Erin Spergel (37) and Abram (6)
Erin shares -
“Having been through an extensive infertility journey spanning 4 years and consisting of a year of trying the ‘old’ fashioned way, months of monitoring at the clinic prior to ovulation, followed by 6 rounds of IUI and injections, 3 IVF cycles (and more injections), 1 failed transfer, 1 transfer that stuck but resulted in a blighted ovum and 1 current pregnancy, I would say that I experienced loss every month for approximately 48 months. Each time harder than the last. Somehow I was surprised how much it hurt with each negative pregnancy test. But, in the beginning, prior to the IVF, I was able to lick my wounds, reward myself with a special food treat, pick myself back up and move onto the next round.
Once IVF started, it was entirely different. The first blow came with the numbers; the fact that the number of eggs retrieved was not even close to the number of eggs that end up being viable. Our doctor prepared us for this, but hope is blinding and the sense of loss we felt at this realization felt unbearable.
The next blow came once we made our first attempt at a transfer. We were putting our little embryo back into its home where they would grow for the next nine months...only to get the call after two weeks saying, “I’m so sorry, but you are not pregnant.” I knew, WE knew, that there was a pretty significant chance that a transfer may not result in a pregnancy, but again, hope is blinding and the sense of loss felt even more unbearable.
And then the final blow came after our second transfer attempt. After two weeks we got the call, “the test was positive...you are pregnant.” What a relief! We were ecstatic! We told so many people, so early...because this was real! Then came time for the 6 week ultrasound where we might hear a heartbeat… but the sac was empty, nothing was growing. The look on the face of the ultrasound tech who I had come to know so well over the course of countless appointments, then the look on the face of my doctor who was just so bewildered and perplexed… ”I’m sorry, this is so hard to logically explain, knowing that this was a normal genetically tested embryo. But this is what we’d call a blighted ovum. I hate to do this, but come back next week so we can be sure that nothing is growing in the sac.” We went back, and… nothing was growing in the sac. This pregnancy was no longer. The hope had been SO blinding and the loss was crushing.
With each blow, I didn’t know how I could do it again, if I should do it again...did it all mean something? Was the universe trying to tell us that we shouldn’t mess with our current reality?
How has parenthood impacted your body image?
I often have a distorted sense of reality when it comes to my body. I’m the type of person who works out one day and looks in the mirror and thinks, “Hmmm, I can see a difference already, no need to do anymore, I’m all set.” But at the same time, I’m also a person who has never been satisfied with my arms for example. They are an area that I loathe, yet, it’s hard to improve them because like i said, after i work out once, I decide they look better and I’m all set. Overall, I think my body and I have an “ok” relationship. We’re fine with each other until one of us gets on the other’s nerves and that’s when we need to work on things together. I would rather diet than work out. I would say since having Abram, that has been my “go to” when I’m dissatisfied with my body. I wouldn’t say that i yo yo diet, but I’d probably say that maybe every year or so I find a “thing” that I’m going to try. There is generally a goal of losing about 10 lbs mostly because it’s about 10 lbs that makes me feel better in my clothes. That is my primary driver for losing weight… wanting my clothes to fit comfortably.
What was your postpartum experience?
I became pregnant with Abram easily and as planned. My pregnancy was “easy” and I truly enjoyed it. Labor and delivery were faster and way more empowering than I’d ever expected. People would ask me my birth plan while I was pregnant and my claim to fame was, “I plan to have a baby, I’m not looking to be a rockstar or a superhero, I want an epidural and I don’t want to suffer if I don’t have to.” Well, Abram had other things in mind. My labor progressed much quicker than expected and the one thing I planned, the epidural, couldn’t happen because I was 10 centimeters and ready to push before anyone would have expected it. I ended up with a vaginal unmedicated birth and no, I still didn’t and don’t feel like a rock star… or a superhero… but I was blown away by what my body was capable of when I actually gave it the chance. I had an amazing experience breastfeeding. Although some pain at the beginning, I was supported by an amazing neighbor who also happened to be a doula and lactation counselor. My entire experience left me super empowered and I couldn’t wait to do it all again… and hopefully have the same experience the next time.
With this pregnancy, I’m finding it very similar. While getting pregnant was not as easy and clearly has not gone as planned, my pregnancy is almost identical even down to the month in which my heartburn and indigestion has started. However, I’m finding that the ease of the day to day, and the lack of symptoms… just like i had last time, are causing my anxiety this time. Is the baby ok? Is she growing? Am I growing? Should I be bigger? Should I be smaller? Is everything as it should be? Will everything stay as it should be? After being monitored and having so much about your body tracked for 48 months, for four LONG years, it is so hard to trust your body, to enjoy your body and to feel empowered and blown away by what your body is capable of when you give it a chance, but I am trying my best.
What is your truth?
I think the one piece of advice I might give to someone who is going through a journey similar to what I went through is to prioritize the things that matter most to you. The advice to the former me would be to prioritize those things sooner… don’t wait. I started off in my infertility journey feeling guilty and stressing about the appointments I needed to make time for multiple times a week. I felt guilty that I was taking time away from either work or from my family. As time went on, I realized that I needed to prioritize my body and my family. Work would be there...even if it meant I got to the office a little later.
I got to a point somewhere after the first 9 months or so of my journey where I realized that I couldn’t go through this journey without giving it all that it required. This wasn’t something to half ass. If I said I didn’t have the time for yoga or for acupuncture (which seemed silly at the beginning) and none of this worked, I’d always wonder… if I HAD slowed down and if I HAD really and truly prioritized the things that MIGHT help, would I have been able to get pregnant with this baby that we wanted so badly. I made the decision that I couldn’t risk having that wondering for the rest of my life.
While I was able to slow down and calm my body and mind to an extent, I am not and will never be a zen master… I’m far from it. I’m by nature a bit of an anxious person. I get wound up, I’m passionate and committed to my work. I stressed about this at one point and asked my doctor how much this would impact my chances and the advice he gave me stuck and really helped me through the process. He said, ”If you are at a 10 in terms of stress and anxiety… I just need you to come down a few notches… maybe to like a 7 or an 8. Me telling you to come down to a 1 or a 2 would be unrealistic and just stress you out even more.” So come down a few notches is what I did. I found tools and coping techniques that worked for me. I went for acupuncture routinely and found an acupuncturist who made me feel cozy, warm and cared for. I found some meditations that really helped me through the rough patches and I took solace in my family and the beach. Yes… the beach. I am a Pisces and need to be by the water.
I suggested to my husband and my son that we make an effort as a family to go to the beach once a month for the entire year. The water gives me life and gives me peace that truly is healing. I also made it part of my ritual to go to the water after a retrieval or after a transfer...even after a loss. It brought me calm and it took me down those few notches like my doctor said he needed me to do.
We made time for these things. We made the space, and in making the space for all of the things, I believe we made the space for this baby.”