As soon as our journey to start a family didn’t go as planned, I knew I wanted to share our story. It was something I felt compelled to do because I thought it would help others out there going through something similar. Pregnancy loss and infertility is something that is not always discussed which can make women and couples feel like they are alone in their suffering or that something is wrong with them. I know that is what I felt, so I wanted to share what happened to us. This is a fair warning that this post is going to be long and emotional – so please don’t feel compelled to read it all. In my world of wedding photography, I constantly am sharing beautiful picture-perfect moments, and that is not always what life brings. Life also brings sadness, tears, heartache, loss, and I wanted to also share the human side of things. I want you to know that you are not alone in your struggles – no matter what they may be. This blog post served as a diary for me as I went through this difficult journey of ours. It was a way for me to document what was happening in real-time and was so therapeutic, helping me process everything.
I am going to begin September 1st, 2017, the morning when we first found out I was pregnant. My husband Jared and I have always known that we wanted to start a family someday. To give you some backstory, we started dating when I was 16 so at this point, we had almost been together 10 years. Ever since I can remember I have wanted to be a mom. I can’t seem to describe it, but deep down within me, I knew I was meant to be a mother. We had started trying the month before and I thought I had this perfect plan. Get pregnant in August, have a baby in May. I was obviously thinking about all the weddings I had booked etc. and everything seemed to be perfect. When I got that positive test, I think Jared and I were both in shock. I was overwhelmed with emotion and couldn’t stop crying. We were just so happy. We immediately started thinking about how to tell our families. We were on cloud nine and Jared and I were just so excited for the future.
I went on with my everyday life, but my life was forever changed – I had a baby inside me that was mine and I thought about it every second of every day it seemed like. I couldn’t believe that I was pregnant!
I have always been hyper-aware of my body and really sensitive. It is a blessing and a curse because I can tend to worry about little symptoms that end up being nothing, but I also usually know when something is really wrong. I need to mention a little bit about my past here which I promise will connect to the rest of my story. In 2012 I was performing at Legoland California when I felt a pop on my right side. I went home in pain but thought it would go away. When my pain progressed, I ended up in the emergency room assuming my appendix had burst. It turned out I had an ovarian cyst that ruptured, something not too uncommon. However, after I fainted in an ER bed they knew something was really wrong. I was rushed into emergency surgery where they extracted a liter of blood that was sitting in my abdomen. It turns out that the ovarian cyst happened to rupture next to a blood vessel which caused internal bleeding. I recovered from the surgery but was anemic for some time from all the blood loss. I fought back and built my health back up. 364 days later I had another ovarian cyst on my left ovary. I also had to be rushed into surgery due to an ovarian torsion, which means my ovary was twisting, causing a lack of blood flow. I once again needed surgery to remove the cyst and save my ovary. Because of all this that had happened, I was always so nervous we would have trouble starting a family. In the back of my mind, it was one of my worst fears but I trusted that this was our path for a reason and still hoped one day I would be able to be a mom!
Fast forward to September of 2017 when I am 4 weeks pregnant and ecstatic. Once I was about 5 weeks along, I started feeling a little discomfort on my right side. I had never been pregnant before so I was unsure if this was normal or not. I tried not to worry but in the back of my mind, I felt like something wasn’t right. Whenever I was exercising I would feel it a little more as well. On September 14th, I had a wedding to photograph and I remember calling my mom on the drive home complaining about my right side and how it just was really hurting me. I woke up the next morning and could tell something was not right because my mom had called Jared and told him she thought I should be seen, just to rule anything serious out (a mother’s instinct is a real thing, folks!) I called my OB and they said to come right in. Thankfully we have a great relationship – he was my mom’s OB for my brother and I. My doctor and his nurse have known me since I was born! Jared left work and drove with me to the office. He did an ultrasound and once I heard his voice I knew something was wrong. He said, “Well, I am concerned. I should be able to see something by now and I don’t.” He wanted to get bloodwork to check my hCG levels and he also put me on ectopic pregnancy watch. Hearing his uneasiness, fear started to creep in. I had thought about an ectopic pregnancy being a possibility, but miscarriages are 1 in 4 and ectopics are 1 in 80 so I really thought those chances were slim, comparatively. Our plan was to go to the ER on Sunday (2 days later) to get more bloodwork done and another ultrasound. That two day wait in limbo was exhausting. I didn’t know what to feel, I wanted everything to be ok with my baby and almost couldn’t accept that something could really be wrong, but we were still holding onto hope.
