Infertility: The highs, the lows and the in between.
Let’s start with the wonderful news, Jorge and I are expecting again! This time it’s a boy and it’s one baby (yes, we had them double check)! We are so very thankful to be starting the second trimester and have everything checking out perfectly so far.
As some of you know, but most don’t, that has not always been the case for us. This post is going to be a long one and I understand if you would rather skip it.
However if you are someone who has dealt with infertility, or know someone close to you who has, you may want to read on to maybe get a bit more insight into what it can really be like.
I have held off on writing a post this personal, or in depth, for the past 6+ years. It just felt too personal and too close to my heart. I was also very scared to receive more backlash or negativity. Or even worse, pity.
However, in the past 6 months, I have SEVEN friends going through infertility treatments. Seven women actively texting me, calling and facetiming to discuss what’s happening. Asking if this is normal, venting their frustrations and sharing the things they don’t feel they can share with other people in their lives.
For them, and for anyone struggling to have a baby, this post is for you. This is our journey and I share it in hopes that it will show you that you are not alone, that there can be a happy ending, and to give you hope on your journey.
Let’s start at the beginning. Jorge and I tried for 2 years to get pregnant and we were never able to conceive on our own. We were living in Jacksonville at the time for Jorge’s work. We decided that by the time we moved home to Tampa, if we still were not pregnant, we would go get ourselves checked out.
After a through work up from the fertility doctors on both of us, our doctor was VERY confident that he would have no problem getting us pregnant. I was 26 at the time. Jorge was 31. I checked out perfectly and they thought our only issue was Jorge’s sperm morphology. So they recommend we do IVF with ICSI.
We had been saving and saving knowing that this was going to be costly and we paid cash to do it. Our insurance at the time did not cover a dime of anything fertility related, so we were on our own.
We dove right into it head first, confident, sure this was going to work out just fine. We started the drugs and my body responded perfectly. We retrieved 15 eggs, 12 were mature and 9 fertilized. (I do not remember exact numbers, but these are very close to what they were.)
The doctors called the morning after my retrieval to tell us the great news, we had 9 fertilized embryos and they would see us on Day 5 for the transfer of two blastocysts. Jorge left for a work trip and was to return the day before the transfer.
The morning of Day 3 after that retrieval, I was taking a shower. I got out of the shower to see I had missed 4 calls from my doctors office. They had never called me like that before. The bottom dropped out of my stomach and I hit redial.
The nurse answered on the first ring and told me to get myself up to the hospital immediately, all of our embryos were dying and they needed to do the transfer as soon as possible.
Jorge was out of town and you are not allowed to drive yourself. So I called my mom, in hysterics, who was at work. She dropped everything to rush me in and did her best to try to make me smile and laugh.
We did the transfer and prayed. It’s all we could do. The embryologist called me the morning of Day 6 past the retrieval to let me know that the remaining embryos did in fact all die. It was crushing news.
However, a miracle occurred and I turned out to be pregnant! We were told by the HCG numbers it looked like one, but it in fact turned out to be TWO sweet little babies. I carried them to 37 weeks and now Ellie and Lyla are almost 4 years old.
Flash forward a couple of years and we decided to give it another go round. The girls at the time were coming up on 2 years old and we decided we would like to try for another baby.
However, this time we wanted to keep it a secret from everyone. When you go through infertility treatments, you are never really able to surprise anyone. At least not in our case. You loose out on that wonderful feeling of getting to surprise your family with your pregnancy. It becomes much more clinical and we did not want that this time.
So we were on a family trip to Anna Maria Island, our favorite place in the world, with our extended family. I was sneaking around giving myself shots. Hiding symptoms and acting like everything was totally normal.
Like the troopers we are, Jorge and I decided that we would figure out how to make it work with zero help from anyone. Twin 18 month olds and every other day — and then daily — monitoring appointments was hard. Add on two procedures done at a hospital at 7am over an hour away form our house…nearly impossible.
But, we had a wonderful baby sitter who was out for spring break and willing to help us. Jorge made sure that he wasn’t traveling at all the full month and we were ready to go. And I have to say, we did good! No one knew what we were doing!
This time we tried a protagonist protocol versus the antagonist protocol we first tried. The doctors were hoping we would have better results with a switch in methods.
Everything went exactly the same as the first time. Nothing was different. We had good stimulation results, had a great retrieval, good fertilization numbers, everything was dying by day 3, did the transfer of two embryos and prayed.
We were nervous, but also oddly confident. This was the same thing that had happened as the last time. Won’t we get the same results?
And then I woke up, on Mother’s Day morning, and I was having major cramping and heavy bleeding. I knew the worst had happened. I was loosing the baby or babies.
I couldn’t help it, I called my mom again, in hysterics, but this time she had no idea what was going on. I had to fill her in and tell her everything. It was awful.
I called the doctor that day and left a voicemail. The nurse on call called back shortly after and scheduled me for a HCG test the next morning and two days later. They have to make sure your HCG level is going down and that you are in fact loosing the baby.
