“For as long as I can remember I’ve been a planner. I mean, I plan everything. I refuse to go to a restaurant if I can’t look up the menu and plan my meal in advance. I’m not sure when this started, but I recall that even as a young girl I had my entire life planned out. Graduate high school and college, get a nursing degree, get married, have at least two kids, and then live happily ever after. Boom, perfect.
Sure enough, I checked every box off my list in perfect order. Life was good, great even! Then, I received the diagnosis.
I met my husband the summer going into my junior year of college through a mutual friend. He was attractive, funny, and smart. It was all over from there. Nine months later, at just twenty years old, we were engaged, and nine months after that we were married – honeymooning for our final spring break.
We both loved to travel and between the two of us had covered most of the globe. I was twenty-one when we got married so I knew kids would be a way down the road. Over the next few years, we moved a couple of times and traveled a bunch.
I’ll never forget our trip to London and Paris in 2014. That is when we decided to try having kids. And to my husband’s joy, try we did. I had been on birth control and had read it could take your hormones a few months to regulate once you come off it. Fair enough. But while I wasn’t worried the first few months, I am a compulsive planner and researcher. So, I bought all the books on trying to conceive. I charted my cycles religiously and checked my temperature every morning.
Toward the end of this time, I went for my yearly physical and was told I have hypothyroidism. Maybe this was the reason why it was taking so long to get pregnant? A few months and a bunch of pills later, my thyroid levels were under control. We continued trying for a few more months, and nothing.
This is the magic amount of time couples are told to try to conceive naturally before seeing a specialist. I didn’t have any friends struggling to get pregnant, so I had nobody to ask for a referral. After confiding in a co-worker, I was introduced to a fellow nurse who was also struggling. She recommended a local reproductive endocrinologist.
If you can believe it, in 2015 there really wasn’t much information on the internet regarding fertility and IVF. There were your typical blogs, but a lot of that information is wildly inaccurate. The smartest move was to trust the doctor and his recommendations.
We did all the standard testing: Hormonal blood work, semen analysis, and a good old hysterosalpingogram (a procedure where they flush dye through your fallopian tubes to check if they are open). I pray you never have to have this procedure because it hurts.
My husband and I always received good grades and we aced these tests just the same. Everything looked great! This was unfortunately awful news because it reverted us back to square one with no problem to solve. The diagnosis for a perfectly healthy couple unable to conceive is called ‘Unexplained Infertility’ and it affects 30% of women with infertility.
After a year of monthly disappointments, we wanted a solution NOW. We wanted a baby NOW. It seemed that every one of our friends was getting pregnant, popping out babies. And no matter how much we loved them and were happy for them, the reality is it hurts to see genuine joy denied to you present in others. So, our options were to try diets, yoga, supplements, medications, and continue to try naturally or jump into fertility treatments. We opted for the latter because we wanted a baby NOW.
There are many misconceptions about fertility treatments but the biggest one is that it’s a magic fix to your problem. I was so naïve when we first started the process. I thought, ‘Goodness this is a lot of money, but it will be worth it since we will definitely have a baby.’
We started with IUI because it cost a lot less compared to IVF. There were a lot of appointments involved. I was having to rush and get an ultrasound during my lunch break at work every other day or so. With a success rate of 10- 20%, we shouldn’t have been surprised when our IUI failed, but we were, and it hurt. And so, we decided to stop screwing around and pull out the big gun – IVF – since it had a 40% chance of working.
Four years later it all remains a blur, but there were a lot of appointments, a LOT of medications including injections which I administered (stabbed) to myself every day. Our first IVF left us with three embryos. We transferred two on day three and froze the last. That transfer ended in a failed chemical pregnancy and my doctor recommended we do another egg retrieval, so we weren’t relying on that last embryo alone. We were devastated. Another $20K down the drain. Which, I should mention, was entirely out of pocket. Before diving in, I needed to take a few months off to recover from the mental fatigue. In May 2016, we did our second egg retrieval. This time we got five embryos. We again transferred two on day three and froze the last three (which gave us a total of four embryos in the freezer).
