One year ago, Hartje a NY model and local business owner, was diagnosed with having a unicornuate uterus, which is a very rare birth defect where only half of the uterus is fully developed. The unicornuate uterus often goes undetected until women are examined for other fertility issues, such as endometriosis. Because of this, the statistics for unicornuate uterus pregnancies go undetected. However, many times, women are unaware of their condition and go on to have healthy pregnancies and babies.
Naturally, Hartje and her husband were overjoyed when they first found out that they were expecting. Hartje experienced pain on her left side during her pregnancy, but this was attributed to a corpus luteum cyst after her ultrasound confirmed that her and her baby were healthy, growing, and attached in the right spot.
After a week passed, Hartje had to go to ER, claiming excruciating pain on her left side. An ultrasound revealed blood in her abdomen, but her baby was still healthy and growing. For the first time, she witnessed her baby’s heartbeat. This instilled joy, but the presence of fear still lingered. The doctors decided to wait a bit and monitor Hartje, not wanting to put her embryo at risk with any unnecessary surgery.
Unfortunately, however, Hartje got much worse. They operated on her and found out that she had a rare heterotopic pregnancy. She had conceived twin babies, but one of them had attached to the fallopian tube, causing it to rupture as the baby grew.
“I woke up from the surgery learning that I had lost my only fallopian tube and therefore would never be able to conceive again, and that the baby I was still pregnant with had a 50/50 chance of surviving after the blood loss and the surgery.”
A week later, Hartje miscarried.
“I was told I should be grateful; I had been lucky to survive – but after having spent 16 years carefully avoiding to become pregnant, learning that having children might not even be an option for us anymore was devastating news.”
The emotional and physical recovery was rough for Hartje. She only talked about what happened to her to a few close friends, telling very few male friends about it, since she felt embarrassed. She hated her body, as she felt useless and unattractive.
The couple has since started the first part of the IVF therapy, and ended up with two good embryos that were frozen. Hartje describes the process as scary, invasive, unfair, painful, and of course, stressful.
“I am thankful for my husband being by my side and encouraging me when I felt most desperate, and for my family and my in-laws always jumping in to help without a moment of hesitation.”
In a state where fertility treatment is not covered by health insurance, nor are days on prescribed bedrest financially compensated for a freelance worker, going through an IVF procedure was only possible for us with financial help from our families. However, for many couples, it is too much of a risk and financial burden to try it.
It took so much time and courage for Hartje to talk to her friends, since she did not feel comfortable sharing such intimate detailed with anybody at first. She was devastated about losing her pregnancy, but knowing that she would now be infertile caused such negative emotions and low self-esteem for her.
“I even felt that I should leave my husband, so that he could find a new wife who could give him children easily.”
If Hartje kept those thoughts to herself, then it would have taken her so much longer to get out of this debilitating sadness. Her friend had once told her that even though she might not become a parent, there were still so many people who would love her and appreciate her, along with so many people, including children, who she will touch, move, and whose life she will have a positive impact on. She states that life will go on, and it is okay to be sad, but nobody should feel isolated because of their grief.
“If you have friends struggling with infertility, know that your friendship means the world to them. If they are going through fertility treatments, know that the pressure and the financial strain takes a toll on their bodies, their minds, their bank accounts and their marriage or partnership. Every month is a new reminder of their loss, or their failure to conceive. Your support and encouragement will help them through a time of feeling worthless and broken, and lets them feel that they are not going through this alone.”
Hartje A., NY