When you are twenty-five, fresh out of college and a newlywed, you think the world is your oyster. It is a time of innocence that will, for most couples, be a fond memory in later years. The idea of starting a family is an assumed right of passage.
Our journey to parenthood began when I was thirty years old. We were college graduates, we owned our own home, and we both had steady jobs. My biological clock was ticking and we were finally ready for a baby. But after a year and half of trying to get pregnant, I started to worry and knew we needed to seek medical advice. My husband’s health insurance at the time offered infertility coverage up to $10,000, which is almost unheard of in the world of health insurance. With unexplained infertility, we knew we had a good chance of getting pregnant, but that it would take medical intervention.
My husband and I took to the Internet to research our fertility options. Not wanting to jump right into in vitro fertilization, we chose to pursue the less invasive Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) treatment. IUI treatment often begins with a medication to help stimulate egg production. After a couple of weeks of taking fertility medicine and monitoring my eggs growth, my husband and I eagerly drove to the fertility doctor’s office in hopes that all our dedication would finally pay off. The procedure seemed easy enough, thankfully, because the emotional stress we were going through at the time was enough. The nurse would use a tiny catheter to place my husband’s sperm directly into my uterus. The procedure took only minutes, however we would have to wait over a week to hear if it was successful or not. With a hopeful heart I answered the nurse’s phone call only to hear, “I’m sorry, the blood test was negative.”
Two more failed IUI’s led to feelings of not only sadness, but also envy while we watched all of our friends start families of their own.
Feeling the need for a new start, we decided to switch fertility doctors and pursue in vitro fertilization, commonly known as IVF. It all seemed pretty foreign to us, but in simple terms, our doctor would take my eggs and my husband’s sperm, inject one sperm into each egg, and then place the fertilized eggs back inside my uterus with hopes that at least one of the embryos would attach to my lining.
For most couples, the thought of IVF is scary. It is an invasive, time consuming, and expensive option. However, after three years of heartache in trying to create our own family, we decided it was time. Also, the fact that my husband’s company was switching insurance plans and we would soon lose our infertility coverage, gave us the push we needed to move full steam ahead.
Looking back, IVF is really not that bad; however, when you are afraid of needles, the thought of being stuck and injected with hormones every morning and night for weeks or even months can make the bravest girl queasy. My husband gladly took a “how to give a shot” class offered by our doctor’s office and when the big box of medications arrived at our home, I ran out the door to happily greet the delivery driver. Morning after morning and night after night, I bravely took each shot followed by my husband thanking me for doing whatever it took for us to be parents. The weeks of hormone shots and ultrasound appointments were filled with so much emotion, from laughter to frustration, that we were exhausted and relieved when it came time to retrieve my eggs.
Having never been “put under,” I was really nervous about the egg retrieval process. Using a long, thin needle, our doctor carefully extracted the eggs from my swollen ovaries. About thirty minutes later, I woke up in recovery feeling just fine. My fertility doctor informed me that he had retrieved a whopping 32 eggs from my ovaries! From this one IVF cycle, we were able to create 19 healthy embryos.
While the retrieval of multiple eggs is great for IVF, it was not good for me. A few days later, we transferred three freshly created embryos into my uterus and hoped for the best. Our remaining 16 embryos were cryogenically frozen for future use. I was sent home for a week of bed rest and a high protein diet in hopes of avoiding ovarian hyper-stimulation syndrome (OHSS), a serious side effect leading to excessive fluid build-up in the abdomen. Later that week, I was at the hospital having four pints of fluid drained from my abdomen. When our doctor called a week later giving us the sad news that we were not pregnant, we felt defeated.
With my faith shaken, but not lost, we vowed to try again. For some reason, my husband and I kept our pain to ourselves. We knew it would be difficult for others to truly understand the heartache we were feeling in trying to have our own child. It seemed so unfair that we could not get pregnant while so many others had no problem conceiving a baby. As a woman, I felt such an emptiness in my heart that I knew could only be filled by having a child of my own. Friends and family would make harmless remarks that felt like salt being poured into our wounded hearts. I was growing bitter and our marriage was being pushed to the limits.
Many months and several thousands of dollars later, we made a second transfer attempt, this time using four embryos. During my week of bed rest, I caught a cold. A week after bed rest, I went in for blood work, which again ended in a telephone call from our doctor saying, “I’m so sorry.” After several “I am sorry,” phone calls from our IUI treatments and now the second “I am sorry” phone call from our IVF treatment, I was beginning to feel numb. My husband undoubtedly felt heartache from the loss of all our embryos and our dreams, but also he hurt watching me hurt.
Almost two years later, we had saved up the roughly $2,000 it took each time to transfer our embryos into my uterus. We had four frozen embryos left. After being thawed out, the embryos that survived would be transferred and hopefully at least one would attach and develop into a fetus. By this time, my husband and I had decided to share our journey with friends and family, asking people to pray for us, figuring that we needed all the help we could get! We also made a conscious effort to walk though the baby aisle in stores, talk about the “theme” of our future child’s room, and what names we would consider. Our attitudes had changed from hopeless to optimistic. I remember driving to work one morning before our final transfer, crying to God out loud, “Please God, I am begging you! Please let me be pregnant soon!”
Once we decided on a transfer month, the wheels were in motion and it all seemed to happen very quickly. We were told that the last four embryos would be thawed out on a Monday morning. If the cells divided nicely, then we would transfer on Wednesday. However, if the cells were not dividing as desired, then we would transfer Monday afternoon. My husband and I drove to work that Monday morning feeling anxious, not knowing what to expect. A few hours after I arrived at work, I got the call from our doctor saying that we needed to come to the office, so that the embryos could be transferred that afternoon. I thought to myself, “here we go again,” and worried that the cells were not developing well. I put the worry away and met my husband at the doctor’s office, excited at the possibility of a baby.
A couple hours after the transfer of our last four embryos, we were headed home to start a week of complete bed rest. I laid down on the back seat of my husband’s truck the entire way home, wanting to give this transfer my best efforts. After a week of being flat on my back in bed, I knew I had done everything in my power and the rest was up to nature and God.
Ten days later, I was at work when my cell phone rang. I had asked the doctor to call my husband with the blood work results from the blood I had drawn that morning. I was tired of hearing, “I am sorry” and thought my husband should handle the call. Well, my phone rang and I saw that it was my doctor’s office. I immediately thought to myself, “I told them NOT to call me!” I did not pick up the call.
The phone rang again and this time I picked up.
“Congratulations, you’re pregnant!”
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