We got to the hospital Sunday, September 17th (the day before my 26th birthday) and I checked in. They took more blood and did another ultrasound. The ultrasound tech said “I think there is something there!” and I replied, “In my uterus?” and she said “Yes!” Jared and I left the ultrasound with so much hope.
We got back to the room and the ER doctor came in and told us the news we most feared. He said it looked like an ectopic pregnancy and that they wanted to give me a Methotrexate injection which would terminate my pregnancy. My whole world stopped. I knew at that moment I had to be strong, so that is what I did. He said he would talk to my doctor (who was delivering a baby at that point) and get back to me to go over the next steps. Just as I was taking in the news, he came back into the room and said that they were actually going to send me home to monitor my blood in the next couple of days to make sure. I was discharged from the hospital and sent home. We were 5 minutes away from home when my doctor called me and at that point, he had a chance to really sit down and look over all of my numbers and ultrasounds from the last few days. Once he was able to put everything together he told me he was 100% sure it was not a viable pregnancy and to turn around and go back to the hospital to get the Methotrexate injections. He said he would have never had me go back unless there was no doubt in his mind, and I trust him with every part of me so we turned back around. That car ride back to the ER was probably the hardest 20 minutes of my life. I knew those were the last moments I had with my baby. I was overwhelmed with emotion and had no words. I just looked out the window and took those moments to be with my baby. Anyone who has been to the ER knows what a process it is. It’s not like we could waltz back in and be like, “we were just here, can we come right back?” No. We had to wait for hours to get my injections, prolonging the inevitable.
If you don’t know what Methotrexate is, I don’t blame you. I didn’t know what it was before this happened to me. Basically, it is a low dose of chemotherapy that interferes with cell growth. They use it to treat some ectopic pregnancies. An ectopic pregnancy is when the baby is not growing in the uterus, most commonly it starts growing in one of the fallopian tubes. A lot of cases end up in the tube rupturing and causing internal bleeding if not caught soon enough. If it is caught early enough they usually treat it with Methotrexate to essentially dissolve the pregnancy, causing a miscarriage but saving the fallopian tube and the mother’s life. The nurses came in and Jared held my hand as they injected this bright yellow liquid into me. I couldn’t help but cry silently as they did this. I remember the nurses asking me if it hurt because I was crying and I said, “No, I am not crying because of the pain, I am crying because of what it is doing.” Once those two injections were over I was discharged from the hospital and sent home. You are technically still at risk for rupture for the next few days because it takes a little while for the medicine to start working. I had to stop taking my prenatals, and avoid foods with folic acid…which is basically anything healthy. That was more difficult than it seemed. I then had to do weekly blood draws to make sure my hCG was falling appropriately.
I remember thinking to myself as I was constantly being poked and prodded, I am going through all of this pain and don’t even get a baby at the end of it? That was the worst part. That realization sunk in that there will be no baby to hold at the end of all this. Then I began my road to physical and emotional recovery. The next day was my birthday which was pretty difficult, but I got through it! I had to have a D&C procedure done as well on September 26th. That nasty medicine has some awful side effects, including migraines, hair loss, and exhaustion.
I joined multiple ectopic pregnancy support groups on Facebook which was so amazing. It made me realize how strong us women really are and how we can all help each other get through anything. I realized how lucky I am to have my family and friends who are so caring and supportive. My family, Jared’s family, my friends, Jared’s friends. Everyone really cares so much and I am forever grateful for that. Also, our sweet pup Mae. She is so goofy and just a sweetheart. So many days I would just lay with her and she would get me to laugh and smile which I so desperately needed. I can’t tell you how many tears she licked off my face! I also need to take a second to talk about my rock, Jared. He is my everything. He was there for me every single step of the way and got me through some of my darkest moments. I don’t know what I would do without him. I love you, Jared.
