MY INFERTILITY STORY
I was honestly afraid I wasn’t going to have any friends left, if and when I ever had success. I avoided baby showers like the Plague. I was infertile and it sucked.
Ya know, it’s funny. I spent my entire life up until that point trying to NOT get pregnant. I remember going off of the pill and feeling butterflies in my stomach… ooohhhhh! This was it! I was about to be a mommy! I was so sure of it, I can remember walking through stores making mental notes of things to buy for our nursery and even picking up a few adorable onesies. It was finally time to start our family!
Matthew and I met in 2002. We got married in 2005. This was 2007. We had been together for five years and it just felt like the right time to start trying. He was nervous! I was nervous. But, I was so ready. I had such a longing in my heart to be a mommy.
So, January 2007. Month one… no success. I was surprised, but not upset at that point because I had been on the pill for such a long time, I figured it was just taking a little longer than expected to get out of my system. No big deal. We’d just try again in February.
February passed… then March, April, May, June… JULY! I got a ‘BFP’ as they say in the infertility world. A big, fat POSITIVE! I peed on that First Response stick and promptly called everyone we knew that morning. I was exactly four weeks pregnant and had exactly no concept of how fragile things are at that stage. I just figured positive meant pregnant and pregnant meant a baby. Twins run in my family! I even suspected I could’ve been expecting two because of how quickly the test turned pink.
Well, one week later, I started spotting and had pain on my lower right side. I freaked out about the blood, but I had read something about implantation spotting in my ‘What to Expect When You’re Expecting’ book, so I talked my self down and figured that must’ve been it. But, then the bleeding continued. The pain continued. In fact, the pain got worse. I read about this other thing called ‘ectopic pregnancy’, but it was rare and I figured there was no way that was what was happening to me.
I couldn’t have been more wrong. That was exactly what was happening.
The pain got to a point where I was having a hard time standing up straight, so my husband drove me to the ER. A few tests later confirmed ‘ectopic’ and I was whisked back for emergency surgery to remove the pregnancy… and hopefully save my tube(s).
I woke up in a hospital room, still feeling fuzzy from anesthesia. I heard the doctor talking with Matthew. ‘You can try again in a few months… tubes aren’t in great condition, but we saved them… could happen again… IVF is always an option…’. I felt empty. In every way. Just empty.
Recovery was painful. Physically and emotionally. I could barely watch TV. I nearly drowned in a flood of tears over a Pampers commercial.
Some time passed. We weren’t allowed to try, anyway. So, we went on a trip with some friends. We enjoyed each other and our life without kids. ‘Look at all of the things we can just up and do because we aren’t tied down’! We’d say these things to make ourselves feel better. Inside, we were both crushed and wanted more than anything to go to school plays and soccer practice. We wanted to be parents. So badly.
Six months later, I got another BFP. We were cautiously optimistic and told no one. A week later, I started bleeding. Terrified of another ectopic, I was monitored closely by my OB/GYN. I miscarried. Naturally.
Almost a year later, in January of 2009, another positive test! And… another loss a week later.
I had no optimism left. Things weren’t going well for us on the natural path to parenthood. We were ready for intervention. Off to a specialist’s office we went.
After a crazy amount of testing on me… Matthew… genetic testing… you name it, we had it. The only thing my Reproductive Endocrinologist could determine was that my ‘anti-nuclear antibodies’ were slightly ‘off’. First of all, what? And second of all, huh?! No matter. The fix was to simply take a baby aspirin a day. I was just sure that I had found my cure and that I’d be pregnant within weeks. We were also going to try IUI (Intrauterine Insemination). So, I was hopeful. For the first time in a long time, really hopeful.
Negative. Negative. Negative. Three IUI’s. All a bust.
It was time for IVF.
One thing I’m not sure people realize who have never gone through infertility treatments… it’s expensive. Like, really expensive. And for us — pretty much nothing was covered by insurance. All out of pocket. So, we had to put our lives on hold while we spent every penny on trying to have a baby. With no guarantee! IVF was a scary idea for me because of the insane amount of shots and medications… but also because I knew at the end, there was no promise of a baby in my arms.
I can recall the day my big box of medications arrived in the mail. So. Many. Needles. So many shots. So, so many. I was terrified, yet so excited because this truly was our best chance yet.
I can’t remember the exact numbers. But, my body responded really well and each ovary produced a pretty high number of follicles! At egg retrieval, they got a BUNCH! Most fertilized normally. We had two really beautiful five-day embryos (the best case scenario) to transfer to my uterus.
The hardest part of the whole process? The two-week wait to see if it worked.
I tried not to think about it, but that was nearly impossible! I allowed myself to get excited. I knew I shouldn’t… but it just seemed like - how can this NOT work?! Beautiful perfect embryos… placed directly in my uterus!
Well… it didn’t work. IVF failed.
Was I ever going to be a mama? Was I being punished for something?! Why, God? Why? I struggled so deeply. I became so bitter, angry and jealous of anyone with a child. Which, was pretty much everyone around me. I can even remember a specific moment during that time when I was in Target (my happy place where I’d go to shop my troubles away after each miscarriage or failure)… there was a hugely pregnant woman on one end of the aisle… another pregnant woman on the other end. I was literally trapped in the middle of the aisle. Surrounded by preggos. I burst into tears. Right there in my favorite store.
