I was 28 when my husband and I were ready to start trying for a baby. We had been married for three years. I had finished taking Accutane, an acne medication that must be out of your system for six months before getting pregnant due to harsh side effects causing birth defects. My husband and I had just taken a wonderful trip through France with friends. It was the perfect time to settle down and have some babies.
But things didn’t happen as planned.
After a year, I was still trying to get pregnant. When I finally became pregnant, my husband and I were ecstatic. The stress and worry dissipated. Everything was going to be fine.
A mere six weeks into my pregnancy, I took my dog to the local dog park to play. As I watched her wrestle with her fellow mutt friends, I experienced a horrible sharp pain in my abdomen. This feeling was not the normal nausea women experience their first trimester of pregnancy; it was sharp pain– like someone was stabbing me in the belly. I buckled over in agony. I dropped to my knees and had trouble catching my breath.
I felt like something may be terribly wrong, but I didn’t know for sure because I had never been pregnant before. I called one doctor, who said in a very matter of fact tone, “No, that is not OK, you must go see your doctor immediately.” Then I called for a second opinion hoping that this doctor would tell me what I wanted to hear. And he did. He said, “Oh, it is probably nothing. Everything could be just fine.”
The pain kept coming. My husband was out of town, so I drove myself to the doctor. A vaginal ultrasound and a few questions later, he felt he had the answer: I had an ectopic pregnancy. This usually means that the embryo is stuck in a Fallopian tube. The fix was a shot of chemotherapy in my behind, which should encourage the embryo to pass. I remember being in pretty good spirits, but I cannot remember why. Perhaps it is because I finally got pregnant. Even if it was not a viable pregnancy, at least now I knew that I could accomplish the age-old task of conception.
But, the shot did not work. The pain continued.
I was headed for surgery. The plan was for my doctor to surgically remove my lodged embryo with the hope of keeping my perfectly good Fallopian tube in tact. I needed that Fallopian tube, especially since I was already having a difficult time getting pregnant with both of them in my body.
When I came to, I was informed that my surgery was nothing like what they expected. The doctors could not find my embryo in the tube. My egg and my husband’s sperm had fertilized outside of my reproductive system and attached itself to my bladder. I had a baby growing on my bladder.
The doctor was downright giddy at my follow-up appointment the next day. He said, “A doctor is lucky to be able to see just one of these kinds of pregnancies in their whole career!” Yes, he said “lucky.”
I moved on from that situation, not placing too much emotional baggage into the fact that I had lost my pregnancy. A baby growing on my bladder was indeed a strange and unusual circumstance that I would remember forever. I still hung onto the fact that I could get pregnant.
Chris and I quickly got down to the business of trying to get pregnant again. It took us an agonizing year and a half. Intimacy became an annoying baby-making game filled with stress and anxiety, but our patience was rewarded with a beautiful red-headed daughter.
Two years later, as I attempted to get pregnant again I experienced two miscarriages. One ended naturally in the toilet one evening. The other ended with a hospital visit and D&C (Dialation and Curretage) to remove the miscarriage from my uterus.
My husband and I went to a fertility specialist who did a series of blood tests to check my hormone levels and see if there were blockages in my Fallopian tubes. The doctor determined that I was essentially infertile. He called it “Diminished Ovarian Reserve” which meant my eggs were too old to make a baby. The doctor sat my husband and I down and explained that I would most likely never have a child with my own eggs and I should look into getting an egg donor or adoption.
I researched and found that an egg donor would cost $20,000. Adoption would be $10,000 within the country, and $20,000 plus for an international adoption.
It was all so overwhelming.
I didn’t know what to do, but everyone else did. I got all kinds of advice like, “you don’t want to have somebody else’s egg do you?” I spoke with a woman who had adopted two Russian babies. Her process seemed completely overwhelming to me and very stressful. I know how wonderful adoption is and fully support the process, but adoption just wasn’t what I wanted.
We went for a second opinion. The doctor at the new fertility clinic told us that there may be hope with In Vitro Fertilization (IVF). IVF is the process where an egg and a sperm are fertilized outside the body and nurtured for three to five days in a petri dish until it is implanted in the woman’s uterus.
There was hope.
I started injecting myself with hormones and blood thinners. I learned to stick a needle in my own skin like it was nothing. The skin on my belly turned black and blue and hurt all the time. Then I went in and put my legs in some stirrups and the doctors harvested my eggs.
My husband played his part in the process with love and support (which was invaluable) and a few dates with a collection cup and some dirty magazines. He will tell you that there is no pleasure in this kind of release, but it is indisputably a lot better than bruises and needles.
If we got a baby out of this self-mutilation, it would all be worth it.
The first cycle failed and with that my spirits grew dark. I may just have to give up this long and tedious battle. Maybe we were meant to be a three-person family. Maybe my daughter didn’t need a sibling after all. It wouldn’t be the end of the world. This is not how I really felt, but this is the story I began to tell myself for protection from feelings of disappointment and failure.
We decided to give it one last try. I would go through the whole process again – the shots, the poking and prodding, the appointments with a toddler in tow, the never- ending discussion of eggs and sperm and fertilization.
At the end of the second cycle, I had four very viable looking embryos! The doctor suggested I choose two, so I would not be faced with a higher order multiple pregnancy and possibly a difficult choice to selectively reduce. We did not listen to him. I wanted to put all my eggs in one basket (literally) because I never wanted to go through this process again. I wanted to increase my odds at having just one more baby. (After all, the first fertility doctor told me I would never have another child with my own eggs, and that was constantly replaying in my head.)
I had all four embryos put in and three of them took. At six weeks I went in for my ultrasound and saw three beautiful little beans with beating hearts. My first question to the doctor was whether all the babies would make it to life (based on his opinion, looking at them at 6 weeks gestation). He said that they would. My second question was whether there were any more babies hiding in there. The doctor said absolutely not.
Seven years into this journey of reproduction and infertility, including an unusual ectopic pregnancy, two miscarriages and two cycles of IVF, I have four beautiful children.
It hasn’t been an easy journey. Raising higher order multiples is often a strain on patience, emotions, marriage and finances, but this journey in and out of fertility has taught me a thing or two.
Always get a second opinion because without that I would not have my beautiful triplets.
Miscarriages really suck physically and emotionally, but it is something you must accept and move forward. Don’t let the loss take you down.
Always listen to your heart. And your instincts. I knew I was destined to have more than one child. Sometimes you just have to put all your eggs in one basket and hope for the best.
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