The unexpected road to pregnancy
April 23, 2020
Although I share a lot about my life, as openly and honestly as I have been able to, writing this post is going to be very difficult. It is probably the most emotional and hardest topic for me to open up about and requires going back to some experiences, that have been locked in a room with the hope of them being there as hidden as possible. I guess it's time to open that door and peek in.
The heaviness of the subject for me is the very reason I know I need to share it. I now know how many women and couples have faced it and how taboo-of-a-topic it is, which it shouldn't be. I now know stories of how big of an effect this experience can have on women and still... how many carry this burden just by themselves. What is it, you may wonder? It's miscarriage and the unexpected road to pregnancy.
Starting on a positive note...
For those of you that have been following our journey, you might know already, that I am currently 20 weeks pregnant with our first, very waited, and already extremely loved baby. Although it is an exciting time right now and I am happier than I have ever been, getting to this point has been a hard journey for me, for us.
Let me take you back a little bit.
Nick and I got married in May 2018. Having kids was something we had obviously discussed and although we weren't in a rush by any means, we weren't also opposed to it happening quickly. Then a month later I was diagnosed with cancer and a whole new chapter started. Even the opportunity of growing our family was questioned at some point. Since before this life- eruption I was getting used to the idea of becoming a mom, this was obviously already a devastating idea to me.
Long story short...(you can read about the cancer phase in my other blog post)- I didn't have to get any treatment other than surgery and the ability to have a baby wasn't affected.
Just a few months after getting the news, that "I am clear" we got another news. On the 1st of October 2018, I did three tests and found out I was pregnant. I sobbed in a bathroom with happiness and put together a plan to tell Nick. I decided to play a little trick on him.
I went to the store, got the ingredients, and created 5 home-made ice-creams. Since that was a period where I was experimenting a lot with cooking I told him I need his help in this food analysis project. I tied his eyes and had him taste different ice-creams I had made and he had to guess what the ingredients were. The twist was that the last thing I gave him was baby food a had got from the store.
He grimaced his face with disgust and asked- "What was thaaaaat????" He took his blind off and I said: "It was baby food." He didn't quite get it and responded- "Well why would you feed me baby food?" I paused and asked- "Well... why do you think I would?"
It took him a moment to realize where I was heading with this, but suddenly he stood up and started stomping around, astonished. He got it. We cried and laughed and hugged and both, truth be told, were quite shocked.
We had been through a very life-altering and emotionally roller-coaster-like experience just months prior and we weren't expecting this to happen so fast. Nor were we intentionally trying. Nevertheless, we were excited and very, very happy. I felt that after a whirlwind of a period, this was exactly what was meant to be. A new perspective, a new hope, a new breath, a new era.
5 and 9 weeks pregnant- excitedly waiting for the belly to pop
Now we were living with our little secret. We went to un ultrasound around 5 weeks and got confirmation around the pregnancy. Around 7-8 weeks we told our families. Since the first check was early and the heartbeat was not seen yet, the next ultrasound was scheduled on the 2nd of November (week 9).
As if there hadn't been enough ups and downs in the recent months, during that period I also lost my grandfather. He was very important to me and I was actually living at his house during the time I met Nick. His funeral was on the 1st of November and although a terribly hard and sad day, I remember in the evening reminding myself of the circle of life. "Liisa, life takes and life gives," thinking about the little human developing inside of me.
The next morning, on the 2nd of November at 9 am we had the doctor's appointment. I was thrilled and by no means ready for what waited ahead. Ironically, that day, The All Souls Day, known as the day to commemorate those not with us anymore, took a sudden turn.
Before we ever had the chance to hear the heartbeat, there was none to be found...
The whole process of that morning is a bit of a blur for me. I just remember walking out of the hospital, crying heavily, confused, and shocked. It doesn't matter that the baby was the size of a cherry, by then you have fallen in love already with the idea of having your life changed forever with a companion joining your path.
Although I think I have gone through quite a bit of challenges in my life prior to this starting with knocking on 15 000 doors 5000 miles away from home working on 100% commission; recruited and led teams; started a coaching division in a whole new continent; married a foreigner and battled immigration laws; lived abroad; dealt with major health issues...no one or nothing is ever able to prepare you for a moment like this.
I was mentally and emotionally absolutely drained.
This is one of those experiences, that you know that people go through, but since you never really hear too much about it, then it seems like a topic far away, that happens to... "some other people out there."
Dealing with our emotions in challenging situations, whatever that may be, is not something that's taught at school. Most of us haven't got that lesson from our upbringing. We are scared to share the real, tough things and so we carry this baggage around. Some for days, some for years, some for decades. It can get real heavy, doesn't it?
