I am standing in a four plex arena watching my husband play hockey. Mothers push strollers while their babies are wrapped tight in blankets. Women walk through the viewing area with their swollen bellies and three year olds skate up and down the ice surface with their oversized jersey’s on while dads are coaching. I can’t breathe. I am drowning. The only thing above the water is my mouth. My eyes cloud over with tears. I can’t do this. I work with children every day. Neighborhood children are at our house almost every weekend but I can’t stand in an arena and watch my husband play hockey. As I wait for him to come out of the dressing room I know this can’t be my life. We are supposed to be like the rest of the families I see: my husband on the ice coaching our son, me pushing the stroller around with a baby wrapped tight in a blanket with a swollen belly, my mother tagging along to help with the kids, the chaos of busy schedules, swimming, skating, hockey, soccer, music lessons and ballet. That is supposed to be my life. Christmas chaos with Santa and travelling with screaming children. Easter bunny visits with new spring dresses. Weekend exhaustion from birthday parties, playdates and day trips. And most of all “I love you Mom”. Instead I am lost in a darkness searching for that life that I am supposed to be living.
In 2008, after trying for a year to conceive and months of testing, we were given the heartbreaking news that at the age of 29, I was going through early menopause. Doctor’s faces did not flinch when they said we had a 5% chance of conceiving naturally. We were heartbroken and scared and in disbelief and scrambling to find a solution to this problem.
After days of rearranging our financial budget and small discussions, we decided to go ahead with IVF as soon as possible. I made a poster filled with babies I cut out of magazines and tacked it to the wall in my closet. This is supposed to keep me focused on the end result. I buy two outfits that I want my future babies to come home in and hang them up in our spare bedroom. I spend hours and hours on the phone with a friend who gives me so much encouragement and convinces me that this will work and that a miscarriage would never happen to anyone who had to go through IVF. I’m ready to fight. And we started our first round of IVF four months later with a discouraging start.
“Your body isn’t responding as well to the meds as we would like so we are going to up your dose”. All I hear is “We would like to drain your bank account as fast as possible”. This means more money. More money that we have not allowed for in our fertility budget. I can’t stand the thought of injecting the hormones that will make my ovaries swell up with multiple eggs, so my husband does it for me every night. I put a pillow over my face while he does it. It doesn’t hurt. I go into the clinic every few days for the blood work and ultrasounds. Work has been very flexible with my hours and has allowed me to miss a few mornings a week while I go through this. I’m confident this is going to work. I am secretly hoping for twins. I don’t want to do this again but I don’t want only one child. However my body isn’t responding to the medication like they had hoped and they compare my response to a woman who is ten years older than me going through IVF. My husband tells me not to focus on this and we don’t know what the outcome will be. Coming home from work one day, I round a corner and feel my heavy ovaries “swish” to one side. They are heavy and full of ripe eggs. The nurse tells me they are the size of oranges right now. They don’t hurt but there is a small ache that feels like I’m about to start my period. The day of extraction, I wake up early and shower. I feel excited that we have made it to this point, but so nervous. I am unable to really understand what to expect. My husband and I don’t speak as we make the half hour drive to the clinic. My hands are folded in my lap the entire way and are sweating. There are moments I feel like I can’t get a full breathe in. We wait in the waiting room for over half an hour and start a conversation with another couple who are waiting to have their “perfect” embryo’s placed back into her uterus. They are sure they will have twins and can’t wait. A nurse who we have gotten to know throughout the last two weeks calls us in and we head down a long hallway and down the stairs. She hands me a hospital gown and gives my husband some green scrubs.
I’m lying on the bed with my legs wide open while an unfamiliar doctor who will become a significant part of my life in the future is getting ready to pierce my uterus with a very long needle. My husband is on one side of me in scrubs while a nurse is on the other. The embryologist is standing over a half wall ready for the hand off of my precious cargo. I am stomach sick. The smell of metal is apparent and the sound of my IV dripping is all I hear. With the small amount of medication they give me through the IV, my body relaxes and I’m able to exit my reality for a short time. They tell me to look at a screen that is in the corner of the room. I am looking at my eggs. I sit in recovery and the nurse encourages me to eat a few crackers and drink some juice. She tells me they were able to harvest 11 eggs from me. I cry. A baby surely will come from 11 eggs. I go home, rent a few movies and lay in bed for most of the day. It feels as if I have been on some kind of bender. I’m exhausted and somewhat sick. Hung over.
The next five days are some of the most stressful I’ve experienced. The embryologist calls in the morning to inform me that we lost all of the embryos except two. I shake. Over the next four days my emotions are so intense I have a hard time breathing. I try to sleep. I have visions of being underwater, of drowning with only my mouth above water. I cry. Loudly. Heaving. More than once I stand in the shower praying out loud over and over for a successful IVF. I tell God I will do whatever he wants me to. I tell him that I am sorry for not being very dedicated but I promise I will be if he would only give me a child. Nothing has ever felt so out of control in my life. But the cells divide and our embryos are still growing five days later. We go back to the clinic to implant those two embryos.
