‘Ummm there are 3,’ the nurse said. ‘Three what?’ Babies! ‘One embryo splitting twice is a one in a million chance. We do not see this…ever.’: Woman battling infertility, early menopause conceives miracle triplets via IVF

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“Our story begins September 1, 2012 when David and I said ‘I Do’ in front of family and friends. We were thrilled to be married and could not wait to start life as the two of us. We decided to put off becoming parents in order to enjoy time as a couple and mark a few things off of our bucket list. One of those things was the Dopey Challenge at Walt Disney World. This is a 48.6 mile running challenge where runners complete a 5k, 10k, half marathon, and full marathon in 4 consecutive days. Once we were committed, we trained for 2 years and completed our goal in January 2017. Talk about a sense of accomplishment!!! Needless to say, we were very proud. We were also excited because we knew our next goal was to have a baby. David works as a wholesale nursery salesman selling plants and spring is his busiest season. Our plan was to wait until summer when he is not as busy with work to get off of birth control and start trying to conceive.

Couple pose for a photo after completing the Dopey Challenge run at Disney
Courtesy of Hollie Gambrel
Couple smile and take a selfie in front of a lake in beach wear
Courtesy of Hollie Gambrel

June was here before we knew it and it was go time! I downloaded an app on my phone that would help me track my cycles, tell me when I should be ovulating depending on the information I entered in, and other important details to help us maximize our efforts. My first cycle off of birth control was July and I was able to update the app accordingly. The app told me which days I should be most fertile and we took advantage of them! August came and I did not have a cycle. Could this have actually worked the first time?! We were in disbelief and nervous to take the first pregnancy test. Disappointment set in when the test was negative. I assumed I was just late and my cycle would show up soon.

I started to think something was not right when September and October came and went and I still had not had a cycle and I still was not pregnant. In October, I saw my OBGYN for my yearly exam. I explained what had been going on with me getting off birth control and not cycling regularly. She told me for some women, the birth control is out of their system by the first month and for other women, it can take months for their body to get back on track after getting off birth control. The doctor ran blood work to check my hormone levels and all came back normal. ‘I should be getting another cycle soon and we can try again,’ I thought. As frustrated as I was, at least I had tests run and some kind of answers.

Then, in October, we were told the most joyous and heartbreaking news while in Austin preparing for my brother-in-law’s wedding. We were going to be an aunt and uncle. My husband’s brother and soon to be new wife announced right before their rehearsal dinner that they were pregnant and were due in April 2018. I have never felt such a mixed set of emotions in my life. I was confused, excited, angry, disappointed, heartbroken, and trying not to absolutely lose it in front of all of my in-laws as everyone else was overjoyed. I gave the happy couple a hug and told them how happy I was for their big news, then immediately excused myself from the room. I went to my hotel room and balled as I was putting on my last bit of makeup. Seems a little counterproductive, huh? We were minutes away from leaving for dinner, so I had to pull myself together not only be excited for a wedding, but also this additional pregnancy announcement. We had only shared with a select few people we were trying to have a baby and that it was not going so well. I had to be strong and hide my emotions in front of all of the family and friends gathered for the wedding celebration.

Couple smile and pose for a quick photo while dressed up for a rehearsal dinner
Courtesy of Hollie Gambrel

Thank God I was able to get through the weekend. Luckily, I had David by my side for emotional support. We did not cycle in October either. How long was I going to have to wait until we could try again for our own baby? I could not help but question why it comes so naturally, unplanned, easy, unwanted, etc. for others and it seems so impossible for us? I finally cycled in November. Ironically enough, my period started while I was at my sister-in-law’s baby shower for my future niece. I wish I was making this up, but nature does its own thing in its own time. At least now I knew I could have a couple of glasses of champagne to help me get through the shower. This also means David and I have another opportunity to try!

As I was babysitting for my regular Thursday family in December, I was talking to the mom and giving her the latest update. Thank God for her! She was an ear to listen and a heart that yearned to help me. She was always so supporting and kept me levelheaded when I was at my lowest points. She advised me to see her OBGYN for a pre-pregnancy consultation just to get in the door and have a doctor for when we got pregnant. I made it a priority at the beginning of the new year to call and schedule an appointment. I made an appointment with the new OBGYN for early March. That was the earliest they could get us in, so I took the date.

We did not cycle again in December or January, but this time I did not bother to take a test. I am not a frequent alcohol drinker and since we were trying to get pregnant, I was not taking any chances. We cycled again in February and we thought maybe the third time would be the charm. Well, it proved to be just like the other times we tried…unsuccessful. We looked forward to our appointment with the new OBGYN in hopes we could get more answers. Little did I know, this appointment and the news she would give us would change our lives and our approach to parenthood.

