“I didn’t realize how clueless I was about my own body until I actually was trying to get pregnant. I don’t feel like sex ed teaches you anything you need to know. I had absolutely no idea ovulation was such a specific time frame and you had to only be doing it within that timeframe for anything to happen. Why wouldn’t they just teach you in high school how to calculate the exact time that you’re ovulating and track it? I just knew I needed to take my pill at the same time every day, be careful when having sex, and get my period every month. The education we get at school about our bodies and how everything works is laughable. Most things I should have learned before becoming sexually active are things I actually learned going through the fertility process.
My husband and I had been together for several years before getting married, so we knew we did not want to waste too much time before trying to get pregnant. We weren’t necessarily going to try try, but we just got off the birth control and thought nature would take its path. We thought it would be so simple. Everyone else we knew had babies right away. Some had them even when they were not trying. How hard could it be to have kids? We were in our early thirties and were healthy. This couldn’t be normal, could it?
After a year of no birth control, it was obvious nothing was working the way it should be. My BFF OBGYN said after a year, we could start taking Clomid. I took it for about eight months. It was absolutely pointless and stupid. The problem was not only the Clomid wasn’t working and my periods were not regular, but I was also drinking heavily. After about two years of marriage and trying for a baby, I knew I was drinking a ton, and I knew I didn’t want to stop. I wasn’t ready to stop. I couldn’t imagine my life without alcohol. I was absolutely terrified if the Clomid worked and we did get pregnant, would I even be able to stop? I didn’t think I could, and I was terrified my baby would be born with fetal alcohol syndrome because of my drinking. I was so selfish.
I wasn’t telling anyone about my fears, and I was lying to all of my doctors about how much I drank. My husband would see it, though. He would ask why was I drinking when there was a possibility we could be pregnant. I would say, ‘It’s okay, I haven’t had vodka today. I switched to wine.’ The excuses I came up with were laughable, but I learned later that’s what all addicts do. This actually IS normal!
I’d been happily drinking since I turned 21. I’d been UNhappily drinking for the past few years. It had gotten pretty bad, bad enough I knew there was a problem but was terrified to admit it. I knew getting pregnant would be the ultimate decision that would determine how serious of a drinker I was. Our marriage was already on the rocks, due to the drinking mainly, but also because we wanted to start a family so badly and it was not working, which led to more drinking. It was just an endless circle of destruction. I finally reached my bottom. I admitted I needed help to stop drinking… I finally admitted there was a problem. We found a rehab facility in town where I would do a 28-day treatment plan. I was so irritated I would have to pause the fertility treatments because of how impatient I was becoming and how long it was already taking. But I knew I had to be sober in order to get to that part of our journey. I finally realized I could not bring babies into this world drunk.
The saddest thing was, I had already purchased a onesie with a little elephant on it that said, ‘Daddy, I can’t wait to meet you.’ I was going to present this onesie to my husband once we got a positive pregnancy test. I had this whole elaborate plan designed for how he would open the gift and see the onesie. I hid this onesie well. I also hid vodka well. Unfortunately, when you tell your family you need to pack up and go to rehab in a drunken stupor, they do a serious search for bottles of alcohol to eliminate. In this search, my husband found the onesie… with all the empty water bottles of vodka. I can’t imagine how devastating this was for him to find. I kept asking him if he had found a certain box during his search. He kept saying no.
Finally, the day before I went to rehab, he brought the onesie up to me and said, ‘I found this and it made me start to sob.’ I had to tell him the whole elaborate plan I had if we were to ever get pregnant, and how I was going to surprise him. We were both sobbing now, knowing so many things were going to change. He told me he wanted me to take the onesie with me to rehab so I could look at it and always remember why I was getting sober. I kept it in my drawer, and I looked at it to remind myself of why I was trying to get better. I had to get better for myself if I ever wanted to bring children into this world. I had to do this for myself, for my husband, and for my future family.
January 12, 2017, was the last day I drank alcohol. After rehab, we gave my body some time to get healthy without alcohol before starting the fertility treatments again. Then we did four IUIs, where ovulation is very clearly tracked with injections and medication. All four failed. It wasn’t only the alcohol that made it hard to get pregnant. It was simply the fact I can’t produce enough eggs for my age and my husband has abnormal sperm morphology (oddly shaped sperm). The two combined make it nearly impossible to conceive naturally. We did everything possible before turning to IVF. We went through hell to get pregnant. Hundreds of needles, bloodwork, shots, pills, stabs, bruises, cries, and moans later, we made it to implantation day. We were able to get seven healthy eggs during my retrieval, which is not a ton, but still okay. They thought five of them would be viable, and by the day of implantation, there were four embryos available.