It takes a few months for the Methotrexate to get out of your system but soon enough I was back to “normal” (I put normal in quotes because it was a new normal for me) and cleared to start trying again. This terrified me. But I was determined to be a mom and to provide a child for my husband so I had to be strong and trust. Ever since that ectopic, I had discomfort on my right side. My doctor knew about this and said it was probably scar tissue and not to worry. He said if you aren’t pregnant don’t worry, if you are and are still having pain, then we need to be careful. He said next time you are pregnant, call right away because after one ectopic you are considered high risk and they want to monitor your hCG asap. I am such a “planner.” Probably to a fault. However, that experience showed me that there is only so much in your control. Moving forward, I tried to let go and trust that there was a plan for me, a plan for us, and a plan for our future child.
Fast forward a few months. I took a pregnancy test on March 11th, 2018, and got a positive!! It was hard to be excited because of what we had gone through. I felt guilty not being super excited but I knew I was just guarding my heart. I started getting my blood drawn right away. Below is a photo of my first “bump photo” I know there is nothing visible, but this time around I was determined to document each step of the way through the best way I know how; photographs. Also, I know that line is super faint, but trust me…it’s there!
Blood tests confirmed the pregnancy. I am not going to lie, I was terrified it was another ectopic. I had pain since my first ectopic, so I didn’t know if the discomfort was another ectopic or just scar tissue from the last one. I just tried to relax and wait it out – easier said than done might I add! The first week hCG was doubling normally. However, the second week (week 5 of pregnancy) my numbers were not rising like they should. I remember when I got those results. I got an email on my phone with the test results, and I knew my numbers needed to be over 360 and they were 155. Once I saw the 155 number, my heart sank and my stomach was in a knot. I knew something wasn’t right and I couldn’t seem to accept that this nightmare was happening all over again. My doctor called me that next morning and told me that my numbers were low but he still wanted to watch them. He was going to have me get blood drawn again on Friday. He then asked me if I was in pain, and I said yes. Because of my answer he changed his mind and instructed me to go straight to the ER to get more blood work done and another thorough ultrasound. This felt all too familiar. I hung up the phone, looked at Jared and we packed up as fast as we could because we now are pros at going to the ER and know how long the process takes. We had our friend’s rehearsal dinner that night and didn’t want to miss it, so we grabbed what we needed, and headed to the hospital. The same hospital where everything had happened only 6 months earlier. When we got there, it was empty. It was actually raining that day, so I thought maybe that would bring in a lot of patients, but I think we got there early enough to where it was not busy. Thank goodness. They brought me right back, drew blood, started an IV and also did my ultrasound. I remember thinking “what if the blood test was actually wrong and my numbers are really high and everything is fine?” That was me trying to have one last glimmer of hope before I got the news. Jared snapped this photo of me in the ER.
The doctor came in and confirmed it. An ectopic in my left fallopian tube. They saw it clearly in the ultrasound – approximately 2cm by 2cm. Jared and I looked at each other in disbelief. How could this be happening again? I was advised to receive the Methotrexate shot like last time. It is horrible to say this, but it felt like a routine. We both knew what to expect. Nurses kept coming in to explain what was going to happen next but we had done this exact thing 6 months earlier. Our sweet angel of a nurse knew we were in a time crunch and needed to leave to get to a rehearsal dinner. She was doing her very best to get us out of there. At this point, I think we were both still in shock. I let a few tears out while in the ER but I really wanted to stay strong and fight through. After the Methotrexate shots again, I was discharged and sent on my way. When I was leaving the hospital, they cut off my arm tag (the one in the photo above). They had let me keep my one from last time and I kept it next to my bed with my journal that I had been writing to the baby that I lost. It was more than a hospital name tag, in my eyes, it was a memory of my lost child. I was taken by surprise when the receptionist cut it off my arm and kept it. I said politely, “can I keep that?” She looked at me and said, “no, I am sorry we have to keep it for legal reasons” I responded, “they let me keep it last time” and she repeated herself again saying that they had to keep it. I looked at Jared and told him I needed to keep it. Jared was about to stick up for me and explain our situation but before he could say anything I burst into tears and said, “I just lost my child and that is the only memory I have.” She explained my situation to her co-worker who then took the tag and gave it back to me right away. I was so embarrassed, I thanked them, grabbed it and got out of the hospital as fast as I could, still sobbing. I think I had held everything in for so long, that was the last straw. Jared helped me get ready for the rehearsal dinner. I quickly changed, pounded on makeup, and curled my hair in the parking lot of the emergency room.
