t want to believe it was over. My first thoughts were instantly, what did I do wrong? Why did this happen? Why me? 

After the ultrasound, I spoke with a doctor to explain things to me and answer any questions. The conversation was very much a blur as I was still in shock, but I do remember some of the important things that were shared with me.

“I did nothing wrong to make this happen. There could have been a chromosomal problem with the fetus that made this happen. I shouldn’t blame myself at all. This is extremely common and happens to many, many women. Just because I miscarried once, doesn’t mean I am incapable of getting pregnant in the future. “

I was told that my doctor would follow up with me in the next few days, but that I would continue miscarrying for the next few days. I was given a doctor’s note to stay home from work and a prescription in case the pain became too much. 

My husband had pretty much figured out something bad happened, so when he got home from work, he held me while I sobbed and sobbed. (As I am writing this now, it still makes me sad and teary). He comforted me the best he could and we both knew it was going to take time to recover. 

Because it was my first, I had already bought a few items of maternity clothing and started a journal for the baby. I put everything away in a box and put it on a shelf in my closet and took those days off of work to recover the best I could. I will never forget our first baby, but I couldn’t be reminded of it everyday either or I would never be ready to try again. 

We took a little time off from trying and decided to just let what would happen, happen. But family and friends kept asking if we were trying or when we were going to try and it constantly kept triggering my sadness about the miss. It was at this time that I shared my story with my closest girlfriends. I don’t know why but I still felt shame for what happened to me when telling them. But their response and support has overwhelmed me and made me realize just how common this is and how many people know someone that has struggled getting pregnant. And that’s why I decided to share my story with all of you.

We tried for six months with negative tests every time. And then I was a few days late in February. I was nervous to take the test and wanted to wait until I was definitely late so as to not get my hopes up AGAIN. On day four of being late, I woke in the middle of the night with the worst cramping—comparable to the pain of the miss. I am almost certain that was another miscarriage but because I never took a test, it can’t go officially in my medical history. But my doctor did say it was a high possibility. 

We began to talk with my doctor about what our options were to get pregnant. My husband and I are both older, so we didn’t want to wait too long on trying as the window would just get smaller. Because my husband successfully produced two daughters in his previous marriage, they decided I was the person in need of testing. I tracked my ovulation to a T using an app and tests, and I went through a procedure to check my ovaries and eggs. Everything came back fine and I was told that sometimes infertility can go unexplained. 

My doctor decided on one final blood test to make sure that everything was good and I found out that I have hypothyroidism and will need to take a pill everyday to help with that. Thyroid issues can affect fertility rates, but mine is not an extreme case. However, anything that I could do to be helpful in this cause, I was willing to do. 

We continued trying through the summer and only had negative tests. So we sat down with my doctor in September and decided it was time to go to the next level. We agreed to try a round of IUI, because it is costly, and see what would happen. This is different than IVF though both help give better odds to those with infertility issues. The procedure fertilizes me at the perfect moment in my cycle—giving me the highest chance of becoming pregnant. The worst part was that I couldn’t take a pregnancy test for 14 days because I would see a false positive due to the extra hormones from the procedure. 

Those were the longest 14 days, but day 14 became the best day ever – a positive test followed by bloodwork that proved that I was pregnant. Though it was extremely early on and I had a long way to go, I tried not to worry and let life be life as there wasn’t anything that I could do. But Baby A is still in growing strong and developing and we can’t wait to meet him in a few short weeks. 

This wasn’t easy to write, but I know I am not alone in this struggle. So many women deal with unknown infertility and miscarriages and I want them all to know that they are amazing women and I hope that your turn for good news is coming soon. And if anyone needs to talk, I am here. I am not an expert, but I know that when I chose to talk about it more, it helped me a lot. I will never forget seeing my the happy bump jumping around on the ultrasound, and I doubt the pain will ever completely go away when it wasn’t, but knowing I have so many supportive people in my life makes it easier to talk about.  

Sarah Appleton

Hi! I’m Sarah, 36, and have lived in Waukesha for the past 10 years. My husband and I bought a home and got married in the same month last year—it was a crazy time, but when you find your forever home, you have to jump on it. (And what a way to start our new life together). My husband has two daughters, Violet is 11 and Samantha is 8 and they live with us half the time. The newest addition to our household is our pup, Letty, who just turned 1. She keeps us on our toes, stealing socks at every chance, but also gets us outside for walks and playtime. Becoming an insta-mom has brought its challenges but also many amazing experiences and I’m loving every minute of it.  I love Waukesha and have my own blog about my experiences in the area. When I’m not out and about in the city, I’m enjoying time with my friends grilling out, drinking wine, and playing games—Uno is one of our faves. Or I’m in my kitchen trying new recipes or recreating ones I have had at local restaurants. FoodFunWaukesha Facebook // Instagram // Blog

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