As hard as it has been, when I think back to the beginning of this process I can’t help but smile at the immense hope and excitement that Angela and I had going into this.
We had talked about children and how they fit into our life plans from the get-go. Angela always knew she wanted (read: had to have) children. Although I never particularly thought of myself as a mother, as our relationship grew and our love for each other solidified I was convinced that we had to share that love with children. I had fears and hesitations (how can we be the perfect parents… we can’t) but even with our normal deficiencies it felt right. I told Angela that I didn’t want to start trying until our first anniversary because I wanted the first year to be about us. But six months into our marriage I couldn’t wait to get started.
The donor selection was daunting and time-consuming – no one seemed good enough to contribute to our child’s genetic makeup. After three months of searching we selected a donor and bought the maximum amount of sperm. We then began the process of selecting a fertility center. I remember going into our first appointment and asking the doctor whether I would be able to go on a family vacation in September assuming I was seven months pregnant. He wisely told me that we could cross that bridge when we got to it. In reality when that vacation rolled around I was just recovering from my first miscarriage.
Angela and I decided to start with Intra-Uterine Insemination (IUI) which is a slightly more high-tech turkey baster method with success rates around 15%. Our insurance didn’t cover any fertility treatment and this method is significantly less expensive than In-Vitro Fertilization. We followed our clinic’s instructions of using drug store ovulation predictor kits; once I got a positive on the OPK I was to go in the next day for insemination. We chose to do back to back inseminations because no one can determine EXACTLY when you ovulate. For example, if the OPK showed up positive on Friday morning I was to go in on Saturday and Sunday mornings for two days of insemination. We did this process three times and each negative pregnancy test at the end of the two week wait after insemination was brutally painful. I had no fertility issues and had a period like clockwork. Why wasn’t this working? After three back-to-back IUIs we had blown through six vials of our precious donor sperm (at $665/ vial plus shipping and storage) and all we were left with was heartache.
Our doctor reminded us that most hetero couples take longer than three months to get pregnant and that we would just have to keep trying. They didn’t even bat an eye while we sat in misery. We decided it was time to get serious. Even though IVF is significantly more expensive (and still not covered by our insurance) we only had the emotional capacity to deal with one or two more negative pregnancy tests. With the insane amount of monitoring and medication and pre-IVF appointments that needed to happen before we could move forward we had to wait a couple months until our cycle began. Once it did it was no joke. Injections, pills, daily transvaginal ultrasounds, ovaries and egg follicles the size of Texas, mood swings like you wouldn’t believe. But we were feeling good. This was going to be it.
In June I had 26 mature eggs retrieved, 19 fertilized (using three more of our vials of sperm) and five made it to really good quality day-five blastocysts at which point I had two transferred back to my uterus (and three frozen). A mere five days later I had a positive result on a home pregnancy test. We were over the moon. We began to research obstetricians and muse over baby names. We even discussed announcing the pregnancy to my family at our big September family vacation by giving my mother a birthday card with a coupon for a grandchild. Corny, I know.
As reality began to settle in I started to worry about miscarriage. I wasn’t overly anxious or stressed about it but I was aware of the realities of miscarriage rates (approx 25%) and based on how bad we wanted this pregnancy I knew our pain from a miscarriage would be brutal. And it was.
I began to bleed about five weeks into the pregnancy. The doctor was closely monitoring us and seemed pleased that our HCG hormone level was continuing to rise right on target and the gestational sac was exactly the size as it should be. We continued for another couple of weeks thinking that even though I was slightly bleeding everything was going OK. At seven weeks our doctor broke it to us that things weren’t actually OK. Things weren’t progressing as it should. On top of that because my hormones were continuing to rise (rather than decrease) my body wasn’t going to miscarry naturally and I would need a D&C. Although the D&C in itself wasn’t too bad, it is impossible to describe the emotional pain associated with having a very wanted pregnancy scraped out of you.
After weeks of tears and painful cramps life began to get back to normal. We still had three frozen embryos and more importantly we still had hope. The fact that we were able to get pregnant was a very good sign. I had the doctors perform extensive testing that is typically only done after repeat miscarriages but I wanted to go into the next cycle knowing everything. All my test results came back perfect.
Last Fall we were able to try again. Because it was a frozen cycle I didn’t have to do much to prep for the transfer. I stopped drinking, I ate a ton of fruits and vegetables and I went to multiple acupuncture sessions. To the chagrin of our doctors, we gained approval from the clinic director to transfer all three remaining frozen embryos. We were out of money and couldn’t afford to do any more fertility treatments. But most of all, we were ready to make this happen.
Five days after the transfer I received another positive home pregnancy test. We knew this was it. It is not super common for women to miscarry twice in a row unless they have fertility issues (and I didn’t). We were nervous because we still felt the pain from the last go-around but we really believed that this was the one. At six weeks I began to bleed. With the first pregnancy we weren’t sure that bleeding meant the end for us. This time around we had no doubt.
But, we were wrong. It turned out the pregnancy continued to progress and the bleeding was caused by a subchorionic hematoma. Angela and I are now well into our second trimester with TWINS – a boy and a girl!
It has been an extremely rocky road and this pregnancy still has a few hurdles to overcome but we are hoping and praying and thinking positively because we have made it this far.
I shared this lengthy recap of our experience because I have received a few questions from readers about our trying to conceive experience and I am happy to answer any questions that you may have.
Weddings forthcoming… thanks for your patience.