Monday, March 7, 2011

Is it better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all?

I just read and commented on a post that touches on a concept that I have been thinking about for a while.

Which is worse, getting pregnant and having a miscarriage, or never being able to get pregnant in the first place? (thus my title: Is it better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all?)

I think most people fall into one of the two categories and, luckily, very few people have to experience both ie. struggling to conceive for years then miscarrying. Also, I don't know into which category failed IUI/IVFs fall into, maybe they are their own category.

I believe all suck equally in their own ways and are emotionally draining and very difficult.  Being that I have not miscarried or gone through failed IUIs/IVFs, I can only empathize with those who have without fully understanding what that person is going through. I think it is very hard for a person experiencing one to fully understand the others.

One thing I think of is that to have a miscarriage means that your body can at least get pregnant whereas mine can not.

Even though we may have drastically different experiences, I think the ease at which we are able to relate to and comfort one another in the blogosphere is amazing.

Thank you all for your support in our ongoing struggles.

I have decided to include in this post one of the amazing stories I've come across about the medical side of infertility. The PA that works at the ENT practice I work at had a miscarriage/very early delivery of her baby girl on Dec 24th, 2010. Her baby did not make it. She wrote the following story as a way to comfort herself as well as to explain to those following her story what she was going through. At the time, I encouraged her to read some of your blogs or perhaps to start her own, I am not aware of whether or not she has.

Published with her permission:

 Full of Holes
We are traveling home today after a 25 day hospital stay, four hours from our home, and I feel like an empty shell.  I don’t recognize my own body for all the changes.  I am having trouble finding a place on my body that is not in pain or trying to heal from some sort of trauma.  My skin is timeline of what I have just been through with its map of bruises, edema, remnants of adhesive, and punctures in different stages of healing.
I am humbled by this experience, and wanted to put in writing some of my insight. As a healthcare provider,  I felt I had more empathy for a patient if I had gone through the same procedure or illness .  We even go so far as to practice on each other during training.  I had the perception I was an empathetic and compassionate provider.  Now, through personal experience, it is clear that having a single procedure, surgery, or test performed  outside the context of actually having the illness or disease is obviously not equivalent to what a patient experiences.  Aside from being in that patient’s shoes, there is no way to guess the amount of discomfort they are feeling.
Each insult to the body is cumulative.  It is almost as if we have an internal tolerance gauge.  At the beginning of the illness or trauma, we start out with the gauge at full.  The first procedure is isolated and the pain we experience is at an expected level.  However, we have a little leak in our tolerance level because the body and mind remember the insult.  If enough recovery time is available, that tolerance is replenished.  However, if we then undergo another procedure, surgery, blood draw, IV insert, etc., the perception of that insult is greater due to decreased tolerance. 
It is as though the body is left with a little hole, and after multiple insults is almost like a sieve.  In fact, it often feels like a rapid-fire assault on the body.  There is no opportunity to go back to baseline.  So, you find yourself noticing that  even a little needle stick for a blood draw makes you break out in a sweat, the thought of them changing your IV brings you to tears, or you ask for a pain medication to help you tolerate a simple procedure that normally only requires a local injection of lidocaine.
I found myself fearful and anxious without appropriate cause.  I was unable to understand simple instructions or retain information for very long.  I had to ask my husband to make medical decisions for me because I was in too much pain to process the discussion of ris k versus benefit.  There was a point at which I was completely depleted body, mind and spirit, and it unfortunately came when I was in the intensive care unit with an infection that that had resulted in the premature labor, delivery, and loss of my daughter, but was now threatening to take my life as well.  That lonely, painful night, almost completely immobilized by medical equipment, with frequent loud alarms in my ears , as my body was giving out; I gave up.
The next morning, my body was starting to stabilize.  Now, I had to dig deep and find a way to get through each needle stick, IV insert, procedure, and medication that would lead to my recovery.    Each positive result seemed to fill my tank a little, and my husband and family were there to hold my hand and give me their strength.  I also had the fortune of being cared for by a very compassionate and loving team of medical professionals.  It was only then that my mind actually started to process the extent of my loss, and I could begin to grieve.
So, today is a celebration, of sorts , to be out of the hospital and begin the travel home.  I feel just a shell of my former self as I struggle just to perform simple tasks such as bathing and brushing my teeth.  I sit on the floor in the bathroom trying to sort through what else I should be doing.  I finally start to pull things out of my toiletries bag one by one and ask myself if that was something I needed to do. 
As I look back and catalog my time in the hospital, I can see how I have become so depleted:  vital signs every 2-4 hours, fetal heart tone measurements and fetal monitoring up to 4 times daily, 20 days of laying as flat as possible, resulting in constant neck, back, and shoulder spasm, more than 24 venipunctures, 2 arterial blood gases, 2 ultrasounds, 2 urinary catheter placements,  a central line placement, a PICC line placement,  8 failed attempts at an amniocentesis, 6 IV placements (2 under ultrasound guidance), 4 additional attempts at IV placement,  spinal anesthesia, a complicated surgery where I was conscious and almost completely inverted for 2.5 hours , an epidural anesthesia, time in the ICU which resulted in a weight gain of over 10 pounds in 24 hours from fluid overload, and an incredibly painful premature labor and delivery , holding my daughter in my arms as she passed away while they patched me up on the surgery table, and now, I am attached to a portable pump which supplies a constant flow of broad spectrum antibiotic directly into my central blood supply to fight a multi-drug resistant infection. 
 My physical body will heal pretty rapidly, but  I am expecting that the body will have some memory of each insult for some time.   The fatigue and loss of muscle will take a little longer to improve.  How long it will take me emotionally and mentally to recover from the physical insults may take many months.  The all-encompassing grief, sense of loss, and guilt associated with  the loss of my daughter may never completely heal. 
I am now a body full of holes; the greatest of which is the gaping hole in my chest from the loss of my beautiful daughter.


