This story is personal. One that has taken me a great deal of time to build up the courage to share publicly. It’s a true story. A journey filled with struggle, pain and ultimately triumph. It’s the story of my son’s conception and birth. After almost 2 years I am putting pen to paper to document his amazing journey into this world. I’m so glad he will be able to read it someday. And I pray that it might encourage other families struggling with infertility. I remember scouring the internet in some of my darkest hours, desperate for a story I might relate to.
There was a time when I thought I would never become a Mother. At 26 years old, after years of suffering from depression, anxiety, chronic fatigue, acne, and irregular menstruation (to name a few), I was diagnosed with Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). A condition caused by hormonal imbalances, PCOS leads to ovarian cysts and in some cases infertility. In a way I was relieved. Being undiagnosed for decades, I blamed myself for my suffering. In another way I was devastated. At that time, my husband (Wes) and I were trying to get pregnant. My doctor assured me that many women with PCOS go on to become pregnant. He suggested basic fertility treatments to speed up the process. At first, it sounded so unnatural. It certainly wasn’t the way I had dreamed of conceiving a child. And the treatments weren’t covered by insurance, which meant significant cost. Wes and I struggled with the decision. We considered adoption, we even considered not having children at all. But after some time and soul searching, my inner voice told me to move forward. We began treatment.
After 10 months of failed cycles, I received yet another diagnosis, Endometriosis, a hormonal condition where cells that normally grow inside the uterus begin growing on the outside of the uterus, ovaries, bowels and bladder. These tissues swell and bleed during menstruation, causing very painful periods, digestive issues and infertility. Again, I was relieved. At least there was a reason for my suffering. At least I had answers. My doctor recommended In Vitro Fertilization as our next step. It was around this time that I began seeking natural therapies like acupuncture, supplementation and dietary changes.
After a few months, in conjunction with natural therapies, we began IVF treatment. To be honest, the process from here forward become sort of a blur. In addition to receiving ultrasounds just about every other day, I was prescribed a schedule of hormones including Birth Control, Estrogen, Progesterone, Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) and Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (HCG). The combination took a significant toll on me both physically and emotionally. I remember the physical pain well. Wes administered shots to my belly every night that sometimes resulted in Vaso Vega reactions (fainting episodes). One night I fainted, hit my head during the fall and woke up to him giving me CPR and dialing 911. I also remember the emotional pain. At times, all I could do was sit, cry and pray for it to be over. I remember doubting myself, constantly question if I was doing the right thing. When it finally came time for my egg retrieval I was a bloated, hot mess!
The egg retrieval produced encouraging results. My doctor was able to extract 27 eggs from my ovaries! 😱 Half a dozen would have been plenty. Again, I was relieved. No wonder I had been in so much pain, my body had been working on overdrive. The first thing my doctor said when I awoke from surgery was,
Congratulations, you beat the record! You produced more eggs than most of my donors do!
Only I would be proud of that, being the over achiever that I am. Or as Wes likes to call it, an “Ovary” achiever. 😂 I’m so thankful for his humor throughout this process. From those 27 eggs, 25 fertilized, 22 made it to day 3 and 18 made it to day 5. On day 5 we had 8 embryos tested for genetic abnormalities and as a bonus we learned the sex of each. Of the 8 embryos tested we had 7 perfectly healthy babies, 5 boys and 2 girls.
On November 8, 2013, we transferred one male embryo, the strongest in appearance and structure. After an agonizing 14 day wait, I took a pregnancy test. POSITIVE! Due July 26, 2014. I literally could not wipe the smile from my face for days. It was a dream come true, a miracle! I enjoyed every second of my pregnancy. I remember feeling his first flutter kicks in the car, that’s when I knew I would have a very active baby. I remember seeing his gorgeous lips on the ultrasounds and wondering what he would look like. I remember celebrating at our baby shower, feeling grateful for the many people who already loved him. We took birthing classes and parenting classes. I prayed everyday that God would keep him safe, happy and healthy. For the most part it was a picture perfect pregnancy. Of course, I grew increasingly uncomfortable as my due date approached. By mid July, I was ready!
