The Year of Magical Hormones



I am scheduled for a c-section to have my rainbow baby. I honestly could never have predicted what it would take to get here, or how many curveballs would be thrown my way on my two and a half year journey to complete my family. 

My husband and I struggled with what we now know as “secondary infertility.” While our son was conceived “the old-fashioned way,” we struggled to add to our family. 

Because of the strain of my son’s delivery (I had a placental abruption that ended in a rather dramatic emergency c-section), we were advised to wait at least two years before even trying to have another baby. Sure enough, just before hitting that two-year mark, we became pregnant. We were elated. I found out right before my birthday, and I still have a framed picture in my bedroom of our family celebration – a moment of happiness we had no idea would be so short-lived. 

A few weeks later, we lost the baby. We were heartbroken. My OBGYN recommended we see a fertility specialist just to rule out any potential issues. After every test imaginable on both my husband and myself, we were told that there was no specific issue preventing us from getting pregnant successfully – it just wasn’t happening.

As a problem-solver by nature, this was the most frustrating diagnosis to receive. If there were a specific issue, we would have answers, and potentially a solution. This was basically just being told we were unlucky. 

Our fertility doctor was amazing and encouraging and felt confident that intrauterine insemination (IUI) would be the answer to our problems. My husband took on the very awkward task of sperm benefaction. At the same time, I started on hormones to pump up my ovulation cycle and injected myself with a “trigger shot” to kick-start ovulation in preparation for the insemination. A catheter would be inserted directly into my uterus containing my husband’s sperm. This basically gives all the little swimmers a head start by dropping them off near the finish line. We all felt confident that the outcome would be a positive pregnancy test and went about our merry ways.

After three failed IUIs, things started to seem rather grim. Our insurance only covers three cycles, as the success rate after three begins to dwindle significantly. It was time to start talking about bringing out the big guns: in vitro fertilization (IVF).

IVF is a pretty intimidating process from the consultation, but nothing could truly prepare me for the emotional, physical, mental, and financial roller coaster it really is. Our insurance would cover two complete cycles, meaning both the egg retrieval and embryo transfer. Still, there is a myriad of hidden and uncovered costs that come along with the process, which left us with medical bills far exceeding anything we’d ever encountered before in our relatively healthy lives.

The egg retrieval process required $1,000 worth of medications (mostly injectables) alone. There were parts of the procedure that our insurance deemed “non-essential” that we would have to pay out of pocket, and the genetic testing was optional, encouraged, but of course, out of pocket. We opted for genetic testing, which sends the frozen embryos off to a lab to test for viability before being transferred back to the mother because we knew we only really had two shots at this that would be covered by our insurance. Genetic testing, as it was explained to us, would ultimately save us from a miscarriage that could be avoided in implanting an abnormal embryo. And so, we decided to go all-in – financially, mentally, emotionally, and physically.

The twice-daily injections were brutal. I was very needle-phobic before beginning this process, and the first day of injections took me about 45 minutes to figure out how to mix everything, clean everything, and muster up the courage to jab myself in the stomach with very, very sharp things. (By the end of the journey, I had it down to a science and made a game out of timing myself like I was going for the Olympic Gold medal). My stomach looked like a museum of black and blue murals and finding a non-bruised spot every day became a treasure hunt. 

The egg retrieval is a surgical process that requires anesthesia. While not painful, it’s very emotional, and I remember hearing a woman sobbing on the other side of my curtain as the weight of every emotion she’d been holding in came crashing down. The nurses all assured her just how normal that was. 

I was told that they were able to retrieve 5 eggs – a number far lower than we had hoped – but my doctor reminded me, “We only need one.” After a few days, two had survived to send to testing. 

About a week after that, we received the call that both eggs (or blastocysts, as they happened to be in that stage) came back as abnormal. I took the call in my closet and cried. When asked if we wanted to try again, I think I surprised both my doctor and my husband with the immediacy of my “yes.” I was determined to make this work. I was going to win that gold medal for jabbing myself in the stomach. 

The second cycle seemed to be going much better, and there were 10 eggs up for grabs for the egg retrieval. In the recovery room, I was given the news that they were only able to get two eggs. Two. I turned my head and cried, feeling like a total failure. Again, my doctor reminded me, “All we need is one.”

