I must say it has been a privilege to know and love Dana. She was a pillar of support and strength for me when I was making my way through my journey. She is extremely kind, giving and thoughtful, and I am honored that she has offered to share her experiences with me and our community. She exudes the kind of strength and courage that most are not capable of, and she expressed this beautifully with her story of love, loss, courage, pain, strength and HOPE. Thank you so much for sharing, Dana!
“The only way you will have a baby is to go through Invitro Fertilization.” IVF for short. That 5 minute meeting with my OB changed my whole entire life, forever. Since childhood I dreamed of being a stay at home mom to as many kids as I possibly could. I even told my husband when we first started dating that I was going to be a stay at home mom, so if that wasn’t what he wanted, he needed to keep on moving. Heck, I even spent my college career preparing for my dream by majoring in Human Development. To hear my doctor tell me that my dream may not happen was devastating; completely heartbreaking.
The struggle of deciding what to do next took a toll on us both. Our marriage struggled, feeling like we were inadequate partners, like we let each other down for something we were supposed to be made to do as humans. Coming from two different spiritual and religious backgrounds, it was conflicting. If we chose to proceed with IVF I felt like we would be judged. I worried people would think we were playing God. Trying to make our own fate, our own family. Internally, I struggled because being naïve, I used to say that if I wasn’t made to have children, then I wouldn’t have children (insert shoulder shrug). But, I’ve learned that when we make plans, God laughs. He challenged me, opening my eyes and giving me a new perspective on my preconceived notions on marriage, being human, and on couples and their family choices. We were blessed with some perfectly-placed-in-our-life (and wise too) friends who had successfully gone through IVF. Their advice, to Trust God, no matter if we tried IVF or not, it was still in His hands. Just like other modern medicine, take chemotherapy for example, many people receive it and each body receives it differently, and could that be God’s hand too? Many discussions, lots of soul searching and thousands of tears later, we decided trying try to grow our family through IVF.
We started our journey in October 2012. We jumped right into IVF with such optimism. We trained for the shots, the medicines, the timing, the bloodwork, the needles, the driving, the time spent in the office, the exhaustion and hope, SO. MUCH. HOPE. Through the long hours and dedication that IVF took, I was thankful for my understanding and supportive boss, who was cheering alongside us as we began navigating this journey. However, it soon became clear that my job would be to focus on solely building our family, IVF is a full time job in itself. I still remember the fear and the anxiousness I felt as I received my first night of shots despite the preparation and practice and planning. Not knowing what to expect, I literally thought about it all day long. I fired my husband the very first night after he took “dart like motion” too literally when administering my first shot. To steer clear of being a dart board, I learned how to give myself the stomach shots and my husband jumped in for the trigger and the progesterone shots as those needles simply intimidated me.
After two weeks of feeling like a pin cushion, it was time to retrieve all the eggs that were uncomfortably growing giving me the ugliest bloated, big burrito belly. The surgical procedure was relatively painless since I was knocked out dreaming of making babies the old fashioned way. Reality hit hard when I woke up in more pain than I imagined I would. Then we wait. Again. As we waited to hear how many eggs we had and how many grew as embryos, we were tired and scared. All of this was out of our hands, we clung to our hope. We had done the work, the rest was up to Him. When we got the news that only 4 embryos made it, we couldn’t help but feel like failures all over again. Only four?! How did we get so few?
Decision time. Were we going to up our chances and transfer two, or just one? We decided to up our chances by transfer two. But I felt sick thinking we only had two embryos left if we didn’t get pregnant. I did everything in my power to accept those embryos once they were transferred, I willed them to stay, begged them to stay, turned to acupuncture, lots of rest, I even ate really healthy. I prayed for the outcome we so desperately wanted. The day I gave blood through my tired, sore veins to see if the embryos had implanted felt like the longest day of my life. Every second felt like torture waiting to get the call from the nurse. And when it came, I immediate wish I hadn’t answered the phone. We weren’t pregnant. It was the WORST DAY since we had embarked on this entire IVF journey. After all this pain, tears, dedication and stress, we had nothing to show for it and only one more chance for a transfer with the embryos we had left.