My first visit to my new OBGYN went well as far as women’s exam appointments go. The doctor was very nice and seemed very positive about getting us pregnant. She said, ‘Give me 6 months. If I can’t get you pregnant in 6 months, I will send you on to a Reproductive Endocrinologist.’ 6 months. Well, we have waited this long, what is another 6 months? In reality, it was more like 36 hours. I received a call 2 days after my appointment and the nurse said my bloodwork came back abnormal and I needed to make an appointment with the Reproductive Endocrinologist as soon as possible. The soonest the RE’s office could get me in was the end of March. My initial blood work at this appointment raised many red flags. My hormone levels were off. My uterine lining was thin. I do not understand. I’m in the prime of my life. I’m healthy and in great shape. This does not make any sense. Why is this happening to me?

For the next 5 months, I had weekly blood work, vaginal ultrasounds, hormone treatments, and did lots of praying. I was a preschool teacher before getting pregnant and that was what saved me from going into a deep depression. The love those little toddlers gave me every day was such a blessing from God. Their smiles and hugs kept me going when I felt I was going to fall apart. They were always so concerned when I came back to work with a bandage on my arm. They would ask if I had a ‘boo-boo’ and if I was okay. Sweet little things!

Finally, we received my diagnosis. I had Premature Ovarian Insufficiency (POI). I was going through early menopause and there was no treatable cause for it. Looking back, I had the hot flashes, the night sweats, and other symptoms of menopause. At one point, I honestly thought to myself, ‘I am going through menopause,’ but brushed off the thought and attributed feeling warm to the Texas summer sun. I was emotionally numb at this point. I was grateful to finally have an answer, but, um, WHAT??? This is unbelievable! This is our reality. Now we had to find out how far into menopause I had gone. We tried the follicle stimulating hormones, but my ovaries did not respond. I was unable to grow any follicles and that means I do not have any eggs of my own. The silver lining in all of this was I was physically able to carry a child, so we had hope!

David and I made the decision to try IVF with donor eggs. I told David, ‘If the doctor thinks I can carry a child, then I want to try.’ David and I were all in and prepared to work as hard as possible to reach our goal. We met with the donor egg coordinator at our doctor’s office and received details and a cost breakdown. We would need at least $25,000 before we could even think about starting the process. Wow, that is a lot of money! This was going to take forever to save up for, but we were determined to make our dream of becoming parents come true. Once we had all of the details ironed out, we started a blog to give updates to family and friends. It is amazing how many people cared, but did not actually want to talk to me about it. I understand. It is an awkward subject. Most people do not talk about their sex life so casually as David and I do. We had talked about it so much it became like talking about the weather.

Couple out on a dock smile and hold up Red Snapper with the rest of their catches behind them
Courtesy of Hollie Gambrel

We explained how we opened a Family Savings Account and every extra penny was going straight into this account. I worked overtime every day at work. I babysat after work and on the weekends. David worked 6 days a week. We were focused and driven, to say the least! Once people started reading the blog, monetary donations started pouring in! Talk about incredible! We had people sending us money we did not even know. These people were our parents’ friends or co-workers that heard our story and wanted to help. We were speechless of the amount of support we received from everyone, and through their help and our hard work, we were ready to start our process just 9 months after receiving our diagnosis.

In May 2019, I called the donor coordinator at our doctor’s office and told her we were ready to start the IVF process and we had chosen a donor. I knew in my heart if I could not have my own children, at least if we went the donor egg route David could be a part of our child’s creation. I know, I put it so bluntly. I say choosing a donor like it is making a sandwich. But, after all we have been through, some things had to be emotionally prioritized. It was not simply checking off an item on our To-Do List, but at the same time, it was. I am often asked how I felt about having to choose a donor and I really was okay with it. No, I never thought I would not be able to have my own children. My mother and grandmother were very fertile women. Why would I not be?

Life throws things at you to remind you how strong you are. I needed strength because this was far from over. The donor we chose had a wait list and she would not be available for another donor cycle until maybe August at the earliest. Seriously?!?!?! Waiting when you want something this badly is so tough, but we have waited this long and we really liked this donor. She was the option that was the most similar to me: almost my height, blonde hair, a runner. The difference is she has blue eyes. My husband has the most beautiful blue eyes and I was all for trying to hand that trait down to my future child(ren). This extra time gave us more time to save up and be even more prepared to spend an insane amount of money. We tried to look at everything with a positive light in order to stay in the right mindset.

Then, on the morning of June 4, 2019 while I was at work, I received a voicemail from the donor coordinator. The second family in line for the donor we wanted backed out due to personal reasons and if we were ready to start IVF, to give them a call. This was the last thing on my mind!!! I had wrapped my brain and emotions on looking forward to the fall and enjoying myself that summer. I ran to the front office and asked my supervisor if I could make one of the most important phone calls of my life. She knew what this was all about and gave me the privacy to make the call. I am not one who likes to talk on the phone much, especially since the last several phone calls to and from the doctor had not been very positive. I was shaking as I dialed the number. I wanted to scream and cry and laugh all at the same time.

