“Our story really begins long before I knew my husband, Jared, back when he was still just an extra, extra youthful looking teenager. It’s that extra, extra youthfulness that first caught the eye of his doctors, he, in fact, looked a little too young for his age. Jared who was supposed to be on the cusp of manhood, at the age of 19, actually looked more like a 12-year-old boy. After many doctors’ visits, tests, and even a brain MRI to check for cancer, a diagnosis was given that would come to affect his future, and eventually our future. Kallmann Syndrome. A rare, sporadic, genetic condition that prevents a man or woman from starting puberty. Along with the diagnosis he was told he would never father any biological children. He would need to immediately start an intense injection regime of hormones to push him quickly through puberty, and then would need to continue taking hormones for the rest of his life.
It was 3 years later after Jared had completed his initial treatment that we met. About 4 months into our relationship things were starting to get serious. We were in his car talking on our way to dinner, when he suddenly became quiet. He said, ‘I have something I need to tell you, especially if our relationship is going to continue forward.’ I remember thinking, oh no, here’s where the skeleton comes out of the closet. I said, ‘Okay…?’ He continued, ‘I have a medical condition that is really rare, and because of this condition I am basically sterile. I will never father any biological kids, and I need to know if that is a deal breaker for you. Our relationship can’t move forward if it is.’ I looked into the eyes of this man before me. Eyes that shown the soul of man who was the most kind, gentle, caring man I had ever met. Truly a man among men. And I said to myself, I believe in a God of miracles, miracles happen all the time, I knew that anything was possible if He was involved. I worked in the medical field and I had seen miracles, I knew they existed and happened. I knew it was going to be hard journey, but I could do any hard thing that was asked of me if this man was standing by my side.
8 months later we were married and decided right away that if a miracle was going happen, we would do our part by not preventing it in any form or fashion. And so, started our first year of marriage, no birth control was the name of the game. Year 2, I started tracking my periods and times of ovulation, hoping that if maybe we could get the timing right, a miracle might happen. Year 3, we visited Jared’s specialty doctor to find out more about Kallmann Syndrome and more specifically if anything could be done to facilitate a pregnancy. We were told that then that there were patients with KS that had been able to conceive children, the process would be lengthy taking possible years before any results of sperm could be seen, it was also very costly. Like more than $1000 dollars a month. There were also certain criteria a patient had to meet as far as symptoms, that would make the treatment more or less successful. So, in the end we may pay all this money for years on end and may have no chance of success depending on how Jared’s body responded to the medications. And obviously insurance covered none of it. It was surprising and exciting to get the news that we could in fact possibly become pregnant but discouraging at the same time.
About this time, most of my friends and co-workers were starting to get pregnant and have babies. This was when it started to get really hard mentally, as I watched, pregnancy announcement after pregnancy announcement happen. Baby after baby born. You are suddenly surrounded by pregnancy bumps at work, at the grocery store, in the women’s bathroom. And they all do that thing… you know where they touch their belly. It was torture. It’s like they were trying to draw my attention to that which I so desperately desired. And I can’t tell you how many baby showers I went to before I just couldn’t handle the mental and emotional heartbreak it caused every single time. I can’t imagine how hard it was for Jared to see this happen month in and month out for years and years. But he was always there, steadfast by my side, holding me, comforting me, consoling me, and giving me hope for a future where children existed for us.
I cannot be stressed enough, please don’t get me wrong, I was so, so, so happy for my friends. I was happy that they got to experience their bundle of joy, their little miracle. I was happy that they didn’t have to experience the pain and heartache I did, but every time another announcement would come, it broke my heart for me. It’s strange that you can feel two totally opposite emotions at the same time but ask almost any infertile woman and she will tell you the exact same thing.
During the next 2 years that followed as we tried to figure out what was going to be the best route. There were other options for us, as there was nothing wrong with me physically that would prevent me from carrying a baby, sperm donation was an option. But it just was never felt like the right course. There was traditional adoption, but that could cost us upwards of $30-40K with no guarantee of a baby being placed. And then there was foster-2-adopt, which was a possible option, but still there is no guarantee of a baby since unification with biological parents is the ultimate goal in foster care. And while all of this is happening, we are still hoping that a miracle would happen, and I would magically find myself pregnant. And every month, when my cycle started was like another death, another blow, another hole in my heart.
