Trigger Warning: This story contains mentions of miscarriage that may be triggering to some.
“One might find irony in the fact as I type this a photo of my four children sits on the wooden table right next to a stack of medical bills displaying the word ‘infertility’ in bold font. My path to motherhood, like many who go through infertility treatment, was a bumpy road full of ups and downs. An always consuming, never-ending path that seemed to be dependent on counting numbers. Counting the viable eggs during egg retrieval, counting how many embryos would grow into successful blastocysts or counting down the weeks in between transfer dates and pregnancy tests. We were told from the beginning we didn’t have the numbers we needed. We could remain cautiously optimistic but the numbers just weren’t there. In the end, it turns out the only number you need is one. That one and only, it-had-to-be-you little number one. But for this story to make sense, let’s rewind to the beginning.
The year was 2012. My husband, Will, and I were newly married and swiftly after returning home from our honeymoon, we started trying for a family. We were both in our 30s and both very much wanted to become parents, so we did not see any reason to wait. At first, we tried on our own. And we tried and we tried. Months of trying to get pregnant on our own slowly turned into years. But we soon realized making a baby was not going to be easy for us. And by the end of 2013, we decided to see a reproductive endocrinologist and finally get help. In 2014, we had our first glimmer of hope. After doing five intrauterine inseminations (IUI), I was finally pregnant! We waited so long to hear the muffled thumping sound of a baby’s heartbeat on an ultrasound, when it finally arrived I felt the hugest sigh of relief. 10 weeks later, I miscarried this baby.
We never even had the chance to announce I was pregnant. Even our close friends were unaware of what was happening. So when we lost the baby, we did so secretly and silently. Although I had a wonderful, supportive partner, I have never felt more alone than I did during this time. I felt like I was in a secret hidden club. A club I never asked to be a part of in the first place. Why did something as beautiful as wanting to become a mother suddenly feel so shameful? But this is how I felt. I was angry with myself and with my body for being unable to do the one thing I wanted so badly for it to do. I decided I didn’t enjoy feeling this way. I began to open up publically about the miscarriage, my fertility appointments, the hormone injections, the fertility smoothies, the acupuncture visits, and everything in between. Through this, I discovered an encouraging and heartwarming tribe of people were out there this entire time, rooting and cheering us on.
By 2015, we had our first egg retrieval and it was during this procedure I was diagnosed with what is called ‘low ovarian reserve.’ Translations: I was born with very few eggs. This was not due to an illness or injury. And at the time I was only 32, which is not yet considered ‘geriatric’ for pregnancy standards. But just as a person may be born with only one kidney or with only nine fingers, I was simply born with very few eggs. So, we did IVF. They were able to retrieve eight eggs. Five of them were mature and viable, four of them went on to fertilize with my husband’s sperm and become embryos, and then two of them grew into 5-day old embryos, also known as blastocysts. One did not survive the transfer into my body, but the last little one did. Somehow, my body did what the doctors said I might not ever be able to do and on Valentine’s Day of 2016, I gave birth to a beautiful, 8-pound, 9-ounce baby boy named Liam.
By 2018, we were ready to try again for another baby. We once again were unsuccessful at any ‘at-home DIY’ attempts to get pregnant. So, we went back to the endocrinologist and we made a plan for another IVF. We did not have any remaining embryos from the 2015 retrieval so we were starting from scratch, but this time I was three years older. My eggs were 3 years older and there would be fewer of them for the doctors to retrieve. So once again we were playing the numbers game.
This time, the doctors pumped me up with the highest dosage possible of egg stimulating hormones in an effort to give me the best chance possible. ‘If this doesn’t work out,’ the doctor told us, ‘we can discuss using donor eggs.’ But thanks to a little good luck, answered prayers, and the glory of modern medicine, we ended up with nine eggs, seven that were mature, five that fertilized, and two that grew into embryos. We transferred one of the embryos and nine months later, weighing 8 pounds and 13 ounces, baby Bear Ellis was born.
So, our story now takes us to 2020. We were in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, and although the entire world seemed to be on pause, we could not stop our desire for a third child, just one more baby to complete our tribe. We knew we had one remaining frozen embryo, so we met with the doctor to formulate a plan. The doctor agreed now was a good time to transfer this embryo. However, our insurance company was not as sympathetic. As it turned out, I had already met my maximum ‘lifetime cap’ on fertility treatment, and they would no longer cover any of the procedures and medications. The cost out of pocket was over 100,000 dollars, and with the world being in a state of unknown and employment on the brink of nonexistence, we were once again allowing numbers to make the decision for us, this time in the form of dollar signs.
We went home and that night, as I watched my husband dancing with our two boys in the sunroom, I tried to convince myself I would be happy with just the four of us. But deep down there was a feeling I simply could not shake. The feeling ‘we weren’t all here yet.’ Someone was missing from our late-night dance party. Now, I should mention one small, somewhat very important detail to this story. At this point, my husband and I were married for 8 and a half years and during this time we never used any form of birth control. Why would we? We were told numerous times a natural pregnancy was highly unlikely. And 8 years of unprotected intercourse seemed to verify this statement. But later that summer, on a hot afternoon in July, it dawned on me I never got my period that month. I decided to wait a few days and see what happened. But nothing happened. I hid in the master bathroom, took out the digital pregnancy test, waited the longest two minutes of my life, and then sobbed happy tears as the words ‘PREGNANT’ appeared on the screen.
We were extremely shocked but absolutely excited. I called my fertility doctor because this was unchartered water for us and I was unsure who else to call. She informed me even though we did not use fertility treatment for this pregnancy, we are always and forever her patient and she would be happy to see us for an early ultrasound to confirm the pregnancy. The moment the doctor turned on the ultrasound screen, there was a long pause. She smiled and said, ‘Now remind me, did I give you anything to help trigger this pregnancy?’ Worried something was wrong, we quickly replied, ‘No, this happened all on its own.’ She smiled even bigger and announced, ‘Okay, just checking because there are two babies in there!’ After years of being told I did not have enough eggs, it turned out I did have enough, and in fact, more than enough! The doctors believe I did what is called hyperovulation. For a normal cycle, a woman will ovulate and drop one of her eggs. But in some cases, as is the case for hyperovulation, you may drop two or even three eggs.
This is sometimes due to a genetic gene passed down to women from their mother or grandmother, which is why you sometimes see twins that run in families. Another cause, which they believe is my case, is due to a combination of advanced maternal age and a history of infertility. The doctor described it as ‘Your body knew you were getting older and already didn’t have many eggs left, so it tried to overcompensate by dropping two eggs in one cycle to give you a higher chance of conceiving!’ So I dropped two eggs. And the universe decided they were both meant to be. All those years of failed fertility treatments, low egg counts, miscarriages, and failed embryo transfers, and here I was, naturally pregnant with twins. I held my breath going into each doctor’s appointment and each ultrasound and I prepared for the worst, but deep down I had fallen in love with both of these babies. Two babies at the same time. It’s amazing how something I never knew I wanted was suddenly all that I could think of.
How I dreamed of just one more baby to add to our late-night dance parties, and yet now I knew we were meant to add two more. And on April 6th, 2021, Ziggy and Olive, our two little surprise quarantine babies, were finally here. In the end, it turns out doctors can be wrong. Miracles do happen. And after all the obsessing and counting of eggs, in the end, you only need one. That one and only, it-had-to-be-you little egg. So keep wishing, dreaming, and stay hopeful, because you never know, you may wish for one and end up with four!”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Priscilla T. Brown of Charleston, South Carolina. You can follow her journey on Instagram and her website. Purchase her book, ‘Waiting on the Universe,’ here. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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