I can’t believe the response of so many at our exciting news, and I can’t think you enough! We’re still wondering after an entire first trimester if it’s really true, and I think the word “miracle” barely sums up the feelings.
I’ve definitely mentioned fertility problems before, but I know I’ve never gone into the details of our journey. A lot of those I’m going to keep to myself, but I’d love to share the process of the past few years and what it’s like to find out you’re pregnant when you’ve been “infertile” for years.
The past history of infertility…
I had my first round of problems crop up when I was 24. I mean I knew I’d had some irregularities in junior high and high school, but a doctor once told me it was because I was too athletic as a teen playing soccer, running cross country, and doing my own training on the side to beef up for both of these. It made sense, teenage girls probably shouldn’t go for a run after a grueling two hour soccer practice.
Things seemed to get better when I went to college and it was never a thought that I’d have fertility issues. When my ex husband and I decided it was time to start trying we had several months before we realized things weren’t working. My sister-in-law is an ultrasound technician and recommend a former doctor she worked with that we should see while we were living in Utah. She was great! No diagnosis, but by temperature charting and tracking we found out pretty quickly that I just don’t ovulate. There were a lot of hard months filled with tears and frustration, this comes as a shock to all whether it takes a decade or a few months, the pain is very real.
When we brought the evidence of no ovulation, the doctor told us “No problem!”, I was healthy in every other way and she thought a few rounds of Clomid would do the trick. They didn’t. But shortly after I learned about some pretty serious lies my husband-at-the-time had told me, and we decided we were still young and to put that on hold while I figured out if we could work through the double life he was living. I took it as a sign Heavenly Father was watching out for us and the timing was wrong.
Things seemed to get better, and we decided to just not prevent it. He left for military service and I was pretty sad that there was no baby to keep me company while he was away for eight months. He wasn’t away that long, he came back early with no explanation, and we were left still trying to sort through life, lies, addictions, and abuse. It became more and more stressful. His time away made me realize how much emotional abuse there was. I was actually happier with him away, and I could actually feel spiritual feelings when his darkness wasn’t around me yelling, belittling, and saying some truly awful things. I went six months without a period, and I thought I must be having problems from Clomid or stress. I can’t tell you enough how much I didn’t want to get divorced, and that stress alone seemed to throw everything off.
He left me on a Sunday when I asked if he was having an affair. He yelled, physically hurt me, and let me know what a monster I was for even thinking that. The truth was he was actually having two affairs with two different girls at the same time. With life in such chaos and me literally living in fight or flight mode for almost a year, it seemed no wonder things were off with my body!
I had an appointment with an OBGYN the following Thursday where the doctor listened to me explain it was stress. She told me no amount of stress should cause that long of a pause and she feared there was a lot more. I’ll always have a special place in my heart for the first doctor who didn’t just accept a logical explanation and decided she needed to help me get answers. She dug deeper, looked at my entire life history, and decided to do some tests. The diagnosis of Poly Cystic Ovarian Disease (PCOS) came fast. She could see cysts all over my ovaries through ultrasound and let me know that the stress had probably made it worse, but that I needed to be treated. I was so sad when she explained my risks that I would have a hard time getting pregnant, and that there wasn’t a cure. This was something I would live with and have to manage my entire life.
I was put back on birth control for the first time in years, given a diabetic diet to follow, and ordered to exercise much more often. This is when running found me. I realized I could sprint and make something besides my heart hurt. I realized some days I needed to run for hours to just keep myself from crying. I’ve mentioned this moment before, I just sat in the car and sobbed for what felt like hours after the diagnosis. I thought I’d lost everything. At that time I thought my chance to ever be a mom was over, and I actually wished I’d been able to be a single mom than to live my life at that time in a state that felt so alone and hopeless.
I’m grateful for mental and spiritual healing. I’m grateful my first half marathon, some hormone balancing medication, diet changes, therapy, and proactivity that lead me to lose some weight, be the thinnest and healthiest I had ever been, even compared to my high school days, and that things seemed really under control and good. I mentally realized what a blessing it was to not have a child with that terrible man, and I felt like God would give me a child if I was ever with the right one. I also had so many endocrinologists tell me that if and when I ever wanted to have kids I should have no problem and it would be super quick with how healthy I was. I honestly believed this!
