‘We fully believed I was pregnant. I didn’t understand why this was happening. My whole world felt like it was crashing down’: Woman struggles with infertility, ‘Our journey is messy and painful, but also beautiful’

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“Stephen and I met in a small town in New Mexico in 2015. I was there for graduate school and he was stationed there with the Air Force. After months of talking and hanging out, we decided to start ‘officially’ dating. A year later, we were engaged and a year after, married. Kids had always been something we talked about. Four was the magic number. We eagerly always agreed we would have four kids and would start as soon as we were married… which actually turned into starting two months prior to the wedding because we were THAT ready for a baby!

Courtesy of Kaitlyn Cingel

A few months into trying to conceive, I felt like something was ‘off.’ We were both in our 20’s and healthy — why wasn’t it happening right away like we imagined? We decided to wait a year into trying before seeing a doctor because that was what we were told we were ‘supposed’ to do. Despite temperature tracking, ovulation tracking, countless vitamins and pills, and timed intercourse, a year later we still were not expecting. I went to my OBGYN, who saw no apparent ‘issues’ with me but started me on Clomid anyway, as it was ‘standard protocol.’ We both had some tests done and a few days later, I got a call from the doctor to discuss the results of the test. I was told we had less than a 5% chance of conceiving naturally. My whole world felt like it was crashing down. How could this be happening? The thought of us possibly never being parents was not something which crossed my mind. I don’t think I realized it wouldn’t be as simple as just taking a pill one month and getting pregnant. Instead, I grieved how we would never have a child naturally and with every child, we would need help.

We haven’t been publicly ‘open’ about who has the ‘problem.’ Some close friends and family know but we don’t feel the need to share it everywhere because it doesn’t matter and quite frankly, it’s no one’s business. The path we take with treatments would be the same whether it’s me, him, or both of us.

Courtesy of Kaitlyn Cingel

In January of 2019, we had our first IUI (Intrauterine Insemination). We were planning to relocate that summer, so our plan was to do as many IUI’s as we could prior to moving and hopefully be pregnant by then. The first IUI failed so we planned a second. My OBGYN was out of the office on the day of the IUI so I had another OB from his office. He told us after looking at our charts, he normally wouldn’t recommend IUI for people like us because there is such a slim chance it would work. We were crushed but went ahead with the IUI anyway. That day we cried and cried. We knew the only option for us was IVF. By this time, it had been almost a year and a half of trying for a baby, stress was high, we were bickering, we both wanted a baby so bad, and we had nearly lost ourselves in the process. Up until now, our biggest mourning had been never being able to have kids naturally, but at this point, it changed to the reality we may not ever have kids, period.

Courtesy of Kaitlyn Cingel

We scheduled a consult with a reproductive endocrinologist for a week after we moved. We were filled with so much hope when walking out of the office, but also a lot of anxiety. As someone with a fear of needles, I had no idea how I was going to get through the process, but I knew I had the best partner by my side.

Courtesy of Kaitlyn Cingel
Courtesy of Kaitlyn Cingel

In August of 2019, we started stims (medication) for IVF. It was rough. I nearly passed out with the first injection. The second injection later that day, I decided I wanted to try injecting myself. Nearly 30 minutes and lots of tears later, I finally did it. From that point forward, these injections became part of everyday life. I no longer flinched, I didn’t get sick, and injections took us maybe 3 minutes, tops.

Courtesy of Kaitlyn Cingel

Next came egg retrieval. We retrieved 20 eggs. I remember waking up from the anesthesia to the doctor telling me how many we got and I felt so much joy. I could not believe my body responded so perfectly, just as we had expected. I knew we would end with a good number of embryos and we would never have to do another retrieval.

Courtesy of Kaitlyn Cingel

The joy quickly ended the next morning when we got a call from the doctor with our fertilization report. Out of the 20 eggs retrieved, only five fertilized. I was numb. I started sobbing while talking with my doctor. How did this happen? Why hadn’t we expected this? Our doctor chose to freeze the fertilized eggs that day instead of letting them grow to blastocysts like a ‘typical’ IVF cycle. I was so confused. Online IVF support groups weren’t helping because everyone commented telling me they had never heard of freezing right away. My anxiety was high and I couldn’t stop crying. I didn’t understand what my doctor was doing, and I didn’t know if I even trusted he was doing the right thing.

