Secondary Infertility and Miscarriage After an Easy First Pregnancy
One month after our Mexican honeymoon, I found out I was pregnant. There must be something to the “there’s something in the water” claim, because I was on the pill. To be fair, we were having way more sex than normal (did I mention it was our honeymoon?), but other than being in Mexico, nothing else had changed. Because of this, my husband and I did not experience the “trying” phase of having our first baby. We weren’t trying to get pregnant, it just happened.
My pregnancy was standard—there were no scares, no major concerns, and I even asked my doctor if there was a discount plan I could go on to save money because I didn’t feel it was necessary to see him once a month: I could check my own blood pressure. My daughter was born without any medical concerns. Besides the surprise factor, there was nothing about my experience that was worrisome. I mean, I got pregnant on the pill. Who does that?
Before our daughter, my husband claimed he wanted four kids, but after my daughter, we spent a solid year believing we were a one-and-done family. My daughter is delightful, but one child turned out to be far more work than we had anticipated. Unexpectedly and shortly after our daughter’s first birthday, we found ourselves fostering my newborn nephew. It was the most challenging adjustment of our lives—but it also showed us we weren’t done having kids.
When we began fostering our nephew, I did not consider his living with us would be permanent. Social workers, lawyers, and case managers frequently reminded us the ultimate goal was unification with his birth parents. This led us to decide to try to have a second baby.
Once again, I got pregnant instantly. This time, I went to my doctor because I had a never-ending period. I remember the doctor asking how I was feeling. “Tired,” I answered, “Very, very tired.” I had two kids under two and didn’t put much thought to it. My doctor glanced down at my paperwork. “Well yeah, you’re tired! You’re pregnant!” A week later, I ran a marathon and a week after that, while at work, I miscarried in the student bathroom and carried myself back to my classroom to teach.
Logically, it made sense. Before I realized I was pregnant, I had been training for a marathon in summer temperatures, I had been fueling for one person, drinking water for one person, and drinking large coffees every day to combat my tiredness. I had gone out for a few happy hours with friends. Still, the heaviness of the experience hit me harder than I anticipated. Instead of breaking me, it fueled my desire to have another kid, and I decided I would do everything differently. I drank more water and took prenatal vitamins preemptively. I did everything right.
Once again, we got pregnant right away. This time felt better: I had raging morning sickness and acne. I was a little nervous about miscarrying again, but honestly, I thought the first miscarriage was a fluke; it wouldn’t be repeated, because I was doing everything correctly this time around.
During the week of my eight-week appointment, I noticed my nausea stopped. I didn’t think much of it. The first trimester was almost over and a Google search revealed this is usually when morning sickness subsides. I told my husband to not worry about taking off work, and I went to the appointment alone. I went through the awkward moments of the eight-week appointment: I got naked and put on my robe and got mentally ready to put my feet up in stirrups.
My doctor, who was the one who weathered my first pregnancy and delivery, walked into the room and started the process. My nerves grew as his brow furrowed. I heard him mutter, “I don’t like what I’m seeing.” I opened my mouth to make a joke, but it stayed open and silent. I knew this wasn’t going to be a funny moment. He gently placed his hand on my protruded knee and explained to me what he saw: There wasn’t a heartbeat. A primal noise escaped from my still-parted lips and cascaded into sobs.
Handing me an ultrasound, my doctor stoically told me he liked this particular one, because I was able to see the umbilical cord connecting my baby to myself. He proceeded to explain my options: I could wait for my body to recognize the fetus wasn’t viable, or I could come in and he could perform a D&C and remove the tissue. “Take the weekend and I’ll call you on Monday,” he suggested. When I continued to stare at my hands he confidently stated, “I’m not worried about your chances of having another kid. You’ve successfully carried a pregnancy to term. You’ll be fine.”
Navigating my way through a waiting room full of women with their hands on their bellies, I realized what instilled confidence in my doctor was the root of my fear—my first pregnancy had been so easy, so carefree. Why was it suddenly so hard to stay pregnant? Many women I know have successful and easy first pregnancies but go on to struggle with infertility later. Wasn’t the fact that I had no problems before reason to be concerned that I had now had more unsuccessful pregnancies than successful ones?
I went on to miscarry on Christmas day, unprepared for the physical toll it would take on my body. Laying in bed with my husband, I felt a pop and felt liquid soak my sweatpants. I sat on the toilet trying to get my vision to stabilize while my husband sat outside the locked bathroom, too terrified to leave me on my own.
My doctor did not explain the pain would be so severe, I would become lightheaded. He didn’t tell me how I would know if I was done. This miscarriage had escalated from the last. I had no idea if what was happening was normal or if I should have been concerned. Everything about this miscarriage was unexpected—the way it felt, the way it looked, the time it took.
Physically and emotionally, I was done. Without needing to talk about it, my husband and I simply stopped trying. We went on to adopt our nephew and didn’t have a conversation about trying for another baby until recently, when one day, my husband turned to me and apologized before saying he wanted to try for one more kid.
Secretly, I have been feeling the same itch in my chest for some time. Every time our kids have mentioned wanting a baby in the family, I’ve silently thought, Me too. But I know going into this next pregnancy will be different. Instead of spending the first few months with anticipation and joy, it will be clouded by fear. What if I miscarry again? Instead of wanting to keep the pregnancy a secret between my husband and myself, it’ll be a secret kept in fear that the more people who know I am pregnant, the more I will have to face if there is no birth.
Each time I get excited about the prospect of trying for another baby, I remember I may not get another baby. Even if I get the blue plus sign on the pregnancy test, it doesn’t mean I will hold the pregnancy to term. I think back to the joy and relief in those previous pregnancy test results and know the next blue plus won’t just elicit excitement—it’ll bring doubt. And, I don’t know how long that fear will embed itself into the pregnancy. If I make it to the first trimester, will I feel safe? Will decorating a nursery or picking out names feel like I’m testing fate?
This next pregnancy will be the first time I will expect something to go wrong. Not only am I afraid I won’t have another baby, but I am afraid of how this fear can color the whole pregnancy. The only thing we have left to do is try and hope for the best.
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