I went with the heaviest heart, but after the second blood draw I got a surprising call. The number had gone up as it should. I was in fact pregnant and I must have conceived twins but had only miscarried one. Again, we were elated.
But a few days later, the same thing happened again, and I did in fact loose the second baby. Crushed is an understatement.
So we go into see our doctor for a follow up after everything has happened. And he tells us that the odds are a little better on a second round of IVF that is done right after a failed IVF.
So we go home, we find the money, we tell a few key people this time for moral support and we go again. The shots, the appointments, the symptoms, the procedures….
And I’ll be damned if the same exact thing didn’t happen again. And I do mean, the same exact results. We had good stimulation results, had a great retrieval, good fertilization numbers, everything was dying by day 3, did the transfer of two embryos and prayed.
A few weeks in, I had severe bleeding and cramping. Knew I was having a miscarriage. Again I am sent for blood work and AGAIN it is actually in fact raising. Again, I am told that I must have conceived twins and lost one, but that one of the babies was still holding on.
However, this time instead of a few days, I am pregnant with the one baby for about two weeks past the first miscarriage. I am hosting a long weekend bachelorette party in Orlando for one of my best friends.
We are having fun, being girls and enjoying our time. It is late at night, about 11 pm and I go to the restroom at the bar we are at and I find that I am bleeding profusely with bright red blood. It hit me like a freight train.
It was a very large group of girls and I just couldn’t face them. They knew I was pregnant because I of course had not been drinking with any of them and I couldn’t imagine dealing with their faces in they knew.
I pulled one friend aside and told her what was happening and that I was leaving. I was going to grab my bags and drive home, I just couldn’t be here.
I couldn’t find a taxi, so I walked myself back to the hotel down the very popular International blvd in Orlando with blood running down my legs. (I know this is TMI, but this is what I want you to understand about infertility, the brutality of it.)
I got to the hotel, cleaned myself up and threw everything into my bags. I loaded my car and just started driving home. I was in so much pain this time, that I was honestly scared something was wrong. It was truly not smart of me to be driving, but I wasn’t in a place to be making good decisions.
I drove home in complete silence except for the crying that I could not stop. Jorge waited up for me and then we just went to bed in silence. What was there to say? It had happened again.
We were out of hope, out of money and so very heartbroken.
We had a meeting with the doctor after everything and he said he thought I had PCOS because of my obvious egg quality issues. Now, I don’t have irregular periods (you could set a clock to them), my hormone levels are all in the normal ranges and I do not have blood sugar issues. I do struggle with my weight. I’m still not convinced I have PCOS, but I want to make sure I share everything.
So life went on. I threw myself into work and our girls and Jorge did the same. We traveled, we did mini getaways with the girls and we just lived life.
A year went by and we started the conversation again. What were we going to do? We both knew in our hearts that our family was not done. We wanted more children. Jorge wanted to go for it, but I was terrified of the same thing happening again.
We talked and talked and talked about it. Went over our options. We were not against adoption, however to do a domestic private adoption would have cost us in the ball park of 40k to 50k when another round of IVF would cost us about 15K cash.
Now, I want to take a side note and discuss fostering to adopt. I understand in some states this is an option. In Florida, this is not an option we were willing to entertain. The state of Florida’s main goal is to keep children with biological family.
No kidding, if an 80 year old grandparent says they will take on a newborn, they would rather give the child to that person than to an adoptive parent. Also, they take YEARS to officially allow someone to adopt a child even if the parents have both signed their rights away.
Sadly this meant private adoption and fostering to adopt were not options we were ready to entertain. We wanted to try IVF one last time before we started saving up to do a private adoption.
So we did a ton of research and started cleaning up our diets. We started the Keto diet and decided to give ourselves a year on it before we would try IVF one last time. (These are some of the low carb recipes we made.)
We were not 100% religious, when the holidays came, we did cheat. But we always were strong to get back on and keep up with our plan.
I also did a ton of research and started taking natural vitamins and supplements that had been used in studies for infertility and egg quality issues. Full disclosure, my doctor believes they are a crock of crap… HOWEVER wait till you hear how our final IVF turns out before you make up your mind.
So here we are, a year of keto diet later. I was taking 3mg of melatonin at night, organic fertilmax supplement, Bee Wise — Bee Well, Royal Jelly, Propolis, Beepollen and my favorite Garden Of Life Raw Prenatal Vitamins.
We make our appointment to see our doctor again and to get the process going. Every time you do an IVF that has had a year in between your last treatment, you have to repeat all of the testing.
So you have to have the in-depth blood work, a physical exam and a SIS (saline ultrasound uterine scan). They also do a fresh sperm analysis to make sure nothing has changed.
A week before we have our first appointment, Jorge comes downstairs from his office to tell me some news. He had just gotten an email from his company on updated benefits and they would now be fully paying for two rounds of IVF (minus our deductible of course) AND our doctor was in network.
