My Story of Infertility: Part III
Editor’s note: This is part three of a three part series. Read part one here and part two here.
Waking up with the official data of being pregnant did not feel real. From a mental standpoint, I understood the numbers that not only was I pregnant, there was a huge chance I was pregnant with twins! It has now been three days since my home pregnancy tests confirmed a positive reading and one day of the blood work at the doctor’s office confirming my pregnancy. The amount of times I have thrown up is now off the charts. Yes I did throw up during IVF from the meds, but this is the kind of throwing up after an amazing party and being majorly over served. NO matter what I eat or do it is not stopping. I call my IVF clinic to report my concern. I know many people get morning sickness, but I could not find another human in my circle that got sick this fast and for this long.
The only foods that I took a fancy to were cupcakes and broccoli, and yes this continued for my entire pregnancy. Thankfully for me living in Dallas provided a Sprinkles ATM, so 24 hours a day I had access to the most delicious cupcakes in town. And broccoli of course is available at any grocery store.
Due to my nonstop puking and feeling nauseous 24/7 I began to lose weight. This is clearly not a goal during your first few weeks of a high risk pregnancy. Again I felt consumed by doing all I could to take care of these kids. Yes I decided I had twins or triplets off the bat. Nothing had been confirmed yet. I went back in for the next round of blood work. My numbers had tripled. It was still too early for an ultrasound, but it was getting hard to deny the fact that there was the huge potential for more than one baby growing in my belly.
The day after my second round of blood work, I could not gather my strength. Nothing was staying down and I could tell I was getting too dehydrated. I immediately called my IVF office and they got me straight in. Sure enough my poor body was not handling the pregnancy well. My heart rate was not consistent and dehydration had taken over. I called my office and Steve and let them know I would be here for the next few hours. I received an IV, cheerleading, and hugs. This was the first of many.
The nurses and doctor came in and brought me crackers, held my hand and wiped my tears away. We had come so far. I was finally pregnant, yet my body was not reacting amazing to this miracle. I will never forget when the doctor came in asked to hold both of my hands. I shook my head and he looked me in the eyes and said “I am going to do everything that I know to help you have a healthy pregnancy. It’s not an easy road but you see the end.” I wrote what he said down in my phone the second he walked away. He left with a hug and asked if I needed more crackers. I wiped my tears and said, “yes, please.”
Ultrasound day arrived. Doctors are not into guessing on data, but I had been comparing my numbers with other friends who had gone through IVF. Our numbers were literally 5 times higher than anyone else’s – even individuals who had twins. So at this point I am pondering are we one of those super rare situations where some how I have 3 in there?! We took a video before the ultrasound to guess how many.
The doctor confirmed I had two babies in there cooking away. I spent a total of 8 weeks being pregnant at my IVF doctor’s office. Then I was cleared to have my OBGYN take over. Just typing this makes me have a huge smile for a few reasons. First, it was bittersweet saying goodbye to the team I felt like I had lived with for the many months prior. But now it also meant I got to put my trust into the other doctor I believed in with my whole heart. Let’s call him Dr. G! He is young, brilliant and has more energy than most humans I have ever come across. It may be due to this pop and McDonald’s fuel but we can ponder that later.
Both my IVF doctor and OBGYN worked as a team through my entire process. And I knew the moment I met both of them I would look no further for these key team members.
Dr. G laid out his expectations of what I needed to do during this high risk pregnancy. I would first drink as much water as my hand could put to my mouth. He provided a name of a high risk specialist that I would see every two months and more frequently if there were areas for concern. I would continue to get infusions every six weeks to help my body carry these two wild babies and I would continue to get twice daily blood thinners to my stomach. At the first ultrasound with Dr. G issue number one came up: Baby A was too low, I had placenta praevia. This means the baby is low and in my case super low. I was told to not lift anything over 5 pounds. So, yes, that was kind of a problem. My day job was selling clothing. My smallest trunk of clothes that I took on airplanes and in my car weighed 44.5 pounds. Oh and I usually traveled with at least two cases. With my previous issues of miscarriages, my doctor told me to also rest as much as possible and to just listen to my body.
