‘When I wiped, I felt something coming out. I got a sick feeling in my stomach – I knew what was about to happen.’: LGBT couple battle infertility, miscarriages, loss of triplets to have rainbow baby

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“In October 2013 I met my wife. We dated for a whole six months before we walked down the aisle. May 9, 2014, we became wife and wife. Our plan was to wait a few years and then start on our family. In February 2016 we started the IVF process. We did one round of IVF that ended with a big fat negative. This wasn’t the first time I’ve gone through IVF. In my previous relationship prior to meeting my wife, my partner and I tried IVF a total of six times. Needless to say, it never worked. So this time it was different. My wife was new to it all and was overwhelmed, but so optimistic. Me on the other hand, I was just hoping for the best.

Wife and wife stand outside with officiant at wedding
Courtesy of Melissa Steinert

After our negative result in February, we tried again at the end of summer. This time we would be using my wife’s eggs and my uterus. This is something I’ve never tried before. I remember the day of the transfer. My wife and I hadn’t decided on whether we would be transferring two or three embryos. I never held a pregnancy before. I had been pregnant twice, but both times it ended in early miscarriages, between 6 and 8 weeks. We decided to transfer three embryos with the hopes that at least one would stick. During the 2-week wait, I did everything I could to help that little embryo stick. I drank pomegranate juice and ate Brazilian nuts and pineapple cores. I tried not to get too caught up in looking for early pregnancy symptoms. I did that in the past and it was just such mind games.

The morning of my first beta test I took a home pregnancy test, and there it was… two perfectly pink lines. I ran downstairs to try to catch my wife before she went to work. We were both super excited – but cautious. We knew that a positive pregnancy test this early was never a for sure thing. After a few more positive beta tests, we scheduled our first ultrasound.

God, I remember that morning like it was yesterday. I was so nervous and so scared I cried all the way to the facility. I know my wife was nervous too, but in typical Crystal fashion, she kept it together so that she could keep me calm. With my first two pregnancies, I never made it to see the baby’s heartbeat. I lost them before we got to that ultrasound. I was trying to stay optimistic but preparing myself for the worst. We got into the room and I laid on that cold bed, put my feet in the stirrups and prayed. After a few moments that felt like forever, my doctor looked up at me and Crystal and said, ‘You’re having twins!’ We were in shock. We sat there staring at each other trying to process what we just heard. But just a few seconds later, our doctor had a weird look on her face. She said, ‘Wait! I think I see triplets!’ I had no words! We were beyond excited.

Our pregnancy went as planned. Everything was falling into place and we couldn’t be happier. We waited until the second trimester to tell our family. They were all so happy! Since I was having triplets, I had to go to a high-risk doctor once every 2 weeks. At 16 weeks we found out we were having one boy and two girls! All our dreams were coming true.

At our 22-week scan, our doctor told us my cervix was a little short and to go home on bed rest. She didn’t seem too worried or concerned, so I went home and stayed off my feet as much as possible. A week later at 23 weeks I started having contractions. I was at home and started having lower back pains and tightness. My wife drove me to the hospital ‘just in case.’ When we got there everything was confirmed. I was in labor, and they were going to try to stop it. But the doctors also made me aware that if I had my kids, they would not resuscitate them because they were not viable. After steroid shots and meds, the contractions stopped. For the next week they would come and go but nothing serious. I was in the hospital that whole week. On Thanksgiving I started feeling tightness and cramping again. Crystal had gone home to feed the dogs and get some clean clothes. I began to get nervous, so I texted her asking her to hurry back. An hour or so passed and I had to go to the restroom. When I wiped, I felt something coming out. I quickly called a nurse and was examined by a doctor. My world came crashing down when she told me it was my son’s sac and I would be going into an emergency C-section! Luckily my wife was in the parking lot on her way up to me.

Pregnant woman takes mirror selfie in hospital bathroom
Courtesy of Melissa Steinert

We were both so nervous. I was so scared! It was one of the scariest things I’ve been through… ever. But I had hope. My babies were 24 weeks! They were viable, so the doctors would try to save them. On November 25th, 2016, our son was born first, and our two daughters followed. All with the tiniest cries. I was in love! We were in love! My wife went with the kids to the NICU and I went to recovery. I woke up a few hours later to a phone call from the NICU letting me know my son was in distress. My wife was already with him when I got there.

We lost our son, Killian Wolfgang, 9 hours after birth, our daughter, Winter Snow, 20 hours after, and our second daughter, Willow Rey, 4 days after.

Mother sits in hospital holding newborn who won't live long
Courtesy of Melissa Steinert

I can never explain the pain of losing your children 3 times. Towards the end, it all became a blur. By the time our daughter Willow passed, I had nothing left in me. I was so broken, and still am to this day.

We never got a clear answer why they died. It was just chalked up to prematurity and infection.The worst thing besides losing them… is having to pick up their birth certificates with the word ‘deceased’ stamped across it.

Woman sits in NICU holding newborn who won't live long while her wife kneels beside her
Courtesy of Melissa Steinert
Mother sits in NICU kissing forehead of newborn who will soon pass away
Courtesy of Melissa Steinert
Mother sits in rocking chair in NICU holding newborn with wife in background crying
Courtesy of Melissa Steinert

We had their funeral services 2 days after Christmas. It was the worst holiday season of my life. I never thought I’d be planning a funeral for my kids. But the service was beautiful. So much family and friends came out to support us. At the end of the service we released butterflies for the kids.