The next two weeks I try not to think about what may be happening in my body. But after 7 days I can’t take it any longer. I go to the drug store and buy a pregnancy test. I tell myself that if it comes back negative it doesn’t mean anything. It just may be too soon. I pee on the stick and instantly a very faded line appears. I am convinced that it’s a mistake and that because it’s so faded it has to be wrong. I buy two more tests and they come back positive. I think, I maybe pregnant. I think, it may have worked. Two weeks later, I take the day off and head to the clinic for a blood test to confirm the pregnancy. They tell me they will get back to me before lunch. I spend the rest of the morning watching TV and cleaning the house. The phone rings only once and I pick up. “This is the clinic. We got your blood results back today and you are pregnant. It worked. Congratulations.” I can hardly say goodbye to her. I feel so overwhelmed with joy. It worked. My husband is beside me in the kitchen and instantly embraces me. He whispers in my ear “we did it.” I cling to him. Not in fear but in disbelief.
It takes an entire month for me to believe I am pregnant. I take 7 pregnancy tests in total. I am exhausted and come home on my lunch almost daily to sleep for twenty minutes, just to get through my afternoon. I feel sick and wake every morning with nausea. It is the first time that I welcome this feeling and can’t help but smile while I dry heave. The clinic has me scheduled for an ultrasound at 8 weeks to check the heartbeat. I am beyond excited. The doctor and our nurse prepare the room while I change into the hospital gown. My husband holds my hand and I breathe deeply trying to fight off any anxiety that has creeped in trying to steal this moment of excitement. I lay back and the doctor puts the wand on my stomach. My husband squeezes my hand and then I see it. I see this beautiful flutter. I can’t make much else out but I see a flutter. It’s our baby. I am overcome with love. I instantly have images in my mind of future Halloween’s and Christmas. I decide in that moment that I want to find out what the sex is and if it’s a girl, we will do her room in a princess theme. Because she really is our princess. I decided that my husband will teach her to skate and I will buy her a doll before she’s born as a keepsake. I imagine that she will have blonde hair and be tall since everyone is tall in both families. Then I hear “there’s two and they are identical twins”. She goes on to explain that this rarely happens and tells us how lucky we are. She schedules and ultrasound in two weeks to confirm that the twins have a thin piece of membrane between them to keep them safe from each other, otherwise it will become a high risk pregnancy. I am stunned. I don’t say anything just smile. Identical twins. All those prayers in the shower really worked. On the way home we call our parents. My mother cries. My husband’s mother immediately posts an announcement on Facebook. I hardly sleep that night. I am so excited to be having twins. I am also excited that we will never have to do another IVF. I know that having twins will complete our family. The next day I go to Chapters and pick up two books about managing twins. I read the first two chapters that night in bed snuggled up against my husband.
Over the next month, I watch a small belly grow and am already in maternity pants. I day dream daily about life growing inside my body and do everything I can to bring attention to my 12 week belly. I read books and google coping strategies for twins. I decided if I want to breast feed and hire a dog trainer to prepare our dogs. I walk into the baby sections in stores for the first time. Everything feels just as it should be. At 12 weeks, the clinic wants to touch base one last time as I am scheduled to meet with a doctor in the city who specializes in twin pregnancies in two weeks. The doctor meets us in the waiting room with a huge smile on her face. Her genuine happiness for our successful IVF fills my heart with love for her. In the exam room, an intern is observing her. After a brief discussion on how she felt the cycle went, the intern asks if she could see an ultrasound of the babies. She explains that she has never seen an identical pregnancy before. “Of course!” I say. Seeing the heartbeat of those two precious miracles again is something I would never turn down. I lay down on the exam table and the doctor pulls out the wand. This time is different. There is no dialoged. I can’t see the flutter of a heartbeat and grip my husband’s hand a bit harder. She decides that maybe an internal ultrasound may be better.
Shortly after that, she exits the room with the intern following closely behind. Anxiety creeps in. I feel sick. When she reenters, she explains that she cannot find the heart beat and that I would need to head to the hospital where they could use a high tech ultrasound machine to determine what we were all dreading. The doctor at the hospital gets us in upon arrival. On a TV screen that is much clearer than the one at the clinic, we see our two precious miracles laying side by side so quietly. The doctor explains that at this gestation you would see movement and unfortunately our babies had passed away in utero. He quietly leaves the room. I don’t cry. Not like I thought I would. Instead I’m in somewhat disbelief. The heaving cries came later that night while my husband held me next to him.