I remember one day getting on my knees and praying to God to help me please understand what we were supposed to do. I knew he wanted us to be parents, that it was part of his plan for us, but how we were to accomplish this. I was unsure how to proceed forward when all of the options just didn’t seem to fit or feel right. Into my mind came, what I believe, was divine inspiration and the words, ‘What about embryo adoption?’ And I responded out loud, ‘Is that even a thing?’ The next impression came to go get on the google and search it. I did, and instantly all this information popped up about Embryo Adoption. How in the world did I not know about this?! The cost was significantly less than traditional adoption and I WOULD GET TO BE PREGNANT!! It was an answer to a prayer for me. But how would Jared feel about it. Later I told him about my experience and gave him all the info so he could search it out and see how he felt about it. We sat on the information for about another year before we were sure that this was 100% the path we were supposed to take.
We started fundraising for the $10k needed for the embryo adoption through organized yard sales, and raffles, and we were able to come up with the money. We had to go through a home study, a psychological exam, a counseling session to evaluate our marriage, and eventually we were approved for the embryo adoption. We were given profiles of 3 different couples who had previously done IVF and had completed their families. They had chosen to bless the lives of other couples by donating their precious embryos to other infertile couple who were able to do IVF for whatever reason. A couple like us. We chose a profile, and soon after two little embryos were thawed and transferred to my womb. We felt like kids in a candy store, we were just beaming from ear to ear. Then came the dreaded two weeks wait, when time slows and you try to avoid analyzing every single little twinge, and every little symptom. Wondering, hoping, and praying that at the end of the two weeks you’d find yourself pregnant. I made it through the two weeks beaming and happy to be at least two weeks pregnant. I went for the blood test and get the call later that night at work. ‘Hey, it’s so and so, from the clinic, we got your results and it looks like your pregnant!’ Cue the happiest dancing moves you can imagine. She continued, ‘Well have you come in a couple days to recheck because your levels are a little on the low side….’ then she paused and asked if she could place me on hold. ‘Okay.’ I said still doing my happy dance. A couple minutes later she gets back on the line and says, ‘I am so, so sorry. I gave you the wrong results, I read them wrong, you are actually not pregnant…’ Instantly I go from the highest high to the lowest low. I honestly don’t even remember the rest of the conversation. That was the hardest day, week, month, and year of my life. It took me a long time to recover from that blow. Emotionally, mentally, spiritually, we had been rocked.
Two years later we were scheduled to see Jared’s specialty doctor for a routine appointment when we were set up with a new doctor in the office. One who had never seen a KS patient out in the field, but who seemed excited, to potentially, try to help us have a child via the hormone treatment that had been described to us previously in year 3 of our marriage. At this point we were in a much different place financially, Jared being out of school, having a great job with benefits, it seemed like why not. If it doesn’t work, we can get to the end of our lives and never wonder, ‘what if…’ With renewed hope for the future, we trudged onward.
The plan was for the next 3 years Jared would get an injection 2-3 times a week of HCG that would mimic a hormone made in his brain that was supposed to wake up the pre-sperm cells in his testes. The medicine cost would be $400 a month. After the first year, we tested, no sperm. We were told that didn’t necessarily mean anything, it might take the full 3 years before we saw any results at all. So, his medicine dosage was up, and then later upped again. We had another test a little over a year later, and we were told, still no sperm. We decided that it was maybe time to see another doctor. One who maybe had experience treating KS patients. We were lucky enough to find one close by. At our appointment with our new doctor we talked to him about our history, about our hopes, and our frustrations of the previous 2 1/2 years of treatment with no sperm to show for it. He then looked at us, and said, ‘What are you talking about?! No sperm?? The last test Jared had the lab showed 1 sperm on the slide.’ We were utterly shell shocked, I burst into tears, not believing that what he was saying was true. It couldn’t be true. ‘We were told there was no sperm.’ I said. He pulled out the lab results and circled the notes at the bottom. Sure enough, there in big bold script it said ‘1 sperm seen’ on the slide. One tiny little microscope cell of hope that meant our whole world and future was hopefully about to change. We had experienced a miracle! One that we had waited a very long time for.
