I don’t know why, but despite having a few concerns about age-related impacts on getting pregnant, going into the process I had a lot of confidence that somehow it would happen for me. Both sets of grandmothers had pregnancies up until they were 40’ish and my mother had my youngest sister just before she was 40. I was positive it was going to happen for me.
It did, but looking back, I shouldn’t have been so cocksure. I was fortunate that I was able to conceive naturally without any intervention. This wasn’t guaranteed. It wasn’t impossible, but it wasn’t a slamdunk guarantee either.
I had secretly hoped that I would get pregnant in the first month of trying, which I know was a unrealistic wish. When it didn’t happen, I was mildly disappointed, but got over it quickly because I knew the odds of this happening were against me. The second month came and went and I was fine since I knew we had to keep trying.
The third month – chemical pregnancy and miscarriage
What I remember of this experience is that the day before my period was due (I’m very very very regular, so I always know when it’s going to come) was how famished I was the entire day. At that time I did not normally eat breakfast; I was fine with eating lunch as my first meal of the day. That particular day I was really hungry in the morning but I was in the habit of not eating breakfast and I was really busy so I just kinda pushed it off. I didn’t have time to eat lunch until the mid-afternoon, which by then I was DYING. Even after eating lunch, I was still starving, so I continued to eat and I figured it was because I ate late. Also I had a crappy run that morning. I cut it short because my legs felt like they were encased in cement.
The next day I was expecting my period but it didn’t arrive. I didn’t think much of it because once in a while it comes a day later, so I figured this was one of those months. It didn’t arrive the next day either and so, I suspected/hoped that I was pregnant. I took a pregnancy test the following day in the morning. One line for not pregnant. Two lines for pregnant. The second line was faint. According to the box if I could see a second line, no matter how faint, I was pregnant. A pregnancy test works by detecting a hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG). The strength of the second line depends upon the concentration of HCG. There’s variability in how much HCG is created, especially in the early stages, so it’s not uncommon for women to have a faint second line, especially when testing early as I was.
I couldn’t believe the results and wanted to retake the test to make sure. After Ben left for work, I went out and bought another pregnancy test because I really wanted to make sure. Sure enough, the other two tests also came back pregnant. I was thrilled and couldn’t wait to share the news with Ben. He wasn’t surprised when I told him because he said I had been acting strange that morning (I already knew but wanted to retake the pregnancy test again). I was excited that I got pregnant so quickly and easily and I shared the news with my mother and a few close friends.
In terms of pregnancy symptoms I experienced – it was hunger and fatigue. The following week I was ravenously hungry. I woke in the middle of the night hungry. I thought I was dying of starvation. Also my runs were pretty terrible. I had a hard time moving. My legs felt like they were encased in concrete. If I could scrape up the energy to run a ten-minute mile, that was a good day. Most of the time I was doing something like 11-something minute miles.
I woke up one morning without the hunger pangs that had been haunting me the past week. I figured it was because I finally figured out how to eat and control my hunger by eating a larger snack before bedtime. I got out of bed and went to the bathroom. I saw spotting. My heart fell and I frantically tried to think of a benign reason why I might see spotting. Wildly I told myself it was implantation bleeding, except I knew it wasn’t. It was long past the time for implantation. A few minutes later, I began bleeding more heavily. I was having a chemical pregnancy (when a heartbeat is detected, it then becomes a clinical pregnancy). I was really sad about this loss and didn’t take it well for a couple of days. The cramping was awful. People have described it like being a bad period cramp. It was way worse than that. I laid contorted in pain on the couch, but worse than the physical pain was the emotional pain of losing a pregnancy that I so badly wanted. In despair, I wondered if doing a speed workout the day before caused the bleeding (it didn’t and I know it didn’t, but when you’re wondering if there’s anything you could have done, you think about every little thing). In a chemical pregnancy, the pregnancy was never viable because of chromosomal defects. It didn’t matter what I did or didn’t do. It was never viable and never going to result in a living healthy baby.
