Trigger Warning: This story includes details of child loss that may be triggering to some.
“After we were married in 2013, Jeffrey and I began trying for a family. To be honest, for a few years prior to this, we weren’t preventing anything either but we never fell pregnant. In hindsight, that probably was a sign itself for the difficulty in conceiving in the following years. I was never diagnosed with any fertility issues. But I believe my disordered eating and obsessive exercise caused havoc on my reproductive health. It would take almost 7 years before we got to meet our earthside baby… make that, babies!
Although we were actively ‘trying’ for less than a year, the obstetrician at the time prescribed Clomifene, otherwise known as Clomid. This medication turned me into a hormonal, emotional woman and we fell pregnant once. This resulted in an early miscarriage. The following month, I was prescribed Puregon and we fell pregnant again, but I didn’t know it. We were on the 6-hour drive home from the city and all of a sudden, I was experiencing excruciating pain. I thought I was going to pass out! I ended up passing a clot the size of my open palm. The doctor sent me to have my HCG levels tested, which led to the discovery it was a miscarriage. Back then, I never thought of doing a pregnancy test before my periods were due. Although my cycles ranged from 27 to 42 days, I only did a pregnancy test if I was really late… often resulting in a Big Fat No. After that, I decided I simply couldn’t cope with all the hormonal fertility medications, so Jeffrey and I decided to just let fate decide. If we fell pregnant naturally, then great!
Almost 2 years went by and we had planned an exciting holiday to Japan. I was at the gym one day when a good friend commented on the increased size of my breasts… I just laughed it off and assumed it was weight gain. I was at work the following day and realized my period was actually quite late. I decided to do a pregnancy test. Immediately, there was a stark white line and I just shrugged it off. I left it in the dirty utility room. Later on in the day, as my shift ended, I suddenly remembered I had the test sitting on the bench. I went to discard it and to my absolute surprise, there was a definite line there. Back then, I never knew about evaporation lines. I dropped by my local pharmacy on the way home and bought First Response pregnancy tests. They were positive. I was definitely pregnant! I was cautiously excited and booked a GP appointment for official blood tests.
I managed to squeeze in two second-daily betas before our holiday and fortunately, my HCG levels were increasing as they should be. We left for Japan about a week later after debating whether travel was a good idea. I had also packed packets of pregnancy tests to make sure my lines were getting darker. Just before boarding, I went to the bathroom and saw bright red spotting, which went away as fast as it came. No clotting. No pain or cramps. Day by day, I tried to enjoy our trip, but I obsessively checked my underwear for spotting more often than not. Around 6 weeks gestation, I was getting ready to shower and noticed some brown spotting. I broke down in tears. I frantically messaged my close midwife friends and scrolled Google for hours to read for positive stories. There was no spotting after that. I felt slightly reassured because I still had all the usual pregnancy symptoms like nausea, food cravings, specifically Red Rock Deli salt and vinegar chips, and I felt extremely tired.
When we arrived back home, I couldn’t squeeze into my local obstetrician at the time for a couple of weeks. Jeffrey and I decided to stay in the city and have a private ultrasound at 8 weeks gestation. I was an anxious wreck and I began to feel deep down there was something wrong. I remember the radiographer putting the probe on my abdomen and having a puzzled look at her face before asking me to go and empty my bladder before she did a transvaginal ultrasound. She constantly asked me, ‘Are you sure your dates are right?’ The radiologist came in and once again, asked me the same questions before taking us into her office. She explained we had a missed miscarriage, considering the dates were so out of place. I held it together. She had tears in her eyes as she told us this.
We walked out of her office into the waiting room and saw it was FULL of pregnant women rubbing their bellies and smiling. I broke down. Jeff broke down too and let me tell you, seeing my husband in such a state shattered me into a million pieces. We didn’t even pay for our appointment at the time, as the receptionists gently guided us out and said they’d send us the invoice later. We decided to go for a sushi date because I hadn’t eaten, and I cried again in the shopping center because no joke, the universe punched us in the guts. We were surrounded by new mothers with their babies and even more pregnant women.
The following week, my body still had not recognized the pregnancy wasn’t viable. I had an ultrasound with my local obstetrician, who gave me the option of naturally miscarrying with the assistance of Misoprostol, or receiving a D&C procedure. I chose the latter as I wanted it over and done with so I could move on. In hindsight, I wonder why the obstetrician didn’t send samples away for chromosomal testing. At our following appointment a week later, he asked us if we ever had karyotype testing and because we hadn’t, he organized it.
