Back in 2015 I had been dating my high school sweetheart for six years. Never particularly concerned with marriage, I told him, "just marry me when you want to have kids." Turns out he was ready.
One ridiculously romantic marriage proposal and magazine-worthy wedding later, I took my last dose of birth control and flew off to our tropical honeymoon in May of 2016. Six months later, I landed in my OBGYN’s office in the midst of a heavy, 25+ day period (yes “period” not “cycle” ugh). This is where I got my first diagnosis, PCOS. I count myself lucky that my doctor was so quick to test me and offer up a PCOS diagnosis, because many women go years before getting properly diagnosed with PCOS. Still it was a massive blow to know that we might have issues conceiving before we had really even started. Over the course of the summer, I lost 20lbs just like my doctor suggested, took Metformin diligently and officially started “trying”. When that yielded nothing except a smaller jean size, we tried a progesterone challenge and Femara. I didn’t even ovulate. After that I took the referral to a RE and walked out of the OB’s office. Frankly I was glad to get out of an office full of massively pregnant ladies. At the RE’s office I met with my rather matter of fact doctor and she assured me that I would get pregnant. All we had to do was get me ovulating. We started a max dose Femara cycle that turned into an injectable cycle right before Christmas. The mad scramble to get our hands on the stim medication paid off though. I ovulated on January 1st and found out I was pregnant ten days later. I was in complete shock! It only took one cycle at the RE and we were pregnant, and all this fertility drug craziness was over. My betas doubled as expected and I walked into our first ultrasound fairly optimistic.
That ultrasound was the first hint that something was wrong; the heart rate was a little on the low side. They tried to encourage us that it was early and maybe we had just checked a smidge too soon. One week later my husband and I went in and they gave us the news that the heart rate had slowed, and the pregnancy wasn’t viable. One week after that I went in alone to find out that the heart rate had stopped completely. One week later I had a D&C. It was a torturous month. The results of the genetic testing showed a trisomy 16 mutation. Trisomy mutations are a common type of genetic mutation, and genetic mutations are the most common cause of miscarriage. This particular mutation is not compatible with life. We were devastated but, still determined, we returned to treatments. Afterall, technically it had worked. We had gotten pregnant. We were just unlucky.
At this point I started a YouTube channel to document our journey and vent to the wonderful ladies and gents of the internet and TTC community online. The next two injectable cycles failed, and we took a fertility-talk-free summer vacation to Washington DC. We rode in tour buses, snapped photos of monuments, and didn’t talk about trying to get pregnant. What a breath of fresh air. Turns out you don’t need to talk about it for it to happen though.
Those stimulation drugs stay in your system for a while and helped my body ovulate kinda-sorta on its own for the first time since chucking out birth control! I had already started taking progesterone for my next cycle when took a pregnancy test on a hunch. It was positive. I was in disbelief for the first few days and took pregnancy tests just to watch those two lines magically appear again and again. The joy was short lived though. Our betas were barely doubling every three days and going into the 7-week ultrasound, I was absolutely terrified. When the ultrasound tech told me the heartrate, I let out my breath which I had been holding for the entire appointment and started to cry with relief. The baby was growing normally and had a strong heartrate. My husband and I basically floated into the OBGYN’s office for our 10-week appointment, which happened to be on the due date of our first pregnancy. We happily chatted with my OB as she got out the doppler and searched for the heartbeat. She went quiet and told me she was going to have to get me into the ultrasound room real quick to take a look. She was struggling to find the heartbeat. I knew what this really meant but held onto that last shred of hope. This was our rainbow baby! “We had already been through so much. Surely nothing else bad can happen,” I tried to rationalize.
Once I was on the ultrasound table, the tech poked around in silence for a few minutes and then shutoff the machine. She mumbled something about needing to get the doctor and ducked out of the room. I shut my eyes, let the darkness wash over me, and desperately hoped this was just a nightmare. I opened my eyes. Not a nightmare. My 2nd baby was gone. This time the D&C was scheduled for the next day. Everything went smoothly and again we opted for genetic testing. This time we found that we had a baby girl with Trisomy 21. This opened up a whole new set of questions. Were we just unlucky or was there a reason we kept having genetic mutations? Did we have a sperm quality issue along with his iffy sperm counts? Had we ignored signs of endometriosis? What were we going to do next? We were coming up on two years of treatment and we needed to regroup. I was in no state mentally to be pregnant again. This miscarriage had hit me hard. I have no idea how other women go through three, four, or fives miscarriages. I got a recurrent miscarriage panel that didn’t provide new information. Because we were so young and had two losses, the diagnosis of unexplained recurrent pregnancy loss was added to our file. For the next few months I was quite depressed. Maybe because I so tapped out emotionally, I made the following very logical list of priorities:
Become a parent
Have biological children
With this list in hand I approached my husband to talk about our plan. I needed time to heal and be able to handle being pregnant again. I needed time to invest some energy into my job which I had been neglecting (understandably) during all this. So we made a rather unorthodox decision. We were going to pursue adoption and IVF at the same time.
