The International Council on Infertility Information Dissemination, Inc

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An Open Letter to INCIID about the IVF Scholarship

Karmann and Karl at INCIID Fundraiser

Dear INCIID,

My name is Karmann and my husband’s name is Ryan. Please let us share our journey through our video

Karmann and Karl at INCIID Fundraiser

We were married May 2003, and I got pregnant for the first time in April of 2004, but miscarried shortly after. The only indication that I was pregnant was a faint pink line on the pregnancy test.

We were sad but trusted that if it wasn’t meant to be, then it wasn’t meant to be, so we waited six months and started trying again in October 2004. I didn’t get pregnant again till July 2007 and again I got my faint pink line, but by the time 5 weeks came along, I miscarried yet again.

We were living in Las Vegas at the time and my doctor told us to go ahead and try again. The following month we got pregnant again, but we had the same ending. It was a lot to handle and I get so emotionally involved, so we decided to take another break. A month later we found out we would be moving to Phoenix Arizona, so we decided to wait to try again till we were settled and had insurance there.

In August of 2008, I started seeing a new doctor and started down the path all over again. The doctors weren’t concerned with my history since I “only had three miscarriages” so I trusted their opinion. At the same time, I started doing acupuncture and anything else that I thought could help my body. In February of 2009, I got pregnant for the fourth time and miscarried yet again at 5 weeks.

My regular OB at that time advised me to see a Fertility Specialist. I, on the other hand, was in denial that there was a “problem” with me! I didn’t want to believe or admit that I needed help, so I filed the information away and we decided to just try again on our own.

Over the next six months, we experienced three more pregnancies that ended with the same result – miscarriage at five weeks. I finally broke down in tears and made the call to the Fertility doctor. She ran all the tests that were needed and all came back normal. It was so frustrating because everything ALWAYS came back normal!!! The obvious question in our minds was how the results could be normal if I kept miscarrying?

The fertility doctor’s advice to us was to do IUI. My husband was reluctant since he didn’t feel that the problem was fixed, but because he had a wife who would do anything to try to make it work, he agreed. Insurance had covered a few of the fertility tests but covered nothing when it came to IUI. We used our savings and paid $3,500 dollars to do the first IUI. We again got pregnant and YET AGAIN experienced the same result – the eighth time!

The fertility doctor then advised me to have a Laparoscopy to find out if I had endometriosis. I again was willing to do anything to figure out what was wrong. She submitted a pre-authorization to my insurance company and they denied it. After sitting down with her, she told us our only option was to do IVF and asked how we preferred to pay the $10,000. My husband responded, ” We have already given you $6,000 out of our pocket and you haven’t even identified the problem, so why would we do IVF?” She told us that that was our next and only option, and again asked how we preferred to pay for it. My husband thanked her for her time, grabbed my hand, and walked me out of the office – never to return. I bawled and bawled and bawled all the way home. Even though I knew he was right, I didn’t want to stop. I was willing to do anything for the chance of having a baby. I wanted to be a mom more than anything in the world! The date was September 10, 2009.

After talking things through, we decided to take a break. I was emotionally beat and felt dead inside. Shortly after this, we decided to pursue an opportunity that would require relocating to Seattle Washington. In January of 2010 just before we moved, an opportunity to adopt came up. A 20-year-old woman from my home area was pregnant and was planning to put her baby up for adoption. We worked our tails off to get the necessary paperwork in line. The birth mother was in contact with us almost every week and made us feel like she had chosen us. Then, at the end of February, I got a call on the way home from work. I knew what she was going to say before I even answered the phone. She told me that she had chosen another family and she felt that the baby wasn’t meant to be ours. With tears streaming down my face, I told her that I understood. Yet again, we were so close to being parents, only to have it ripped from our grasp.

We continued on with faith and hope that one day it would all work out. It had to! Shortly afterward, I found out that I had Celiac Disease and decided to switch immediately to a gluten-free diet. I did extensive research and found so many correlations between gluten and infertility; I was convinced that this must be the answer to my issues.

I had to wait a while for my insurance to become effective, so I wasn’t able to see a doctor until September of 2010. By that time it had been a year since we had seen a doctor and 8 months since I had gone Gluten Free. My mother-in-law referred me to a wonderful doctor that she had used when she was really sick with her 5th baby. This doctor was amazing. She looked over my medical records and told me that I had already done all the tests that needed to be done. She then asked me why was I doing IUI and IVF if I could get pregnant? I told her that I didn’t know.

She then told me that her daughter was working with a doctor in Dallas who had tested her for Natural Killer cells. The doctor happened to be a close colleague and friend of hers and she told me that she would get the necessary information and have me tested. In November 2010 – the night before Thanksgiving – she called in tears to tell me that we had found answers! Not only do I have activated Natural Killer Cells, but my husband and I share 2 DQ-ALPHA genotypes. We both cried as for the first time in over 5 years of trying I finally had some answers as to WHY!!!!

I spoke with the consulting doctor on Dec. 6 2010 over the phone and it was wonderful to hear that there were answers and a systematic way to address things! Since there was no one in Seattle who practiced this type of immunological fertility treatment, we arranged for the treatment regimen with intralipid infusions at home. In March of 2011 I did my first round of fertility drugs. I had a perfect lining, great eggs, and did the intralipid infusion. But my period came and I was not pregnant. She couldn’t understand. I told her it was ok and just not meant to be. She wanted to try again, but my husband and I felt very strongly that we needed to move back to Las Vegas, so we returned in June.

Once again, we waited for insurance coverage to start and in November of 2011, I met with a regular OB (since my insurance required a referral to see a specialist). I endured yet again the same puzzled reaction from the doctors, who weren’t sure what to do with me. In February of 2012, my doctor referred me to one of the fertility clinics in Las Vegas. I went there with high hopes, but left in tears after being told that Natural Killer Cells were not real and that was not my problem. I knew and felt in my heart that it was my problem, and was bound and determined to find someone in Las Vegas who would BELIEVE me and want to HELP me!

The next morning, I took my 250+ pages of medical records to the Sher Institute in Las Vegas. I approached the receptionist with tears running down my face and asked her if Dr. Sher believed in Natural Killer Cells and could he help a girl who had endured 8 miscarriages? She smiled and gave me a tissue to wipe my tears and told me that I had come to the right place. She assured me that Dr. Sher did know about Natural Killer Cells and that yes, he could help me. She then told me that coincidentally, he had cancelation that afternoon and if I could come back, I could see him that day! My heart leapt and an overwhelming feeling came over me that I had been led to him and it would be here at Sher Institute that all my questions would be answered.

I met with Dr. Sher that afternoon, and after I told him that I had had 8 miscarriages – all at 5 weeks – he didn’t even have to read over my medical records to know that I had Natural Killer Cells and matching DQ-alpha genotypes. He then asked how long it had been since I had gotten pregnant. I told him almost three years. He then proceeded to tell me why. I starting crying, because this was the first time that I had an answer to that question. He explained that my body no longer allowed me to get pregnant. He sat with me for more than an hour and half, and answered everything for me. I left feeling so validated, so loved, and so excited that there was HOPE and there was a WAY to be a mom.

However, the way to go about it was overwhelming since the BEST option would be IVF and we didn’t have the means or insurance to cover it. I was sold and ready to do whatever was needed, but my husband, being the more rational thinker in the relationship, had a harder time working through the cost and low odds of success.

