**TW; I’ll be talking infertility, Jesus, pregnancy, and medical procedures. Also this will be very, very long. I was going to break it up into parts but I just didn’t feel like it.**
For those of you following on my Instagram page, or those who know J and I personally, in October we announced that our fertility treatments had worked, and we are now expecting our twins in April or May of next year.
DANG are we excited. Full disclosure, I was not actually wanting to put out an announcement. At least, not online. Pregnancy announcements made me want to punch people in the face, and honestly I didn’t want to make someone else feel like that. J and I talked about it, and he very slowly brought me around to the fact that a ton of people had been following our journey from the beginning and were rooting for our family, and even that there were people who wanted to hear and see a success story. That these little ones have been fought for, prayed for, anticipated, and loved well before we got the call from our doctor saying they were on their way. (Well, that we were pregnant… I didn’t find out it was twins until later.)
It took a lot of convincing and several questions asked from internet friends and in-person friends, to realize I was kind of hiding my story because I struggled with some guilt in and around getting pregnant. Since opening up about our struggles, I have met people in my community and online that were walking this difficult journey, at so many different points. It’s incredibly difficult not to feel guilty. But my wonderful husband challenged me to write about it, because even throughout those bitter moments over pregnancy announcements, and the absolute rage at people who got pregnant on ‘accident’ (which is a whole other thing) the success stories at any point in this journey kind of kept me going. God worked through a few couples to get me to a much less bitter and angry place in this journey, even if it didn’t feel like it was getting ‘better’.
I’ve said it before, but J and I both knew even from our first date that we both wanted kids, badly. I have nannied all ages and types of kiddos, and it only made me want to be a mama more and more. And J is MADE to be a dad. I can’t explain it more than that, but watching him with kids is just the most amazing thing. He can get on their level in a way that most people have to practice and learn through years of having their own.
I’ve had pretty debilitating ovarian cysts since I was a teenager, and so there was always a concern to me (confirmed by a few doctors) that I was going to have a harder time getting pregnant than most, but that it shouldn’t be impossible, especially with timing and being aware of my body.
When we got married, we both agreed I wouldn’t be on birth control and we’d be prepared for kids in the event that they hopefully showed up quickly. And then… they didn’t. We both sort of chalked it up to him being in training and being gone SO often, and made the decision to start actively ‘trying’ (truthfully the only difference between just not using BC and ‘trying’ is adding PreSeed, and *ahem* frequency) during a time his course was going to start slowing down, about 5 months after we got married. It is, after all, very difficult to get pregnant when your husband isn’t around. I changed how I was working out, and changed my eating habits. Still, a negative test every month.
This went on for about 8 months, and I started having an increase in cyst symptoms. The pain level I was dealing with right around my period sent me into the emergency room on one occasion, and J even had to come home from PT to take me in to the hospital because I was in such pain I couldn’t not throw up, and obviously couldn’t drive myself. My boss was incredibly understanding, and my friends rose to the occasion and drove me home from the ER that day. I was missing between one and three days of work every four weeks, and we realized that I probably needed to get into the doctor, and try to get seen, and hopefully that would help us get pregnant.
Military medicine being what it is, it was damn near impossible to be seen. And I started rapidly losing hope. I had a primary care physician who was, to be totally honest, absolutely horrible at her job. I scheduled an appointment to get seen, and my desire to get into the fertility clinic on post was brushed off as ‘it hadn’t been long enough to worry about it’ despite the horrible pain I was having, and the fact that J and I are healthy and needed to get down to the bottom of what has happening (or, not happening). I was given a prescription for a narcotic to deal with the pain, and basically told ‘keep trying’. People around us kept getting pregnant, and I kept getting negative tests. Our first deployment was looming, and we were no closer to getting into the clinic. It took me going into the office of the officer in charge of the clinic and explaining in detail why the level of care I was getting was not okay, and pushing – HARD.
I got my bloodwork, and it came back fine, and then got a procedure/test called an HSG. They use a catheter to flood the uterus with dye, and watch it on a screen. It’s to tell if your tubes are blocked or obstructed, and to make sure they’re functioning the way they’re supposed to. It was incredibly painful, and I had a doctor who did not take my level of pain seriously, and chastised me for reacting poorly. (One of my friends was with me in the hospital and she said she heard me shout in pain while she was in the hallway.) My tubes were not blocked, and according to that radiologist, everything looked fine. This was about two months before we were set to move back north, and J was going to deploy immediately after we moved. The infertility clinic wouldn’t have accepted me on such a short timeframe, so we decided to keep trying naturally for the next two months and hope one of those would work. The day before J left for Afghanistan, my period showed up, and I was doubly devastated.
While he was gone, I worked out and tried to get my body in a better state health wise. I completely ignored my mental, emotional, and spiritual health, but physically I was working out and eating well. However, I was slowly getting more and more depressed. One day I’ll go into that a little deeper, but I assumed that once J came home, I would feel completely better and we’d be able to sort out what the heck was wrong with me. Not surprisingly that didn’t happen, but we got in with an amazing counselor, and we started working through things with one another completely differently. Still no positives.
Several months later, and many different failed attempts, I got in with a doctor who listened to me. After almost 2 and a half years of trying to just be heard and taken seriously, I had found a care team who was willing to listen to my concerns and help me advocate for my care. I talked about the level of pain I felt every month, and what our time constraints worked. My doctor immediately put me on a plan with some drugs, and December of 2017 we did our first medicated cycle. And, it failed while J was at training. I was moving past upset and into absolutely pissed off. January, another failure.
In January, I started going to a women’s group, and through that group and a wonderful friend of mine, I met a group of women who were wanting to pray for J and I in this journey. They laid hands on me and prayed for health and clarity, and most of all for peace and strength in this lengthy process. I’m not exaggerating when I say that meeting them absolutely changed how I started to go through my treatments. I cried and cried and they just let me cry and prayed over me through the tears.
