I’ve really looked forward to sharing this story for quite a while. Even when we were still in the depths of this journey, unsure of what the outcome would be, I knew I wanted to tell the world about our experience with infertility. We have been very open about it, so if you’ve been close to us in the last few years you probably already know some of this. Infertility is incredibly common, even in “young & healthy” couples. However, like many uncomfortable and/or controversial things, it’s a topic that often goes untouched in even our deepest conversations with our closest friends. I understand that for many, it’s just a very personal part of a relationship that they don’t want to share… but I think so many feel shame because they feel like something is wrong with them. Why can’t my body do what it’s literally made to do? It’s a hard matter to accept- that maybe we won’t be able to have our own child, or that we’ll need medical assistance in order to do so. Beyond that, when we make the decision to start a family, it’s just not something most of us would think about. I know that when we started trying to get pregnant in the summer of 2013, I did not think we would struggle, and I certainly didn’t expect it to take 22 cycles. I honestly didn’t know much about my body or pregnancy at all, but I figured I would just stop taking my birth control and I’d be pregnant within a few months at the most. So, let’s go back to July of 2013.
We’d had a pregnancy “scare”. I had some weird pains in my ovary, so I went to the doctor and found out that I’d ovulated, despite being on birth control, and that I was at risk of becoming pregnant. My doctor told me to take a pregnancy test in 2 weeks if I hadn’t gotten my period. I was slightly worried since we weren’t trying to start a family yet, but some little part of me was excited about the possibility of being pregnant. I knew Aaron probably wouldn’t be too concerned since he had been joking about getting me pregnant basically since we started dating. After the 2 weeks passed and I got my period, we both realized we were disappointed that I wasn’t pregnant and decided to start trying. I remember we were painting this hideous blue bathroom in the house we were renting at the time when we had the conversation. So that was the last day I took birth control. I googled about how to get pregnant quickly & Dr. Google advised me to use ovulation tests, so off I went to buy some at Target.
The first few months of trying were fun & easy. My body seemed to get on track very quickly, despite having been on birth control for several years. They say it can take a healthy couple up to a year to conceive, so I kept that in mind. Over the next months, I spent some time reading up on how our bodies work and what more I could do to optimize our chances of getting pregnant. I started charting my fertility signs on an app and using the Fertility Awareness Method. At this point, it had been about 6 months of trying but we were still feeling pretty hopeful and not worried.
After several more months of trying, even though we hadn’t reached the ambiguous *one year* mark yet, we decided to see my doctor. Actually, she was a midwife at the big women’s healthcare practice here. She was happy to help us and did some labs to look at my hormone levels. Almost everything looked great… but then there was my AMH level. AMH is Anti-Mullerian Hormone. It’s something relatively new that practitioners are using to test ovarian reserve, or basically- how many good eggs you have left. My number was very low- a number that would be expected of someone in their early 40’s. My midwife and I were both so surprised, as everything else looked so good. She figured it must have been an error, so we drew more blood and sent it off for testing. A few days later, the midwife called while I was at the gym. She told me that my number had come back even lower and that she no longer felt she was qualified to help us & wanted to refer us to a reproductive endocrinologist (RE). I felt like I had seriously been punched in the stomach and had to walk outside to get some air.
After going home and doing some research, we decided for several reasons (mainly insurance) that we were not ready to move on to an RE quite yet. I called my midwife back and she said she was willing to do a cycle with us using fertility meds and IUI (intrauterine insemination), so we agreed and started on the next cycle. Fast forward 2 weeks… I took a pregnancy test, which was negative, and got my period. After more research later on down the line, I realized that the meds had not worked on my body like they were supposed to. I wish my midwife had known this and cancelled our IUI, but she did warn us that she was not equipped to handle our situation, so I suppose that we should have expected that. Around this time we were about to start a cross country move to California, so we decided to put “trying” on hold until we got settled. We were nearing the 1-year mark and I was getting a little antsy, but still not feeling hopeless. Once we got settled in California, it was August 2014. We decided to continue trying the natural way for a while longer before seeking out a specialist.
