“As a young woman, you never think getting pregnant will be difficult. Everyone stresses using some type of birth control to prevent an unwanted pregnancy that may somehow negatively affect your life. Then, once you are ready and the planets have all aligned perfectly, it’s finally time to stop the birth control and let your body do what it was made to do: have a baby! Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work that way.
Sometimes, your body just laughs at your attempts and you can go years without a baby no matter what you try. This is how things worked for me, and this is my story.
My name is Alea, and I am currently 31 years old. I have been trying to have a baby for a little over 10 years now, and the path that has led me to where I am now has been a long and arduous road. It all started with my ex-husband when I was 21 years old. We had been married for about 2 years and decided we were going to let nature take its course. We weren’t actually trying to get pregnant, but we weren’t not trying either. It was just something I figured my body would do on its own. It took about 6 months, but I finally got a positive pregnancy test! We were so excited, I started calling everyone I could! I was so happy, all I had ever wanted to be in life was a mother. It was a really big deal to me.
I started making doctor appointments and getting everything situated. Nine months didn’t seem like that long at the time, and I had to prepare! About a week after I got the positive test, I started bleeding. It wasn’t anything major, but it was red, and it was pretty consistent. Everyone kept telling me that it wasn’t that big of a deal, sometimes you can have a full-on period for months during a pregnancy. So, for the first day I tried to ignore it, but something in my mind was telling me something was wrong. That’s when the pain started. It was gradual, almost like period cramps. I had always had really bad cramps during my cycles, like leaving me sitting on the toilet with my face over the tub because I never knew what end the terribleness was going to come out of. But this pain was different. I didn’t know how to explain it, I just knew something wasn’t right. My husband at the time finally agreed to take to me to the hospital to get checked out. Finally, I was going to get answers. If anything, they would take an ultrasound and I would be able to see my baby I had wanted for so long, and I would be sent home and told to rest. This is what I was hoping for… that was not what happened.
By the time we got to the hospital, the bleeding had gotten worse and so had the pain. They did all my paperwork and sent me right to the room to get an ultrasound. Anyone who has had an ultrasound knows that the techs that actually do the ultrasound can’t really tell you anything, that is for the doctors to do. However, I could tell by the look on the tech’s face that something was wrong. Even though I couldn’t get her to tell me anything, I knew it was going to be bad. After about an hour or so, and a very impatient husband yelling at people to do their jobs, the doctor finally came in and told me I was pregnant, but it was ectopic and they would have to terminate it. My first thought was, ‘well, why can’t you just move it from the tube to the uterus…duh!’ If only it was that easy. She told me I was going to have to get a shot, in my butt. It was called methotrexate, which is a form of chemotherapy, that would attack the cells in my tube and allow me to pass the pregnancy like a period. I was also informed that day I was what’s known as RH negative, which meant I needed another round of shots, also in my butt, to keep my body from being sensitized to pregnancy. There were so many things going through my mind at that time I didn’t have time to process what being RH negative even meant. I just knew I was about to have to terminate my baby. They weren’t even giving me a choice, and my world fell apart.
A few days later I was still bleeding and still in a lot of pain. They had told me the forced miscarriage would hurt, but I wasn’t ready for what was going to come. At my follow up appointment, they had to do another ultrasound to make sure everything was clearing up like it was supposed to. Which, much to my dismay, it was not. The baby was still growing, the horrible shot had not worked. I had to be given more! Let me tell you, those methotrexate shots are painful and plentiful. It was like 4 shots every time. Then the side effects… I mean, it was chemotherapy. So, here I am, 22 years old, having a forced miscarriage and vomiting, my hair is falling out (not in huge clumps, but I had some bald spots) and my husband didn’t even seem to care. I was all alone in this, I felt like my life was ending. I didn’t get any information from the doctors as to why I had had an ectopic. They discharged me quickly because they were tired of my husband being a jerk and demanding people get off their butts. After a few months went by and I got pregnant again and miscarried (naturally this time). I just chalked it up to stress and unhappiness.
Finally, I smartened up a few years later and left my ex-husband, but that is whole different story that isn’t important right now. When I was 24 I met my current husband, and he was perfect. We clicked right away and moved in together basically on the first night we met! Sometimes when you know, you know. It may not have been the wisest choice, but we had talked some about how we both wanted children, so right out of the gate we didn’t even bother with any kind of birth control. We were together for about 4 months before I got pregnant. I still remember that day like it was yesterday. He went out and bought the test and made me pee on it. I swore to him it would be negative and he picked it up off the counter with tears in his eyes and asked me if I was sure. We both hopped around the bathroom with excitement for about 5 minutes. It was the happiest I had ever been. Then two days later I woke up in excruciating pain. Kyle (my current husband) worked 45 minutes away from home, so I tried to handle it until he got home. However, this pain was unlike anything I had ever experienced in my life. I seriously thought I was going to die. I called him at work and told him that I needed him to come home, something was terribly wrong, and I needed to go to the hospital.