Since the HCG was obviously working, now the next step was to increase the quantity of sperm, which would require adding another medication to the mix. One that would cost another $600 a month, and then, because Jared’s sperm count was still anticipated to be low, we would have do IVF on top of that. Holy crap what are we going to do?! How were we going to come up with that kind of money? We started trying to think of ways to come up with roughly $19k for Jared’s new med, the cost of the IVF, and the IVF meds for me. We started saving what we could, I eventually picked up a second job, but we were still not saving the money as quickly as we needed to, to get this baby train moving fast enough. Remember we were still paying $400 a month for the HCG injections and would have to continue to do so. Jared was already working more than full-time at his job, trying to get promoted. So, I had to get creative, I didn’t have a lot of extra time on my hands between both jobs, so it had to be something that I could do intermittently. What came to my mind was both to start a GoFundMe, and then also to start panhandling on the side of the road. I was desperate, and willing to do just about anything to make this happen. So, I made signs, I set up the GoFundMe, and went to work. I panhandled a couple of times, and vlogged about it to share with my friends and family online. Soon after we were contacted by a local news reporter who wanted to cover our story. And then…. our story went viral. Donations came in from the local community, state, nation and then the world. We were humbled by the sudden turn of events, and the generosity of total strangers, who believed it could happen and who wanted to help us make our dream come true. Within a week and a half, we had nearly all of the money needed to start Jared’s meds, and then the IVF.
Jared immediately started the new medication called Gonal-F, and then we had to wait and test to see his what his count would be. For those that don’t know, it takes at least 3 months for a sperm cell to be made from start to finish. At 5 months, we were told, 89 sperm!! This was just too good to be true. Our new doctor was eager to start the IVF and we were too. I just couldn’t believe this was happening. It felt like a dream. Like I was living someone else’s life. Somebody please pinch me. Two weeks later I was starting IVF stims, two weeks after that they retrieved 11 eggs. They were able to fertilize 6, and then 5 days later they transfer two perfect little embryos into my womb. We again endured the epic two weeks wait, hoping and praying that this time, we would find ourselves pregnant, but knowing more poignantly than the previous time, what our odds really were of being pregnant. I went in for the blood test and got the call. I let it go to voicemail. I was not going to take another call like this by myself without Jared by my side. We found a quiet place at a park after we got off of our jobs and found a table with very few people around. I was terrified, I swear my face could have told anyone around that I was about to be sick. Jared took my phone, and said, ‘lets do this!’ It was at this point we heard the sweetest words we have ever heard or thought we would hear. ‘We got you’re results, and they are positive! They look great, your level is at 175.’ It needed to be at least 25 for it to be considered a positive pregnancy test. The shock and tears started to flow. We were experiencing the ultimate miracle. We were, after nearly 15 years of trying to conceive, pregnant. A week later, another blood test confirmed that the HCG levels had continued to double and double again. And now here we sit at 22wks pregnant awaiting the birth of our miracle child in June. There aren’t enough words to express the love and gratitude we feel as we think back over the last 15 years of love and support, we have received for so many people.
In closing, some advice for those currently in the trenches. Infertility has a way of stealing the joy out of nearly everything it touch. You know what I’m talkin about. Its lonely, isolating, and it just plain sucks. My first piece of advice…Find your tribe. If you don’t know where to find them, they’re on Instagram. All of them! With their beautiful, lovely, empathetic, encouraging faces. Try the hashtag: TTC
Secondly, I struggled for so long feeling unfilled in my life as we waited and waited. I couldn’t control my infertility or the pace of our journey, but I found I could control what I focused on. I chose to make some epic goals I wanted to accomplish and started crossing them off. I trained for and ran a triathlon, twice. I went back to school to get another degree. I went on an epic 30-mile back country backpacking trip. I had a couple art pieces that were printed in a publication. These are just a few of the many goals I accomplish, and these things have filled my hard years with much needed joy and distraction.
Thirdly, suffering is hard, and it’s not fun. But suffering trials in life strengthens us and gives us the ability to not only deal with and face future heartaches but gives power to lift those around you who are also suffering. We have had so many opportunities to comfort those around us because of the failures and heartache we have experienced through the years of infertility. Be brave and reach out.
And lastly, if this is something you want, don’t give up! Take breaks when you need them, for sure, goodness knows we did; But get back up when you’re ready and continue the good fight. My favorite quote that I just can’t get enough of says: ‘We must dare, and dare again, and go on daring.’ I have it inscribed on a necklace I wear often. So, whatever it is in your life that your dreaming of, keep going after it. Somehow, someway, a door will open. Be brave, you’ve got this, your dreams are worth holding onto.”
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