Fast forward to December 2014- we still weren’t pregnant. I had gotten a new job and had additional insurance that would cover us seeing a reproductive endocrinologist, so we made an appointment. We immediately LOVED this doctor (we’ll call her Dr. W). She was so personable and talked to us like equals. I think I had expected a condescending, business-only type of doctor, but she was nothing like that. We felt so comfortable with her and she seemed incredibly knowledgeable. Dr. W said she did not feel like we would need to do IVF, but also said she was very glad we were seeking help now because she wasn’t certain she’d be able to get me pregnant if we had waited another few years.
We discussed several options and at her recommendation decided we’d do genetic screening on both Aaron and I and then go ahead and get started with a round of fertility meds & IUI. She felt that my follicles were not maturing properly and this combo of meds may help them go in the right direction. Our genetic screening came back clear but unfortunately, this cycle did not work. The following cycle, we tried the same meds again, but didn’t get pregnant… again.
Around this same time, we also decided to do the Whole 30 diet. This didn’t really have anything to do with trying to get pregnant, we just wanted to start eating clean and thought this would be a good starting point. I had figured I may lose a few pounds, but never guessed I would lose as much as I did! Maybe we’ll do another post down the road covering our experience with the Whole30.
I had also started seeing a chiropractor in December 2014 for some hip and lower back pain I’d been having for a few years. The chiro knew that we were trying to get pregnant and told me that there was some research that supported chiropractic care as a tool to help with fertility, so that was included in my regimen. I continued to see the chiropractor through March 2015.
In February 2015, we decided to go in for another consult with Dr. W to reevaluate. At this point, I clearly remember feeling like we probably were going to end up needing to do IVF at some point down the road & thought we should probably start saving. I was sad but also strangely at peace with it. After trying for so long, it kind of just became a normal part of everyday life.
It’s funny, in writing this story, I completely forgot until just now that Aaron was also taking fertility meds. I guess from my perspective it just wasn’t a big deal and I never felt like his side of all of this really affected our ability to conceive. I think he disagrees. So I’ll add that he had been taking clomid for low sperm count and low testosterone since fall 2013 and both had greatly improved by his follow up in the spring of 2014. When we started seeing Dr. W, she advised that he continue taking the clomid, & so he did.
Anyway- back to our second consult with the doc. We discussed a few different options and decided to move on to a little bit more aggressive treatment. I was excited and nervous about all of this. Excited to be doing something to increase our chances of finally getting pregnant after 21 cycles of trying, and nervous to have to inject meds into my belly every night. Good thing I have a medic for a hubby. Everything seemed to go well this cycle and I had 4 possible eggs that could fertilize. We decided we would go ahead and risk the chance of getting pregnant with multiples since it was unlikely that all (if any) of them would fertilize.
The following two weeks of waiting went by pretty quickly. I honestly don’t think either of us thought it actually would work and we stayed busy. I took a pregnancy test around 10 days after the IUI, even though I hadn’t missed my period yet, and I to my HUGE surprise… a really light line showed up. I really didn’t believe I could be pregnant. Then, the next day, the line was still there. Was it darker? It seemed a little darker. But I still wasn’t even remotely convinced I was pregnant. I kept taking tests (they were really cheap tests I got off Amazon, so I could afford to take a bunch) and that second line kept showing up. I still hadn’t told Aaron at this point because it had only been 2 days of maybe positive tests and I just couldn’t wrap my mind around it. I decided that the next morning, I would go get a digital test on my way to work & if that said “pregnant” and my cheap-o tests looked positive still, I would tell him. Sure enough, these tests all confirmed that I was, indeed, pregnant.