My doctor is just so thoughtful. He called me the next day just to check in on me and make sure I was ok. Not all doctors do that so I feel incredibly lucky. I met with him a few days later and discussed our options. We agreed on doing an HSG test a few months down the road. This is a test where they inject dye into your fallopian tubes and from that, they are able to tell if they are blocked at all.
On May 7th, 2018, I went in for my HSG test. I was so lucky to have an amazing nurse and Radiologist doing the procedure. I will never forget that nurse, her name was Teale. She was so kind and thorough while explaining exactly what was going to happen. She even let Jared take a photo of the results after the test was over (see below). Women, if you are nervous about this test I wouldn’t stress too much. There was some intense cramping but it only would last a few seconds and the test itself was over in about 5 minutes, maybe even less. I wasn’t sure what to expect as far as results. Having had two ectopic pregnancies within 8 months, I was prepared for the worst. They told me that both of my tubes were completely clear, no blockage at all and looked very normal and healthy. I can’t tell you how relieved I was to hear this. The dye passed through them easily. Now there was one thing that they saw that was a little abnormal. When they inject the dye into your uterus to then flow into the tubes, some air can get in there which shows up on the screen. Normally, if you move around – the air bubble will move around as well however what they saw in my uterus, they couldn’t get to move. After the procedure was over the nurse explained that this could be a polyp or fibroid. She mentioned, and my doctor later agreed that this could be what was causing my ectopics. The embryo enters the uterus, and then because that mass is there, it gets pushed back up into the fallopian tubes and implants there.
After seeing these results, my OB wanted to do another procedure called a saline sonohysterogram to verify what was in my uterus. That test has to be done at a specific time in your cycle, so I had to wait another month for that. This brings us to mid May – Mother’s Day and also what would have been my first baby’s due date – the day after Mother’s Day. I would be lying if I said it wasn’t difficult. It was actually more painful than I had thought it was going to be. I kept thinking to myself “I could have been meeting my child right now.” I felt like I was suffering in silence. At this point, I wasn’t ready to share my story, it was all still too painful and emotional. It is also so difficult with social media these days. I felt like I had to post something about Mother’s Day, but because I hadn’t shared my story I didn’t know what to post and it felt wrong posting all happy things and not acknowledging all of the women who have suffered loss or are struggling to conceive. My dear friend Avery sent me flowers in the mail with a sweet note that said “Happy Mother’s Day! You are amazing!” I can’t tell you how much that meant to me. Deep down I felt like a mother, even though I didn’t have a baby to hold in my arms and kiss goodnight. In that moment, I felt like a mother – a feeling I have longed to feel for such a long time now. Below is a photo of those flowers and also a photo of me and my mother!! She is such a strong woman in my life and I am so, so grateful for her! She has shown me unconditional love and one day, I hope to have a relationship with my child like the one I have with my mom.
On June 4th, 2018, I went in for more testing. They opted to try something first before the saline sonohysterogram to see if they would get better visibility of what is in my uterus. They used a probe with a camera to see what was inside and took photos as well. Basically, this verified some abnormality in my uterus. This could be what was causing my miscarriages and I had the option to do surgery to remove it. Of course, I want to be able to have a child so I knew I needed to move forward with the surgery. The surgery was scheduled for July 6th. The worst is not knowing what is wrong but at least we thought we found a root cause and could move forward with fixing the problem. It is hard to explain but I felt so proud and frustrated with my body at the same time. I was frustrated at my body because I felt like something was wrong with me. Why couldn’t my body just do what it was created to do? But at the same time, I was really proud of my body as well. It has been through so much over the past year and I was able to bounce back physically pretty quickly! I am grateful for that. I can’t tell you how many tears I have shed over this. I can’t even begin to explain the pain and heartache I felt inside. I would spend so much time crying on the shower floor, alone with my thoughts wondering why this was happening to me and asking God to please, please bless us with a child of our own. I wanted it more than anything and it consumed me.
