Infertility

Infertility. When I first was diagnosed with it, I had many emotions. In a world where it seemed like everyone I knew was popping out babies, one after another, with no problem at all, I was alone. People who don’t struggle with it don’t understand. Most people don’t understand.

Or so I thought. Then I started talking to the people around me and I was shocked by how many dealt with this on some level. I was not alone. Some people did understand.

For some reason, infertility is a taboo topic. It’s rarely talked about. If I knew someone like me before my journey began, someone I could talk to and hash out the contradicting thoughts and emotions with, someone who understood through experience, then maybe I wouldn’t have struggled so much in the beginning.

Now, I get to be that person, and I’m so thankful that my story can help someone else with theirs. So, without further ado, here’s my story.

~ Becky ❤

I want to have babies.

July 2012

For me, wanting to have children isn’t just natural, it’s spiritual. I believe God put that desire into the hearts of men and women. Everyone’s journey to bearing children is different – some are happy, some are sad, some are difficult and some are easy. My journey has been challenging and since it has changed me forever, I think it’s time to share it.

To properly set this up we have to start in June of 2009, about four months before Mark and I married. We didn’t want children right away so I went to the doctor to get a prescription for birth control. This is a common thing to do, I know that, but what is uncommon is what I had to do in order to begin using it. To start birth control, you have to have a menstrual cycle. Since my last cycle was about 6 months before this appointment, it posed a problem. So I was prescribed medicine that would trigger a menstrual cycle. Everything happened as planned.

Fast forward about two-and-a-half years. In December of 2011 my husband and I decided to go off of birth control and start trying for a baby. Six months passed and nothing happened – except I started skipping cycles again. So I went back to the doctor. I was prescribed Clomid to aid in egg growth and ovulation and Prometrium (which is progesterone) to bring my hormone levels up to where they should be for pregnancy. There were certain days I had to take each medication to support what should have been naturally occurring in my body. After the first try we didn’t get pregnant but since I was taking the medication my menstrual cycle started to regulate again. That seemed like a good thing so we were encouraged.

We did this two more times. Each cycle we went through was long – about seven weeks each, so after three failed attempts we were just beginning 2013. At this point, we had been trying to conceive for over a year so my OB/GYN referred us to a fertility clinic. And that’s where our journey really begins…

A trip to CNY Fertility

March 2013

In March of 2013 my husband and I had our first appointment at CNY Fertility. This appointment was just a consultation with a doctor to review our options and plan out future fertility treatments. We were faced with several options but first, we had to do some testing to learn why my cycle was so irregular.

Thankfully, my husband is healthy. The issue was me and just me. I had consulted Dr. Internet before all this, trying to diagnose myself (not recommended but nearly impossible to not do), and was 90% sure I had PCOS and that was causing the problem. I have a friend who has PCOS and after talking to her about it I was pretty sure that’s what I was facing too.

PCOS stands for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. There are many symptoms of PCOS and not every woman with the disorder shares the same symptoms. Women with PCOS have higher levels of androgens, which causes irregular menstrual cycles, and polycystic ovaries. Many women have other symptoms as well, such as insulin resistance.

As one of my nurses told me, polycystic ovaries look like chocolate chip cookies. Instead of having a couple follicles growing at a time, there are dozens. These follicles – or chocolate chips – are little cysts that are created when my ovaries release hormones for ovulation but ovulation doesn’t occur. And they don’t just go away. So the ovaries are overcrowded with these cysts and produce high levels of androgens, making it an unhealthy environment for an egg to mature and be ovulated.

I don’t have all of the symptoms of PCOS but I do have higher levels of androgens and polycystic ovaries. The doctors at CNY confirmed this by blood tests and an ultrasound. They also performed other tests to verify that I wasn’t facing other issues.

One of those tests is meant to determine if both Fallopian tubes are open. That test involves dye being injected into you and traced by an ultrasound. You can then see if the dye spreads through the uterus and into both tubes. On me, the dye made it all the way up the right tube but stopped near the opening of the left tube, close to the uterus. An apparent blockage. Because of the location of the blockage, there is a high percentage that what we saw was actually a muscle spasm, but verifying that would require minor surgery. We were assured that one open tube is all we need for a successful pregnancy, so we decided not to proceed with that procedure.

So now Mark and I were facing fertility treatments knowing that I have PCOS and may have one blocked tube. For all intents and purposes, we assumed that the left tube was indeed blocked and were praying that the Lord would bless my right ovary and right tube.

Then came the next part. Deciding on the treatment.

Juggling faith and infertility.

