When You Both Lose

At our first fertility appointment in 2012, our doctors and nurses were so upbeat and positive with us, not that we had expected grim outlooks from them.

But their reassurance that ours would be a quick and successful IVF cycle reinforced what we had already believed.There was no reason to think we’d have a problem. We weren’t at the fertility center because we had a history of unsuccessfully getting pregnant. We were at the fertility center because we were two women, and we couldn’t get pregnant on our own.No reason to think that in 2015, we’d still not be mothers. No reason to think that by 2015, we would have both experienced pregnancy losses of our own. My first was at 17 weeks when my water broke and my twins were lost three days before Christmas. My wife’s was two years later at 12 weeks, again in December, after no heartbeat had ever developed. And then my second loss, just recently, at 10 weeks, after our baby’s heartbeat had stopped inexplicably.

In any relationship, the loss of a pregnancy is devastating for both people. When I lost the twins, my wife was crushed. We cried together. We helped each other up when we couldn’t bear the pain. And we’ve continued to get through the loss together. Always together.After I was unable to get pregnant again for 18 months, we came to the decision that my wife should try. There was only so much disappointment I could personally handle, and I had begun to develop a rather negative self-image because I was so angry at my body for failing me. Just like those first days at the fertility center, we started my wife’s journey off on the highest notes, knowing there wasn’t a reason in the world to think anything else other than she would have a healthy and successful pregnancy.

To our absolute and truest delight, she got pregnant on her very first try. We were so overjoyed. Finally. Finally, it was our turn. Finally, we would no longer have to suffer through disappointment. Finally, we could begin our lives as mothers. We could realize our dream. We could create our family.

Never did we think the Universe would be so cruel and make us suffer another loss.

But that baby never developed a heartbeat, and my wife miscarried at 12 weeks.

The pain of your own miscarriage is bad enough, but to witness the woman you love go through the terror of losing a pregnancy — and to know just what that feels like — well, that might be worse. The old cliche says that ignorance is bliss, and never is that truer than when it comes to miscarriage. No one should know this pain. And when the person you love more than anything goes through a loss of her own, you wish it was you.

My wife cried, for many reasons, but she also cried, as I did for her, because she said she finally really understood what it was like for me to have lost the twins. From my own body. And now, from her own body.

We thought that would be it — that our streak would end there. But it didn’t. I lost another baby at 10 weeks after a very strong heartbeat had already been detected. They say there’s a 16 percent chance for a woman over 35 to miscarry after a heartbeat develops. I’m now 0 for 2 with that.

Our life together has a great deal of sadness, of pain and disappointment. We’ve been married for four years, and three of them have involved insurmountable heartache. But we get each other. We get the pain. We know what needs to be done to keep going. When you both lose, you need the other to steady your feet. To catch you on the bad days. You need the other because you need someone who understands.

Our tragic life has brought us closer, but it hasn’t defined us. Perhaps to others we’re the sad lesbian couple who can’t have babies (and not simply because we have no sperm). Perhaps to others we should see the writing on the wall and stop trying. But to us, we’re two wives simply going after our dream of motherhood — and holding each other up while we get there.

 Photo credit: adapted from mescon | Flickr

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Aela Mass

Aela Mass is a lesbian writer and editor living on Martha's Vineyard with her wife and their dog, Darla. She miscarried her twins at 17 weeks and has undergone numerous IVF, FET, and IUI cycles. Her wife has also miscarried. Through it all, she shares the light and the dark of her journey.

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