‘I woke up at 4 a.m. and shook Logan to wake up — this was it! He handed me his spoon to use and I sobbed.’: Couple share experience with PCOS, ‘It was something I’d never even heard of’

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“When we posted our special pregnancy news back in March, a pit in my gut reminded me of those who would see it and experience heartache. I know the feeling all too well, which is why I want to share a little more detail about our journey to pregnancy.

Courtesy of Alex Jarrell

Our fun ‘we’re expecting’ announcement derived from a website I pinned in December of 2017, when we began our journey to start a family. I assumed in the coming months, we would be sharing our big news — how naive of me, looking back. Little did I know, two plus years of heartbreak would follow, as each month passed and that second pink line never appeared. Following months of failed attempts, but also a recognition of very infrequent cycles, we sought the help of a fertility specialist. The following year would include countless medication trials, treatments, assisted fertility plans, hormone supplements, three failed IUI’s and more — all met with uncertainty and disappointment. The journey consumed so much of our lives. It was exhausting, defeating, and terribly isolating. But, we never became out of touch with God and knew deep down, it was His timing, not ours.

When I was first diagnosed with PCOS, it was something I had never even heard of. I thought the doctor had to be wrong. She wasn’t. I did (and do), in fact, have mild PCOS, and learned getting pregnant would not be easy. I came to learn PCOS is quite common (1 in 10 women), although it’s not really openly discussed. I almost felt embarrassed to have a diagnosis of a hormone imbalance, so I tucked that far away from the world, while month after month our hope for success with various treatments was only met with failure.

I remember meeting Logan at the IVF office for our consultation, after the first clinic said there was nothing else they could try. He was more quiet than usual. I was involuntarily shaking, hiding it behind the clench of a folder with three pages of notes and questions. We left that appointment with a >90% chance of conceiving through IVF. Finally, a solution that could work… although, I’d heard that before with other treatments and was still skeptical. While invasive, overwhelming, and (very) expensive, it was our next step. Hand in hand, and with the support of our closest family and friends (who we could not have gone through any of this without), we took the jump into the world of IVF in October of 2019.

Courtesy of Alex Jarrell

I remember, just weeks later, looking in the mirror at my stomach — bloated and bruised from all the injections. My eyes had seemingly permanent bloodshot fragments from constantly throwing up, as a side effect of the many medications I was on. My whole body was swollen, and my ovaries were growing from the size of almonds to baseballs in mere days. I didn’t even recognize myself.

One evening, I awoke from a nap and told Logan I was going to have a bowl of cereal. He had eaten while I was asleep, and handed me his spoon to use. I sobbed. Logan’s face was full of confusion and panic as to why I was hysterically crying, laughing trying to make it stop, and telling him I loved him all in one breath. Those hormones will take you to some weird places. (I’m aware pregnancy and parenting also have a lot of hormones involved. Maybe this was my crash course.) There were hundreds of injections — some that continued through the entire first trimester. Tons of medications — one being estrogen, that I was accidentally giving Logan for days instead of the vitamin he was supposed to be taking… whoops!

Courtesy of Alex Jarrell
Courtesy of Alex Jarrell

The following night, he accidentally stabbed himself with the shot in the parking lot as we completed one of the injections, after sneaking away from a wedding. To some extent, we can laugh about the mishaps now. But I/we have never experienced more stress in our lives. The good news about IVF, is it’s typically temporary to have all of this going on.

I remember the warm liquid going through the IV into my hand prior to the egg retrieval surgery, as the army of doctors and nurses assumed their positions. I awoke to Logan, who had the softest and sweetest look on his face, holding ginger ale and pretzels for me. He whispered, ‘You’re a rock star, Al,’ and I felt such peace in that moment. The hardest part was over! But little did I know, the recovery would be worse than I expected. The nurse informed us I set a clinic record for the most eggs retrieved in an IVF cycle (74). The staff and doctors were baffled. They concluded this would be why my body felt like it was about to collapse into a million pieces at any minute in the days that followed.