I still hadn’t told anyone (other than my anonymous online group of ladies with infertility) but decided I had to find a cute way to tell Aaron so of course, I turned to Pinterest. I found an idea I loved and made a little card that said “I can’t wait to meet you, Dad!” with the due date on it. I wrapped the digital test up in a little onesie and tied the card to it. I was SO excited and anxious to get home from work and give it to him. I told him I’d found something that day at a store near work that I thought he’d like, so he wasn’t suspicious at all when I gave him a gift bag. I will truly never forget this next moment. He opens the bag and sees the little tag I made and says, “dad?”… like for a split second he didn’t get it. Then, I can see as it registers in his face, he drops everything he’s holding and with indescribable shock and excitement yells “Oh my god, are you pregnant?!”. I couldn’t even say anything, I just smiled and nodded my head “yes”. He ran over and hugged me and we both laughed & cried. It was so surreal. After that, we didn’t even know how to go on with the rest of our night. We decided we needed to celebrate, so we went out to eat. Suddenly, it felt so real. We were finally, actually pregnant & going to have our own little person.
With this amazing reality came overwhelming fear and worry. Now that I was pregnant, I was beyond terrified of loss. We had so much trouble getting here, what if our bodies weren’t capable of creating a healthy baby? What if we miscarried? What if, what if, what if?
Over the next week, I had labs done twice that confirmed that I was pregnant and all was going swimmingly. Around my sixth week of pregnancy, I got horribly sick. I had the worst stomach ache I could imagine ALL THE TIME. I was so, so scared that that was what morning sickness was going to be like for me. I didn’t want to eat and I could barely sleep. Aaron brought me home plain baked potatoes from Wendy’s every day because that was all that sounded good to me. Thankfully, this ended after about a week.
Thursday, April 9th, we had our first ultrasound at 6 weeks and 6 days pregnant. To say I was terrified wouldn’t even begin to cover it. I think I was really expecting her to do the ultrasound and find nothing in there and confirm that I wasn’t actually pregnant after all. But low and behold- there was a little bean in there. I remember seeing it on the screen and being like “oh my goodness, there it is… is there a heartbeat? please, please have a heartbeat.” I think I must have said the last part out loud because Dr. W said, “Oh yeah, that’s the heartbeat! Hold on, let me turn it up” and the most magical thing happened- we heard our baby’s heartbeat for the first time. Loud and strong. I burst into tears… I honestly could not believe the sound I was hearing and my heart filled with so much love already for my little tiny nugget. I really hadn’t thought I was going to cry, but it was just too amazing. Aaron has my ugly cry face on video for us to remember forever. Then Dr. W measured everything and said it all looked perfect. I remember her words, “It’s measuring exactly 6 weeks and 6 days. I wouldn’t expect any less from you!” So with that, we graduated from the reproductive endocrinologist and moved on to an OBGYN, just like a “normal” pregnant couple.
I will be forever grateful to our wonderful doctor for making our experience so pleasant. She took a really personal, difficult situation and made it so easy. I never once felt hopeless or defeated. I know that is not the case for so many men and women who deal with infertility and I really credit her with a lot of my sanity and positive perspective throughout the ordeal. & I know Aaron loved her, too. Mostly because she was really attractive and he gets to tell people that he and a hot doctor got me pregnant, but that’s neither here nor there. My point being, if you ever find yourself in this situation, or any tough medical situation for that matter, find a doctor you trust & connect with. It can make all the difference in the world.
The other huge factor that kept me positive & sane throughout this process was an online forum I joined with other women trying to get pregnant, many of who were also struggling with infertility. Having this “support group” that understood what I was experiencing and that I could vent to, ask ridiculous questions, share my excitement & hope with, was everything.
Finally, having Aaron in this with me was probably the biggest reason I never lost hope. He was the perfect partner- holding me up when I couldn’t keep it together myself. Our little girl is so lucky to call him her daddy!
So, that’s the story of how we got our baby bird, Wren Marí, from my perspective. Stay tuned to read this story for John Aaron’s point of view!
*If anyone has questions or would like to know more about the specifics, please feel free to contact me! I’d be happy to share!