‘Nick went from the world’s best husband to the world’s best infertility med administrator. As my faith wavered, his positivity never faltered.’: PCOS warrior candidly shares infertility journey

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“We were two high schoolers sitting in the front seat of a pick-up, planning for the future. Falling in love at seventeen, we made plans for where we’d live, what we’d do, and who we’d be together. We joked about the names of our future babies and who they would look like. Never in a million years, did we realize that our journey to becoming parents would look like this.

Roughly February of 2017, my husband Nick and I started trying to add a little one to our family. Our mindset was, ‘If it happens, great. If not, it’ll happen when it is meant to happen.’ But in the back of my mind, I had a feeling it wasn’t going to come easy for us. My mom has Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) and struggled to get pregnant with both me and my brother.

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Courtesy of Rachel Groover

In February of 2018, I knew something was wrong. At my annual exam, I spoke with my OB/GYN about why we were not pregnant after a year of trying. The doctor said, ‘You’re young, don’t worry about it.’ There were no tests run or reasons why it was not working for us, just a brush-off about my age and to not worry. I knew something was wrong, but the doctor wasn’t listening.

That was not the last time I was put off by a doctor. A year later, in February 2019, I saw a new OB/GYN. I told the doctor, ‘I’m not having a regular period, and we have been actively trying for two years.’ The doctor suggested a medicated cycle with Clomid, a drug that helps the body ovulate. Still, no tests were run to find out what was causing the issues. We did two rounds of Clomid, neither round resulting in ovulation.

We were gearing up to do our third round of Clomid with this doctor when I explained that we were getting ready to move. The doctor said, ‘You need to choose between moving and getting pregnant.’ No one should ever be required to make a choice between something and building a family. Once again, I decided this doctor was not for me, and it was time to move on. We went ahead with our move and another long period of waiting for our baby.

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Courtesy of Rachel Groover

February of 2020, another annual exam, another year without a baby, another doctor. I entered this appointment wondering if I should speak up about three years of trying for a baby, or if I should just keep my mouth shut. But this doctor asked questions I’d never been asked before. ‘Have you had any blood tests done? Have you had an ultrasound to see what’s going on inside?’ All these questions were answered with a big fat NO. In a forty-five-minute appointment, this doctor did more for me than any doctor had in years. He did blood work to check my anti-Mullerian hormone for follicle count, as well as an internal ultrasound to check what my ovaries looked like.

Lying with my legs in the stirrups and an ultrasound wand where there had never been one before is something I’ll never forget. The doctor looked at the screen and, without missing a beat, said, ‘Yep those are PCOS ovaries.’ The screen showed a large number of eggs around each ovary, looking like a beautiful strand of pearls, confirming what I already assumed for so long. I had been living with undiagnosed Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. The confirmation of PCOS as the cause of our infertility was actually a relief. It was a diagnosis we could work with. It would never go away, but it could be managed.

A few days later, the doctor called with instructions to try the medication protocols we had already done. I was frustrated and discouraged. Why would we waste time trying something that we already knew didn’t do what it was supposed to? Nick and I started to have serious conversations about whether or not to move forward. At that time, I had a best friend who was going through her own infertility journey. She mentioned that she had found a Reproductive Endocrinologist and Infertility Specialist. When I heard how many tests this doctor had run for her, I knew it was time for us to move from an OB/GYN to a specialist.

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In April of 2020, our entire journey changed when we met with our Reproductive Endocrinologist (RE). She ran a gamut of tests, including AMH levels to check follicle count; antibody testing to check to see if my body was attacking any embryos we happened to be making; Hysterosalpingography, which was an x-ray to show whether my fallopian tubes were blocked; and genetic testing on both Nick and me. All of our tests came back normal or confirmed the PCOS diagnosis. We were relieved to hear that it was just the PCOS causing our infertility, and the doctor had a plan to get us where we wanted to be. We were finally on the right track to get our baby.

Little did I know we were not through the storm yet. Medicated, timed intercourse rounds were unsuccessful. Our doctor suggested we try IUI, Intrauterine insemination. Every time a new protocol was suggested, I got a new spark of hope.

Our first IUI treatment brought us to our first-ever positive pregnancy test. After two long weeks, the doctor called and said, ‘Rachel, I’ve got great news, your IUI worked!’ I couldn’t believe it. We were pregnant! Nick picked me up from work that day, and I gave him a onesie that I had been saving for months. Tears streamed down his face. We were going to be parents!

After a weekend of celebrating, I went in for my second pregnancy blood test. The phone rang, and the doctor said, ‘Rachel I’m so sorry. Your blood levels have dropped, and you are having a Chemical Pregnancy Loss.’ My world crumbled. How could we have been given so much hope, only to have it snatched away in a matter of days? I raced home to Nick to mourn not only the baby we lost but also the life we envisioned with that baby.

Our second IUI seems like a blur now. Nothing changed in the protocol, we were simply trying again. And with no changes, we had the same outcome.

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Courtesy of Rachel Groover

Our doctor now needed to figure out why I couldn’t stay pregnant. We ran a blood panel for Recurrent Pregnancy Loss, checking for any clotting disorders. All results came back normal. It’s weird not to be happy with normal test results. In your heart, you need those results to show something’s wrong so you can fix it.

The doctor’s opinion was that when our egg and sperm were meeting, there was a genetic issue. She was unclear what that genetic issue was, but that could be the answer as to why we were losing pregnancies at four weeks. At this point, the only way to jump over the hurdle of genetic issues was In-Vitro Fertilization. We could create multiple embryos at once, and have them tested for abnormalities.