April 2013

There are three main options available to couples pursuing fertility treatments – IVF (in vitro fertilization), IUI (intrauterine insemination), and natural intercourse. All three options may include the use of fertility medications. Since we had been trying on our own with the aid of oral fertility drugs with no success, we knew our chances were better if we tried one of the other methods.

But deciding what to do was difficult. Life happens at conception. We don’t take that lightly.

With IVF, the woman is given fertility drugs so her ovaries produce a bunch of eggs at one time. Those eggs are extracted and then fertilized with the husband’s sperm. Not all eggs are healthy so they’re not all fertilized, and some eggs don’t “take” the sperm and never become fertilized. So if you have 14 eggs extracted, you may only end up with seven embryos, or babies. It is too risky to transfer that many embryos back into the mother’s uterus since the chances of having multiples is so high. Most clinics don’t recommend transferring any more than two embryos at a time. So of those seven embryos, two may be transferred back into the mother and the other five are frozen. The frozen embryos will be preserved and thawed for use in a future cycle.

With IUI, the woman is given fertility drugs so her ovaries produce a couple mature eggs at a time. Three to five eggs is ideal. When the eggs reach maturity, the woman takes a trigger shot; your body ovulates within 36-48 hours after the trigger shot. The couple collects sperm from the man and goes to the clinic for the procedure. The doctors/nurses wash the sperm and inject it into the woman’s uterus, where it hopefully meets the eggs that will soon be ovulated.

Your chances of pregnancy are higher with IFV than IUI so that option is definitely appealing. But Mark and I just weren’t comfortable with the “what ifs.”. What if I can’t go through multiple cycles and use the remaining frozen embryos? We could put the embryos up for adoption, but there were certain scenarios with even that option that gave us no peace. Plus, it is possible that some of the embryos wouldn’t survive the thawing process. This thought literally kept us up at night, so we chose not to do it.

In the end, we decided to proceed with an IUI and soon became pros at the whole process.

1st incomplete IUI cycle

June 2013

In June of 2013, Mark and I prepared for our first IUI. We had just completed our marathon and my body had recovered so we were ready to take the next steps. In addition to the fertility drugs I had also started taking Metformin. (Metformin is actually a pre-diabetic drug that deals with the insulin resistance side of PCOS. After several months on the drugs, my hormone levels should balance out a little better. I am still taking this medication and will continue to take it even when I get pregnant.)

For our first cycle at CNY, they recommended we try using just Clomid to stimulate my ovaries. So I took that medication and reported in for regular checkups to monitor the growth of the ovarian follicles. I ended up with only one mature follicle. In the left ovary. On the side that has the blocked tube.

My chances of success with this cycle were nearly non-existent so we decided not to go through with the actual IUI (the injection of the sperm). We deemed this cycle a natural cycle and tried to conceive on our own. Two weeks later I went in for a blood test. It came back negative.

So our first cycle technically wasn’t an IUI, but it was a full cycle of medication and another attempt at getting pregnant so I count it. On day one of my next menstrual cycle, I called the clinic and prepared for another round.

2nd incomplete IUI cycle

July 2013

In late July, Mark and I prepared for our second attempt at an IUI. Since we didn’t get very good results with the Clomid we decided to change the medication and use Gonal, an FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) injection. Gonal is much stronger and provides greater stimulation to the ovaries. We wanted 3-5 eggs in this cycle so we went for the greater stimulation.

I started giving myself a shot of Gonal every day. I went to the clinic for monitoring every other day and could see by the second day that both ovaries were responding. By my next appointment, I had about eight follicles that were taking off. Eight is too many for an IUI so we dialed back the amount of medication I was taking and decided to administer the shots every other day. To prevent my body from ovulating the eggs that were reaching maturity, I began taking a shot of Lupron every evening.

By this point, I was starting to feel uncomfortable. I went back for my next appointment, which happened to be on a Friday, and was told my ovaries were over stimulated. That explained the discomfort. I had to come back the next day for additional monitoring.

That Saturday I was told I had too many follicles and we had to either skip the IUI or convert this cycle to IVF. By that point, I had a good eight eggs that were fully mature and another eight or so that were close behind. Women with PCOS have more eggs in their ovarian reserve than most women, so my situation was probably common enough, but I was incredibly disappointed.

I went off all the fertility medications and waited for my body to ovulate on its own. My ovaries were more than twice the size they should be and I had to limit my physical activity to no more than 15 minutes of walking a day. As a runner, this was hard for me. Not only do I get the itch to run because I enjoy exercise (I know, I’m weird), but it’s also how I deal with things. If I’m stressed out, upset, excited – you name it – I run. Running releases all those negative, pent-up emotions and helps me relax. I was so frustrated!

