Most people don’t talk about infertility. Fewer talk about baby loss. It’s not something that’s addressed. Not even at church. It seems to be a taboo subject, or something that people don’t want to get into, but the sting of it is real. It’s a painful, heartbreaking, and touchy subject. Trust me, I get it.
It’s something you learn to coexist with, but can never fully “get over”.
And I’ve unfortunately been on both sides of it: can’t get pregnant or can’t stay pregnant.
People love to ask, “When are y’all going to have kids?”
You never know what people are dealing with.
Over this past year, my scripture of strength has been:
"Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him...”
I started infertility treatment in 2016 with an OB/GYN, and ended up with a Reproductive Endocrinologist (RE). I failed 2 nauseating rounds of Clomid along the way, and underwent more fertility testing and procedures.
Our tests finally came back and my doctor (who was excellent, by the way) went over the results with me.
My husband was required to do a seed analysis to officially rule him out as the problem (doctors already knew it wasn't obviously me) and his numbers were above average (I thought that was weird lol). As for me, only my left ovary was working, and it wasn't working well. I had too many eggs due to amenorrhea, and was on the radar for cervical cancer. There was only a 5% chance of conceiving on my own. She said my best option would be IVF, which my insurance covers. I held my composure as best I could in the office, and broke down once I made it to my car. It wasn't fair for so many reasons. I had saved myself for marriage, I had a good job and a stable home. And I knew Jesus.
After some time, I accepted that was my lot. I had no choice. No point in dwelling on something I had no control over. I became ok with it, and was working on moving past infertility. I would focus on other things. So, we scheduled a hysteroscopy to remove the cysts on my right ovary, which was completely blocked. After finishing a prescription to get the surgery scheduled within the narrow time allotment, my cycle should have started within a few days. But it didn't. My doctor called me into the office immediately, and did an emergency sonogram. "That looks like a gestational sac. Do you know what that is?" I had no idea, and she went on to tell me it was a sign of early pregnancy, but it could possibly be a cyst. They did some blood work and said they'd call me the next day. I figured it was probably a cyst seeing that I didn't seem to ever leave the office with good news.
The next morning, my husband went to the gym, but I stayed home. I decided to take a pregnancy test to prove to myself it wasn't a gestational sac. I didn't like the suspense of repeated disappointment I still had a big box of ovulation and Hcg strips I'd purchased off Amazon during my Clomid treatments. I froze when I saw those two pink lines. Any woman who has gone through fertility treatment knows those lines are like finding a real unicorn. This meant that at the time of that doctor's visit to go over my test results, I was already pregnant on my own, without any medical intervention. A miracle, indeed. I called my husband and told him, but I cried. Not because I was excited, but because I felt it was too good to be true. I felt almost burdened. I've seen many patterns in my life where things didn't work out for me, and this scared me. The stakes were very high. Murphy’s Law was the story of my life. He encouraged me, and later that day the doctor's office called to let me know I was pregnant and what my Hcg level was. It still seemed too good to be true, and it took me a few days to accept it. I was happy, but I wasn't excited. Life had already taught me not to get my hopes up too soon. We had our official sonogram, and we were given a due date. After some time, I embraced the fact that we were finally having our first pregnancy in 6 years of marriage, and expecting our first child.
Fast forward. I went in for a routine sonogram checkup- my husband came with me. And I'm glad he did. The sonogram took longer than it usually did. The doctor even turned on the audio to listen. I didn't even know the sonogram machine had audio. I could tell she was desperately looking for something, and kept doing some of the same things over and over. Finally she turns off the machine. "I'm sorry, I can't find a heartbeat. Get dressed, and we'll discuss it in my office." My heart fell into my stomach. I was in disbelief. I felt hopeless. I felt duped. I felt stupid.
My body didn't react to the baby dying, so it was continuing pregnancy business as usual- symptoms and all. Maverick had been dead two full weeks before we found out.
I was given three options to remove the fetus: take a pill, have it surgically removed, or wait it out. If nothing happened within a week, I would need to have surgery to avoid blood poisoning.
In faith, I chose to wait it out. I was tired of stirrups and doctors’ offices. I was hoping for a miracle- specifically a Lazarus-type miracle (John 11:21-23). Lord, if you had been here, my baby had not died. I remember uttering those very words as I prayed in agony. This was a perfect opportunity for God to give us a miracle. This was a just Jesus situation.
