Postpartum Stories

Infertility, Vanishing Twin and Postpartum

POSTPARTUM AFTER INFERTILITY AND VANISHING TWIN LOSS

Emily shares her experience being pregnant with twins, having a vanishing twin, and then birth and postpartum all following her struggle with infertility.

newborn baby after vanishing twin syndrome

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PLEASE INTRODUCE YOURSELF AND TELL US SOME BACKGROUND TO YOUR STORY- TTC (TRYING TO CONCEIVE) TO NOW.

Hello! I’m Emily. I’m a 33-year-old graphic designer and live in California with my husband, our two dogs, and our baby boy who is about to turn one. My journey through infertility to becoming a mom is not typical, and for that reason, I get nervous sharing it publicly. I know so many “born mothers” who fight the infertility battle for years, losing babies and hope. That’s not me. But I did experience infertility. My story is real and I’m honored to have the chance to share it.

My husband and I spent 12 years together without children. Some of those years, the childfree life was a willful choice (I got married when I was practically a baby myself) and some of those years, it wasn’t. There were seasons of trying and seasons, like during graduate school, when having a child was the furthest thing from my mind. After grad school, I settled into my career and got ready for the next chapter of my life…and it never came. I was pretty embarrassed, ashamed, and disappointed. All I could think about was all those times I had flaunted my carefree life in front of my friends who had children. Karma…she is a bitch.

Seeking Infertility  Help

After trying consistently for two years, my husband and I decided to seek some help. We went through fertility testing and got the diagnosis that nobody with infertility wants to hear….”unexplained.” We had a wonderful fertility doctor who created a protocol with increasing intervention. I’m incredibly lucky that just three months after starting fertility treatments, on St. Patrick’s Day 2018, a doctor got me pregnant (seriously, that’s my favorite infertility joke).

I conceived twins, the biggest shock of my life. Unfortunately, a twin pregnancy can often make women incredibly sick and I was one of those lucky few. I did not experience the dreaded hyperemesis gravidarum that some women suffer from, but I did end up in the hospital once and spent many of those early days sicker than I ever thought possible. Sadly, around the time I was released from the fertility clinic and put under the care of my OB/GYN, I found out that “Baby B” hadn’t survived. They call it “vanishing twin syndrome.” I’m a very practical person and took heart in the fact that my doctor seemed concerned about my ability to successfully carry twins. “Baby A”, my son Finn, was healthy and strong in utero and stayed that way when he came into the world on December 4, after a 48 hour labor that included 6 hours of pushing 🙂

RELATED: Postpartum after Stillbirth

HOW DO YOU BELIEVE YOUR YEARS WITH FERTILITY TREATMENTS CONTRIBUTED TO YOUR PREGNANCY EXPERIENCE?

Infertility Grief

Infertility robbed me of that “moment” of finding out I was pregnant. When I took the test, my first thought was “No, that’s just the hormones from the shots still in my system.” I didn’t believe I was expecting until I got the results back from my doctor nearly a week later.

Vanishing Twin Grief

Then, because of the vanishing twin, I was left with some unpleasant side effects – extreme nausea and vomiting for the duration of my pregnancy and a higher than average down-syndrome risk, just for example. So practically speaking, fertility treatments gave me twins, which caused me to have some atypical experiences.

Postpartum and Lack of Space for Grief

Because of all it took for me to conceive my son, I felt like I should avoid feeling sorry for myself, never complain, and soldier on, which I did. This proved to be both good and bad. It was good, in that I do believe in “mind over matter” and I think a positive attitude is important. But it was also bad because people around me had no idea what I actually needed, how sick I really was, and seemed to have high expectations of me and my abilities. I thought if I talked about my symptoms, people close to me would remind me that at least I had gotten pregnant and I didn’t want that reminder. I knew how lucky I was, but I also knew that I felt like shit for nearly nine months.

RELATED: Emotions of Postpartum

Mixed feelings getting pregnant after infertility

WHAT DID YOU KNOW ABOUT POSTPARTUM PRIOR TO YOUR OWN EXPERIENCE?

Women, at least in my circles, love to share their horror stories about the wasteland their bodies became postpartum, so that is basically all I knew. I knew about the endless weeks of bleeding, the tearing, and stitches, the raw nipples, etc. I did not, however, know about the night sweats…would have been nice if someone had told me about THAT, haha!

WHAT SURPRISED YOU ABOUT YOUR POSTPARTUM EXPERIENCE?

So many things surprised me! I was surprised by how good I felt right away. My nausea ended as soon my son was out and food tasted good again! Additionally, I had retained pounds and pounds of water and that started disappearing immediately. And in the days following his delivery, I realized that I didn’t like being pregnant, even though I was so grateful to have been able to conceive and so in awe and respectful of my body for being able to do what it did.

Maternal Instinct

I was also surprised at how much love and maternal instinct I felt immediately. Many women don’t talk about that part, but taking care of a newborn was straight-up magic for me. I had an aversion to the idea of breastfeeding before my baby was born, but after, it felt like the most natural thing in the world to want to feed him.