Because I had to wait for my body to ovulate on its own – and to hopefully start another menstrual cycle without the aid of medication – it took longer than usual to be able to start our third attempt at an IUI.

So we waited and prayed.

1st complete IUI cycle

September 2013

After our last attempt and the issues I had, we had to wait a few extra weeks before trying again so all the follicles, or cysts, in my ovaries would shrink back down. By mid-September, we were back in full swing again.

Because I responded so strongly to taking Gonal injections every day, we changed our approach and pursued a mini-IUI. With this method, I take the Clomid for five days and then take the smallest possible dose of Gonal every other day. So once I had the ultrasound and my bloodwork confirmed that my body was at “baseline” this is what we did.

All things considered, I felt pretty normal. The nurses advised me to limit my activity but the doctor told me I could still run up to 25 miles a week. Since not running is hard for me, I continued to run but cut way back.

At my next clinical visit the ultrasound looked great. I had three mature eggs, two on the right side and one on the left side. We couldn’t really count the egg on the left side but having two mature eggs on the right side was still encouraging. This time, the nurses had us prepare for the IUI.

The evening before the IUI I gave myself the trigger shot. The needle used for this shot is thicker so the shot itself is not very fun! But for my first time with this medication, it wasn’t so bad.

On the morning of the IUI I was nervous. This was our first time getting this far and I didn’t know what to expect, except that I was expecting a baby to come out of it! Before dropping off the semen sample, we prayed that God would bless us with a child, but we also prayed that if He didn’t, we’d be able to accept it.

So we had our first full IUI cycle. Yay! I was due to return to the clinic in two weeks for the blood test and immediately began praying for a positive.

The clinic I go to highly recommends acupuncture to help increase blood flow to the uterus and support pregnancy. Now I can’t say too much about acupuncture and I’m not sure if it does all it claims to do, but it is incredibly relaxing! That alone is sure to have some kind of benefit, right? Whatever the case may be, it was a great time to pray that God would touch my body and make it a healthy place for a baby.

The two week wait is probably the worst part of the cycle. Because of the meds you’re on you start to feel what would be early pregnancy symptoms. You start to walk a fine line between feeling these slight changes in your body and trying to keep your head level. It’s dangerous to convince yourself that you’re pregnant because of these symptoms. In reality, it’s just the drugs. But it’s impossible not to hope that you are pregnant. Every day on my drive into work I would pray that God would touch my body, fertilize the egg, and allow that precious baby to be born. It was an emotional ride.

As we approached the end of the two weeks I became convinced that I was not pregnant. I somehow just knew. The morning of the test I drove to the clinic with the expectation that the blood test would come back negative.

That afternoon I got the call. It was a negative, just as I expected, but I still shed a tear or two. Even though I had mentally convinced myself that I wasn’t pregnant I still felt the disappointment as if I expected a positive.

But it didn’t take too long to go from broken and not wanting to face another cycle to being hopeful and trusting that God is still going to bless us. We gave it all to Him and waited another week or so before starting the process all over again.

2nd complete IUI cycle

October 2013

In October, 2013, my husband and I prepared for our second IUI (but fourth attempt). We were going to do everything the same as the previous cycle so we knew what to expect. I took the same dose of the same meds, went through the same every-other-day monitoring, and had high hopes.

This time, I had one very mature egg in the left ovary and one barely mature egg in the right ovary. One ovary tends to dominate each cycle and in a perfect world the ovaries alternate from one cycle to the next. Since my right ovary was dominant in the previous cycle, it made sense that my left ovary would dominate this cycle. Though since the left tube is blocked, all our hope was on that barely mature egg in the right ovary. I guess it is possible for the left ovary to release an egg that gets picked up by the right tube but this is rare, so we were not counting on that being the case for us. Though, again, it is impossible not to hope.

As we approached the day of the IUI, my husband and I knew exactly what to do. We went to the clinic, underwent the procedure, and went home. I went out and ran a couple miles that day. Overall, I still felt great.

I basically had the same experience during this two week wait as I did previously. I went for acupuncture twice. I prayed constantly that the Lord would open my womb and bless us with a baby. I even let myself look at crochet patterns for babies and DIY projects for nurseries, something that I refrained from in the past because it was too painful. But this time I was really hopeful and decided that thinking about a nursery was like confirming that I believed God would work a miracle.

When the two week wait was up I returned to the clinic for the blood test. I waited until the afternoon and then decided to call the clinic to see if the results were in. My husband was given tickets to the Rochester Amerks game and we were going with some friends. I wanted to know the results before the game. But no such luck. The results weren’t in yet.

