"Invictus" is Latin for unconquered. I am invictus. I have shared that I am now expecting another rainbow baby, our first and last after our most recent loss, Eli. What I have not spoken much about are my struggles to conceive many of our rainbow babies, including Eli. A recent Redbook article about infertility has inspired me to now
overshare my fertility history. I have chosen to do so because I know the pain that rainbow babies can bring for those who have lost children and have not had or are not also expecting rainbow babies. I still experience pain when I hear of pregnancies within our circle of family and friends. I also know the pain of not being able to conceive a rainbow baby the quick and uncomplicated route.
Wyatt was my first pregnancy, conceived quickly and easily. Of course, his pregnancy became anything but easy after his Potter's Syndrome was diagnosed but physically my pregnancy was pretty simple and resulted in his delivery by c-section during my 37th week. I was able to conceive quickly after his loss. My body literally snapped back into shape and I found myself pregnant again between three to four months after his death. This pregnancy was again physically easy but emotionally taxing and a perfectly plump little girl was delivered via repeat section just one year and four days after Wyatt's birthday. I became pregnant again when she was ten months old and suffered a very early miscarriage. Again, my body snapped back and after just two months I was pregnant with our middle daughter. When she was about a year and a half we began to want another child. I have charted using the Take Charge of Your Fertility "method" (TCOYF) since becoming pregnant with Wyatt and it quickly became obvious that my cycle was seriously defective and it remained so for many many months. Specifically, I had a very short luteal phase which would make pregnancy impossible. I consulted with my doctor and after a very uncomfortable endometrial biopsy I received the official diagnosis and began treatment.
Treatment for me consisted of taking clomid and monitoring for follicle development, which was not stellar, so I also needed hcg shots to trigger earlier ovulation since my cycles were still proceeding slowly. I was lucky enough to only have to do this for two months before becoming pregnant with our most robust little girl, our youngest. Last spring when she was over a year and a half, we decided that one more would complete our family. Again, I noticed some pretty serious defects in my cycles and returned to my doctor to try to preemptively straighten it out. Three months of oral progesterone was enough to normalize my cycles and the hormones within which I am convinced were out of control. I was then able to become pregnant with Eli on my first cycle trying. Overall, I've had five medicated cycles to achieve two pregnancies but I have monitored for months prior to those cycles and been devastated each and every time my cycle was completely inadequate to have even a chance at achieving a pregnancy. It has been a very humbling experience to admit that my body was not doing was it was supposed to and having to see a doctor to be able to do something which so many others do almost without thinking. I felt like a failure to my husband because my body was not working and I couldn't fix it myself. Charting is not glamorous, but for me it has been effective. Without charting it may have taken much longer to diagnose and treat my fertility shortcomings.
Why share this? Because just like with baby loss, infertility carries its own societal stigma and is all too often a hush-hush topic or one that is not dealt with in the best way by well-meaning and sometimes not-so-well-meaning individuals. One survey found that about sixty percent of couples facing infertility hid it from family and friends. Infertility is extremely emotional. Infertility and pregnancy/infant loss is extremely emotional. But these things don't have to be and frankly, shouldn't be, suffered in silence.
I am invictus, I am unconquered. Neither baby loss nor bouts of infertility have conquered me. I am hopeful, not hopeless.
To quote the poet William Ernest Henley and his poem "Invictus",
I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.