As I was carrying this with me, trying to keep on going with the normal activities I understood I need to talk this through with someone in order to be fully able to do so. I went to a psychologist. By that time I had one cleansing process with tablets done and the doctor said that for some reason it hadn't fully worked, so we were to do it once more. She also added that if it won't work now too, they need to intervene surgically. "What... another knife? No way, not this year. Please!" I thought.
Taking this step was probably the best thing I could have done. I am a coach myself by profession and have always had mentors and coaches, but now the need of having someone to 100% honestly and transparently talk with, was greater than ever. Yes, I have a wonderful husband, loving parents, and amazing girlfriends next to me, but sometimes someone outside of our own safe sphere of influence can listen with no agenda, no opinion and that can help a lot. So in whatever area of your life you know you have some unsolved burden on your heart, I strongly recommend you take action finding a neutral person to hash it out with for yourself.
With the psychologist, we reached a point where she said- "Liisa, your body is not letting go, because you haven't done that in your mind." She was totally right. I was desperately still clinging on to the idea.
The following weekend I wrote a letter to the baby. I poured my heart on the screen, we printed it and burnt it in the fireplace. It was time to let go.
This is the first time since the 2nd of December 2018, that I opened the document again. It rips some of the wounds but is also empowering for me to read and remind. I share this in the hopes that whatever you, who are reading this right now, have carried with you, that is weighing you down, do something to let it go. Letting go does not mean forgetting, not thinking "what if" or missing. Some dates and triggers will always be painful reminders, but giving yourself emotional permission to move on, is vital.
Talk it out, write it out, cry it out, whatever you have to do- get it out of your system
At the end of December, I shared our loss on social media. I was absolutely shocked to see how many messages I got from women that had undergone the same experience. I honestly felt everyone's pain who wrote to me. "If it is this common, then how come no one talks about this and how to go through it," I thought. In my naive mind, it seemed that on social media I only saw happy baby announcements and felt that I must be the only one going through something like this. To some extent, I blamed myself because I felt that maybe I did or didn't do something those other women had done.
Previously, it seemed to me, that most couples get pregnant right away. Most of our teen years and young adulthood we are sort of scared with the stories of how easy it is to get pregnant and how to avoid it. For years you do whatever needed to prevent this from happening, but then when the tides have turned and you are ready- you might realize it's not always as easy as depicted in the biology textbook or sexual education class you attended in middle school.
Now, 1,5 years later I know how difficult that road is for a lot. I know some who have tried a year, some who for 3, even 5 years. I know some who have done IVF... some who have had to go through it multiple times. I know people who have had to face miscarriages, some sadly many of them and unfortunately some who are not able to have kids at all. On the other hand, I also know people who have got pregnant at first try. That's the point- pregnancies and situations are different and it is so discouraging to compare ourselves in that with others.
Reading all the messages I also understood the common denominators. Everyone needs support, everyone needs to be able to share what's on their heart and express what they feel, everyone deserves someone who listens. I also understand that not everyone has to share this on social media as I do, so there would be a realistic balance between happy baby reveal posts and the not so happy negative pregnancy test to create a healthy expectation. People do need to know though that they are not alone in whatever they go through!
Although this was a hard period I also started to understand that sometimes we need to trust that the timing of things is just not meant to be. Looking back I know how weak my body was at a time. I had lost a lot of weight, my body had endured many changes and quite understandably wasn't focused on accomodating nurturing another person. "This is nature doing its job," my doctor used to remind me.
Now, being a bit more healed, we moved on with our lives. The doctor recommended to wait a couple of months and then start trying again. So we did.
Since the first time I had got pregnant fast and easy, I was calculating already the months when the new, healthy baby would be born. First-quarter passed. "It'll be the beginning-of-the-year-baby then" I was doing the math. Summer approached, no changes. Every month I was hopeful and excited. Every passing month my hopes were crushed.
6 months had passed and I started to worry more. "What if something is not right?" "What if my body still needs something it doesn't have right now?" 6 months actually is not a long time, especially in the baby-creation process, but when your mind is set on it, it can seem like a heck of a longer period. I also got a doctor at a private hospital who started tracking my cycles. I got all possible tests done, all hormones measured, everything checked. By month 8 I started taking some supplements to help.
By this time it was all weighing on me hard. It had become like an obsession and as much as people can calm you down sharing their experience and giving your hope, it's still emotional. I wanted a baby so badly. The pressure started affecting even our marriage, with every month the dream got postponed.