February 2017, we did our first IUI. Unsuccessful. And excruciating, physically for me, as well as emotionally. My poor mama held my hand and calmed me down while I cried in hysterics on the exam table during the IUI because I “couldn’t just get pregnant like a normal person.” Unsuccessful.
March. Unsuccessful. April. Unsuccessful. May. Unsuccessful.
Through all this I was dealing with increasingly worse pain every month, and it was only because my boss was a rock star and incredibly understanding that I was able to keep up a job and some semblance of normalcy. Even in that ‘normalcy’ though, I was taking hormones and injecting myself with a drug once a month to try to get my body to do what it should have been able to do naturally. My emotions were shot, my body was over it, with every IUI more painful than the previous, and J and I were having to re learn how to do this as he came in and out of training and schools.
In May my doctor brought up the idea that not only did I have large ovarian cysts, but that I also probably had endometriosis. She suggested that we do the remainder of the June cycle, then that in July I have a laparoscopic procedure to check for and remove any endometriosis. If we decided against it, she said our best chance would be IVF, which would cost around 20 grand. (None of this had been covered by insurance, and none of IVF would be either.) J had brought endometriosis up before as the possible source for my increase in pain the previous year, but the idea of surgery while my husband was in and out of the state was absolutely terrifying to me. He was calm and logical in the appointment with the doctor, and promised he’d do everything in his power to be able to be there the day of the surgery the next month. I was still resistant to the idea, but then J and the doctor explained that I could possibly have YEARS pain free and not have to miss out on my life. Even if it didn’t lead to us getting pregnant, that alone seemed worth it.
July 24 I had my laparoscopy and neither my doctor, or J, or my best friend, were very surprised to hear that she had removed a bit of endometriosis. J even slept in a chair in the living room to wake me up to take my meds and to keep an eye on me.
I took the next two weeks to recover (where I also learned I am a HORRIBLE patient) and we started in on the next round of IUI, but with a new drug that I would actually have to inject every day until ovulation. Then every other day I would go in for an internal ultrasound, and a blood draw to see whether my body was responding well or not. As if that wasn’t enough fun, I also got to experience intense mood swings, and severe bloating.
In that month, fresh from minor surgery, and now on fertility hormones, I really felt like God had me at my physical weakest. I was exhausted. I was emotional. My husband was working during the week and gone in another city, and we were trying to be married on the weekends, but only on the weekends where he also didn’t have training, and didn’t need to be gone. My counselor was working with me on my anxiety and I was seeing improvements there, but I was so doubtful that the cycle was going to work. I told J that much. I had no desire to keep doing this anymore and I could only take so many more negative pregnancy tests, so we agreed that if the IUI was unsuccessful, we’d move toward IVF after two more attempts.
August 22 At 7 in the morning, J drove the two hours from where he was working and met me at the hospital so we could do the IUI. That IUI was, not surprisingly, incredibly painful. Afterwards, J headed back to work, and I went home for the horrible two week wait. (Which is the longest two weeks ever, and if you’re trying to get pregnant it happens EVERY month and takes approximately 300 years.)
During the TWW I was also on another hormone to help my body create a more hospitable environment for the babies I was hopefully incubating.
September 2, we went in for a blood pregnancy test to see if the IUI had ‘taken’. The Nurse said my results wouldn’t be available possibly until the next MONDAY and then they would have to call my doctor from the lab, so the nurse at the doctor’s office would then call me with the results(it was a Saturday, and Monday felt forever away, especially with J heading to work for the following week.) Not being one to let rules get in the way, I called the hospital where I’d had the bloodwork done. The nurse was incredibly reluctant to give me my HCG numbers, but I more or less bullied her (if you ever read this, I’m really, really sorry. Hormones and anxiety are a very strong mix). She told me the number, and a quick google search confirmed that the IUI had actually worked.
I had gotten on pinterest every week for two years and had all these cutesy plans on how to tell J he was going to be a dad. That didn’t happen. We were living at my parent’s house (The Farm) and I just tore across the yard in tears. I couldn’t even tell you what I told him only that “it worked…. I’m pregnant” was somewhere in between shaky crying.
Those first few weeks were stressful. When I was somewhere around 5 weeks, I felt intense pain and cramping, and called my doctor. With cysts and endometriosis I was convinced I was having an ectopic pregnancy, and so she had me come in to do an ultrasound to make sure everything was okay. Texts were sent out for prayers, and I drove the hour into the doctor first thing in the morning, after an extra sleepless night. I remember tearfully praying that my baby was going to be okay, but worshiping during the hour drive. My best friend drove down two hours to be with me, and was holding my hand when my doctor told me that the reason for the cramping was because there were two babies who were exactly where they needed to be.
Right now as I type this I am 17 weeks and 1 day. I’m out of the first trimester and in a few weeks we’re going to find out what the genders are. We’re staring another deployment in the face, and I’m looking at the possibility of delivering without my husband there. This isn’t exactly what I imagined when everyone told me “it will happen in God’s perfect timing”. But there’s been something so sweet in turning to people who have been by my side in this journey, and knowing they have my back when it comes to the rest of this pregnancy, and learning to be a mom.
If you made it to the end of this, I am not only impressed, but deeply grateful. This has been such a weird and exhausting and challenging ride. If you are needing a success story, I hope J and I can give you some encouragement. If you’re needing someone to cry to or vent to, I’d love to be that too. If you’re one of the hundreds of people who have prayed for our kids, our marriage, and our health in this process, please know that I could not have done this without you. We could not have gotten through this without knowing people were praying for us, and I don’t believe I’ll ever be able to put into words what it’s meant to us.