‘Did it work?’ I didn’t say anything. I just put my head down, knowing our dream was over.’: Couple battling infertility pursue embryo adoption, ‘We’re so grateful for this journey’

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“’There is a .02% chance you will be able to have your own genetic children.’ Those were the words we heard after over a year of trying, countless ovulation tests, and even a few surgeries. Oh, and yes…we tried the ‘just relax… it will happen’ method. If you don’t know already, that is the WORST advice you can give to a couple who is desperately trying to have a baby.

If you know me, you know I’ve always wanted to be a mom. Not just a mom, but a young mom. Get married young and then have babies right away. I checked off the ‘get married’ box pretty quick. Right away, we decided we would start trying for a baby, and if it happened, great! Time started to pass, months went by, and boxes of negative pregnancy tests started to pile up in the garbage. The first few months that went by, I didn’t think too much about it. I figured maybe it was my body getting rid of the years of birth control I took. But when those months turned into a year, we started to wonder if it was something more. When people would ask us when we wanted kids, I would casually shrug it off and say, ‘We’re waiting awhile.’ In the back of my head, I think I had already convinced myself there was a much larger issue.

Courtesy of Kate Knapton

At my yearly exam with my doctor, I discussed with her what was going on and what our next steps should be. She informed me we could go in to get tested to see if there were other issues. She told me having my husband go in first to rule him out would be easiest, because it was less invasive than what I would have to do. So, I talked with my husband, and every month, it would be the same routine. Tell my husband if we get another negative pregnancy test this month, then he would have to go see if there was something more going on. And that’s what would happen. Negative pregnancy test. Tell my husband he should go in. And we never made that appointment.

Courtesy of Kate Knapton

A few more months went by, and FINALLY, I made an appointment for him. We sat in the doctor’s office on Valentine’s Day (how sweet, right?), and we were told the chances of having children were low, and if we were able to, we would have to do in vitro fertilization (IVF). We decided to throw a Hail Mary and he would have surgery to see if IVF was an option for us. My husband had his surgery and I’ll never forget that day. The doctor pulled me into a room and told me the surgery wasn’t successful, and there was a ‘.02% chance for genetic children.’ When I went to see my husband, he was coming out of anesthesia, and the first thing he did was look at me, and ask, ‘Did it work?’ I didn’t have to say anything. I just put my head down, and we both just hugged each other, knowing our dream of having children was over.

We took some time to fully wrap our heads around the news we were given. Yes, we found out that day genetic children were not an option, but there are many other ways to have a family. We met with our doctor and discussed what path we would take. Our options were traditional adoption, donor sperm, and donor embryos. I knew I wanted to carry a baby and be able to experience pregnancy, which means we were down to donor sperm or donor embryos. I was familiar with donor sperm, but I was not at all familiar with donor embryos. There are about 1,000,000 frozen embryos in the United States alone from couples who went through IVF and are storing their remaining embryos. When a couple has completed their family, they have the option to donate their remaining embryos to a family like us— unable to have genetic children. When we heard this option, we knew right away this was the right option for us. We finally felt like we were on the path to becoming parents.

In August 2017, we had our first frozen embryo transfer (FET) with two, anonymously donated embryos through our fertility clinic. We were so excited and were convinced we were pregnant with twins. I started planning our life with two babies. We had been through enough, there’s no way this wouldn’t work. Oh… was I naive. I began taking pregnancy tests 5 days after my FET, and they were coming up positive. The line never really got dark like I had imagined it would. But again, I was naive. As the saying goes, a line is a line, so yup. Positive! But in the infertility world, you get sucked into the POAS addiction. What’s POAS? Pee. On. A. Stick. ADDICTION. You go down this rabbit hole of holding your pee to make sure it’s concentrated enough and using five different kinds of pregnancy tests. Oh! But not the blue dye ones because those never show an early positive line. Then, you do it all over again the next day. Pee. Test. Wait. Is that a squinter I see? Did I let it dry long enough? The questions and analyses of these expensive sticks go on and on and on. It’s exhausting.

Courtesy of Kate Knapton

Needless to say, I went in for bloodwork and my levels were too low. I wasn’t pregnant, and I was devastated. Laying in the bathroom, emo music blaring, in my towel, bawling. I didn’t know how I was going to get through this. With our clinic’s embryo adoption program, you only got one chance at the bank of embryos they had, because they wanted to be sure to give everyone an equal chance. We were back at square one. Actually, I wouldn’t even say square one because we had no idea where we would go next.

