That day, I was standing in the warm summer heat outside our favorite popsicle shop holding my favorite flavor.
I had also just learned I was miscarrying. Again.
It's amazing how many women open up about their own miscarriages after you've had one. All of a sudden, you find out your aunt had one, your best friend had one, your sister-in-law, your neighbor, your co-worker. I knew miscarriage happened, I just never thought it would happen to me.
So when it did, I knew that someday I wanted to talk about my experience. Not for fame or pity, but to let anyone who had also gone through this know that they did not have to suffer in silence, thinking no one else they knew had gone through something like this. To let them know that they weren't alone, and they weren't the only ones who felt they had to hide secret pain in their heart as family members and friends got pregnant, as they got asked when they were planning on kids, as they mourned the loss of what would have been. I have watched as many women I knew went through miscarriages of their own, and my heart ached for them. I had felt that pain too.
So today, I am hoping that being open about my story will help you with yours. There are so many things I want to share with you about my experience with miscarriage. For now, though, I want to tell you why fertility awareness changed everything for me.
STARTING THE JOURNEY
We were elated to get our first positive pregnancy test in August. After the shock wore off, we immediately started making plans for a baby. We picked a midwife and scheduled our first appointment for October. I downloaded a bajillion pregnancy apps on my phone and started researching pregnancy symptoms obsessively. I was so ready. I had spent my whole life waiting for this moment, and I wanted to soak up every second of it.
Worry always finds a way to make itself known, but I felt too confident to worry. I watched as the weeks slipped by and waited anxiously for when we could tell our friends and family. Week 6...week 7...week 8...9...10...11.
I woke up early one day to some light spotting and cramping. I spent the morning googling "miscarriage symptoms" on my phone. When I couldn't get back to sleep, I went out to the living room and googled some more. Most of what I read told me that it was a possibility, but it could also be normal to have spotting and even a little cramping in the first trimester. I felt reassured.
One site recommended taking your temperature to see if you were running a fever, one possible symptom of miscarriage. I used my trusty BBT thermometer to record my temperature, which I hadn't used since my positive pregnancy test. I waited for the beep and read the thermometer. 97.8. Oh good, I thought. No fever. Then, my heart sank as I immediately realized what 97.8 meant: my temperatures were not elevated enough. They had risen after my ovulation and stayed elevated after conception, but some time between my last temperature reading before my positive pregnancy test and the temperature reading that morning, my body had stopped sustaining the tiny life it was creating, and my low temperatures in turn reflected that change.
I knew in that moment, sitting on my couch in my darkened living room, that I was miscarrying. I didn't have to wait several torturous hours or days to find out; I knew what the doctor was going to say later that day at my first (and last) prenatal appointment. There was no doubt in my mind because I knew what my temperatures meant. And just knowing that was the single most helpful thing that helped handle the news during the ultrasound. Yes, I was shocked, but I wasn't ambushed. My body told me well before my doctor did.
After giving my body plenty of time to heal, we got pregnant again in late April. I had learned my mistake from last time, so I dutifully recorded my temperature every morning. It was so reassuring to see my temps remain high day after day. Our first doctor's appointment was only a few days away. Each day my temperature stayed elevated gave me new hope; I really thought we would make it.
Then, on Sunday, I woke up to a lower temperature than normal. The next day, spotting and an even lower temperature. Again, my body told me I was about to have a miscarriage. I was just shy of 6 weeks pregnant. My first doctor's appointment was set for the day after my birthday, but instead of listening to the heartbeat, we got our confirmation of another miscarriage.
GETTING ANSWERS WITH FERTILITY AWARENESS
When I went in to see to my midwife, I talked to her about the symptoms I had and what I could do to move forward. Instead of a blank slate with no idea where to start, I was empowered with information about my own body. She listened to me and respected the information I brought. We decided to test my progesterone in late June, after one normal cycle. I felt much more hopeful and prepared than ever before.
In the meantime, I did more research on my own and made some changes that were supposed to help with low progesterone. The biggest change was my decision to start taking Vitex*. I noticed a change in my cycles almost immediately (I'm planning on a full write-up on Vitex to tell you more about my experience, but suffice it to say that my cycles have changed tremendously in many good ways). After taking it for about a month, I had my progesterone tested. My levels were within normal range, but slightly toward the lower end. I strongly believe that if I hadn't been taking Vitex, the results would have found that it was too low.
I don't want you to think that taking Vitex is the solution for every woman that miscarries; what I want to convey from this experience is that fertility awareness is so much more than simply telling you when you're fertile. It tells you more about your own body than you may have thought possible, and it arms you with critical information that you can use when discussing options with your doctor or midwife.
Fertility awareness has done so much more for me than just tell me when my next period is coming. It helped me feel in control of what was happening, and helped me figure out what I should do next with clarity and confidence. And once we get pregnant again, it will continue to provide me with valuable information about my body and help me watch for patterns that might indicate trouble.
I look back at my journey over the past two years and think, "Would this have been different if I didn't know what I know about fertility awareness? If I wasn't charting?" The answer is a resounding YES. I doubt I would have been able to get pregnant (both times) in a couple short months of trying; I doubt I would have known if I was suffering from low progesterone until at least my third miscarriage; I doubt the doctors would have been able to confirm it for several months (they can only test at a certain time in each cycle); I doubt I would have felt as empowered and calm as I do now about what lies ahead, and how I will handle whatever comes next. It is not a stretch to say that fertility awareness has saved me months and possibly years of anguished (and wasted) time because I knew what was happening with my own body.
Fertility awareness means so much more than just telling you when to make a baby. It means YOU are in charge of your journey. It means YOU can change your journey. It means YOU can make informed, joint decisions with your doctor or midwife. And that is why fertility awareness strikes so close to home, and why I am passionately interested in educating women about their own bodies. Imagine how much heartache, how many tears, how much pain could be prevented! Not every woman has to use fertility awareness, but every woman should know about it.
If you want to learn more, start here. Read this book. Or this one. Follow me on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook. Share this post with someone who might need it. And if you have a story to tell or something you'd like me to know, get in touch with me here.
[Edit: I'm happy to announce that I am pregnant! Baby Stratford is due in early August. Watch our announcement video or keep up with baby updates!]
*I am not a medical practitioner. This story is relaying my personal experience. Vitex is not a miracle pill that will help any fertility condition, and should be used with expertise as its effects on your body can be quite dramatic. The decision to start taking Vitex is a medical one that should be made after careful research, including consultation with a medical professional, such as a fertility awareness educator. Just because it is an herbal supplement doesn't mean it isn't powerful!