– Her Story –

pexels-photo-59599.jpegThe journey a woman takes trying to conceive, is her own. It is her story, her pain, her heartache, her battle and hopefully her triumph. The journey and the road are different for everyone, and I want to create a place where these narratives can be shared. Whether you have experienced miscarriage, you were unable to become pregnant, you were diagnosed with a condition which prevented pregnancy, you had un-diagnosed infertility, or you know someone close to you who is struggling, you will find someone in this forum, who you can relate to.

-you are not alone-

AUDRA’S STORY

“Our journey to have a baby started like most every other couple. We stopped all birth control and started tracking my cycles. For a while they were all over the place, but I had heard that was common coming off of Depo Provera shots, so we didn’t pay it much attention. I had been told that it could take up to a year to get it all out of my system since I had been on it for 5 years, so when we still hadn’t conceived after a year I was bummed, sure, but not worried. Then one year quickly turned to two years. Now we were getting concerned. My cycle was pretty regular now so something must be going on. However, I was so embarrassed that I didn’t want to ask my doctor. I hated admitting that there was a problem. Meanwhile, with every pregnancy and birth announcement, my heart broke a little bit more. In 2012 I went in for my annual exam and my doctor asked why I didn’t have kids yet, pointing out that I was getting older. As tears welled up in my eyes I told her that we had been trying but had been unsuccessful. She referred me to her colleague who happened to specialize in reproductive medicine. I saw him that next week and he ran a battery of blood tests along with ultrasounds. Together we figured out that I was borderline PCOS and I wasn’t ovulating on my own. And so we started using Clomid. Let me tell you, that drug is pure evil. I was a raging ball of hormones when I was on that stuff. The first month I took it, we tried the old fashioned way. I clearly had ovulated, but my cervix was sealed shut, like it was packed with cement. Insemination was the only way this was going to work. So month 2, we did the Clomid, plus I took shots of Robitussin twice a day like it was tequila in order to thin my cervical mucus in order to get an instrument through to introduce the sperm directly into my uterus. Let me tell you what a fun process that was! My husband was thrilled at the idea of making love to a cup, especially when there were people out in the reception area who knew what he was doing!! However, he got it done, they got the specimen ready, and we rushed to the doctor’s office to have him inseminate me. Sadly, I got my period 2 weeks later. The insemination had failed. So the next month we doubled the dose of Clomid and went for it again. Now, I think it’s worth mentioning that this time, my husband had a very severe infection in his leg that made providing a specimen much more difficult this time. As a matter of fact, while I was being inseminated, he was in the ER being treated for this infection with IV antibiotics. They even left his IV in to have him come back 12 hours later for another dose! Whether it was the higher dose of Clomid or the infection in my husband’s leg, we don’t know, but this IUI (intrauterine insemination) was successful! We were pregnant!!! The pregnancy was relatively uneventful and I did everything right. I gave up caffeine and drank only water, ate only organic foods, no fast food, no processed foods, I got off of all of my meds. At 38 weeks and 6 days, at 2:12am, we welcomed our little bundle of joy, Tobias Eugene into the world.”

“Whatever fertility struggles we had must have been fixed by that ordeal because when we decided to start trying for our second, we expected difficulties again, but we conceived her within 3 months, and our last baby was a total surprise that we didn’t even know we wanted or needed until she was born.”

ANONYMOUS’ STORY

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My Double Rainbow Baby

Trigger warning: Pregnancy loss.

I never expected that having a baby would be one of the biggest emotional challenges of my life. I knew what the chances were of having a miscarriage, having heard the statistics. I even suggested to my husband that we start trying to conceive sooner than later just in case it didn’t go as planned. But, I never could have predicted what it would feel like to actually lose a pregnancy.

My husband and I married in the summer, honeymooned in the fall, and by Christmas I was pregnant after our first try. We were both surprised it happened so quickly, but also very excited. After a lot of consideration, we decided to tell our immediate families even though I was only a few weeks along. We figured they would figure it out, anyway, once they noticed I wasn’t drinking my usual whisky cocktail, and neither of us felt comfortable lying or making up some sort of story. Plus, if anything did happen, we hoped we would have the support of our family to help us through it. So, I put copies of the first ultrasound picture into frames that read, “Love at first sight”, wrapped them in festive paper, and brought one to each holiday get-together. Since my parents are divorced, we had three Christmas events that year, and the first two went really well. My mother-in-law was overjoyed and even teared up, and my dad’s reaction was the same. I felt so full of love and joy, and was looking forward to seeing how my mom would react. Since my siblings were already at my dad’s house when we shared the news, they were also waiting with anticipation when my mom opened her square shaped present. Her reaction? “Oh, so I’m the last one to know? Have you told anyone else besides family? I wouldn’t tell anyone else just in case you miscarry.” Ouch. Instead of a congratulations, we received a guilt trip and a reminder of the terrible thing that my already anxious brain was trying not to think about. Being pregnant and hormonal, I was already feeling emotional, and that reaction really hurt. A week later, I went to get another ultrasound, estimating the baby to be eight weeks along. My baby only measured seven weeks, and no longer had a heartbeat.

