In January of 2017, I had a miscarriage. It happened on a flight going over the Atlantic Ocean traveling from New York to Zurich. It was a route I had taken many times before when I had visited my husband Henry’s family at their home in Switzerland. But this trip was very unusual.
I’ll rewind and tell you the full story.
I was back in New York hosting a baby shower at my apartment for my best friend. Two weeks prior I had moved from New York to Switzerland with Henry and therefore this week was to be used very productively: I scheduled all the necessary appointments, my dentist, doctor and, of course, my facialist Dangene. I saw my doctor the Thursday before the shower and asked her to give me a pregnancy test. I didn’t actually think I was pregnant, but I had lost track of my cycle (you know — flying, stress, moving to a new continent) and just wanted to make sure I could booze over the weekend. There were moments of light bleeding before I arrived in New York, but I didn’t think anything of it. I brought this up to my doctor and she said it could be implantation bleeding, something that occurs when your egg actually gets fertilized. This obviously caught my attention, but I quickly dismissed the idea while leaving her office. She promised me the results by the following day.
For the next day and a half I ran around the city getting ready for the party and tying up all my loose ends. I also greeted one of my best friends who was visiting from Charleston. She was staying with me and I was thrilled! On Friday evening, a little before 6pm, I got a text from my doctor that read, “Annie. You are pregnant.” My heart dropped. I couldn’t believe the words I was reading and my body collapsed into the wall. Without speaking, I walked over to my friend and showed her my phone. I was stunned.
The weekend flew by and before I knew it I was getting ready to leave New York. I had already shared the news with another friend and my sister but the person I really needed to tell was Henry.
Henry wasn’t in Switzerland. He was on an annual trip with some of his friends in Georgia and completely out of reach. I wanted to tell him SO badly, but the thought of telling him on the phone and then having the call drop wasn’t the romantic story that I had dreamed up. I decided that I would wait until he arrived back in Zurich to tell him in person. I knew he would be beyond ecstatic (and that he would probably cry) and it would be beautiful and perfect and there was just no way I would want to miss that moment. The last thing I did before leaving was call my doctor to ask if it was okay to fly. She said yes, so off I went.
What went down on the plane is something that I wouldn’t wish for anyone. I woke up from a long sleep and went to the bathroom to find a tiny bit blood where there shouldn’t have been. While this was my first pregnancy, I still had some idea of what was happening. Of course, my mind jumped to the worst case. Was this a miscarriage?
I was alone and unable to use my cell phone to anxiously Google (“What does bleeding mean at 5 weeks pregnant?” “What does a miscarriage feel like?”). I was totally frozen. For the next 5 hours, I lay awake, staring at the blank TV screen in front of me. I just couldn’t be having a miscarriage, right? The plane eventually landed, but the bleeding had not stopped.
I’ll never forget the snowstorm that welcomed me home that day. I waited until it was past 9am New York time before calling my doctor to confirm with her what I had feared most and what I should do. She calmly told me that I had probably suffered from a miscarriage, and that I should go to the hospital just to be sure. I held onto the word “probably” with my dear life. Maybe there was a chance it didn’t really happen?
I had to find a hospital. At this point, I barely knew where the grocery store was, let alone the hospital and I didn’t even have a doctor. On top of that, there was the snowstorm escalating outside. And, let’s just say, my driving skills were rusty. The world was caving in on me.
I sat on my couch in a living room full of boxes and sent Henry a message that he needed to call me immediately. He did. It was heartbreaking telling him the news and my words were covered in tears. After the call, Henry sent me the address of a clinic that was just a few minutes from our house, so I dragged myself into my car and drove there slowly. Luckily, I didn’t have a wait more than a minute or two to see a doctor who spoke perfect English. Lucky me. After taking a quick look, she confirmed that I had suffered from a miscarriage, but because I was only five weeks pregnant, she assured me that this was very normal and I shouldn’t expect any other side effects. I asked her why this happened to me. Was it the flight? Was it my diet? Did I have too much to drink over the past few weeks? Was it the move? Is it stress? Is there something wrong with me? Why, why, why, why? Sometimes there is just no explanation.
Over the next 9 months we tried to have another baby. I tried everything: acupuncture, lymphatic massage, yoga, meditation, hypnotherapy, a fertility diet, ovulation sticks, long walks, I gave up coffee, I gave up Matcha, I used essential oils, I drank bone broth, I met regularly with a Traditional Chinese Medicine doctor, we bought a dog. Everything, but still nothing. I cried every month after unsuccessful pursuits. Henry and I went in for all kinds of testing and there was nothing they could find that could be preventing us from becoming pregnant. Unexplained pregnancy. As a consolidation I would often hear, “for many women it can often take one year to get pregnant.” Dude – this doesn’t help.
In August, my doctor asked me what I thought about in vitro fertilization (IVF). I hadn’t really considered it. It felt like such a last resort, like the end of the line. But it wasn’t the first time I’d heard of it. Many of my close friends in Europe and back in the states have used IVF both with successful and unsuccessful outcomes, and many were struggling with infertility, so I was of course very familiar with the concept. I knew that my impatience was getting the best of me and without a second thought we said let’s do it. So we did. I was referred to one of most advanced clinics in Switzerland. Some of their staff members were trained in Denver, Colorado at what is considered the best treatment center in the US. And it worked. (More on my IVF experience to come. It was an experience in and of itself.)
Today marks my 15th week of pregnancy and I am so beyond thankful. My family, friends, the doctors, nurses, fertility specialists, acupuncturists (Esther Denz, you’re an angel)… I am so grateful for all your support and humility. Getting pregnant is a really funny thing. For some, it comes so easily, and for others, it takes patience, a lot of tears, even more work and an incredibly supportive partner. There were so many nights, too many to count, that I’d cry myself to sleep wondering what I could have done differently.
What I took away from this year-long experience is that sharing my story helps. Miscarriage, IVF and problems conceiving shouldn’t be so concealed. We shouldn’t be afraid or embarrassed to tell the not-so-bright side of our story. My bond grew tighter with old friends through shared stories and I was able to make new friends by talking over our parallel experiences. So here I am opening up to all of you. I hope that my story will inspire you to never give up on what you want, to never feel ashamed, to find patience, and to find the happiness, even when you feel like there is nothing left. Because there always is. If you are going through something similar, I encourage you to be open and talk to people you trust. This is what really nurtured my soul.