I Had a Miscarriage After IVF

A year later, I still can’t bring myself to try the process again.

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Miscarriage after IVF - Modern Loss

I am 32 years old and 7 weeks pregnant. I am in one of the small, sterile ultrasound rooms at the fertility clinic. My legs are in stirrups, the probe inside of me.

“Can you please turn off that lamp next to you?” the ultrasound technician points at a lamp next to my husband. He fumbles with the lamp; he can’t find the switch. “I’m just having a little trouble seeing this clearly.” He switches off the lamp. The room is dark, the only light coming from the technician’s screen, which I cannot see. I stare at her face, illuminated in light, searching for clues. She moves the probe around and speaks right away.

“There is no heartbeat. I’m sorry.” She states this as a fact.

“Are you sure?” I don’t believe her. She should have looked around more before this declaration. We just got here. There was a heartbeat on Thursday, five days ago. It was a slow heartbeat, but it was so early. I spent the entire weekend visualizing the beat getting stronger. I had a really good feeling about it.

She shifts the screen, so I can see for myself. My uterus looks like a black and white movie of the bottom of the ocean. “Yes, I am sure. There is definitely no heartbeat. See?” 

My husband’s hand slips into mine.

“There is a box of tissues on the table next to you,” she says, and I realize I’m crying. I look down, and she’s right, there is a box of tissues on the table. I’ve been through two rounds of IVF; I’ve had over twenty ultrasounds. I’ve never noticed the tissues.

“I need to take some more measurements, just another minute or so and I’ll be done,” she says.

The baby, no bigger than a blueberry, is no longer alive. I endured eight weeks of pain and shots and worry and tears and bloating and hormones and blood-work and waiting, waiting, waiting. And it was all for nothing. My biggest feeling is this is not fair. If you go through IVF and get a positive pregnancy test, you should not be allowed to miscarry.

I planned for this baby. I thought about the perfect timing and the age difference with my two year old. I thought I was over the major hurdles: retrieving healthy eggs, fertilizing the embryos, growing to day 5, completing a successful transfer. I didn’t see this coming.

The technician is done and asks if I’d like a glass of water. I say no and she asks again. Am I sure I don’t want a glass of water? I say sure, I’ll take one, but only for her, because she seems like she’d really like to get me one. I imagine all of the heartbeats that have stopped, all of the tissue boxes, all of the glasses of water to fetch.

My husband holds me, but I want to get out of this room. I walk down the hall of the fertility clinic, silent and crying. I feel bad for the poor couple waiting who sees me.

I schedule a D&C for Wednesday morning. The procedure goes well, and I feel relief when it is over.

The next day, I cannot stop crying. My husband suggests it might be the hormones “evening out”, and I want to punch him in the face. I felt empty, and with no more decisions to make, I am left with my new reality of being a non-pregnant person without a plan.

As time goes on, I start to feel like my waves of sadness aren’t attached to the miscarriage anymore, or if they are, I’m not aware of it. The sadness is inside of me, and sometimes it comes out. I read sad books and cry my way through them. If I happen to see a news article about a child in peril, I have a full breakdown. I start having unwanted thoughts about my own family dying.

We have “the tissue” tested. The baby was a girl, and she had an extra X chromosome. I can’t stop thinking how the embryo had the abnormality all along. All that time I was hoping and fighting for it’s survival, when it never really had a chance.

I feel alone in my grief. My husband moves on, which I hate. I want him to share my sadness. I want it to slap him across the face like it does to me. I want him to not be okay, right alongside me. I don’t know how to talk to him about my own grief.

I feel alone in my grief. My husband moves on, which I hate. I want him to share my sadness. I want it to slap him across the face like it does to me. I want him to not be okay, right alongside me. I don’t know how to talk to him about my own grief.

I go back to the clinic for another ultrasound. The first thing I notice is the box of tissues. I see the deep ocean, but this time it is empty. How will I proceed? How will I find the courage to keep coming back here, to go through more shots, to face another transfer?

I want to have a happy ending. But a rainbow baby is not guaranteed. I realize how incredibly fortunate I am that I got pregnant and delivered a healthy baby with my first round of IVF. When I look at my daughter, I see a complete miracle. I hug her close and feel determined not to get so focused on a non-existent baby that these precious toddler years slip by. I remind myself how much I have to be grateful for.

A year has passed. We still haven’t done another round of IVF. I felt so much internal pressure to restart, but I’m glad I waited. Even though the miscarriage was early, it was very real to me. I felt it, I lost it, then I held space for it, until the space got very small, and I was okay again.

Chrissy Stephens is a mother and writer living in Chicago, Illinois. She recently completed her first novel.

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