It was July 6th – surgery day. My past two surgeries had been emergency surgeries so I hadn’t had time to stress or think too much about them. This time, I had a whole month to worry. I tried not to. Jared and I took a road trip to Seattle which I really needed to get my mind off of everything. For the last procedure and for the surgery I had to take a medication that made my cervix dilate to make the surgery easier. It was a horrible medication and made me feel pretty terrible. Sorry if that is TMI, but I just want to share the details of my journey in case there are women out there going through the same thing. The surgery went as good as it could have gone. My doctor was able to remove the abnormality and a few days later I got a call that it was actually a fibroid and was not cancerous. I was so relieved. Even though I knew the chances of it being cancer were low, I have learned through this process that you have to be ready for anything – good or bad, so I was prepared. He reiterated that the embryo was either making it to my uterus and was being pushed back up into my fallopian tubes causing an ectopic OR the embryo was attaching to the abnormality and trying to grow. Both scenarios don’t allow for a viable pregnancy. The truth is I will never know if either of my pregnancies were ectopic or miscarriages. But it didn’t matter to me. Those were my babies and they will forever be in my heart. Jared took this photo of me right after I got out of surgery while I was in recovery.
After my surgery, once we were cleared by my doctor, we started trying again. I felt so much pressure to get pregnant quickly. I had gotten pregnant so quickly in the past, I thought it would happen fairly quickly again. Every month as it didn’t happen, I felt like my heart would break a little more. I was crying more days than not. I felt broken. I kept asking God, “Why? Why is this happening to us when we want a baby so bad?” It felt unfair, and it was hard to not feel angry at times. But we tried to keep our heads up and trust that we would be blessed with a child when the time was right for us. July (the month of my surgery) marked one year since we started trying. September was also a difficult month, because a year before, I found out I was pregnant for the first time and also it was also the month of our first loss. I tried my very best to relax and try to not let the pressure get to me, but the pain ran so deep. It got to the point where I couldn’t look at my pregnancy test results. I would have Jared look at them and tell me the results. I felt like my life was at a standstill. It took so much effort to think about the positives in my life. And even though my husband was with me every step of the way, I still somehow felt so alone. I prayed and prayed to be blessed with a baby.
Month after month grew my desperation. Looking back now, I know how unhealthy that was for me but in the moment it is hard to feel anything else. People tell you to “relax” and I honestly think that is such bad advice. How are you supposed to “relax” when you are in the middle of your own nightmare? I tried everything in my control to get pregnant. I became obsessed, and not in a healthy way. I would spend hours researching or watching youtube videos of other women’s fertility journeys. I began doing acupuncture at one of the best places in California. People would fly into Orange County to visit this fertility acupuncturist. Every new thing I tried I would think, “this has to be the one that solves the problem.” But month after month, we were hit with negative pregnancy tests. In April of 2019, we decided to see a fertility specialist. Test after test – everything came back normal, which was actually more frustrating in a way. I felt helpless. I felt like I was doing everything in my power to get pregnant and couldn’t. It was difficult because we had gotten pregnant so quickly those two times back to back and how it had been almost a year of trying with nothing. I also am pretty stubborn so I really wanted to try to get pregnant as naturally as possible. I was slowly coming to the realization that it may not happen for us, and that would be ok. My fertility doctor and I had a plan for our slower pace. We would begin with the lowest dose of clomid, then if that didn’t work in a few months we would try IUI, and then later down the line, there was always the possibility of IVF. The thought of these possibilities were scary, but I really tried to take it day by day and trust that it would happen when it was supposed to. But trust me, that is much easier said than done. In October of 2019, I started my first round of clomid (50mg). Clomid is a fertility drug that helps you produce more eggs each month so you have a higher chance of conceiving, as well as a higher chance of twins. You have symptoms of menopause, hot flashes, headaches etc. In the first month, I still only produced one egg and didn’t fall pregnant. The next month (November 2019) my doctor increased the dose to 150mg. They were monitoring me and it looked like my body still only released one egg, but there was a small chance I released two.
