The past few years have been challenging for Zach and I. Especially, this past year. We've been fighting through a journey that we never planned for, expected, or thought about. Until, it smacked us right in the face more than a few times. It's with a heavy heart that I share some of our personal journey with you. It has been just shy of three years now that Zach and I have continued our struggles with infertility. People often ask me, "Do you want kids, are you guys going to have kids?" Most of the time, my answers usually sound something like this, "Yeah, eventually, someday." or just "Yeah". What I really mean by my vague, non conversational response, is "YES, sooooo, so badly we want a baby." For us, having kids is one of those non negotiables in life. Being a Mom is something I have always dreamed about. Many of my family members and friends have heard me say that I want five kids. And, that's because I do. Five is a lot. It didn't take long for both Zach and I to realize that just one baby will be a dream. But, dreams don't always come true. Not for us, not yet, anyhow.
After ample time of trying for a baby naturally, we decided it was going on for too long and we needed to visit the Doctor. For anyone that's been in this same boat, you know how un-fun it can be trying "naturally" for a long time. Your life becomes charting body temperatures and using ovulation sticks, and monitoring your every symptom of everything into a stupid ap that becomes the most used ap on your iphone. You pray every three weeks that you'll NOT get your period, and you pretend every time that you start to feel menstrual cramps coming on, that it's just a plain old stomachache. Once we were settled in our new home in Miami, off to my gynecologist I went. In order to figure out what was going on with us, my Doctor ordered blood work, an HSG, and a semen analysis. Though, this was only the beginning of step two in our journey, it was at this point that we recognized that this was a "journey". Any procedures and blood work became daunting tasks and felt like they took forever. Each test had to be done on a certain day of my cycle. It took months to get all the initial testing done. It was a domino effect. Once we were getting results from test A, then it led to test B, then C, and before we knew it, Summer and Fall had disappeared before our eyes. A few scary months of Zika had thankfully passed, and we were heading into the New Year. After the first findings, we were recommended to move onto a fertility specialist. We took more tests and blood work that took more months of waiting. We were required to do genetic testing, counseling, and I also needed to have some minor surgeries. More waiting, more phone calls with the insurance company, calculating costs, and weighing our options. Once everything was said and done, we could move onto actual treatment. We were advised that it was best we went directly to IVF and treat our circumstance a bit' more aggressively and quickly due to our issues and our dream for a big family. Our second option was to go a more affordable route and do an IUI after stimulating my ovaries with injectable medications and triggering ovulation. We decided that we had come this far, and though IUI was statistically not as successful as IVF, it would be a pragmatic option to give one last try with a less invasive procedure and a lot less expensive pricetag. We wanted to give ourselves a final try in a more natural way than in the lab. We thought, maybe we will be the lucky couple that has success with IUI.
The time leading up to the insemination procedure was a bit stressful. For a couple weeks I was giving myself shots every day, being monitored with ultrasounds and blood work almost every other day. We stared at screens in the Doctors office praying for one more follicle to show up and appear in my ovaries - anything that would give us hope for more chances at getting our baby. Finally, it was go time. It was Cinco de Mayo, a Friday. I had packed up a bunch of super cute cactus cookies I had baked, and brought them into the nurses and Doctors at our clinic. I was in the best mood I had been in a very long time. I was beyond nervous and anxious of our two week wait that followed, but that didn't stop the feeling I had, that this was our official, first, real shot at trying for a baby. This, was finally our fair chance at parenthood, even if it was only a 7% chance ;) From the moment we arrived to the moment we left the office that day, it was an almost three hour ordeal. I laid there for ten minutes after the procedure just praying and hoping that two weeks from now we would be so lucky to get our positive result. I pictured that we would never have to return to this place, ever again. Well, not for a while anyway. Not 'till baby number two. Wow, I was amazing myself with my own thoughts. I had come a long way. At one point, only back in February of this year, I was convinced we would never be able to have our own biological baby. Now, I was already assuming there will be a baby number two.