Breastfeeding

And on that note, I was surprised at how difficult breastfeeding turned out to be. I did not go into it naively – I had family and friends who dumped ALL the dirty secrets on me – but I thought that, in time, my son and I would figure it out. We weren’t able to, despite having amazing support, and I started exclusively pumping for him. Now, almost a year postpartum, I’m surprised at myself that I’m still pumping.

Postpartum Anxiety

I was surprised when I had postpartum anxiety more than four months after having my son. I thought postpartum mental health issues happened within the first few weeks, and I thought they happened to women who had spouses who went back to work (mine stayed at home for the first 9 months of our son’s life). But when I returned to work, my anxiety became almost crippling. I still battle that demon now at 11 months postpartum.

Postpartum Community

Lastly, I wasn’t prepared for how much I would need other women. I’ve never had a large circle of friends, nor felt like I needed much more human interaction than my experiences with my coworkers and my husband. But after having my baby, I sought out the company of other mothers and, in turn, women I had never considered befriending welcomed me into their lives with dinners, gifts, support, advice, and love.

RELATED: Relationships After Baby (Ecourse)

WHAT DO YOU WISH MORE PEOPLE REALIZED ABOUT POSTPARTUM AFTER INFERTILITY TREATMENTS?

Just because a woman has success with fertility treatments, doesn’t erase the experience she went through. Nothing will ever take away the memories of sticking myself with needles and crying over negative pregnancy tests. My identity as “infertile” didn’t end when my son was born. Many times when I’m rocking my son, I think of my fellow infertile sisters whose arms are empty and my heart breaks for them.

HOW DID OTHERS RESPOND TO YOUR POSTPARTUM EXPERIENCE?

I felt very lucky to have a solid local support system who responded favorably. My husband was an unrivaled supporter (no joke, he did EVERY night time feeding while I pumped) and my friends showed up with food and love.

My workplace was wonderful, allowing me to flex my leave, and, when I returned to work, outfitting my office so I could pump there. They even supported me when I had to bring my son into the office from time to time.

I come from a very large family and, unfortunately, I didn’t feel support from them. My mother has nine children (of which I’m the youngest) and my sisters and sisters-in-law have collectively birthed nearly 50 babies. I felt like their attitude was “We’ve been there, done that, survived it, and you will too.” Definitely not what a new mom needs.

RELATED: Postpartum Resources for Moms

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE THINGS THAT PEOPLE SAID/DID THAT WERE HURTFUL? (EVEN IF WELL INTENTIONED)

Someone very close to me said “After all the work you did to get him here, you’re going to leave him and go back to work?” That comment hurt.

I also don’t appreciate when people ask me when my son is going to get a sibling. Besides it being none of yo damn business, I’m also not sure I can actually have any more children. I may not even want to go through that experience again.

I WISH FOLKS WOULD STOP COMMENTING ABOUT OTHER PEOPLE’S REPRODUCTION.

WHAT ARE THE THINGS PEOPLE SAID/DID THAT WERE MOST HELPFUL IN A DIFFICULT TIME?

A few months after my son was born, after I went back to work and when my postpartum anxiety was at its worst, my sister-in-law had Door Dash delivered to me dinner one night. Another night, a friend randomly brought me take-out. Their gestures were more than having a hot meal to eat. It meant somebody could see me, knew I was having a hard season, and cared enough about me to lighten my burden for a minute.

ANYTHING ELSE YOU WOULD LIKE TO SHARE?

I know it’s easy for me to say now, but I wish I hadn’t felt so much shame surrounding my infertility diagnosis and subsequent treatments. If I could go back, I’d tell myself how brave I was to seek answers and help, how fearless I was to stick myself with needles full of hormones, and how strong I was when I walked back into my doctor’s office to start again after failures. I think infertility needs to be destigmatized. It’s not a woman crying and clutching her bum ovaries in the baby section at Target. Infertility is a fighter, getting knocked down over and over again, but getting back up every single time.

IN CASE YOU’RE FIGHTING THAT FIGHT AND NOBODY HAS SAID IT TO YOU, LET ME: YOU ARE BRAVE, FEARLESS, AND STRONG. HOLD ONTO YOUR HOPE, SISTER.

pinterest vanishing twin

This series, Postpartum Narratives, aims to bring awareness, normalization, and understanding to different postpartum experiences. No two postpartum experiences are the same, and as a society, we cannot have one view of what postpartum is or should be.

By sharing stories, we diversify our own understanding and can then advocate for better support and resources for each person and space that affects a postpartum family- the home, the workplace, the medical field, social constructs, etc. if you have a postpartum narrative you would like considered for contribution, please contact me here.

Do you know someone who has suffered stillbirth, miscarriage or another tragic birth event? Check out this Psychology Today article from Margaret M. Quinland, Ph.D., and Bethany Johnson MPhil, M.A. on Tips for Supporting Parents and Caregivers in Crisis.

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