‘I saw panic in her eyes. ‘I can’t find your cervix.’ I thought it was just a UTI. ‘You’re not allowed to leave.’ I waited 4.5 hours while medical staff conversed about me.’: Couple pregnant with twins after 7 miscarriages, incarcerated uterus

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“I remember watching the test happen live. I remember hearing my doctor speak to me. I remember my eyes welling up. I remember being escorted to the bathroom to change. I remember the piercing scream that came out of my mouth and collapsing to the floor. I remember the nurse rushing in to pick me up. I remember yelling for my husband. I remember Alex practically carrying me outside the hospital as my anxiety attacked and I gasped for air. I remember that day as if it were yesterday.

On January 12, 2018, our lives took a hard detour.

Courtesy of Ashley Howard-Heimbuch

Infertility. It’s a diagnosis that is completely gut-wrenching and overwhelming. It’s a diagnosis no one expects to hear, but deep down, I knew something wasn’t right. I think I always knew our path to parenthood wasn’t going to be an easy journey. After all, we had been trying to get pregnant for quite some time before hearing the news, and I had gone through health battles in years prior. But to hear multiple doctors tell you a natural pregnancy is not an option, that your body is too damaged from the past to form new life, that you have a 0% chance to conceive on your own — it is absolutely devastating.

Both of my fallopian tubes were completely blocked, and I had developed severe Hydrosalpinx in them. In the first few weeks after being told I was infertile, I was filled with such grief, guilt, anger, and deep sorrow. I felt like I had a dark cloud over me. I felt like I was in the middle of a horrific dream and I was screaming to wake up. That was a low point for me, for us.

After learning In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF) would be our only chance to have a baby that is genetically ours, we spent a few weeks digesting the copious amounts of information that surrounds IVF – the process, the research, the statistics, the articles – everything we could get our hands on. There were also a lot of tears and difficult conversations during that time, but Alex and I kept coming back to one thing: hope. If there was a chance, even a tiny one, we weren’t ready to just walk away. We decided to move forward with IVF.

Courtesy of Ashley Howard-Heimbuch
Courtesy of Ashley Howard-Heimbuch

We ended up going through six rounds of back-to-back IVF cycles over the course of 22 months. We used three clinics with three different Reproductive Endocrinologists, had 97 doctors’ appointments during that time, had six surgeries and 8 procedures, including both fallopian tubes and a tumor removed surgically, plus endured 1,000+ shots and medications. We also experienced seven losses along the way. During that time, I was tested in so many ways – physically, emotionally, mentally. I had never been so exhausted yet so hopeful in my life. I just kept telling myself on repeat, ‘If there is a will, there is a way. What if our miracle is just around the next corner?’ Those simple thoughts got me through some of the hardest days.

Courtesy of Ashley Howard-Heimbuch
Courtesy of Ashley Howard-Heimbuch

After 1,054 days of trying to conceive, we found out we were pregnant. Our beta numbers were high, and they continued climbing blood test after blood test. Our miracle had come! When we went back at 6 weeks, 5 days, our beta numbers were 137,895, and during the ultrasound, we saw two babies. TWINS! We even heard both their heartbeats and it was the most magical moment of our lives. We graduated from our IVF Clinic at 10 weeks and were well on our way.

Courtesy of Ashley Howard-Heimbuch
Courtesy of Ashley Howard-Heimbuch

In my 13th week of pregnancy, our lives once again changed drastically. I was having awful lower abdominal pain and couldn’t go to the bathroom for more than 24 hours; I was sure I had a UTI. Upon calling my doctor, they had me come into the office to be checked. My UTI test was negative, so my doctor thought to check my cervix just to be sure all was okay. When she began the exam, I was in a lot of pain and she couldn’t find my cervix. She turned out the ultrasound machine and I saw panic in her eyes. She told me I wasn’t allowed to leave the office, but she needed to converse with her medical partner who was currently in surgery before she could tell me anything. I waited for 4.5 hours for him.