I gave him time to process the whole situation and it wasn’t until June of 2012 that we stepped back into Dr. Sher’s office to talk about things all over again. Our insurance covered 7 IUI’s so we went back hoping we could do that first before going to the IVF. Dr. Sher went over the reality of that and assured us that he would support whatever decision we made, but reiterated that the BEST way would be IVF.

He then told us about the INCIID IVF Scholarship program and we submitted our application as soon as we could. We were selected for the scholarship. Part of INCIID's program is helping them raise awareness and fund raising. We helped INCIID raise $3500 dollars through a Dessert Event. We had our friends and family came from all over to donate to help us reach our goal of $3500 dollars. We had an amazing turn out and thanks to the event and those who sent money from all over we raised $5200 dollars for INCIID. In October 2012 we were beyond elated when we found out that we had been awarded a scholarship for free IVF treatment and matched with Dr. Sher, who donates several cycles a year to the INCIID program. I got pregnant, but my 2nd beta did not progress quickly enough, and the pregnancy did not go forward. Dr. Sher was certain that it was not the Natural Killer Cell problem, and wanted to change the dose of medications to try to improve my egg quality.

I cycled again in March of 2013 with the different medication protocol, and we ended up with 7 grade 1 embryos. We transferred one embryo and had six left to freeze. After 8 1/2 years of trying, 9 miscarriages, and going from doctor to doctor, we found our Angel here on earth!!! Dr. Sher has changed our lives forever! It has been a long and hard road but having it end with the Sher Institute was PERFECT!!!! Even though I got pregnant the road to have a healthy baby was still a long ways out. I had to do interlipid infusions every 2 weeks till 28 weeks gestation. I had an emergency cerclage put in at 14 weeks as our little one was trying to come too early. My high risk doctor told me that he watches his IVF patient’s cervix very carefully since he has noticed a trend of the cervix opening due to the IVF procedures. How thankful we were for him! I also have the blood clotting disorder so I was on Lovenox up to 6 weeks postpartum. I had to be induced and it was a 26 hour labor. It was intense and long but our little baby’s heart rate never wavered.  

We didn’t know what we were having. We wanted it to be a surprise! Hearing my husband tell me, “it’s a boy” will be a moment I will remember forever! Karl Kai  was born November 21st, 2013. We named him Karl after his dad, grandfather, and great grandfather but he goes by Kai. Kai means: ocean, strong, unbreakable, and triumphant! Kai is all of those and more! He just turned 1 a few weeks ago! He is the light of our life! He is our miracle!!! He is such a happy boy! This past year has been nothing but amazing! Being parents has been the hardest, greatest, most rewarding job! He has taught us so much and we are better people because of him!

I love being a mom! It is everything and more than I could have ever imagined. I have tried to share our story to as many people that I can! I want others to know that there is ALWAYS Hope! We would NEVER have been parents and allowed this joy if we hadn’t been given the IVF scholarship from INCIID!!! Our insurance would not cover it and we would NEVER have been able to afford it! Our situation with the Auto Immune Disorder is becoming more and more common. It is becoming the answer for some couples that used to be called, “unexplained fertility”. With this Auto Immune Disorder the BEST option is IVF. My prayer is that there can be a way for IVF to be covered so more couples, who are in my situation where IVF is their only answer, that they too can have that chance to become parents!  We are eternally grateful. We owe everything to INCIID and Dr. Sher! We would not be parents if it wasn’t for them. We would not have this sweet, happy, adorable little miracle in our lives! 

Love,

Karmann, Ryan, and Kai

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Sara's Story: "Why don't you just adopt?"

Mother, father and newborn baby

When I heard couples discussing their attempts at pregnancy and IVF, I said, with contempt in my voice,, “Why don’t you just adopt.”  Yes, I was one of “those people”.

I was adopted, and it worked out fine for my parents and me. I believed that people choosing IVF were self-centered and arrogant about the necessity to pass on their genes to offspring. I admit I took the attempts to create a family through treatment personally—as if people who choose IVF were somehow disparaging or devaluing my non-biological relationship to my parents and sister.

Fast forward to the time when I stopped birth control and my husband and I attempted pregnancy. Clearly I was not ovulating. Our insurance mandated we try for 12 months before I referral to a fertility specialist. We visited different reproductive endocrinologists, attended informational sessions at adoption agencies and researched. In the end, money made the decision for us.

Our state mandates fertility coverage. Attempting pregnancy through medical treatment with insurance co-pays was easier to afford than adoption agency fees.  

After a year of trying, fruitless medicated cycles and IUIs, we began IVF. Now, we were “those people” taking what I used to call “extraordinary measures” to start our family. Our first cycle resulted in an early miscarriage and a diagnoses of poor egg quality. My diagnosis also included Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) and hypothyroidism.  Our reproductive endocrinologist (RE) told us dramatic weight loss might improve my egg quality. Our RE believed that future IVFs would also result in retrieval of poor quality eggs. Those poor quality eggs result in non-viable embryos or end in miscarriages. We said,  Thank you and goodbye”. The result, we started our adoption journey.

Adoption today is nothing like it was 37 years ago when my parents adopted me. Mine was a closed adoption through Catholic Charities. It did not take that long, cost was much lower, and, whether they were ready or not, parents were handed a baby with no “instruction booklet.”. Closed adoptions cause damage to many members of the adoption triad. Today’s open adoptions, through ethical agencies, are much healthier better for all members of the adoption triad. At the same time adoptions consume time, money, emotionally draining and stressful.  

We spent more than two and a half years and thousands of dollars pursuing adoption. We laid our lives and marriage bare in the home study process. We poured our souls into our profile book. We were asked to consider cases of expecting mothers and babies in truly heart-wrenching situations. We me with expecting mothers who smoked, drank and abused drugs while pregnant. We watched as month after month, other waiting parents were chosen instead of us. The rejections we felt while we waited and hoped was personal and painful. Our agency explained we needed to be ready because adoption matches came up suddenly. When we were in the top 2 or 3 waiting parent finalists, we experienced a rush of energy and enthusiasm that “this time” would be our time. I bought a stroller or hang curtains in the nursery. I cut tags off of the carefully chosen gender-neutral going home outfit. Twenty months passed, exceeding our agency’s average wait time (by six months) for a baby. I was an emotional wreck and no baby. “Just Adopt” had me in therapy struggling to hang on. Even with the plethora of hormones, fertility treatments were not as emotionally draining.

I was an emotional wreck with a finished nursery and no baby. “Just adopt” had me in therapy and struggling to hang on in a way that fertility treatments, even with all the crazy hormones, never had.

For the sake of our emotional well-being, we asked our adoption agency to place our profile on hold. We simply did not want any more rejection. During our adoption wait, I pursued weight loss that our RE recommended to enhance egg quality. We went back to the RE who was encouraging, but said that the only way to know if my weight loss changed my egg quality was to try IVF again. I want to make it very clear that weight loss is not the answer for everyone. However, in my case it was. Our post-weight loss IVF brought us a beautiful baby boy.