This period taught me so much. To lean in faith and trusting that we can only connect the dots looking backward. It taught me patience. I've always been very stubborn and if I want something, I want to get it fast. This period Nick had to remind me a lot: "Liisa, no matter what do you, there are some things that are just not under your control right now."
Every time I saw someone post about their family- expanding updates I was always sincerely happy for them, but at the same time, it was like pouring salt on an open wound. Also- you know how when you want something you start all of a sudden seeing it EVERYWHERE? It seemed that wherever I went all I saw where babies and pregnant women.
Another thing I've learned is that in some situations it's better to keep our curiosity to yourself instead of asking- "Soooo... are you guys thinking about kids too?" I've been on the receiving end of that question and on the asking side and both places are not fun.
You are probably understanding right now that no matter how logically one might comprehend, that an obsession-like state as described before is not healthy and serving of your mind and body. It's just hard for the heart to keep up with the brain's reasoning.
Nick started telling me- "Liisa, this is too much, you need to change something." That was very true. Whatever it may be, obsessing about something that you have no control over, will never do any good. As much as I didn't want it, I started changing my self-talk, my focus, my perspective. I tried to intentionally remind that whenever it is meant to be, it'll be and that is not up to me to decide. I started gaining some calmness.
Finally, it was December. On the evening of 29th, I took a pregnancy test and was so scared to watch it, so Nick did. Somehow deep inside I knew- "This is it! Two lines, I know." Nick looked at it and..."Negative." "What?? No way..."
I didn't believe it. I examined it and soon I told him- "But look, there is another faint line here." Since it was barely noticeable we decided to do it the next morning. On the morning of the 30th, I took three pregnancy tests. The mistake was that I drank a lot of water before and .... all three negative. The hope that after months had really sparked was crushed again. I was confused- "I thought I knew that this time it was different."
Just in case the next morning, on the last day of the year, I did one more. To my surprise, it was positive now. What a rollercoaster.
The hardest thing about the first trimester was that although I was pregnant I never fully let myself be excited about it. I then realized how deep of an impact the last experience had left me and how much I was afraid of having to face something like that again. I was scared to talk about the baby, scared to dream about her/him. I was trying to protect my heart. At one point Nick called me out and said- "You have to start talking certainty into the situation. The baby needs your belief."
What a wise husband I am blessed with.
To sum it up, I have tremendous respect and admiration for women (and couples) who have gone through messy roads of adding a family member to their team. I have tremendous respect for women who are pregnant. It is physically and emotionally hard sometimes and makes the woman expand her capabilities. I have tremendous respect for moms! Although I'm not able to relate yet, what you do for those little ones is world-changing and you should be incredibly proud of yourself.
The point of all of this is that whether it is personal milestones- a wedding, having a baby, buying a home, etc or professional achievement- best month/ year, promotion, a new career, most of the time we see the tips of the ice-bergs presented. It's easy to assume, judge, make conclusions without ever having the full information to do so. Whatever the situation- the sacrifices, hard work, overcoming obstacles, or mental barriers are rarely understood to an outside eye. They are always there though and those controllables are where the focus should always be. So keep on going and keep on believing!
Ladies- check your pumpkins!
October 27, 2019
Starting this post off with a deep breath in and a long, calm one out. Okay... I got this!
Since October is the Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I would not serve you guys well if I didn't bring attention to this topic through sharing my story.
I have written about this before, but never the full version.
I am so fortunate and grateful that I can share my experience through a positive, encouraging perspective because I know how many with a similar path unfortunately can't. It honestly brings instant tears in my eyes if I think about how many lives have been impacted because of this one disease. I live in the faith that if this post would help even one person take action on something involving their health they know they should do, but haven't done yet, my heart is full.
So here it is...
We lived in the US from September 2017- May 2018. We were hoping to get my green card process done with the plan to move permanently to America after our wedding in Estonia. Things didn't quite go like that, but... that's a different story already. At some point in the spring, I felt a lump in my left breast. I was a bit scared, but at a similar time I had a cyst develop on my forehead, that was quickly and easily removed, so I wasn’t too worried. I was surprised though because it wasn't just a small bump, but a piece I could definitely feel. I didn't quite understand how I hadn't felt it before.
I told this to my at that time fiancé and he talked with his mom, who had been through breast cancer. I heard from her, that young women, who haven’t breastfed, often have tight breast tissue and might feel lumps. That took the pressure off and considering the US doctor visit costs and with more exciting things on my mind, I didn't do anything about it.
We were planning our wedding, flew back to Estonia at the beginning of May and in the midst of organizing a big ceremony, reception and a family-moon to Mykonos for 25 people, the lump just faded from my mind.
...or having my best friends fly to the US and organise my surprise bachelorette/ birthday week in Miami...
