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Weekly Warrior - Meet Mandy

“First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes infertility. At least this is how it was for me and my husband.

My husband and I were married in April of 2014. After we married we knew we wanted to start a family right away. It was always my biggest dream to be a mom. We started trying to have a baby in November of 2014. Man was I naïve back then. I remember the first time we tried thinking, ‘OMG this is it, I’M PREGNANT!!!!!’ Little did I know how devastating the next 3 years of my life would be.

I spent the first few months with negative pregnancy tests wondering ‘Is this normal? Am I normal? Is this how it happens for all women?’ I was completely unaware of what infertility was and never in a million years imagined I would soon be a part of that category. There are so many stages of grief that come along with infertility. At first it’s the denial of the fact that something serious could be wrong. Then it’s the understanding of what infertility is and knowing you may never have an answer to something that is completely controlling your life. There is loss and pain that is completely un-measurable, something that only someone going through the same thing would understand.

After a few months of trying, I become a POS addict. (Peeing on a stick) I remember going to the dollar store where I lived and picking up every pregnancy test they had there. I nervously walked up to the counter and placed them down hoping to not be judged. Lo and behold the cashier was a 16-year-old boy who clearly had no clue he was about to spark a fire in me. ‘Man….umm, I would be ashamed if I was your father. You know you should be more careful.’ I wanted to jump down this kid’s throat so badly. Instead, I kept my composure and simply said, ‘I know you may not know what I’m going through, but I’m trying to have a child and it’s not easy for me and my husband. All of these tests are for hope that a miracle will come.’

My husband and I tried to conceive without anyone knowing for a full year before we met with my OBGYN. This brings us to 2015, the year I learned everything I could know about infertility. While sitting down with my doctor, she had a list of tests we would need to do to make sure there wasn’t something ‘wrong.’ First was a series of blood tests that all came back normal. Then an ultrasound to make sure I didn’t have cysts in my ovaries. My ovaries looked ‘beautiful’ per the ultrasound tech. Next was a sperm analysis. What do ya know, my husband has perfectly swimming sperm. After all of the results came back normal, we took some time off running anymore tests. I had so much hope and faith that there was absolutely nothing wrong. We continued to try for a family and were becoming more devastated each month with negative test after negative test.

In May of 2016, I did the last recommended test that would hopefully give us answers. This was the absolute dreaded hysterosalpingogram (HSG). I’ve heard horror stories of how painful this test is. I basically go into an exam room; the doctor pumps dye into my Fallopian tubes and watches to make sure it spills out of the Fallopian tubes into my abdominal cavity. As I watch on the screen I can instantly tell there is something wrong. The dye was stuck in my Fallopian tubes and was going nowhere. Long story short I finally had a diagnosis. I had 2 blocked Fallopian tubes and was told I had an extremely low chance of ever having children naturally.

For the last year and a half I had so much hope that we would be blessed with a miracle. And I was just told that would never happen for us. I was devastated; all I ever wanted was to be a mom. I felt as if my world was crashing down on me. I would never be able to fill the rooms in our house that have been empty for years. Instead of hearing little footprints running down the hall and picking up toy after toy I would sit the rest of my life in silence wondering what life could or would ever be like with a child. I was 28 years old, how on earth could this be real?

Infertility is gut wrenching. Have you ever been in a room with hundreds of people and felt as if you were alone, the only person in the room with no one to talk to? This is how I felt every day as I struggled with infertility. I felt as if no one understood me. I would miss baby showers on purpose and couldn’t even walk past the baby aisle at Target. I would try everything I could to dodge the 500 questions and 100 ‘try to be positive’ quotes that would come out of everyone’s mouths when they would ask us when we would be having kids. I’ll never forget my mom asking me if we were sure we were doing it right. ‘Yes Mom, I’m 1,000 % sure we are doing it right. I mean there’s only one way, right?’ From the ‘It will happen when the time is right’ to ‘all in God’s timing,’ I started to feel shattered and more broken than I ever have. What if God doesn’t want me to be a mom? What if every hope and dream I have ever had about having a family would never come true?

I took some time to myself and realized this was not the end of our story. My husband and I would be parents and we would have a family whether that was with help from a fertility doctor or if it was through adoption. We decided in February of 2017 we would try a round of IVF. I’ll never forget receiving my box of medication, the box was huge. I opened it and was instantly overwhelmed with fear.

February 5th was my first shot. I remember staring at the syringe, my whole body was shaking. I couldn’t believe I was about to inject a needle into my body. The minute the shot was over, my husband and I just held each other and cried. I was so scared, not only in that moment, but I was scared for what I was about to endure the next few months. I injected myself 58 times over the course of the next few months. This doesn’t count all the other medication you need to take while doing IVF. I had also taken over 400 doses of progesterone and estrogen to prepare my body for a healthy pregnancy.

