From the Our Mother’s Stories series:
Angy Merola’s first attempt at motherhood resulted in an ectopic pregnancy, discovered only after much damage was done to one of her fallopian tubes. Her chances of becoming pregnant again were now, in theory, cut in half. That’s how she began a four-year journey filled with heartbreak and struggle, including two failed attempts at in-vitro fertilization, until finally, when she least expected it, after two consecutive miscarriages, her son Nico was born.
My husband and I had just gotten off a plane and were about to start a two-week French vacation when I had to go to the hospital. I knew what had happened because it had happened before about eight months earlier around Christmas.
Now it was the end of September. I knew something was wrong during the flight so I had called my doctor during my layover in New York. We immediately went to the local hospital in Burgundy and partly because of the language barrier, it took a little time and a lot of tests before they confirmed what I was trying to tell them, that yes I was pregnant, and yes I had miscarried. It was not the way we imagined starting our vacation.
I just stayed in my hotel room and cried. I wouldn’t leave that room. My husband asked me if I wanted to go home. I told him that I did. He didn’t say anything. By then we were at the beach near Nice and Monaco. He just let me cry, and a little while later he suggested we take a walk on the beach.
Getting out of the hotel room, enjoying where we were, not thinking about everything, just for a little while helped a lot. It made me think leaving might be hasty. I thought, “ok, you can’t let this completely consume you and ruin your entire vacation.” So we stayed.
I’m really glad we did.
Tony and I met in the spring of 1993. I was a sophomore and he was a junior in college. After a week of dating, we both knew we would get married someday. Neither of us questioned the feeling. We got engaged three years later and married two years after that.
We really have a perfect marriage. We love every minute of it. He’s my best friend. We see eye to eye. We travel together. We have two dogs and we both want kids.
For some reason, I told him that I secretly feared that it would not be easy for us to have them. I had no reason to feel that way and I don’t know why I said it. Tony would just say, “Angy don’t talk like that. We’re both healthy. We have nothing to worry about.” He just didn’t want to engage in that conversation.
He was right. I had no reason to worry. It wasn’t because my mom had any trouble getting pregnant. She was 18 when I was born. Maybe it’s because every woman has that fear. I’ve talked to other girlfriends who have thought the same thing. As a woman you feel like you were born to have babies. And if you can’t, you wonder if you can call yourself a true woman, no matter how confident, no matter how strong you are.
It seemed easy at first. I got pregnant the first time we tried. An ectopic pregnancy can happen to anyone at any age. By the time it was discovered, my entire fallopian tube had ruptured. I was bleeding internally. I needed emergency surgery in the middle of the night. They had to remove the entire tube. I knew then my chances of getting pregnant again were cut in half. But my doctor told me I could still get pregnant, that it might just take longer.
We tried for more than three years. The first year, we tried using Clomid, a fertility drug, and once tried artificial insemination. In the second year we discovered I had elevated levels of a hormone that affected my ability to get pregnant. It was as if I had the body of someone who was 41, not 31.
That’s when we tried in-vitro fertilization. We spent about $20,000 on two rounds of in-vitro, six months apart. We were reassured we had a good chance of getting pregnant but both times it failed. And my doctor, to this day, can’t explain it. I learned one factor that can’t be measured is how stress can impact a pregnancy.
A few months after the two rounds of in-vitro failed, I unexpectedly got pregnant on my own in the fall of 2005. I had been going through something of a professional crisis and doing a lot of soul-searching. I was completely focused on my career and completely miserable at the same time. So I decided to quit my job at the end of November. Three days before I was going to give notice, I found out I was pregnant. Now I had even more reason to quit. But our happiness ended quickly. When I was seven weeks pregnant, I miscarried.
This was the darkest part of our entire journey. I felt like I might not be able to bounce back to normal. And, honestly, I never really did go back to the way I was. I became a much more skeptical, serious person who was really struggling with “why me?” each and every day. I really felt like a failure.
I often wished I could let it go. I wondered, “why am I so consumed with getting pregnant? Why couldn’t I just roll with it? Why am I so fixated?” My husband was as supportive as anyone could be. He had reassured me over and over that he married me, and that’s what our relationship was about, that it didn’t really matter to him if we didn’t have kids. He just wanted us to be the way we were before, but of course that was completely impossible. Too many things had happened on that long road.
Nine months later, I somehow got pregnant again without any treatment. And again it ended in miscarriage while we were on vacation. So there we were on the French Riviera. I started to think, “wait a second, we’ve been planning this trip for so long. Is this what I want, to sit here feeling bad? Is that fair to Tony?” At some point it became harder to not leave the room. There were so many things to see and do. So we took a walk on the beach and that helped to snap me out of it. Something about being by the water has always had a special effect on me.
That week, against the odds, I got pregnant for the third time in one year. There was no reason I should have gotten pregnant. I wasn’t even interested in trying again –the thought was too painful. I was scared to death of having another miscarriage. Getting pregnant this time was not joyful – it was petrifying. Once we made it through the first trimester, it set in that we were going to be parents. It was then that I promised myself to enjoy every single second of the pregnancy, even when I felt like a whale, even when I was constantly nauseous, even when I was in 50 hours of labor. We had many close friends and family use the word “miracle” when we told them we were expecting. The pregnancy really did feel miraculous.
If we get the opportunity to have another child, that would be great. If we don’t, that’s fine too. Having Nico brings us both so much joy and happiness. The pregnancy was amazing. But being parents has brought us enough happiness to last the rest of our lives.