The Misfortune Cookies podcast was born on Nov 1, 2020! It’s available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and more. We are only three episodes in, and have a relatively small following, but it has been a labor of love. Honestly, we are still figuring out how to angle it…but essentially, you can think of it as Asian Americans Talking About Shitty Life Experiences. Give us a listen/follow, and please reach out if you have any feedback or might like to share your story.
Finding my stride
I feel like I’ve been finding my stride a little more in the past few months. Between therapy (which is amazingly offered for free at my university…well, included in tuition), a local support group, Reddit, and the two wonderful human beings that I live with, I do feel loved, supported, and well-resourced…on most days. Trying to feel connected in 2020 has been an exercise in Just Saying Yes To Almost Everything And Clinging To What Sticks (sounds a little like online dating?). Within reason, of course, as always. Another major contributor to my general mental health has been…
90 days off social media
After watching The Social Dilemma at the end of August, I implemented a three-pronged strategy to preserve myself from the unwanted effects of being on social media. 1) I de-activated Instagram; 2) I de-activated Facebook; 3) I installed a Chrome extension called Remove YouTube recommendations. As a bonus, I disabled all notifications on my phone except for text messages (which, surprisingly, people don’t use that much…). It’s been a great decision and I plan to keep this up. Having been on “the other side”, I can attest to how intentional the psychological manipulation strategies are. I won’t deny that there is a time and place for social media, but in this season I think it’s abundantly clear that it isn’t good at all for my overall sanity.
Inconclusive limbo hell
In the first week of November, we experienced an emotionally draining election and another tenuous pregnancy, which unfortunately ended on election night. I started to wonder, at what point do we stop sharing this news with people? Five miscarriages in? Six? Seven? Am I going to be known as the girl who can’t carry a pregnancy to term? I will say that with each subsequent loss, I feel more numb and less crushed, mostly because I had almost no hope to begin with. Blessing or a curse? No idea.
Wrapping up another semester
This semester at school has been quite intensive – tons of skills practice, overanalyzing the darkest corners of my soul, and processing the nonstop barrage of difficult and chaotic news. I’m surprised by how effectively we’ve managed over Zoom, and am feeling a bit more anchored in my ~budding~ identity as a counselor. Also, I have at least one internship site lined up for next year, which is a big relief.
That’s all I have for now. Stay warm if applicable, and take care!
So we experienced a first trimester twin miscarriage back in January 2019. It was awful, but we remained hopeful – the midwives cheerfully waved me along after my post-miscarriage appointment; “see you in a few months!” they said with a conspirational wink. Our therapist pointed out that we had no reason to believe that this would happen again, or that we would have any trouble carrying a pregnancy to term. We were young, healthy, had gotten pregnant with no real effort, etc. etc.
The first year
The first couple of cycles of trying after the miscarriage were full of adorable naivete. I listened to a ton of pregnancy podcasts. I learned about postpartum care, chose a birthing center, stocked up on cheap ovulation & pregnancy tests (these are my favorite). Each cycle, I was convinced that I was pregnant and then crushed to learn that I wasn’t. It was confusing. Six, seven, eight months went by with nothing but increased anxiety to show for our attempts. We chalked it up to the stress we were under for various other reasons. We also observed with a dose of dry humor that the universe was working decidedly against us – we attended a disproportionate number of weddings in 2019, and for 5 months in a row my fertile window happened to coincide with some couple’s wedding night. But as a year crept up on us – the period of trying that would officially earn us an infertility diagnosis – I became extremely ansty.
And alone. It felt like my peers were either effortlessly becoming pregnant or not remotely close to thinking about childbearing. I didn’t tell anyone that we were trying so hard to try, and found it really hard to talk about with my husband. I felt so betrayed by my body. One of my biggest reasons for pushing through eating disorder recovery was to restore my natural cycles so we could have babies. On particularly bad days, I felt like it was all for naught, even though that was far from true.
Becoming officially infertile – and several twists
In Feburary, we started seeing a reproductive endocrinologist. We did a cycle of follicular ultrasound monitoring with them to check for PCOS and to see if I would be a candidate for medicated cycles. We paid hundred of dollars to learn that I did not have PCOS and was ovulating perfectly on my own, which I already knew, but never trust the patient right? Feeling unsatisfied, unheard, and a little turned off by how aggressively they were pushing IVF on us, we looked for an alternative. In March, we found a different provider that believed in treating infertility by finding the root cause, and not by trying to manipulate the natural cycle.
And then COVID hit.
And then I became pregnant – on my own!
And then I had another miscarriage.
Testing and doing crazy things
The second miscarriage qualified me for a whole bunch of new tests – the RPL (recurrent pregnancy loss) panel, as they call it. Everything turned up normal. I had two endometrial biopsies and a hysterosalpingogram (HSG) – both excruciatingly painful. Tubes are clear. Perfectly shaped uterus.
Throughout this whole process I have been relentlessly trying new things. Acupuncture. Arvigo Mayan Massage. Foot baths. Hypnosis. Talk therapy. Vaginal steaming. Functional doctor. Seed cycling. Taking a break from trying. Immaculate diet. Fertility yoga. No running. Reading a ton of books. Reading research articles. And oh, the endless supplements! Meanwhile it feels like the entire world is pregnant. And the ones who are not yet pregnant are going to become pregnant with no trouble at all.
This brings me more or less to where we are today. It’s been nearly 2 years since our first pregnancy, our unrequested invitation to hell. This journey has all but bankrupted me – financially, energetically, emotionally, spiritually, in every way. And before you tell me to relax and be grateful and then surely new life will spontaneously arise from my inner abundance, DON’T SAY IT. PLEASE DON’T SAY IT TO ANYONE. It’s unhelpful because we, the infertile people of the world, are aware more than anyone else of our stress, anguish, anxiety, and hopelessness – and we want more than anyone else to be able to relax, or at least to feel that our stress is manageable. It’s as cruel as telling a blind person, why don’t you just, like, see already? But I’m not trying to preach. Or rather, I’m trying not to, hah.
So why am I talking about my reproductive failure journey on the internet? Well, for one, I’m incredibly lonely. I’m human. Sometimes I need to vent, and this is my blog after all. For two, I am done with feeling shame over this part of my life that has been enormously crippling and is in no way my fault. For three, I believe that story-telling is a really important part of any healing process. Especially story-telling in the midst of the sadness and struggle, when there hasn’t been any sign or confirmation of a happy ending. I always thought that I would wait until we had managed to achieve a successful pregnancy before sharing publicly about our infertility. People don’t know what to do with unfinished chaos. I certainly don’t. One of my recurring wishes has been to be able to time-travel to the moment of the birth of our first child. This limbo feels unbearable, but I know that my work in this season is to come to terms with my story, stay in my own lane, and make space for hard thoughts & feelings without having them consume all my energy.
We still don’t know why we’ve experienced infertility and recurrent pregnancy loss. I’m moving on to more invasive and expensive testing. I am prioritizing my mental health/sanity, because the stress of infertility – in conjunction with the normal and very real stresses of 2020 – has become untenable. We are working extremely actively on nurturing our marriage and strengthening our partnership, which feels like it has had to bear SO MUCH in a short 3.5 years. I’m still in graduate school full-time and working part-time. I really, really hope that some day (soon) I’ll be back here with the story of a miracle. But in the meantime I want to honor the struggle of the in-between-and-really-only-god-knows-if-we’ll-get-there.
Kina Grannis – who has walked this awful road for over 4 years – captures the feeling perfectly: