My husband Todd and I were married on October 11, 2014. We were so carefree at the time about when we would like to start our family. I thought it would happen right away, it always does in the movies, right? You always hear stories about how so-and-so got pregnant on their honeymoon or without trying. Todd and I both have different answers as to when we started “trying”… If you were to ask me, I’d say I started trying on our honeymoon in the Cayman Islands, but Todd would say that he wanted to wait until I was back from my trip to South America I had planned in January. We tried casually until my trip. I stopped birth control, quit Adderall (don’t worry, I was prescribed it….and goodbye size 25 jeans), and started using ovulation predictor kits (OPKS) for a couple months. Each month, the test never showed that I was ovulating. WTF? It turns out that our journey to start a family wasn’t going to be easy as we had originally thought.
We are so incredibly fortunate to have a family member who is a top fertility doctor here in Minneapolis. In May 2015, after 6-7 months of trying, we decided to meet with him to see what was going on. During that appointment I was diagnosed (via Ultrasound) with PCOS (umm, what the heck is that?), which is why I wasn’t ovulating. This diagnosis also helped me better understand why I struggled with breakouts my whole life and has helped me research what types of foods I should be eating to manage PCOS (there’s a strong link between PCOS and insulin resistance, being overweight/trouble managing weight and skin issues.) Well, awesome. I also had to do an HSG where they look at your tubes to see if they’re open, and let me tell ya, there’s nothing like showing your lady parts to a family member. SO embarrassing! I don’t know what was worse my embarrassment or the procedure itself. Welcome to infertility.
I started taking Fermara and went in for blood work and ultrasounds every couple of days to monitor my follicles and lining. When it was time and my follicles and lining looked just right they told us when to administer my trigger shot and time intercourse (sounds romantic, right?). And…OMG. It worked. Now that they made me ovulate, I got pregnant! First try! I remember that day so vividly. I went to lunch with a girlfriend that day who told me she was pregnant. I was so happy for her! I had taken a pregnancy test that morning, and it was negative, I was heartbroken (you aren’t supposed to do that, you are supposed to wait for the blood work, but I never could). But when I got home from work, I dug it back out of the garbage. Beka told me her lines on her test were really faint at first, so I decided to double check my test that was in the trash and OMG there were TWO LINES!! All weekend long (it was Father’s Day weekend) I tested and sure enough, we were pregnant! Our little baby was due on Leap Day (Feb 29, 2016). I visited our home that was in the process of being remodeled and looked at our nursery in awe and with visions of cribs and cute decorations. I was over the moon, and sobbed with happy tears when I told my husband. I went in for my beta test on Monday morning and it was 15. Good (low, but a positive), now we just need it to start doubling every 48 hours. I went back in on Wednesday and my beta was 16. And just like that it was over. I was so crushed. I felt my body miscarry the baby, and it was a terrible time for me. I was so depressed, heartbroken and didn’t understand God’s plan for us. I took a week off from work, shut myself off from the world and mourned our loss. I know it happened so early on, but it was very heartbreaking and hit me so so hard. Despite the heartbreak, I was determined to try again. I wanted this so bad.
Same plan, Fermara. Except this time, my body didn’t want to cooperate. My ultrasounds showed that my follicles stalled out and my lining remained thin, so the cycle was cancelled. My clinic wanted to give me Provera to induce a period but I opted not to take it. I just let my body do it’s thing…. another month of disappointment. This month was so hard. We were still mourning our loss, and so bummed that we lost another month of trying.
My husband’s brother and wife tell us they’re expecting with their second baby the week of my 30th birthday. While we were thrilled for them, the news was incredibly difficult for both my husband and I. I remember seeing my husband when I pulled in the driveway and it was obvious he’d been crying, then he told me the news and we both cried, mourning our loss and for the difficult time we were going through. It made us question our faith – why can’t we have that, too? Why is our path so difficult? Why can it happen so easily for others? We wanted to be pregnant so badly. It was a really hard time for us. This month, we graduated to injectables. I have a major fear of needles, but hey, I’d do anything for a baby! We started Follistim, and after a few weeks of ultrasound monitoring we had 1-2 lead follicles. So we did our trigger shot and hoped for the best.
I went to a girlfriend’s bachelorette party the weekend before my beta (pregnancy blood test) was scheduled. I didn’t drink the whole weekend in hopes that I was pregnant. My home pregnancy test (HPT) was negative that Sunday and I still remember crying almost the whole drive home from Wisconsin and what a terrible day it was. We were staying at my husband’s parents lake home where everyone in his family goes on the weekends (because our remodel was still going on), so I had nowhere to hide out and be sad which was really hard for me. I had my husband take me for a boat ride so I could escape and cried the entire time. Then, the next morning I took another test and hallelujah! We were pregnant! Those two lines. Cue all the heart eyes and excitement!