During this time I was also traveling 50 miles each way to Chicago to my fertility doctor’s office to have blood work and ultrasounds done every other day. Needless to say I was exhausted and ready to give up. I started to question if doing IVF was the right thing for me.

We ended up doing our egg retrieval on February 17, 2017. My doctor retrieved 14 eggs and out of those 14, half of them fertilized and made it to be frozen. This was it we had SEVEN babies!!!! On April 19, 2017, we transferred 2 beautiful embryos. After years of trying, we were finally pregnant until proven otherwise.

The next step was the absolute worst dreaded 2 week wait. I mean, I had waited years, so 2 weeks should be easy right? Definitely not the case. Once the 2 week waiting period was over I went in for a series of 3 blood tests to confirm pregnancy. I was able to finally show my husband for the first time ever a positive pregnancy test. We were both in disbelief and couldn’t even describe the feeling we felt.

After the blood tests came the ultrasound. We would finally get to see our babies for the first time outside of a petri dish. This was a moment I never thought I would have ever had the chance to experience. With excitement I ask the ultrasound tech is it 1 or 2? She pauses and says, ‘Well you’re definitely pregnant. Let’s look at Baby A first.’ Well if there is a Baby A, then there’s a Baby B. I was so overjoyed. Baby A looked amazing, watching the little flutter of a heartbeat was something I had prayed for. I was on cloud 9! Next we moved to Baby B, and as she was examining the gestational sack, I knew right away that there was no Baby B. We had become pregnant and miscarried at the same time. Baby A had lost their twin, I now had to experience the absolute high of my first pregnancy and the absolute low of my very first miscarriage. How was I supposed to juggle the feelings of excitement along with the feeling of emptiness? It was something I never thought I would have to experience.

A few months into my pregnancy my parents told me that my mom had gone in for a scan and her cancer was back. My mom has been battling cancer for over 14 years. My heart once again sank into the pit of my stomach. It was almost as if someone was playing a prank on me. Hadn’t I been through enough heartache the last 3 years? My mom became very sick throughout my pregnancy as she had started a clinical cancer trial. I would pray every night that she would get better each day so she could meet her grandchild.

Dec 20, 2017, I was 37 weeks pregnant. I hadn’t been feeling the baby move or kick and was terrified something was wrong. I drove myself to the hospital and explained my symptoms, which led them to test me for a rupture. The test came back positive and I was told I needed to have the baby within 24 hours. I frantically and excitedly called my husband to come to the hospital. This was it, we were about to meet our little miracle.

17.5 hours later Kinsley Jane entered the world. She was the absolute most perfect thing I had ever laid my eyes on. The rush I felt through my body was something I have never felt before — this is what it felt like when my mom held me for the first time. It was absolutely incredible.

A few hours after Kinsley was born she had to have blood work done because of the type of blood I have. Her blood work was coming back as if she was fighting an infection but the doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong. Our beautiful baby girl was taken from us and rushed to the NICU. My labor was extremely difficult and I also had become very sick after birth. I was fainting and could barely move without passing out. Once I had regained some strength later that day they took me up to see our little girl. I had absolutely no idea what I was walking into and wished that someone would have prepared me for what I was about to see.

There she was in bed 4, hooked up to monitors, cords everywhere. Beeping noises and alarms going off every few seconds. My husband and I immediately lost all composure we thought we had. I start asking what is wrong with her? Why is she like this? Why is that thing in her head? The sight of seeing your child in the NICU is absolutely devastating.

As a parent you should be able to help your child and make everything better for them. For us, that wasn’t the case. Kinsley was very sick and eventually had double jaundice as well. She stayed in the NICU for 7 very long days. I never in a million years would have thought our first Christmas with her would be in an incubator at a hospital but we took each day as it came, and with that Kinsley got stronger and stronger.

All of this leads us to where we are today. My mom is beating cancer every day and Kinsley is thriving. Life with the both of them has been something I have always dreamt of.

Infertility and IVF has changed me. I was so ashamed when I first was diagnosed. I felt like less of a woman because I didn’t know if I would ever be a mom. For so long I felt so out of place in this world. I would try my best to fake a smile and put on my happy face even though I was breaking down inside. I have spent far too many days dreaming of a life I wish I had. I have lost friendships because of what I was going through was too much for people to handle. I have grown into a person I never thought I could or would ever be. I can proudly stand up and say I have beat infertility.

To my beautiful Kinsley Jane, you are the light of our lives. You get us through some of our hardest days. We are forever grateful for you. I don’t know how we ever lived our lives without you in it.”


Mandy can be found on Instagram at Mandyykuiper


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