I avoided any and all baby showers. I couldn’t look at social media. Pregnancy announcements felt like a knife going directly into my heart. Or uterus. One in the same at that point.
We had some frozen embryos from our IVF cycle. Surely I’d get pregnant with a frozen transfer. Surely!!!
Well, I did. I. GOT. PREGNANT. I passed the five week mark where I had always miscarried before! I made it to the seven week mark where I got to hear our baby’s heartbeat!!!! A HEARTBEAT! Life! I was pregnant… really pregnant this time. With a baby with a HEARTBEAT! I had never heard a sweeter sound.
But, I was so worried. So, so nervous. I didn’t feel pregnant at all. Nausea should’ve kicked in by then?! But, some women don’t get that… maybe I was one of the lucky ones after all I went through?!
My intuition is strong, friends. I have gut feelings that have rarely been wrong. I knew something wasn’t right. Just knew. I called my specialist’s office and asked if I could come in for another heartbeat check (this was at nine weeks along).
There was… no heartbeat. My baby… was no longer alive. I had a D & C and crumbled into a million pieces.
Another… loss. How much more could we take?
I was ready to give up. Adoption seemed like our best bet at that point. I felt selfish continuing to try for a biological child. But, I really wanted to experience pregnancy. I wanted to have a child that was 50% me and 50% Matthew. What would he or she look like? Would she have my eyes? His chin?
January 2010. Strictly at the urging of my husband, we went for IVF #2. I had zero hopes or expectations. I walked through the entire process feeling completely numb.
My beta numbers increased appropriately. We heard a precious heartbeat at the seven week mark. We continued to hear that sweet sound through a home doppler I borrowed from a friend. Because I had so many losses and so much anxiety, my specialist let me have a crazy amount of ultrasounds for reassurance. The nausea came. And it lasted all nine months! But, I didn’t care. My belly grew and grew… and finally on September 24, 2010 — my miracle baby girl, Julianne Faith was born. 7 lbs. 10 oz. 21-1/2”. Beautiful. Perfect, Healthy. Mine.
We did it.
Three years and four miscarriages later, we finally did it.
So, then as a new mom — a whole new set of worries kicked in! But, along with that came the greatest love I’ve ever felt. I had no idea my heart could love so much. I watched my baby girl grow and as full as our lives seemed… we knew we wanted to give her a sibling.
A year later, we decided to give one of our frozen embryos from Julianne’s IVF cycle a try. I felt more confident than I had in the past about it because I had a successful pregnancy. I could do it again. It had to work.
But, we had two remaining embryos — so all hope was not lost.
It worked! My beta numbers rose appropriately. Things seemed to be going well. Until our ultrasound around the six week mark. It showed an empty sac. A Blighted Ovum — basically, I was pregnant with nothing. Another D & C.
Back to square one.
Would we give up and consider ourselves beyond fortunate to have our sweet little girl? We could adopt and give her a sibling that way. Or… go with my eternal optimist of a husband’s idea of one final round of IVF.
We went for it.
Again - I was numb throughout the process. I had become all too used to giving myself shots in the stomach and feeling the ache of ovaries the size of grapefruits as my follicles formed. Egg retrieval was not as successful as our previous IVF attempts. But, good enough. Ten eggs retrieved. Eight mature. Three fertilized normally.
In my mind… and in the mind of our bank account… this was it. Our last ditch effort for another child to complete our family.
We transferred two perfect five day embryos.
It worked. My numbers rose. We heard that beautiful chug chug chug of a heartbeat. Nine months of nausea. Then on 12/12/12… can you believe it?! My precious Miles Parker was born.
Our family felt complete. Life with two children was (is) completely chaotic! But, I truly looked (look) at them every. single. day and feel total and complete gratitude. My body and spirit went through hell and back. But, here they are. Two complete miracles.
When Miles was about two, I started feeling ‘off’. Nauseated. That weird feeling that really only is ‘pregnancy’. But, I had started my period. You know that inner voice I mentioned earlier? That gut feeling/instinct that rarely fails me? It told me to take a pregnancy test. Matthew thought I was nuts. But, I did and guess what? BFP. A natural pregnancy. But… I was bleeding. And I had some pain. I feared another ectopic. And, sadly, that’s exactly what happened.
Another surgery. Another loss.
While in surgery to remove the pregnancy, I also had my OB/GYN remove my fallopian tubes. I can no longer get pregnant on my own. I was relieved on one hand because I’ll never have to risk another ectopic again. But, I was also profoundly sad. Pregnancy, unless via IVF, is no longer an option. And while our family felt complete with our sweet girl and boy… it was just so… final.
I share my story so that other women… other couples… will know that they are far from alone. There are so many… too many… struggling with infertility.
Shortly after giving birth to Julianne, I got involved with Kansas City Infertility Awareness Foundation. I shared my story and emceed their first Family Building Conference. I became a Board Member. I emceed several conferences after that. I absolutely love that they exist and fully support their mission:
Providing community, education and support to those striving to build their families.
KCIA connects those affected by infertility to a community in which they are understood; they offer emotional support, financial aid and educational resources to that community.
If you or someone you know is going through it — from the bottom of my heart I encourage you to attend this year’s conference. It is a day of support and education.
This will always be something so close to my heart. Reach out if you need a friend who gets it.