After our son’s birth, we closed our case with the adoption agency. Our social worker, who was wonderful and supportive throughout the years we worked with her, agreed that our adoption journey had been particularly brutal. If the universe was trying to teach me a lesson for my previous self-righteous ignorance, it was karma overkill. I learned early n our journey not to judge the paths that others take. Our decision to pursue treatments, adoption, and then more treatments was how we, fumblingly, found our way in the dark. When dealing with infertility, all of the available options are filled with loss and pain. The choice as to which loss is endurable, which pain is most bearable, is highly personal. 

 

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Krissy's Story: Endometriosis, Donor Embryos, Eggs, & the Czech Republic

As a young woman I learned about fertility with a surprise pregnancy at twenty-three. My first pregnancy experience came when I had unprotected sex on day 10 of my cycle, after coming off birth control pills. The condom we used failed and I became pregnant. My pregnancy was complication-free. We planned to have a second child but ultimately our relationship ended.  

I did not worry about conceiving another child because my first pregnancy was easy to conceive and carry. I was in no hurry waiting for “Mr. Right” so together we could expand our family.

“Mr. Right” was nowhere on the horizon but my desire for a second child continued.  When my son was 12, I became a Foster Mom.  I decided to consider having another child and spent two years planning. I saved leave from my job, paid off all my student loans and lost thirty pounds.  

I was 38 when I began to try again and thought it would be “a piece of cake” easy because I was so fertile earlier at 23.   

After three months of trying without any positive pregnancy results I went to see a reproductive endocrinologist (fertility doctor).  

My doctor ran tests over about a 3 month period. She found that my ovarian reserve was sufficient which was good news. However, she also found a partially blocked fallopian tube. .  I scheduled surgery because I did not want to risk an ectopic pregnancy.

The doctor found two great tubes in surgery but a whole lot of endometriosis on my ovaries.   She used cauterization instead of excising the endometriosis. She advised that I had between 3-6 months before the endometriosis came back and to begin medicated IUI cycles immediately.  

I tried three cycles with 3 negatives pregnancy tests.  I stopped going to traditional doctors and switched to alternative medicine.  I researched and cut out articles on anything anyone had ever said could cause fertility issues. I ceased using caffeine, dairy, wheat, soy and started regularly going both to the chiropractor and acupuncturist.  Still no positive pregnancy resulted.

Then I learned about embryo adoption.   I returned to the fertility doctor asking to start the process, not knowing that finding embryos was another battle. With traditional embryo adoption, one can “adopt” the embryos remaining once donor couple completed an IVF cycle or completed her family.   Finding donated embryos was difficult.  Many people were not willing to donate embryos to a single mother. I discovered Reprofit in Czech Republic. The clinic procedures included donor egg, donor sperm and embryo transfers at a low cost and with few requirements.    On June 14, 2015, I transferred one blastocyst embryo and on February 25, my Evelyn was born. I was 42 when she was born and once again blessed with an uneventful pregnancy.

[Note from INCIID: we caution anyone seeking services outside of the United States to consider carefully and research the facility before making the decision to use services]

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Fertility from A Man's Perspective

First, no matter how much it the guys think it is, women always have a more difficult path. But for a man, there is still real difficulty. Because man will never carry a pregnancy, there is somewhat of a separation between the male perspective and the female perspective on infertility. With that in mind, let me share a little bit of my side of the struggle with infertility. About six months to a year after we married, my wife and I began the process of building our family. After a year we started asking questions as to why we had not yet gotten pregnant. 

I suffered with severe testicular torsion as a young teenager. So I began to think that may of had something to do with our inability to conceive. After getting a sperm analysis we found I had no sperm. Next came a surgical procedure. During the surgery, at University of Pennsylvania Medical Center, doctors found immature sperm in my testicular tissue and harvested it for implantation through use of the ICSI procedure.

Surgery after surgery and ICSI cycle after cycle; all our attempts failed. The quality of the embryos was never great and we always attributed it to the very immature (barely moving) sperm that was harvested via surgery (the only way to get any sperm).

The burden I carried felt huge. Just like many women, I felt my sperm, my body was failing us preventing us from having a child. It was a very difficult concept to wrap my head around and I was becoming more and more bitter. The experience of making a baby should be romantic and loving. Instead of this cold calculating repetition of failures. The clinic started having trouble  getting my wife’s hormone levels where they needed to be. After three failed cycles, the clinic had no answers for us. Our negative feelings grew so we started searching for a second opinion. We went to IVFNJ first and were absolutely turned off by their approach and lack of bedside manner. Then we went to RMANJ where we once again felt hopeful.

Two more failed cycles and we started feeling the air leak out of the balloon again. It was at this time that test results, scans and failed cycles were shedding a light on possible medical issues with my wife that could be further complicating our infertility issues. For a brief moment, I almost felt a sense of relief…it wasn’t just me after all. I wasn’t the only problem causing us to fail. That relief quickly turned to heartache…sorrow…feeling useless.

I have to say I am the "Fix It" guy. I am the problem solver. I am an educated man. I have a master’s degree, hold multiple certifications in my field and am the guy you want around when there is a problem that requires a solution. I am a solutions guy…no matter what the problem... I fix it!  Need help rebuilding a motor…call me. Have to figure out how to balance a $5MM budget…call me. Need to get a critical project done in an impossible timeframe…I’m your guy. Need someone to sing opera at your wedding or rewire your house or change the brakes on your car or give you advice on how to start a business…call me. But I couldn't find this solution. Instead my wife began seeing specialists in Illinois and New Jersey. She began researching clinical studies and trials. She began learning the lingo and challenging the doctors to look at every single aspect of her body. She sought out online groups to build a support system to help her as she advocated for herself and our future child. Her psychology background gave her insight into the clinical trials and reports that allowed her to be the best advocate for herself and for our future baby. So, you can imagine the utter uselessness I felt when I couldn’t fix our infertility. I just couldn’t figure out a way to advocate for a solution. Sure, I could give my wife shots and set up her IV for IVIg infusions. But, when it came to understanding the volumes of information about infertility…my wife carried the burden largely on her own and it was the hardest thing not to be able to fix it. 

That is where my struggles with infertility remain. I am never going to understand the female side of infertility as well as my wife.I cannot fix the problem…the fixer (me) is broken. All the King’s horses and all the King’s men cannot put Humptey Dumptey back together again. But one thing I can do is share the burden we both face because infertility isn't a his or her problem. It's a couple issue to fact together.

Now, I have long since come to terms with my inability to biologically father a son. Quite honestly, it is not that big of a deal. Through a very aggressive combination of therapies with multiple doctors, we were blessed to have a beautiful son in February 2015. He was premature due to complications with my wife’s high risk pregnancy, but he was healthy and after two weeks in the NICU, he was home with us. He was conceived with donor sperm and IUI with a multitude of medications to address my wife’s autoimmune issues, blood coagulation issues and inflammation.

I love my son unconditionally and with a full heart and he loves me back with that unconditional love one can only have in the mother-son or father-son relationship. He is my son and nothing can change that. For a fixer…it hurts that I cannot fix the infertility. But I share in the burden and we support each other because support is what I can provide. Even being trained in the healthcare field as a paramedic, infertility is something that largely goes over my head. Do I know more about it than the average Tom, Dick or Harry…sure. Do I know anywhere near enough to relieve my wife of the burden of having to advocate for our family all the time when trying to have a child…unequivocally no. That is my burden. That is infertility from this “guy’s” perspective.

