Starting A Family
“Once upon a time, two teenagers fell in love, graduated, got married, started life as a young military family, and had their first child—a beautiful daughter—at the young age of 21 years old.
Our daughter, Abigayle, is so loved and cherished! She was the light of our lives and made us a perfect family, but we longed to give her a sibling to grow up with. In fact, our big wish was for a large family with many children, but that would prove to be a great challenge.
Ever since I can remember, the one thing in life I wanted most of all was to be a mother. I imagined a house full of children, busy productive lives, and lots of love to go around.
I had career goals and dreams of what I would do to earn income. I wanted to be educated and a role model for my own daughters, but it was always going to take a back seat to raising a family. However, after a first easily-attained pregnancy, secondary infertility took over our lives.
Infertility & Loss
I had irregular cycles, multiple surgical procedures, hormone therapies, and (later) a diagnosis of PCOS. I had been a stay-at-home mom and ran an in-home daycare, but infertility treatments are expensive, so I took a job working outside the home. After 2 years of hormone treatments without success, it was time to take a break.
Low and behold, I actually got pregnant on my own. We were overjoyed!miscarriage, I was rushed to the ER with a diagnosis of placental abruption. (This happens when the placenta detaches from the uterine wall and then re-attaches.)This pregnancy was rough almost from the start. At the end of the first trimester, I began to bleed heavily. Certain it was a
My irregular bleeding was caused by a large clot that had formed. By some miracle, my baby girl’s heart was still beating and the rest of the pregnancy was spent dangerously and profusely bleeding throughout bedrest, trying to get to viability (25 weeks gestation). We made it there—barely—but my water broke and a nasty intrauterine infection set in and made me and my little babe so sick.
She was born extremely premature, delicately beautiful, perfectly formed, and so tiny and frail. We named her Katelyn, a name that means ‘pure,’ and it pains me greatly to say that she lived her short life in agony, fighting to survive. My heart shattered when nurses placed her in my arms so I could say goodbye.
No parent should have to ever bury a child like we did, but the hardest thing to do was tell my precious Abigayle that her baby sister had died. It nearly broke me, so I did the only thing that made sense…I tried again.This next pregnancy was an utter shock and surprise. One day, precisely 3 months from losing baby Katelyn, we were planning an adventurous day at an amusement park with young Abigayle when I realized I wasn’t feeling quite right. Unfortunately, the not-quite-right feeling I was having was an omen.
I was determined to enjoy the day with my little family, so I did my best to ignore this feeling until I couldn’t any longer. In the ER while going over my very recent history, the medical staff inquired if I could be pregnant again, but given the recent loss combined with the struggles we underwent trying to get pregnant the second time, I was certain that I COULD NOT be.
To my utter shock, a positive pregnancy test emerged. Due to significant scar tissue and damage from Katelyn’s ill-fated pregnancy, however, this pregnancy had lodged itself in my left fallopian tube, where it grew until it ruptured, causing internal bleeding and intense pain (which I had tried to ignore). I nearly lost my life.
After some time passed, it seemed like a good idea to grow our family through adoption. My own father spent his childhood in an orphanage, sadly never being adopted into a family. (He is AMAZING. I love you, Dad.) I had always hoped to adopt in his honor, so we reached out to adoption agencies and told our friends and family our wishes, asking them to spread the news on our behalf.
We had a close family friend consider placing her child with us, only to change her mind. A distant relative with an unwanted pregnancy became a possibility, only to change her mind. Another family friend went all the way through her pregnancy, planning for us to adopt and again changed her mind right after birth.
Although it hurt my already broken heart tremendously, I am in total support of these women all choosing to keep their daughters. God knows it is impossible for me to imagine placing my child up for adoption and these women loved their babies enough to consider what was best for them.
Our Last Hope: In-Vitro Fertilization
Soon, I went to a new fertility specialist and began undergoing treatment again. Was I crazy? Yes, the answer is yes.
I was insanely determined to grow my family, no matter what it took. We also poured over photos of waiting children at an adoption agency and had our eye on a 7-month-old baby girl in an orphanage in the Mariana Islands, a U.S. Territory.
I would later learn, however, that this adoption agency enacted a rule for prospective hopeful parents wishing to adopt barring them from simultaneously undergoing fertility treatments. The idea that we could go meet this beautiful baby girl and possibly adopt her ended. FOUR failed attempts at adoption are not for the faint of heart.In-Vitro Fertilization, the most complex method of assisted reproductive technology. IVF has many steps, many medications, is expensive, has varying degrees of success, and is tailor-made per patient.If you are wondering how I survived all these losses and near losses, never forget that I had the blessing of my beautiful Abigayle. I am quite certain she is the only thing in this entire world that kept me from completely dying of a broken heart. At the Reproductive Endocrinologist, we learned that the best possible chance to achieve a healthy pregnancy would be to bypass my remaining fallopian tube and scar tissue by undergoing
In my case, the IVF journey began right after the New Year. The first step was ovulation induction, or taking medications to stimulate the ovaries to produce multiple mature eggs. The Reproductive Endocrinologist then works to retrieve the eggs and mixes them with your partner’s sperm in a lab.
On day 1, we had 15 fertilized eggs. Overnight, 7 quit growing and dividing; we were down to only 8. Then there were 5 remaining. Then there were only 2 remaining fertilized embryos on lab day 5. I remember being very sad and anxious that we didn’t have any remaining to freeze.
The two remaining were my only chance, and they were both implanted in my uterus in an embryo transfer procedure around Valentine’s Day.
I was out and about, running errands on day NINE after the embryo transfer procedure when I had a sudden specific food craving. I wanted Minestrone soup.
I don’t even really like Minestrone soup, yet I ended up at IHOP because they had this soup on their menu. I placed my order and headed to the restroom, where I out of the blue became nauseated and had a very sudden urge to throw up. I did.
In the disgusting IHOP bathroom stall, I sat back on the dirty floor and grabbed my tummy hugging so tight, not a care in the world, despite the direct circumstances. My little babes were in there and they took! I just knew it. I was pregnant!
This was confirmed at the Reproductive Endocrinologist a few days later, and we set off the most nerve-wracking, terrifying, haunting, and anxiety-ridden 9 months of my life. It was extremely difficult to stop myself from being overwhelmed, afraid, and haunted by the memories of previous pregnancies and loss. It was difficult to imagine bringing a live baby home, no longer having the ability to be blissfully ignorant of a parent’s worst nightmare multiple times over.
My mantra was KEEP GOING when sadly, baby #2’s little heartbeat fluttered to a stop at 11 weeks’ gestation. I pushed away the fear and anxiety. I begged and pleaded with God, ‘Please, Please, PLEASE let my baby live!’
ONE little baby remained. I had one more chance. And as it turns out, that one little baby is now Isabel Avery Hernandez.
Celebrating Our Miracle
I have a box that contains the many needles filled with medications that were jabbed into my thighs, stomach, and buttocks in extreme efforts to grow my family and give Abigayle a sibling. I saved this box.
Every Christmas, I wrap a present for Isabel to open in this box. This box has survived twelve moves, a divorce, two flooded basements, a garage fire, mice, bugs, and other creepy things in storage units, a new marriage, an ever-growing family, and 24 years of being wrapped and re-wrapped as a Christmas present holder.
Every year, as I wrap her a gift in this box, I get to sit and reflect on the miracle of Isabel Avery Hernandez and how she came to be. Isabel, you are a huge blessing to our family. My little miracle. A sister for a sister. The rainbow baby after a storm.
I love you. You are worth it. I am so glad I tried again.”
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