May of 2002, my OBGYN in Chapel Hill decided to give me a prescription for Clomid. It came with the warning that it might make me a little crazy, so maybe I should wait to start it once we got settled in Winston-Salem.
So, we got settled in Winston ("A great place to raise a family!" everyone said when we told them we were moving here.) Months passed. Each month, the painful reminder of no baby.
It appeared my body wasn't able to ovulate on it's own... but we, at that point, only figured that out thanks to the help of Clomid. No true "testing" was done... just some trial and error with medication.
December 2003, Dan went to Wilmington... on my birthday... and I was on the first day of my painful reminder that this wasn't the month we would be pregnant. (Needless to say, I wasn't in the best of moods. The one shining point of that birthday? The super sweet college students surprised me with Barenaked Ladies tickets that night at our Christmas party. Super cool.) Two days later at Bunko, I sat in my friends' home and proceeded to bleed everywhere. Horrible pain. I remember saying to my friend Holly "I don't want to sound like a wuss, but this is the worst period I've ever had. Something's not right."
The next day I drove myself to my doctor's office and was told that indeed something wasn't right: I was in the throws of a miscarriage. That same friend, Holly, showed up later at the RMH with lilies and a heating pad. I wept with tears so intense I didn't know how to function. And thanks to several friends who helped Dan get across the state, he was soon home and we could mourn together.
I remember vividly Dr. Martin saying "The good news about this is we now know you *can* get pregnant. The bad news is that you lost your first baby." Dr. Martin was a God-send for our family. He was an amazing man who took care of my physical self, as well as my emotional one. He was coming with his family to volunteer at the RMH later that evening and told me that if it would be too hard to see him there, he would stay home. Simply amazing. And, no, it was just the opposite... it was comforting to see him outside of the office, with his kids, and with his amazing caring spirit.
2004 rolled around, more "missed" months.
Then came Labor Day weekend... with the help of some Clomid (and the sad timing of Dr. Martin leaving to go to seminary! I've still never forgiven God for that one... seriously... called to ministry? What the what? *I* needed him as my OB!) I finally was able to get pregnant again. We started telling our friends. We celebrated. We planned.
In the mean time I finally graduated, all the while more reason to celebrate. When I was in Chapel Hill to take my last final, I promptly went to Johnny T-Shirt and bought 2 t-shirts: one that said UNC Alumni (finally!) and one that was a baby UNC shirt (finally!) I remember my graduation party with such happy memories... a great night. We told everyone who came that we were pregnant. I came home from the party exhausted. Andrea and Mom told me to rest. And I did. The whole next day, I rested. And then I started bleeding.
I went to the doctor's office and my worst nightmare was confirmed. I was in my second miscarriage. This time, though, I was so far along I would require a D&C. The D&C also required that I was intubated, which (at the time) was my greatest fear.
I survived both, and vaguely remember Dan getting me a Cookout Milkshake on the way home to "celebrate" that I'd made it.
January that year we decided we were done with our regular OB office and it was time to be a little more aggressive at the Fertility Clinic. Dr. Deaton and his nurse Paula were just what we needed: up until then we felt like we weren't totally being taken seriously. It was their job to be serious, and they were good at it.
Months went by with various trials of various procedures. More Clomid (it made me crazy), Metformin (it made me poopy), combinations of both (crazy and poopy), progesterone, IUI, shots... it's all a blur. January of 2006 we told Dr. Deaton we couldn't do much more: both financially and emotionally we were getting to the end of our ropes. We were not able to do IVF at that point (financially) and had decided that emotionally we'd rather start the adoption route. Lots of kids needed homes and our home needed a kid. Dr. Deaton recommended that we finish out what medicine we had left (we had already paid the $900 for the meds in our fridge at that time) and we'd try an IUI with full-force progesterone. His point was that we had nothing to lose to use what we'd already paid for... so why not.
February 16 after what looked like a "good" month, we went to the clinic for my IUI. Just a few short weeks later, a positive pregnancy test confirmed that it was, indeed, a good month.
I remained on progesterone until my 35th week. I had been told that I could stop taking it by week 10. Dan, my ever-cautious husband, pointed out that progesterone was given to women to stop pre-term labor, so why not stay on it a bit longer. At 36 weeks and 1 day, Elizabeth Jane Johnston entered the world. I began pushing at 8:25pm, and by 8:32pm (three pushes!) she was here. (Her Daddy actually delivered her: Dr. Jacobs hadn't made it into the room yet!)
We rejoice constantly for the miracle of Elizabeth, and for all that were part of our road to get her.
But I will say this: in the waiting, it was hell. From the end of 2001 to 2006, it seemed that everyone and their sister had babies:
*Lots of them had babies and didn't even want children. Really? I'd gladly have taken them.
*Some of them made comments like "I can bump into a girl in a bar and get her pregnant!" which had nothing to do with me, but I sure internalized it. Oh... that's what we were doing wrong. All that money to our doctors and we could have been bumping into each other at bars.
*Some of them said "you are the last person I'm telling that I'm pregnant, because I wasn't sure you could handle it." So, not only was I the last to get pregnant, but now I'm left out of your life.
*Some of them said "I guess your miscarriage was just 'God's will' because maybe something might have been wrong with your baby." Right. Because that matters. Something *wrong*. Jerkface.
*Some of them refused to talk about babies around me, while others talked about nothing else.
*Some of them called coming to my child-free house a "playdate"... which it wasn't.
*Lots of them didn't know what to say... so I'm about to tell you:
Say "I'm sorry." Say "I don't get it." Say "I hurt for you." Say prayers for that woman... she easily could be you, your sister, or your wife. She didn't ask for fertility problems, she didn't ask for miscarriages. She wants nothing more than to be a mother... she would take any baby she could get.
God gave us the desire of our heart with Elizabeth. We know that for lots of women, it's not that easy. God knows that at the time, 5 years and 2 miscarriages that didn't seem too easy. We don't know why our road looked the way that it did, or why someone else's ends without their own Elizabeth. But we do know that it sucks, it hurts, it's painful, and some of "them" don't make it easier. Don't walk on eggshells around those women who hurt... just walk beside them.
Some of you may be wondering what you did during our years to help or to hurt. Don't worry, I'm not saying all of this to keep score. In that moment you may have broken my heart or have been part of it healing. You may have been the worst of the "them"s or the one that made the "them"s look normal. Whatever your role, I'm thankful that it's changed now that I'm a Mommy. Be aware of the hurting women around you, and ask them what they need from you. Their road will likely be different from mine... and hopefully they will tell you what they need. The asking alone will mean a lot.
As I write this, my precious Elizabeth is sitting on our back porch reading her "calendar" (she's put several scribbled-on pages together to be her very own Daytimer. Tell me that genetics don't exist...) I look at her and my heart bursts. I prayed for this type of joy, and I'm thankful I received it. Earlier this week when I told someone that it was the 6th anniversary of my last miscarriage, they were shocked would want to remember it. But I think I'll want to remember it forever. It's part of my story, it's part of my family, and it's part of me.
Broken heart, lost babies, and all.