It was a Sunday, so the area of the hospital was quiet. It seemed like it was only open for us. As I lay back, they asked how many embryos I wanted to put in. It was kind of like they were encouraging only one. In my mind, I thought, really? I never want to go through this again. I don’t only want one kid. Will I have to go through all of this for another? But I am not good at sticking up for myself. I whispered, ‘Okay, whatever you guys think.’ My husband looked at me. He knew. He said, ‘Baby, this is your body. This is your choice. Are you sure you only want one?’ I said, ‘No, but they think it’s the best way.’ He said, ‘Who cares? This is for us. This isn’t their decision.’ At the last second, I was able, I yelled out, ‘No, I want two!’ The doctors scurried back to retrieve the next healthiest embryo.
The next two weeks were grueling. We finally got to the day we could take the pee test… and there it was. A positive. We couldn’t believe it. We were both crying in the bathroom, dumbfounded. We really didn’t believe it was true. After all the failures, the negative tests, was this real? Then the continuous negativity continued. At our first ultrasound, fertility docs saw two embryos. They said Twin A was unviable, didn’t have a heartbeat, and would not make it to the next ultrasound. But congrats! You’re pregnant! The conflicting news was devastating and elating. We were so confused. I was so angry these doctors could take my happiness away so quickly. It was as if after all that we went through, they so easily were able to say, ‘Sorry, this one won’t make it,’ without batting an eye. The fact it was so easy to move on, like it wasn’t even there, was surreal. I wouldn’t allow it.
I knew Twin A would survive. Those doctors were absolutely wrong. I had this gut feeling. There were two in there. I asked for two and I got two. I just knew it. At the next ultrasound, the doctors were blown away. They found two heartbeats. I wanted to say ‘See, I told you!’ I proved myself right! We were having TWINS!
Twin pregnancy was no joke. Absolutely the worst thing ever. No one prepares you for it. No one tells you what your hormones feel like, how crappy you feel, how tired you are, and how nothing makes sense anymore. I absolutely detested being pregnant. Despised it more than anything. Here I was whining about it when it was all I wanted for so long! What was wrong with me? I found out this is all completely normal. Twin pregnancies are incredibly hard. I had nothing to compare it to, so to me, it was normal. That is how it is bringing up twins. People say, ‘Oh wow you’ve got your hands full.’ But I would rather have them full than empty.
Nothing about our story is normal. My periods were never normal, my hormones, my ovulation, my eggs, and finally, my husband’s sperm. Nothing about having the egg and sperm mixed together by a team of doctors is normal. And having it all shoved up inside me with a probe…. not normal. No one tells you any of these things are possible. All of it is all so surreal and abnormal. Not even delivery is normal. You automatically have to be in an operating room for a twin pregnancy in case something goes wrong and an emergency c-section is needed. After pushing in the ‘normal’ delivery room, I was moved to the operating room, where 14 people gathered around my open legs staring into my insides waiting for heads to pop out. They were having ‘normal’ conversations about their plans for the weekend as I was pushing a human out of my vagina. NOT NORMAL!
Twin A was born first and immediately sent to the NICU. Something was wrong. Again, something not normal. Something they could not have identified in utero. He had a tracheoesophageal fistula, esophageal atresia, all along with tracheomalacia. The esophageal atresia would cause him to die without surgery. He had surgery on day 1 of life. It was just the beginning. Within the first few months, he almost died four times with us and more times in the hospital. My husband did CPR on him several times, while I called 911 with the other twin in my arms. I will never forget his limp body, completely white, no color, watching my husband do tiny compressions and blow into his tiny mouth. We did not know how severe his tracheomalacia was. It was the worst anyone in our state had seen. He spent over 50 days in the hospital in his first 7 months before finally having a lifesaving tracheopexy.
Here we all are today, alive, and striving. Not one thing came to us naturally or easily throughout this process. And man, it wasn’t cheap! We have given our savings and our souls for these babies. We look at how perfect they are, how happy they are, how great of a team they are. We made them. We made this possible. This happened because of our long, messy, abnormal journey. Nothing about our journey was easy or perfect. But what is the fun of the journey if there aren’t detours along the way?”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Ellen Elizabeth. You can follow their journey on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. 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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