I took this rule of not lifting more than five pounds pretty seriously. When I would fly for work, I would always ask for help to lift my items. Sometimes people were kind, sometimes they looked at me like I was lazy. When I flew while being pregnant, I threw up the entire time, so I always sat in the back row. On my of my flights I asked a lady in front of me if she could help me get the bag up in the baggage area. She gave me the look from the devil and said “no, why are you too good to lift your bag?!” I often feel I am kind, but in this situation I opened my coat up and spread it out with my arms and explained “no I am just pregnant with twins.” I wanted to of course say every curse word my mind could recall. She looked at me and instead a random passenger put it up and the flight attendant brought me a barf bag and ginger ale.
Before most major flights, I went to the specialists. I LOVED going to the specialist. Being a twin high risk pregnancy means you get to get a billion ultrasounds. Before talking to my friends who had more normal pregnancies, I learned this was not normal. I had more photos of my growing babies then I did fridge space. Then when you go to the high risk doctor you gather super detailed film. Here it always felt like a space to just get a triple check on my growing crew. There is a huge TV screen that shows you every inch of your babies. Now they worked with me because I did not want to find out the gender until Thanksgiving. We planned a gender reveal with my family.
I did not want to find out at all, but needed to be fair to Steve who did want to know.
No matter what trimester I passed, I still felt like I was going to throw up on myself 100% of the time. So I had a mix of modern and traditional medicine to help. At this point I had tried to stop Googling. When I went to the chiropractor that would provide the best calm for a few hours. Contractions started early with me in this pregnancy. At first this would make me a nervous wreck. I would think in my head if they come now this is going to be a long battle to survive. After a few weeks I realized this was just the new normal.
One major regret is I did not take enough photos or videos when I was pregnant. I missed so many of the milestones and memories. I don’t know if I was just too sick to recall to take them, but looking back now I would give so much to see the doctors appointments, milestones and celebrations!
One epic event during my pregnancy we had plenty of photos to document. On Thanksgiving we did the gender reveal. Dr. G called my Aunt Katie and told her the gender of the babies. Aunt Katie and Aunt Sarah planned for the reveal on Thanksgiving day. Thanksgiving is up for favorite holiday for me. Each person in our family has a number. You are given a number when you are born into the family or married in. The girls would be 36 and 37. Instead of calling them Baby A and Baby B the entire pregnancy they were referred to as 36 and 37. And today these numbers are amazing when I do not want them to know who I am talking about. My aunts blew the water out of the banks for this reveal. Everyone got to choose the genders and huge custom pinata was made. I was never good at guessing genders. And this proved the same again. It was a HUGE shock to think I am having girls. Of course, I was excited, but in my head I was having two boys. Now it was time to start pondering names for my little ladies.
In between Thanksgiving and Christmas I decided to let my job know, that I would not be returning after the girls were born. This choice was anything, but easy. I traveled so much and so did Steve. With having no family in Dallas, I did not see how I could keep this job. This would also allow me to spend as much time with the girls.
My baby 37 always had some issue pop up on scans. From development slowing at times, possible heart issues and causing my blood pressure to be off. The appointments and scans were more frequent as my pregnancy progressed. But, yet again, I was lucky. Everything always seemed to work out. My last week I was able to fly was Christmas 2013. I went to the doctor the day before my flight. Everything looked great. Well we landed in St. Louis and was welcomed with a lovely baby shower. That night when I went to bed something was off. I started throwing up non-stop. I was staying at my sister in laws house and she has three small children. I knew I needed to get out of there so I did not get an entire family sick. They moved me to my Father in laws. I was not getting better, so I went to the doctor. Sure enough I had the flu. This is a moment where I was truly afraid. I was afraid I was about to lose them. When I got to the doctor they were not so awesome. They saw the bruises on my stomach from my shots and questioned that. Then they asked why I was flying. Long story short I had them call Dr. G and he set them straight. After that I remained in bed for the next three days and then we flew home. I had never felt so thankful to be better and that my girls were okay.
After the flu scare, minor issues kept popping up and we decided it was best to wrap up work soon. Before the girls arrived, my routine was to lay around, eat, go to the doctor and repeat. It has never been easy for me to lay low, but I knew that was the only thing I could control in a high risk twin pregnancy.
