Mum-to-be Laura shares her story of miscarriage, Endometriosis & infertility
[TW: This article discusses miscarriage, Endometriosis and infertility and may be triggering for some readers.]
Our journey to parenthood started in 2017, a few months prior to our wedding. We had fallen pregnant quickly, but no sooner had it begun it also sadly ended. I experienced a devastating early miscarriage, complete with traumatic medical interventions, lots of confusing hospital visits and of course, two very broken hearts.
We survived the next few months by keeping busy – focusing on our wedding, honeymoon and house move. Of course, the miscarriage was always in the back of our minds. We then fell pregnant again, this time focusing on the stats and figures everyone kept telling us - “A second miscarriage is unlikely” - which I guess made us feel even more isolated when it did indeed happen for the second time.
The second miscarriage was hard, and I felt my mental health take a huge decline. Rather than channelling my energy into getting myself better, I focused on finding a reason for the miscarriages. I searched forums morning and night, read medical journals, any book I could get my hands on and in any spare time I had, I would be watching videos about other people’s stories. It was at this point I came across the NHS guidance that you had to have three consecutive miscarriages to receive any sort of investigations, which felt so shocking and unfair.
So, after my third miscarriage, I booked into have the investigations and blood tests I was now eligible for. It felt like the silver lining of having a third miscarriage, but every test I had came back fine and this disheartened me. I had no answers and therefore, no cure.
After this, it took us longer to fall pregnant and I began to feel anxious there was something more serious going on, but no doctor seemed concerned about it. During this time, I visited private doctors and we spent thousands on various tests, most of which would come back clear.
I then fell pregnant for the fourth time and noticed a shift in my mood towards pregnancy, expecting it to end with the all too familiar symptoms. Within a few months it was all over again for the fourth time and I felt numb. I had expected this outcome all along.
Then, pregnancy stopped happening altogether. Before I knew it, it had been almost two years since my last miscarriage. During this time, I did have more tests that spotted some potential issues, and whilst they never actually helped me fall pregnant, it was a relief for something to finally show up on a test.
Then, Covid hit and I knew all testing and procedures would be cancelled or postponed. I found this time really frustrating, like many, I’m sure! At this point I decided to open up about my experience with miscarriage online and the response I had was beyond what I could ever have imagined – I had thousands of messages daily from people who had also been in a similar situation and for the first time in years, I felt less alone.
I knew I wanted to help others in my situation, so I spent the 2020 lockdown creating a miscarriage and infertility support website, justbadluck.co.uk. Raising awareness gave the situation a purpose and to this day I find it therapeutic to be able to write about loss.
During the few years of total infertility, I started to experience severe pain in my ovaries. It was a pain I had experienced years and years before, but at that time it was most likely masked by being on the pill.
I was almost certain the pain was being caused by Endometriosis, a disease that affects 1 in 10 women and also one I had a lot of experience with, as I had seen my mum suffer with the disease.
Endometriosis is a disease where tissue similar to the lining of the uterus grows outside the uterus. It’s a chronic disease associated with severe life-impacting pain during periods, sexual intercourse, bowel movements and/or urination, chronic pelvic pain, abdominal bloating, nausea, fatigue and sometimes depression, anxiety and infertility.
It took me years for a doctor to agree to a laparoscopy, which is a minor operation using a camera to check inside the abdomen, to diagnose Endometriosis. When I woke up following this procedure, I was told I had severe stage four Endometriosis. Whilst there is no cure for Endometriosis, mine couldn’t even be removed at this stage – especially if fertility was my priority.
The next few months were a blur of trying to get my head around the news. I felt more isolated than ever and started to contemplate what a future without children would be like – thoughts I had been dreading but were now potentially my reality. Not only could I not fall pregnant anymore, but I also had the issue of recurrent miscarriage fighting against me, as well as Endometriosis newly thrown into the mix.
It’s during these dark moments that infertility plagues you more than ever – my friends were having babies and I couldn’t be there for them, I saw mothers shopping with their children, families playing in the park and of course a wide array of baby content constantly served to me on social media.
After a while, IVF was thrown into the mix by my consultant. I had never considered IVF and I’ll admit it took me a while to get my head around it all. We were lucky in the sense that we had now had no pregnancies for three years, which meant we would be eligible for IVF funded by the NHS in our area.
I read articles, books and watched videos about IVF and how it could potentially help with our situation. As Endometriosis can affect the ‘environment’ of your body, sometimes the eggs and sperm could become damaged, leading to no pregnancies or miscarriages, so IVF bypasses that journey. This felt like our final chance, and we decided to go ahead with the IVF – a last resort and I knew in my heart that two rounds would be enough for me. I felt I had already wasted so much of my life to infertility, and I was tired.
With this in mind, I put little pressure on myself during the IVF process. I didn’t want to get swept up in the worry and tried to take each stage as it came. IVF is basically a load of steps you have to pass to get to the end goal and viewing it like this made it more digestible.
Our experience was positive. We were able to change medications to suit the situation and we both felt a sense of control from the injections – something we had never experienced with the miscarriages. At the end of the process, we were overjoyed to have a good graded embryo and some in the freezer. We had the embryo transfer during the last part of the Christmas break, whilst keeping happy (helped by watching lots of funny TV and finishing off the Christmas chocolates) and trying to remain positive.
When it was time to test and two lines popped up meaning the IVF had been successful, we were happy but cautious – something that happens with pregnancy after loss. We had been here before, multiple times, after all. However, this time felt different. I was on more medication, being looked after and had early scans booked in. My mind was in a better place and I felt stronger, ready to deal with whatever life might throw at us this time.
Early pregnancy was tough, full of anxiety and lack of sleep as soon as a scan was booked but we got through it together. Each month started to pass and time was ticking by. Before I knew it we had surpassed all of our previous miscarriage dates which felt incredible. We got to 20 weeks, and this was the point we brought our first baby item – a scary but lovely moment.
Now, at 38 weeks pregnant I’m writing this with a full nursery, our pram built and car seat installed, my hospital bags packed and a wardrobe full of clothes. Each of these have taken more courage to do than I had expected and it still feels surreal. I still have anxieties and worries, and I know I won’t fully believe it until our baby is in our arms, but I feel so lucky to be at this point after so many years of pain.
I hope anyone reading this who might be going through a tough time can find some hope in our story. There can be so many infertility stories flippantly thrown around at you when you’re struggling. These stories are mostly about how people ‘give up’ and then fall pregnant magically. However, that has never been the case for us. Infertility and loss have plagued us for years and I have never forgotten about it, as much as I have tried to. I truly believe we got to this point with some determination and a sprinkling of luck.
I have learnt so much through this journey – to look after myself more, appreciate the little things, spend time with my loved ones and advocate for myself when it comes to medical professionals.
If you are in the depths of infertility, Endometriosis or miscarriage – always put yourself first and self care is key. On the bad days, sing in the shower, eat the chocolate and never, ever put any blame on yourself.