Pregnancy After Loss: Arden's Story

Original Story by Arden Cartrette

Trigger Warning: Miscarriage

October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. While these topics aren’t easy to talk about, they are so important. Every mama that has lost a baby has a story to tell and we’re here to listen.

This year, we’re choosing to share Arden’s story. Arden Cartrette is a blogger based out of Pittsboro, North Carolina. She started blogging and sharing her fertility journey through social media in 2018 after struggling to get pregnant in her early 20s. After over two and a half years of trying to conceive and suffering two miscarriages, Arden and her husband, Kerry, welcomed their double rainbow, Cameron, in February 2020.

Now, Arden is on a journey of healing through inspiring and supporting other mamas to let them know they’re not alone.

Infertile in my 20s

There was a point in my journey where I thought that I somehow manifested battling infertility. I wasn’t born with an aching desire to be a mother nor was my every thought consumed by wanting a child until it became clear that it wasn’t going to be so easy for my husband, Kerry, and myself. Was I being punished for not being maternal? Is it possible that I wasn’t a maternal person because I was infertile?

In early 2017 Kerry and I decided that we were ready to start a family. A friend of mine had given me the advice that you're never really ready and we took that to heart. Without even an ounce of knowledge of what it took to create a life, I downloaded a few apps, bought some ovulation kits, and we had sex. At the end of the first month, I was shocked when the pregnancy test had one line (meaning that I wasn’t pregnant).

Fast forward a year and I was growing impatient and desperate. Every month that passed resulted in negative pregnancy tests and I had never felt more alone or like a failure. When we started seeing a reproductive endocrinologist here in Raleigh, North Carolina, I was certain that we would find the reason for our infertility and successfully get pregnant.

Sadly, I was right but that wasn’t the end of our fertility journey by any means.

The Day I Became A Mom

It was a Wednesday. The day that I got my first ever positive pregnancy test. Actually, I remember the exact date – Wednesday, August 22, 2018. I had a busy day at work and I had to be in the car for a while. I remember feeling so sick on the car ride which wasn’t a normal thing for me. When I got to my destination, lunch was served and I remember feeling so hungry. At the moment, I wrote off feeling sick as a hunger pain. After eating a sandwich, I only felt worse. 

Around 3 p.m. I realized that my period was now about three or four days late. How had I not noticed? To be honest, I just thought that my body was punishing me. I knew that the moment my period started, I would have to call my fertility clinic to start our cycle of fertility treatments and I assumed that my body just wasn’t cooperating to hurt me.

When I got home from work that day, I took a pregnancy test. I felt so silly that I was even doing that because there was no way I was pregnant. To my surprise, the test read PREGNANT and my world was forever changed.

If you were to ask Kerry, our pregnancy was over at our first ultrasound when I should have been 7 weeks, 1 day pregnant. Our fertility doctor was silent as he looked at the ultrasound and eventually told us that he wasn’t sure if our pregnancy was viable or not. This was the start of three weeks of pregnancy limbo. We went back weekly for ultrasounds and never saw a heartbeat but there seemed to be some growth. It was so confusing and each appointment broke us a little bit more.

Before our last appointment, I started spotting and I knew that it was over. It was the beginning of the end. The last ultrasound showed that the pregnancy was definitely not growing and we were given the three dreaded options to carry out the miscarriage. I chose to have an in-office dilation and curettage (D&C) because I was terrified of miscarrying at home. My doctor told me that if I decided to allow it to happen naturally at home, it would be similar to a heavy period but I knew better. There was absolutely no way that the loss of a child could be anything like a period.

Unfortunately, I miscarried at home the night before my scheduled appointment. I was unprepared and very much afraid. I lost my first child in the early hours of September 26, 2018, which also happened to be our third wedding anniversary.

One Miscarriage Under Our Belt

At that point in our journey, things felt unfair. Almost like the universe was out to get me which I know may sound silly to some but I couldn’t understand what I did to deserve an infertility diagnosis only to have a surprise pregnancy and then lose that child. I was heartbroken.

Although I was grieving and afraid of our future, I wanted to get pregnant as soon as possible after the miscarriage. I assumed that if I could get pregnant quickly or before the due date of the baby we lost, maybe things would just be okay and I wouldn’t be so sad.