Both blastocysts made it to testing. Both came back as abnormal.

My husband told me that it was completely ok to not want to try again – that we could try naturally, but something in me told me that I needed to try one more time – that if I didn’t, I might wonder, “What if,” for the rest of my life. 

Because our insurance counted a “full cycle” as ending in an embryo transfer, which we hadn’t done yet, we were still covered, and I had met my deductible, so I got $1,000 worth of injectables for free! Huzzah! The third egg retrieval seemed to go well, and while I waited with bated breath for the number I wanted to hear, I still couldn’t believe it when the doctor came back and said, “10.” 10 eggs! The odds were finally in our favor! Again, only three made it to testing, but, “All we need is one.”

About a week later, I was told to come by the office for something routine. When I got there, the nurses told me what they couldn’t wait to tell me over the phone – all three came back as normal. We laughed and cried together and made plans to prepare my body for the embryo transfer.

So what they don’t tell you is that the shots don’t end after the egg retrieval. There are NEW shots to prepare for the embryo transfer. And these ones go in your butt cheeks! While my stomach was glad for the relief, my husband, who is also needle phobic, wasn’t thrilled about having to participate in this part of the process. Although the needle is terrifyingly large, I actually found these shots to be less painful, and, having never made it this far in the Olympic trials, I would have taken the shot just about anywhere at this point.

The embryo transfer was challenging. I have a curvature that makes inserting the catheter difficult, and the doctor had to employ the very scientifically named “loop-the-loop” technique to make it work. All in all, it took about an hour. My legs were shaking, and I was physically and emotionally drained, but we had done it.

Test after test later, everything was looking perfect. I had made it to 8 weeks and was being released back to my OBGYN. I said my thank you and goodbyes and planned to visit with the baby.

The next day, I started bleeding. I called my OBGYN, and they squeezed me in the following morning. They couldn’t find the heartbeat. I had lost the baby.  I had to take medication to induce labor. It was unfathomably devastating. 

Complications arose, and weeks later, I ended up in the ER because I would not stop bleeding. No one knew why. My diagnosis was once again, “unlucky.”

It was months before I was cleared to try again. This was our last shot that would be covered by insurance and, having depleted so much already – financially, emotionally, physically – we knew that this would be the end of our infertility journey. After this, I would have to accept that our five-year-old son would be an only child. I felt guilty for even feeling guilty about that. We had been blessed with our amazing son- were we just being greedy for wanting to add to our family so desperately? 

I prepared for our second embryo transfer. More shots. More hormones. More of the same. I was feeling somewhat like an expert at this point. The second transfer lasted all of about 15 minutes and could not have been easier or more different than the first. The loop-the-loop was achieved on the first try, and we were sent home to wait until the blood tests.

I wouldn’t allow myself to celebrate each win this time- every positive blood test was just a blood test. I wouldn’t really let myself believe that it would work this time until we made it past that infamous 12-week-mark. 

At the 8-week appointment, I saw the grim looks as the nurses performed the ultrasound. The heart rate was low. The growth rate was low. It could mean nothing – she could just be small. But I saw the fear and the hesitancy in their eyes. 

I got into the car and sobbed. The same thing was going to happen again. I was going to lose this baby. I know it’s cliche to ask, “Why me,” but seriously. Why? I waited four days for the appointment with my OBGYN and had already braced myself for terrible news.

“The heart rate is perfect.” My husband and I burst into tears at the words. Her growth had caught up a bit, and she was now only a few days behind schedule – totally normal for IVF babies.

I made it to the 12-week mark and finally started to tell people.

I made it to the second trimester and finally started to breathe.

I’m two weeks away from meeting my daughter, and I would do it all again. Infertility is something I don’t think you can truly understand unless you’ve been through it, and it’s not something to be ashamed of. If anything, it proves the love and strength of the women who have been through it – regardless of the outcome.

It means that you wanted a child so bad that you invoked the power of science to make it happen! That you endured hundreds of shots, tests, and appointments, and felt the gamut of emotions from devastation to elation or even acceptance and peace. I bow down to the divine in you. 

And to my daughter, it sure has taken you a long time to get here, but I sure look forward to meeting you.  



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