We got to the game and weren’t in our seats 15 minutes when my phone rang. I sprinted up the steps and dashed into the nearest bathroom to answer the call. By the tone in the nurse’s voice, I immediately knew the answer. Another negative. She recommended setting up a consultation with the doctor to review my chart and talk about how we can approach it differently. I listened and promised to call them back when we decided what we wanted to do. I could see my husband waiting for me outside the women’s bathroom and I just wanted to go to him.

He could tell right away that it wasn’t the answer we wanted. He hugged me and I couldn’t help buy cry a little, though I didn’t want to because we were in a very public place. I called my family to share the news, pulled myself together and went back down to my seat. Our friends were very supportive. They’re going through fertility treatments as well so words weren’t needed for them to know how we felt.

When we got home that evening, my husband told me it was safe to cry now. But no tears came. I thought the distraction of the game was enough to get me past that point.

A couple days later I came home from work to find a bouquet of flowers on my counter with a card from my sister. My sister, Cassie, stopped at a store with her two daughters to get me a card, telling them they were cheering me up because I was sad. My niece (who is only 4!) asked if they could get me flowers since flowers “make Mommy happy when she’s sad”. She also drew me a picture. It’s a heart with one big person and two little people in it. Inside the heart she wrote our names – Aunt Becky, Bella, and Abbi. This was my undoing. It helped me cry the healing tears that didn’t come before.

My husband and I decided to give IUI another try before consulting with the doctor, so we waited a week or so and then started over again.

3rd complete IUI cycle

November 2013

In November, my husband and I started the process for our “official” third IUI. The approach would be the same as the two previous cycles and we were prepared. If we were pregnant, it would be our Christmas miracle – and a great help through the holiday season.

Throughout this process we’ve discovered that infertility is more common than we realized. A few different married friends of ours either had experienced problems in the past or were experiencing problems right along with us. One of those couples was due to have their first baby in December and another couple was pregnant and having a baby shower the Sunday after Christmas.

When you struggle with infertility you become really sensitive to things. That sensitivity in no way negates the joy you feel for your friends that have babies – especially when you know they too struggled to conceive – but it does make you sad that your arms are still empty. Because of this, I was especially hopeful that this cycle would be successful so that our joy could match our friends’ joy. December was shaping up to be all about babies.

Though we were on the same medication as the two previous times, my ovaries didn’t respond as well on this try. I only had one mature egg but, thankfully, it was on the right side so it was a very promising egg. Just in case this cycle wasn’t successful, I scheduled a consultation with the doctor, all the while hoping that I’d have to cancel it.

We went to the clinic for the IUI and as I rested after the procedure, a few more silent tears slipped out. My emotions were raw, my hopes were nearing desperation, and I was scared to face another negative pregnancy test. My husband held my hand and we prayed – giving it all to God – and began the wait.

The two week wait was brutal. I didn’t pray for a pregnancy as much this time, almost as if that would mean all this wasn’t happening and I couldn’t be disappointed with another negative. I know it makes no sense and I regretted it, but I didn’t really want to face it.

I did cut back on exercise this time though. From the day of the IUI to the day of the blood test, I didn’t run and barely did anything else. Maybe it would make a difference.

When the two week wait was finally up I drove to the clinic for the blood test. I was surprised when my phone rang at 2:00 that afternoon, I didn’t expect the call until after 4:00. I was at work and caught off guard so I immediately found an empty room to take the call in. Good thing I did. It was a negative. I gathered up my things and went home.

I didn’t even make it out the door before the tears came. All the way home I cried. My husband came home early – by coincidence it would seem but I believe it was by the grace of God because I needed him! I felt like I was being punished. With all the unwanted and aborted babies in the world, it seemed so unfair! People who weren’t supposed to be having babies were having babies and I couldn’t. Why not give a baby to me to be loved?

We called our family to let them know. A Christmas miracle was not for us.

I was more emotional during the following week than I was after the other cycles. Usually, I am not one who cries easily, but it seems like tears were all I had left at this point. A friend who knew our situation reached out to me and I cried. After our family left on Christmas day and we were alone, I cried. Tears were always threatening. By this point, we were two years in. I had been through eight rounds of medication, three of those being IUIs, and still wasn’t pregnant.

I’m thankful that God knows our hearts without us using words to tell Him. I’d sit in prayer and just be. All I could do was come before God with all my pain and let His presence surround me. That alone gave me strength.

With prayer and extreme caution, Mark and I began talking about our next consultation with the doctor.

Two years and no baby…what now?

January 2014

Infertility makes you question things that you otherwise wouldn’t spend too much time thinking about. For us, the biggest struggle was what to do with IVF. The internal battle was constant.

