Our Story as Featured on Rachel McGrath’s blog, “Finding the Rainbow”

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.Angela's story

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!

Be Very Merry

Since I can remember, I’ve always been in love with Christmas.  I love everything about it; the decorations, the music, the weather, the traditions, the presents, the feelings.  There really is no other holiday that can compare to it.

I woke up 6dp6dt (IVF slang for 6 days past a day 6 transfer), and it was Christmas Eve morning.  As I sit here writing this today, I still get giddy thinking about that morning.  My hubs left for work early so he would be home in time for our festivities later that night.  As soon as he left,  my mind starting going crazy wondering if we were pregnant or not.  I couldn’t take it anymore.  I walked to the bathroom in slow motion.  It was not even 7 a.m. yet.

I got out the pregnancy test and stared at it for a few minutes.  I could feel myself trembling.  I knew it was so early to take a test, and I hadn’t told him that I was going to take it.  In fact, we still had 4 more days until the blood test, which meant I technically wouldn’t be 4 weeks pregnant for 3 more days. I kept weighing out the pros and cons of testing that morning.  I finally came to the conclusion that if it came back positive, it would be the best Christmas present ever, and if it came back negative, it could simply be too early.

I peed on the stick and set it down ever so gently.  I left the bathroom for what seemed like an eternity.  I crawled back into bed, and talked with God.  About 5 minutes later, I slowly entered our bathroom again.  I know so many of you know how that walk feels.  In an instant, the result can bring incredible joy, or excruciating heartbreak.  I flipped on the light and leaned over the test to see if there were 2 lines or not.  There they were…2 dark lines…we were PREGNANT!!! It worked. I could not believe it!! Thank you, God!!

positive-pregnancy-test

I recall as clear as day, standing in the bathroom, in front of the mirror, test in hand, laughing out loud while I was crying. Then running out of the bathroom, shouting and dancing with our dogs.  This was definitely the craziest I had acted yet off a positive test.  LOL.  I got dressed right away, with no idea of where I was going.  All I knew was that I wanted to find a way to surprise my hubs with the test later that night when we exchanged gifts.  And lucky me, since it was Christmas Eve, everywhere had opened at the crack of dawn.

First stop, Target.  I walked up to the jewelry counter, and blurted out excitedly to the first lady I saw, “I’m pregnant, and I want to surprise my husband, and put the test into a box like a present!” She thought it was a “wonderful idea” and started looking for a box right away.  She had 1 red bracelet box left.  I’ll never forget her words when she saw it was the last one, “it must just be meant to be!” I thanked her and left.  Next stop, Babies R Us.  Even though we had received presents from others, we had never bought anything for the babies that we lost in our prior pregnancies. Today was different. And so was this pregnancy I decided.  I found the perfect bib that I could put into the box with the test and was on my way.

I headed straight to my mom’s next.  I walked into her room, and plopped down on her bed. We conversated for a few minutes until I couldn’t help it anymore…I looked at her funny, and she laughed, and questioned me with a “what?” Then I smiled back, and replied, “I’m pregnant.”   We both agreed that this time around it would be different.  We hugged and laughed and of course, began to talk about the future.

Soon I headed home, so excited to put my husbands present together. I placed the bib and the test perfectly into the little red box.  I taped it up, put a big silver bow on top, and placed it under the tree.  I couldn’t wait to give it to my husband later that night.  After our family festivities ended that night, and we were home just the two of us, I put on our usual Christmas present opening CD.

As I sat down with him this year, I realized this was our 14th Christmas together.  How blessed were we to have had each other this long and to still be in love.  I felt so content in this moment.  We exchanged 1 by 1, as we always do.  We got to the last present, the red box with the silver bow.  I was grinning from ear to ear when I handed it to him. I am not one to usually be at a loss for words, but there really aren’t any that can describe that wonderful moment we had the opportunity to share.  It was one that we will never forget, our Christmas miracle.

The Beginning of the End for IVF #1

#beta
This image pretty much sums it up.

