July 12, 2019

Our Journey So Far | A Story of Love, Strength, Courage, and Perseverance

I’ve wanted to write about this for what seems like forever, but have deliberately chosen not to; first and foremost because I didn’t want to cross the professional business and personal life boundary, and also we (Scott and I) never thought it would become such a saga – a true marathon.  But, perspectives have changed.  We have changed.  Our story has evolved.  I’m not writing for pity; we definitely don’t want anyone to feel sorry for us, nor do we want attention.  Honestly, I’m putting our story into words mostly so I can stop feeling like I’ve been living a double life (I’m not sure anymore who knows what, or where I left off last when I spoke with whomever) those that have had questions, they will surly be answered.  Lastly, my words may just help someone else out there struggling with the same battles we have.  Although this may be a hard read at times for some, and it may feel rather heavy, I know it will have a happy ending.  And although I may not have written our happy ending quite yet, I know it is going to happen. Why?  Because we want it.

Where to begin?  How does one possibly start to write about the last four years that have entailed so much?  How do I try to explain what we have endured- our struggles and strife; how have we come out broken and bruised, but yet stronger?  How our lives and hearts were slowly stripped and peeled of optimism, but filled up repeatedly with a tenacity to hope and love again… and more.  How our dreams were dimly and bitterly taken (what felt like taken, anyways) further and further from us; yet we never gave up on them.  We just kept going.  Chasing them, again and again. Where does that perseverance come from?  Who knew we had it?  How much would we- rather, couldwe, suffer through and still sustain our love?  Unfortunately, we would find out.  I’m going to completely pour myself out here; share our most intimate experiences, feelings, and emotions.  It’s going to be raw, but I can’t help it.  I don’t know any other way to tell our story without complete unadulterated honesty, and I don’ know how to keep it in anymore.  This is our Journey.

Let’s start our story off in a splendid, happy place, shall we?  Happy places are great places to be, so let’s go back to that.  It’s as good of a starting place as any, and should really get me off in the right direction.  We were jubilant as could be- like overwhelming happy to the point where our close friends and family nearly had enough of us.  Like fairytale, head-over-heels in love- The Notebook style. We had everything we had ever dreamed of, a partner like we had never experienced before.  A quote comes to mind from one of my favorite movies, What Dreams May Come:

“If I was going through fucking HELL, I’d only want one person in the whole goddamn world by my side!”

And that was us.  He was all I’d ever wanted or needed, and I for him.  “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.”

We immediately began speaking of our future children (well before any engagement or wedding plans), and quite frankly, started trying a few weeks before our wedding.  My birth control had worn off and although I didn’t want to be pregnant for our wedding, we also didn’t see the sense in starting another round of BC since we were both ready to start a family.

Fast-forward about six months, and nothing.  Hmmm… I thought.  I called both my sister and bestie, Bryn (both of whom are mothers) and just checked in to ask what we were possibly doing wrong.  I know, thinking back on that, I think it’s pretty funny myself, as we (Scott and I) both knew rather well how babies are made, but maybe there was something missing that I wasn’t remembering.  Bryn mentioned how it was possible I was ovulating at a different time than I thought, and to get an ovulation kit.  “Wonderful idea!”  I thought- that was probably it!  So off I went to get an ovulation kit, and sure enough I was ovulating, but a bit after I had thought.  (Perfect!!! THIS is just what we needed!)  So, we continue on our mission. Cycle after cycle, month after month of positive ovulations, and we’re still not pregnant. I had asked two doctors (my doctor and an OBGYN) during this time if we should be concerned and expressed I felt we should look into it, but both told me not to worry, and to just keep trying.

After nine months of positive ovulations and no pregnancy, I really started to feel like something else was going on, so I made an appointment to meet with the OBGYN again.  They entertained my request this time, and in early January of 2017, after an ultrasound and some blood work, I was diagnosed with polycystic ovaries, a hormone deficiency, and thin uterine lining.  It was that simple; pictures and some blood.  I remember I was working at my desk, editing away when I got the call. It was the middle of winter, early evening so it was already dark outside.  I hadn’t heard of polycystic ovaries, so naturally I begin with my research. Not long looking into things, I’m in tears and on the phone with my mom (why do I always seem to be home alone when tragedy strikes..?), and as she consoles me my husband walks through the door to a red, puffy-eyed wife beside herself.  He then also consoles me, says we’ll get through it, and it will be oaky.