The transfer worked. Since then, every single day, I appreciate that our son is a miracle in every sense of the word. Listening to him play with his father in the other room while I write this makes it difficult to recall any sadness or difficulties at all. For years, I had dreamed of being pregnant and rocking that baby bump. My pregnancy was a dream. I had no complications or any of those side effects people complain about. Some mild nausea at the beginning, sure, but it was tolerable and so worth it. I miss being pregnant so much. I loved my bump and dressing in cute outfits to accentuate it. I’m so thankful my pregnancy was easy because my delivery was not. The kid was a giant (nine pounds!) and required me to have an emergency C-Section. Again, well worth it.
Nine months later, and just one week after moving clear across the country, I found myself in an Uber heading to the local emergency room. I had never been to the ER before as a patient but after blacking out twice at home from abdominal pain it seemed like a smart idea. Being a nurse, I diagnosed myself as suffering a gallbladder attack and packed my bag knowing I was going to have surgery that night. Incorrect diagnosis but correct on the surgery prediction.
I was triaged in the ER and all my vitals were stable. I’m sure they thought I was a drug addict looking for pain medication. After blood work and a urinalysis, a nurse came out to get me from the waiting room.
‘Did you know you are pregnant?’ she said. Umm…what?
The six hours I spent on a stretcher in the back hallway were a blur. Somewhere in that time, I was diagnosed with an ectopic pregnancy which most likely ruptured during the ultrasound because OUCH! At midnight, I was rushed into emergency surgery where they removed one of my tubes plus one liter of blood that was sloshing around my abdomen. Good news, I learned I could in fact get pregnant naturally. Bad news, I am now down a tube. I still have PTSD from my ectopic. I had no signs or symptoms until it was almost too late.
Remember back in the beginning of this saga when I said I like to plan everything? Multiple kids were on that list, evenly spaced two years apart. The ‘perfect’ age gap. They say history repeats itself, but let me spare you some repetition and hit you with the high-level:
We began with 4 frozen embryos. In December 2018, a transfer failed. 3 embryos left. In January 2019, another transfer failed. 2 embryos left. In March 2019, a third transfer worked…until I miscarried at seven weeks. 1 embryo left. This failure came with two bonus surgeries! The first a D&C and the second for a polyp they found after the D&C.
Thankfully my husband’s insurance covered treatments this time, so a silver lining was when we hit our out of pocket max in August 2019. So, with treatments now ‘free,’ we decided to do another round of IVF. It was almost a total failure – a ton more injections and only one embryo. But that pushed our remaining embryo total back to two. We did a day five fresh transfer which failed. 1 embryo left…again. In December 2019 we transferred our fifth embryo that year.
We found out we were pregnant on Christmas Day. A second miracle. At seven weeks we saw the heartbeat and then the next week we didn’t. Another D&C was scheduled. Our dream was shattered in an instant.
Primary and secondary infertility is painful in their own way. I am forever grateful for my son and my heart aches for those longing to have just one child. I’m also an only child and know how lonely that can be. I don’t want that for my son. I’ve always wanted – and planned for – a big family. But some things are just out of our control.
After my miscarriage, I took the time to grieve. COVID hit shortly after and I used quarantine as an excuse to sit in that grief. A couple of weeks in I realized none of that was helping and I was miserable. So, I decided to do something about it. I started working out, journaling, practicing gratitude, reading scripture, and praying. Strengthening my faith and hope is what eventually helped put my broken pieces back together.
As of right now, I am done with fertility treatments. Having to tote my toddler over seventy (I counted) appointments in 2019 was a lot. Once, during bedtime prayers, he said, ‘Mommy, no more doctors,’ which absolutely broke my heart. I decided to stop treatments, but I’ll never stop hoping. I believe I have another miracle coming my way. Some days are harder than others but I’m thankful for my support system and fellow infertility warriors.
After six years I finally got the courage to share my story publicly on Instagram. My hope is that my pain and grief could potentially help someone else on their journey. I just turned thirty-three and am so proud of where I am after all I have been through. But I’m even more excited about where I am going.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Christie Demmler of Tampa, Florida. You can follow her journey here. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
Read more stories like this:
Please SHARE to help educate others about the grieving process, and the kind of support it takes to help heal.