Courtesy of Alex Jarrell

Due to my circumstances, the recovery was harder and longer than expected, which was frustrating as this delayed our transfer, but we just had to trust the process. We were all worried about the very real risk of OHSS (ovarian hyper-stimulation syndrome), which luckily subsided and didn’t cause more extensive damage. The immediate following days were filled with exhaustion and sickness. We lost sleep over awaiting phone calls of embryo progression, but celebrated the successes. We felt out of place receiving good news, because we both became seemingly immune to disappointment in every phone call we had in the past. These phone calls were different. Our best embryos were developing exactly as they should.

I remember our embryo transfer day. I woke up full of hope and felt God’s presence through and around me like I never have before. We arrived early on a Saturday at the clinic, and changed into the surgical clothing before the procedure. We walked into the room and the nurse said, ‘Dad, you’ll sit in that chair right there next to Mom’s head.’ Logan and I looked around in confusion as to who she was talking to, only to join the medical team in laughter that they were talking to us. That was a very surreal moment — being called Mom and Dad. Was this actually happening? The procedure was quick as we watched, on the ultrasound machine, the little flash when the embryo went from the catheter to uterus. The head embryologist cheered and said, ‘Now we let God take over.’ He was right; we had done everything we could and had renowned doctors and nurses doing what they do best. It was now up to God.

Courtesy of Alex Jarrell

A blood pregnancy test would have been scheduled 8 days later, which for us, fell on a Sunday. Bummed we would have to wait another day, our doctor told us we could, theoretically, take an early detection test at home on Day 8. Those 8 days crept by, but ‘test’ day finally arrived. I woke up at 4 a.m. and shook Logan to wake up — this was it! I took the test, covered the result window, and set a 3 minute timer. While the timer was rolling, Logan and I’s knees hit the floor beside our bed, in the most desperate prayer we have ever prayed. In an effort to protect my heart, I told myself just before we moved the little cover card, I was about to see what I had seen 100’s of times — a stark negative test.

We leaned over the test, and I quickly removed the card. I have tears streaming down my face as I type this and remember this exact moment. The moment that, not one, but two beautiful pink lines were looking back at us. I think I nearly fainted as Logan scooped me up off the ground and hollered at the top of his lungs, ‘Let’s go! Let’s go!’ We just sobbed in disbelief at what we were seeing. That morning, when the entire world around us was sleeping, we were finding out we were going to be parents after a two year wait. It’s a moment in my life I won’t ever forget. Once we collected ourselves, Logan said, ‘Al, we’re pregnant.’ That would start the incredible journey of pregnancy. Blood tests and ultrasounds in the immediate days to follow brought us even more excitement, as the fear it was too good to be true subsided.

Courtesy of Alex Jarrell

I remember seeing the heartbeat for the first time. We were right at 6 weeks pregnant, and anxiously arrived at our appointment to see the embryo for the first time since the transfer of something microscopic. The tech performed the ultrasound and immediately found what looked like a little jelly bean. She asked me to be still, and we watched the screen as she pointed to a little flicker, pulsing rapidly. She said, ‘That’s the strong, little heart beating!’ The tears poured out of my eyes, through my hair, and onto the white paper sheet I was laying on. What a moment to comprehend our baby was being kept safe in my body, and his heart was beating just like mine. ‘Congratulations, you guys. The pregnancy is moving along perfectly.’

Courtesy of Alex Jarrell

I remember hearing the heartbeat for the first time at our 8-week appointment. 165 beats per minute. When the sound came on, all Logan could do was chuckle (very loudly) in disbelief and excitement. Of course, I cried. We left that appointment with a cute little onesie graduation gift from the staff, and it was almost sad to pull away from a facility where I’d spent countless hours over the last few months, for the last time. Although their goal is for couples to ‘graduate’ from the IVF clinic ASAP, you become like family through that part of the journey.

