“I’ve always wavered about knowing exactly what I wanted to be when I grew up- a doctor, a lawyer, a business executive (and I’m still over here trying to figure it out). But one thing has been certain from a young age- I knew I was meant to be a mother. I was the neighborhood babysitter turned nanny and didn’t stop watching others’ children until I was almost in my thirties.
My father was the reason I had never had a long-term relationship. He hung the moon for me, and I knew I wanted to marry a man just like him- sweet, kind, gentle, caring. By our third date, I knew Pete was the one. Our relationship was the product of friends forcing me to join match.com- I was in law school at the time, didn’t like to ‘party’ like so many of my peers, and they made me realize I was never going to meet ‘the one’ until I found a way to put myself out there.
About six weeks into our relationship, Pete sat me down to have a serious talk- he was scared about his ability to have children. He had been married before and had tried briefly to have a baby with his ex and just felt deep down that something might be wrong. Since he was ‘it’, I shrugged it off and told him we would figure it out- there are so many ways to build a family and with reproductive technology growing by leaps and bounds every day, we would certainly become parents at some point.
Since he thought we could potentially have a problem (and because we knew we would eventually get married), we stopped using protection four months into our relationship and figured that if it happened, we would have a shotgun wedding and call it a blessing. Our engagement came and went with no signs of a baby.
Pete’s suspicions were confirmed when we saw a urologist right before we got married- as if I could be dissuaded, he wanted to make sure I went into our forever with ‘open eyes’ as to his ability to make a family. The results of the testing? Low sperm count. The easiest fertility problem to solve. Even if it hadn’t been, I wouldn’t have changed a thing. We were told to keep trying and to follow up with a reproductive endocrinologist if something hadn’t happened within the next few months.
Fast forward to October 2014 when we were told that IVF would be the only solution to our problem but that our odds of success were incredibly encouraging. We decided to try a few more months before taking the plunge. On Christmas Day 2014, I was absolutely convinced I was pregnant- all sorts of symptoms kept coming. I started my period that afternoon and wept the sort of tears you can only produce with total despair in your heart. We decided that day to march forward into the world of in vitro fertilization.
After an egg retrieval and failed fresh transfer, we were pregnant with our daughter by July 2015. Some women hate being pregnant- I was the opposite. I absolutely loved the experience and that closeness with our child. Seeing Pete hold our daughter for the first time made me fall head over heels in love with him all over again (and made me want a thousand more babies). Seeing my father hold her was a dream come true, as his health has declined over the years.Elle was a dream baby. An absolute delicious little morsel, I cried many days because she was growing so fast and I yearned to keep her little.
Before too long, I started bugging Pete to defrost another frozen fox. In spring of 2018, we decided the time was right and set out to grow our family. When we returned to our fertility clinic, things had changed. The staff was entirely different. Things were disorganized. We had two embabies on ice. The first frozen transfer failed. Then there was a thaw issue with the second transfer- the embryo literally fell apart and we were told the transfer would likely be unsuccessful. They were right. Since we had exhausted our frozen foxes, we tried to seek answers from our reproductive endocrinologist regarding moving forward. We were told that they would need to collect a $200 consultation fee prior to scheduling an appointment. Something didn’t ‘feel’ right about our experience and we decided to seek a second opinion.
The original office turning us off was the best thing that could have happened to us- we sought a second opinion at Coastal Fertility and immediately felt at ease and confident with their staff and physicians. We made a plan to move forward, and by August 2018 we had six frozen foxes on ice. By the end of September, we had transferred one and I decided to take an early test. The second line was so faint that people called me nuts- the great line debate spread throughout our family and friends like wildfire with no one else seeing a line. The best kind of friend to have in this situation?! Your OB, who indulges your neuroses and called in an early beta to see if I was in fact pregnant. She called me extraordinarily somber- my beta was three. Pregnancy is considered anything more than five. I argued with her and told her that there was a line and that three wasn’t zero. I could hear her rolling her eyes as only a friend would and gently telling me it was likely lab error. I was in total denial and continued to hold out hope.
Two days later, I went back to Coastal Fertility for the ‘real’ pregnancy test. I told them about the early test, and they said it was likely a chemical pregnancy if the level was starting out that low. Dr. Cook called me in shock- the beta had doubled to six (you want it to double every other day). She told me this wasn’t good news and that we should still prepare ourselves for a chemical pregnancy. I remained on pins and needles waiting on the next beta result.
Two days later, Dr. Cook called back in more disbelief. The beta had doubled again. Still not a good sign- it should have shot up by then. But we were still in the game. Another two days later and the beta shot up. I was convinced that miracles happened every day and one was happening to us. About ten days later, we went in for our ultrasound and there it was- a tiny little flicker on the screen- a heartbeat. Relief washed over me- it was real. It was happening. We were going to have a baby. The baby was measuring a few days behind, but it was there. We were elated. A week later, another ultrasound and another glimpse at what looked like a little gummy bear. I started asking my family for family names and planning what my business would look like with me on maternity leave.
The day I went in for our last ultrasound to graduate from Coastal Fertility, I wore a purple sweater. I was absolutely over the moon. I was starting to look slightly pregnant, my boobs were huge, and I welcomed the nausea because in my mind it meant things were fine. The image appeared on the screen. I looked intently and finally asked Dr. Cook, ‘where’s the heartbeat?!’
‘I don’t see one.’
I started laughing, mostly because it couldn’t possibly be true- I felt pregnant, I looked pregnant, and a week before things were fine. I started sobbing uncontrollably. Dr. Cook embraced me and told me to call Pete. He was crushed (even more so that he wasn’t there with me- I told him not to come because I wanted him to save all his time off for maternity leave). We scheduled the D&C for the following day- we needed to know what happened.
I went home and felt numb. Other women had miscarriages- not me. Even though we were already a statistic (one in eight couples face infertility), I couldn’t fathom that we would ever go through this. When they put me under anesthesia for the procedure, I breathed a sigh of relief, for I knew that I would be able to shut off my brain and grief.
The next week was a blur. The tears were plentiful. I needed an answer. I needed to understand. I needed to know why. When Dr. Cook called with the pathology results reporting chromosomal abnormalities, I was shocked. I’m not quite sure why- clearly something was wrong if we lost the baby. We decided to go forward and do another egg retrieval to make more embryos and test them all at once for abnormalities to reduce the risk of miscarriage.
As if going through IVF wasn’t hard enough, I was knee deep in our family businesses. Things were stressful at best. Last Friday, I received a call from my mother, panicked that my beloved Daddy was in congestive heart failure. We rushed him to the hospital. The news was not good. Daddy’s cardiologist (who also happens to be our cousin) had an honest conversation with us- did we want quality of time or quantity of time. We decided on quality and took him home.
Today is the day before our last egg retrieval in an attempt to bank more frozen foxes. Tomorrow, hospice comes in to help our family transition to our new ‘normal.’ I sit here and marvel at the circle of life. To everything, there is a season…a time to be born and a time to die. I think about the example my father has set for me and how grateful I am that I never ‘settled,’ because then I wouldn’t have my amazing husband. I think about our infertility struggle and how this process we have our darling daughter. I feel relieved that our first fertility practice turned us off to the degree that we went to Coastal, as the care and compassion we are receiving is incredible. I marvel at the timing of everything in our lives right now and am grateful that I get to spend time with my hero and say goodbye. And at the end of the day, I wouldn’t change a thing.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Lauren Ellison Fox, 37, of Charleston, South Carolina. Follow her on Instagram here. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your journey. Submit your own story here, and subscribe to our best stories in our free newsletter here.
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