Before our consultation with the doctor, Mark and I did our homework. We prayed. We read articles and studies put out by Christian-based organizations and individuals that covered the topic of infertility. A popular suggestion among these organizations is only fertilizing the number of eggs that you plan to transfer back into the uterus during that cycle. This takes away the concerns associated with freezing embryos. We weren’t sure if that was an option at our clinic – and we assumed it would be more expensive since you’d have to pay for egg retrieval and fertilization at each attempt – so we went to the appointment with the intention of standing behind our decision to only do IUIs.

At our appointment, the doctor laid out three options for us.

  1. Continue with IUIs using the same method as the previous cycles (lowest chance of pregnancy)
  2. Choose ovarian drilling with IUI to “clean-up” my ovaries and increase the chances of an IUI being successful (higher chance of pregnancy)
  3. Try IVF (highest chance of pregnancy)

Ovarian drilling with IUI seemed like the best option so we talked about that for a while. We repeated that we weren’t comfortable with freezing our embryos and didn’t want to do IVF because of that so the doctor started talking about egg freezing.

The overall procedure is the same as a standard IVF cycle except that when the eggs are retrieved, only a couple are injected with sperm. The few that are fertilized are transferred back into the uterus and the rest of the eggs are frozen. If the first attempt isn’t successful, a couple more eggs are thawed, fertilized, and transferred back into the uterus. Essentially, you have fresh embryos every time – with none hanging in the balance. This is a relatively new procedure. The clinic had only been doing it for about a year and it was just recently removed from the experimental list, meaning insurance companies should help pay for it.

The doctor told us they’ve improved the procedure greatly so that the quality of the egg after it’s thawed isn’t any less than the quality of the fresh egg. This was another concern of ours because if the egg quality was lowered by the freezing and thawing process, then we weren’t comfortable with that either. Why do something that you know may lessen your baby’s chance to survive? But that concern was eliminated.

Finally! It sounded like we had an option that will give us a good chance of success.

And now (I’m writing this on January 21, 2014) we are at present day. I will be calling the clinic within the next week to setup an appointment and begin our first attempt at conceiving through IVF. With this cycle, we will have a lot more information. We’ll know exactly how many eggs we have available. We’ll know if those eggs are healthy. We’ll know if the eggs are fertilized. The only unknown is whether the embryos – our precious, beautiful, incredibly loved babies – will implant in the uterus after they’re transferred.

Beginning right now, this is our biggest prayer.

1st IVF Cycle

February 2014

I am now in the two week wait period of my first IVF cycle. It’s been a long couple weeks of injections and medical procedures. As expected, I responded strongly to the meds, mostly because of my PCOS, and had so many follicles growing in my ovaries that they couldn’t count them all. It sounds like a good thing, but it’s not.

First, the eggs in the follicles don’t have the best environment to mature. As my doctor said, it’s like an overcrowded classroom. There may be many follicles but it doesn’t mean many eggs that are mature and healthy and ready to use.

Second, my estrogen levels skyrocketed. In part from the meds and in part from all the little follicles that were growing. This put me at a high risk for Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS) and made me very uncomfortable. And that’s putting it modestly.

As we neared my retrieval date, I asked my family and the few close friends that know about this to pray. My hormone levels had to come down before they could trigger me for the retrieval (an hCG shot). Thankfully, my estrogen came down to a safe level and we were able to move forward.

We drove to Syracuse for the egg retrieval. They put me under general anesthesia for the procedure. Mark was right beside me. They removed 23 eggs. Seven of them were mature. It was enough. They fertilized three eggs and froze four. The next day we found out that one egg degenerated and never fertilized but two of them fertilized and formed healthy embryos. Our beautiful babies! We have two babies!

IMG_0640

I felt pretty sick the rest of the week. I retained quite a bit of fluid in my abdomen. I kept weighing myself to make sure I didn’t gain more than a couple pounds a day. In total, I gained about six pounds, all in fluids. I was tired and in at least mild pain most of the time. Every now and then I’d feel nauseated, seemingly out of the blue. Every day I kept praying to get better. I wanted my body to be healthy so my babies would have the best chance of being strong and healthy.

The day of the embryo transfer went smoothly. Now that the babies are inside me I feel like they’re more protected but I’m always praying for them. I just want them both to survive. I am so thankful for their lives. I hope that Mark and I get to raise them and get to know them and love on them for many years to come.

If the babies attach to my uterus it will be soon. Mark and I, our family, and our close friends are all praying that they do. We’ll find out if we’re pregnant in one week from today.

Today I find out… am I finally pregnant?