This feeling of loss was not like anything I had ever experienced. It felt like losing hope.  My dreams of holding my baby for the first time, playdates, and family vacations, were crushed. Irrationally, I blamed my mother, as if her words could have caused it to happen, but mainly I blamed myself. Over and over again I was told by doctors and nurses that I didn’t do anything wrong and there was no way of preventing a miscarriage from happening, but in my heart I didn’t believe them. I couldn’t help but think back through the past two months, and scrutinize everything little thing I did. Where did I go wrong? Why did this happen to me? Back in the doctor’s office, we discussed the next course of action. I could choose to wait for the pregnancy to pass on its own, use a medicine called misoprostol to speed up the process, or schedule a Dilation and Curettage (D&C). My doctor said that waiting was a bit more risky, and having the D&C would be more expensive, so I chose to take the Cytotec (the brand of misoprostol). She told me to expect cramping similar to a really bad period, and recommend that I take Ibuprofen as soon as I got home. I went to the drug store to buy the largest pads I could find, and that night I laid on the couch and watched television, bled a ton, and sobbed (with only mild cramping).  Unfortunately, at my follow-up ultrasound, they saw that the gestational sac had not passed, so they gave me the same list of options. I just wanted this nightmare to be over! This time I decided to schedule a D&C. My husband and I went to the hospital, but not for the reason I had once hoped for. My procedure went well, and I was up and walking around the next day. The emotional pain took much longer to subside than the physical. My heart hurt, and I was secretly angry at every other couple I knew who were having babies. Even though I tried not to be. There was even a couple who named their beautiful baby girl after me, and instead of feeling flattered, it made me even more bitter.

After several months, the grief lessened, and my husband and I decided to start trying again. This time, we didn’t get pregnant on the first try. Or the second. Or the third. But, we finally succeeded, and we decided to wait to tell our family this time around. I was only a few weeks along when we went to a party and I overheard someone ask my mother-in-law if she had any grandchildren. She responded, “No, but I’ve been waiting!” She’s been wanting a grandchild since before we were married, and I knew she was joking around, but stung a bit. It made me feel like a failure. I felt like I let our whole family down when I miscarried, and I really hoped this pregnancy would stick.  A couple weeks later my husband took me on a trip for our anniversary. We were having a great time, until one night I started bleeding and continued to bleed the next few days. I had a sinking feeling I had lost another pregnancy, and it was confirmed when I went in to get an ultrasound. Again, the fetus was 7 weeks along, and again, my husband took me to the hospital for a D&C. Our doctor told us that even though two miscarriages was still considered normal, we had the option of having the tissue tested for genetic abnormalities. We decided to have the test done, and found out the second baby had Tetrasomy 21. We were referred to a specialist, who told us it’s a very rare disease and if we were to get pregnant again, there would be about a one percent chance the baby would have the same abnormality. She also told us that the test was able to determine the sex of the baby, and asked if we’d like to know. I quickly snapped, “No!” surprising myself and I think the specialist, too, and I started to cry.  For some reason, knowing the gender would have made the loss even more real to me, and I didn’t feel I could handle any more heartache.

Several more months past, and we were approaching yet another new year. I still felt raw, but I was ready to try anything to have a successful pregnancy. I went to an acupuncturist several times, spoke with a psychic, read a book on Fung Shui and put objects that represented family and health in the appropriate areas of the house, prayed a lot, re-read the book The Secret and wrote in a gratitude journal every day. Then, when I became pregnant for the third time, I took baby Aspirin and progesterone, even though our doctor told me it wouldn’t make any difference. Whatever it was, this time I went in for my first ultrasound, and the baby measured seven weeks and three days! And had a strong heartbeat! We were past the 7 week mark, and something inside me said it was okay to start privately celebrating. Christmas rolled around again, and we told our families the good news. I printed new ultrasound pictures for everyone, and the pregnancy was going really well. Until her growth started to slow down. Around 24 weeks, the doctor told us I had a condition called intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR), which meant our baby wasn’t growing at a normal rate. She told us that I may need to be induced soon, and if that were to happen, our baby would be given steroids to help her lungs develop. We would take it week by week, but I’d be lucky to make it to 28 weeks.

Again, I prayed and journaled and set out more objects that represented ‘health’, and my husband and I made sure to complete all the new parent classes as soon as we could, and finished painting and setting up the nursery. Each week, we went in for an ultrasound, and each time our doctor was comfortable enough with her measurements to let us go another week. Then one Monday morning, our doctor told us to pack our bags and be at the hospital by 8:00pm that night. I had made it to 37 weeks, and it was go time. That whole day was surreal. We cleaned the house, finished packing our hospital bags, ate a nice steak dinner, and then moseyed our way to the hospital. At midnight, the induction began. I was given two rounds of Cytotec, had a cervical ripening balloon inserted to help with dilation, was given more Cytotec, then started on Pitocin. My husband, doula, and I walked around the hospital and danced, I had my amniotic sac ruptured, and I also had acupuncture to see if that would help speed things along. I had been having intermittent lower-back contractions for more than two days, and the nurse told me that if I decided to get an epidural, they would be able to increase the amount of Pitocin, and I agreed. Finally, on Thursday afternoon (after an hour and a half of pushing) our small but perfectly healthy baby girl was born!

This experience has taught me that I am stronger than I realized. Every tear, every worry, every pain (both physical and emotional) has been completely worth it, and I feel exceedingly lucky. I am very grateful for my husband, my family, and my friends who were there for me through this. In my opinion, pregnancy loss isn’t a topic that is brought up very often, and some might be uncomfortable with the subject. If you have someone in your life who has experienced a pregnancy loss or something similar, just know that even a few nice words or a kind gesture can make all the difference. It did for me. And if someone tells you they are pregnant, your best bet is to just say, “Congratulations!”

 

DANA’S STORY

KRL.Cervenka.Summer2018-8“The only way you will have a baby is to go through Invitro Fertilization.” IVF for short. That 5 minute meeting with my OB change 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.