On the morning of February 28 I went to my weekly appointment. I never had Steve at the majority of my appointments. I went so much I never felt the need. Before my appointment I ate maybe more than I have ever eaten in my life. Eggs, bagel, waffle and bacon! Literally I could not eat enough! Dr. G’s office was for sure my second home at this point. I know about my ultrasound tech’s family, thrifty shopping habits and love for her job. Every appointment we would start with a scan and Dr. G would go in there with us so we could catch up and he could see the girls.
Something was different about today. They kept silent and then started saying things I did not understand. The nerves were hitting. Something was wrong. Dr. G started explaining to me that Baby B, also known as Baby 37, was not doing well. The heart rate was not right and she had not grown at all since the last scan. The main concern was the non-movement in my always overly active baby. The tech gave me a hug and we went to Dr. G’s office to talk. He calmly asked where Steve was – I let him know he was in a meeting that was 45 minutes away. He said let me call him on speakerphone so we can tell him what is about to happen next. Steve answered the phone and Dr. G calmly explained that he would walk me to the hospital himself. And that we would do our best to wait for him but there was a huge chance the babies would arrive before he could make it to the hospital. Once we hung up with Steve he asked me what I ate for breakfast. I told him the buffet I consumed and the next concern is me throwing up on myself during a c-section. Within 3 minutes, Dr. G was walking me across the street to the hospital. This is a moment that will forever play in my head and heart. I was not afraid. Yes, I was anxious, but this is a doctor who literally held my hand when I was sick, called me weekly to check in and became part of my forever family. As we were walking it hit me, I was supposed to meet friends for lunch and oh ya I never packed my hospital bag!
I called AK and she, of course, was her usual, amazing self. She ran to my house and got me all the random items I requested and then met me at the hospital. She beat Steve there and I got to grab some photos with her. Next through the doors was Steve. He made it in time!
My deep gut kept telling me she was going to be okay. That I would walk out of this hospital with two babies. I was relying on my gut a lot at this point. Yes my blood pressure was going nuts, but I did believe. I prayed, asked for good vibes, text the village, called the close villagers and just like that I got wheeled in.
Dr. G picked some tunes for this special occasion. I met the NICU team, the nurses and what seemed like a billion people were going to help me finally meet my girls. The girls were 36 weeks and 3 days old. The NICU team explained they had enough people to evaluate each one as soon as they arrived. The girls were each born to the Pharrell song HAPPY. The girls were one minute apart. Then the best surprise ever. Both girls were healthy and able to come directly with me! The entire room was in shock. But if you meet baby 37 you now know her as Blythe. And this just pretty much means she wanted to be born on February 28, so that is what happened. She is the Queen B of our home.
Everything happened so fast. I clearly had no vibe that on the February 28, 2014, I would get to meet my girls. But since that day, they continue to make everyday an adventure. It is impossible to predict or plan my days with these two. Blythe & Reese are my forever loves. They are a grand example of science, two amazing doctors, lots of love and faith!
I can never say thank you enough to everyone who helped me have Blythe and Reese! When someone is going through infertility, never be afraid to send them a note, text or a treat. And ask questions instead of making assumptions. I promise those struggling will never forget your kind gestures. Time stands still when you are going through infertility and those moments of people reaching out make time not seem so slow.
I know we are fortunate how our infertility story ended. I know many people try for years to have kids and still it may not happen.
Thank you for following my journey. Below are some of my other friends who have gone through IVF.
Joy’s IVF Advice:
1. Give yourself a lot of grace.
So you don’t want to go to the fourth baby shower you’ve been invited to this month? It’s OK. Your friends will understand. You have to realize it’s okay not to have it all together, all the time. There will be days you just can’t muster up the energy to face all the friends and relatives and inevitable questions and sad faces or worse-pregnant bellies-and that’s perfectly normal and perfectly okay. Put your pjs on and binge watch fixer-upper. Chipper Gaines will make you giggle and you’ll soon say tomorrow is a new day.