Shaking with nerves and the unknowing, we move forward (with our hopes and dreams now in the hands and minds of science and dedicated doctors) and began working with a clinic in Appleton; quickly progressing to more and more invasive treatments and procedures before transferring to one of the best fertility treatment clinics a couple of hours from us.  Unfortunately, we live in a smaller community and don’t have any fertility treatment clinics nearby.  It’s a very specialized science, so that meant we would be doing a lot of traveling.

About five hours of driving was invested for every trip.  Every.  Single. Appointment.  Through every imaginable weather scenario we have gone, and about 90% of the time leaving the house between 4:45 a.m. – 6:00 a.m.  When undergoing fertility treatments with the drugs I need to take, extra precautions are needed to keep me safe and monitor me, along with what is going on inside my body.  This means about 10 – 14 days out of every injectable cycle (as well as IVF) driving every other dayto be monitored.

It is unreal how quickly things progressed, and how soon we learned we needed the assistance of injectable medications.  It’s crazy to think after about a year of IUI’s with injectables, we moved into IVF territory.  We never imagined we would have a problem getting pregnant.  We never imagined I would be taking strong hormones that need to be administered by a needle.  And we certainly never imagined we would take the science as far as we could with IVF. It’s important to note how much you are forced to learn how badly you want a family, how strong your desire is to be a mother, to see your spouse as a parent, and how far you’re willing to go to get it.  Going through this process, you constantly change your thoughts, entertain ideas you never thought you would, and have the most difficult and defeating conversations.  We had no idea.  We had no idea we couldn’t get pregnant.

To be completely honest, I didn’t really feel the need for IVF in the beginning of our journey, nor did I want to really entertain much of a conversation around it.  First of all, I reeeeeally didn’t think we would need it.  And, I thought to myself, if we had to take it that far then I just wanted to adopt.  It’s not until you are faced with the reality that IVF may be your only chance to feel a life grow inside you, to bond through nursing, to see if a baby’s smile resembles yours, or has his eyes, or your giggle and freckles, or his curly hair, and to give your husband the opportunity to father his child.

Here’s where I’ll try to make it short; I’ll just write down what we have endured (believe it or not) after our diagnosis (in about 2.5-ish years):

  • Multiple, uncomfortable and painful procedures such as ultrasounds and an HSG (checking my tubes)
  • 3 rounds (cycles) of oral medications w/ estrogen and progesterone hormones
  • 7 rounds of injectable medications for IUI w/ estrogen and progesterone hormones
  • 5 IUI’s, 2 of which were aborted due to over stimulation
  • 1 abnormal/unhealthy pregnancy which couldn’t be located and needed to be terminated very early in fear of an ectopic pregnancy and my health at risk
  • Uterine mapping – just about as fun as an HSG! (EXTREMELY painful for me)
  • 2 rounds of IVF
  • 2 surgeries for egg retrieval
  • 2 failed frozen transfers
  • One Fresh Transfer = One Baby (First positive pregnancy test the day after my birthday, December 2nd, 2018) YAY!!!!
  • Another crushing loss, suspected the day after Christmas at our first ultrasound, and then confirmed the day after New Years
  • Another surgery (after 9 weeks of pregnancy, a baby that stopped developing at 5w6d, and my body not recognizing the loss; sadly, we needed to have a surgery)
  • 1 confirmed (extremely rare) chromosomally abnormal fetus (tetraploidy)
  • Endless and countless time-consuming doctor appointments that require a five hour drive for a ten minute appointment

It has been an excruciating four years.  There have been the highest of highs, lowest of lows, and everything in-between.  My incredibly amazing husband has had to wipe more salty tears than needed to fill a swimming pool, and we have definitely kept Clear Blue and First Response in business, because I have peed on more sticks than I ever imagined I would.  The hormones are crazy (like lunatic level shit), and my loving, dear, courageous husband is still here; more affectionate and loving every day.  We have been through what feels like an endless brigade of assaults that have challenged our love and foundation, on top of us each struggling with constant inner battles; but have come out stronger, closer, and this journey has provided more opportunities for us to fall in love with one another over and over again.  We found courage where we didn’t know we had it, and strength through one another. When I’m hormonal, crying and erratic, Scott has been there to calm me; when he’s worried and unsure of our future, I’ve tried my best to be optimistic and brave.