Trying when the person and timing were right…
When Jacob and I knew the timing was right to start trying I went in to see an OBGYN and tell them my PCOS history. Once again, I was told this should only take a month or two. After a few rounds of Clomid, the cysts were getting pretty bad. So was my blood sugar. This lead to a cycle of back and forth treatments with a month of birth control here and there to try to normalize me. I had a pretty good attitude the first year. I kept the faith and just bounced back and forth between an OB and an endocrinologist. Some months were really discouraging, it was like they couldn’t find anything and just kept saying I was doing everything right.
After a year we decided it was time to get serious and see a fertility specialist. Total game changer! Anyone who has spent more than a year trying I can’t tell you enough to get to one sooner than later. I was hopeful again for the first time in a long time. They looked through my history, decided to monitor one more round of Clomid, and then move on from there.
Clomid is the stuff of the devil I’m telling you. You feel terrible on it, I had crazy hot flashes waking me up sweating at night, and the sharp pain from the cysts it brought was just awful. I knew it wouldn’t work, but I’m glad they did blood work and ultrasounds to rule out why. They also needed to rule out it wasn’t a joint problem and had Jacob tested too. Once we knew it was all me I dealt with both relief and guilt. I cried a lot and apologized often. That sweet husband of mine reminded me I’d told him that we may never have kids when we getting serious about marriage, and he knew full well adoption may be in our cards. Always sweet, always amazing.
Our next step was Femara. That seemed to work better, but after a few months we realized I still wasn’t ovulating. I was devastated, all my friends with PCOS swore it worked for them like a charm the first or second cycle. To hear it may not be my answer left me realizing there were only so many options left.
We tried some other medications, and then the doctor did a month of serious monitoring. Blood draws every other day (with veins not given time to heal- ouch!), several ultrasounds, and a few thousands dollars later we learned there were some more hormone issues that needed to be fixed. Every couple months lead to a new drug introduction and some new additions. I remember looking at the pill bottles lined up in a row one day and I thought, “Anyone who doesn’t know me would think I am a hypochondriac with a drug problem” So many supplements and vitamins, so many pills to take at specific times of day with specific foods. I just felt like my life was no longer my own and I was controlled by fertility.
After almost a year, the doctor decided I was balanced and I still needed some help with a hormone trigger shot injected the day before I should ovulate. Sticking a needle in your stomach and getting a bruise the size of lime each time was awful. The stress of turning intimacy into a 24 hour window is just nuts. At one point I remember thinking “I’m more inclined to believe unicorns exist than people actually have accident children.”
But something amazing happened, it looked like I ovulated! However, once again, no pregnancy. I was happy, but also so sad when I kept thinking of the thousands we were shelling out for all of this. The week after the failure Jacob was out of town all week for work, and I found myself crying myself to sleep at night. That was the meaning behind one cryptic Instagram post for anyone wondering. Christmas was coming, and Jacob and I decided the financial costs and emotional pain were becoming too great and it was time to take a break. When I told my fertility doctor she reminded me we were close, we’d done the “dye test” to flush out my tubes recently, and that she could limit ultrasounds and we could do just a few more cycles since, in theory, everything was finally working. I agreed to do the last few she suggested. She let me know we probably had two more tries before it was time to do exploratory surgery and start talking about in vitro.
That’s quite the step, and once again Jacob and I made a plan knowing our luck in the past. We decided to add me to his insurance who covered some of $20,000 in vitro cost per treatment. We thought we’d save and plan for it end of summer when we were emotionally and financially more ready. In the meantime, two more cycles, a doctor who helped us work medications and visits so it only cost a few hundred dollars each month instead of a few thousand, and we figured we weren’t out much to say we tried everything before it was time to take a much bigger, more expensive path.