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Barbara's Story: The journey was a long one

From a blog post Oct 2015
 
My dearest Leon, the Journey for you was a long one and a short one all at the same time. This journal I’m writing is a little different than the one I wrote for the Penguins, the embryo we adopted, and the triplets because you are the child that we get to hold in our arms every day and love on you and kiss you every day. I cannot picture any other child in our life and any other child to call us Momma and Dada.  However, it was quite the journey to get you.  Dada and I first talked about adoption when we were engaged.  We talked about how we wanted someday to adopt as part of our family-building process.
 
Dada and I were married in 2007. We hoped to start a family right away. However, it took us almost eight years of marriage for you to make us finally a Momma and Dada. In 2010 we started to talk about domestic adoption but the cost seemed to put that process out of reach. In 2012 doctors told us we would be unable to conceive.We explored about donation and decided to try that pathway to becoming parents. The cost was less.  Eight embryos transferred never resulting in a take-home baby. After our second failed embryo transfer we decided to start looking into domestic adoption  At that time we still had one embryo left and still wanted to move forward with that transfer while continuing to pursue private domestic adoption.
           In January 2014 we started a home study, asking friends and family to write reference letters, getting a letter from our doctor saying we are in good health and so on. In March 2014 we had our home visit with the social worker. Our home study was completed in April of 2014 and it was time to make fliers and try to get the word out that we were looking to adopt. We also held a few fundraisers to help with the cost of domestic adoption. 
            Dada and I spend one weekend in June driving all over Washington and Oregon posting flyers saying we were looking too adopt.  We made up business cards to pass out and put up with our flyers and we mailed flyers to friends and family in other states to put up where they lived. We made a blog page and a Facebook page. We wrote letters to Women’s Shelters, lawyers and gynecologists. We sent letters to any place we could think of to let people know that we are looking to adopt. We were not able to raise much money and received no responses.  We were also trying to move forward with our last embryo transfer but my doctor in Seattle was not letting us move forward at the time.
 
While waiting I bcame pregnant with triplets but miscarried all three at 8 weeks. Then three weeks after the miscarriage, our lawyer in Seattle called and said that there was a baby girl that was born that morning and the parents were looking to place her up for adoption. Our lawyer asked if we wanted our profile to be shown and we said yes. Then the next day our lawyer called and told us they picked another couple.
 
A month later, our lawyer called saying another baby girl was born that morning and did we want our profile shown: we told him yes. That baby was born early and had to stay in the hospital for a while, and it took her birth parents a week to decide to parent her.  Around the same time we got a call from someone that saw our Facebook page. She said she was pregnant with twins lived in North Carolina. She told us they wanted an open adoption. With living so far away we did not know how that would work having an open adoption so we said no. I found out later from a Facebook group that the North Carolina birth mom was a scam, and never even was pregnant. We also had two other people try to scam us
 
            In January 2015 I was getting ready for our last embryo transfer.  I had to get my body ready for transfer. On January 15, 2015 the same day as one of my RE appointments, a special little boy named Leon was born.  While we getting ready for the transfer we also got a call from our lawyer that there was a 16 year old expectant mother that was due the beginning of March was looking to place her  baby for adoption and he was wondering if we wanted our profile shown we said yes. Even though we were weeks from doing our embryo transfer we thought we would try for both. So on January 29th we went to Seattle for our embryo transfer.  We found out that the embryo never made it through the freezing process and when it thawed it was no longer viable. 
 
The next day we got a call from our lawyer and found out the expectant mother that was due in March and picked a family with another agency. Then a few weeks later we found out that our home study was only good for a year and was 2 months from expiring. So Dada and I had some thinking to do of what we wanted to about our home study.
 
            On March 9th, our social worker who had been working with us for 2 years now and knew us well called me. She told me she had a friend with an adoption agency in Missouri and her friend was looking to share couples profiles to some birth parents of a 2 month old.  Leon, that little baby was you. She also asked if we want the agency info to e-mail our profile. We thought since the agency was willing to show our profile without signing with them beforehand we had nothing to lose. Our profile was shown the next day on Tuesday the 10th and Wednesday the 11th we get a call from the agency saying that the birth parents liked our profile and want to meet us and only us. Our social worker asked how fast we could get to Missouri from Washington State. As soon as I got off the phone I called Dada's School. We met at the agency the next day, then they put you in the car we had rented and we followed them to the mall. The four of us hung out at the mall with you for 4 hours. Your biological mom and I even picked out an outfit for you.
            Later that night your birth parents called us up and we went out to dinner and a movie while you stayed with your grandmother.. It was good night but I was tired and had trouble staying awake during the move. Dada and I wanted to give your birth family one last full day with you before you came to be with us. That Sunday night we texted Liz at the adoption agency and she text your birth parents to see if we were still on for the next day to sign parental right termination papers. On Monday, March 16th, we get a text from your birth mom 25 minutes from signing saying that your birth dad could not sign and want to find a way to still parent. Our hearts were breaking at the news. We had already fallen in love with you so much. But not only were are hearts breaking for us, we were also sad  for you because we know with all our hearts that we could give you a better life than what you your birth parents could give you. I was not mad at them; we could not be because we know that having to place a child up for adoption has to be one of life's most difficult decisions.
 
