Endometriosis, Miscarriage, IVF and the Walk of Hope
posted by: Guest Blogger
Trigger warning: This post contains a personal account of a woman who has had endometriosis, IFV and miscarriages.
My husband, Tyler, and I knew we wanted to be young parents. Tyler was 22 when we got married, and I was 24. I know that seems very young to most people, but it felt very right for us. We got married and instantly started trying for a baby. Within a year, we knew something was wrong. We watched two of Tyler’s brothers have babies during that time. I found it difficult to hide my pain and then felt guilty when I should be rejoicing in their joy. We casually started seeing a fertility clinic in May 2015. I told my husband that we would just do some tests, make sure everything was working down there. One of the first tests they did on me was a hysterosalpingogram test (or an HSG test). From that, I was diagnosed with Endometriosis, which explained everything. But, when I missed my period the next month, I just knew.
I made myself wait a week to take the pregnancy test. I woke up on a Tuesday morning, armed and ready with that pregnancy test at 5 a.m. I launched into bed to tell my husband, “I’m pregnant!” I felt so relieved that all of that worry was for nothing – all I needed was a painful uterine test to open up my tubes, right? Three days later, I was in the parking lot of Walgreens, waiting on my Stage Four Breast Cancer Mom to get her prescriptions, when I felt the miscarriage happening. I rushed home and called the doctor. I had to tell my dying mother that I was pregnant but miscarrying all at the same time. It was Father’s Day weekend. My husband was devastated. We kept on pushing. Everyone told me, “you’re most fertile after you’re pregnant,” and “stop trying, that’s when you’ll get pregnant!”
We began the rounds of Clomid and IUI’s, both of which I thought were so expensive (HAH, just wait, Stephanie!). After three failed IUI’s, we knew it was time to begin the big, scary IVF. My first egg retrieval in April 2016 started out beautifully. We retrieved 26 eggs and 13 of them fertilized. I made jokes with my husband that we were going to have to pay extra for the genetic testing on account of having so many. But when I got that phone call five days later saying that all but one had stopped growing, my heart sank. We sent it in for genetic testing, and it came back abnormal. I didn’t want to have another miscarriage, so we didn’t implant the embryo. My doctor said it was either an egg health problem, or that Tyler and I combined just make unhealthy embryos. How can this man that I love so much be incompatible to me reproductively?
So we began to move forward just like we had always been doing; it felt natural to just keep moving on. We paid for IVF again, and made a plan with our doctor to do a few months of an intense vitamin regimen paired with acupuncture treatments, and then we would repeat the egg retrieval. I was hopeful that we would have more embryos this time. I went crazy researching the food that I should be eating to best improve my egg health. During those months, the unthinkable happened. I took my mom to the hospital for the final time. While she was on life support, she couldn’t speak. But she tried to tell me, “don’t wait.” She died ten days later, and I knew she was finally in heaven holding my first baby.
In October of 2016, we moved forward with our second egg retrieval. This time we retrieved 31 eggs, but only 8 of them fertilized. It was an instant heartache. I waited for that phone call five days later to see how many made it to that crucial blastocyst stage. And yet again, my heart broke at the news of only one embryo that made it. I instantly went to the negative and said, “I’ll send it in for genetic testing, but I’m not keeping my hopes up.” It was happening all over again. I was about to be proven so wrong.
I was at home when I got the phone call that we had a healthy embryo. I was so excited, I didn’t even think to ask for the gender until a few weeks later – it was a boy. My husband and I had argued about a hundred different girl names. But long before we were even married, we knew the one name that we wanted to name our son – Beau. I had the most beautiful pregnancy with Beau. Yes, it was full of fear. I got past the 12-week mark – the week that my sister-in-law miscarried her baby. I got past the 19-week mark – the week that a girl from my church had miscarried her twins. I got past the 26-week mark – the week that my friend lost her baby to preeclampsia. I started to finally breathe a little even though I had been diagnosed with complete placenta previa. When the doctor said it had cleared at my 32-week appointment, I went from thinking I was going to be having a C-section to knowing I would have to deliver. I had a five minute panic attack, and then settled on being excited about it. At 40 weeks and two days, at midnight, I woke up to a pool of blood. My husband had just been coming to bed. I wasn’t thinking straight and told him to call our doctor. Luckily he WAS thinking straight and called 911. The ambulance arrived and decided I would be better off being taken to a different, closer, hospital where I was not supposed to deliver. The hospital where my mother passed away.