Table surrounded in flowers and picture frames of wives lost children
Courtesy of Melissa Steinert
Three urns sit on table with necklaces around them for wives lost children
Courtesy of Melissa Steinert
Picture frame rests on table with pictures of wives three lost babies and three stuffed animals
Courtesy of Melissa Steinert
Butterfly rests on woman's finger who lost three babies
Courtesy of Melissa Steinert

A few months later, I wanted to try again. I look back now and think it was crazy for me to want to try so soon. I definitely think I was trying to fill a void – the big black hole my triplets left in my heart. But the doctor had me wait for at least 8 months. While we were waiting, I found out about a condition called incompetent cervix… it’s basically a weak cervix. There is a treatment for it called a TAC (transabdominal cerclage.) It’s a permanent cerclage. The only doctor that would do it for me was in Chicago. My wife and I packed up and headed to see Dr. Haney. This would guarantee that when I got pregnant again, my cervix wouldn’t open. Chicago was beautiful and we loved our little mini vacation. The surgery itself was intense and painful. We flew home two days after the surgery and I was feeling back to normal after a week or so.

In August, 9 months after we lost our triplets, we did a frozen embryo transfer. I became pregnant again! This time with a singleton. We were happy but scared, again. The triplets’ 1st birthday was fast approaching, and we decided to have a birthday party for them. An actual party with friends and family, cake, balloons and in a beautiful park. I was about 18 weeks pregnant at the time and had the doctor tell my cousin the gender. We added the gender reveal to the birthday party. I thought there was something sweet about sharing the gender with the triplets on their birthday.

Woman stands outside holding strand of blue balloons with rainbow attached to end of it
Courtesy of Melissa Steinert

We were having a BOY! So many emotions ran through me my whole pregnancy. So many questions bounced around in my head at night. ‘Would I be able to love him?’ was the one that kept popping up most.

The pregnancy was going great… and then, January 3rd after a doctor appointment, I was home relaxing when I felt one. A contraction! I was 23 weeks pregnant, just like the triplets. My wife drove to labor and delivery where again, everything was confirmed. I was in labor. But this time I had the cerclage! Long story short, I ended up in the hospital for two months! Contracting and bleeding on a daily basis. The doctor didn’t know what was happening and how to stop it for good. They put me on magnesium and that would help lessen the contractions.

I got preeclampsia and the doctors said enough is enough. The doctor told me I would be meeting my son in a few hours. I was 30 weeks pregnant… 10 weeks early. I was terrified and didn’t want this to happen. But I knew he had a great chance of surviving.

We notified our family and close friends. My mom was just about to catch a flight when I called her. She was on her way to the hospital before we even hung up. Our families flooded the hospital. Our little guy was so anticipated.

I was prepped for a caesarean and before I knew it, I was laying on the operating table again, now my second C-section. Minutes that seemed like hours had passed before Zev River was born, February 21, 2018. When he came out, he wasn’t breathing. I didn’t hear a cry – and my heart sunk. But then a nurse came to ask my wife if she would cut the cord. Ugh… that was the biggest relief. The doctors that were working on me started to sound panicked. The doctors started to call for back up and for extra nurses.

By this time my wife was back with me and we both knew something wasn’t right. My wife noticed a pool of blood that started to gather beneath my operating table. The next thing I knew my doctor popped her head over the blue divider and told me that she might have to remove my uterus. My uterus wasn’t clamping back down, and wouldn’t stop bleeding. She said she would try everything not to remove my uterus but if it came down to life or death, she was going to pull it out. After a few minutes of them trying to fix the situation the doctor asked that my wife leave the room. I got such a sick feeling in my stomach because I knew what was about to happen. Again, the doctor peeked over the blue divider and said, ‘We’re going to sedate you and put you to sleep. We need to remove your uterus. You will die if we don’t.’

The next thing I know – I woke up in ICU. I had lost 80% of my blood and had multiple blood transfusions, had no uterus and a PIC line.

My first question to my wife was, ‘Is he alive?’ That question still plays in my mind today and every time it does, my heart sinks. That should never be a mother’s first question. But it was mine and yes, he was alive! I got to meet him later that day. I can’t express the feeling that rushed over me. He was alive and thriving!

Newborn asleep in NICU with tubes up his nose
Courtesy of Melissa Steinert

For so many months I hated my body for failing me, my wife and most of all – our triplets. But it was this same body that kept Zev safe for as long as it could. Zev stayed in the NICU for 2 months and only had one little bump in the road while he was there. He is now home with us and has bypassed so many milestones!

That question that bounced around in my head in the beginning, ‘Will I be able to love him?,’ has been answered. I love him more than I have ever loved anything. It’s an incredibly kind, sweet, innocent and pure love. I love all my babies and speak of all of them often. We have hard days but that’s to be expected. Now that we have Zev, our good days definitely outweigh our bad days.

I still struggle, and the grief is very present in my life. After the triplets I had severe depression and after Zev I had postpartum depression. I’m still trying to find my new normal. Some people think Zev was supposed to be the cure to my grief, but that’s not how it works. No one or thing will ever fill that hole. It’s just something I will live with until we meet again. But for now, I’m trying to focus on being the best mom and wife I can be.

One thing that has definitely helped me through everything, is having a supportive, loving wife. She has been my rock. And I could never thank her enough for holding my hand through all of it.”

Mothers sit on ledge outside with their young son in front of Christmas tree
Courtesy of Melissa Steinert

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Melissa Steinert of Los Angeles. Submit your own story here, and subscribe to our best stories in our free newsletter here.

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