Hours after being told that your birth parents would not sign the papers, your birth mom called and told us they were on their way to the lawyer office and asked if we could come back and get you.
We showed up at the adoption agency before your parents came with you. They had to meet with their lawyer and had schedule to meet with the agency afterward. We waited for them to be done with their meeting and signed papers with our lawyer while we waited because the lawyer shared an office with the adoption agency. That night your birth parents came to our hotel and brought your clothes and some other things to take home with us.  
            The next morning you had your 2 month checkup at your pediatrician in Missouri and your birth mom met us there. The appointment was made way before adoption plan was in place.  Then on Wednesday the 18 of March we went to court to be able to become your legal guardians. The gal at the agency thought that since our FBI finger prints were over a year old we needed to redo them so we could get clearance to move you out of Missouri. So Dada and I went to a place that we could do it electronically and have results and clearance within hours. We got Dada's prints back right way. However, mine where a different story as they had been throughout this whole adoption process: my prints came back unreadable. So we had to do them again and do them a third time too. Because we knew that they would be a problem, we keep calling the company to see if we needed to do them again. We did the prints three times and all three came back and the company even ran them a fourth time and they still came back unreadable.  So we went to  the State portal office and they told us all they could do was try to get me in to do a background check by using my name but that it would take 8 weeks. We were told that we could not leave the state with you until we could get my FBI background check to go through. Missouri said that they were ok with the fact my background check was 13 month old but they are afraid that Washington was not going to be ok with it. Not knowing what else to do, we e-mailed our lawyer in Washington to see if he could be of any help. He told us that Washington had a rule that the finger prints need to no more than 18 month old so we were good. Because of my fighting with my finger prints, we stayed in your birth city until Friday the 20th . That night we drove to St. Louis thinking that we would just return the rental car and stay in a hotel in St. Louis until we were told we could take you out of Missouri. However, it turned out that I had some friends from back in college who live in St. Louis and saw on Facebook that we were in Missouri, so they offered to let us stay with them, so we kept the car and stayed at their place so we did not have to pay for a hotel.
            Then on Friday March 27th we go the call that we had clearance to leave the state with you. However, we had a hiccup: the Missouri Child Division had been called when you where one month old. We did not know what it was about, just that there was a concern about you.  After you had been placed with us, they went back to the house to check up on you without knowing that you had been place with us and that we had court papers for you. So we had to drive you back to your birth city so they could see you in person and see your court papers. After we cleared stuff up with Child Division, we took you to Cincinnati, Ohio to meet Cousin Drew and Aunt Megan. We stayed at Drew’s Nana's house and you used Drew’s crib at her house. Because of the extra four hour drive back to your birth city, we did not get to Cincinnati until one am Cincinnati time. We end up staying and hang out with Uncle David, Aunt Megan, Cousin Drew and Drew’s nana until Thursday March 31st because that when the cost of airplane tickets had gone down. You cried the whole flight home to Seattle. That was the only time you have ever thrown such a fit. We end up getting into Seattle really late the night of the 31st. Aunt Tracy picked us up from the airport in our car and we took her home. We were going to drive straight home that night but the pass was closed and no one we know had a crib for you to sleep in so we had to get a hotel that night. The next morning when we woke up the pass was open so we were able to get on the road and take you home to our house. So Mr. Leon, of all days to bring you home, we got you home and April 1st : April Fool’s day.
We had to wait 6 month to be able to finalize your adoption. We had to meet with our social worker for three post placement visits. She wrote report for the courts in Missouri to see and knew that you were doing great in our house. In that first six months, we had Meet and Greet parties for people to meet you and everyone one fall in love with you.  We face time a few time with your birth parents and you and  Momma even got to fly to South Carolina so you could meet your 5 cousins and your Aunt Karie and Uncle Steve in August. You fell in love with their cat Dixi.  After we got back from South Carolina, our lawyer in Missouri called and told me that Dada and I needed to sign papers and get them notarize so we could finalized your adoption out of court. We chose to finalize out of court so that we could stay in Washington. The judge had to wait for you to be in our house for 6 month before he could sign off on your finalization. On September 18th, 2015 while you were napping in your crib, Dada was at work teaching high school and the daycare kids where in the house happily playing, Momma got a e-mail form our lawyer that your adoption was finalized and that you legally had our last name.  
            Leon, Dad and I love you with all our hearts and we are so lucky that you are our son and that you are forever ours.
 
Love
Momma 
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Darla's Story: Our World Turned Up-Side-Down (Czech Republic)

A shrug of the shoulders is all it took to turn our world upside down.

My husband and I sat in our RE’s office, in those plush leather chairs that are supposed to make you feel comfortable, waiting for hope. After four failed IUIs, our IVF egg retrieval had given us nothing to transfer. Nothing grew after the initial fertilization. We were devastated and needed answers. I was 29 years, he was 31. We were young and healthy. This shouldn’t be happening.

Our doctor looked at us from across his desk. And shrugged his shoulders.

He had no clue why our treatments hadn’t worked. Said he would recommend trying again if money wasn’t an issue. It was probably a fluke, especially at my age. But he knew money was an issue, so his next best move was to use donor eggs.

My mind reeled, of course. Donor eggs? That means any babies we had wouldn’t be genetically mine. Could I handle that? Would I resent my husband for the genetic link he would get to have? Would I think of myself as not being their real mom? We needed time to think.

We considered a few options. Maybe we could try IVF again. It wouldn’t quite ruin us financially, and it might work. Maybe we could be childless; we could travel the world, live the good life. But I nearly died inside just thinking about it. Embryo adoption presented itself as a very viable option, but the more my husband thought about it, the more he wanted to just give it one shot with genetic material from at least one of us – if that didn’t work, we’d move on to embryos.

An egg donor really was our best option. So we researched until we couldn’t research anymore. We met with financial people at our clinic. We had phone consults with three other clinics. Every discussion pointed to the same glaring fact: if we couldn’t afford to do IVF again with my eggs, we sure as hell couldn’t afford a donor egg cycle, not at nearly twice as much as a regular IVF cycle. We felt so defeated.

But then, I remembered something I’d seen briefly mentioned on the support forum I’m on (thencomesfamily.com). A woman had traveled to the Czech Republic for a donor egg IVF cycle. I remember mentioning it to my husband once, toward the beginning of our treatment, and both of us laughing off the idea. But just maybe…

On a whim, I contacted a few clinics in the Czech Republic to get some information – cost, protocol, stats, anything they could give me. And the responses came in. The stats were on par with, and sometimes better than, stats of clinics here in the US. Protocol was similar and monitoring could be done stateside. And the cost? Well that was the kicker. The price tag for a cycle was a fifth what it was here! This was a very real option. And after a lot of soul searching, comparing of clinics, talking with my therapist, and crunching the numbers, we decided to go for it.

In January of 2016, we flew from our home in Austin all the way to Rome, Italy to begin our once-in-a-lifetime trip. When in Rome, right? We made the trip about more than conceiving a child. We spent time in Florence, Vienna, and Prague. We made memories that will last us a lifetime.

And on February 4, 2016, we also made the embryos that would become our babies. On February 9, we transferred two perfect little blastocysts, and those little blasts became our two little girls, due in October.

Even though we’re now finally expecting our little miracles, my husband and I remember all too well the pain and desperation we felt pretty much constantly last year. All we want to do now is shout it from the mountaintops that this option exists, it’s easier than it seems, and isn’t crazy at all!

We’re grateful every single day that this option exists. We’re grateful to a clinic that confidently took us in and did what no one else had been able to do. We’re grateful for that shrug of the shoulders from our RE that sent us on such a wild ride. And while there are times that we still mourn the loss of a child with my eyes or nose, we know that these babies are ours, and we already love them more fiercely than either of us ever could have imagined.

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Lindsay's Story: Fertility, One of Those Things We Take For Granted

Tablet and Stethoscope Infertility

Tablet and Stethoscope InfertilityI feel like fertility is one of those things we all take for granted. We just assume that when we are ready for children that we’ll go off birth control and get pregnant quickly. Unfortunately, our story was a bit more complicated than that.

My husband Travis and I were married in June 2010. We decided to spend a year renovating our house and just enjoying being married before we added children to the mix. I went off birth control in August of 2011 and we started trying to get pregnant.

At first it was fun. I charted my basal body temp, we had lots of sex, and every month I would eagerly await a positive pregnancy test. Months went by and nothing happened. It was around month 9 that I started to worry that there was something wrong. I knew it could take a healthy couple under 35 up to a year to get pregnant, so we pushed forward and continued to try on our own for a few more months.

In August of 2012 I visited my OB/GYN for my annual exam and to ask about starting infertility testing. He ordered some blood work and scheduled me for an HSG to check to make sure my tubes were still open. He also gave my husband a script for a semen analysis. All of our testing looked perfect, except my mid luteal phase progesterone levels were a little low. We also found out that we are completely out of pocket for infertility testing and treatment. My doctor assured me that we could easily get pregnant with clomid and IUI (intrauterine insemination). I did one cycle of clomid and IUI with my OB. Despite having a good looking follicle, the cycle failed.

