In high school, if you asked me what my future held, I probably would have said either doing intense volunteer work in a village in Africa for the rest of my life, or raising a huge family with the love of my life. I remember hearing about fertility treatments in high school. My initial thinking on the subject was, “Oh no. I would never do something like that. I would just adopt.” One laparoscopic surgery, three I.U.I.s, one beautiful baby girl, two I.V.F.s, 12 Embryo Biopsies, 16 little angels lost, countless blood tests, ultrasounds and many other tests that I cannot even pronounce later, my current self is on a journey I could have never imagined nor predicted.
When my husband and I first started casually trying to conceive at the young ages of 26 and 25, we had no idea that my body is, The Money Pit, of fertility. Like the characters in the 1980’s classic, we saw lots of potential in this beautiful dream of our future life and then slowly but surely, things started to unravel! After a year or so of “casually trying“, we upgraded to “really trying“. Then, after 6 months of getting nowhere, I felt in my heart something was terribly wrong. During my first visit to my fertility doctor I just wanted some answers. I just wanted to be pregnant. That day we entered on a journey that, unbeknownst to us, would take us to some of the highest peaks and lowest valleys in our life.
After ruling everything else out through many “pleasant” tests and procedures, our fertility doctor performed a laparoscopic surgery on me that revealed a moderate case of endometriosis(www.endofound.org). After not being able to get pregnant naturally a few months post-surgery, our doctor recommended we do I.U.I. This led to some complications with cysts and no pregnancy. After the cysts went away, we went through another I.U.I., and we were so incredibly lucky to get pregnant with our little girl.
Before my daughter was born, I secretly scoffed at all of the women lugging their toddlers and older children into the fertility doctor’s office. I looked at them thinking, “I would be SO happy with just one baby. Don’t they know how lucky they are?” Well, six months after my little one was born, before my endometriosis could grow back, I was in my doctor’s office trying my luck again. My first day back my blood test showed I had a biochemical pregnancy (fancy term for early miscarriage). I was shocked and devastated, but my doctor reassured me saying it happens to many women. He recommended we go for another I.U.I. which worked well last time.
The I.U.I. did lead to a pregnancy, only to end in another miscarriage. My doctor again said that was normal, and we were just unlucky. He then suggested I.V.F., which compared to I.U.I. was just a “few more shots and just a little more complicated.” He felt the ability to examine our embryos before implanting them would avoid another miscarriage and lead to a quick pregnancy. A textbook perfect embryo, as he called it, was placed in my womb, but ended with our third miscarriage, all in the short span of five months! There were more tests, more discussions and finally an answer followed. I am a carrier of a balanced reciprocal translocation. This means that there is a genetic mutation with the majority of my eggs which causes only one out of every sixteen of my pregnancies to be viable. The rest will miscarry or worse. A baby with this type of translocation would be born without most major organs and would be stillborn or would not survive more than a few moments past birth.
Most people would search other options at this point. Why not adopt? But, my doctor didn‘t give up hope; so we didn’t either . His solution was that we do embryo biopsies so that we could screen the embryos’ genetic material to see which ones were viable. Suddenly we were transported into an episode of X-Files. We were assured it is common, it has been done for many years, and our insurance may even cover it! As practicing Catholics, we had, many moons ago, stretched way beyond our initial limits and comfort zones. I looked at my daughter thinking, “How could we not do everything possible to try and bring another life into the world?” One egg retrieval, 12 embryo biopsies later, we were told none of them were viable. They all had the mutation and would not survive. That experience was a year ago this summer.
Like the characters in The Money Pit, we have invested ourselves deeply in a dream of how things could be. Even with “our house” crashing down around us, solutions to our problems indeed exist, though extreme. With solutions comes hope, albeit just a glimmer. Relinquishing all hope doesn’t seem like a viable option for us. Letting go of this dream or “selling the Money Pit” will mean that I take a huge loss after investing so much. Trying to wrap my head around a new, unfamiliar avenue like adoption overwhelms me greatly at this point. As unreliable and taxing as all this infertility stuff is, at least I feel like I know how to navigate it.
Our story is one of faith, one of heartache, one of hope. Surviving it all thus far has taught me that no matter how broken or how bad things are, we adapt, we get up, we go on. Chances are we will not get pregnant again as we try our last IVF with embryo biopsies this fall. Chances were, my daughter should not be here with us now seeing as how the odds were stacked against her on account of my endometriosis AND the genetic mutations in my eggs. Chance may be that our next child will be born to another amazing woman, who will love him so much she will give him up for adoption in hopes of giving him a better life.
I am not sure where our journey will lead us, but I know our journey thus far has been incredible. I hope to share some of my stories with you so that you in turn will share yours with me and the rest of the women who are all taking their chances on creating a family. Society does not like to talk about infertility, but it is so important to do so (though terrifying!). Cheers ladies to a new part of my journey starting this blog, and to you, and all of your journeys!