Michelle is a beautiful artist, a loving mom, a vital member of her community and one of the founders of The Bravery Board , and she's really funny (did I mention that she just won and Emmy? yeah) She's essentially everything I look for in a friend, so when I asked her about writing a blog I was pretty excited when she said 'yes!' Michelle is on baby number two and her body isn't being easy on her. The reality of pregnancy isn't always glowing faces and tiny kicks so thank you Michelle for giving us a peek into what growing a human often looks like for women.
Last night I posted on Facebook something that for a while made me feel like I might be a bad person. I posted it anyway out of desperation toward my own inner-self. It read, “To all you women out there who just loved being pregnant - I don't know if I envy you or want to stab you in the eye.” Funny, yes, but sadly, I don’t feel like it was much of an over-exaggeration. It's kind of the truth these days.
Before you judge me, know I am a nice person. I am normal. I have lots of friends and rarely hold grudges. I give to charities and take care of children’s emotional needs for a living. I just am REALLY not enjoying being pregnant right now, and recently I actually felt the pains of wanting to say something terribly rude to a woman who, upon finding out I was pregnant said, “Oh don’t you just LOVE being pregnant? What a beautiful blessing.”
I won’t repeat what I wanted to say when she asked that. I will just leave it at the answer being, “No.”
This is my second pregnancy. My first son is four-years-old, and I do have to admit, the first time around pregnancy was a bit magical despite the physical trials I endured. I was 5 years younger for one thing. I had wanted to be a mom for as long as I could remember, so every little twitch and pregnancy milestone I hit was a source of pride. First ultrasound. First kick. Shoot, even the bad stuff like hemorrhoids and him kicking me in the ribs to the point I lost my breath and the awful PUPS rash I got 2 weeks before I delivered felt more like bragging rights as to how hard my body was working. I marveled at what we women are capable of as I went through it. It was hard, but I reveled in God’s miracle and all that.
But now I’m older, more prone to gaining weight, feel more exhausted and brain-dead, and within two weeks of finding out I was pregnant, I have been consistently sick. Not just slightly nauseated in the mornings as the term “morning sickness” would fool you into believing. I’ve been flu-like-sick morning, noon, and night. Gone is any sort of “glow” that pregnant women describe feeling. I feel an utter distaste for all of it. I don’t feel pride for any of the trials my body has to endure while being pregnant. I don’t feel like they are another notch on my belt. I’m just sick and tired. And tired of being sick and tired. And I was scared to admit it until I wrote that Facebook post.
One of the things I have a hard time with is admitting to is that motherhood in this stage is just difficult. I’ve been afraid to say out loud how much I really dislike being pregnant this go around because it feels like blasphemy. What about all those moms out there who can’t have children? I also have some weird feeling that if I verbalize my distaste for being sick 24/7 and not being able to catch my breath and all that, that I am somehow damaging my unborn child. It seems like a ridiculous thought now that I am typing it, but we often times put ourselves in “this or that” mindsets forgetting that there is space for both.
What’s true is this: I can be excited about the outcome of this child and at the same time be dismayed by the journey to get there. That doesn’t mean I’m a bad person or a bad mom. It means I am real. It means I don’t like being sick all the time. It means I like the vibrant energy-filled person I tend to be when I’m not carrying a child in my womb. That’s okay. That’s normal.
My confession, or rather my encouragement, to all those moms going through a tough pregnancy (or shoot, this could just as easily apply to those first few weeks of having a baby- don’t even get me started about that) is this: The mantra “It's hard, but worth it” is an okay phrase to adopt, and it's actually comforting to think of it that way rather than force yourself into feeling like it's all some sort of giant blessing. I know in the end, this will all be worth it and it will be a blessing. I know that I’ll love my son (yes, it's a boy!) like crazy and won’t be able to imagine a world without him once he gets here. But I also know it's okay to be authentic with how I am feeling in the here and now and not brush aside the hard parts because I don’t want to be ungrateful. We can feel two things at the same time- joy and pain- and that is the blessing and wonder of giving life and living life in the first place- its sacrifice, tears, pain, and joy all rolled into one.