In the midst of the pain, we were told we could transfer again. We built up all the hope and optimism we could muster! Trying to keep the anger at bay over our first failed attempt. The anger. Why us? How come after all this planning our entire lives to have a family, we can’t? What were we doing wrong? These questions were obviously not for us to answer, just ponder.
Our second transfer date came quickly and I swear we did everything right once more. One evening I didn’t feel right and actually couldn’t breath, which sent us to the emergency room. After a plethora of tests and ultrasounds to make sure I didn’t have a blood clot from all the hormones, it turned out to be an allergic reaction causing an asthma attack. I am allergic to sesame seeds and those painfully awful butt shots I was getting every night, yeah those ones, the progesterone was made in sesame oil. Good to know. Immediately, my doctor started me on those lovely, gooey progesterone inserts. And while waiting to be discharged from the hospital, the ER doctor came in and said “By the way, did you know you were pregnant?” Wait for it… Yep. We were pregnant and truly shocked. In a foggy disbelief, as we couldn’t wrap our minds around the fact that this actually worked, we headed home. We didn’t even have our appointment with our doctor for another week to confirm if the transfer took, it almost felt like a secret too good to be true. We felt so much relief and thankfulness, in God and the IVF process that was going to make our dreams come true!
But then, life can be cruel. When I woke up in a pile of blood and in unbearable pain, our hearts sank. So low. Not even a week after hearing we were pregnant, we lost the pregnancy. Those short few days being pregnant I felt whole, in love and happy. I was finally going to be the mom I was destined to. To have that ripped away brought even more pain and depression than even before. Rock freaking bottom. Again. I can recall the exact moment, and everything about that moment we lost the baby, our baby. Any hope we had in this process working, disappeared into thin air. We were numb. Shells of people. For us both to have the shared feelings of devastation and not having the strength to support one another through encouragement, was the only thing we could think about. We suffered together and we suffered alone.
Meanwhile, life was moving on for us. We decided to accept a job in Houston and we closed on selling our first home the day we lost the baby. We both took mental breaks from the loss of our child, to embryo transfers, our hard work and dedication, and the selling our home and focused on our move. And our Future.
Wouldn’t you know, those special friends who happened to be in our life for our infertility journey, just so happened to also live in Texas. They shared their doctor’s information with us, and to our surprise, he was able to see us within the week of our arrival for a consult. Were we actually going to start all over again? From the very beginning? All the shots, the test, the hard work, the painful work, the stress and the money? Yes, we were. The dream of having a family never felt closer, even through all the loss. We knew that we could at least get pregnant. Head first, we jumped right in to the same exact process we did just 4 short months prior. We felt like pros at this. We knew exactly what to do and what to expect. I know that we were given the strength to continue, and confidence in the process, which was the biggest blessing. We had a renewed sense of hope.
This time IVF was extremely different. Everything about it felt different. Our doctor was more passionate, and more attentive and more skilled. I couldn’t help but think if we saw him first how our story would have been different. We harvested more eggs and way more embryos made it to blastocyst. We had more opportunities to build a family, our family. When it was time for a fresh transfer, my progesterone was too high, forcing me to take a break. I came home to Colorado to visit family and friends, and as it turned out it was perfect timing for me to take a step back and regroup. Funny how hindsight helps you see things with a new perspective. I regained my positivity and thankfulness that IVF was even an option for us to start a family. I was ready to for our transfer.
The day we went in for the transfer, our endocrinologist brought us a picture of the two embryos he thawed and was transferring. He told me “This one has your eyes”. I will always remember that moment as it brought us to laughter and tears. This whole process felt like it all was finally coming together. We found out two weeks later that our story was truly just beginning. We were blessed with two healthy, beautiful twins.
Even when it feels hopeless or not obtainable, you’re not alone. Trust in God’s plan and modern medicine. This process is grueling and not for the light-hearted. It’s hard work, but immensely worth it. Indescribably equal parts joy to heartache.