A week later, we met with the doctor to discuss the retrieval. He put a lot of my anxieties to rest and explained why he froze them on day one. We wanted the best possible chance at transferring an embryo but we weren’t sure if it would be day 3 or day 5 and my body was nowhere near ready for a transfer. We were given the option to go ahead with a transfer or do another retrieval to hopefully end with more embryos. We decided we didn’t want to give up on these five we had and we would transfer whatever we had before doing more retrievals. The plan was to get my body ready for a transfer, thaw the fertilized eggs, and let them grow — all while I was on standby ready on any given day that week for a possible transfer.

Courtesy of Kaitlyn Cingel

In November 2019, we had three days scheduled for a possible transfer. I started PIO injections on November 10th and they thawed our fertilized eggs. Day 2 came, and all were growing great. Day 3 came, and one or two were a little behind but the others were looking great, no transfer. We would be doing a day 5 transfer. On day 5, we got to the clinic for transfer and to our surprise, we have a perfect blastocyst. It was the highest rating they give at my clinic. We were in disbelief. This was our baby, we just knew it! We had one more twhichat looked like they would be able to freeze. This was the perfect outcome.

Courtesy of Kaitlyn Cingel

We fully believed I was pregnant that day and we even had an ‘extra’ for our second child. 9 days later, it was negative. I had tested starting at day 4, which was the worst thing I could have done. Every day was a negative test and new heartbreak. How had this failed? How had we lost this embryo when it was so perfect? Our doctor concluded it was likely an abnormal embryo. This was the week of Thanksgiving. I tried my best to find things to be thankful for that year, but I honestly couldn’t. I didn’t understand why this was happening, why the one thing we had been yearning for was so far out of sight. Our perfect embryo had just failed.

We took the month of December to recoup and deal with the loss of that embryo. Our second transfer was scheduled for the 20th of January. The day finally came. We were full of stress and I don’t think either of us really had much faith in this working. We had seen so much heartbreak and never any good news so why would it change now? 9 days later was BETA, again. There were lots of tears this day, but this time they were happy, joyful tears. I was pregnant! We couldn’t believe it, it really felt unreal. I was pregnant!

Courtesy of Kaitlyn Cingel

That weekend, I cried. I cried all weekend. Not happy, joyful tears as I had cried days before. These were scared, terrified, hurt tears. I was convinced there was something wrong with our baby. There was no way I was pregnant and this would end with a baby. I fully believed I was going to lose the baby. I had no reason for thinking this other than the past trauma from infertility. Infertility is a weird thing. This was supposed to be the happiest time of my life but instead, I was in fear. I was so sure something awful was going to happen.

At 5 weeks, we had our first ultrasound. Everything was perfect. Each ultrasound after that, everything was perfect. I had no reason to think anything bad would happen but I thought it anyway. I had unbearable anxiety leading up to every appointment. I lay on the table every single time, nearly in tears, expecting to hear the worst news possible.

Infertility trauma is real. Pregnancy after infertility isn’t what I thought it would be. I thought the pain of the last few years would just go away once I saw those two lines or once I heard those magical two words, ‘You’re pregnant.’ But it didn’t. It has been hard to let myself feel happy and believe this is actually happening. I found myself saying, ‘If the baby gets here’ instead of ‘when the baby gets here.’

Courtesy of Kaitlyn Cingel

It can be easy for people who have never experienced infertility or loss to judge me for these feelings but the reality is, infertility trauma is real and a positive test came with a lot of fear and anxiety. Everything we’ve experienced over the past years didn’t just wash away overnight. All we’ve known for the past few years is heartbreak and I’ve felt so guilty for not being as excited as I thought I should. One thing I know is, this fear and anxiety do not make me a bad mother. It makes me a warrior in healing and I know I am not alone in these feelings.

We still have a ways to go with this pregnancy, but right now, every single day I wake up and remind myself, ‘Today I am pregnant.’ I cannot let this fear steal the joy of something I worked so hard for. We’ve have been through so much over the years, but our story isn’t over. It was hard, but I’ll probably do it again and again and maybe even again if we’re lucky enough to have one kid or two or even the four we always said we wanted. Infertility isn’t anything I thought I wanted and our story isn’t pretty, it’s messy and painful, but it’s also beautiful. It’s a story of two people we wouldn’t give up hope for their family and it is what makes our story completely perfect.”

Courtesy of Kaitlyn Cingel
Courtesy of Kaitlyn Cingel

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Kaitlyn Cingel from Charleston, South Carolina. You can follow their journey on Instagram. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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