I thought about what my life would be like if I lived in a state that outlawed abortion and how I could be criminally investigated for having a miscarriage because life begins at conception. Here’s another fun bit of trivia that I didn’t know until I was trying to conceive – a full-term pregnancy is 40 weeks and the first two weeks of your “pregnancy” you’re not even pregnant because the weeks are counted starting from the first day of your menstrual cycle. (This is important to know because if a state is trying to restrict abortion after 6 weeks, they’re talking about 6 weeks after the start of your cycle, not 6 weeks after conception, which is what I had thought it meant. The earliest you can reliably detect pregnancy is the 5th week. Many women won’t be aware that they’re pregnant that early because their cycle is irregular or they’re not trying to conceive so they won’t be tracking.)
Very early miscarriages are fairly common and chemical pregnancies are 50-75% of all miscarriages. Despite reading how common it is, I was still surprised when I talked to people about the miscarriage and hearing how many of my friends also experienced one at some point in their lives. About half of the women I knew who had given birth or were trying to conceive had experienced a miscarriage.
While the bleeding from the chemical pregnancy was very heavy (I literally could feel blood pouring out of me whenever I stood up) and the cramping awful, I didn’t need any medical treatment. I recovered pretty quickly. I couldn’t run at all for a couple of days because it literally felt like my uterus was going to fall out every time I moved too quickly. But a few days after that I felt good enough to go out for a short gentle run. A week later my body felt completely normal, like back to my old self and I was able to run and do my normal activities.
The final stretch of the conception
Since there were no complications we were able to continue trying to conceive without needing to put anything on hold. I really hoped that since I got pregnant within three months, I would be able to get pregnant again in another three months.
While I started off with high levels of confidence that I would get pregnant, by this point doubt was now creeping in and I wondered if I waited just too long. Let me tell just how desperate women can get when trying to conceive. After the miscarriage, I kinda fell into the deep end of desperation. Every month when I saw a blood stain, I saw it as a betrayal of my body – a failure. Not only a physical failure, but a moral failure as well. I purchased several really cheap pregnancy tests so I could take as many as I want because peeing on a stick became my new idea of fun. And no, Ben had no idea. He knew I had the tests, but I don’t think he knew how many I took in secret.
The hardest part was the two week wait. As I said before, there’s a short window during a menstrual cycle where you could become pregnant. At best it’s a week, but honestly it’s probably more likely a few days, with one or two days where you have the best chance of conceiving. After ovulation, there’s a two week wait where you wait and see if you’re pregnant. During that time I drove myself crazy imagining that I was feeling pregnancy symptoms (feeling hungry, tired) based upon what I had experienced when I had the chemical pregnancy.
My obgyn said that if I didn’t conceive in 6 to 8 months I should see a fertility specialist. After the six month, I insisted that we see a specialist. Ben thought we should give it more time, but I insisted that we start.
I didn’t know much about IVF before I went to go see a specialist. I just thought that you went to go see a specialist, you started right away with the medication. In reality, it takes a lot longer to get to that point (I’ll have a post on this later).
I went in for a consultation and did some of the work up leading IVF, which took two months, and in the meanwhile we were still trying on our own. I remember thinking last Christmas that if everything went well that it would be the last Christmas where it would be just me, Ben, and Bandit, but that I would be happy if I were pregnant the following Christmas.
In the last month I told Ben that this was our last shot of conceiving naturally because after that month we would be starting IVF. We celebrated the New Year in Florida and spent a week there with my mother because she wanted to see Miami and the Florida Keys. On the last day of my mom’s trip (we were leaving the next day) I tested because I was late. I wasn’t all that hopeful because for months I had been deluding myself with feeling “pregnancy symptoms” when I was not pregnant at all. I hadn’t been feeling anything so I figured it was going to be another negative test like all the other tests.
Unlike the first pregnancy test where I got a faint second line, I got a strong dark blue line and it showed up right away (you’re supposed to wait 2-3 minutes for results to see if the second line would develop). I stared in disbelief. I knew. I was really pregnant. Unlike the previous pregnancy that I lost a week later, I knew that this one was far more promising because the darker blue line meant that I had far higher levels of HCG.
I shared the news with Ben before I told my mother. I was very hopeful for 2020 because we were starting off with such wonderful happy news.