The wait for results felt like forever! My results came back normal, but Jeffrey’s came back with a balanced translocation of chromosomes two and seven. This may have been the issue all along. My obstetrician at the time seemed to know everyone in the fertility field, including our future fertility specialist (FS). This appointment was a 3-month wait.
After we met our FS in the city, we decided to go ahead with IVF and ICSI to do Pre Genetic Screening (PGS). This gave us a much higher chance of success, as the embryos would be deemed to be normal, abnormal, or mosaic. We would transfer the normal ones. Part of the process included seeing a psychologist and a genetic counselor. Weeks went by before we went back to the city to see both of them, although we were accidentally appointed with a geneticist instead. He explained to us everything we needed to know about balanced translocations and actually gave us a 95% chance of having a live, healthy baby. But that was IF we conceived naturally. Jeffrey and I, at this stage, felt impatient and decided to go ahead anyway.
Our first IVF cycle in March of 2018 resulted in nine eggs collected. Seven were mature and five fertilized overnight. We only ended up with one blastocyst, which sadly degenerated during the thaw for PGS. Our second cycle, in May 2018, resulted in 19 eggs collected with 16 mature and 14 fertilized. Five embryos were sent off for PGS. It was an anxious week and a half before we received the results and although I was disappointed, I was reassured we had great results: three normal and one mosaic embryo.
We transferred a normal, grade-one embryo via an HRT, hormone replacement therapy, and FET, frozen embryo transfer. Much to our delight, it implanted! I felt so lucky and grateful for our first transfer. This was it, this embryo was going to be our earth-side baby. It had to be, right? I mean, it was the ‘perfect’ embryo. Day after day, I did so many pregnancy tests to ensure my lines were darker, I could have invested with First Response! My HCG on the beta day came back as 67. I was disappointed, but always felt reassured by the wonderful fertility nurses and fellow IVF warriors that it was about the doubling of the numbers. My levels were doubling but nothing amazing happened.
At around 6 weeks, we were driving home from my in-law’s house and I felt a gush between my legs. At home, I ran to the bathroom and I felt my heart shatter when I saw pink spotting. Then it was more than spotting. I was on the phone with the fertility nurses, as well as my new local obstetrician, who fit me in straight away for a bedside scan that same afternoon. My heart broke into a million pieces again. It was like a dagger that couldn’t be pulled out. There wasn’t a heartbeat.
I grieved and grieved and grieved. I was angry at everything. Why me? Not just once, but three times. We went back the following week for another scan to check if, by chance, a miracle had occurred. Still no heartbeat. The sac had grown and there was a fetal pole as seen during the previous week. I chose to have a D&C because I simply did not want this lifeless remnant in me. I was sad, heartbroken, angry, and jealous. Jealous of all the lucky mothers I knew who had a baby or three during the whole time we were trying for one. We had that embryo sent off to have chromosome testing done and he… a little boy we could’ve held in our arms but for some reason, couldn’t… came back ‘normal.’ If I could go back in time, I think I would have waited an extra week just to make sure that the pregnancy definitely wasn’t viable.
We met with the FS again and he suggested I have a saline sonohysterogram to detect potential uterine abnormalities. Around this time, my baby sister was so unwell we almost lost her to SARS. She was in rehab for almost 6 months. I flew back to the city to spend some time with her and then managed to get an appointment. The doctor and the radiographer struggled to get the catheter past my cervix and I almost passed out from the pain. She couldn’t complete the procedure. I was away from Jeffrey and wished more then anything to have him with me at the time. I remember standing up to go to the bathroom, seeing so much blood between my legs, and then walking outside to the Uber waiting for me to take me to the hospital to see my sister. I was in shock. Traumatized was an understatement.
Once again, we saw the FS and this time he suggested a hysteroscopy and a D&C if it was deemed necessary. It turned out I had three uterine polyps, which were removed as well as endometrial ablation. I was advised to wait 3 months for my lining to be optimal prior to our next embryo transfer. We patiently waited and when the 3 months were over, we commenced the medications for our next FET.