And then there’s Casanova. How do I not mention him?  Not everyone knows this, but he’s actually my therapy dog (no, not a service dog; he’s a jerk and overly excited when he meets other dogs so he can’t be, but we still love him to pieces).  He is such a lover and he is my constant, (other than Scott of course).  He is home with me so I’m not alone (it’s reeeeeeally hard to be home alone when the doctor calls). He has made the clinic trips with me so I have a riding buddy.  At 5:00 a.m. In a snowstorm.  And more than once.  He has caught countless tears in the scruff of his neck as I snuggled, and squeezed, and cried so hard.  He get’s me out of the house nearly everyday for his walk, and loves me so unconditionally. The love and help he has so freely given, I will never be able to repay.  I truly don’t have the words for his unwavering love.

And lastly, my Tribe. Oh, my unbelievable, astonishing Tribe.  My people. To only name a few: my sweet, loving, supportive Mother, who somehow always knows exactly what to say and has been very invested in our journey since the beginning, supporting both Scott and I along the way; my best friend that has been by my side, listening for years as I have poured myself out in tears, or overjoyed with excitement and good news.  My sisters and local besties that have always been there and come by in a moments notice because I’m loosing my shit and just need a hug and an occasional glass of wine. To everyone and anyone that has been an ear or a shoulder to cry on- thank you.  Your unshakable allegiance and constant devotion, love, and support leave me in wonderment.

I’m sure you’re thinking by now if you haven’t already- “why don’t you just adopt?”  Let me tell you.  Nobody ‘just adopts.’  That was a noble idea I had happily considered (loooooong before I was ever with Scott or had any knowledge of anything going on) as well as he, but we were truly scared and overwhelmed with the costs, as well as the unknown and additional leaps and bounds couples have to go through associated with adoption.  I will honestly say; going through this journey- it changes you in more ways than you could ever imagine, as well as your perspective.  You and your partner are continuously evolving; collectively and as individuals.

We decided together, if we were going to try IVF, we felt we most definitely also needed to adopt.  It truly wasn’t a want anymore, but had become a need.  We both feel strongly, that through adoption is how we are supposed to grow our family; how we want to build our family.  We had heard, adoption is a long and difficult, but rewarding road; so we slowly began to look into it, but were actively starting our first round of IVF. Honestly, it felt easier (believe that or not!) to continue medical treatments before pursuing adoption.  The medical treatments started off simple, and quickly evolved.  We had high hopes we would have a baby through IVF, and we strongly desired a sibling through adoption.

So, if we’re busy, tired, not around, seem to be preoccupied with something, or just want to be home alone together- that’s the big reason why.  The appointments are killer time suckers; we both have given up several work days, time with family, friends, get-togethers and holidays.  IVF drugs are just horrible and I really struggle with them.  Honestly, I have an exceptionally difficult time with what they do to me physically, emotionally (I’m a freakin’ train wreak sometimes), and mentally (hormones are no joke).  All the while, we try our hardest to keep it cool, smile as much as we can, and try to stay brave.  We still try to venture out when we can to be social and looooooove having company over, so this isn’t a back-off notice, (trust me, you would know if it was).  We love you all and welcome you over at (almost) any time, and we still love your thoughtful invitations to get together!

Our story doesn’t end here. It’s not a sad or empty ending. Although there is an abundance of defeating and deeply somber moments filled with heartbreak behind us, there is an unknown, but bright future we still seek.  We haven’t given up yet; although we’ve been knocked down more times than we can count.  As of the writing of this open letter, Scott and I are still working diligently to build our family, and every day hasto be one day closer.  We appreciate all of the love, support, and kind words we have been showered with over the years.  We have an amazing support system that has been there for us since the beginning, and without it, I’m not sure where we would be.  Again, I didn’t write this for any kind of special attention, pity, opinions or comments, but simply to put it out there so I didn’t feel I’m living two separate lives.  As you can probably imagine, this Journey has weighed heavy on both of our hearts, as well as those of our nearest and dearest; I just needed to get it out there and this was the best way I knew how (and I’m totally an over-sharer, but also brutally honest- so you got it all).  We love you all and I just needed to get this out officially.  So, there it is.

*I never disposed of my first batch of needles because honestly, I didn’t know where to take the damn container.  Over time, I never disposed of any of them.  I hung onto every container, really for no reason.  Then I realized why, this is part of my story- of Our Journey.  I wanted to document it.  I one day (I believe shortly before our first round of IVF) imagined I would photograph my overwhelming pile of needles.  I would photograph them once we had a healthy, full term pregnancy; I would document the little physical evidence I have of our battles.  Proof I am a warrior.  Proof we have fought.  We continue to fight for what we so deeply need and desire- our family.  Well, I never imagined we would be fighting still, and I have no idea where we are in Our Journey, other than it is not the beginning, and it certainly is not the end.