After that cycle I decided to look for a Reproductive Endocrinologist. My OB prescribed unmonitored clomid, which I wasn’t comfortable with. I wanted a doctor that specialized in treating infertility. We had consults with 2 different REs and decided to move forward with additional testing and treatment with the second one. In January of 2013 we resumed testing and found out that in addition to my low progesterone, I also had hostile cervical mucus and was a carrier for cystic fibrosis. Luckily Travis wasn’t a carrier for CF and IUI would help us get around the issues I had with my cervical mucus. Over the next few months we did 3 additional IUIs. The first was unmedicated and the next two were clomid (monitored) + hcg trigger + IUI cycles. All of these cycles failed as well.

In June of 2013 we had our IVF consult with the RE. The thought of moving on to IVF was both scary and exciting at the same time. We were given about a 15% chance of success for IUI, but IVF would give us a 50% chance. The tradeoff of course is price. While an IUI cycle costs $1000-$3000, the average cost of an IVF cycle is $15,000 including meds. We decided to refinance our house and use our equity to pay for our IVF cycle. While it was a large amount of money, we knew our baby would be worth every penny.

In August of 2013 we started our first IVF cycle. I think the scariest part of the cycle was the unknown. I would be giving myself multiple shots a day to force multiple follicles to grow and then go under anesthesia to have my eggs retrieved. The embryologist would inject one of Travis’s sperm into each mature eggs, hopefully fertilizing them. We would then wait to see how many fertilized and how many would grow to blastocyst, a ball of a few thousand cells that would hatch and hopefully implant into my uterine lining. Our cycle started off uneventful. I gave myself  

 

injections and went in for ultrasound monitoring, where we saw several follicles growing on my ovaries. After about a week of stimulation meds, we used an hcg trigger to finish maturing the eggs and I went in for my retrieval 2 days later. This is where our cycle took a turn for the worse. We only retrieved 6 eggs and only 5 were mature. They were able to fertilize 3 of them. I tried not to panic and prayed that 1 or 2 of my 3 embryos would make it. When we got our report on day 3 after retrieval, we found out all three were slow growing and poor quality. None of the 3 made it to blastocyst and we had to cancel our transfer. I think this might be one of the hardest things I have ever went through. I took all of the medications, went through the egg retrieval and still never had a chance at success.

We met with our doctor who said our terrible cycle was likely just a fluke, so we made plans to start our second round of IVF in October 2013. I would be on higher doses of stimulation meds to hopefully help my ovaries produce more eggs. I also did some immune testing and found out I had borderline high Natural Killer cells, which could attack an embryo. I would receive an infusion of intralipids to help treat the high natural killer cells. Our 2nd round of IVF went smoothly. They were able to retrieve 8 eggs and 7 were mature and 5 fertilized. On day 3 after retrieval, we had 2 or 3 embryos that were good-fair quality and the others were slow growing and poor quality. We anxiously awaited our blastocyst transfer on day 5. We found out on day 5 that we had one grade 1 (highest grade) early blast to transfer. This was a huge relief, I was so worried that we would end up with nothing to transfer again. Unfortunately they were unable to freeze any of our remaining embryos. After transfer I had to wait 8 days to have a blood test to find out if the transfer worked, of course I cheated and tested with a home test a few days early. To my surprise our lonely little blast had implanted and my home test was positive. My husband and I were on cloud nine. However, our happiness was short lived. My first beta hcg (blood test to measure pregnancy hormone) came back at 14.6, typically it would be 40-50 at that point. Since I had been getting positive tests for a few days, I knew this was likely not good. A second blood test a few days later confirmed my fears; my hcg had dropped to below 5 officially making this a chemical pregnancy (an early miscarriage before a pregnancy can be seen on an ultrasound).

Dealing with the chemical pregnancy was hard for me. This was the first time I ever saw a positive pregnancy test. It was hard for me deal with being so close to success and then having it ripped away. Looking back, I am pretty sure I dealt with undiagnosed depression and I wish I had sought the help of a professional to deal with my loss.

My doctor seemed torn with his recommendation on how we should proceed with treatment. At first he told us that we should start looking at other options (donor egg, donor sperm, embryo donation, or adoption). This was hard for me to deal with, as I really felt like we hadn’t given IVF a fair chance yet. He ended up talking with another RE and they came up with a plan for IVF #3. I would do much higher doses of meds and plan on genetic testing for the embryos we create. This would tell us if we had an embryo quality issue (at least from a chromosome standpoint). We decided on January 2014 for this IVF cycle. Things went well, we had 8 eggs retrieved and all were mature and fertilized. Unfortunately, most were again slow growing and poor quality by day 3. We were lucky to have 2 embryos make it to blast this cycle, we transferred 1 expanded

 

grade 1 and 1 grade 2 early blast. Despite transferring two embryos, the cycle failed.

After a 3rd failed IVF cycle, we decided to change courses with our treatment. We had our choices between donor eggs or donor embryos and Travis chose to try donor embryos. I consulted with an out of state clinic in late February (our local clinic doesn’t have a donor embryo program) and we had our embryos chosen and our transfer scheduled for early May. The clinic’s program was anonymous and had chosen a profile with 9 embryos (6 were frozen on day 2 and 3 were blastocysts). Our plan was to thaw the day 2 embryos and grow them to blastocyst. Hopefully we would have enough to transfer and we would be able to save our already frozen blasts to use in a later cycle, ideally for a sibling. When we got to our appointment the day of the transfer, the doctor had bad news. Out of our 6 embryos, 5 survived thawing, but only one had grown much and it was a morula (stage before blastocyst). We decided to thaw our blasts as well. Two out of the three blasts survived the thaw and we transferred both along with the morula. This clinic required waiting 12 days before having hcg blood work drawn. I impatiently tested at home every day starting at five days after our transfer. This cycle failed as well.

We decided that before we would try another cycle, we wanted to look further into immune testing. My local clinic did some basic testing for us, but we decided we wanted a full work up. I filled out paperwork and sent in my medical records to make a consult with a Reproductive Immunologist outside of Chicago. I wanted to know if there was more to my immune issues before we transferred any other embryos. We decided that if she were to find more issues, we would give IVF with my eggs one more shot, this time adding immune meds to my protocol. We also decided that we wanted to switch doctors. My RE was great, but I felt like he had already given up on me as a patient. We decided to switch to the RE who was the medical director at the clinic where my RE did his IVF cycle. I had seen her for cycle monitoring several times and she seemed much more open to new ideas and willing to work outside the box.

It takes several months to get in to see the RI in Chicago, so I used the summer to work on losing a little weight and trying to get healthier. One thing that they don’t tell you when you are starting fertility treatments is that it can take a major toll on your body. All of the extra hormones, steroids, and the stress cause many women to gain weight. My 135lb 5’3’’ body ballooned to 165lbs. I was able to drop about 20 of the pounds before my appointment with the RI in August.  

I feel like seeing the RI was a good choice for me, even though much of the infertility community isn’t on board with immune treatments yet. I was diagnosed with several more immune issues, a few clotting issues, and found out that the blood flow to my uterus is poor. The RI prescribed her own protocol to be added to my IVF protocol. The immune protocol included prednisone, IVIG infusions, lovenox, and baby aspirin.

