When author Rachel McGrath asked us to share our infertility and recurrent pregnancy loss story on her blog, I was honored!
Little did I know how difficult it would be for me to put it into words all at once. I am used to writing bits and pieces of our story over time, not the whole thing in 1 piece.
Needless to say, I shed some major tears when I wrote it!
Here is Our Story (as featured on Rachel’s site, “Finding the Rainbow”) and shown below.
After my high school sweetheart and I finally tied the knot in 2007, it didn’t take me long to decide that I wanted children, and about a year later, I went off the pill. A few months later, I went to my annual OB appointment and asked her what we could do to make it happen. She made it sound really simple… ‘go home, do it on days 12-16 of my cycle, and voila!’ I should be pregnant by my next annual appointment. When my annual appointment rolled around again, and I still wasn’t pregnant, she looked a little puzzled. We had followed all of her directions, so why weren’t we pregnant yet?
She decided to do some simple blood tests, all of them came back picture perfect. Her next idea was to get a semen sample from my husband. I will never forget the day she called me with the results because that was the day our lives completely changed. His count was extremely low; his motility was low, among many other things. By the end of our conversation, she had referred us to a fertility specialist, or Reproductive Endocrinologist (RE).
About two years into our marriage we found ourselves at our first RE appointment. They did another sperm sample on my husband to be sure it wasn’t some “fluke.” It wasn’t a fluke at all; it came back even worse than it had the first time. That’s when we were told, “Your chances of conceiving on your own, without IVF with ICSI are about 1%.” We at least wanted to try IUI first.
So, we did two IUI rounds and both failed. By the third year of our marriage, we decided to take a break from the RE and see a Urologist. The Urologist found that my husband had a pretty large Varicocele vein and suggested we do a Varicolele repair in hopes of improving his count.
Six months after his surgery, we went in for another sperm sample. No improvement. Another year later, still no improvement. We decided at that point to find a new RE, who again reminded us of the dreaded words we had heard so clearly before, “you have about a 1% chance of conceiving on your own without IVF with ICSI.” Finally, we took the plunge and decided to move forward with this option.
The RE did a myriad of tests on us – genetic testing, HSG’s, SIS’s, blood panels, etc. All of this to make sure we were “cleared” for moving forward with IVF. We passed all of them with flying colors. In fact, my husband’s sperm count on the day of our egg retrieval even increased! It had been a year and a half since his surgery and although still low, it had increased by about five million. Our first IVF cycle was what the RE’s called “textbook perfect.” I was very responsive and they retrieved eighteen mature eggs, and eight of them fertilized via ICSI to day six blasts. The embryos were graded extremely high- three 6AA’s, three 6AB’s, and two 6AC’s. This being said, we chose to transfer only the one 6AA embryo back into my uterus.
About a week later, in the spring of 2014, we finally saw those two pink lines we had been waiting now five long years for. I cannot begin to tell you the feelings we experienced at that moment. My first beta came back at sixty which seemed low, but the nurse reassured me “as long as it doubles the next time, it is fine.” Well, the second beta came back at thirty-two! The joy we had been so filled with and waited so long for had been stolen from us within a week. My betas continued to fluctuate up and down for an entire month, forcing a D & C. For almost five weeks straight, I endured the torture of getting my blood drawn almost every other day before I rushed to make it to work on time. The D & C results came back inconclusive as to whether or not the products of conception were genetically normal. In other words, we had no idea why we miscarried an embryo of such high grade.
We had seven frozen embryos left, and we scheduled the first FET around five months after that first miscarriage. This time, my body didn’t react as well and my lining was pretty thin a week before transfer. My RE said we had a 50/50 chance of it working with my lining as it was, and that it was up to us if we wanted to move forward with the transfer or cancel the cycle. Of course, we wanted to move forward! We transferred two embryos this time. Low and behold, a week later, two pink lines again!
We were a little nervous to get too excited after what happened with our betas last time. So we thought “OK, if we can just make it through the three betas, we will be good!” Our first beta came back at 305. Twin numbers! The second at 675, and the third at 1569. The doubling rate was over 100%! We set up the appointment for our first ultrasound. However, a few short days after my 3rd beta, I started cramping and bleeding pretty bad and ended up in Emergency. I was hooked up to an IV and the blood work and ultrasounds began. I had miscarried again.
