“Becoming a mother was always something I knew I wanted to be, yet I had no idea what that journey would put my husband and I through in the next five years.
We got married in May 2011 after 3 years together. My husband was a few years older than I, so we had decided we would start trying to conceive in autumn of 2011. We tried for several months and month after month, the negative line on the pregnancy test started to take its toll. After several months, we decided to look into help. We attended a meeting at a local fertility center, and were givne a free consultation as a result of us attending that info night.
A few weeks later, we sat down with a fertility doctor and unloaded our fertility story, or lack thereof, thus far. Our doctor immediately had us scheduled for blood work to help diagnose the issue behind our infertility. We agreed to the testing, but we also thought that maybe we hadn’t given this enough time yet. My husband’s test results came back pretty quickly. He had an alarmingly low sperm count. The doctor’s couldn’t figure out why, but they immediately recommended that we freeze some.
He underwent more testing and each test came back with a lower sperm count. Basically, we were told his sperm count would eventually cease to exist, and my husband was heartbroken. Our doctor told us it could have been a result from an injury, but that he really didn’t know why it was happening.
My test results came back fairly normal. Other than having irregular periods, everything else with me was healthy. They had completed a dye test to ensure my fallopian tubes were open. They had checked the lining of my uterus, and nothing was showing up as a red flag for our doctor.
In 2013, we had decided to really dive into fertility treatment. In July, we were getting ready to do IUI. We had been trying to conceive for nearly two years, and we were hoping science would be on our side. I went in for blood work on a Wednesday just to make sure I was in the clear for IUI which was planned for the following week. On July 24th 2013, I received a call from my fertility center. It was one of our nurses telling me I was pregnant! I was quiet for a minute and even remember asking her, ‘This is Danielle Jones. I know it’s a common name, are you sure you have the right, Danielle?’ She laughed, assuring me I was indeed pregnant.
She scheduled an appointment for an ultrasound a few days later. I left work and ran home to wake my husband up to tell him. It was so surreal. Our doctor had told us that we would probably never conceive naturally. We cried together. Our first was born in March of 2014.
When our son was 6 months old, we agreed we should start trying again. We knew it could be a long process again, and we didn’t want to have several years between our children. Fertility treatment is not covered by our insurance company, so we had to come up with thousands of dollars for treatment, which was really difficult.
That spring, we started the process for IVF. In preparation for it, I underwent weeks of tests, ultrasounds, and medications. The official start of IVF was day one of my cycle and my doctor prescribed hormone medication to help stimulate the follicles in my ovaries to produce eggs. This medication boosts the already natural levels to encourage the eggs to develop. During that process, there are ultrasounds to check the size and quantities of the eggs, and once there are enough produced at the desired size, our doctors did an egg retrieval. It was uncomfortable.
A needle is guided into each ovary to retrieve the eggs. I was awake because anesthesia scares me, so I remember laying in the room, similar to an operating room. I could feel the pressure from the procedure. My doctor was able to retrieve 22 eggs. From there, they took some of my husband’s sperm and introduced them to the sperm where they are then fertilized.
Our embryo transfer was the day before the 4th of July in 2016. We visited family for the 4th of July, and I remember I was throwing my two year old in the air, forgetting that my doctor had mentioned not lifting anything heavy. We enjoyed the day, but I did feel a bit more crampy. A few days later, we went to the clinic for a blood draw. We were devasted to learn that IVF had failed. I had failed. My body had failed. I thought back to the fun my son and I were having on the 4th of July, and I cried knowing I had probably caused IVF to fail. I blamed myself, and I apologized profusely to my husband who assured me that IVF isn’t guaranteed.
For a few months, my husband and I had decided to let my body heal. The hormones, shots, and procedures had taken a toll on my body. In October of that year, we decided we would give FET a try. It’s a less invasive and involved procedure, and it was less expensive. You see, in Michigan, insurance companies are not required to cover fertility treatment, so we were paying thousands and thousands of dollars out of pocket. We started with the hormone shots and procedures in the end of October. Our FET (frozen embryo transfer) was scheduled for the beginning of November.
It was seamless, and I rested much more following the procedure. A few days later, I decided to take a pregnancy test. It said ‘PREGNANT.’ I took several more throughout the morning. My husband was at work, but I couldn’t wait to tell him. FET had worked and we were pregnant again! It was the day of our city’s holiday parade, and I remember sitting on the curb watching the floats go by as my son sat on my lap. I was so happy in that moment!
A few days later, following blood work, it was determined… we were miscarrying. I got the call as my husband was at work, and he hurried home. I was devastated. My body had failed me again. I lost our child. Again, I apologized. I remember even telling my husband to leave me because my body had failed us. That miscarriage broke my heart more than I can ever fully describe. I told my husband I needed to stop treatment. I had bruises from the shots, and my body was physically exhausted. We came to terms with the realization that we might only have one child. We couldn’t afford additional treatment, so we gave up.
Mid-January, I came down with a bad cold. I had gone to the doctor to get medication but within a few days I was nauseous and felt worse. I chalked it up to a reaction to the medication, but something convinced me to take a pregnancy test. I did, and to my shock is said ‘pregnant,’ but I wasn’t convinced. I called my doctor to explain the test. She asked me when my last period was, but I told her I never had one following the miscarriage. She told me to come in for blood work, which I did right away.