Since we found out my immune issues were more significant than we first thought, we decided to try IVF one more time. In November 2014 I started IVF #4. Again the cycle started smoothly, we were able to retrieve 10 mature eggs, which is the most I have ever produced in an IVF cycle. Of the 10 eggs 7 fertilized normally. Unfortunately by day 3 I only had one embryo that was good  

 

quality and growing at a normal pace, the rest were either very slow growing or poor quality. I also found out before our retrieval that my lining was just too thin for transfer and we would have to do a freeze all cycle. I was really worried that we wouldn’t have any embryos make it to blastocyst and we would have nothing to freeze. I knew from the moment I got my day 3 report that I was done cycling with my eggs. I was tired of the rollercoaster of emotions that went with IVF and only getting a few (if any) embryos to transfer. By some miracle, we ended up freezing 2 grade 2 blastocysts on day 6.

We decided to do a FET (Frozen Embryo Transfer) in January 2015. Unfortunately we had to cancel the transfer because despite increasing my estrogen and taking several additional medications, my lining wouldn’t thicken to my clinic’s minimum level for transfer. We would have to try again another month. Our second attempt at a FET was in April 2015. Luckily this cycle my lining cooperated with the increase in estrogen and addition meds and we were able to transfer our 2 frozen embryos. Unfortunately the cycle failed.

While we waiting to do our second FET attempt in April, I was contacted by a woman looking to donate her remaining 7 blastocysts. After our terrible day 3 report from IVF #4 in November, I had posted in an Embryo Adoption/Donation group that I was looking for embryos since we were unable to make viable embryos using IVF with my own eggs. I was honest with the potential donor that we had 2 frozen embryos we still needed to transfer and that my transfer was still a few weeks away. She offered to wait to find out the results of my cycle before trying to find another donor. Of course our FET failed, so we decided to move forward with the private donation of her 7 blastocysts. All of her blastocysts were high quality and the timing was perfect. It was really hard to believe because it almost seemed too good to be true.

Some people are afraid to attempt a private match with embryo donation because they think the process is too daunting. Really the process was quite simple. Once we agreed on the match and worked out any details (mostly what happens to the embryos if we divorce or if one of us dies, what level of communication is expected between recipients and donors, what sort of fees would be reimbursed, and any other items important to the donor or recipient), I had a lawyer draw up the contract, which is a simple transfer of property. The donors had a lawyer review the contract to make sure everything was ok on their end. Then it is a matter of both of us signing and notarizing the contract to make it legally binding. Once the contract is notarized, I arranged shipping of the embryos and they were shipped along with the infectious disease blood work results from the donating couple. We took a few weeks to get to know each other, but once we started working on the contract, it only took a few weeks to finalize and get it signed and notarized. The embryos were officially ours and shipped to my clinic by the beginning of June 2015.

Our first FET cycle with our snowflakes (a nickname given to donated/adopted embryos) was August of 2015. I still struggled to get my lining thick enough, but it did make it above the minimum and we were ready to move ahead with the transfer. We decided to transfer 2 of the 7 embryos. When we arrived for the transfer we found out that our clinic thawed a straw of two embryos, but only 1 survived. They thawed a straw with a single embryo so that we would have  

 

2 to transfer. Since the blasts weren’t fully expanded, they couldn’t be graded (generally under the new grading system my clinic started using, blasts are given a letter grade for the inner cell mass and a letter grade for the trophectoderm. The inner cell mass is the part that will become the baby and the trophectorderm is the part that will make up the placenta. The best score is A and the lowest is C). We were very happy to have two blasts to transfer and had new hope that our cycle might actually work. Unfortunately, neither embryo implanted, resulting in another failed cycle.

After this most recent failed cycle, I met with my RE to discuss a change in protocol I wanted to try. Some women have a much easier time building a lining using either a natural cycle or a low stim cycle. She agreed that I could try a low stim cycle to see how I respond. I decided before we would transfer any of our 4 remaining embryos, I wanted to do a mock cycle to test the new protocol. We did the mock cycle in late September/early October of 2015. My lining looked perfect so we decided to move ahead with a FET cycle in November using this protocol.

In November 2015 we started our second FET with our donated embryos. In addition to the new stimulation protocol, I also had a much more aggressive immune protocol since we had also been struggling to keep my immune levels in the normal range during my FET cycles. I ended up on 30mg of prednisone and did 2 IVIG infusions before my transfer. We had to make a decision on what to do about the number of embryos to transfer. We had 4 remaining, but they were frozen 2 to a straw. If we decided to transfer 2 and we lost an embryo in the first straw, we might have to refreeze one of the embryos from the second straw because my clinic will only transfer up to two blastocysts. We ultimately decided to thaw one straw and transfer either one or two blastocysts depending on what survived the thawing process. We would only thaw the second straw if neither embryo from the first straw survived. This turned out to be the perfect plan for us. We did lose one of the embryos in the thaw, but the second embryo was a perfect fully hatched AA blastocyst. With a blastocyst of that quality, the success rate is often high enough that transferring a second embryo doesn’t increase your odds of success. Even my RE said she was happy to see our instructions for thawing once she saw the quality of the blast that survived.

After transferring our perfect blastocyst, we had the long 8 day wait for our beta hcg blood work (blood pregnancy test). Early in our infertility journey, I would get impatient and take home tests really early. After seeing so many negative tests, the appeal of testing early wasn’t there. I did decide to test the morning of our beta and much to my surprise my test was positive. My nurse called later in the afternoon to tell me that my first beta looked perfect at 39.6. My clinic continued to monitor my betas and provide me with weekly ultrasounds to monitor the baby’s growth, until I was released to my OB around 12 weeks.

I am currently almost 25 weeks pregnant with what I can only describe as our miracle baby girl. I still sometimes can’t believe after 3.5 years of infertility treatments that I am pregnant. My pregnancy hasn’t been perfect and I have had a few complications including a subchorionic hematoma that bled for about 7 weeks, being diagnosed with pregnancy induced hypertension, and being diagnosed with pregnancy induced hypothyroidism. The big issue we are fighting now  

 

is intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR), likely caused by poor blood flow to her umbilical artery. Baby girl is currently only measuring at the 7th percentile. My doctors (OB, RI, and now a MFM) have come up with some med changes that will hopefully keep her inside and growing for several more weeks. Even with the complications, I am so grateful to have the opportunity to experience pregnancy.

I think one surprising fact to most fertile people is that being pregnant doesn’t “cure” infertility, it only cures childlessness. I am and always will be infertile; it is part of who I am. This doesn’t always have to be a negative trait though. Infertility has made me a more empathetic person. I know what it is like to have pain that you hide from most of the world because they don’t understand it. Even if I don’t fully understand your struggles, I understand what it is like to struggle and because of this I am not as quick to judge. Infertility has also introduced me to a wonderful network of women, many of whom I consider close friends. While many of them have found success through either treatments or adoption, some are still fighting the infertility battle. For my friend and anyone else still pursuing treatments or adoption, I am rooting for you. For the women who decide to stop treatments and pursue a childfree life, my heart aches for you and I wish you peace as you walk your new path.