When he got home (about 25 minutes later) he found me on the bathroom floor passed out and covered in blood. He rushed me to the hospital where I was admitted immediately. The doctor came in and looked over my chart and talked to me for a few minutes and then left without saying anything else. About an hour later, I started seeing spots, and getting really nauseous. Kyle was worried because the tiny bit of color I had in my face before was now gone, and I was still bleeding. He went and got a nurse who finally went and got the doctor. Apparently, the doctor who had seen me to begin with was about to get off work and didn’t feel like dealing with another patient, so he just let me sit there for the new on-call doctor to deal with. Once the new doctor came into the room, he did a quick examination of my stomach and rushed out of the room. 20 seconds later he was back with a roller bed and two nurses. He told my husband he needed to release some pressure in my stomach and do a more in-depth exam in a different room. He wheeled me out of there in a hurry. This is where things get really scary.
While I was in this other room about to get the exam, my doctor was talking to the nurses about getting an OR ready because I was going to need one immediately after this exam. I only remember bits and pieces about that time because I was in and out of consciousness. I do however remember the doctor grabbing this huge syringe and needle, I mean huge, I had never seen a needle that big, nor a syringe that big. It was horrifying, and I thought he was going to stick it into my stomach and I nearly passed out again. Then I found out he was actually going to put that needle somewhere else…somewhere worse. That’s right, it was going inside me, through my cervix and into my stomach. I thought I was already in the most pain I could imagine, no, the doctor proved me wrong as he stuck me with that needle. I was sobbing uncontrollably and the poor nurse looked at me and squeezed my hand as hard as she could. She looked so helpless and sad for me, which only made me more upset.
Finally, the doctor pulled the needle out and the huge syringe was filled with blood and I actually felt a little bit better. I was wheeled back up into the room with my husband, and now my mother too, so the doctor could explain what the situation was. I had an ectopic pregnancy that had burst, and I was bleeding to death internally. I needed an immediate surgery to remove my tube and stop the bleeding before I died. We didn’t have a lot of time to make a decision because I was already suffering from severe blood loss and he needed to get in there. My whole life flashed before my eyes. I went from dancing in the bathroom with my boyfriend because we were pregnant, to bleeding to death in a hospital because my pregnancy tried to kill me in a matter of two days! It was too much for me to handle and I made Kyle make the choice for me. I couldn’t make another decision about anything anymore. I was shut down entirely. I spent a week in the hospital after the surgery because they had to cut me wide open like a C-section, which made the reality even worse because I had a C-section scar but no baby to show for it. Recovery was horrible and felt like it took forever. I couldn’t even go to the bathroom without help getting out of bed for a week! Finally, I was well enough to go back to work, which only lasted about a week before I passed out at work and wound up back in the hospital with a severe internal infection from the surgery. Another week-long stay at a crappy hospital being told I couldn’t eat, and having copious amounts of antibiotics pumped through my body to the point I could taste them seeping through my gums! It was horrible.
A month after all that, my husband was given orders to be stationed overseas in Okinawa, Japan. We were not married at that time, but quickly decided we needed to get married so I could go with him. Life was good for a little while there, but I had another miscarriage shortly after we arrived, which led to a really deep conversation with my husband. He was a little drunk the night I told him I had miscarried and he hugged me and told me it would be ok and he loved me. However, he needed me to know the only thing he wanted in this world was to be a father of his own child. It was really important to him, that he had a blood child. Adoption and other options had come up, but he wanted to exhaust every option to have his own child before we looked too far into other options. I had a friend in Okinawa who had also been having trouble conceiving and found out about a hospital in Okinawa that offered fertility treatments. IVF in Okinawa only cost about $3,000, with medications and everything. It was amazing! So, I decided that I was going to try it.
During my second visit I was informed I had what’s known as Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome, no other doctors had diagnosed me with it because I wasn’t overweight. I had all the other symptoms, every single one, but since I wasn’t overweight they never even considered it. I also had a pretty bad case of endometriosis. So, I had crappy eggs and my uterus wanted to grow its lining everywhere it wasn’t supposed to! By this time, I had been trying to have a baby for almost 6 years, multiple doctors and multiple issues, and I had never heard that I suffered from either of these problems. However, after two visits to the Japanese hospital I learned a lot about myself and why things were so complicated for me. That had to be a good sign! Knowing I only had one fallopian tube and all the other issues as well, the Japanese doctor told me IVF would be my best chance at success and wanted to get me started right away. I found out I was going to have to give myself injections…every single day! More than one. I was hoping there was just some sort of communication barrier and I wasn’t hearing her right. Needles are one of my biggest fears, and then add onto the fact that the medications I was given, and the instructions I was given were all in Japanese. The doctor tried to explain the process as best she could, but I ended up having to figure out a lot of the information on my own.