Michelle Houghton is a counselor, painter, performer, speaker, and mother. She is the co-founder of The Bravery Board, a podcast and community-minded organization which hosts monthly gatherings related to wellness, thriving, and taking brave steps toward big goals. She is also an Emmy-winning writer and performer for The Mystery Hour, a comedic late night talk show based out of Springfield, MO, where she and her husband, (and host of the show), are raising their son and baby-on-the-way. Michelle is a connector, do-er, creative-thinker, and visionary. She strives to connect individuals to their overall potential and creativity, and applies her unique blend of self expression, vulnerability, and empathy to assist others in thriving
Aimee reached out to me via Instagram. She said that she wanted to tell her story but was having a hard time finding the words, and even wondering if her story was worth telling. That broke my heart because every single one of your stories is worth telling! Her comment further cemented in me the fact that this blog and this website are necessary. I'm so thankful that she reached out and opened up because I know her story will help someone else dealing with loss and that is worth everything.
“This isn’t a viable pregnancy”
I felt all the air rush out of my body in that moment and then the shaking began. It took a few seconds to realize the shaking was because of the sobs escaping my mouth. Tears streamed down my husband, then boyfriends face. The doctor continued, it had stopped growing at around 6 weeks. Maybe we could try again when the timing was better, she said to me. I walked out of the office like a stone.
I didn’t even know that I needed to worry about my pregnancy, thoughts of loss hadn’t even crossed my mind. When we went in for our early ultrasound at 9 weeks, we were excited and all smiles and it wasn’t until the tech said things weren’t right and left the room that I began to get scared. When everything was said and done, so many people told me “lots of first time pregnancies end in miscarriage and go on to have successful pregnancies”. After research, I realized it was more common than people think, especially first time pregnancies. I was utterly devastated by the loss, but felt hope that we would go on to have a successful pregnancy.
And we did, about 3 years later we welcomed a little girl, but not without some challenges and a whole lot of worry. Where the first pregnancy I didn’t even know to worry, this time around I couldn’t think about anything but. I felt cheated. I never got that carefree pregnancy with excitement and joy. I was so incredibly stressed out the whole time. Family encouraged us not to tell people until 3 months. They made comments like “we are excited for you, but don’t want to get too excited.” They meant well. It still added to the stress. Nevertheless, it all worked out and we had a beautiful baby girl who was healthy. We felt like the stars were ours!
Around the time many people ‘averagely’ begin to try again, we actively started trying again for another baby. Our little one was two at the time and it felt right. It took almost no time at all to get pregnant. We once again shared the joy with family and close friends, who were ‘cautiously optimistic’ for us. I worried, but the worry was less. After all, we had a healthy baby girl already, so my body surely knew what to do. I was about 5 weeks along when the spotting started and immediately I was wrecked. I couldn’t believe this was happening again. I tried to remain hopeful when we went in for an early ultrasound to see what was going on. I knew from experience that there was not heartbeat able to be seen. We mourned another loss. I hadn’t even really told anyone this time, so not many people knew what was going on.
This went on two more times in that same year. Each time, we thought we had figured out what was going on. MTHFR defect. Low progesterone. Each piece of the puzzle was worked on, and each time we had a loss. I stopped even telling close friends I was pregnant. I was almost embarrassed to tell anyone. 4 miscarriages. 3 in the same year only months apart. Some of my closest friends still don’t know how many times I was pregnant. My family refused to get their hopes up and that drove me deeper down. Each time my parents would say “Don’t even tell us, we don’t want to get our hopes up before we know if it’s going to be ok”. They didn’t say it to be mean, they were grieving too.
My poor daughter. She really didn’t understand why mommy was sad and mad all the time. Not to mention what the up and down of hormones in my body was doing to me. The feelings that I had inside were so conflicting and made me feel so bad about myself. I was so so sad, but also angry at the world. I felt mad at my body for not doing the right thing. I felt like less of a woman, why couldn’t it do the one thing its biologically supposed to do. I felt guilty, a lot. The guilt would eat me up sometimes. We had a child. So many others tried harder and longer and I had what they wanted and why wasn’t I satisfied? That feeling ate me up. I felt utterly selfish to want more. I felt guilty for my daughter. Here she was, perfect and healthy and I was sad and unable to play with her. I wanted to scream at myself. You are wasting her childhood, I would think in my head. I never talked to anyone about those thoughts because I felt like a monster saying that stuff out loud. It was a lonely time.