We were completely heartbroken. We started to wonder if miscarrying was going to continue happening to us. We were reassured though that the chances of us miscarrying three times in a row were only 1%.
At this point, we had five frozen embryos remaining. We didn’t take much time off before starting next cycle; waiting only 2 months in between. My RE wanted to increase my estrogen intake and the length of the cycle to ensure my lining thickened as it was supposed to. I started doing yoga and acupuncture around the clock. My lining was measured at 11mm by transfer time, the thickest it had ever been!
We transferred two embryos again. And on Christmas Eve 2014 (our first babies due date), I tested super early and got my BFP. But this time once we saw the positive, we were more worried than ever before. Our innocent way of thinking had been stolen. We knew this positive didn’t guarantee anything, and neither did the upcoming betas. All we wanted was to get to that first ultrasound and see the heartbeat(s)!
All three of our betas all came back super high—almost tripling. I got a fourth blood test at around six weeks just to make sure it hadn’t dropped and it was over 20,000 already. I knew I was carrying twins then. We made it to the first ultrasound and saw two sacs and two heartbeats. The sweetest thing we ever did see! My RE wanted to do weekly ultrasounds up until ten weeks, and then release me to my OB. Our next ultrasound at 7w4d showed one of the twins was slightly behind and the heartbeat slower than it should have been, however the other twin was measuring exactly as it should and its heart rate was spot on. At our 8w4d appointment, the smaller twin had vanished, but the other one was doing great still and actually looked like a real baby this week!
The day I turned nine weeks, I went out and bought some maternity clothes, as my bump was starting to shine through my regular clothes. We were feeling really great because after you see a healthy heartbeat, the chance of miscarriage itself is only 5%. We had seen a healthy heartbeat now four weeks in a row! Ironically, my 9w4d appointment was the first one I went to alone. Usually when the ultrasound technician puts in the probe, it only takes a second or two for her to turn the screen and show you’re your sweet baby. Not today. It was dead silence for almost two minutes. Finally she said, “I’m sorry, there is no heartbeat today.” Those words I will never forget.
I was diagnosed with a “missed miscarriage” and underwent a D & C at the hospital two days after the ultrasound. It was truly like a nightmare and I couldn’t believe it was really happening. I was supposed to be ten weeks pregnant! We were supposed to be announcing to the world that our baby would be arriving in six months. I can’t even put into words the bitterness and wrath I felt towards the world. I questioned my faith, my body, doctors, infertility treatments, everything!
The results from our D & C came back that we would have been having a sweet baby boy and he was genetically healthy; 46XY, just as he should be. We decided to name him Isaiah William.
Once my HCG levels finally went down two long months after the loss, I underwent a procedure that I had never had before-a Hysteroscopy to biopsy my uterus and examine it with a camera. This procedure found that I had a “mass” growing inside my uterine cavity. The mass never showed up on my three pre-transfer SIS’s or ultrasounds throughout any of our cycles. Questions began to race through my mind. Did it cause all of our losses? Just this loss? Or does it not have anything to do with any of the losses? There were so many unanswered questions. My RE suggested that there was an 85% chance it caused our third loss. By now, I had lost all faith in statistics anyway.
We scheduled an operation to remove the mass. The pathology report determined that the mass removed was a sub mucosal fibroid, which can indeed cause a loss to occur. A month after my operation, we did another hysteroscopy to make sure my uterus was completely clear, and it was. We were officially labeled not only as infertile, but as recurrent miscarriers, or as the medical world likes to call it, “habitual aborters.”
It has now been five months since we lost Isaiah & his twin, and not a day goes by that I don’t think of where my pregnancy would be. I also think about how our first baby would now be six months old, and our first set of twins would have been one month old.
Every day is a new day of healing for us. We have found peace knowing our babies are in heaven and we will see them again one day. I have gone to grief counseling. I now understand that I may never have all the answers and that I don’t need to. I resigned from my job to take some time to get back to the old me. I have restored my faith with the big guy upstairs. I have become an advocate for infertility and recurrent pregnancy loss through various social media outlets.
But most importantly, above all else, we still have hope. We haven’t given up the fight. The way I look at it is we have lost three battles, but that the war isn’t over. We will win! I am confident that one of the remaining three embryos we have left will one day be a part of our family here on Earth!