I went in for my beta results which were really strong. Each time we’d get the phone call for the results my husband would come have lunch with me so he could be with me until we got the call confirming things were progressing. Then we went to our first ultrasound. There was baby! That sweet little bean. It was week 6 and we weren’t able to see the heartbeat, but we were told it could still be a little early – they for sure want to see one at 7 weeks. Baby was also measuring a couple days behind. Not exactly the appointment we were hoping for, but it was still so very exciting to see baby. We went in again on week 7, and saw that beautiful little bean and its heart flickering away. Baby was measuring small and the heartbeat was only 90 bpm. Things were not looking good. We waited a week – one really long, hard week – to confirm whether or not our baby was going to miraculously pull through, or if the heart was going to stop beating. Sure enough, when I saw the ultrasound, I could tell immediately that our baby’s heart stopped beating during that 8th week. I had a D&C done, and felt so empty and broken after that. (I still remember, we had family pictures the next morning and it took everything in me to plaster on a smile.) Words cannot even begin to explain the heartbreak we experienced. We had the tissue tested and it confirmed that our little baby had Trisomy 16.
October – December 2015:
Our 1 year wedding anniversary 10-14-15, and here we were, still trying and recouping from our losses. In the church bulletin, we saw that there was an infertility support group at our church, and the timing couldn’t have been more perfect. We met several other couples battling infertility the night before we went in for our D&C. The immediate love and support we received from this group was much needed in this time of crisis. I am so thankful that He brought these wonderful people into our life. The D&C went well, except that there was a little particle left in me that continued to give off HCG (the pregnancy hormone) through Christmas. So, we wanted to try in November and December and weren’t able to do any medicated cycles due to my HCG levels. We lost a full five months of trying, and deeply grieved our loss.
We moved into our newly remodeled home, with our empty nursery, and stayed on the crazy infertility roller coaster hoping that 2016 would be the year we get to welcome a baby and fill that sweet nursery.
Late December/January 2016:
We did another cycle of Follistim injectables, and things were looking very hopeful. I had a nice lining, 1-2 perfectly plump follicles…But, we got a big negative, despite my feeling so hopeful and positive. There is nothing worse than taking a home pregnancy test and seeing only one line show up. You drive yourself crazy thinking there may be a faint line and taking test after test, only to see negative after negative results. Crushed again.
We decided to try another drug, Menopur, which is typically used in IVF cycles. The same thing happened… my body was responding nicely, and all things were looking great! Our beta day was on Valentine’s Day, so I thought this HAD to be our cycle. It wasn’t, and it was a heartbreaking Valentine’s Day. And to make matters worse, when I went in for my Baseline Ultrasounds, I had giant cysts on my ovaries that meant we were on hold again. UGH. Why did this have to be so hard? Why wasn’t my body cooperating? Why was everyone else getting pregnant? It was so hard.
We decided to get out of town and went on vacation to Florida. During our trip, we made the decision to move forward with IVF. I was intoxicated with hope when we made our decision, as our odds went from ~20% each month to over 60%. But the wait list was long, and they were scheduling people out into May. Another period of waiting. I secretly hoped that while we waited we’d be one of the lucky ones who gets their natural BFP (big fat positive). But we weren’t, so here we go… I am documenting our IVF journey to our baby now.
The wait to start IVF was long, but when it arrived I was so overwhelmed with hope that this would be it. I started my stimulation meds on Mother’s Day 2016 (surely this had to be a good sign, right!?) and we did a hybrid IVF cycle. I was going to do a fresh transfer, then PGS test and freeze the remaining embryos for transfer if the fresh one did not work. I was excited because this enabled us to attempt to get pregnant sooner, but I was also terrified of transferring an untested embryo and miscarrying again. My body responded to the drugs very well and we retrieved 22 eggs, of that, 17 were mature and 15 were fertilized using ICSI. On transfer day (5 day transfer), they had prepared our two strongest embryos for transfer. Our doctor strongly suggested only transferring one embryo. After a lot of prayer for clarity on how many to transfer, we decided to only transfer one of them and freeze the other. I left it all to God at that point, I thought that if he wanted us to have twins, our embryo would split. I waited three days and starting taking pregnancy tests at home and I saw that double line continue to darken every day, we were pregnant! We were so overjoyed that it worked! I could never wait until beta day, I always admire the ladies who can. My doctor knew this and literally said, I am calling to tell you what you already know, you’re pregnant. We prayed that our beta continued to double, and it did, praise God!
The whole first trimester was incredibly difficult from an anxiety standpoint. I remember going to our first ultrasound and I cried my eyes out, terrified that we’d get bad news again. Fear flooded me. Would there be a heartbeat? Would be it the healthy range? Would there be 1 or 2? Luckily, our sweet baby was thriving and doing well, and our appointments throughout the first trimester were filled with joyous tears. My pregnancy was highly monitored for several different reasons, which was a bit scary, but ultimately, we ended up delivering a healthy baby boy on January 24, 2017. I will never forget the minute I got to see my sweet little boy, it was the most incredible feeling in the world. Parker David Johnson, you were prayed for for so long and we are so so lucky to be your parents. We love you so much.
I felt so incredibly alone throughout our journey. There were triggers everywhere – seeing a pregnant lady, a mom with her little one, baby showers… it’s a constant reminder of what you don’t have. Starting an Instagram account was the BEST thing I did. I met other ladies who were going through similar experiences with infertility and loss, and we were able to mutually support one another. We even had TTC meet ups here in Minneapolis and I’ve become friends with the girls I met. To those of you who may be at a low-point in your journey: find other women and connect with them, they may even become some of your best friends. The TTC community is an amazing one.