The first time I had to inject myself was traumatizing. I know that sounds dramatic, but I am dead serious, I was traumatized by having to shove a needle into my own skin. Especially once the medicine hit my body, it burned so badly, I flinched and yanked the needle in my stomach. I bled pretty good on that first try. After a few days I got better. I knew what to expect so things were easier. I had appointments every other day for two weeks to check my ovaries to make sure my follicles (eggs) were growing correctly and everything was looking great. She could see at least 10 follicles two days before retrieval! I was so excited I could barely contain myself. I came home and immediately told my husband, I had high hopes for this, I just knew it was going to work! Until about 3 a.m. that morning. I woke up in mind numbing pain. I knew this pain, but I refused to believe it. I thought maybe my ovaries had hyper stimulated and I needed to get to the hospital so I didn’t lose an ovary. My husband jumped out of bed with lightning speed and got me to the hospital. He literally had to carry me inside. I was terrified.
I was seen very quickly and the doctor was thorough in her exam. My ovaries had not over stimulated… I had been pregnant the entire time I was taking the stimulation medications! It was another ectopic pregnancy that had ruptured and was destroying more of my body as I lie there. The doctor told me they would need to put me through another surgery to remove my second tube. My heart sank, I could literally see all my dreams go up in smoke. I knew I had some issues, but I held out hope that my remaining tube would allow for that random baby that everyone seems to have. That was not going to happen now, and I had to go through another surgery that would leave me bedridden for weeks and could possibly cause another infection. What could I do though? They had to take the tube, it had been shredded due to the bursting pregnancy. That’s when it hit me, and I was immediately angry. I had been getting ultrasounds every other day, blood tests, and all manner of poking and prodding for weeks, and no one noticed I was pregnant! How in the world does something like that get overlooked!
My surgery was way less invasive and allowed me to get back to my IVF treatments a lot quicker than I anticipated. Upon returning to my fertility doctor and informing her of my condition in a not so nice way, my second round of medications was ever so nicely covered by the hospital. The second time things went a lot smoother. I had 12 follicles removed, and 2 fertilized. They weren’t the best quality eggs, but the doctor was hopeful. I did one fresh transfer and one frozen. Neither one stuck. After that, I was done. I decided having children was something I would never get to do and I just needed to accept that. Once we returned to the states I really started to accept that having children was not in the cards for me, but it didn’t make all the pregnancy announcements from everyone that I knew any easier. I tried to ignore the hurt and just move on, until my sister in law got pregnant. That one hurt. Both me and my husband are the oldest in our families, and I always figured being the oldest, having the first grandchild was your birthright. A little old fashioned but it was my thought process. Once I told my mother in law about my feelings on that, she could see the pain and the hurt written all over my face. I was devastated. Without missing a beat though, she offered, if I was willing, to pay for one more round of IVF here in the states. Of course I wanted a baby! However, something deep inside me told me no.
My anxiety and depression from my Okinawa fails and everything that came from that didn’t want to go through it again. Those were the worst 2 years of my life after Okinawa, the depression had hit me so hard I put on 40 pounds and couldn’t get out of bed. My husband and I split up for a short while because we were both huge messes and neither one of us knew how to handle the hurt. Thinking about going through that again was the hardest choice of my life. After about a year of thinking about it, and many more pregnancy announcements from my closest friends who didn’t even want kids, I decided it was time. I would give it one more go. I was surprised when we started treatments in the States, there were so many more medications I was put on, and the doctor was much more interested and invested in my case. Everything went smoothly, my ovaries cooperated, my uterus was always smiling a big smile. It was perfect. Even the doctor was amazed at how well my body took to the treatments.
I ended up with 42 follicles retrieved, and 19 fertilized! When I read that email that I had 19 eggs that were being frozen I could barely contain my excitement. Everything seemed to line up amazingly with this whole cycle. My 31st birthday was June 6th, my implantation day was June 8th, and our beta testing was on Father’s Day! How rare is it to find out you’re going to be a father on Father’s Day! It was amazing. I’m not going to lie, I took some at-home pregnancy tests and I saw those 2 pink lines, but I didn’t want to get too hopeful — it wasn’t going to be real until the doctor said so. On Father’s Day, we were driving home from the doctor, 3 hours away from our house both ways, and I got the phone call. I was expecting an email, not a phone call. But that phone call changed our lives forever. After everything we had been through, all the ups and downs and even further downs, I was pregnant! Lo and behold… I got knocked up on my first egg this time! I am currently 9 and a half weeks pregnant, with two whole baseball teams in the freezer.
My story is a bit messy and scary, but that doesn’t mean yours will be. I wanted to share to help people see that even when things seem impossible, miracles can happen. I still have a ways to go with this pregnancy but with everything I have gone through to get here, I choose to believe this is the end of the road for me. I will finally be able to hold a baby and call them my own. I do not wish this type of journey on anyone, however, if you find yourself in a situation where you feel like you have nowhere to turn, no one who understands what it’s like to not be able to have a child, don’t be afraid to reach out. There are a lot more women who suffer from infertility than most people think. Don’t allow yourself to sink into the bubble of depression I sank into. It’s dangerous, and can be helped.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Alea Slayton, 31, of Jacksonville, North Carolina. Have you struggled with infertility for years? We’d love to hear about your journey. Submit your story here, and subscribe to our best stories in our free newsletter here.
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