My blog and motherhood story really started with opening up about our infertility journey over four years ago on Instagram (back then I was @prayingfor2lines). Until that point, Brad and I had been battling for years with infertility in the dark. It was a lonely battle. I decided to create an Instagram account to document our journey and connect with other women in similar struggles. It honestly has been life changing. I found an amazing community of women. They taught me so much. We’ve laughed and cried together. We’ve grown together. And even though I am a momma to three girls now, infertility will always be a fabric woven through my story.
So, I decided to rewind a few years and share our infertility journey with you. That’ll save you all from scrolling back 1000+ posts. If you are curious about the whole process of going from wanting to get pregnant to diagnosis with infertility to treatment options, this is a great summary.
When Brad and I got married we were in no rush to start a family. We had a lot of people tell us that they wished that they had waited a bit to have kids, so we spent the first couple of years just enjoying each other. In the winter of 2013/2014, we started to get the baby itch. We were planning a two-week European vacation for September, and I dreamed up the perfect postcards from Paris pregnancy announcement. In a naive attempt to ‘perfectly’ time baby’s arrival, we planned to start actively trying in the spring and be pregnant by September giving us several months to make it happen.
This is the actual example announcement I crafted to show Brad what I had in mind.
At the end of March my period was 5 days later than expected. This was the first pregnancy test that I ever took (in a Wendy’s bathroom on my lunch break because I was too impatient to wait until I got home lol) and the first baby announcement surprise I planned for hubby (an April’s Fools trip to Baby’s R Us that would turn out not to be an April’s Fools). Turns out I was not pregnant, and this would be the first of many plans that failed to come to fruition.
Every month I planned a special way to tell Brad and held onto my dream plan for announcing to the world with a postcard from Paris during our September trip there. Every month that passed with a BFN (big fat negative pregnancy test) was a blow to my plans for that month’s baby and all the things I had planned for it. It was like going through the five stages of grief every month for the baby you had dreamed up. You could tell Brad was getting impatient too, but we did not lose hope because we knew making a baby could take a little time.
In September 2014, the dream announcement plan slipped away as we headed out on our trip with no baby on board. That was the first time I cried about TTC. I had planned ample time for us to make this dream announcement happen yet, it had not come to pass. What was taking so long??
When we got back from Europe, I had a 44-day cycle giving us false hope that we had conceived a Europe baby. I even naively pulled an old pregnancy test out of the trash with an evaporation line, thought it meant I was pregnant and told hubby by sneaking onesies into our laundry and asking him to fold the clothes. I never got a real second line and my period finally came two weeks later. We were crushed.TTC had become not fun anymore. Month after month passed. We didn’t even look forward to a possible positive test anymore; we just figured it would negative. Still we kept on.
In early 2015, I got a new job, and we moved to Knoxville, TN. Maybe God was holding off on a baby, so we could get established in our new place? We half-heartedly kept trying until we were settled and then started actively TTC again with a fresh anticipation. Now that we were settled, surely, we would get our BFP (big fat positive) soon. God’s timing is perfect…
I joined the baby center community and began pursuing TTC with a new vigor. We started trying everything under the sun: ovulation predictor kits (OPK), temperature tracking, hips in the air after baby dancing, soft cups, SMEP (sperm meets egg plan), Preseed, pineapple, yoga, Fertilaid, you name it! Much like before I was consumed with TTC. It was somewhere on my mind every waking moment of the day. Still month after month passed and all my baby hopes and dreams for that month were dashed when AF (aunt flo/period) showed.
Finally, in November 2015 we had enough. TTC should not take this long! We found a local RE (reproductive endocrinologist) and started investigating. There are lot of reasons for infertility. I included a chart below that details these. After a bunch of testing for both Brad and I, including labs throughout my cycle, sperm samples, an in-office hysterosalpingogram and a post-coital test, we discovered our struggle is with his sperm getting to my egg.
The RE suggested we try an IUI (intrauterine insemination) just to see if it would help, but didn’t think it was too promising. Unfortunately, our fertile window was over New Years and the office was closed. Also, just after the New Years, Brad got a terrible flu with extremely high fevers that lasted for a couple of weeks. We called about the next cycle and received conflicting advice about the effects of his flu (fevers are not good for sperm) on our chances of a successful IUI. The missed cycle and flu made us reconsider our attack plan. An IUI already wasn’t very promising, we were confused about how the flu would affect our chances of success over the next several months and we were tired of waiting. We prayerfully decided that going straight to IVF (in vitro fertilization) was the best route.
Of course, IVF is a big and expensive undertaking. A TTC friend told us about CNY Fertility. It was like a Godsend. CNY Fertility is in Syracuse, New York. It’s a twelve-hour drive for us, but Dr. Kiltz and his team seemed like the perfect fit. Dr. Kiltz’s mission is to provide affordable fertility treatments. The cost to cycle at CNY even considering travel was considerably less than our local RE. Not only that but he is groundbreaking in his protocols to treat infertility. We called in mid-January and, since we already had our testing complete, we started the fast track to IVF.