Moving forward with IVF was a tough decision. We have zero insurance coverage when it comes to infertility, making IVF a huge financial burden. Our family and friends rallied together and helped us fund our IVF journey. I’ve heard stories where families don’t support what a couple chooses to do with their infertility struggles. We are so grateful to have the backing from our parents and loved ones to get to our little miracle.

In January of 2021, we started the process of Egg Retrieval. The doctor had me stimulate my ovaries for nine days. That’s nine days of injections twice a day, which is hard for someone who doesn’t like needles. Nick went from the world’s best husband to the world’s best infertility med administrator. He also helped me work through my fear of needles and learn to inject myself. This was a huge thing for me!

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Courtesy of Rachel Groover
baby
Courtesy of Rachel Groover

It was also nine days of multiple doctors’ appointments and lots of missed work. Infertility takes a toll not just on you, but on your personal life. I’m incredibly lucky my job is understanding and allows me to miss work in order to get the treatments that we need.

After nine days, we retrieved forty eggs. Twenty-four of those eggs were mature to receive sperm, and out of those twenty-two were fertilized. We were so excited about all that potential!

What no one tells you about infertility is that it is a hurry up and wait game. After retrieval comes the five-day wait for your embryos to grow. You constantly think about those embryos growing, questioning if they made it. Finally, we got the call that seven had grown into day-five embryos. At this point, those seven were biopsied and frozen. The biopsies were shipped to a genetic testing site, and two long weeks later we had five genetically normal embryos, three boys and two girls.

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Courtesy of Rachel Groover

We felt like we were so close to what we had been praying for, for so long. The doctor had us start preparing my body for a transfer. Estrogen pills were used for uterine lining growth and progesterone injections to get the uterus ready for an embryo to stick. After weeks of prepping, we transferred our first little embaby. That day was magical and emotional. We had been reunited with one of our precious embryos. The idea of a future with this sweet baby was vivid in our minds. We were ready.

Twelve days we waited, only to find out that sweet embryo was not meant to be our first baby. We came to the end of another cycle, with no future baby, and no answers as to why it didn’t work. We were left wondering why two worthy people wanting to build a future together couldn’t make it happen.

The doctor told us that the statistics of a successful first transfer are low. She reminded me we had more embryos to work with. She added baby aspirin to my protocol in hopes that it would increase blood flow. The closer we got to another transfer the more hopeful I became, but I still kept my heart guarded.

On June 24th, we were reunited with another one of our embryos. The emotions on this day were like no other. There was so much hope going into this transfer. When the transfer was complete, I remember walking back down to the car, where Nick was waiting, and breaking down in tears. I needed this transfer to work so badly. I was ready for our turn to get our miracle.

As the days went by waiting for pregnancy test day, I started to lose my hope that the transfer worked. My faith in my body was wavering, but Nick’s strength and positivity never faltered. After twelve long days of waiting, I had convinced myself that when the phone rang it would not be the news we were hoping for. The day of the phone call was one of the longest days of my life. Finally, at the end of the workday, the call came with the doctor’s voice saying, ‘Rachel you’re pregnant.’ I couldn’t believe it worked! We were pregnant again, and this time was different.

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Courtesy of Rachel Groover

I went back two days later for my second pregnancy blood test and my pregnancy hormone levels were rising exactly as they should. We were cautiously optimistic; things were progressing wonderfully. We celebrated this embryo sticking around, and even gave it the name Peach. Four days after our initial blood draw, we went back for one more. My numbers were rising, and we had officially made it farther than ever before.

At six weeks, five days, we saw the most beautiful thing I have ever witnessed. Right there on the ultrasound screen, was Peach’s heartbeat. I watched that little thing flicker at one hundred thirty-one beats per minute. It was a sight that I will never forget. Tears ran down my face. That was my baby in there, and I couldn’t believe it!

For the next few weeks, we celebrated Peach. We couldn’t believe we were pregnant. Our prayers had been answered. We started celebrating our news with our family and friends. I remember handing my mother-in-law a onesie in their kitchen, and she immediately dropped it and wrapped me up in a big hug with tears spilling down her face. Our family was rejoicing with us after our years of struggles.

On August 10th, I went in for my nine-week, three-day ultrasound and heard the words no parent ever wants to hear. ‘I’m sorry Rachel, there is no heartbeat.’ Our perfect little bubble had burst in a matter of minutes. Peach stopped growing at eight weeks.

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Courtesy of Rachel Groover

We weren’t ready to say goodbye.

Loss is hard. It comes in different forms; we had two Chemical Pregnancies and now a Missed Miscarriage. I had no symptoms of a miscarriage, my baby just stopped growing. Nothing ever prepares you for something like this. ‘There is no silver lining,’ my doctor said. But she did remind us that we’d never made it that far. That doesn’t bring Peach back, but we have three other embryos that we need to fight for because one of those is going to be our rainbow baby. Even when my hope waivers, I have the strongest support system, in real life and on social media. I created a platform that I could use to spread my hope and connect with others who can relate to my story.

Hope is a four-letter word that is sometimes a beacon of light in the darkness, but also feels meaningless when it is extinguished in the deepest darkness of disappointment. In the last five years, my hope has often wavered in the face of each new obstacle in our path. Sometimes I question if we’ll ever have our rainbow baby. But then I remember that every storm runs out of rain at some point, and we are stronger for enduring the onslaught. The rainbow and sunshine have to come out eventually if we can be patient and hold on to our hope.”

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Courtesy of Rachel Groover

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Rachel Groover from Cumming, Georgia. You can follow her journey on  Instagram. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribeto our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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