Courtesy of Ashley Howard-Heimbuch

That afternoon, I was diagnosed with a very rare pregnancy condition called an Incarcerated Uterus. Instead of my uterus growing up and outwards, it was growing down and inwards and had completely cut off my urethra and bladder. As the pregnancy continues, this condition is life-threatening to both me and the twins, and without it being corrected, we would lose the babies. That evening, I was taken in for surgery to try and flip my uterus, but it was completely unsuccessful. We were told to brace ourselves for the loss of both babies.

Two days later, while at home resting, I started bleeding heavily. We decided on the spot to drive to the University of Michigan’s Women’s Hospital for a second opinion; surely someone there could save our babies if we weren’t too late. Within the next 24 hours, I was being prepped for emergency surgery, which turned out to be five hours with multiple complications. When I woke up, I saw a large incision from below my breast line down to my pelvic area, but the good news was they SAVED OUR BABIES! We were overjoyed but knew recovery would be a tough road.

Courtesy of Ashley Howard-Heimbuch

I ended up in the hospital for three and a half weeks post-surgery, with severe paralytic ileus and then my incisions became infected with E-Coli and Group B Strep. Once I finally got home, I sobbed constantly, had anxiety and panic attacks regularly, and was in so much pain. I longed to be pregnant; it took me years to finally get here, and now I resented every moment of it. I was exhausted and just wanted it to be over. My doctors diagnosed me with Depression and PTSD and ended up putting me on anti-depressants to not only help me during pregnancy but to try and be proactive now so PPD wasn’t so intense post-birth. Since beginning those meds, I have felt a world of difference, and am finally feeling more like myself. Yes, I am on moderate bed rest for the remainder of my pregnancy, but I’m good with that knowing my babies and I are okay.

Courtesy of Ashley Howard-Heimbuch

We are technically due July 17, 2020, but after the major pregnancy complications, we are now expecting our twin boys on June 26th or sooner.

As this pregnancy is nearing an end, I can’t help but feel emotional. I have carried these twin boys for 204 days with 38 days to go to reach our target delivery date. It feels like it’s only been days since our embryo transfer, and yet it also seems like a lifetime has passed. And it’s no secret, I have both hated and loved being pregnant. Is it possible for love and hate to exist in the same space?

These last 204 days have brought tremendous pain, piles of hardship, and indescribable amounts of self-doubt. I have drowned in anxiety and been overcome with emotions I never knew existed. There were days I threw my hands in the air and yelled, ‘I give up. I just want this to be over.’ I have screamed. I have wept. I have felt paralyzed beyond measure.

Courtesy of Ashley Howard-Heimbuch

But for every trial faced, I have had to look within, dig deep, and uncover courage I never knew I had. I’ve learned some things are bigger than us and that’s okay. I’ve realized it’s brave to need and seek help. I’ve discovered the power that comes with vulnerability and owning your journey. I now know the meaning of trusting the timing of your life. And for every kick and punch I feel, I know this journey has not been in vain.

Courtesy of Ashley Howard-Heimbuch

Reflecting, I do think it’s okay for love and hate to coexist. There’s a way for all emotions to live cohesively. Come to think of it, I’m thankful for these feelings of good, bad, and ugly because I’ve allowed myself to have a full and well-rounded pregnancy experience. That makes me grateful. To say we would ever get here has been a figment of my imagination. It’s been such a battle; it’s been such a hard road. I prayed for the willpower to keep praying. I ached for more aches, so we were one step closer. We hit rock bottom and dug ourselves out of the trenches. We embraced the ugly every single day. But I always kept my hope, just like I hoped to.

Courtesy of Ashley Howard-Heimbuch

For those of you battling infertility, I see you and I hope you keep your hope too. Your struggle is part of your grand story; your crazy, heartbreaking, beautiful, joyous journey. And I hope if you’re struggling to become a mom or dad, you keep your chin up and keep turning over every stone until your miracle comes too. Alex and I send our best to you and will be rooting for you every step of the way.”

Ashley Howard-Heimbuch

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Ashley Howard-Heimbuch of Detroit. You can follow their 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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