You know how there are infertiles or recurrent miscarriers who go along and deeply suffer for a while until all looks bleak, but then one day they finally get their miraculous, happy ending? And how there are others that struggle along year after year, spinning their wheels in the same pit of despair, and eventually they have to accept the fact that it's not going to happen for them? How do you ultimately decide that you're in the second category?
I was taught that quitters never win and winners never quit. I was raised to believe that I could do anything if I put my mind to it and that if I worked hard enough at something, I would succeed. But no matter how hard I try to have a baby, all I do is fail. Over and over again. The "you can do it" philosophy isn't panning out on this baby quest. I am tempted to just stop in the road, sit down, and say "I can't do this any more. I quit." But that goes against my grain, and seems almost un-American to boot.
I guess my question is how do you know for sure when enough is enough? When do quitters actually win and winners actually quit?
I never imagined that I would have five miscarriages. Five sounds like a lot to me. A couple of years ago, during the course of counseling after my third miscarriage, my counselor told me to come up with a plan about how many miscarriages I was willing to go through before I quit trying to have a biological child, and she advised me to stick to my plan. After lengthy deliberation, I set my limit at five...but when I set that limit, I secretly believed that I would have my baby before I ever racked up five miscarriages. I still had faith deep down that with my next pregnancy I was going to end up in the miraculous "happy ending" category. Obviously, that didn't happen, and here I am dealing with my fifth, and supposedly final, miscarriage, thinking "I just don't think this is going to happen for me. . . but what if it did if I just tried again?" It's turning into something akin to a gambling addiction, and it is hard for me to walk away from the miscarriage roulette table.
How did I get here? It went something like this:
Miscarriage #1 (chemical pregnancy/5 weeks/age 33): Oh my gosh! I can't believe this is happening!......I'm sad and confused, but miscarriages are very common. Just because I had one doesn't mean that I'm at any higher risk of having another one. Tra la la, I'm still young and have plenty of time. We can try again, and surely things will go better next time...but what if they don't? I'm scared.
Miscarriage #2 (blighted ovum/8 weeks/age 34): Well, here it is, my worst fear coming true. I'm devastated. My doctor says that two miscarriages in a row are fairly common and probably are just an unlucky fluke. But what if there is something wrong with me? What if I can't have children? What if this happens again, how will I bear it? I have a feeling of panic and doom, but desperately hope that things will turn out differently next time.
Miscarriage #3 (trisomy thirteen/11 weeks/age 35): This one seemed meant to be. We weren't even really trying to get pregnant; I thought that God was coming through with a miracle for us. It seemed to be going so well...we saw a strong heartbeat at 9 weeks and told everyone the news that this one looked like it was going to be a keeper after all. This loss is the cruelest joke ever. And now I am officially a recurrent miscarrier. That is part of who I am and always will be. A recurrent miscarrier. I am defective. And angry. Especially at God. I also have a new deep, dark fear now, not just of miscarrying, but of carrying another trisomy 13 baby...carrying it to term, just to have it suffer and die shortly thereafter...or to linger in a state of total disability. I am in so much pain that I aimlessly wander around the house, thinking that I would do ANYTHING to make the pain stop, understanding why people take drugs or sink into a warm bath with bare wrists and a sharp razor blade. Of course, I didn't actually seriously consider doing either of those things, but I understand why people would do them. I feel lost, adrift, purposeless. I almost lose my faith in God. On the outside, I keep up a normal facade and dutifully continue to go through the motions of my life. I am quite good at functioning, no matter what, but on the inside I fall into a deep black hole, and it takes more than a year, including six months of counseling, to crawl out of it. That is when I decide that 5 miscarriages will be my limit.
Miscarriage #4 (chemical pregnancy/5 weeks/age 36): Wow, I had really hoped that I could beat the curse and that this one would work out. Not only am I heartbroken about this miscarriage but, more importantly, it's starting to look as if I can't ever have biological children.
Miscarriage #5 (chemical pregnancy/5 weeks/age 37): Five miscarriages in a row. That's a lot. I am 37 and it is becoming very clear that I probably never will give birth to a child. I have to let go of that dream...don't I? I am crushed. I guess it's just not going to happen for me. This isn't how I thought my life was going to be.
Despite all this, sometimes I still feel like I have been spared the worst, and I feel like maybe I should quit while I'm ahead. In a crazy, upside-down way, I consider it being "ahead" that the past two losses were physically easy chemical pregnancies. I feel like I am "ahead" because I have not been confronted with finding out in the second trimester that the baby I am carrying is chromosomally abnormal. Because my RE's hypothesis is that I have poor egg quality that results in a lot of chromosomally abnormal embryos, I feel like I am playing with fire every time that I get pregnant, especially since I already have conceived one baby who had trisomy 13. I also feel like I am "ahead" because I have not been actually been confronted with the danger of an ectopic pregnancy (although an ectopic was suspected for a while with my second pregnancy). Furthermore, I have not had to endure the unspeakable grief of a second trimester miscarriage or a stillbirth. After all I have been through already, a late loss like that might do me in.
So, in many ways, it seems like I should not ever try to conceive again. I have dodged a lot of bullets and don't relish pushing my luck, knowing that there are worse things that could happen than another first trimester miscarriage. And I'm starting to get more excited about the prospect of adopting a baby, although that process seems daunting, too.
But if I quit now, when I'm 37 and still have some potentially fertile years ahead of me, will I always regret it and think "what if?" What if the sixth pregnancy would have been the one that allowed us to break our streak of failure and end this whole saga with our own "happy ending" success story? What if the sixth pregnancy would have been the one that sticks and allows me to quit viewing my body as barren and defective? What if the sixth pregnancy was the charm that resulted in me realizing my dream of giving birth to a baby?
Like I said, it's hard to know when to walk away from the miscarriage roulette table. How do you know when enough is enough?
(And this is not a completely a rhetorical question. I would love to know how you answer that question.)
PS--In case you are wondering how I am doing, I am keeping my head above water, but just barely. I have cried myself to sleep late into the night, and am limping through my work days. One minute I'm okay, and the next minute I'm dissolving into tears. It's exhausting. I am not going to my office Christmas party tonight because I am too drained to put on a happy face and make small talk. Usually I look forward to the annual party and never miss it. Not this year. But I'll be okay. I know that I won't feel like this forever....