  1. Sadly, I know a number of women (online) who have TTC unsuccessfully for years, only to miscarry when finally pregnant.

    It's really hard for me to say whether it's worse to never get pregnant than to miscarry. Each has its own special brand of grief.

    In nearly 3 years of TTC, I have had one very early miscarriage, a "chemical pregnancy" at 5 weeks. It was upsetting, but at the time we thought "At least we know we can get pregnant." I don't think that thought would've reassured me much had I been farther along and had time to get attached to the pregnancy.

    It has now been 17 months since that miscarriage without a single BFP. I still feel a sense of loss about my inability to conceive often. It is less concrete than the feelings I had about my miscarriage but difficult nonetheless.

    P.S. I grew up in southern NM and think I have figured out which town you live in. ;-)

  2. Wow, what a powerful post. Thanks for sharing.

    I've wondered about the "which is worse" scenario myself. I'm thankful I've never had to suffer the pain of a m/c... but at the same point, I'm petrified it's only b/c my body CANNOT get pregnant. I hope hope hope that I'll finally see those two lines someday, and never have to be able to empathize with those who have miscarried.

    Tough stuff...

  3. Well after having 2 miscarriages and 1 ectopic I can tell you that it is very painful and it also makes every time you get pregnant a very anxious experience. On the other hand, I think not being able to get pregnant is also very painful and hard. So much pain with all different types of IF.

  4. I have a friend who had a miscarriage at 17 weeks. I have been struggling with infertility for 3 years.

    A little over a year ago she told me that she had it worse because she knew what she was missing. I didn't disagree.

    A month later, she announced her pregnancy. She now has a five month old; I still have nothing.

    I think the person who has it worse is the one left with empty arms.

  5. I can't say really since I haven't been pregnant at all. But when reading this story among with others I think I would rather be without that experience.

    This is a powerful and very sad story.

  6. Wow...that's a really tough question. There are positives and negatives to miscarriages. The positive is that you know you can get pregnant, the negative is that you will never feel the same way again when you do finally become pregnant with a healthy baby. It destroys your innocence in a way. But trying for so long and never getting a BFP would also be devestating and would make you question if your body is capable of conceiving in the first place.

    I don't know..but very different, but both so hard.

  7. I'm really sad that I've never experienced the BFP, but I can't bear the thought of finally getting there just to start over. :( I know I would if I had to, but I"m trying not to even think those thoughts yet.


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