*Trigger warning to anyone who has gone through infertility or suffered a miscarriage.*
Infertility. It’s not a club you’re invited to join. It’s not a club you think you’ll ever be a part of; one you certainly don’t know much about … until you’re in. I realize my journey to and through infertility is different than most. Anyone who has walked this path has their own unique story and mix of heartbreak, joy, beauty, suffering and shots. Lots of shots.
Infertility is defined as not being able to get pregnant (conceive) after one year or more of unprotected sex. Treatments for infertility include, but are not limited to, assisted reproductive technology – OI (Ovulation Induction), IUI (Intrauterine Insemination) and IVF (In-Vitro Fertilization).
I could get into the numbers game of my medication cost, how many shots I took, how many follicles I had, eggs retrieved, embryos fertilized, day 3 numbers, etc. — but instead I’ll say this – IVF is not for the faint of heart. It is emotionally, physically and mentally draining. Your hormones will be out of whack and you’ll have to pretend to be a normal, functioning human being. During the 10-day wait period (where you don’t know if it was successful or not), I was a shell. I remember going through the motions of work, social events and holiday gatherings with family. All the while, I was scared to death this was our one and only chance.
What if it didn’t work?
What if it worked and I miscarried (again)?
But also, what if there are two babies?
My journey to IVF was fast tracked when I had my right ovary and fallopian tube removed due to a large cyst. Shortly after, I experienced an ectopic miscarriage that ruptured resulting in emergency surgery and removal of my left fallopian tube. Two and a half months into natural family planning, we were now being referred to fertility specialists in Dallas, Austin and Temple. I didn’t know where to begin, much less how to process my new reality.
I didn’t know anyone personally who had gone through IVF, but a friend immediately connected us with someone who had. For this (now) friend — who my eyes still well up when I see her and her sweet kids — I am forever grateful. Her vulnerability, story of hope, advice on how to advocate for yourself, her experience with pain, heartbreak and joy – it gave me the courage to keep going. Sharing your story is powerful.
After my initial blood work at a Dallas clinic, I was told that my egg count was extremely – red-flag level low. That if I wanted to proceed, we needed to start now. Our amazing doctor told us, “It only takes one healthy egg.” I held on to those words and remembered being prayed over at the hospital after my ectopic. My pastor’s wife prayed and received a word from God – a vision of “healthy eggs.” Not lots of eggs, but healthy ones. Specific prayers are powerful.
Next came the long road – not only did we spend hours on the road to Dallas, but the daily medication, shots and the waiting. IVF has a way of teaching you that we have no control over our fertility. The numbers were against me, and I had to learn to let go of my expectations for our family and trust God with our story. Only then was I free to continue down the road with a sense of peace and grace for myself and others. Release is powerful.
It turns out our doctor was right. It only took one healthy egg. Almost exactly one year from my ectopic miscarriage, I gave birth to my daughter, Hayden. With no frozen embryos and my clock ticking, we started IVF round two when Hayden was eight months old. The numbers went about the same. Again, it only took one healthy egg. Our girls are seventeen months apart. Hayden & Allie are thick as thieves and are two beautiful reminders of love, mercy, grace and blessings from God. Our bodies are powerful.
From round two of IVF, my eggs were healthier and we had one embryo good enough to freeze. We transferred it last summer. I couldn’t believe I was pregnant again, but nine weeks later I suffered another miscarriage. While I’m still heartbroken from that loss, I know it’s not the end of our story – maybe the end of this chapter, but not our story. Hope is powerful.
Personally, I’ve found it healing to discuss our IVF journey openly. We had no idea what we were in for and having people who loved, checked in on and prayed over us helped us keep moving forward. Man, did we feel (and need) those prayers. I understand for some this journey can feel extremely private, even sacred. If you happen to be on this journey and are hesitant to share, I encourage you to confide in at least one trusted friend. There is comfort knowing someone is there for you, contending on your behalf. Vulnerability is powerful.
In a recent podcast interview with Brené Brown, Susan Cain, author of the newly released book Bittersweet, explains her definition of what Bittersweet means to her: “The recognition that light & dark, joy & sorrow, are always going to co-exist. And that’s what life is. It’s an awareness of passing time, an awareness at the impermanence of life … We are creatures who are born to transform pain into beauty.”
And, to me, that is exactly what our IVF journey has been. Bittersweet. Balancing the joy of our two girls with the sorrow of the two we lost.