...or my sister visiting us in Charlotte... were occupying my mind instead of doing anything with the bump in the breast
19th May, our wedding day was the most beautiful, emotional and amazing day of my life. Both of our worlds came together and united as one. We went on an epic vacation to Greece with friends and family, where we had a trip of a life-time.
After all of these major life-events were behind us and in June when we were getting back to “real life,” the bump in the breast appeared in my thoughts again. I hadn’t told anyone other than my husband about it, but for some reason, it was still heavy on my heart.
I decided to have it checked. Just in case. You know...for my own sanity.
I wanted to call to book an appointment, but the first hurdle appeared- I had no idea where to call to. To a family physician? Gynecologist? Dermatologist? Looking back I realize how little education women in my age (twenties, thirties) have about this topic. There are screenings for women in forties, fifties, but not too much information is directed to the younger crowd.
Somehow googling I found myself talking to a breast cabinet in Magdaleena Hospital. First I got an appointment time two-three weeks out. After describing my situation I got a call back an hour later and was assigned a time two days later. That was the first time when I thought- “Eeemm…should I be worried??”
Showing up at the appointment I had no idea what I am walking into. Fortunately, the doctor was super nice and first just examined my breast. She confirmed like my husband’s mom, that young women often times just have tight breast tissue, so it probably isn’t anything bad. Just in case she said that it would be good to do a biopsy.
They did the biopsy, took blood, did mammogram and ultrasound.
For some reason I have always been scared of blood and hospitals. So far in my happy, little, pink bubble I had lived in, there hadn't been too many sicknesses, losses, so I felt very out of place in there.
The two weeks that passed waiting for the results I didn’t think about it too much. That's what I seem to do- just try to focus on other things.
On Monday, the 18th of June I got a call from the doctor’s office and the secretary said: “Liisa, we have the test results, but unfortunately we can’t say these through the phone, can you come in on the 20th?”
My heart sank. It is the type of answer you are used to seeing in movies when something bad is about to go down. Why can't they just tell me? What can't they tell me??
The suspense of this was nauseating.
As the day came we were sitting in the doctor's office with Nick and the doctor said- "I'll cut to the chase. Liisa- you have cancer."
What all came after that is a bit blurry to me. I remember a discussion about potential phases, risks, steps... I just didn't want to believe it was me who was hearing all of that. That stuff happens somewhere else.... with someone else.... Not here.. not with me!
We left the appointment and I was just furiously crying. I was confused, shocked, scared..
I had a coaching call scheduled for an hour later and still in sort of an ignorance phase I wiped my tears and jumped on the call. At the end of it I remember doing a reality-check. Wait...was all that for real?
I recall Nick going to the store in the evening and bringing me cake and ice-cream to make my mood even a little bit better. I was constantly crying.
The hardest part for me was at that point not having answers. We didn't know exactly how serious or how far it had all developed. Clearly- when the mind is given the chance to fill in the blanks itself, it does it with the worst possible scenario.
The period that followed was not a fun one. I was in my own, little, dark bubble. Looking back I identify this time as one of the reasons why now I am so open to sharing everything. Why? Because it was a freaking heavy thing to carry alone. I wasn't ready to accept it myself, let alone bring others to the equation.
After a week or so of this black hole I told my best friend, mom and dad. They were all just amazing. What a blessing it is to have supportive, "we'll go through this together, don't worry"- type of people around us.
I was scheduled to have a surgery to remove the lump and some lymph nodes. The "black-hole" phase was starting to turn into "me vs. cancer" fighting phase. I had accepted the situation, but had still resentment and anger in me. I was constantly asking- "Why???" Still, I had got my mental strength together, realising that burying my head under the sand is not going to do any good.
I decided to share the current situation of my life on social media. I debated it for so long. I didn't want other's pity, but felt hypocritical just putting on a smily face and carrying on with life like nothing had happened, but then crumbling emotionally behind closed doors.
I posted it online and truthfully- that was probably the best thing that I could have done for myself. I really started getting into a good headspace, where the "fighting phase" was slowly turning into "forgiving phase." I really started working on my thoughts and also training people around me. I just needed encouragement and positivity from them.
Had an army of supporters next to me who I am eternally thankful for
In addition to raving support and a huge peak in my own confidence, a lot of knowledge came through sharing this. People suggested me books, podcasts, alternative medicine options... things that I might have found myself, but in way longer time. In moments like these, though, time is especially valuable.
Another "connecting the dots looking backwards" moment for me is that if I hadn't done the personal development work before all of this happened, I would have never been able to start programming my mind and thus my actions the way I did. That is also another reason why I am so pro-developing and learning, growing and discovering, because you never quite know when that work that you put in might be life-changing. If we start it when things get really tough, it might be late already.
