Updated: Apr 6, 2021
These are the phrases that stick out the most in my mind from the last few years (see above illustration). To put into words the emotional rollercoaster I went through on the road to having my daughter, here in the flesh, would take a novel so I am going to attempt to stick to just some of the most monumental moments. As I have started to put memories to words however, I realize that even the abbreviated version will take more than a single post, so I’ll begin with this as post 1/unknown in our infertility story. The first thing that stands out in my mind is responding to friends, family, and random people I walked with on the golf course that asked when we were going to have kids with, “Oh right away! I want to start trying for a family as soon as we get married. I want at least 4 or 5”. This is the first moment that sticks out and also, the first moment that I subsequently came to regret. Like you will hear so many others say, naively I assumed we would have children without a prolonged struggle. I say “prolonged” because for some reason, maybe the underlying pessimist in me, I did worry before we even started trying that things might not be easy for us. Pessimism aside, I could not have predicted the road we were about to face.
The next moment that sticks out in my mind is only a few months into trying when I took a pregnancy test because I just had a “feeling”, and also because I read some statistic that said that I had a good chance of being pregnant at this point. I am embarrassed to say that I was flabbergasted and disproportionally upset. I cried in the bathroom when it was negative. I didn’t even tell Adam I took one because I felt so silly about having such a dramatic reaction to seeing a negative. I think back to this moment and realize that maybe this was some sort of preparation for disappointments that were yet to come. Anyways, let’s fast forward 6 months or so and get to the next big moment that sticks out. I would like to say that I quit taking pregnancy tests each month, but this journal is intended to share the real and honest parts of our journey, so yeah, I did not and 6 plus months later they were still all negative. My over-emotional reaction to a negative each month lessened but my anxiety that there was something actually “wrong” increased. This anxiety led to the next big moment and chapter of our journey.
After doing all of my overly obsessive, type A researching, I angrily and somewhat emotionally told Adam, in the middle of a golf Major week, that we needed to take the next step and see a Reproductive Endocrinologist (RE). You will come to see as the big moments continue to unfold in this story that major golf tournaments and major fertility related upsets seemed to love each other’s company. Adam being the level headed, fixer he is tried to encourage me that it was still early and we still had plenty of time, but ultimately he just wanted to see me happy, and I went ahead and made a phone call that I am forever grateful for. Our meeting with a RE was actually quite uneventful, except for the order for 13 tubes of blood and numerous tests to evaluate our situation. We were told that all of our lab work checked out completely normal, and we were given the unexplained infertility speech as well as the next steps and options. We were a year in at this point of actively, admittedly obsessively, trying by doing all of the tried and true “trying to conceive” things; all the digital ovulation tests, all the timing, all the tricks, and all the old fashion “let’s make a baby” ways. I was ready to take the next step and so was my age, per my RE, so we decided to move forward.
The next big moment was upon us, we were ready to take the plunge into the world of IVF but signing up to get started is not the monumental moment here; it’s what happened before we could get to that first official IVF appointment that is. I decided for no other reason than it was now a disappointing monthly ritual I did, to take a pregnancy test before I was even expecting my cycle. For the second time, I stood in the bathroom flabbergasted, but this time I was staring at a pregnancy test that for the first time in almost a year had a positive sign. I could not believe it, it seemed too good to be true, and too cliché that we were that couple that was about to start IVF but then got pregnant. After another positive confirmation tests though it started to sink in that it was true, at least on little plastic sticks. I was pregnant. This excitement lasted approximately one hour before being replaced by, the all too familiar, feeling of disappointment and anger when I went to the restroom and saw blood. This would be the first of many times in pregnancy that this sight became a regular occurrence. Phone calls were made, appointments were set, and I was seen extremely early due to the bleeding and a very comforting RE clinic. I went in for my first ever ultrasound as an entire ball of nerves with no clue what to expect other than that they would be putting a transducer, better known as “Wanda” in the infertility community in my, well you get the point. Moments later a nurse that would walk with us through so many more anxious ultrasounds over the years (shout out Jen!) said “everything looks great Jessica and right on target. If you look closely here you will see a flickering, and that is your baby’s heartbeat”.
The significance of the moment I had my first pregnancy test and saw that first heartbeat is truly painful because listening and watching for that heartbeat as well as taking tests to watch the line fade, would define our next chapter. We anxiously watched that heartbeat on the screen at RE appointments every other week until we felt secure, and despite the continued bleeding, we started to truly accept that we were going to have a baby. We “graduated” from the RE clinic’s watchful eye and moved to our OBGYN who did all of the routine ultrasounds and lab work. Everything was “perfect”, their words not mine, and we set off for the Masters tournament. Remember that thing I said about golf Majors and pregnancy disappointments going hand in hand? This is the most monumental moment in our story and the hardest to write about. Although I had the assurance from both our RE clinic and OBGYN that things were progressing completely normal, and the bleeding was nothing to worry about, I still felt an anxiety in the pit of my stomach that I could not shake. We told no one except my mom and good friend who both happened to be coming to the Masters that week. I take that back, we told Adam’s agent at the par 3 contest because it just felt right, and we had officially reached the second trimester. He was thrilled and promised to keep it a secret. I had seen fellow golf families do adorable pregnancy announcements from the Masters, and I was thinking that our picture they snapped mid round of the par 3 would be the perfect announcement post. Something stopped me from making that post.
The very next day, in fact, I would realize what stopped me from making that announcement post. That Thursday is so vivid for me. It was a beautiful day. My parents were out walking the golf course. My mom was giddy at my tiny little bump and the secret that only a few of us knew, and it just felt like a depressing weight had finally been lifted. It all just felt so right, until it didn’t. Adam and I were in the parking lot chatting with his agent after the round, getting ready to head back to the rental house when I received a call from my OBGYN. I expected it. They had told me they would be calling with routine test results but more excitedly we thought, the sex of the baby. Although I had no reason to feel sick about the call I did, and I immediately got into the curtesy car to take the call while Adam and his agent stood outside and kept talking This is how it went “Jessica do you have a moment to talk about your test results? Ok. I’m afraid I have bad news…your baby has a fatal diagnosis…wait and see…it’s a girl”. I stared at Adam through the car window happily chatting with his agent, oblivious to the call that was happening in the car. The completely discordant scene playing out, separated by only a car window, felt so surreal that it was like I was having an out of body experience. I was momentarily suspended in time, and then reality smacked me hard. I motioned to Adam to wrap it up and pointed at the phone with a panicked face, he got in the car and we left. I did not step foot on Augusta National property again that week.
I could write a complete diary about how the rest of the week went at the Masters after that call, but it would consist mostly of tears, anger, shock, and grief. It would include phone call after phone call with specialists and a struggle of staying or leaving a town and tournament early that now felt like purgatory to me. It would include fielding congratulatory text messages about Adam’s Thursday round while I sat numb on the floor of a rental house looking at pictures of a happy family with their healthy baby on the wall. It would include me politely refusing to see my parents or friends that traveled to Augusta that week while encouraging them to still go watch and support Adam each round. For the sake of time, I will leave it at that for how the rest of that week played out. I wish I could say that was the end of what sticks out as the worst moment in that chapter of our journey to parenthood, but I would be remiss to not at least mention the subsequent weeks. The weeks that we sat at home listening for our baby’s heartbeat on a little hand-held monitor that my friend ordered for us while also going to ultrasounds and getting bad news about abnormal findings there too. Ultimately though, this chapter and moment in time, does close with the loss of our first daughter despite all of the hope, monitoring, and prayers that could be offered.
To Be Continued.