I stayed very private about all of this sharing details only with my best friend who has been through this process herself. I even kept some from Jacob, because it was taking a toll on him. My family finally got out of me the state of the union so to speak, and they decided they would all fast and pray hard that if it was meant to be, it would happen in the next two months. We had about zero hope, but figured why not?
After praying for more strength and more faith, I had a glimmer of hope around Christmas, and I went in for blood work to find out if it worked on the 22nd of December. I was so excited and had a grand plan to tell Jacob Christmas morning. I took a pregnancy test at home the day before, and got a no. I asked my friend about this, and she told me to get the cheaper ones with lines, the faintness of a line would be better than a digital test. I’d decided I’d paid enough and blood work would tell the truth! I was braced for a no, but so hopeful for a yes. Of course, I was devastated to hear it wasn’t a success. I had to do my best to perk up for Christmas. My mom pointed out two days before I hadn’t given her any sort of wish list. I told her I couldn’t have what I really wanted and I just didn’t feel the need to own more stuff. My wise mom found the perfect skirt and earrings to cheer me up, but deep down I knew she was feeling how much pain this journey that had now spanned over more than two years had caused.
I drove home from Christmas shopping and hearing my official no and thought- well one more of these crazy months of blood work, shots, medications galore, ultrasounds, cost, and disappointment, and then I’ll get a six month break! I planned a lot of active things in my life, some adventures with Jacob I knew we wouldn’t do if I was pregnant, and mentally I was just so happy to realize I was going to get a break for a while. I felt at peace for the first time in months. I felt like I could go back on some medications I knew my body needed that I can’t take while trying. Two years off those babies is a long time for a body that doesn’t produce a lot of its own hormones! I could go off my ridiculous amount of pills to get me to ovulate. I could spend some money on something more fun than medication and doctor bills!
I was just happy to be done with it for a while.
We were busy with the holidays, hosting a NYE party, and I barely realized I should be doing the trigger shot and when the best timing was. We just honestly had given up and knew not to get our hopes up on our one final try- if we did, it would be all too stressful and the past had taught us this was harder than doctors thought it should be. I did think to ask my family one more time to fast and pray for me, but I had very little hope in this. I felt like their prayers would get me through this last hard month and prepare for the next phase.
A few weeks later I was one day before the blood work and I thought- “I’d better take a test just to brace myself for the no. I know it helped last time, and this time it will ease me into it.” I found one of the cheap tests with the lines out of the hundreds I’ve purchased was still in my guest bathroom, and I went ahead and took it before I got ready for my morning run.
When you get a trigger shot it will give a false positive, so I did the math and realized I was one day past when that would happen and that I hadn’t blown it by taking the test. I’d done this so many times I literally grabbed the test to throw it away barely looking. Just before it left my hand my brain registered that there were two lines instead of one. I grabbed the test again. Shock isn’t even the right word, disbelief and surprise were more my feelings. I took a picture to try to believe it. I sent it to my friend who instantly sent a bunch of dancing emoticons and told me CONGRATS! I told her not to get worked up, it was still likely a false positive. I’ve never had one of those before, but I was sure it was a trick again and I’d resolved in vitro was our only option.
I ran with more sprinting in my mind than with my physical body. Thought number one: When would I be due? Thought number two: That’s before Halloween! What will I make it be for Halloween?
Clearly I was just thinking about the important stuff.
I didn’t want to tell Jacob. It couldn’t be real, and the blood work the next day would confirm it either way. The next morning I woke up thinking it was a dream. I took my last digital test that clearly read pregnant and for the first time I thought it could be true!
I had my blood work at 7:30 AM, you’d better believe getting that call at 3:43 felt like an eternity! The nurse talked about my next ultrasound before she mentioned, “Oh yes, and congratulations, you are pregnant!” She mentioned I was still high risk since it was going to grow via artificial hormones. I knew this, and even though I was happy, it was so surreal and also so scary with high risk that I didn’t believe it.
I told Jacob the next day. Yes I knew almost two full days before he did, but I wanted to tell him in a memorable way, I wanted to be 100% sure, and I also was struggling to accept this could happen. So many years of no makes a yes virtually unbelievable. But it may be the hardest thing in the world to hide a secret even with the best intentions from your spouse you tell everything to! Telling him was such a relief!