I also wrote out "My Story"- the most positive outcome of all of it I could imagine and repeated it over and over. I added some affirmations to keep my mind engaged with the right thoughts.
"My affirmations" written before the surgery
I started giving a kiss to my pony-tail every day and expressing gratitude, telling myself it'll always be with me. It might sound silly, but I'll take silliness every day over negativity.
I was also sent to a fertility doctor to explain all the possible options for future if the cancer is invasive and further steps need to be taken. I was told about freezing the eggs and different ways to cope with the hormonal therapy if necessary. Having a baby was something we had talked about with Nick and I called him after the meeting, balling my eyes out about the possibility that having one might be out of the questions for years and years. Although sad, I still believed the worst case scenarios are not going to be a part of my story.
Going to the hospital on the surgery day, I was somehow calm. I knew there were only a few things fully under my control, the main one being my attitude, and that's where I put my focus.
I had a book, I had a crystal, that one of my best friends had given me and I had hope. That's sometimes more than enough.
It was so soon after our wedding, that my last name as you can see, was not even changed yet
When I woke up from the surgery I felt so light. It was probably because of all the medication, but I felt so much at peace waking up. Nick was there with flowers and everything seemed bright and airy.
I had one of the nurses later tell me when I left the hospital- "You were so different than most of the patients here. You smiled way too much." Hey.... a smile can go a long way!
I started my recovery and continued with my self-development journey in this new category life had thrown me into. I started going through a cancer coaching- program where I learnt about nutrition, environment, habits. Eating healthy had never been too much of a focus for me nor had I ever loved or known how to cook pretty much anything. Now I just felt I needed something I could control myself and take responsibility for throughout the process.
My girlfriends surprised me with a board of encouragement and positivity
Sometimes I think...- " What if this didn't happen, would I still be buying ready made food from the grocery store and eating a pack of candies every day? Would I still be taking my health for granted and just putting my body through whatever my mind felt it wanted at the moment?"
Got an idea from the cancer coaching program to start juicing and started putting it into practice right away
My life might be very different right now if I hadn't been in that situation and chosen to make some changes. When pain is not big enough, people often don't change. For me the risk and pain of not changing far outweighed the pain of making changes, so there was no hesitation.
Wherever you are in your life, think through if there is something you have known you needed to change, but haven't yet? If nothing changes and things keep on going like that, what might be the outcome? Does it scare you? Would it be actually easier to take a step for a change?
I am not saying that cancer developed in my body because of food and that was the only cure. It might have, but it might have not. The thing with cancer and many other diseases is that you might never be able to pinpoint what the exact cause was.
I also thought that maybe this was exactly why we didn't get my green card process done before and had to change the course of our plans with being taken away the chance to live in the US at the time. If we'd gone back, things again might be differently right now. You can only connect the dots looking backwards.
Long story short- the lump and 5 lymph nodes were removed. Because we took action so early the cancer was only in the milk ducts and hadn't invaded the lymphatic system or close-by cells. The genetic test came back negative and chemo or radiation were not needed.
That is literally the best version of breast cancer one could have. That was exactly what I had written in "My Story" and what I was training my mind and others around me to believe. I could not have been more grateful.
I wrote out all the things that cancer came to teach me and fully believe that it went the way it did for me to make necessary changes in my life and inspire others to do so.
Although I serve a lot of the things throughout this process from a positive perspective now, being in it, it could not have been further from positive at some parts. I had breakdowns, worries, fears, every emotion was elevated. I lost a lot of weight, was weak and tired. My body didn't feel like my own. Although I am clear now this period had a lot of other effects on my body and health that I am battling to this day.
I know that I focus in this post more on how I felt and what actually went through in my head, not necessarily every single step that took place. I just believe that half of the battles in our lives are whether lost or won in between our ears.
What I hope you take away from this are a couple of things:
- It's okay to share things that are hard with people who are able to help you go through them. It's definitely important to choose the right people, because with the wrong ones the opposite can happen. But hard times are not meant to be gone through alone.
- It is vital to work with the stuff that goes on in your mind. Your thoughts can be your biggest allies or your worst enemies. Choose and train them wisely!
- It's crucial to be proactive with your health. It's so sad to hear and have witnessed situations where people have known that they should do something, but they haven't. They have just waited... and then it has got worse. It doesn't always have to be a major issue, but if in your heart you know something's off, then just take a step to have it checked.
- Above and beyond I strongly suggest women to just check their breast regularly by self-examining them. An ounce of prevention prevention is worth more than a pound of cure.