The next 24 hours were a blur. We went from thinking that I was about to lose the baby, to settling down and being told by the doctor that everything was okay and I could be induced and wait to deliver. We had plenty of visitors that day while I lied in bed waiting to be told that I was ready to push. Finally around 4 p.m., I was told it was time to push. Within the first couple pushes, my nurse knew Beau was turned the wrong way. He was almost 9 pounds, and it wasn’t going to be easy to get him out. We tried every trick in the book to get him to turn. He kept descending, but not turning. Hours in, I screamed and cried to my doctor that I just could not do it. She told me to calm down, focus on pushing “correctly” and he could be there in the next 20 minutes. She told me that he was so far down now that a C-section would be difficult. To me, difficult meant dangerous, so I agreed to go on with her plan. She even had me take a nap because I was so exhausted from pushing.
But after I woke up and we tried pushing for another hour, she decided it was time for a C-section. I had been pushing for 7 hours. My husband told our families that Beau would be here within the hour now and that we were heading to the OR. It was then that the unthinkable happened. They lost Beau’s heartbeat on the way to the OR. We went from having a C-section to needing an emergency C-section. I screamed as I could feel every bit of pressure as they dug him out of me. I heard the anesthesiologist say in my ear, “baby’s here!” I realized it was too quiet, I couldn’t hear him crying like you see in the movies. I was too exhausted to speak. Within seconds, I passed out. I woke up and looked across the room to see an OR nurse sobbing. I found my voice and asked her “what happened?” She moved to the side, and I see my husband holding Beau, crying harder than I have ever seen my husband cry. A doctor behind me told me, “I’m so sorry, we lost the baby.” This is a moment I relive daily. I started screaming, “no!” Within hours, everything that we had worked so hard for, paid for in literal blood, given up our home and moved in with our parents for, we lost. We find ourselves constantly bargaining, thinking about what moment we could have changed to still have Beau with us. He was an incredibly healthy baby who died because my placenta tore away from the wall and the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck.
So, we aren’t sure what we could have changed. The following weeks, I found myself thinking about our next steps for having another baby. Because that’s what I had always done. I received bad news – miscarriage, infertility, unsuccessful treatments – and I would just put on my brave pants and keep moving forward. It all reality, it was insane; I was insane. I needed to grieve. I needed to allow my husband and I time to process the loss of our miracle baby. So, we have been taking that time. We speak of Beau as often as we can handle, we visit his gravesite, and we try to have fun. We try to remember that we are still in our twenties and we need to stop taking ourselves so seriously. We have decided on adoption. The thought of getting pregnant again is too terrifying to process. I almost died the night we lost Beau and my husband isn’t willing to risk that again. But we need to heal and come to complete agreement together first. And we need to pick up the pieces of our life. We are no longer financially in a position to adopt because we spent everything we had and then some to finance IVF. Throughout my fight with infertility, my pregnancy and loss of Beau, I kept one quote from C.S Lewis in my mind. “I am sure that God keeps no one waiting unless He sees that it is good for him to wait.” So, we are parents in the waiting. Waiting for our baby on Earth. Waiting to be brought back to our babies in Heaven. Those are the things worth waiting for.
-Stephanie, Mommy in Waiting
*Are you or someone you know impacted by infertility? Have you heard about the Colorado Walk of Hope? This is it’s 4th year in Colorado! The Walk of Hope on June 23rd at 9 a.m. in Cornerstone Park in Englewood is a fundraising & awareness event that brings together women & men living with infertility & the people & businesses that support them. The Walk includes those who are still on their journey & need support, & those who have built their families – whether through treatment, adoption or living childfree – & provides inspiration & hope. You can get the details about the 2018 Colorado Walk of Hope by visiting www.resolve.org/cowalk