Courtesy of Alex Jarrell

So, here we are, 20 weeks pregnant, with a baby boy named Landon on the way. Our recent anatomy scan investigated every part of his little body, only to find he is perfect — the biggest blessing during this journey, to date. While the first trimester of pregnancy was not easy, as I battled extreme fatigue and sickness, every minute has been worth it. Pregnancy has been a daily reminder of just how miraculous God can be.

Logan was and will continue to be my anchor. I couldn’t have done any of this without him. I thank God every day for blessing me with a husband who would be the reason we got through the last 2 years, and I’m confident he will be the most amazing dad to our son.

I am choosing to disclose this very intimate and personal testimony on a network full of eyes and opinions for two reasons:

1. To give those struggling with infertility some hope for success through IVF. I told myself we wouldn’t get to that phase. I pleaded with God not to make us go through it. I was afraid, and maybe even originally against the idea. But, I truly believe our path to a successful pregnancy was one meant to test our marriage, strength, and faith. I like to think our life as parents might look a little different, in a good way, having gone through the trials that come with infertility. If our story can raise awareness about the incredible success rates of IVF and how technology has advanced over the last few years, it needs to be shared. Our consultation was on September 27. Exactly 4 months later, on January 27, we graduated, following the 8 week appointment. In the spirit of transparency I mentioned, it’s not an easy journey, but I’m here to tell you it’s doable. And it is worth it.

Courtesy of Alex Jarrell

2. About a year ago, I encountered several brave women who disclosed their issues with infertility in person or on social media. Perhaps my loneliness and feelings of guilt and isolation forced me to finally get the courage to meet or message them to learn more about their struggles, and to talk about ours. I was met with more support, knowledge/resources, prayer, and love than I could have expected. I found such comfort in conversing through this journey with others who could relate. My darkest days were made better by simply confiding in others who knew exactly how infertility felt.

I’ll be the first to admit, I’m guilty of keeping our issues of infertility top secret for far too long. I abided by a stigma of silence, only to wish later I had opened up earlier in our journey to others. If you, a friend, or someone you know can relate to any part of my/our story and are quietly going through the motions, I’m asking you (or them) to allow me to be a friend, resource, confidant, and/or a story of hope. If I can help just one person, I think it outweighs the risk of vulnerability in sharing our story here.

I close this novel of a post with a final PSA: Do not ask anyone, ever, ever, ever if they want children; when they are having children; what they are ‘waiting for;’ when they are ‘giving your parents grand-kids;’ if they’ve considered adoption; if they know how the biological clock works; or anything related to these statements. Don’t respond to pregnancy announcements with, ‘It’s about time,’ or, ‘What took so long?’ It’s not fair to those struggling or who have struggled or those who have different opinions about having kids than you do, and it does more harm than good — every single time. I don’t think I can put into words how hurtful these statements can be. If you didn’t, now you know.

Lastly, I’m not suggesting I/we are victims of anything. We have friends and family who have dealt with immense loss and heartache in their lives, far beyond what we have experienced. In fact, I consider us extremely blessed, as I know the suffering and sacrifices others have experienced are immeasurable in comparison. This is simply a testimony about this particular aspect of our lives.

There it is. There is our #nofilter reality. I can’t ignore the feeling that’s been put on my heart to help others. I feel led to be there, and that’s what I intend to do. Reach out. Message, call, text. Let’s meet up (post quarantine). Pass on my info to someone who needs it. I’ll say it again; I am here. I’ll tell you more detail about what we experienced. I’ll answer any questions. I’ll pray with you. I’ll cry with you. I’ll share your journey with you. I don’t care if we know each other or not, but I want to share this burden of infertility with you, because that’s my job as a Christian. You. do. not. deserve. to. feel. alone. I promise you aren’t. Let’s change the conversation.”

Courtesy of Alex Jarrell

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Alex Jarrell, 31, of Winston-Salem, NC. You can follow her 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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