I began spiraling. I was desperate for any baby at this point. I even contacted the local animal shelter to see if they had any kittens that needed a foster home. Literally, grasping at straws. When we found out we would be going through embryo donation adoption, I found a few Facebook groups to join with people who were going through the exact same thing. One thing my husband and I really struggled with was going through this alone and having no one who could relate. Both of our families and friends were extremely supportive, but no one had dealt with not being able to have their own genetic children. This was uncharted territory for us. One Facebook group in specific saved me. It was a group of 1,000 women going through exactly what I was. They could relate, answer questions, listen to me vent, and lift me up when I needed. This group also gave us something we couldn’t get on our own, babies.

Courtesy of Kate Knapton

In this group, they have a section dedicated to couples who are ready to donate their embryos. They were done with their family, and ready to donate their embryos to a family to give them a shot at life. I contacted the only profile that was up. A couple who had gone through IVF using donor eggs and the husband’s sperm. They had six embryos left after they used one embryo to have their beautiful daughter. I messaged her right away, asking if she had already found a recipient for the embryos, remember I was still spiraling at this point, and she responded with: ‘Yes we did. I’m sorry I haven’t updated the post yet.’ My heart sank knowing another option may be out the window.

The next day, I woke up to a message saying: ‘Hi Kate, I would like to speak with you if you have time.’ What could she possibly want? She said the embryos were already donated. I messaged back to see what it was about. She responded with, ‘the embryos.’ Whoa whoa whoa, in my mind I had already closed that chapter and was ready to find another way to adopt embryos. She explained she would like to donate the remaining embryos to us if we would still like. I called her, and we chatted for a bit. She told me they had been searching for a family they connected with and felt comfortable giving their embryos to. They ended up not finding a couple and had signed the embryos to be destroyed— another option couples can choose to do with their remaining embryos. After I had messaged her the day before, she looked at my profile and felt an instant connection. She said she called the storage facility and asked them not to destroy them because she found a family. I couldn’t believe we were being offered six embryos in hopes of starting our family. After 3 months of legal contracts, psych appointments, and shipping these precious cells over 800 miles to our clinic, we were ready to give this another go!

Courtesy of Kate Knapton

In December 2017, we did another FET. This time around, I was preparing for the worst. It didn’t work the first time, so I didn’t want to get my hopes up. That’s one thing you do when you are going through infertility, hope for the best but prepare for the worst. On December 23, my POAS addiction was back in full force. I wanted to know before Christmas if this had worked. I took a test before we headed to a Green Bay Packers game to know whether I should indulge in an adult beverage or not. I did my usual— pee, test, wait, and assumed it would be negative. Except this time, it wasn’t. There was a nice line and no denying it. I told my husband and we went through the holidays cautiously optimistic. After my first blood draw, I had a very high hCG number and it continued to double like it should. The further along I got, my anxiety never went away. I worried through my entire pregnancy this little baby would be taken away from me. But it wasn’t. In September 2018, we welcomed a beautiful baby girl, Josephine. She was pure perfection and had the sweetest dimples I ever saw.

Courtesy of Kate Knapton

In August 2019, we decided to try and give our JoJo a sibling. We had another FET and again, it didn’t work. This time around, I was prepared for that, and we went back to back. We transferred again in October 2019 and found out we would be expecting a baby boy in July 2020. We welcomed our son, Bennett, and he too had those two dimples that are to die for.

Brooke Retherford Photography

I spent my whole life, up until that day we were told we have a .02% chance of having genetic children, wondering what features my babies would have. Would they have my defined chin? Or be short like me? Or maybe they would have my blue eyes? I couldn’t wait to compare our baby pictures with our babies. Except for us, that wouldn’t happen. I often hear our sweet babes look like us. But they don’t, they look like themselves and they are beautiful. We fell in love with memorizing their features, like JoJo’s gorgeous brown eyes, or Benny’s sweet button nose, or the fact they both have the sweetest dimples, one on each cheek. We stopped looking for our own.

Chassey Bayer Photography

If you are going through infertility, I can say with deep confidence one day this journey will make sense. As hard as it can be, I always remember without infertility, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I wouldn’t have my two little babes I love so much it hurts. I wouldn’t be the determined woman I have grown into. I wouldn’t have the empathy I have for others who struggle with this. I wouldn’t have the strong marriage I have today. I wouldn’t be me.

So yes, you will have bad days. You will have days you can’t even get out of bed and face that day. You will wonder if you will ever be a mother, and maybe, at times, even question if you should give up. But I’m here to say, you will look back one day and be so grateful for this journey, wherever it takes you. This is YOUR journey, one different from anyone else’s. Our journey wasn’t easy. Hell, it still isn’t easy now, but when these two babies came into our lives, the pieces of our broken hearts all fell back into place, and life was so much sweeter.”

Courtesy of Kate Knapton

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Kate Knapton from Austin, Texas. You can follow her journey on  Instagram and website. 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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