2. Speaking of friends and relatives, forgive them ALL in advance.
Your friends and family are going to say really stupid, insensitive-even crazy things during your struggle. Forgive them and forget it. They’re not saying those things to hurt you and 9 times out of 10, they really do mean well. If I had a dollar for every “When you stop stressing about it, you’ll get pregnant.” OR “My neighbor did IVF and then got pregnant naturally.” remarks, I’d be a millionaire. If you’re open with your friends and family about what helps and what doesn’t, the crazy comments should be cut to a minimum. As for your Aunt Kay that has some miracle cream she swears worked for your cousin Suzy, my best advice is to take the cream and have fun regifting it as a dirty Santa gift.
3. Connect with other people struggling with infertility.
Talking to someone who has walked down this path before (or currently is), can be tremendously helpful and take loads of stress and frustration off your shoulders. There is no one more sympathetic and encouraging than a human who can truly say “I know exactly how you feel. I’ve been there, I can relate, this is what worked for me and this is how I coped.” Find a blog, a group, a discussion board, an acquaintance-anyone who has or is dealing with infertility and talk to them whenever possible. It’s like a detox for your overwhelmed, soon-to-blow mind!
4. Make your spouse a priority.
While connecting with other people going through the same struggle is a wise idea, disconnecting from your spouse is not. Infertility wreaks havoc on the best of marriages. Don’t let the quest to start a family take over your life to the point you forget about the family you already have. Go on walks together, plan romantic dates and remember that regardless of where you are in your journey, your partner is not the enemy. Trust me, you’ll never regret cooking dinner with your spouse. Unless he burns it like mine. Which is why you should always have your favorite pizza place under your contacts and a bottle of wine at your fingertips.
5. When all else fails, rely on your faith.
Without my faith, I would have been a sloppy, ridiculous mess. I mean, let’s face it, I was a mess 50% of the time anyhow (and still am-I’m a work in progress), but my faith brought me back on track Every. Single. Time. I really don’t know how one survives infertility without God. Simple as that. The power of prayer and the support of a community of believers is an unstoppable force. My precious mom recruited her army of seventy-something prayer warriors around the globe and when they go to work, let’s just say you have a thousand angels on your side and a few dozen casseroles on your countertop. I clung to the promises I believe in, I surrounded myself with people who cared for me fiercely and fed me well. And I wallpapered my mind with love. Love is a crazy thing. It’s content and contagious all at once. It brought me out of the spiral that is self-pity, which is so easy to fall victim to during infertility. So find faith, friends. And hold it tight. It will be there to save you when you need saving. Which in my case, is every single day.
***Joy struggled with infertility for five years and underwent several failed rounds of IVF, among other treatments, before she & her husband Ryan, welcomed their twin daughters, Julia & Olivia (via IVF). Six years and one additional failed IVF cycle later, they were blessed with their miracle Molly. This party of five currently resides in Tulsa and embraces the wonderful chaos that comes with raising three girls.***
Caroline, Mike, Kai & Thayer Simpson
“After a lengthy struggle with infertility (surgeries, IUI’s, IVF, FET’s) we had to move forward using a surrogate to complete our family. We now have two perfect 4 month old twin girls. Looking back I’d say I wish I’d had more faith that our family would come at the right time. Every step seemed overwhelming and insurmountable. And while some of those things were awful, it all happened for a reason to give us the children we were always meant to have. So I’d tell anyone going through infertility to know that they will have a family if they want one. The way it happens may not be the way you always pictured it, but you’ll have a family. So enjoy your life (see movies, go on spontaneous dates, TRAVEL) and try not to rush things in the mean time.”
Ashley, Greg, Harper & Graham Reichel
#1 Piece of Advice: Stay off the Google
- If you do not know anybody personally that has gone through it, join a community discussion group online. Great resource and usually an active group of women all going through the process at the same time. You can always join anonymously if you wish.
- If you do know somebody who has gone through it, lean on them. It’s difficult for those who have not experienced infertility/fertility treatments to really identify with what you are going through- although having a support system from all experiences is still welcomed. A friend who has been there before will be your best resource.
- Write down all your questions you think about so you remember to ask the doctor and nurses when you see them. No question is silly, so ask away.
- From personal experience, never run out of needles. Buy more than you need (you don’t have to use this one but oh so true!) haha.
- Have faith in Science but know at some point, God steps in.