We started our cycle in mid-February. Long-distance cycling is an adventure all on its own. I had to track down local labs and radiology centers to monitor my progress through the cycle. I had to call pharmacies and shop around for best pricing on all the medicine I would need, purchase and administer them on my own.
Stimming (the part of the cycle where you grow your eggs for retrieval) went really well and after 8 days my eggs were ready. We planned to pull the trigger (a shot to induce ovulation) and have my egg retrieval procedure on Monday February 29th (leap day!).
We had to travel to Syracuse for the procedure. We took a week off work (for a “vacation”). We traveled up to New York City on Saturday and spent the day there (because I take every excuse I can get to visit NYC) before traveling on to Syracuse.
My egg retrieval procedure went great! We got 18 eggs. The next day, we got word that 12 had fertilized, which is the exact number both Brad and I had guessed! We took a side trip to Niagara Falls as I recovered from the procedure and we waited for our babies to reach blastocyst stage.
We had our transfer of two embabies on Saturday. It went smoothly and soon we were driving back to Tennessee with two babies on board. We also had eight other babies who had survived to day five, so they were cryopreserved for us for later.
We spent all week talking to our on-board babies about why they needed to stick around and what our life would be like with them. On Friday, 6DP5DT (six days past a day five transfer) I had a dream I got a BFP and woke up with the nerve to test. For the first time in my life I saw a real, pink second line! We were pregnant!
We spent six glorious days knowing we were pregnant. We went to Charleston that weekend with my in-laws and were glowing with our secret. I tested every morning to see the line get darker. On Monday, I got the positive beta (the blood pregnancy test). My HCG (pregnancy hormone) was 56. We would test again on Wednesday to make sure it was going up.
Wednesday morning, I POAS (peed on a stick) but the line was lighter not darker. I felt something was wrong. I spent all day worrying waiting for the beta result. It did not come. That night I calmed myself down, threw away my pee sticks and resolved to not worry. On Thursday morning, I got the call. My beta had dropped. The pregnancy didn’t work. I could stop all medicine. She was so sorry. I barely managed to get off the phone before breaking into uncontrollable sobs.
That day was the worst day of my life. I have never cried so much. I was at work when I stepped out to take the call. I wasn’t even able to gain composure to go back. I sat in my car sobbing for an hour and finally emailed my boss that I was sick and needed to go home. I went home and just laid in my bed sobbing and staring numb for the rest of the day. Why?? We had come so far to get a BFP and, now that we had it, it was fading away!
On the exact same day that we found out we lost our embabies, my mom called to say that they were moving to Tennessee. Dad had officially accepted a transfer to a facility in a town about an hour from us. “I think God is sending us for a reason,” she said, “You must be pregnant.” We had never told anyone IRL (in real life) about TTC or IVF. But in that moment, I let it all out. I had been pregnant until today. We had been trying forever. We were infertile, going through crazy hoops to try and have a baby, and I was currently having an early miscarriage. Boy, did I throw a lot on her! It was freeing.
As devastating as our chemical pregnancy (early miscarriage only detected by POAS or Betas; didn’t make it far enough to get an ultrasound) was, we knew we had eight snowflakes (frozen embryos) waiting for us, so we forged ahead into the realm of FETs (frozen embryo transfers). More medicines, different protocol, more shots, more monitoring and another trip to Syracuse. This time we just needed to be there for a couple of hours for transfer. Given the timing, we ended up deciding that my mom (who was now in the loop) and I would drive up to Syracuse to pick up our embabies. We drove up on a Sunday, spent the night, and I transferred of two more embabies on Monday morning and then we drove home. Twenty-four hours of driving within forty-eight hours, but our babies were home.
Because my FET protocol included HCG, I was not able to POAS before beta. I still did, but wasn’t sure if the second line was real or fake from the hormone shots. Brad and I waited anxiously for beta. We were definitely more cautious about getting our hopes up. Beta day came, and we got an astounding number: 300! Our second test more than doubled: 741! We were pregnant (see how we waited until after second beta to get excited)!!! A week later our first ultrasound revealed twins and two precious heartbeats.
Our infertility story isn’t over. I’d say it’s more on pause. Brad and I are just enjoying our girls. It’s nice to have a break from all the stress of TTC. Though I could still tell you exactly where I am in my cycle (too much reproductive endocrinology education), it doesn’t cross my mind every day, and that’s refreshing. When we are ready, we will go back to CNY to get another of our snowflakes.
Update: We waited until the girls were almost two to cycle again. In that time frame we had several infertile friends blessed with miracle, surprise 2nd or 3rd babies. While we were so over the moon for them, we were constantly reminded that doesn’t seem like it’ll be a part of our story. With another full year of unprotected cycles (we didn’t wait another year on purpose, that just happens to be how long between I got my postpartum period back and we chose to cycle again), we were definitely reminded of our infertile status. However, with experience and knowledge under our belt, we cycled again in fall 2018 using the same FET protocol as we did for the girls’ cycle, and it was successful! We added another girl to our family in summer 2019! We now have five frozen embryos remaining.
Where there is hope, there is faith. Where there is faith, miracles happen.