Those babies were still safety inside my womb and now they were gone. The next 8 months is filled with moments of desperation where I feel like I can’t breathe. There are moments of disconnect from my entire world and the inability to put together what my role in this world would be now that my chances of motherhood are gone. I don’t know where I belong and carry so much anger and sadness. After many months of self-healing and being very gentle with myself, we decided we are going to try one more time. Our second IVF results in no eggs and was cancelled after the retrieval. My eggs were in no shape for creating life.
The anxiety that accompanies my IVFs is almost unbearable. I take a month off work after our second failed IVF to help my mind and body heal. I spend the month reading and researching where we could go from here. We decided to take some time off. The next ten months we spent working on us. We went away for two weeks on a vacation, did some odds and ends that needed repair on our home and spent some time together that did not involve any discussion or pressure about babies. Our marriage has taken a toll and we need to get it back again. In June of 2011, we have a consultation with a clinic in Colorado who we were thinking of doing a donor egg cycle with. The doctor we spoke to gives us an 80% chance of success using donor eggs. The financial commitment is overwhelming with a price tag of approximately forty thousand dollars. We started looking a bit at donors. The whole process is overwhelming.
I’m lying on the bed talking with a friend on the phone about what a donor egg cycle is and I’m shocked that most people have no idea what it entails and the price tag that comes with it. She is asking so many questions. I don’t mind answering them since I feel it’s important for people to understand what is “infertilies” have to do to procreate. Two days later she calls back to tell me she wants to give me her eggs. Our price tag just went from 40 thousand to 15 thousand. I am so humbled. I’m not sure how I should respond to this or how I would ever repay her and her husband for this unimaginable offer. I still feel this way four years later. After we discuss this immensely, I am in contact with the infertility doctors in her home town. We decide we need to make a trip to the clinic to meet our doctor and have a brief meeting with our generous friend and her husband. In the fall of 2011, we meet our team and decided that in the spring we will transfer two embryos and freeze any remaining. I am overwhelmed but feel a sense of peace that we finally have a plan in place and it looked very hopeful.
The donor egg cycle requires extensive testing prior to the treatment on both parties. We spend two months starting this process. In December of 2011, I stop into the blood clinic for some blood work that the clinic requires. On my way back to work, I stop at home to get some lunch. My period is four days late and my parents are coming for a visit in a week. I have one pregnancy test left over from long ago. I grab it out of the bathroom cupboard and pee on the stick as I have many times before. I’m in a rush and late. I eat my sandwich and step out the door. I hesitate as I unlock the car doors. I realize I have forgotten to check the pregnancy test in the bathroom. I debate whether to leave it and check it later or to look now. I decide if I don’t look I will be thinking about it all afternoon. I run in with the car running in my driveway to take a quick look. The stick is sitting on the back of the toilet. I see two lines. I think something must be wrong with the stick and reread the instructions in the kitchen. It’s saying I’m pregnant no matter how many times I read it. I can’t believe it. I start crying. Heaving. I have my hands on the table with my head bowed. I can’t find my cell phone to call my husband. I go outside to search the car and I feel light headed now from hyperventilating so much.
When I finally do find my phone, I call my husband and he has to calm me down. He thinks I’ve been in some kinds of accident. When I tell him we are pregnant he laughs in relief and disbelief.
At eight weeks, we see the heart beat in the very same room that we were told our miracle twins were gone. The same doctor does the ultrasound and we all cheer when we see that flutter. I shut my eyes so tight until I hear everyone cheer. I see that heartbeat again and cry.
Our daughter was born in August of 2012 after 5 years of trying to conceive and a very difficult pregnancy. Ten months later we found out we were pregnant again with our son. Our son came into this world in December 2013 at 28 weeks with a three month hospital stay. After seven years of trying to create our family, we were finally all together.
Even though our infertility journey is over, I am still picking up the pieces. Not only personally but financially as well. Infertility changed every aspect of my life. Not a day goes by that I don’t feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude and love for my beautiful babies. On my first mother’s day, we planted a small tree that blooms every spring in honor of those two sweet babies we lost. The tree is a reminder of what we lost, how far we have come and the transformations that have occurred since we lost those babies. Our children will know how hard we fought to bring them to us and the beautiful people that helped make this happen. My heart is filled with love and gratitude for all of you who shared in our joy and sadness and continue to give others like us a chance to make their dreams come true. From the bottom of our hearts, Thank you.
More 1 in 6 stories
When my husband and I decided to start our family, we never thought we would have any trouble getting pregnant.
Playing house, dolls, and dress-up was where my dream began, almost like it was known from the beginning that I’d live to become a mother.
For as long as I can remember, I always wanted to be a mom. I was the oldest of four children. I spent a lot of time watching them grow. Little did I know the struggle I would have.