February 2014

Yes!! I’m pregnant! At last I had a call with good news.

I can’t explain the overwhelming joy and relief that has washed over me. I thought I reacted strongly when I got a bad news call but that was nothing compared to how I reacted to the good news. The nurse didn’t get two sentences out before I was crying. I mean sobbing. I’m finally pregnant!

I was really anxious about this call. Dreading it, really. It’s so hard to know which signs to believe and which signs to ignore when your body has already been through so much and you’re injecting yourself with hormones. I wasn’t thinking very positive about it. Starting the night before the test, all I could do was pray that God would help me accept the bad news.

And waiting for that call to come was torture. I left work at lunch and finished the afternoon by working from home. I did NOT want to be at work when I got that call. Imagine my surprise when the phone rang a couple hours earlier than expected and that it was actually good news!

On my drive home from work, I was really struggling emotionally. I kept repeating Philippians 4:6-7, “Be anxious for nothing…” And I did make my requests known to God but I have to admit that I was still very anxious. Then a song came on the radio. It’s one our worship team does at church so I know it well but this time it ministered to me in a whole new way. Here it is:

“As I pour out my heart these things I remember. You are faithful God, forever.”

God is faithful! Those were the words that brought me comfort as I battled my emotions. And then God brought this verse to my heart (2 Timothy 2:11-13):

It is a trustworthy statement:
For if we died with Him, we will also live with Him;
If we endure, we will also reign with Him;
If we deny Him, He also will deny us;
If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.

God has been so faithful to me. He hasn’t left me alone, not on one step of this journey. He has comforted me, sheltered me, strengthened me. Now he is healing and blessing me. My heart is full.

A revelation

March 2014

We had our first ultrasound at 5 weeks 4 days pregnant. And guess what! We’re having twins! There are two little sacs growing inside me, each containing one of our beautiful babies. Baby “A” is growing well and was easy to see on the ultrasound. Baby “B” was almost mistaken for fluid because the gestational sac was so small. At first the nurse wasn’t comfortable calling it another baby but as she adjusted the probe and we got to see it at different angles, we were certain we could see the yolk sac inside that second little dark spot. It’s our other baby!

It’s too early to know if both will make it. It’s common for one twin to be smaller than the other and then eventually catch up in growth. It is also common for the smaller twin to “feed” the larger twin and then stop growing. They call that the disappearing or the vanishing twin. Oh, I pray our little baby makes it! I’ve been praying for both of our babies all along and God has brought them this far. I trust that He will allow us to bring them both home.

The ultrasound confirmed that I hyperstimulated. I figured I did because I felt so awful the week of the IVF and my stomach remained swollen for weeks. It’s still a little swollen now. In fact, someone who didn’t know we were going through this told me if I wanted to keep my pregnancy a secret I better button up my sweater. She had no clue I was pregnant and of course I wasn’t actually “showing” – but my abdomen was so swollen it looked like I was. Hopefully the swelling will continue to go down and I won’t start truly showing until we’re into the second trimester. We don’t plan to make this pregnancy public until we can be more certain that I won’t miscarry.

Hyperstimulation isn’t all bad though. Each ovary is larger than my uterus right now (that’s not good!) and I can’t run until they shrink (that’s not good either!) but each of the cysts are producing progesterone and that progesterone is supporting the pregnancy. So I am thankful for that! Hopefully my temporary discomfort only means a better environment for my babies!

It is so amazing how God has protected our babies. From the beginning all we wanted was for ALL our babies to survive and be healthy. God gave us two beautiful embryos and he implanted those embryos in my womb. Can His blessings get any greater?

One heartbeat, two heartbeats

March 2014

We had another ultrasound today at 6 weeks 4 days. We got to see the heartbeats. Yes, both heartbeats! Baby “B” is hanging right in there with Baby “A.” What a relief. I get so worried because I don’t feel pregnant most of the time. I guess I’m tired a lot, I easily get overheated, and I sometimes feel icky if I don’t eat every couple hours, but I still don’t “feel” pregnant. Since I’ve never been pregnant before I’m not really sure how I’m supposed to feel but it sure will be awesome to feel the babies and know they’re there.

The doctor had good news for us. Though Baby B’s gestational sac is still significantly smaller than Baby A’s, the babies themselves are the same size! And they’ve both grown as they should from last week. That put my mind at ease.