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Alexis' Story: Ectopic Pregnancy and Cardiac Arrest

I was married just 8 months when I found out I was 10 weeks along with an ectopic pregnancy. The embryo still had a heartbeat in my left tube. The surgeon got it out but 2 weeks later, I went into shock and cardiac arrest. What happened is the surgeon didn't get the entire embryo out and my tube never perforated. I had no pulse. No heartbeat. Was found unconscious in my house, alone. I can say I know what it feels like to die. It haunts everyday of my life. Once rushed to ER, they said I had 2 liters of blood in my abdomen from tube not perforating. I needed 2 blood and a plasma transfusion. I had to have my left tube removed and the right one was destroyed from the severe trauma from all the blood in my abdomen.

What should've been a simple ectopic pregnancy, left me not only infertile with no tubes but threw me into AMA with DOR.

My first fresh round of IVF did not work but 5 months later, my FET gave me my miracle baby.

Now, another fresh and frozen round cancelled years later, due to unknown fluid in my uterus and then the embryos arrested once my uterus was finally ready for the transfer.

We are one and done not by choice. I'm hoping therapy will heal time. I yearn for another baby everyday that I'll never get to have.

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NIAW 2016, Sara's Story: The path takes you where you were always meant to be

I never fully believed stuff like this, back Then. Sure, it sounded good. But Now... Now I know how true it is. The path takes you where you were always meant to be. In this moment tonight. Rocking baby boy. He's just finished a bottle after waking up crying. He shouldn't be hungry yet, but he spent all evening crawling and pulling up and smiling a gummy grin of pride. So that left no time for much milk. So I hold his 21 pound, solid frame firmly in my arms. Like I've said before, he just fits. As he sucks the last few drops of his bottle, his eyes close. His head twitches and nods back and forth, cradled in the crook of my arm. He's got one hand by his face and the other casually folded behind his head. He's taking slow, deep breaths. He's 7 months, wearing 12 month pjs, and his tone little belly sticks out between the shirt and pants. His head nods and twitches some more. His hair is getting lighter. And thicker. It sticks up more on the left side than the right, no matter what I do to it. His skin is soft. His lips are perfectly rounded and at rest. Until he starts "sucking his fake paci". If I had him Then, would I notice each detail? Would I appreciate him as much? I'm certain the answer is "NO"!  If things happened the way I hoped so many times, I wouldn't be here. Now. 

I wouldn't cherish and savor each day with him. The way I am tonight. The way I have done each day since the day in early August when I first saw his little face.  I wouldn't have endured the amount of pain I did, that whittled me to my very core. That revealed my anxiety disorder. I would be a neurotic, impatient, frustrated mom were I made a mom Then. I'm treated Now. I feel like I can handle anything.  I wouldn't have the relationships I have Now. My sisters in embryo adoption. Fellow recipients. My son's special genetic mom. (And genetic extended family- he's not an only child after all). I hated waiting. I hated the suffering. The sacrifice. The running on a hampster wheel that never seemed to result in anything positive.  I'm here Now. I'm where I'm supposed to be. 

*****

So how did we get to Now? What was the Then all about? My husband and I decided to not have biological children together to avoid passing a hereditary neuromuscular disorder. We tried donor sperm with 3 IUIs- no luck. We became certified foster parents. It wasn’t a feasible plan with the way our local foster care office handled referrals. We applied for waiting children through the foster care system with no response. We then sought domestic infant adoption. Because, you know, as everyone says, “Why don’t you ‘just adopt’”? We were on a waiting list of nearly 50 families when only 7 placements were made in a year. Our profile was shown once but the mom never placed. We applied for private adoption situations. Nothing panned out.

My husband says he could have kept waiting. But I was losing hope. I was desperately grasping to anything I could. I researched day and night. Other agencies. Private networking.and then I discovered embryo adoption. It’s not legally “adoption”, but in our situation, that feels like the correct language. And one of the most well-known embryo adoption clinics in the entire nation was mere hours from our house.

So we dove in. We transferred. Negative. We transferred. A devastating miscarriage. Our money was gone. Our strength was nearly gone. All 7 of our embryos we initially adopted were gone. We rematched. One final chance. This was it. It had to work.

We transferred two beautiful blastocysts (five day old embryos) on a Wednesday. I started feeling queasy on Saturday. I got a positive home test on Sunday, two beautiful pink lines. Due to Thanksgiving, I had to wait til Friday for the nervewracking beta news. Yep! Very pregnant, if there is such a thing. Pregnancy after a miscarriage was very difficult. I hated ultrasounds, even the one where I heard his heartbeat the first time and the one where I found out his sex. I had a stubborn SCH (subchorionic hematoma- common in FET pregnancies) that caused ongoing panic.I muddled through pregnancy, trying to stay in one piece.

Four years after we began the journey to be parents, lots of tears and money and shots later, they placed a nearly 9 pound, perfect baby boy on my chest. He lifted his little head and peered into my eyes. Everything I went through melted away. He was here. He is mine. He has healed me. Those years were dark. I would hate to relive them. But it was worth it. He is worth it.

*******

To read more about my journey, including my very open relationship with my son’s gracious and wonderful genetic family, please check out my blog- chroniclesofanadoption.blogspot.com. Although we live across the country, we’ve met up 5 times in 8 months. We’ve stayed at each others' houses and met each others' extended family. It’s been a beautiful dance to develop a relationship with the family we owe ours to.

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NIAW 2016, Liz' Story: Snowflake Babies

The ghost of a red-haired child (From a blog post Jan 2013)

 
Long before we knew we would deal with infertility, my Mom would frequently talk about what she thought our children would look like. She always guessed we'd have a child with red hair because of my fair complexion, the freckles I had as a child, and my husband's strawberry-blonde hair. My mom's sister had red hair, but no one else in our family did, so I was skeptical. But it always stuck in the back of my mind.

One day while I was waiting to catch a flight at the airport, I saw a young husband and wife who each looked uncannily like me and my husband. The wife was holding their baby on her lap but from where I was sitting, I couldn't get a good look at him/her. I thought to myself  "Here is a good test to see what our child will look like!" I got up to casually walk by and check and sure enough this beautiful little newborn had red hair.

After that, I figured our babies would have firey-red hair. This was always the visual picture I had painted in my mind of our child from that point forward. But as we moved along through the painful infertility process, that visual picture became blurrier and blurrier. Until finally I had to completely emotionally bury our red-haired little child. That red-haired child is now just a ghost.

An interesting realization occurred for me when I got the call last week announcing that we had a 10k IVF insurance benefit available to us.  As soon as she said "IVF benefit" my immediate thought was "This means I would have to attempt IVF again."

And my stomach dropped. I felt sick. I didn't want to go through IVF again! NO! And it wasn't because of the rollercoaster of emotions involved, it wasn't because my eggs suck and it probably wouldn't work anyway, or the doctor's appointments, or the injections.

I realized it was because that would mean I'd have to bring that grieved child back from the dead - the child I had already buried and mourned. It felt wrong, it felt off. But more importantly, our children are already here.

Our children are frozen in a tank in San Antonio. They have big smiles and beautiful eyes.  I love them more than anything.

And one of the most remarkable things about these babies is that they came with an incredible relationship with our donor and her family. This is a blessing I can't even put into words. Our children will have another family that will love them too. I wouldn't trade that for the world.

Of course we certainly aren't out of the woods yet, and won't feel that way until we have our baby(ies) in our arms. But I feel like we are finally being shown the reason as to why we had to endure the devastating sadness, despair and pain. It makes sense why we had to travel the dark path we've been on that led us to these babies.

This is so much better.

 
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