The two week wait for people that have already waited 123 weeks of their lives, sounds easy, but it's even harder than the previous waiting weeks. In anticipation of the awaited wait, I had saved up eight loads of laundry for the first day... just so I would be so annoyed and thinking about folding so many towels and sheets and shorts and bikinis, that I would be side tracked from thinking about whether my body would be able to hold a pregnancy, let alone get pregnant. Well, I thought about a baby and pregnancy every second of that day while I folded a lot of clean clothes. The next 12 days continued in the same fashion. I repeated those same thoughts while I cleaned the apartment, went shopping, wrote blog posts, took pictures, made videos, cooked dinners, went to dinners, ate pineapple (not canned), went on walks (no running), went to the beach, the park, went swimming (after day 4 post IUI), laid in bed at night wide awake, hung out with friends, cried some, drank lots of water, talked on the phone too much about all of this to my Mom and sister, scoured the internet for every article ever written about IUI, fertility, pregnancy, multiples, follicles, IVF, and the dreaded "two week wait." We flew to New York. We visited family and friends, and then on May 19th in NYC Zach woke me up in our hotel room at 5:30am and said "It's time- take the test!" My sister was asleep feet away from the bathroom and I snuck in there quietly as to not to wake her up. I slid the door closed and grabbed the pregnancy test, shaking. I reminded myself the Doctor said the test may be too early to detect. If we had been in Florida, a blood test would have been more accurate, but because we were traveling we would have to be patient with the over the counter test until we returned the following week. Within less than a minute the test read positive. I about fell into the toilet and I quietly slid the door open and walked right into Zach's arms and I whispered, "Yes!" I walked him back into the bathroom to see for himself and we quietly hugged and cried and stood there in shock. I couldn't contain my smile, nor did I really want to. I was in disbelief that we just won our lottery of all lotteries. I laid back down in bed and Zach went off to his office in NY. I laid there for another hour basking in pure happiness. I couldn't even try to not tell my sister right away. She knew, that day I could take my first test. So, she opened her eyes that morning and said "...did you take the test?" I tried to lie at the moment so I could make it more of a fun surprise, but it was impossible. I said, "Yes, I took it, but it was negative." Then, my smile came back and she knew I was being ridiculous and she hugged me and we spent the next 8 hours celebrating in a little bubble of joy in the city. NYC is me and Zach’s favorite place in the World. May 19th, was no doubt one of our most favorite days.
That night we stayed at Zach's parent's house. We shared the glorious news in person with his parents and sister. We were on cloud nine. The following day we attended a friend's wedding. We kept the secret from our best friends at the wedding, as we wanted to share the news with my parents first. We would see my Mom and Dad the following day. I really wanted to tell my Mom and Dad in person so we could see their faces when we shared the news. I had to do everything in my power to keep the secret until I saw them. When we finally shared the best news ever with my family, my Mom cried and my Dad stood there in frozen motion - the two perfect reactions. That is exactly the feeling, it was equal parts joyous and shocking. The very next day, my Mom didn't hesitate to take me shopping for all the pregnancy and baby books on the shelf at Barnes & Noble. The last time I had been in a book store I was searching the shelves for stories on infertility and hope. What a reluctant turn of events. By the next week, we had returned home and had another confirmed pregnancy blood test. Then, we shared the news with a few more family and friends. We had a couple more weeks until our first ultrasound and I was sooooooo nervous. I was starting to feel symptoms, and I was starting my journey to be a Mom, planning and thinking about everything and anything that pertained to baby. Until, this point I had always kept myself from thinking about anything related to an actual baby. I didn't want to tease myself with something that was not yet tangible, if ever. But, now I was a free woman to explore the happiness of motherhood, a feeling I will never forget.