10 week ultrasound

I’m sure every mom is consumed with love and thoughts for their unborn babies but it’s hard to imagine any other babies being prayed for as much as mine. It’s constant. I pray that they grow strong and healthy, that their development is perfect, that they’ll be smart and kind-hearted, that they’ll develop healthy habits at an early age, that their hearts will be tender toward the Lord, that they would remain pure all their days, and that God will use them to do great things. There is so much to pray for. I’m glad I already have family and a few friends praying with me. God’s hand has been on these babies from the very beginning. What a peace it brings to know the HE is the one seeing them through!

Today was wonderful. A true gift. It’s also my birthday. People are posting things like “have a blessed day” on my Facebook page. They have no idea. My life is overflowing with blessings!

We’re having what!?

June 2014

My sister threw Mark and I an amazing reveal party. If you’re pregnant or plan to become pregnant, I highly recommend it. What better way to share the joy of your babies than with your friends and family!

Now, I must start this by saying Mark and I both wanted boys. Mark for obvious reasons and me because I think boys are so much fun! Not that I have anything against girls, after all, I am one, but I just like to do “boy” things. So we both went into this fully expecting to have boys. Or at least one of each. Wouldn’t that be fun!

And what did we find out?

TwoGirls

We’re having two girls! It’s hard to see in this picture, but there’s pink frosting on both knives. You can imagine our shock when we both pulled our knives out of the cake and saw pink! NEVER did I think we’d be having two girls. God must know something about our future that I don’t. 😉

It’s been a few days and the shock has just about worn off but Mark and I are still adjusting to the idea of raising girls. I’ve been praying so much about this! I know Mark will be a great daddy. Being a daddy’s girl myself, I have no doubt that our girls will think Mark is just as much a hero as I think my dad is. But, oh boy, what are we in for!?

Another great part of this week is I can finally feel little movements. I knew it for sure yesterday. It’s hard to explain but it almost feels like bubbles popping inside me. It is a relief to feel them though. If they’re moving, they’re alive! I continue to pray for perfectly healthy babies that arrive when they’re fully developed. No complications.

I went into labor at 32 weeks

October 2014

I am six weeks late in writing this but I have a good excuse. My twins are now six weeks old! Despite my good intentions and efforts to go full term, my body and my babies had a different idea…

It all started the Friday before I went into labor. I was 31 weeks and 4 days pregnant. I went to the doctor for a routine appointment. They performed an ultrasound to check on the twins and my cervix and were concerned enough about what they saw to tell me to stay off my feet as much as possible. I was thinning way too much. Plus, I had gained 13 lbs in fluid since my last appointment. My fluid retention was getting out of control. I had an appointment for the following Monday to see if my cervix had thinned anymore over the weekend.

Around 2:00 am on Monday morning, I awoke with cramps. I shrugged them off at first but the fact that the doctor had warned me to take it easy over the weekend made me extra cautious and kept me alert. I laid awake and tried to figure out what was going on. From everything I read, what I was feeling did not meet the description of Braxton Hicks contractions or real labor so I wasn’t too concerned. They kind of felt like PMS cramps. Then the cramps grew in intensity. They would get fairly bad for a little while and then ease up. My husband woke up and asked me what was wrong. I explained what I was feeling. To be on the safe side, he grabbed his watch and started timing the peaks of the cramps. They were five minutes apart.

I still was not convinced that I was in labor but I called the doctor just to be safe. I explained what I was feeling and that I was told on Friday to take it easy because my cervix was too thin. The doctor told me to drive to the hospital where she could check me. We got in the car fully expecting to be sent back home after I’d been checked.

We arrived at Highland Hospital and I was directed to the triage room. They hooked me up to the monitor to see what was going on with my uterus. True to my husband’s timing, I was having contractions every five minutes. The doctor came in to check my uterus. I will never forget this next part. She looked at me and said, “Oh hunny, you’re going to Strong.” I was leaking amniotic fluid and was three cm dilated. At 32 weeks pregnant, my body was suddenly getting ready to push my babies out. If my babies were born, they’d need the best care possible and Strong’s NICU is where we needed to be. I was shocked and overwhelmed. I said nothing but a few silent tears managed to find their way down my cheeks. To be honest, I was scared.

I took an ambulance from Highland to Strong. Before going they gave me a shot to help the babies’ lungs mature. Though their long-term goal was to keep me pregnant for at least two more weeks, their immediate goal was to get both doses of the lung developing steroid in me before my babies were born. We needed 48 hours.

Once at Strong I was taken to their high risk labor and delivery department where I was once again hooked up on monitors. They checked my vitals and saw that my blood pressure was high – for the first time in my whole pregnancy – so they ordered some blood work just to make sure everything was in order. The results showed it was not. To make a long story short, I was showing signs of preeclampsia and HELLP syndrome. Aside from the water retention I was feeling fine, though apparently I was not. I was admitted to the hospital where I would stay until the babies were born. Whether that was two days, two weeks, or six weeks, no one knew. At that point we only knew I wasn’t leaving the hospital until I left with my babies in my arms and not my belly.

