After 30-year-old photographer and content creator Denisse Myrick experienced pregnancy loss, she realized that she'd never fully learned how her reproductive system works. Once she dove into the science behind fertility, Denisse got pregnant — then the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Here, Denisse takes us on her journey and shares how her online community helps when she feels alone and overwhelmed by the world.
Editor's note: Denisse gave birth on March 10. Follow her on Instagram at @chasingdenisse to learn about her life post-pregnancy.
At the beginning of 2019, my husband and I had a really serious conversation: We were ready to have a baby. He'd been working hard at his job, and I'd been building my photography career and personal brand, so our financial situation was the best it had ever been. I sometimes deal with depression and anxiety, but I'd made it to a really good headspace where I could manage my mental health. I just felt ready.
I'd been diagnosed with PCOS as a teenager, but I never learned much about it — or much about my reproductive health in general. More than that, I'd worked through the trauma of an unexpected pregnancy loss — it was an unplanned pregnancy and my husband and I had been using protection. Now that I could prepare and plan for a pregnancy, I wanted to try again.
My doctor didn't offer fertility hormone testing… and then I saw an ad for Modern Fertility.
I hadn't been to my gynecologist in years because I didn't have health insurance for a long time. Once I got on my husband's insurance plan, I felt like I needed to finally learn more about my reproductive health. But I was disappointed to find out that my insurance didn't cover any kind of fertility hormone test. Because of my previous PCOS diagnosis, I wanted to know my hormone levels for my peace of mind — even though my cycles had become much more regular than they were when I was first diagnosed, I was certain my PCOS would affect my ability to get pregnant and give birth. But I was unsure of how to get the information I needed.
Without accessible medical information, I turned to the internet to see what I could find out about successfully conceiving on my own. It was incredibly overwhelming and a lot of the information I found wasn't even relevant to me. Spending time on Reddit and TCC groups on Facebook worsened my anxiety, especially since I'd already suffered a loss. But I felt like I had nowhere else to turn. In my family, most of the women my age had already birthed children, so I felt alone in my journey to understand whether I could get pregnant and have a live birth at all. So, instead I spent hours on the internet reading way too much information for me to even process — lots of which wasn't even scientifically accurate.
Then I saw an ad for Modern Fertility and ordered a Fertility Hormone Test right away. I was shocked when my results came back listing all my levels as "normal." Having that knowledge was such a huge relief for me and my husband — we felt like we were prepared to actually make a plan and start trying to conceive.
I found out I have longer cycles through ovulation tracking.
I first started trying to conceive by changing up my nutrition to manage some of my PCOS symptoms. Next, my husband and I started exploring ovulation predictor kits, which was a new world for us both. Tracking my ovulation was starting to feel like a job, and we did not want getting pregnant to feel like work. It wasn't until I started reading about ovulation tracking and cycle lengths on Modern Fertility that I started understanding how my reproductive system functioned (for example, I have a longer-than-average cycle) and how to use that knowledge to help me conceive.
Once we had a better idea of my cycle, my husband and I started incorporating “Sperm Meets Egg Plan” (SMEP) into our trying-to-conceive (TTC) journey. It involves timed intercourse and ovulation tracking, specifically having intercourse every other day starting on the eighth day of my cycle. Because my husband's work schedule was so packed and my cycle was so long, SMEP ended up being a great method for us to increase my chances of getting pregnant.
I was shocked when I finally got a positive pregnancy test.
When I first saw a positive pregnancy test, I didn't think it was really happening. I was preparing for a virtual panel that morning and my period was two weeks late. I assumed my typically strenuous cycling routine had merely interrupted my cycle. I'd started taking monthly pregnancy tests just so my husband and I could keep a close eye on our fertility journey, so I peed in a cup like I'd been doing for months and scrolled Instagram while waiting for the results. When I saw the positive, I convinced myself it was wrong.
I rushed over to Walgreens to buy another test and it gave me the same answer: I was pregnant! I started freaking out and waited for my husband to wake up. I was dressed for my panel and ready to go on camera in five minutes when he opened his eyes. I told him, “Hey, you're going to be a dad!” and went off to speak about my work. That was such an exciting morning.
On navigating pregnancy anxiety, COVID-19, and loneliness.
Pregnancy during a pandemic (especially after a previous loss) comes with a lot of anxiety. For the first couple months, I was afraid that I'd see blood on my underwear any time I went to the bathroom. In the mornings, I'd think, “Is this going to be the day when something goes wrong?” I navigated my trauma with a lot of fear and not much information, but as my pregnancy progressed and I learned more about miscarriage, I started to feel more secure.
On top of that fear, being isolated and pregnant during COVID-19 is challenging. For the first six and a half months of my pregnancy, I was very sick — vomiting 3-4 times a day, every day. My severe nausea was making me lose weight, and I felt like I was already a horrible mother for not providing my baby with all their necessary nutrients. And now I had to add loneliness to the mix. My husband and I are very lucky to be able to safely work from home, but I miss the rest of my family in other states. I can get very depressed thinking about our separation, and about the many pregnant women who have lost their lives to COVID. Now that my husband and I are focusing on preparing our home for our child, I feel a bit better. Therapy also helped a lot — I would not be able to get through pregnancy and a pandemic without having a therapist I trust.
People called my pregnancy "irresponsible."
Once I started sharing news of my pregnancy on social media, I was met with numerous judgmental, hurtful comments. People called our pregnancy irresponsible, and asked how we could bring a child into the world during a pandemic. Their cruel words made me second-guess myself: Are my husband and I doing something wrong? Are we selfish people? But then I remembered that no one else knows your fertility story, and no one else can decide when you try to conceive. We deserve to celebrate our growing families, whenever they happen for us.
Sure, some comments were upsetting, but sharing my pregnancy with my followers has also deeply empowered me and my online community. I feel closer to so many people because they shared their own TTC stories with me. Women have told me about their difficulties conceiving or the challenging pregnancies they're currently experiencing, then mention that they felt like they didn't have anyone to talk to until I started speaking up.
By sharing all the Modern Fertility resources that have helped me, I've also helped demystify reproductive health for my community. I've gotten so many replies from people who now want to learn about their egg reserve and hormone levels. I know so many women who struggle to afford their groceries, let alone a voluntary appointment to learn about their reproductive system, and now they can access that information for far less with at-home tests. Sharing Modern Fertility and finding my support system have been such wonderful parts of my pregnancy.
What I want other pregnant people to know.
Be careful about advice you read on the internet. So much overwhelming misinformation is out there, and people claim to have figured out the exact formula that will allow you to have an easy pregnancy. But there is no such formula, and you don't have to feel like you're a broken person because your body is having a hard time. So, listen to your body, listen to science, extend grace to yourself, and consider therapy if that's an option for you. We're growing entire human beings, and we're doing the best we can.
Fertility could be top of mind or on the back burner for now — but it has the power to impact everything. We're sharing your stories to both celebrate and create space for the many ways we navigate our careers, relationships, and finances in relation to our reproductive health. If you have a story to share, get in touch.