Thursday, May 24, 2012

Confessions of a Mama in her 40s

© Barb Reilly 2012

*Trigger warning: loss is mentioned*

"I stumbled across your blog and really enjoy it. Unfortunately I do have an infertility story to share with you.

I met and married my husband late in life. It wasn't any plan on my part; that's just the way life went for me. I was 41 when we began trying to conceive and aware of all the media hype about women "waiting too long." It infuriated me, frankly, and I decided I would not give into that negative energy. I researched online to find the best herb for promoting fertility. (It is red clover blossom.) I made infusions of the herb and drank it daily.

The night before my 42nd birthday, I conceived a baby boy who was born healthy in December of 2002. When my son was nine months old, and I was 43, I got pregnant again but miscarried that baby at seven weeks. It was a few weeks before my son's first birthday and to cheer ourselves up, my husband and I went to the toy store and over indulged our soon-to-be-one year old. In fact, he got tired of opening presents when his birthday came around but the toy shopping was fun and cathartic for us in the aftermath of the loss.

The following February, I got pregnant again and lost that baby at eight weeks. It seems like most "middles" of anything, that miscarriage is kind of lost between the first one and the third one.

Yes, I had a third one almost one year to the day since the first one. But this time I was 11 weeks along. We heard the heartbeat and we allowed ourselves to let our guard down. But, deep inside I knew. I woke up one morning and felt the tiniest, I mean tiniest of cramps and then it was gone, but my heart quickened. I laid there waiting, fearing, but nothing.

I didn't say anything to my husband but all day long I was constanly going to the bathroom to check for bleeding. That night we went out to celebrate my mother's 80th birthday and everyone was happy and excited about the new baby while inside a terrible dread had taken hold of me.

When we got home that night, my son was sound asleep and my husband quickly went to bed. I went to the bathroom, wiped...."there it is," I said out loud. Blood. I didn't wake my husband until about 2 am when the bleeding had progressed but even then I couldn't bring myself to tell him the full scope of what was happening. He assured me it would be okay. The same thing had occurred with our son, but I knew I wasn't being truthful with him. I went back to bed and woke up around 4 am with full blown hemorrhaging. This was six years ago and even still retelling this now brings tears to my eyes. 

Pregnancy loss is a loss and grief like no other. I lost my father when I was 24 years old and I never thought anything could rival that pain until I was lying in my driveway, passing out from blood loss, knowing my baby was gone. The next year I will say I came as close to having a nervous breakdown without actually having one that a person can claim. The grief was maddening. Of course I was infinitely grateful for my baby boy and he gave my days joy and lightness but at night, after he had gone to was like the Shrek movie where Fiona turns into an ogre.

My grief would come out as if to hiss at me and say, "You thought you could ignore me?" My breasts ached, physically ached to nurse another baby. I found out I have this blood clotting disorder and that was what was causing the miscarriages. Interestingly, red clover is a blood thinner, but I had stopped drinking it after my son was born. Why? I guess his conception and delivery were just "too easy" and I didn't fully appreciate how intuitively right I had been about the herb.

I have a lovely daughter now. We adopted - rescued - her out of foster care. She was my cousin's biological daughter but my cousin suffers from bipolar disorder and alcoholism. She wanted us to adopt her baby and yet it was a battle to get the baby out of foster care. I never gave up hoping to get pregnant again, even as I turned 50. I am 52 and my last period was in September so I suppose I can hang up the hope, though even now I dream of a "one last" ovulation that I am unaware of and that lands me pregnant.

I never went back to drinking red clover again. I truly believe I was too scared and that I never became pregnant again not because the sexiest men of science and medicine have a clue about the female reproduction system (there is evidence that suggests we actually DO make eggs our entire lives rather than the "born with all our eggs and they get old" theory) but because I could not abandon my fears enough to allow my body to become pregnant.

To this day I still want another baby so, so badly. I see babies everywhere I go and I wonder if I will ever stop noticing them. It seems hard to remember the day when I didn't notice them; when a trip to Target or the park wasn't an emotional assault. I am jealous and envious of people with three, four or more children and yet I am proud to say I am not bitter or resentful. I worked hard not to be as I knew women who had gone through pregnancy losses who resented women with babies. I even found a place within myself where I am grateful for my pregnancies despite the losses because for seven weeks, eight weeks and eleven weeks, I got to know that joy. I look at every baby as a sweet celebration and pray that neither my son nor daughter ever experience infertility or pregnancy loss."

Blood clotting disorders that result in miscarriage or stillbirth are often related to a genetic polymorphism abbreviated MTHFR. For more information:


  1. Your family is beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing your story!

  2. once again it is inspiring and commended to read about OUR SIXTH SENSE AS WOMEN!!
    Great story ..and amazing we just "know" clover tea= thumbs up! For me, it was Maca root :-)