Over the next 48 hours I continued to be monitored very closely. The fluid retention got worse and I became extremely uncomfortable. My body would shake and my legs would twitch. My hips started to really ache. I’m not sure how much of it was related to the preeclampsia and how much of it was nerves and stress, but it was not fun. My legs filled up with so much fluid I could barely bend at the knee. To get into the hospital bed, I would sit down and my husband would swing my legs up. I’d lie awake at night and be torn between praying that I could make it full term and praying that the babies would come soon so all of this would go away. It hurt.

Once 48 hours were up and I had received both shots to help with the babies’ lung development my husband and I were relieved. If the babies were to come, they’d have a much better chance. Now it was a waiting game.

We didn’t have to wait long. Wednesday afternoon – about 54 hours after going into labor the first time – my cramping came back. I told my nurse and they brought the monitors back in and hooked me up. Sure enough, the contractions had started again. This time they were quickly peaking every three minutes. They called in a doctor to check my cervix. I was dilated to 6 cm. Three hours later I was being wheeled into the OR and prepped for an urgent c-section. My babies were coming. My girls, Eve and Vera, were born one minute apart – at 6:46 and 6:47 pm on September 10. Eve weighed 3 lbs 12 oz and Vera weighed 3 lbs 3 oz. I got to steal a glimpse of them as they were wheeled past me.

Once I was back in my room I wanted to go to the NICU to see the girls. I tried to stand up and almost passed out. (My husband says I did pass out but I’m pretty sure I just ALMOST passed out.) I’d have to wait until the morning.

Since I was still being monitored – high blood pressure, low platelet levels, low red blood cell count, ridiculous water retention – I had to sneak to the NICU when tests weren’t being done on me. It was so hard to sit in that hospital bed and wait for my doctors when all I wanted to do was be with my babies! But my doctors were providing me with the best care possible. Which meant by Thursday afternoon I was hooked up to another IV that would transfuse two units of blood into me. Apparently they really didn’t like what my blood work was showing about my red blood cells.

Well, half way through the transfusion my hand started to hurt and I couldn’t move my fingers. I rang for my nurse. My vein had burst. They’d have to find another vein to use so they could finish the transfusion. I have difficult veins to begin with, but being so filled with fluid made it nearly impossible to find one. They poked me and stuck me with needles so many times before finally finding a vein. By the time the transfusion was complete it was late and I was exhausted.

The next day I looked like I was in a car wreck. Or at least my arms did. Between the burst vein and being poked with so many needles, I was badly bruised. But at least I could travel to the NICU to see my babies a little more freely. The first few days my husband took me in a wheel chair. Holding my babies was the best medicine anyone could give me. I desperately needed to have them close.

The next two weeks were spent in the NICU at Strong Memorial Hospital. We were encouraged to leave the girls in their isolettes as much as possible because that was where they would grow and gain strength the best. It was hard not to be able to love on them the way I wanted to but our ultimate goal was to bring them home as soon as possible. We could get through a few weeks of sitting by their bedsides if it meant we could bring them home faster.

After two weeks in the NICU the girls were transferred to Highland’s Special Care Nursery. After one week there, they were released to go home. At the same time! Though our girls were very small and very preemie, they were healthy and never had any other concerns. The way the Lord watched over them and their birth – timing everything perfectly for the best possible outcome – is truly amazing.

After the C-section, we learned that the placenta our little Vera was in was starting to tear away from the uterine wall and her umbilical cord had a true knot in it. Had I gone into labor a week later or had they been birthed vaginally, there’s a good chance that we would have lost her. She would have been cut off from all nutrients by either her placenta being separated from the uterus or the knot completely tightening. But we didn’t have to face that, thank you Jesus! He knew when she needed to be born and He made it happen.

Though going into premature labor and spending a horribly uncomfortable week in the hospital was not my plan, everything did work out for the best. My girls were healthy and so was I. Though I was slow to move around the first couple days after my c-section, after one week I was forgetting to take the meds while visiting the girls in the NICU. One skipped dose became two skipped doses and just kept going from there. By 10 days after my c-section I was off all the pain medication and moving around fairly normal. Three weeks after the c-section I was back to a moderate exercise routine. Though I’m waiting for clearance from my doctor to start running again, I have been blessed with an easy recovery and the ability to do everything I want to do without pain or concern. The process of getting to that place was not what I imagined, but God answered every one of my prayers. He is so good! He is faithful.