When the coordinator answered the phone, I had to force myself to stay calm in order to talk to her and find out what the next steps would be. She told me she would send over a medication calendar that would give specific dates on when to take what medication and how much to take. I had to place an order with a medication company in California and the medication would be overnighted to work. I needed to start the medication and take it exactly as noted. Holy cow! This is finally happening! I called David and said, ‘Babe, I hope you don’t mind that I made a really important decision without talking to you about it first.’ Boy, was he confused! I never call him during the day at work, so he was a bit nervous when he first answered the phone. I told him I spoke with the donor coordinator and our first choice donor was available and we would be starting our IVF medication the next day. He was ecstatic! Our prayers had been answered! It was go time!

David was my knight in shining armor when it came to administering the IVF medication injections. I would not have been able to give myself the injections! Thank God he did not mind. After a month of preparing my body for the embryo transfer, we transferred one perfect embryo on August 7, 2019. We originally planned on transferring two embryos in hopes that if both embryos did not attach and grow, one would. We were surprised when the doctor told us we would only be transferring one embryo and were slightly disappointed. David asked what the likelihood of this one embryo splitting was and the embryologist reassured us we would ‘have one happy, healthy baby.’ We received a positive blood test on August 16th and had our first ultrasound scheduled for September 3rd. For a second time in our journey, David and I would receive news that would change our lives.

‘Ummm, there are three’ were the words out of the nurse’s mouth as she watched the screen during the ultrasound. I said, ‘Three what?’ and she said, ‘Three babies.’ David and I were in disbelief! We transferred one embryo that was past the splitting stage. How can this be possible? The nurse said, ‘I can tell you how this is possible. God. This is a miracle. One embryo splitting twice is something like a one in a million chance. We do not see this…ever.’ At this point in our journey, people were starting to not believe what we were telling them. First, I was going through menopause at 32. Then, the IVF not only worked, but we were pregnant with identical triplets! Miracles happen and we are living proof!

Pregnant woman smiles while her husband kisses her head and holds her baby
Courtesy of Hollie Gambrel
Courtesy of Hollie Gambrel

For the next 29 weeks, I was a walking example of never giving up and the power of prayer. I had the best pregnancy anyone could ever ask for. I had no complications. My doctor gave me a goal of 34 weeks and to gain 50 lbs. and we met both of those goals. I worked up until I was 33 weeks and then the doctor put me on a week of bedrest to make me rest up before I became a mom to triplets. We had a scheduled C-section on Friday, March 13, 2020. It all happened so fast. Before the doctor had hardly finished making the incision, the first baby was sliding out! A minute later, the second baby was born. And in three minutes, all three boys were a part of our world and David and I were parents! This was the moment we had been waiting for for the last two years and it was worth every second we spent waiting. The boys spent the next 30 days in the hospital’s NICU and Special Care Unit. David and I were able to spend time with them in their room both day and night. The nurses gave us every opportunity to help these little boys grow and to bond with us. It was an ease into parenthood before we took them all home and the real fun begins! All three boys were home on Easter Sunday, April 12, 2020. How symbolic! It was truly a miracle on a very sacred day celebrated in our faith.

Husband kisses his wife's head before she goes in for her C-section to give birth to triplets
Courtesy of Hollie Gambrel
Triplet one with Green Louie duck from Disney
Courtesy of Hollie Gambrel
Triplet two with Blue Dewey duck from Disney
Courtesy of Hollie Gambrel
Triplet three with Red Huey duck from Disney
Courtesy of Hollie Gambrel

Life with triplets is awesome! Yes, it was very difficult after we first had all three boys home. With the pandemic, we had a lot of extra help. Family helped around the clock with the feedings and diapering. Some family came and went while others took up residence in our house. Since we were all quarantined, we spent a lot of time together! But, that was definitely a blessing in disguise. David and I were able to actually get some sleep and not have to be ‘on’ at all times. I became a stay at home mom and I have been taking care of the boys during the day by myself since they were about 4 months old. I absolutely love my job and would not trade it for anything! I have been able to see the boys’ reach their milestones and been there for them everyday. I will never take this for granted. I am one of the most blessed people I know and I am thrilled to be able to share our story of hope with all of you readers. Thank you for taking your time to read our story. I pray it gives you hope. I pray it gives you strength. I pray it shows you the power of faith. Never give up on your dreams because with God, all things are possible!”

Triplets wearing matching onesies that say 'Sometimes when you pray for a miracle God gives you three'
Courtesy of Hollie Gambrel
Courtesy of Hollie Gambrel
Courtesy of Hollie Gambrel
Couple smile and pose with their identical triplet boys in front of a river
Courtesy of Hollie Gambrel
Couple with three identical male triplets pose for a photo at Sunday Church
Courtesy of Hollie Gambrel

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Hollie Gambrel of Carrollton, TX. You can follow their journey on Instagram. Submit your own story hereand be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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