A white crib in a grey room near white curtains with a brown teddy bear

‘My husband and I were never going to have children of our own. The realization was crushing. I entered the OR, and my journey ended.’

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“My husband and I were married in 2011, and like many couples, we wanted to start a family right away.  After two years of trying, without success, we consulted a fertility specialist in the summer of 2013. During that appointment I remember asking what the odds were that I would never get pregnant and my doctor replied, ‘about 3%.’ I thought those were pretty good odds and was excited to start my complicated journey to motherhood. Never in a million years did I think I would be the 3%.

After our initial consult, the testing started. This involves taking lots of blood, doing an internal exam for the women and providing a ‘sample’ for the men. While we waited to get our test results back, I somehow managed to get pregnant naturally. We were pretty shocked. My mom happened to be in town when we found out. We went to the mall and bought a boy and girl onesie, so excited about the pending arrival. I went to the doctor for repeat blood work a few days later, and they told me that my beta levels were not ‘doubling’ as expected. They asked me to come back in three days to get checked again. Those results did show improvement, but I felt like something was off. I went to the doctor a few days later and she told me that there was no sac, and it was likely a ‘chemical pregnancy.’ She told me to wait a few days and I should get my period. ‘Chemical pregnancy’ means early miscarriage and it occurs shortly after implementation. My doctor explained that most people don’t even realize they are pregnant and just think their period is late. For me, having tried for two years, it was devastating. I didn’t really want to tell anyone. Having to un-tell our parents was awful enough. To top it all off, it seemed like everyone I knew was announcing their pregnancies on Facebook or having baby showers.

A few weeks later, our tests came back normal, so we started with IUI. My doctor was really optimistic, so naturally we were as well. My first cycle was not successful, but they recommend doing at least two before moving to IVF. During my second cycle, I had too many mature eggs, so it was canceled. That was the first time I cried in the doctor’s office. It was a full-on ugly cry and I was horrified. I am someone who is very in control of her emotions, so crying in public is not something I am comfortable with. My doctor recommended one more IUI with a different protocol, but that was also unsuccessful, so she recommended IVF. I don’t think anyone can ever be prepared for the  roller coaster that is IVF. The shots, the exams, the blood draws, the samples; it becomes a lot. It also really forces you to come to terms with the fact that you have a serious fertility issue.

A collection of syringes for IUI injections in a pile

During my first IVF cycle, 15 eggs were retrieved. Six days later we had none. ZERO. To say we were shocked is an understatement, but it explained a lot. I think this was the first time I really thought that having our own children might not be possible. When you start trying to start a family, you always picture what your kids might look like and how you would design the nursery. I feel like that part of me shut down with a phone call. I became withdrawn from my friends and family and stopped wanting to interact with anyone. I didn’t want people to ask when we were going to have kids and I hated going online and seeing who was having a baby. However, the worst thing was the baby shower invites. Attending a baby shower when you are struggling with infertility is absolute torture. I have cried at more than one. In my experience it’s 100% baby talk and anyone attending that already has a child only talks about their kids. You sit there quietly with little to contribute, hoping you can keep it together. If you have the option, don’t attend. Send a nice gift and find an excuse.

After our first failed cycle, we planned to do another with a slightly different protocol. During the second retrieval, we had 6 eggs. By day 5, we had none. After the second failed cycle, my doctor referred me to another doctor to see if a different lab would yield a different result. At the new facility, we had 9 eggs retrieved. We ended up with one fair quality embryo for a day 5 transfer, but it did not result in a pregnancy.

An ultrasound image of a fetus in black and white

We decided to take a break after the last IVF failure and in the fall of 2015, we searched for an egg donor. At that point we knew for sure that it was an egg issue, so we hoped that a donor egg would help us realize the dream of becoming parents. We found a donor in November 2015 after a few months of searching, and at the end of January 2016, our donor had her egg retrieval. We did a fresh transfer with two embryos 5 days later. We were optimistic during this time, but unfortunately it did not result in a pregnancy. We had two embryos left, so we waited until the next transfer. In April 2016, we transferred our last two embryos. The two-week wait was awful. We knew this was our last shot and it was hard to focus on anything else. After a grueling wait, we found out we were pregnant! We scheduled our ultrasound and remained cautiously optimistic.

The day of the scan we were nervous. We hated getting my hopes up. I had my blood taken and we were ushered into a room to wait for the doctor. I don’t think my husband and I even spoke, it was too overwhelming. After beginning the scan, our doctor was really quiet. I knew she was over-scanning, because she didn’t want to deliver bad news again. She turned the screen around and did show us a grey ‘thing.’ She said it was too early to call and maybe it implanted late. She printed out the ultrasound photo and handed it to me. In my heart I knew it was the end. I left that picture on the table. A week later we went for a follow-up scan and there was nothing. I expected it, my husband expected it, but it didn’t make it any easier. That was the second time I cried in the doctor’s office. The doctor told us I would need a D&C and it was scheduled for the next day. I arrived at my doctor’s office the next afternoon feeling like a shell of myself. I put on the gown and hospital socks and waited to be walked into the OR. While I waited, I heard all the hopeful women behind the adjoining curtains talking about how many eggs they retrieved and how excited they were. That was the third time I cried in the doctor’s office. I wanted to be excited for these women, and part of me was, but at that moment, my life was imploding. My husband and I were never going to have children of our own and the realization was crushing. A few minutes later I entered the OR, and my journey ended.

Life after infertility has been hard. We needed a change, so we moved out of state. I think we were hoping the change would help the grief. Six months later we attended an adoption open house. We were hopeful again and started to fill out the mountains of paperwork. Then we waited. The adoption process with our agency, like many in the U.S., involves submitting a book about yourself and the birth family selects someone. Usually you are up against 8-10 other couples, more if the child has no drug or alcohol exposure. During the first year we had 12 opportunities, but another family was always selected.

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The adoption process is probably as difficult as going through IVF. It’s doesn’t drain you physically, but the emotional drain is immense. It’s hard to know that someone is reading a book about you, and judging you, without ever knowing you. It’s hard to know that they don’t feel you are good enough to raise their child. It’s hard to see another family who has successfully adopted, especially if they already have children in their home. It’s hard feeling like you are not enough. It’s also hard, because you are forced to tell people you are adopting. You need multiple references and you are forced to tell your employer, because you need proof of employment. This unfortunately opens the door for questions. Nobody wants to talk about their struggle, but the questions come anyway. Everyone I have encountered has been genuinely happy and excited for us, but at the end of the day, we still don’t love having to talk about it. It is always a reminder of what we went through to get to this point. Once we adopt, I think we will feel better, but right now it just seems like a journey without an end.

Fifteen months later, we are still waiting for the phone call that will change our lives. We set up a nursery a year ago, hoping that we would get lucky. We spent hours picking out furniture, toys, pictures, and children’s books. Our agency told us that the average wait was 12 months, so we figured our odds were good. We went out and bought a car seat and stroller, so we were prepared at a moments notice. For now we try to keep busy and keep praying we will soon meet our child. For now, we try to picture what he or she will look like and try to figure out the perfect name. For now, we wait.”

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by a mother who wishes to remain anonymous. Submit your own story here, and subscribe to our best stories in our free newsletter here.

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