I had never had uterine lining issues, but after my hysteroscopy and ablation, I struggled to get to the ideal size and often had to continue some of the medications for longer. I was impatient and in hindsight, I wish I had let my body heal longer and better yet, listened to my body. This happened for two FETs which resulted in more Big Fat NOs. By now, I was just depressed and just didn’t know how much more my body could handle. But you know what? I was determined to keep going and would do whatever it took to hold our baby in my arms.
At this stage, we had no more frozen embryos, so we went ahead with another stimulation cycle in May 2019. This resulted in ten eggs collected. Our following embryo transfer was another no. As you can imagine, I was well and truly disheartened and at the point of giving up. I remember being on the phone with one of the fertility nurses for almost an hour in an emotional state, wondering what I should do. My body was either rejecting these normal, well-graded embryos or they weren’t implanting for some reason. We booked an appointment with the FS and I kindly demanded every single test I knew of at the time, but we didn’t actually go ahead with these tests. I also suggested a double embryo transfer. However, he didn’t recommend it as the chance of both PGS embryos implanting was high. I could end up with multiples, becoming a high-risk pregnancy. We accepted the new plan for a single embryo transfer and patiently waited for my period. I also sought the assistance of a fertility naturopath.
Another sad life event occurred at this time. We lost both my beloved grandfathers in unrelated incidents. Two beautiful souls left this earth and not long after, two beautiful souls would join us. Jeffrey and I never tried to conceive naturally before transfers or around ovulation, as we didn’t want to risk conceiving in case there were chromosome issues. In fact, we rarely did the deed from day one of my period until the transfer and definitely never after each transfer, as I didn’t want to risk anything affecting implantation. This cycle, we didn’t do the deed for almost 2 weeks before my period, as I simply wasn’t in the mood. We went ahead to our fifth transfer and for the first time in a long time, I felt optimistic. We saw the embryo on the screen and I remember squealing at how ‘cute’ it was, as it had almost fully hatched. Jeffrey and I remember laughing with the doctor after he said, ‘This looks like two embryos, but there is definitely only one.’ We joked, ‘Gosh, imagine if we had twins.’
During this cycle, I had initially decided not to do a pregnancy test at home, but I failed and peed on a stick. The faintest line showed up! My heart was beating so fast. Was this the trigger still? Am I really pregnant? Argh, why did I test!? The obsession with watching my lines get darker with numerous tests for the following days began. They got darker and darker which was reassuring, but I began to spot, which eventually turned to actual bleeds.
The anxious wait for my beta was the longest wait of my life and it came back as 218. Between the clinic’s weekly betas and my obstetrician’s betas, my HCG was doubling nicely, however, there were daily bleeds. I went to my dating scan with Jeffrey an emotional wreck, crippled with sciatic pain. My obstetrician told me to jump straight on the bed, as it was pointless doing my blood pressure when I was so worked up. She did a transabdominal ultrasound and I could see just blankness on the screen.
Sadly, I said, ‘Here we go again.’ As soon as the probe was inserted, I knew something didn’t look right on the screen. I’d seen the screen countless times but this time… this time it was different! The obstetrician simply said, ‘No wonder your levels were so high… there’s two.’ I still remember this day like it was yesterday.
I continued bleeding until 14 and a half weeks, including three significant hemorrhages. I am not going to lie, I was an anxious wreck the entire time. I spent the rest of my pregnancy constantly checking my undies for any spotting or bleeding. Additionally, during this pregnancy, I didn’t actually experience the typical morning sickness or nausea like my other pregnancies. They say once you see the heartbeat, you relax a little, but for me, it was the opposite. Once I saw the heartbeats, I had this connection with my babies only I as their mother understand. The selfless love takes over and you do anything for them to always be safe and sound. And that is my ultimate goal now that they’re born and earthside.
The entire pregnancy we were so sure the boys were identical with their own sacs and placentas. We had only transferred one embryo and no natural conception occurred anytime around ovulation. We had DNA testing done a few months ago and they were deemed fraternal. Yes, we had somehow managed to conceive one of the twins naturally. If I had known one of the twins was conceived naturally, it would have made me a hundred times more anxious during pregnancy, worrying about any potential issues related to Jeffrey’s balanced translocation. In hindsight, it was a blessing in disguise. Two beautiful souls, my grandfathers, left earthside and another two, my babies, joined us. It was meant to be these boys all along.
To all the women out there still waiting for their blessing, don’t ever give up! The days where you feel like you just want to give up, think of what you could potentially miss out on if you did. The determination and wish for a little babe will get you through.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Diana K. 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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