On my way home, I stopped to grab additional tests. I took them once I got home, and they too said ‘pregnant.’ Still, I was convinced. I called my doctor back again, and I told her I had taken additional ones and that they also came back positive. I asked her if the medication I was on could provide a positive test. She laughed, ‘Danielle, you’re pregnant. You’re, like, really pregnant. Your HCG level is 18,000.’ I was stunned.
How could someone get pregnant TWICE when she wasn’t supposed to naturally??? An ultrasound only a few hours later confirmed the news. How was I nearly EIGHT weeks pregnant? Had I even miscarried? There was barely enough time for my body to naturally miscarry to the time I supposedly conceived. We were so happy, but also so angry. We had spent thousands of dollars on fertility treatment only to conceive twice, naturally. We had our second son in August of 2017, and after a short stint in NICU, he was home.
Fall of 2018, we decided we were done having children. We were faced with the decision of determining what we would do with our remaining embryos. We had six that were still frozen. Our clinic wouldn’t let us donate them because it was determined we carry a gene that causes deafness. Our youngest was born deaf, but he’s a rockstar. After asking for our family’s blessing to look into donating our embryos, we started looking more into what embryo donation entailed.
We asked ourselves if our hearts could handle this, and we came to the conclusion that instead of keeping our embryos frozen without giving them an opportunity to be more, we wanted to find a deserving family who struggled with infertility. On a Friday afternoon, I created a profile on a Facebook Support Group for Embryo Adoption and Donation to share our story in hopes of matching with a deserving family. I didn’t expect a lot, because I knew those remaining embryos carried a 25% chance of being born deaf. Within hours, we had EIGHT families interested in learning more about us.
We narrowed it down to two families and ultimately, we chose a family who we felt were perfect. They had a son who they conceived naturally, but they had been dealing with secondary infertility for years. Kate teaches preschool for children with hearing loss, and her husband, Seth, is a pastor. We just felt that their background would make them capable of anything this experience would throw their way.
If any of the embryos resulted in a pregnancy and a child was born with hearing loss, I didn’t want that family to feel like that child was a burden to them. I knew in my heart that Kate and her family would love them with or without hearing loss. They were put in our path for a reason!
We scheduled a phone call to talk, and after nearly two hours, we knew they were the ones! My husband and I agreed it felt like we were long-lost friends, so we chose them to receive our embryos. For the next several weeks, we wrote up an agreement with an attorney to finalize the embryo donation and adoption and when it came time to sign away my parental rights, I thought I would really struggle. Fortunately, I didn’t because I knew in my heart that we had made the best decision.
Just like that, our six remaining embryos were transferred to Kate and her husband. In August of 2018, Kate and her husband, Seth, came to Michigan to undergo FET with the same doctor and at the exact clinic we had our procedures at. We prayed for them that the procedure would work. To all of our amazement, the procedure was a success, so much so, that they were pregnant with twins!
They had transferred two of the six. I remember being in shock, because I was always told by our doctors that our chances of having twins was so high because I was a twin and the fertility treatment tended to increase our chances of multiples. At first I was a little sad, I think only out of jealously, but we were so incredibly happy for them that it worked.
When they shared the video of them sharing the news with their son, my heart melted. He was going to be an amazing big brother to these twins. The further along in the pregnancy they got, the more at ease I found myself, but I was in for one more shock. The twins were GIRLS! I couldn’t believe it. I have a twin sister and an older sister, and we all had boys!
They twins were born in May of 2019 and share a birthday with my brother-in-law. They both passed their initial hearing screens, and I cried happy tears! When I look at pictures of the girls, it amazes me how one resembles one of my boys and the other resembles my other son. We have a great relationship with Kate and her family. She shares updates with us along with photos.
They are so incredibly grateful to us, but we are also so grateful. They are so amazing, and we couldn’t have found a better family. They still have four remaining embryos and as Kate shared with their family and friends along their journey, ‘At this point, we are planning to use all six embryos. We want to keep as many genetic siblings together as possible. While it’s definitely a bit scary to think about growing our family by 6 (or more if any of the embryos split!), we trust the Lord’s plan for our family. If, by some chance, we decide not to use all six of the embryos, we will return them to our donors so they can choose who else they would like to donate them to.’ We’re so excited for them to see what their future will look like as they continue to grow their family.
Embryo donation isn’t for everyone. It was certainly right for us, but there are some who do not understand how we could just give ‘our children’ away, and it breaks my heart that people see it as that. We gave the gift of life to embryos that were otherwise lying frozen in a freezer.
We donated them to a family who was deserving and so faithful. We have had some judge us negatively for our decision, but my advice would be that family doesn’t always have to be blood. Those girls are loved by their mother, father, and brother. Even though they do not share blood, they are 100% their daughters. We have an open/semi-open relationship, so we will continue to see pictures and receive occasional updates from the family. Kate and I are even friends on Facebook, and we communicate fairly often.
I pray that those who are struggling with infertility have faith. It’s a journey I do not wish on anyone, but I pray they know that they aren’t alone. I pray that those who constantly ask friends or family when they are planning on having a family, keep in mind that maybe they’re already trying, but maybe they’re experiencing infertility. Be mindful of that. Show compassion. There are so many ways to have a family, and although it might not be the way one originally intended, it’s my honest opinion that things work out exactly the way they are supposed to turn out.
Kate and her family were supposed to cross paths with my family. They were supposed to be those twin’s mother and father. We were supposed to be friends. We will forever be linked, and I’m so blessed by that.”
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This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Danielle Jones. You can follow her journey on her blog. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.
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