On November 27th, 2019, we found out I was pregnant again. Who knows if it was actually the clomid, or if it was all mental, but I didn’t care! I remember falling into Jared’s arms and just sobbing, thanking God for this chance. All I could think of was how grateful I was for just the chance for this to be a viable pregnancy, after so many months of negatives. I, of course, was still incredibly nervous. For two years I associated pregnancy with fear and sadness because of the past and what had happened. But, I am so beyond happy to share that we so far have a healthy pregnancy. Our little miracle baby is a strong one! Going through what we went through makes us appreciate the journey even more! We still have fears and I realize that those will probably last until we hold our baby in our arms, but I am ok with that fact. I am still just so grateful to have this chance. The first photo below is the day we found out that our little baby was in the right spot – my uterus. This was a huge milestone for us, given my history. We then heard a heartbeat a week later, at 5 weeks and little one has been growing ever since!
Jared and I are beyond grateful for our little blessing that we are looking forward to meeting this August. Words cannot describe how thankful we are to be able to have the chance to bring a new life into this world. Our hearts have yearned to be parents for so long so to finally be in this place is one of the most fulfilling feelings. I have thought about what I would say to announce that we are pregnant many times. At the beginning of our journey, I would smile at the thought of being able to tell everyone the news. But as time went on and our struggles became real I almost dreaded announcing to everyone because I have been on the other side countless times and know the pain that is felt when you find out someone else is pregnant. You are happy for other people’s joy but deep down desperately long for that to be you. Infertility became a part of my identity for over two years and I rallied with other women who were trying to become mothers as well. So I feel by announcing this news to the world, in a way I am leaving behind those who still are desperately desiring to be parents and that utterly breaks my heart. But the truth is, it will always be a part of me and I will always be there for anyone who is longing to be a parent because it can be the most lonely and helpless feeling in the world. Infertility can feel so isolating and simply cruel. Wanting something so much, doing everything in your power to achieve that goal and feeling like you are failing month after month can take a huge toll on you. So just know, I am here for you – however that may be.
For those of you reading this who aren’t struggling with infertility or you never have, I wanted to share some things with you that may be helpful for the future. Just remember, you never know what someone is going through. It is so important to think twice before you ask pointed questions and be sensitive to others’ feelings. A simple question like “when are you having kids?” can be very triggering to someone. It seems as if having babies is a fun surface-level topic to discuss, and for some people, it may be. But for others, it can be a very difficult thing to discuss. I remember one time I was sitting in the waiting room at my fertility clinic, and someone I didn’t know on Instagram asked me something like if I wanted kids, and I remember just showing it to Jared and almost wanting to burst into tears right then and there. Things like this happened countless times and I really feel people need to take a second before they ask personal questions like this. I think this goes for all things in life. You never know what someone is going through, so just being mindful of how you bring things up is very important. If you know someone dealing with infertility, I have found that the best thing to do is just offer to be there for them, however, they need it. Don’t offer advice, or ask if they have done this test or that test because believe me – chances are they are a million steps ahead of you. It can feel overwhelming to be bombarded with opinions when you are just trying your best to move forward at the pace that makes you feel most comfortable, and that is different for everyone.
Now the purpose of this post is not for sympathy, I just want to help other women and couples struggling to get pregnant to not feel so alone, and to share our story. It is easy to look around you and see everyone else getting pregnant and wonder why it is not happening for you. Know that there are others out there going through the same pain and heartache. Knowing that really helped me get through some of my darkest days. Also, please, please, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me if you are going through infertility or just a time in your life that is trying and difficult – whatever it may be. I am here for you. Also, to all my want to be mothers out there: my heart is with you. I pray that you will all find peace in your journey and I know one day, some way, somehow you will all be mothers. <3 Thank you for listening to our story.
I wanted to end by sharing a special song with you all by one of my favorite country artists, Kacey Musgraves that really means a lot to me and has a special place in my heart. It proved to give me hope in some of my darkest times. The lyrics and overall message really hit home in so many ways. Even though we may not always be able to see it, there is so much beauty surrounding each and every one of us. The song has so many parallels with what we were going through in my mind. Also, with the constant mention of rainbows, I can’t help but think of the babies we lost and our miracle rainbow baby.
The photos above were taken by the talented Hannah Alyssa while we visited Charleston, SC in February. Thank you, Hannah, for documenting this special time in our lives, we are forever grateful!