On July 21, 2014, around 10pm, my water broke. We immediately admitted into the hospital, upon doctors orders. The flooding of hormones that occurred when my water broke caused me persistent, uncontrollable body shakes. I required assistance for everything. I suffered front and back labor, a pain so intense it drove me to vomit with every contraction. After 8 hours of this kind of intense labor, the nurse checked me for dilation. 2cm. I had only dilated 2cm in 8 hours. I was so discouraged by my progress that I begged for an epidural. Once administered, I had recurring breakthrough pain that required my doctors to re administer medication about every 3 hours. I was bedridden and could not move my legs, which resulted in my feet falling asleep. My awesome labor companions, Wes and my Mom, switched off massaging my feet, hoping to provide relief. We waited patiently for my labor to progress, but it continued to move slowly, dilating at a rate of about 1 cm every 2.5 hours.
After 25 hours, the doctor ordered a dose of Pitocin and IV antibiotics. We were finally ready to push. I had been awake for over 30 hours at this point, I remember being so exhausted that I actually slept between contractions. I spent the next 4 hours pushing, the doctor administering an Episiotomy somewhere in between. I grew more and more discouraged as each hour passed. Why couldn’t I push this baby out!? The nurse could see I was exhausted and allowed me a short break. It was about then that I lost it. I broke down, sobbing uncontrollably for 5 minutes. Wes held me as I had my moment.
Back at it again, I was determined more than ever. I remember being so thirsty. They hadn’t allowed me any fluids since I had been admitted (over a day earlier). I was parched to say the least. My only comfort during that time was ice chips. I continued to push with every contraction. Suddenly, Dutch’s oxygen levels dropped. I remember hearing the urgency in my doctor’s voice,
We aren’t waiting for the next contraction, I want you to push now with everything you’ve got!
The nurse placed an oxygen mask over my face and turned the heart monitor away, so I could not see. I knew something was wrong because my Mom kicked into overdrive. She had a new level of intensity in her voice. In that moment I prayed for strength and visualized a healthy baby. I thought back to just a few hours earlier, when Dutch began to crown and the nurse took my hand and placed it on Dutch’s head. I felt his hair. He had a lot of hair! I held on to that image in my mind as I tried to breathe. My head was spinning, I could barely think. I pushed again, this time with everything I had left. On July 23, 2014, at 2:51am, Dutch was born. I heard no cries at first. That’s when the doctor announced that the chord was wrapped around his neck… twice! My Mom would later describe to me his purple coloring. After the longest 15ish seconds of my life, I heard my little baby cry for the first time and they placed him in my arms. It was the proudest moment of my life. I couldn’t believe that this little, tiny baby was mine. We first dreamed of him, then through great effort conceived him. We carried him for 9 months and then delivered him into this world!
Just hours later, my husband and I lay in the hospital bed, weeping into each other’s arms. No words can describe the joy and relief we felt in that moment. In an instant, our fertility journey had ended and our parenting journey began. I may have told this story through my set of eyes, but let me be clear, Wes struggled too. He suffered a range of emotions throughout this process as he helplessly watched me struggle. He was patient through and through, and without his support I would have never gotten through. I am forever thankful to him and our family for their support.
Thankful is a good word to describe how I feel now, almost 2 years later. I’m thankful for the increased technology that made our dream possible and to our fertility specialist (pictured below) for his constant reassurance. I’m thankful for our Birthing Instructor Robin Gruver who was with me every step of the way. (www.birthingwithwisdom.com) I’m thankful for my friends and for my own Mother, who I’ve grown to appreciate a whole lot more after all this. I’m thankful for the growth that this process demanded of me and of our marriage. I’m thankful that our story has a happy ending. But more than anything, I’m thankful to be Dutch’s Mom.
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