It took more time than I’m proud of, but I got to a healthy place where not only together with my husband we decided, but mentally I decided, that if we never had another baby it would be ok. That seems like such a silly thing to write, but I had to actually get to that place of knowing that it would be ok. There was a time I didn’t think it would be, or that I would be ok. I allowed myself to enjoy our life and the memories we’d build as a family of three. I even allowed myself to venture thoughts about the future and what that might look like for us. I never wanted my daughter to feel like she wasn’t enough, she was so very much enough. We toyed with adoption someday and weren’t opposed to it. I got physically healthy, quit a job I hated and began working for one of my best friends. We bought a house and just began to live our lives. I was finally able to start participating in it again.
We made a decision to try- one last time. That if it didn’t work out, we would just be done and move forward and life would be ok. I don’t think I would have been able to try again if I hadn’t gotten to that place. You may think it’s silly for us to even tempt fate again after all that loss, but somewhere deep inside me was a knowing that it was going to work out however it was supposed to. I medically had gotten a few more answers about my low progesterone and was in the best mental and physical shape I’d been in in a long time. And we welcomed another baby girl a year ago this March.
I get that not everyone’s story has a happy ending. I like to believe that if it didn’t work out the way it did that I would have stayed in that healthy place of knowing that life would be ok. I found that talking to others when we were going through it helped and I vowed that I would always be a safe place for others to turn to if they had similar thoughts or feelings around loss. The taboo around miscarriage still exists and it is such a lonely place for women and men to navigate. Maybe they won't feel so alone one story at a time.
I am a full time, working mom taking care of two spirited girls with my husband, trying to find balance in life. We live in sunny Arizona with our 4 pets.
You can connect more with Aimee on Instagram @jaynaim1
Ive been following Katie and Christina on Instagram for awhile now. They have the most beautiful little family and I love being able to take a small peak into their world. I reached out to them about this project because not only did they have to go through IVF to meet their sweet girl, but because they have the unique perspective of going through it as a same sex couple. I'm so excited that Christina got back to me and allowed me to share their story on here and I hope it gives hope and support to both IVF families as well as those in the LGBT community!
Before Kennedy, Katie and I started out as a couple in love. It was 2012. Girl meets girl. I was 22, Katie was 24. We met online through a dating website. We were so embarrassed to tell anyone we met online that it wasn’t until this year we finally came out with the truth. Some of our friends had already suspected we met through the internet, but we never confirmed it. Instead we had so many confusing, made up stories of how we met. It was hard to keep straight what story we had told people.
The first time we met was at a park by my house. I walked over there after I finished work at a restaurant I worked at in town. I made her a milkshake before I got off of work to bring with me to the park. I wasn’t sure if there was chemistry at first. It wasn’t until our next meeting that I knew Katie was the one. She showed up with flowers on my doorstep and that is when I knew. After that, our weekends were spent taking turns driving an hour back and forth to each other’s houses.
After we met, we just couldn’t stop seeing each other. One date led to another. We just clicked. We were married about a year after meeting each other. We moved in together. We started to save money for our future. Last year, we moved to a bigger town and bought our first house. It was time to start our family.
Katie and I started our Reciprocal IVF journey thinking we would make our dreams become a reality. I had always wanted to have kids but Katie didn’t want kids until she met me. She told me she wanted to carry my egg so we could both be a part of the process. We agreed this would be the best way to have children. As we embarked on our baby journey, we came across the saying, “her bun, my oven.” We thought this was an easy and clever way to explain how we wanted to make our family.
After our first IVF appointment, we already had in mind what we wanted. We wanted to implant two embryos and we hoped to have one boy and one girl. We also wanted to implant two embryos and hoped at least one would take. We never imagined implanting two embryos would cause problems later in our journey.
Our first round of IVF was exhilarating. We were so excited during the entire process. The day we received all our shots in the mail was like Christmas morning. We couldn’t wait to get started. It’s a long process of medications before we have embryos ready to implant. I mapped out who had what shot on what day and if we were supposed to take it in the morning or evening. In the beginning, it was mostly me who did the all the shots. This prepared my body for an egg retrieval. Meanwhile, we started looking for a sperm donor online. This took us several days. It’s hard to pick someone that will play a genetic role in your child’s life. We tried to find someone who resembled Katie as much as possible but also had similar interests. This sounds easier said than done.
