“Talk to anyone who has been on an infertility journey, and they will tell you it is like a roller coaster ride. It is true, in the sense that there are ups and downs, and periods of intense anticipation. But on this type of rollercoaster, there are no guarantees. You are promised nothing, and when you put your heart on the line, it feels like you’re risking everything.
A Whirlwind Romance
My husband, Eli, and I first met in the summer of 2004. We worked together at an amusement park. He was 17 and I had just turned 19. It was the kind of fast love where a first date turned into forever in a matter of months.
We were together almost constantly. We moved out of our parents’ houses and in with each other. He proposed to me just a month after graduating from high school, and the next year, we eloped to Las Vegas, just the two of us. Our friends and family thought we were impulsive, but truth be told, we were just in love.
We didn’t have any money. I was in college and he wasn’t, and it was young love. We were both immature. But against all odds, we set out to make it work. And so we did.
Ready For A Baby
After a couple of years of traveling together, camping and hiking, attending rock concerts, and running half-marathons, we started to consider having children. How many did we want? What would we name them? Would they be boys or girls?
On a return trip to Las Vegas with friends, I confessed to my best friend, Lindsey, ‘I am honestly not sure Eli and I will be able to have kids, at all.’ It felt sad to me, to say out loud what I had already been thinking. But the truth was, Eli and I had been married for three years already and had been doing nothing to prevent pregnancy.
In an ironic twist, as fate often works, it was about two weeks after that trip that I conceived our son, Colin. Eli came home over his lunch break from working at the local sawmill. I told him I was pregnant, and, even at age 23, he was so excited he couldn’t eat his sandwich.
I remember praying and praying for a healthy pregnancy. We both wanted a boy, so we decided together we would wait to find out the baby’s gender, lest we be disappointed before the baby even arrived.
But all 9 lbs. 10 oz. of Colin Patrick Atkinson arrived on January 19th, 2010, via emergency C-section. He was our boy, and he was healthy.
Asking For A Little Sister
The first few years of parenthood were amazing, and a bit overwhelming. In order to make ends meet, Eli took a job that was 6 hours away from us. He was gone for two weeks at a time. I was so grateful for Colin’s company, but we missed his dad much of the time. But we bought our first house and were ready to settle into our own version of the American dream.
With all of the changes in our lives over a fairly short period of time, we weren’t really thinking about having more children… until Colin started asking for a little sister around age three.
Eli and I agreed it was time to expand our family again, and this time, we had a more specific timeline in mind. I started to track my cycle, and we began to actively try to have baby number two. This time, we were more hopeful than we were nervous.
But one month turned into six. Six months turned into a year. After every ovulation, I would be so diligent about what I was putting in my body. I would restrict caffeine, avoid alcohol, eat healthfully, and get extra rest. And every month I would take a pregnancy test, only to start my period—usually by that very same evening.
It felt as though our bodies were betraying us. Every time Colin would ask for a sibling, it was another reminder of what we all wanted and weren’t getting. It made me feel out of control, and eventually, depressed. Hope, itself, was becoming painful.
Eli and I only had a few cycles left that he would be home with us before I would be ovulating when he was away at work. Colin was four now and I felt like the clock was ticking down to him becoming forever an only child. We decided to seek professional help, to see what we were looking at for odds, and where we stood moving forward.
The news we received, after appointments with specialists, was not what we wanted to hear. Based on Eli’s sample, we had a .003% chance of conceiving a child on our own. Colin was our miracle. We shouldn’t hold our breath for another.
Still, I wasn’t ready to just give up. We wanted to use the time we had to keep trying, and our doctor suggested an IUI procedure to increase our odds of success.
The next time I was ovulating, our doctor met us at the clinic. It was the day after Thanksgiving that she performed the procedure. Her exact words after the IUI was complete were, ‘I am going to be honest with you… don’t get your hopes up. The sample didn’t look good. In fact, I am not even going to charge you for the visit today.’
I appreciated her honesty, but as we left the clinic, I had an empty feeling in the pit of my stomach. This was never going to work.
A Miracle Pregnancy
We decided not to tell Colin about the appointment. The last thing we wanted to do was to give him false hope. Dealing with my own struggles to stay realistic was difficult enough.
It was a week later, on a trip across town to the library to return some books, that Colin piped up from the back seat, ‘When I get my sister, she is going to sit right here!’
My voice caught in my throat as I tried to speak, ‘Oh yeah, Buddy?’ I could feel my eyes welling with tears behind my sunglasses. I felt like I should say something else to him, but couldn’t find the words.
Despite Colin’s confidence, I did my best not to indulge too deeply in hope. And yet, a few days out from my anticipated period, I had to take a pregnancy test.
This felt like it was our only chance to have the family we were dreaming for. After this, there wouldn’t be any more opportunities unless Eli found a different job. If that had to happen, it was unlikely we could afford another child, let alone the treatments to try to have one.
The pregnancy test was negative, and I let myself cry. Eli was away at work, and Colin was in bed, so it was just me that night. Time stood still as I did my best to alter my vision for our lives moving forward.
But then another day passed. Then, it was two. Still, I hadn’t started my period. I broke open the other pregnancy test that had come in the two-pack. I cursed myself for the hope welling up in my chest, as I waited for it to process.
But then… a faint, second line appeared. I took a picture with my cell phone, sending it first to Eli, and then to my mom, sister, and best friend. Could it be?
Life As A Family Of Four
The clinic was surprised. Eli and I were elated! Our family and friends were relieved, and Colin was giddy. Eight short months later, we all welcomed Quinn Marvelyn to the world. She came a month early but was 6 lbs. 10 oz., and healthy from the start. She was the beautiful baby sister Colin had predicted, and Eli and I had dared to hope and dream for.
