“I grew up with a strong desire to become a mother, and never could I have ever imagined the journey it would take for me to reach that dream. My husband, Matt, and I wed in 2012 and we knew we wanted to try for children pronto – so we wasted no time.
On a routine pap with my OB/GYN in March 2013, she found that I had an abnormal cervical cancer screen result and I would need a LEEP (loop electrosurgical excision procedure) to remove the cells. I spoke with her about our desire to start a family and was told we should try for a year and come back if we hadn’t gotten pregnant. And guess what?! A year would pass of us tracking my ovulation with tests and basal body temperature, but there was no positive pregnancy test in site.
I made an appointment with my OB/GYN about what the next steps were to figure out why we weren’t getting pregnant. She tested my husband first because if he was the issue, he would be an easy fix, but he wasn’t the issue – it was me. She did an ultrasound on me and found what she thought were two golf ball sized cysts on my left ovary. Yikes. I had the option to see if they resolved on their own or do surgery to have them removed. I opted to have the surgery. Upon surgery, it was discovered that what looked like giant cysts on the ultrasound machine was actually my left fallopian tube. At some point, it had become infected, died, and needed to be removed. At this time, I was also diagnosed with PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) and hypothyroidism.
After I recovered from the surgery, we began a few Clomid cycles to help induce ovulation with timed intercourse. While it was helping me ovulate, we still weren’t getting pregnant. I was starting to get very frustrated and discouraged because so many of my family and friends were having kids and starting their families. And so many of them had used Clomid with success so I thought we would be no different. It was beginning to become very stressful and emotional. Never did I ever think infertility would affect me…and this was literally, only the beginning.
We met with our RE (reproductive endocrinologist) at our fertility clinic in May 2014. They did some basic intake exams and tests and it was decided that the first route we would try would be an IUI (intrauterine insemination) – basically a ‘turkey baster’ method to inject sperm into the uterus to aide fertilization. This would be the beginning of our hundreds of injections we would endure. I was terrified of needles, terrified. When we first started these treatments, I would go to Matt’s work every night for him to inject me with the hormones – that’s how scared of injections I was. Matt and I would try three IUIs with no luck. None of them with even the slightest speck of that second line on a pregnancy test. I felt defeated.
The next obvious step for us to take would be to try IVF (in vitro fertilization). It would mean more injections than I could have ever anticipated, but the success rates alone were enough to help push me forward. My husband is a Marine Corps Veteran and has completed three tours to Iraq – for all he has been through, I knew I had it in me to do what was needed to complete our family.
In November 2014, I would begin injections for our first IVF cycle. It was almost like I became a human pin cushion overnight. My stomach was covered in bruises and the side effects of the drugs had my emotions going haywire. Some days, I would have to do five or more injections – no matter where I was, what I was doing, the injections were timed and needed to happen regardless of my schedule. I became a pro at them and being discreet if I needed to be. Ahh, the life of an infertile.
I went through our first egg retrieval in 2014 and would transfer our first two embryos five days later. Nine days after our embryos transfer my clinic took my blood to test for HcG (the pregnancy hormone). I got the call that day that would forever change my life. We were pregnant, finally. I had a life growing inside of me and it was pure magic. At six and a half weeks pregnant, we had our first ultrasound on my 30th birthday, where I would hear the four words no one ever wants to hear – “there is no heartbeat.” For that moment, time stood still. I was in shock and disbelief. I wanted out of that fertility clinic ASAP. How could this happen?
From 2014 to 2017, my husband and I would go on to do a total of five egg retrievals, nine IVF transfers with fifteen embryos, inject myself 600+ times, and suffer six miscarriages. With each new cycle, new hope was found only to be followed by fear, devastation, and heartbreak. We saw different doctors, tried different protocols, anything for us to reach our dream of becoming parents. We became the living definition of insanity – doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. And it was exhausting. Meanwhile, everyone around us seemed to be creating the family of their dreams. But never us…why not us? When would it be our turn?