The day of egg retrieval was terrible. My body was in so much pain. I was told many women feel moderate pain but of course I felt intense cramping. The pain continued after my surgery. It hurt to stand up, walk, and go the bathroom. I wasn’t focused on the pain though. All we could focus on was a phone call to see how our eggs fertilized. We were told we wouldn’t get a phone call until the following morning. However, Katie got a phone call from the embryologist later that day who asked if he had permission to open our second vial of sperm. The eggs weren’t fertilizing and he wanted to try the second vial. We both went into panic. What if our eggs didn’t fertilize? What if our dreams were crushed? The dreams of us holding a little boy and girl in the hospital vanished from my head. My heart sunk. We were left wondering what happened until the following morning.
The next morning we got the phone call we weren’t hoping for. Out of the 13 eggs that had been retrieved, only 2 had survived. The embryologist had to perform rescue ICSI on the two remaining eggs and hoped they would fertilize. He informed us of the low percentage of eggs that survive this surgery so late after retrieval. Immediately after our phone call, we starting searching the internet for any information we could on surviving embryos from this procedure. We found more sad stories than happy ones. We hoped these two embryos would be our miracle babies and our dream could still come true.
The following day, we got the news we didn’t want, one of our eggs didn’t make it. We still held onto hope for our last remaining egg. I was still giving Katie shots of progesterone each night preparing her body for our embryo. Every night we went to bed wondering what would happen tomorrow. This process had lost its excitement.
Sadly, we got the phone call that our last egg didn’t make it. The news was devastating. Day after day we had been holding out hope that we could still have a healthy baby from this procedure. We were left feeling empty inside. We broke down crying on each other after we got that last phone call. We didn’t know what to do. All we could do was cry. Katie had to go to work the next day but I was on summer vacation. I was left with my thoughts the days after this disappointing news while Katie had work to occupy her mind during the day. I don’t know how many hours I spent crying. I tried to not show how depressed I was and tried to get all my crying out during the day while Katie worked. My body felt weak from being depressed.
I turned to the internet for answers again. I had come across another option, embryo adoption.
Embryo adoption seemed like it could be the choice for us. What I liked about embryo adoption was that we could get 3 embryos and we could get our money back if it didn’t succeed in a pregnancy (if your health/age/history qualified, which we did). Unfortunately, this process is so expensive that money played an important role. We would have to borrow money from my mom to even do this procedure. We also considered that Katie’s body was ready for an embryo. We were still doing progesterone injections each night, not sure of our next decision. Our time was running out and we needed to make a choice. This could be our answer.
We moved along with the process of embryo adoption. We signed papers. We went back to our clinic for implantation. That morning we sat in the waiting room of our clinic. We weren’t smiling. We sat, staring at other couples in the waiting room wondering why they could have their dream and we couldn’t. Our names were called and we were walked back to our exam room. We sat, waiting. We didn’t even speak to each other. We were both consumed with our thoughts. Our nurse walked in. She was our nurse from our previous procedure and wanted to be with us during implantation. We had grown close with her and she was devastated as much as we were when our first round of IVF failed. As soon as she walked in, I burst into tears and she hugged me. I looked over and Katie was crying too. This was supposed to be a happy day so why were we both so sad? After talking with our nurse who consoled us, we decided to try IVF one more time.
We tried to stay positive but this time we were cautious more than ever. Katie looked to the internet for support. She found many blogs about IVF and other fertility stories. We both found this helpful. Hearing from other people who have gone through we went through was comforting. They had success and we would too. We looked into more detail when it came to a sperm donor. I found out as much as information as I could from the company after we narrowed our decision down to three donors. We were going to choose the right donor this time. The last donor we chose had problems during fertilization. This would not happen to us again.
We did the same needle routine. We prepped our bodies with shots. Egg retrieval day came again. I was in pain, again. After, we waited for that phone call the following morning, again. We were relieved when we didn’t get a phone call the day of egg retrieval as we did during our first round of IVF. The next morning, the embryologist called with great news. 18 eggs were retrieved, 9 went through ICSI the day of retrieval while the other 9 were left for regular fertilization. In the end, 11 embryos were fertilized! Two of those embryos were grade A embryos. The embryologist rarely gives out an A on embryos but she said these two were fantastic.