BUT THE LORD DID NOT SEE FIT TO LET THESE THINGS BE.
Saturday morning around 10am I began having unbearable contractions that had me in tears. I delivered my deceased baby at 12:35pm Saturday afternoon in my bathroom. I held the tiny, underdeveloped baby in the palm of my hand, still in the sac. Because I had carried the deceased baby for nearly two and a half weeks, I had developed a mild blood clot infection. I had the hysteroscopy and an unanticipated D&C shortly thereafter.
My pathology report came back negative for cervical and ovarian cancer. Good news, nonetheless.
The first few months seemed impossible. I didn’t know which way was up. The depression and stages of grief are real. I lost my passion for my gift: creativity. Losing my baby depleted my last bit of optimism and my "go-getter" spirit. It changed me. It drained me. All I did was cry. Every single day. For months. At the time we only had one dog, and people who know me know that I love my dogs. But I didn’t care to give her any attention, to even pet her, or take her to the park. I knew she needed to be petted, but I didn't want to. And at 6 years old, August started reverting to puppy behavior. Even the dog was feeling the effects of my depression. I quit my businesses because I no longer had the heart for it. It just didn’t matter anymore. I threw out all my equipment and ingredients. I surrendered my licenses and shut down my website. I didn’t care anymore. The only thing that kept me sane was consistent prayer. For months and months I fervently prayed for strength. Literally the same exact prayer.
We had no success with conceiving naturally or with fertility treatments. Clomid, Femara, injectibles, gonadatrophins, IUI. Nothing worked. I didn’t feel like wasting my time on an IVF that would probably fail too. I finally told my husband I couldn’t bear to do anymore treatment and he understood. Sometimes you have to know when to accept to your fate, even when other people try to hype you up. My heart is still broken, but I'm ok. It's not a desire of mine to have kids anymore. A friend told me it’s because of the condition of my heart. My feelings could change, but I’m content with just my dogs. I still have my moments, but I feel myself growing stronger with each passing month.
Facing my due date last year was difficult. It hit me at the end of the day. A few weeks later, I decided that I had to get up and do something. Sometimes people want you to “get over it” on their clock, but I had to take it at my own pace. I couldn’t allow depression to fester. I had no intentions of restarting NHCO, but it kinda fell in my lap to do so. I reached out to a trade show out of sheer curiosity, and it spiraled from there. NHCO helps take my mind off losing Maverick. I have something to perfect, and with a purpose. I use only the best natural and organic ingredients to create meaningful products. I changed my focus to help minimize the use of toxins in skincare products we use. Many skincare products have phyto-estrogen and endocrine disrupting chemicals in them. For me personally, it can worsen my PCOS and estrogen dominance (some chemicals can mimic estrogen) but the affects could be a plethora of things for you, reader. I’m not saying skincare products killed my baby, I’ve simply decided to be mindful of what I eat and use that could affect me in the long run.
God has blessed me to use all that love and heartache to fuel NHCO, and I’ve seen more success in the last four months than I’d seen in the past four years. We never know why God does some things. It’s not always for us to know at the present time. I’ve learned to trust for myself (and not just go through the motions) that God knows best, even when we don’t understand.
That's been my mantra:
God knows best, even when we don't understand. Even though I don't understand.
It’s been a year and I still don’t understand, but my heart finds comfort knowing that the Lord has my best interest in mind, and that my baby is safe with Jesus. This was the Lord's will, and I have chosen to respect it.
“Do you have any children?” is a difficult question for me. Sometimes I don't know whether to say yes or no. When I run into someone who is expecting, I always pray that the Lord bless them with a healthy pregnancy and baby.
This is my sting of infertility. From anyone who's been here, I'd love to hear your advice or experience in coping with baby loss.
I'm Nicole Hawthorne, owner, creator, and blogger at NHCO (pronounced "NH-co") Botanical Bodycare. In 2010, I graduated from Baylor University with my BA in Interior Design. After the devastating loss of my baby depression consumed me, and I quit NHCO. An entire year had almost passed, and my heart was slowly healing. I realized that I had to get up and do something. Otherwise, I would waste away in that state. I decided that instead of feeding depression, I would feed creativity and wellness. Today, NHCO has evolved from a faux pas hobby to an effective plant-based skincare line by challenging the Trojan horses of beauty products. Skincare products shouldn't be silent enemies to our hormones and fertililty, and NHCO is making sure of that. These products aren't only for women with PCOS, they're for everyone.