I started bawling. I know at this point, it seems like I am a cryer, but I promise I only cry at extreme lows. I cry when someone I love is hurt, in danger or has passed. I cried when I had my miscarriages and I cry if I am extremely angry and unable to do anything about it. Otherwise, I do not cry.
But these were happy tears. Such happy tears. Not because we hadn’t saved up the money for another round of IVF, we had. But because I felt so much angst about doing IVF one more time. I hated taking money away from our family for something that had already failed, so very terribly, twice.
I was so nervous, anxious and stressed about the entire thing. I felt like I couldn’t breath when I thought about it. But when Jorge came downstairs and told me that wonderful news, all the weight was lifted off my shoulders.
We were given the gift of trying two more times and it would not be on us to pay for it. If it didn’t work again, we could save that money for adoption. It was such a sign from God to try one last time, I have no doubt in my mind.
We go see our wonderful doctor and tell him the great news about our insurance benefits. He says that’s great, let’s give it a go and see what happens.
He decides to put me on Metformin for the two months leading up to our egg retrieval because there have been studies of it helping with egg quality. I am going to be 100% honest with all of you and tell you I did not take it as I should have.
It gave me terrible side effects. Not at first, but after the first couple of weeks I started to have bad side effects and I started not taking it half as often as I should. By the time my egg retrieval rolled around, I had all but stopped taking it.
We kept everything the same as before on our previous protocol. Same drugs, same everything. EXCEPT in the past, when I started to stimulate they would pull back on the trigger a little on the meds. Because I have so many eggs that would start showing up, they would always back off worried I would hyper stimulate and wind up with OHSS and the whole IVF cycle would be a waste.
This time though, we all agreed to leave the foot on the pedal so to speak and see where it took us. And boy did it take us.
At our egg retrieval, we got 36 eggs. To say I was uncomfortable was an understatement. It hurt to move, it hurt to breath, it hurt to pee. It just hurt. After the egg retrieval, I was still VERY bloated and in a bunch of pain, but over the coarse of about 4 to 5 days, everything returned to normal.
So this IVF round in early April, we retrieved 36 eggs, 29 were mature and 20 fertilized normally. Even with these results, we went in on day 3 for our transfer because of our past history. They transferred two embryos and we prayed.
Day 6 I got the call early in the morning that 8 of our embryos made it to day 5 and were perfect blastocysts and froze just as they should have. EIGHT. After never having a single embryo make it past day three, this was a miracle in and of itself.
If we want to have more children after this, we have 8 embryos to try with. We will never have to go through IVF again in our lives. And we can have all the children we want. There could not be any better outcome.
Now, here we are 3 months later and on Friday I am 13 weeks pregnant and officially into the third trimester. This time, it was only one embryo that stuck, but we are 100% ok with that. After twins, we are excited for a singleton!!
At 11 weeks they drew my blood at my OB’s office and sent it off for the genetic testing that also shares the sex of the baby. We were ecstatic to learn that the baby was 100% healthy AND it’s a boy.
I don’t know what to tell you on why this round was so different. There are a few factors that it could be. With keto, I had lost about 20 pounds, not a ton, but some. I also was eating very clean with keto with zero grains and very low carbs (under 20 net carbs a day). I also tried those supplements I shared above.
Here I am, 5 years older from our first round of IVF and we had our most successful round of IVF, by far. I don’t know what exactly made the difference, but I wanted to share in case anyone else is in our shoes looking for something else to try.
I hope that our story brings you hope if you are struggling with infertility. And if you are just reading to understand more, I hope I have done a good job of explaining just how long, hard and tedious this journey can be.
It can have the highest highs and the lowest lows, but if you wind up with your miracle baby, it makes everything all worth it.
Having a great partner next to you and a support system is the best advice I can give anyone on this journey. After 4 rounds of IVF, I now help anyone I know going through this process. I answer questions, I help explain the process, I give advice and I am a shoulder to cry on if you need it.
For all of you out there still struggling, know that you are not alone. While infertility is still very private and something most of us feel we have to hide, it doesn’t have to be hidden. YOU DID NOT DO ANYTHING WRONG. It is just the hand you were dealt.
Be strong. Hold your head high. Fight for what you want. There are so many of us who have your back and are here for you if you need us. You’ve got this.
One last thing I would like to share before I end this insanely long post…
What not to say to infertile couples or someone who suffered a miscarriage:
“It’s all in God’s time.”
“Why don’t you just adopt? There are tons of kids that need homes.”
“You’re lucky you don’t have kids! Mine drive me crazy!”
“Maybe you’re not meant to be parents.”
“It’s probably stress, try relaxing.”
“It was so easy for me to get pregnant! My husband just looked at me and I was pregnant!”
“Just get a dog.”
Instead, say things like this:
“I’m so sorry you are going through this, let me know if I can help in anyway.”
“I am here for you if you ever need to talk about anything.”
“You don’t deserve this and it is so unfair.”
“I don’t understand what you are going through, but I would like to if you are up to talk about it.”
Even a simple “I am SO sorry.” with a hug does wonders to help them feel less alone and not judged.