Embryo transfer day was so exciting. It was like Christmas again and we could celebrate! We sat anxiously in the exam room eager to have our two embryos implanted. We watched the ultrasound screen as these two little flickers of light were implanted into Katie.
Just as we had our minds filled with excitement again, we were faced with turmoil. Our second embryo miscarried. It was a morning I would never forget. Katie panicking and crying in the bathroom with blood all over the floor. I tried to stay strong and hopeful that we didn’t lose both babies. We were able to get an appointment with our IVF clinic that afternoon. The worked dragged on, followed by an hour and half drive to our clinic that seemed to take forever. What a relief it was to hear our one baby’s heartbeat on the ultrasound. The huge blood clot we saw on the ultrasound sitting next to our tiny baby was terrifying. Our baby was still so small and the blood clot was four times the size of the baby. We were told the blood clot could take over the baby and end the pregnancy. It was unlikely our baby would survive.
However, the day came where our pregnancy had progressed enough to transfer to an OBGYN and leave our fertility clinic. That was an exciting day but we tried not to get excited. We knew the risk of losing our baby was still there. Yet, we had gotten far enough along to transfer to another doctor. It was hard to not feel a little bit of happiness.
Luckily, our baby got bigger and the blood clot kept to itself. We spent the entire pregnancy very cautious. I know parents worry but we were beyond worried. We worried about every little thing. We tried not to get excited about anything. Every ultrasound we had was a focus on the blood clot. We didn’t want to buy anything for the baby because we weren’t sure we would have one. We tried not to talk about all our fears because it wouldn’t ease all our worries.
As Katie’s pregnancy progressed, we started to feel little moments of joy. I remember feeling Kennedy kick for the first time. I wanted to cry. I couldn’t believe a little baby was inside there. A baby we both created. It was an amazing moment. All my worries and fears faded in that minute.
Our gender reveal party was an exciting time in our pregnancy. We had made it this far to find out our little baby was a girl. We had friends and family all around us as we all anxiously waited to find out the gender.
Finally, Kennedy’s birth day was here. Kennedy had been facing the wrong way the entire pregnancy so we scheduled a caesarian section. We scheduled it for her estimated due date. It was a date we had memorized already and we felt it was meant to be that day. We checked into the hospital to only find out Katie shouldn’t have drunken orange juice earlier that morning. It was frustrating, yet comical, that the day we were so anxiously awaiting for would now be delayed. We went from having a planned caesarian at noon to have a caesarian at five o’ clock that evening. We had to leave the hospital, go home, and wait around the house.
After we checked back into the hospital everything seemed to happen fast. Before I knew it, it was time to go in. Everything felt different. It’s hard to explain the feeling of being in a room, sitting by Katie with a mask on, holding her hand, expecting a baby to come out at any time from behind that curtain. Then, the doctor stated the baby was out. I didn’t hear crying at first which worried me the most. I had so many worries going on in my head that day. Luckily, it wasn’t long after I heard crying. I was walked over to see her and it was amazing. I can’t explain how it feels to see your daughter laying there. It was overwhelming. This little girl you had once seen as an embryo. This little baby was created in a tiny dish. She was amazing and she was a perfect product of us. I just couldn’t believe this baby was ours and she was actually here. I felt a huge relief. I was no longer thinking about the pain from fertility procedures and needles, the mental pain I felt when our first round of IVF failed, or all the money we had spent on the process. Kennedy was all I could think about. We had our family now and our dream had become a reality.