My birthday was three days later, it was all I could do not to tell my parents at dinner. It was all I could do to keep telling myself it was real. I kept thinking how high my miscarriage rate was and I just couldn’t believe it or accept it.
I told two of my favorite people in the world that Saturday when we went out for my birthday lunch. Both have had pregnancy/fertility problems themselves, and it was amazing to tell them and have both of them break down in happy tears for me. You know your real friends when they cry sad and happy tears with you, because they love you that much and want great things for you!
I’ve had that reaction from a lot from people, it’s been incredible to feel the love your friends and family have for you. They let me know at the five week ultrasound to check for a heartbeat and a yolk sac, and if both those were there to start believing it!
Good news, they were both there and Jacob came with me to my first appointment. They decided to do two to three more appointments to check on growth. Jacob wanted to be at all of these. They also found what may be the last missing piece in my fertility issues, apparently my left side works great and my right not so much. Most of treatments have been on the right side, this was the first left we had all the pieces together for, and it seemed to take without any problem! What a relief that after so many years, so many tests, and so much trial and error there was one more thing figured out that may make this process smoother and quicker in the future.
Now that I’m pregnant and accepting it…
I’ve been so blessed to not be very sick, particularly the first nine weeks, so this all felt so surreal to me. I’d been told by others after all the fake hormones that make you feel terrible (and oh how they do) the real deal might feel fine and morning sickness may feel light. Either way, I still know I’m lucky, and it still made it hard to believe this was happening. When we went in for the next ultrasound I made Jacob take a video of the heartbeat for me watch every day so I could start to believe this was actually real. I watched that thing over a hundred times and smiled each time. I choked up so many times too, this little gift I’d wanted and prayed for for years was right in front of me.
A weird thing happened, I started to feel guilty. How many friends do I have who have tried so much longer than I have? How many have been on adoption lists for years? How many support groups did I have to leave or just feel terrible for being a part of? Guilt is very real, why some people get amazing blessings and others don’t is one of those unsolved mysteries of life.
At week nine they told me the baby was measuring tall, healthy, my hormone levels were great, and they were going to take me off all the last fake hormone and release me to an OB and call this a success. That was the day it felt real. They also told me how cute and wiggling it was already, and that it looked like a gummy bear. I thought Sour Patch Kid, so I went and bought some to compare. There’s a good chance that’s been its nickname ever since. Plus it is sour then sweet just like their commercials, so it fit!
We told my family all at once minus one brother who lives out of state. I can’t wait to post that video and those pictures, it was one of the sweetest moments of my life and I’ve never felt more loved. Coming this week, I promise.
We told Jacob’s parents and siblings one at a time, 16 adults is a lot to cover! It took all week but we finally did it, and finally decided to accept that this was really going to happen.
That was the moment I got emotional about it. I mean I’ve prayed for so many years for a healed body. I’ve been through so much physical pain and discomfort. I’ve paid so much money. To finally say, “This is real, you’re going to be a mom!” is one of the most humbling things I’ve ever said. Part of me wants to blame hormones each time I tear up when I think about this, but deep down I know I all babies are miracles, but ones you have to work so hard to get feel like a big miracle, and that’s an emotionally moving thing.
Every ultrasound seeing the baby grow, develop a personality, and move around healthily just feels like the most overwhelming miracle to me, and I keep pinching myself to make sure it’s real life.
I am grateful for this journey. I kept thinking the entire time about the hell I went through to get my Jacob, and how every day of marriage has been so happy. Not because it’s fake or we’re perfect, but because my perspective on life and not having it, followed by having someone practically perfect it has made all the difference.
I can’t help but think my Heavenly Father knew that I would be happiest if he made me go through a similar experience to be a mother. I have no doubt that the years of pain and longing will make even the hardest moments of motherhood feel like such a gift to me. Because it truly is just that, a beautiful gift that if we’re lucky enough and keep enough faith in, some day in God’s way and timing we are given.