The next couple of years could truly be described as blissful. We had our boy and our girl. They loved each other, fiercely. Eli got laid off from the oil rigs when Quinn was around six months old, but we found a way to make the financial piece work. He found a job close to home. I continued to build my holistic nutrition clientele and started a side gig with an online supplement company to fill in the gaps in our income.
We took Colin and Quinn on a trip to Florida, we went camping as a family. We really settled into making memories as a family of four.
But surprisingly, something in my heart had shifted. Prior to having Quinn, Eli and I had wanted two children. But once she arrived, I found myself wanting more. I was enjoying motherhood and just wasn’t ready for our family to be done growing. In my heart, I began to hold space for two more children and a bigger family.
A Pleasant Surprise
Since I knew another biological child was statistically impossible for us, I started to explore the idea and process of adoption or foster care. I brought these options up to Eli. While he didn’t shut me down immediately, he didn’t seem excited to go down that road, either. So, I let it rest.
One day, lying on our living room floor watching a princess movie with Quinn, she lifted my shirt up and patted my belly. ‘Thewe is a baby in thewe!’ she exclaimed, in her sweet little 2-year-old voice.
I laughed. Quinn’s daycare provider was pregnant, so I could imagine all of the talks of babies in bellies that had been happening amongst her and her daycare friends.
Then, a couple of weeks later, I was on a gym date with Lindsey. As we were chatting, I realized I was a few days late getting my cycle. This was not at all a normal occurrence for me. ‘Wouldn’t it just be like God to have that kind of a sense of humor?’ I joked. ‘First, we can’t have a baby when we want one, then we get a surprise when we aren’t expecting it!’
I had been completely joking at the time, not even thinking about that moment in the living room with Quinn. But, on a whim, I purchased a pregnancy test anyway, expecting to take it a few instants before starting my period.
Much to my surprise, it was positive! Eli and I had done a lot over the previous couple of years to get healthy, but never in a million years would we have thought it would help to repair the root of our fertility issues.
Our entire family was truly excited. Despite my initial shock, I warmed up to the idea of another baby quickly. This pregnancy felt meant-to-be, and much more peaceful and laid back than my previous two. I enjoyed the invitation to slow down for the summer. That October, little 8 lb. 3 oz. Preston Arne arrived.
At Peace With Calling It
Colin and Quinn loved Preston SO much. Preston and Eli had a bond, instantly. Our family felt pretty perfect, but, if I am honest, I still wasn’t 100% certain it was complete.
But Eli and I were getting older. I was 33, and he was 32. We knew by the time we waited a couple more years, we would be older than we wanted to have another baby. The gap between our oldest and youngest would be even bigger.
So, we scheduled his vasectomy, which we both felt at peace with.
During this time, we were in the process of buying a larger home and selling our current one. The timing of Eli’s surgery didn’t work out with when we had home showings, so we bumped it a couple of weeks later.
I was exclusively nursing Preston, and he was only a few months old. I didn’t have my period back yet, so we weren’t really worried about getting pregnant again.
Eli got his vasectomy, we found a new home and got our current home under contract, and began packing. I got a major promotion with my network marketing company. We were busy, and time seemed to be flying by.
An Even Bigger Surprise
I started feeling extra tired over the next couple of months, but since I was nursing a new baby and not getting great sleep at night, plus managing a business and packing to move, I didn’t think too much of it. At least, not until my mom called me one afternoon.
‘Did you know Colin was telling the school librarian that you guys are having another baby?’ My mom was the computer teacher at Colin’s elementary school.
I talked to him when he got home from school that day. ‘You know we are done having kids, right?’
‘Yeah, I know,’ he told me.
We left it at that, but when my fatigue persisted, I began to wonder. Was it possible I could be pregnant again?
My mom was helping out with the kiddos while I made a trip to the grocery store one afternoon. Lindsey and I were planning to get together for some wine the following week to celebrate my 34th birthday. ‘You know, maybe I should buy a pregnancy test,’ I thought to myself. So, I did.
In between dropping a load of groceries off at our house and picking the kids up, I took it. Within a few seconds, it was very clearly positive.
I remember thinking I should be surprised, but all I could think was, ‘It figures. You said you wanted four children, and here you go!’
Eli and I both felt overwhelmed about having another baby so soon after Preston. Not to mention, my body hadn’t had much time to recover from my third C-section, so there were a few physical concerns, as well.
After our move was finalized, at our first doctor’s appointment, we discovered I was even further along than I had previously predicted. It was already May, and this baby would be arriving in November.
This time, the summer seemed to drag on forever. Eli was working more, I was working less, and felt isolated at home with the three kiddos. It was my second year in a row being pregnant. Between less social time and not being able to run as I wanted, my mood took a hit.
My network marketing company paid for an all-inclusive trip to Hawaii for Eli and me in September, just a couple of months before baby number four was due. It turned out to be exactly what I needed to gain some perspective, get a bit of time away, adjust my mood, and cast some vision for the future.
Ethan Reuben arrived on November 29th, in all of his 9 lb. 2 oz. glory. Finally, my brain AND my heart knew our family was complete.
Worth It In The End
Now, a few years later, Preston and Ethan are the best of friends. At just 13 months apart, they have learned to do so many things together. And now that we are out of the baby phase, we are looking forward to traveling as a family. We take our first camping trip as a family of four, this coming weekend.
While I never could have predicted all of the twists and turns on this roller coaster of having four children, I truly would not change a thing. Even in the busiest (and loudest!) moments, my heart feels gratitude for our family of six. The roller coaster ride was worth every minute.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Angie Atkinson. You can follow Angie’s journey on Instagram. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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