In the days following after Kennedy was born, I thought back on our process when I held her. It’s amazing to think she started in a dish and grew into this baby. I can’t believe what science has allowed two moms to do. I feel she is the perfect combination of me and Katie and we both got to be a part of making her. I also thought back to our little one we lost. The one that put Kennedy’s life in danger at the beginning. I thought back to the very beginning feeling we had when we finally had a successful egg retrieval, successful fertilization, and a successful implantation. I remembered the feeling of finding out we were pregnant and picturing us with our two babies in our family photos. I remembered the morning Katie had lost so much blood I thought we lost both babies. She was crying but I tried so hard not to cry so she was less worried. I remembered anxiously driving to our IVF clinic an hour and half away to hopefully find out if we still had a baby, but also knowing they might not be able to tell anything because they might not be able to pick up a heartbeat. Then I remember hearing the heartbeat for the first time and being so relieved. Every single day we were on egg shells, scared to even have Katie move, because we didn’t want anything to happen to our other baby. I remembered the day we walked out of the ultrasound room at our IVF clinic and all the doctors standing in a row in the hallway to say congratulations because we were far enough along to be transferred to an OBGYN, and giving us a gift. We were surprised because the blood clot was still very big resting right up against our baby. We just had to keep thinking positive and hope it didn’t bother the baby since it was continuing to grow. I remembered our first ultrasound appointment at the OBGYN and finding it hard to believe there was a baby in there because the pictures did not look like a baby, more like a seahorse holding a pool noodle. The most amazing ultrasound we had was seeing all her body parts and seeing her shove her face toward the camera (although it looked like a skeleton head shaking its head at the camera). There were so many moments I reflected back on to lead us to this moment in the hospital.
Katie and I have so much love to give Kennedy. We were already worried before she was born, but after she born, we worried about new things. Now we would watch her sleep, worried she would stop breathing. We worried over how she was put in her car seat. We worried about her weight gain. We were just permanent “worriers.” Even now I realize the worries will never go away. Being a parent means you will always be worried about your baby (no matter how old they get).
No matter what journey you take to make your family, we are all amazing parents doing what is best for our babies. Undergoing fertility treatments is hard. During our process, I always tried to push my thoughts toward the future. I thought about how hopefully, someday, we would have kids. I wondered what they will look like and what they will sound like. I wondered about their personalities. I thought of family pictures we would take where everyone would look so happy. The stress, heartache and money that was spent conceiving them would not even be a thought, but a thing of the past. My eyes would water thinking about these things but it kept me going. I just kept telling myself, one day happen. I didn’t know how long it would take, but it would happen for us.
We spent thousands of dollars making Kennedy. This is nothing compared to what some couples have spent to have a baby. Once we had Kennedy, the money spent just became a number and nothing else. There are so many options now to becoming a parent. Whatever road you chose to go down, be positive. Be there for one another. Having a baby has created a tighter bond between the two of us. We are now a strong team and teamwork has become a key part to our marriage. Teamwork was something that still needed improvement in our marriage before Kennedy was born. However, the process to create Kennedy tightened any weak areas in our marriage.
To every person out there who had done IVF, it truly changes who you are. The journey we go on is like no other. I am so happy we decided to try again because if we didn’t, Kennedy wouldn’t be here. I do still think about the “what ifs” with embryo adoption. We almost went through with it and I wonder if we would have two babies by now. I wonder what they would look like and how they would be quite a few months older than Kennedy is now. I think about our little boy or girl we lost who was supposed to be here with Kennedy right now. I think about all the tears, worries, and stress in this journey. I think about all the joy we will have now that she is here. I don’t know how it feels to be a mother who has a baby the male/female way without any labs or doctors helping you make your baby, but I do know the feeling you have seeing a baby you once saw a picture of in a dish. That feeling is the most amazing feeling I will ever have. I am so grateful for the help of science and for being alive in a time that has a process such as this. Reciprocal IVF made our dreams a reality.
We had such a challenging road to get to where we are today. A year ago, I started to think the road was never-ending to have a baby. I know some of you who will read this are still on that road and have been on it for way longer than Katie and I were on it. I admire those who continue to go down this path and keep trying despite the emotional and financial turmoil it puts you through. Stay strong.
We started our Instagram account to help TTC couples and LGBT couples. When we were struggling to make our family, we sought out Instagram accounts and blogs of families who were undergoing fertility treatments to help make their family. Reading blogs and following many families on Instagram gave us hope for our family and got us through our toughest times. The online community we have found has been incredibly supportive in our journey. It’s amazing to find others who are feeling the same emotions you are during a hard process. We hope we can help others too.
you can follow along more with their story and their family over on instagrom @babybaillymamadrama
A collection of posts from different humans all over the world, sharing their stories about the struggles they have faced in their individual journeys to motherhood.