Around our fifth loss, Matt and I had begun to explore other options to become parents. We were grateful that our health insurance covered 85% of infertility treatments, but we knew if we decided on adoption or surrogacy, it wouldn’t be cheap. But, it would be worth it. At this time, my best friend, Rachel, whom has always been by my side through all of this, offered to be our gestational surrogate. Rachel knew we weren’t to the point of throwing in the towel yet on me carrying our child and she knew we wouldn’t have the money to pay her, but it was the kindest offer we had ever received.
After our sixth and final loss in June 2017, I knew I had reached my breaking point. I was emotionally and psychically exhausted. As badly as I wanted to carry my child, I couldn’t continue to pump my body full of hormones and lose our babies. For the past five years, we were living on an emotional roller coaster and it was time to get off and move on. At one point during our journey, my husband said to me, ‘Being a mom is more important than being pregnant.’ And he was so right.
Not knowing how we would come up with the money needed for gestational surrogacy, we decided to host some fundraisers. Even if Rachel was going to carry our child for practically free, we would still endure the costs of our fertility clinic fees, surrogacy agency fees, transfer fees, legal fees, psych exams, medical exams, and her copays – which would total close to $35,000. Thankfully, with our fundraisers and some help from friends and family, Matt and I would be able to make it work.
On January 12, 2018 we transferred two embryos into Rachel. Tears streamed down my face and I was overcome with emotion when the embryologist brought the embryos out for transfer – those were our babies! It was the first time that I was on the other side of the operating table, but it was truly just as magical watching the embryos on the big TV screen being placed into her uterus. It was confirmed via blood test on January 21st that Rachel was pregnant, hallelujah!
We had our first ultrasound at six and a half weeks. My RE, nurse, Rachel, Matt and I all piled into the ultrasound room. I put my head down, my hands over my mouth and was crying and shaking from so many nerves. I prayed so bad that this was finally our turn. My nurse watched the screen and I asked her to squeeze my arm if things looked good…moments later, she did. I looked up and saw that tiny flicker of the heartbeat and let out a deep sigh. We were pregnant with one, healthy baby.
Weeks would pass and our rainbow baby was continuing to thrive in Rachel’s womb. We decided to use a home blood test from SneakPeek to find out the gender of our baby. We were able to find out as early as nine weeks with this test and I couldn’t wait a moment longer! For years, I spent time thinking, searching and ‘pinning’ ideas for the perfect gender reveal for our babies. With each pregnancy, new ideas would come to mind, but sadly, we would never make it that far. My husband had an idea to shoot something and make it explode with color to reveal the gender, so we made it happen! We are having a girl!
Rachel is currently in her second trimester and we are due in September. A few weeks ago I felt my baby girl kick and just nights ago, my husband felt her kick – a feeling neither of us ever thought we’d get to experience. Our baby shower is in the next month and I never in my wildest dreams thought I would get to enjoy this moment and have our baby celebrated. Each day that passes brings us closer and closer to her arrival and her being in our arms. She will be worth all the years of pain, every tear we shed, and every single penny we have spent.
Our journey to parenthood hasn’t been easy. It’s been six years and over 700 injections in the making. It hasn’t been one bit of how we could have ever imagined it would happen. I may have only carried each of my babies for a short time, but I will forever be their mom. With each heartbreak we experienced, we continued to persevere and push towards our dream. There were days I didn’t think I could keep pushing or get out of bed, but it took those days to show myself the unbelievable strength I had to continue our journey. This journey isn’t always easy, and everyone’s is different. It will test you in every way possible and you will feel every emotion known to man, but I promise you, you have the strength within you to keep pushing. However long it takes you to reach your dream, I promise you it will be worth it.
We are incredibly blessed and grateful to have Rachel in our life and for her giving us this priceless gift – our daughter. She is selfless, noble, and unbelievably generous. We wouldn’t be here today with her, our family and friends, and our supporters that have stayed by our side throughout the years. We are forever indebted to all of them.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Erin Boelhower, 33, of Woodstock, Illinois. You can follow their “Journey to Three” on Instagram and Facebook. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.
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