Difficulties with conceiving
At Limmud in Winnipeg earlier this year, Bryan Borzykowski talked about his and his wife Lainie’s difficulties in having children. (photo from Rebeca Kuropatwa)
At this year’s Limmud in Winnipeg, on March 13, Bryan Borzykowski spoke about the miscarriages he and his wife, Lainie, experienced and, in particular, the anxiety they felt during her pregnancy after multiple miscarriages.
A woman’s body innately senses the starting point of pregnancy and it recalculates, again and again, throughout the pregnancy, often determining whether or not it is possible by week 12 to carry a baby to term. This is why women are cautioned not to mention a pregnancy until after that point.
Miscarriages and difficulties in conceiving occur more often than we know – in large part because of our discomfort in speaking openly about the topic. Recently before his Limmud talk, Borzykowski – who is a freelance writer in the field of finance – had written an article on his family’s experiences in Today’s Parent magazine.
Borzykowski and his wife had their first miscarriage before their first child, a second one between their first and second child, and three more between their second and third child.
“The first miscarriage was 10 years ago,” he said. “We’d been going through pregnancy issues for a decade. So, after we realized we had this miscarriage, it was really terrible. But, once we started talking about it, everybody said, ‘I’ve gone through this as well’ … which was really nice to hear.
Apparently, 10-20% of women go through miscarriages. I think it’s got to be higher. Pretty much everyone I know has had one.
“The problem is when you have more than one, especially when you’re dealing with your wife going through this terrible situation. You just want to be there for her. There’s not a lot of time to go talk to friends about it.”
The couple went through IUI (intrauterine insemination) treatments in the hopes of getting pregnant again after their first child. Through these treatments, they discovered they had lost their second child’s twin, which apparently is somewhat common.
“They did tell us that a lot of people have twins, but one disappears … literally, disappears,” said Borzykowski. “At eight to 12 weeks, when they do the ultrasound, it’s already gone. Sure enough, we found out that we lost this twin, which was actually really difficult. We were happy we had one, but the strange thing about this is how attached you get to this thing before it’s even a real thing.
“But you do, you get attached to the idea of the baby. It’s hard to articulate to people who haven’t gone through it. You feel stupid, dumb, getting attached to something that’s not this thing. You start thinking about ways to … avoid the thought process.”
Borzykowski has found that it gets harder to talk about miscarriages the more they happen, but the couple was determined to try for a third child. They did succeed, via in vitro fertilization, which raised questions about the $15,000 cost.
Borzykowski found himself getting into financial conversations with friends. “It’s awkward, talking about your financial situation, about how you’re paying for it,” he said.
The couple’s last miscarriage occurred at 16 weeks. They took a test that showed the baby had Down syndrome. They ended up having only a couple of days to contemplate their options before they learned they had another miscarriage. At that point, they reevaluated their desire for a third child.
“It sounds silly,” said Borzykowski. “A lot of people can’t have more than one. We fully admitted we have an amazing life and are blessed with two kids, but we wanted three. That was hard, because a lot of people would say, ‘You have two, why do want a third?’ I don’t know. We wanted another, but we were pretty close to giving up until, one day, we decided to try. We just didn’t use protection. Somehow, Lainie got pregnant – no fertility [treatments], nothing. But, we didn’t talk about it for three months … not connecting, trying not to feel like you’re going to have a baby. You don’t want to jinx it. If something happens, you don’t want to feel the pain.”
Only after the three months had passed did the couple begin, little by little, to feel a sense of hope, that this was really going to happen.
“We took this test again,” said Borzykowski. “There’s this great test. It tells you everything…. It came back negative. We immediately breathed a sigh of relief. I don’t know. Something changed.
“As time went on, we came to terms with the fact that we were having a third baby … and we started connecting to her, although we didn’t fully think it was going to happen until I was holding her.
“When she came out, it was a miracle. I appreciate her. I appreciate all my kids, but there’s something about what we had to go through to get her that just makes it special … enough to make me realize the importance of opening up, which is difficult still. It helps.”
According to Borzykowski, research and statistics show that talking about miscarriages helps you get through them and that, while men usually get over the experience faster than women, it does affect men as well, with long-lasting effects.
From his family’s experiences, Borzykowski also learned that it was OK to go for what they wanted, as long as they felt they could manage the emotional possibility of having another loss.
“We knew we wanted a third,” said Borzykowski. “That was never the question. It was just … the emotional toll. We didn’t want to break up our family. I don’t think it would have, but I can’t say for sure. But, it worked out for us. I’m glad we went for it. I’m glad it worked out well. It’s easy to say now, but I’m glad we didn’t stop.”
Something else Borzykowski learned from these experiences was the significance of he and his wife being there for each other. These were experiences that made them even closer, he said. As well, for Borzykowski, having people to talk to about it was key – whether a family member, a friend or a professional.
“It also forces you to deal with death on a more regular basis and, in a sense, gives you an advantage over some of your peers in the future,” he said. “People often don’t understand the depth of loss that comes from losing an unborn child and the only way for them to understand it is by talking about. Then, maybe people would understand that, if we need more time, that’s OK.
“When people start opening up more,” he continued, “that changes some of the cultural thinking around it…. If you knew, before the miscarriage, that everyone went through it, maybe it wouldn’t feel as shameful or you wouldn’t feel as lost.”
Rebeca Kuropatwa is a Winnipeg freelance writer.