Three months after our miscarriage, we jumped into fertility treatment and things went well. I had large follicles and everything seemed to be falling into place because my dates also worked out perfectly. It was around the holidays so I was out of work which meant that I didn’t have to come up with excuses as to why I was late for work because I’m getting pregnant isn’t really one that most employers want to hear.

Battling Recurrent Pregnancy Loss

Because of our protocol, we learned about our second pregnancy very early. The first emotion I felt when the pregnancy test showed two lines (positive) was absolute fear. I sat at our kitchen table and cried tears of sadness and pain because this wasn’t the baby we lost and now I was afraid to lose this baby, too.

My second pregnancy ended a lot as my first one did. I felt numb and physically broken. Why did fertility treatment work so easily for us and then my babies not live? Is it me?

Our fertility doctor said something to me that has stuck with me for the years since two miscarriages at your age is not normal. It was the most validating sentence that a doctor has ever said to me and I appreciated his honesty.

When my first period came after our second miscarriage, my doctor ran all of the tests to check for dips in hormones, blood-clotting disorders, and more. The only result that came from the testing was that my Vitamin D levels were dangerously low. Basically, I was told to supplement my Vitamin D, take a daily baby aspirin, and try to focus on the fact that nothing seemed to be wrong so our chances of having a third miscarriage were low.

The Fear of Pregnancy After Loss

In May 2019 we followed the same exact protocol that got us pregnant just a few months prior and once again, it worked. I was pregnant for the third time within the last year and every day was truly terrifying. I felt afraid to move or lift a finger, I just wanted this baby to be the baby that we would meet.

Prior to our first ultrasound, I had some bleeding and I thought that the pregnancy was over. The problem with seeing blood when pregnant is that we are conditioned to associate bleeding from a period with not being pregnant, right? But then you experience traumatic miscarriages and it’s a whole new world of fear and triggers. I definitely lost some of my hope when the bleeding continued for a week straight.

The day of our first ultrasound, which I should add is always the appointment where we received bad news in our previous pregnancies, I prepared myself for the worst. My inner monologue was preparing me for the thought of I’m the girl who will have three miscarriages but I tried to not allow my negativity to show.

Once we were called back to the exam room, I started to cry as I waited for our doctor to perform the vaginal ultrasound. Inside my mind, I prepared my goodbyes and feared that these were my last moments of being pregnant with that child.

From the second the ultrasound started, I saw it. There was a heartbeat and it was the most beautiful flicker I had ever seen. So this is what it’s supposed to be like I thought because normally I’d be hearing the apologies and options at this point.

We went on to have a healthy pregnancy that was still filled with fear and anxiety but it was very much worth the struggle in the end.

Our Rainbow Baby Was Born

Before Cameron, my rainbow was born I would search for stories like mine. It seemed impossible to have two losses and then a healthy child. I felt like my body had to be broken, why else couldn’t I stay pregnant?

Cameron has somewhat restored my faith in my body’s ability to create and nourish life. I don’t think that I fully believed that he was coming home from the hospital with us until we pulled out of the hospital parking lot but every day has been such a blessing since.

Motherhood after miscarriage is often confusing and still very scary because you’ve experienced (and continue to experience) grief and you know how fragile life is, but I’ve learned that resilience is worth it in the end.

The Newton Community Cares

We see you, Mama. We see you at the beginning of your pregnancy journey, with your dreams of motherhood -  and we see you struggling after a loss that makes you feel like your world is ending, like no one will ever understand. We see you in the moments of triumph and support you in the moments where you feel defeated. Our tribe of parents is strong, it’s a community with mothers in all stages and situations. The light can be so faint when you’re at your darkest hour, but your rainbow will come. Rainbows can come in so many different ways and here at Newton we support and encourage all parents in whatever stage they are in.

If you or a friend can relate and connect to this message or need more one on one support, it is out there. For this reason, we worked with Arden to share her story and are donating $5,000 to an organization close to her heart, Pregnancy After Loss Support (PALS). Pregnancy After Loss Support is dedicated to ensuring that every mom and her partner who is experiencing pregnancy after loss is able to find support and connection among both peers and health care professionals who understand and validate the unique and complex experience of pregnancy after a previous perinatal or child death.

Continue following Arden along her journey of healing and motherhood: 

Instagram @ardenmcartrette