Our journey to parenthood began unexpectedly, in the middle of a pandemic, on a sunny Friday. We weren’t trying, and we weren’t not trying. We were just happy 26-year-old high school sweethearts; we had our dogs, we had a future, and nothing needed to be planned out. For a few weeks, I had been feeling off, so I decided to take a test. I paced around my house, shaking as I held that test, which had turned positive almost instantly. I was pregnant. Although our pregnancy wasn’t exactly planned, it was so very wanted. We told our family and close friends. We discussed names. We had an ultrasound that showed only a gestational sac. But we had no fear! It was just too early to see the baby, right? If only we’d know what was ahead.
Our world came crashing down on the Friday of Father’s Day weekend, 2020. Emergency room.
Needles. Ultrasound. Hours and hours in a mask in a hospital in a terrifying time. Spontaneous abortion.
And so began our journey through infertility. The fear of using the bathroom. The constant worry. The anguish at seeing another pregnancy announcement on Facebook. Going to Target became unbearable. Everything was a reminder of what we didn’t have anymore. We would eventually become experts in grief and disappointment.
After that initial loss, we were told “everything happens for a reason” about a thousand times, and somehow that hurt even more. My best friend, who happens to be a grief counselor, helped me change my mindset about that phrase. She said: “it didn’t happen for a reason, but you can find meaning in what happened. You learned that you are ready to start a family.”
I always knew I had PCOS, but it was never officially diagnosed. After nine more months of trying on our own, an official PCOS diagnosis, and a clean HSG through my OBGYN, we were referred to Dr. Brian Berger in March of 2021.
Infertility is a test of patience, and it truly forces you to develop coping mechanisms. It was yoga, family time, and Friday night pizza for me. From March through July, we had tests, and I took medicine to help bring down my testosterone levels (thanks to PCOS). We kept busy and stayed hopeful. Beach days, boat days, we even got engaged! And then, finally, it was time.
My insurance required 3 IUIs before we could move on. The day of our first one came, and I’d never been so excited to see a speculum. We had a chance! I spent the two week wait, enjoying the last weeks of summer. But beta day came, and it was negative. We were sad but still had so much hope, so we hopped into the next cycle. I got the call at an antique car show; I cried in front of the 1960s-era cars. My HCG was a 3. An embryo had been implanted, but it was most likely not viable. It hurt more than a negative. Why couldn’t my body do what it was designed to do?
Somehow we still had hope, and we hopped into our third and final IUI. Again not the call we wanted. This was the most devastating and traumatic cycle. My initial beta was 31, which fluctuated for more than ten days, leaving me exhausted by the tri-weekly 4 am trips to Quincy for blood draws. I felt so stuck during those two weeks, knowing I was pregnant, but not really. My body couldn’t sustain a pregnancy. Everything was dark and heavy. I felt so guilty for wanting to miscarry that pregnancy. I felt guilty that my body failed yet again.
Eventually, I did miscarry, and it was time for our first round of IVF. On the first night of injections, Dan accidentally poked himself with a needle and dropped another on the floor. I somehow scratched a needle down my stomach and had a beautiful scratch to go with my bruises and needle marks. It was a mess; we laughed so hard that tears were streaming down our faces. Infertility brought us closer in a humbling and vulnerable way.
On our tenth anniversary, I went in for an egg retrieval. I love that all our children were conceived on our tenth anniversary. On December 22, I was able to transfer one fresh 5AA embryo. Watching the little air bubble plop down into my uterus on the ultrasound screen was beautiful and magical. We smiled on the rainy drive home.
But the thing is, infertility trauma doesn’t leave you, even when good things happen. Even after a voicemail saying, “congratulations, you’re pregnant,” and dancing around the living room with happy tears, the anxiety lingers. What could go wrong? From experience, I can say this: sometimes nothing goes wrong. Sometimes it just works out exactly how you want.
On January 24th, I was an anxious mess. We walked into the Quincy office for our ultrasound, and I just about squeezed Dan’s hand off. Once in the room, I stared at the ultrasound tech, trying to read her face. Did she see more than a gestational sac? Was there a heartbeat? Did she blink weirdly? Is that a frown under her mask?
Dan is my rock, and he kept my hope and happiness in all our months of infertility. He kept me sane. But on the day of our ultrasound, he sobbed as he saw the perfect 140-beat heartbeat flashing on the screen. The same heartbeat I’d hear at the OB’s office for the next 40 weeks. The same heartbeat is snuggling next to me as I type.
Della Meredith joined the world on September 21, 2022, after 42 weeks and two days of growing. She’s the love of our life, and we genuinely have Boston IVF to thank. Dr. Berger, Donna, and Angel guided us through treatment. Dr. Seidler performed our retrieval. And Dr. Ryley did our embryo transfer. Without these professionals' care and compassion, we wouldn’t have had hope, and we wouldn’t have our sweet Della girl.
The trauma of infertility doesn’t leave you, ever. I still feel the sting of pregnancy announcements. I enjoyed every bit of my pregnancy but needed so much reassurance. Going through IVF and having success has taught me much and changed my life. Today I try my best not to live in the what ifs and would be, and I find peace knowing that sometimes things work out with a bit of hope, perseverance, and science.
How did your boston ivf physician and nursing team help to make your journey a success?
I did shout out my doctors and nurses in our story but I have a few more people to thank. To the lab techs at the Quincy, office thank you for being so pleasant and kind for those 6 am blood draws! And to the post-op nurses in Waltham, thank you for your kindness and compassion. And finally, the embryologist who cared for Della before she was Della, thank you! I wish I knew all your names!
What were some highs or lows of your treatment(s)? What is unique/different about your story?
Having our first embryo transfer be successful was a major high, but we went through a lot prior to that. This all started when we were 26, and it felt so unfair that we’d spent so much time trying to prevent pregnancy only to find out I was infertile. I felt cheated by prior doctors because I’d always brought up concerns about my cycle and was brushed off. I feel like we would have been more prepared if my concerns were taken seriously as a teenager and young adult.
What advice do you have for other struggling with infertility?
Share your journey with whoever you feel comfortable with; talking about it helps.