I got pregnant. What’s interesting is that to date, I’ve stayed pregnant. To be precise, I’m currently 18 weeks + 5 days with a single baby girl. And the real kicker? She’s a natural pregnancy.
Shocked is an understatement.
Let me backtrack…I did go back to Brno for one final transfer in September of 2017. The result was a negative hpt. At that point, we had two embryos left but not much hope, and not a chance for more travel at the time.
Instead of giving up entirely, however, we did two things. First, I asked my ob/gyn for an exploratory laparoscopy, as I’d never had one done. He did find a very small amount of stage 1 endometriosis that he removed. Second, and finally, we decided that after such a long journey (and no success) with Western medicine, it was time to take a break, reset, and finally spend some time exploring an Eastern element in order to get my body back to a normal baseline after so many years of hormone treatments. I made an appointment with a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioner in my area at the beginning of 2018. (If you can recall, I did try Chinese herbs and a few acupuncture sessions with this same doctor prior to one of my transfers (successful transfer and implantation, but ended in m/c), but my sessions didn’t last for more than 3-4 weeks.)
Among other issues, my TCM doc diagnosed blood stasis (which makes sense, as Western medicine has diagnosed me with the same thing (but with a more technical term: inherited thrombophilia, Factor II.)). She started me on a cornucopia of personalized Chinese medicinal herbs, all ground into convenient little tea packets. I drank two cups of the brewed tea per day, and had acupuncture treatments twice per month. She also started me back on a number of daily supplements:
- CoQ10 (ubiquinol form): 400 mg, to increase mitochondrial function
- Vit E: 400 mg, antioxidant
- N-acetyl cysteine (NAC): 500 mg 2x daily, antioxidant
- Fish oil: 600 mg, improve egg quality and lower systemic inflammation
- Reservatrol (aka Japanese knotweed): 500 mg, antioxidant
Of my own volition (after having them prescribed by my reproductive endocrinologist (RE) in the past for egg quality), I continued with the following:
- Grapeseed Extract: 50 mg, antioxidant
- PQQ: 20 mg 2x daily, to increase mitochondrial number and function. Works best when taking in conjunction with CoQ10.
- Alpha Lipoic Acid: 100 mg, antioxidant
- Melatonin: 2 mg nightly, ovarian antioxidant
- L-Arginine: 1000 mg daily, improve circulation
As you can see, at her suggestion, we went all out on antioxidants. There’s a reason. The use of antioxidants has also been supported in extensive research by a former professor I had the privilege to study and work with at CU Boulder: Dr. Jonathan Van Blerkom.
Finally, my husband and I tried very much to focus on other things in our lives (SO much easier to write than do). My stepson – who was now 10 – has wanted to work in a marine environment since he was 4 years old (no joke…it’s pretty damn awesome how dedicated he’s been). As a result, we ended up taking a road trip down Hwy 101 from San Francisco to San Diego, with him being able to attend a week-long 1st year marine biology summer camp near Ocean Beach. Even though the drive was – ahem – eventful (our car broke down and we ended up in a rental for the remainder of the trip), it was still a respite from an everyday life that had revolved around infertility for so many years.
We returned home from the 10-day trip in late July, and by the time a month had passed, I found out I was pregnant. Though it didn’t last – I miscarried in September – it was a feeling we’d never ever previously had: the shock of a surprise pregnancy. No matter the outcome, the fact that it had happened (the first natural pregnancy we’d achieved since 2013) was itself a gigantic boon. We still tried to focus on other things, though, and I continued with TCM treatments.
A few months later, in November, I found out I was pregnant again. However, that pregnancy again ended the first week of December at 5 weeks. And that is when things changed for us. Even though TCM had brought us two unexpected pregnancies, we were just…..tired. I don’t know how else to put it. The happiness, excitement, and unbelievable
anxiety that accompanied a positive hpt, putting everything on hold to see what would happen, the confirmation blood tests, the hopes for a future that may or may not be dashed: we were done. My husband spoke of having a vasectomy, while I considered a hysterectomy (No more periods! No more fibroids! No more endo! No more gut-wrenching heartache of miscarriage! Yay!).
We moved into 2019 settled, able to breathe, and finally, most importantly, at peace. We celebrated our January wedding anniversary with a LOT of wine, warm fires at a mountain hotel, and the comfort of each other.
About two weeks later, I realized I still hadn’t gotten my period after the last miscarriage. I initially refused to test (I was scared), but my TCM doc told me I needed to in order to continue herbs (some weren’t good for pregnancy, and I wanted to continue since acu/herbs improved my life overall). So, when I would have been about 5 weeks along, I tested.
***TRIGGER WARNING: U/S PICS AND PREGNANCY TALK UPCOMING***
It wasn’t even a squinter. The positive line was actually darker than the control line, and it popped within seconds. Okay, I thought, here we go one last time with the rollercoaster. I called my ob/gyn, and she suggested I come in. It took me almost a week to tell my husband this; I didn’t want to break his heart if I lost this baby too. But I broke down. He was shocked as well, and just as tired as I was. He was still by my side, however; we were still in this together.
At the appointment (a little over 6 weeks), my doctor rolled in the ultrasound instead of doing any blood work. When the image appeared in our now-dark room, you could have heard a pin drop:
At 6+ weeks, we had a fetal pole and – for the first time ever – a beautiful, healthy fetal heartbeat. Talk about speechless! But, even though this was a milestone, we still took the information with a grain of salt. At this stage, so many things can still go wrong. So we waited, and came back in the next week:
Our little bean sprout (because that’s exactly what she looked like) was still going strong! Heart rate in the 160’s, happy, and growing. Weekly ultrasounds (because my anxiety was SKY HIGH), showed that our sprout just kept on keeping on:
She was wiggling like crazy by this point, and slowly starting to take on a little more human frame.
I had regular ultrasounds weekly until 13 weeks (heavy amounts of anxiety on my part), then again at 15 weeks:
What a difference time makes! We caught her sucking her thumb at this point, which melted my heart. (This u/s was done at my MFM (maternal fetal medicine) doc for an amniocentesis appointment, at which I ended up declining the amnio…but that story is for another post.) I’ve been able to feel her flutters since about 14 weeks, and they’ve been slowly transitioning to intermittent kicks.
As mentioned in the beginning, I am now closing in on 19 weeks, with my 20 week appointment next week. 5 months…it’s gone so fast and still been so slow at the same time! This journey has been a long one. And while it’s not quite over yet, this storm has finally produced our bright, so-very-much-loved rainbow.