We were pregnant! So, what is the next step in the IVF world? 

A beta.  Oh, God how I despise that word.  Anyone who has conceived through a form of assisted reproduction most likely does too.

What is a beta?  A beta is the blood test you get to confirm your pregnancy.  Now, most women who get pregnant naturally don’t ever worry about a beta after it is positive, let alone the “quantitative status” of one.  They just get the confirmation from the blood test, “Yep! You are pregnant!”

Women who undergo IVF have the pleasure (HA!) of undergoing serial (yes, like a serial killer) beta tests if they receive a positive on their first beta. The beta doesn’t just give a positive to the fertility doctor, it gives the exact amount of HCG, the pregnancy hormone, in the woman’s system.  This amount needs to (basically) double every 48 hours in early pregnancy in order for the pregnancy to be considered a viable one.

As you can see, the couple who has just dealt with months or years of trying to conceive, who finally does conceive, STILL has yet another worry even after a positive test. No, they cannot just enjoy the fact that they are finally pregnant.

I must say that I think not dealing with serial betas is something many pregnant couples take for granted.  I don’t think their actions are intentional at all, I think it’s simply because they don’t know any better.  Lucky them.

So, back to our story.  After knowing I “felt” pregnant at dinner 6 days post transfer, I still waited a few days to test at home. BFP!!! In the fertility world, this is short for Big Fat POSITIVE!!!  Might I add, it was a faint positive.  Oh, the feelings we experienced. We had taken so many tests and waited outside that bathroom door.  We had looked so many times over the years to only see negatives.  I honestly began to think we would never see a positive together.  But this day was different.  Today we were pregnant!  We smiled and laughed and acted crazy.  We didn’t cry like a lot of infertiles say they do.

BFP

An hour later, we had already went out and bought a digital test since the lined test was faint.  We wanted to be absolutely sure.  POSITIVE again!!! I couldn’t help but send a picture of the positive tests to my mom.  She called crying tears of joy. My aunt, cousin, and brother were all there, screaming & shouting.  We were on speakerphone & it was hard to even hear what everyone was saying.  All I knew is we were all so happy in that moment.  I will always remember it.

The happiness continued.  I had my first “beta” done at the doctor’s office and confirmed the pregnancy on the spot (she would call with the beta later that day).  Our due date was set for December 24, 2014.  Yep, Christmas Eve!!  Anyone who knows me, knows that Christmas is my absolute favorite time of the year so this couldn’t have seemed more right.

betaWhen the nurse called with the 1st beta number that afternoon it was 60. “Hmmm…is 60 a low beta?” I questioned (we had IVF friends who had betas & their numbers seemed much higher, even on the first beta).  “No, as long as it doubles next time, no worries!” was her response. I took another lined pregnancy test to be sure, still positive, but faint.  At the time, I didn’t think much of it. I was only a little over 4 weeks along-hell, most people don’t even know they are pregnant yet.

My 2nd beta was set for 3 days later because it happened to be a Friday when I got the first one done.  So, we enjoyed Easter Sunday on the beach with our family-my hubs & I, my immediate family, my aunt, uncle, cousins, their husbands, and kids.  We took pictures, received cards, books, and a few baby presents congratulating us on our journey and our future baby.

Gifts from our family

Monday morning I got up at 5:30 am in order to get my beta drawn before I had to be at work at 8:30.  They said they would call me later that afternoon with the number.  I got a few hugs from the staff and again, everyone was thrilled.  The doctor called this time instead of the nurse, thankfully right after all of my students left for the day.  Then she said, “Can you talk? Are you sitting down?” My heart sank.  My beta had dropped to 30.

She informed me that the pregnancy would not continue, to stop taking all of my medications, and to have my beta checked again in a few days to make sure it was headed back to 0. 0, that’s what I felt like…a BIG FAT 0.

I walked out of my classroom to my car like a zombie.  I couldn’t speak.  And this was only the beginning.

So incredibly true.
So true.