At this time, I had coverage for IVF and knew the sooner we did the egg retrieval the higher the chance of success. Plus, we could keep our embryos frozen until I was ready to carry again. My doctor agreed that IVF was a good next step and PGS, preimplantation genetic screening, would most likely circumvent our recurrent loss issues. Four months after our second loss, I went in for my egg retrieval. I felt like I bloated whale on my day of retrieval but was thrilled when I was told a few hours later they had gotten 33 mature eggs! The next few weeks of counts were a rollercoaster and frankly I wish I could have just been told the end result. We now have 3 PGS normal day-5 blasts on ice. It was a huge drop off, but those results only further solidified my resolve that IVF was the right next option for us. I know we would have had more losses if we had continued with other treatment. Stepping back a bit, we were also researching and applying to adoption agencies at this time. We settled on domestic infant adoption and on a local state level agency. The idea of flying all over the country and taking care of a newborn in a hotel room did not sound like an adventure I wanted to be a part of despite my husband trying to convince me it would be fun. I agonized over our profile book but we still managed to complete our home study in only 3 months and went active with our adoption agency on Valentine’s day 2019. It only took a few months before we got our first “situation” call and agreed to have our profile book shown to this potential birth family. The first time our profile was shown I was so sure we were going to be picked. It was just between us and another family. We even got to go meet the birth family. After that meeting, I cried in my car because it seemed like such a good match. A few days later though we got the call that she had gone with the other family. I was crushed all over again and considered pulling our profile for a while. I had already made room in my heart for this little boy and now that space was going to be empty forever. I still think about that birth mom, her baby, and the family she chose, and hope they are all doing well. A few more months passed without a call. We adopted a we-don’t-have-a-baby-yet dog that I could funnel all my overflowing maternal desire into. Literally on the way back from putting the hold on our fabulous pup, Elsa, we got another situation call. This situation wasn’t as straight forward, but we agreed to have our profile shown. If I am being honest, I was sure we weren’t going to get picked. Not for any particular reason other than we had a 2+ year history of things going poorly on the family building front. Why would this be any different?
A few weeks later, I got the follow up call from my social worker while I was alone working from home. I answered, rather annoyed she didn’t wait until my husband was home to tell me the bad news that we hadn’t been chosen. “I know guys aren’t together right now, but I couldn’t wait to tell you. She picked you!”
I was dumbfounded.
I must have asked her a half-dozen times if she was sure and thanked her profusely. The rest of the day was a blur. I am sure I called my husband at some point but can’t remember what I said. We were overjoyed but knew being chosen wasn’t the same as having a baby in your arms. We met with the expectant mom and clicked immediately. She told us how ours was the last profile book she looked at and she was so sure we where the right family to raise her baby. Something about her confidence renewed my hope that had been so badly worn out these last few years. It really was the tipping point. From there our excitement grew. We told our family, held name reveal/gender reveal/baby shower party, and let ourselves believe it was really going to happen this time. On July 18th, 2019 we drove to hospital, waited (something we were well versed in by now) a little longer her C-section to be done, and finally got to hold our daughter after years of infertility. I will be forever grateful to Evangeline’s birth mother for choosing us and forever saddened that she had to choose at all. Part of our hearts was healed on that day, but for us to heal her birth mother had to lose her child. Adoption is truly a humbling experience. Every day since Evangeline has brought us joy. As she approaches one year old, we are looking to grow our family again. I am nervous to return to the fertility clinic but have committed to giving our three little embabies a chance. Who knows if we will get a take home baby from IVF, but I know now there are so many way to grow our family. This journey has taught me to never look too far ahead and try and enjoy the journey whenever you can.
Keep on fighting ladies!
You can follow Jordan on Instagram at @IRLJAKS