"We need to move. I need a nursery. I'm going to make it look like this. Are we having a boy, a girl, twins? What will we name him, her, them? What will he/she look like? What's my due date? Can I eat this, that? Will I start getting sick? Are my boobs going to get huge? I think my boobs are getting huge. We need a dog trainer for Ethel. Omg, Ethel is going to have to move in with our parents. She hates babies. I need one of those baby tents for the beach. I want to have a gender reveal party. We will invite this person, and that person, and we should know the gender by this date, so we'll have it on this day...." I did what every pregnant lady does. And I worried, a lot. "We got this far, but it's so early, what if something is wrong? Why don't I feel sick, most people get morning sickness, right?"
When the day came for our first ultrasound, I got dressed up. I put on this cute little white denim skirt and Summer printed tie front top, my red lace up heels and matching lipstick. I waved my hair. I wanted to look pretty and stylish the first time we met our baby. Zach laughed at the idea of this, but also smiled because he knows, "this" is Rachel, the woman I married. Obviously, I knew that our baby couldn't view us through the other end of the sound waves and would never have an opinion on what color lipstick I wore, but I wanted to keep this memory in my head forever. I wanted to look back and picture our perfect little family on this day and I wanted to look nice just like I do for any other important event in our life. As we waited for the Doctor to come into the room, I said "I'm so nervous, what if something is wrong? What if there isn't a heartbeat?" Zach tried to reassure me that everything would be fine. This, is what I love most about Zach during this journey. He is optimistic, positive, and reassuring, all things that I need from him more than anything else. A couple of our nurses crowded in the room with us. My Doctor said, "Ok, let's find out if you're having twins. It's possible it's twins. You had two good follicles." My heart skipped. I was sooooo nervous. It only took a moment or two to realize it was definitely not twins. It only took another moment to realize there was nothing much at all. Then, our hearts sank. Zach was holding my arm and tears started to roll down my cheeks, and at that moment, we knew. My nurse handed me a tissue and my Doctor consoled me. We needed to visit a specialist that afternoon and we would likely need to wait another week before anything more may happen or could be determined. Fast forward to another week later and the specialist did advise there was still no heartbeat, and no viable embryo. Through those weeks waiting for the dreaded confirmation, I continued to have pregnancy symptoms. My body just didn't want to let go, but my mind couldn't handle the emotions any longer. We scheduled a D&C surgery for that week, just days before we were due to leave for our family vacation at the Jersey shore. We were completely devastated.
One of the highest points of happiness in what feels like in an endless bout of sorrow, is the fact that we actually were able to get pregnant. That is something we had not been so sure would ever happen, until now. Everyday, that silver lining continues to be a great sense of hope for us. Taking a couple months this Summer to get back to normal health has been a time that we have spent coming to peace with what is and what has happened. I think about the day we sat in the Doctor's office, on the day we were going to meet our baby, when Zach said to me that everything would be fine. He was wrong, in that very moment he was wrong. But, I know he will be right in the end. Z and I both feel relieved in hope, love, and faith that our ending, will end with a baby. And everything will one day be more than fine. We are by no means even close to giving up on God and the work we can do to get where we are meant to be. As we now move onto the next chapter in our book, we feel open to sharing our story. September rings in a bright new beginning for us. We are about to begin our first IVF cycle in just a few weeks. We are praying for God's plan to match our dreams. There is a lot to our next steps. We need to retrieve enough eggs, create enough embryos, ones that will thrive and be healthy. It takes time, and it will be a couple months of action and waiting, but we are up for the challenges. We look forward to sharing our continued journey with you. Thank you to everyone that has helped us get through our ups and downs leading up to today. I wear my "Trust The Journey" bracelet always, keep the prayer card for Motherhood at my desk, and hold my Saint Gerard charm in the zip pocket of my wallet. And, every time I wake up to seeing a dolphin swimming in our backyard, I know God's listening. xo RCN
"Everything is going to be fine in the end. If it's not fine, it's not the end." - Oscar Wilde