3.31.2015

Our IVF Experience and Lessons in Trust


Last year we did a cycle of IVF. It was something that we were somewhat private about, but now we feel ready to share our experience for anyone interested.

This is around the time we began feeling
prompted to look at IVF. Look how
tiny Bean and Lil'Man were! Do
you see why I was so hesitant?
Lil'Man was two months old when our dear friends (who have a son who was adopted, he's Bean's age) announced that they were pregnant with twins. Thrilled for them, we talked about what happened, since we knew they had fertility problems. They told us they'd received a grant that covered most of the cost of in-vitro fertilization. They told us a bit about the grant and, so happy for them but not interested in growing our family so soon after the birth of our newborn son, we moved on with life. We'd just barely adopted Lil'Man, for pete's sake, in a whirlwind, last-minute adoption no less.

We were certain we weren't going to look into the grant anytime soon.

For about 2 days.

Just reiterating how tiny
the kids were! (And cute :) )
Shaun and I went to the temple together and I couldn't stop thinking about the grant, our friends, us having twins... I knew my Heavenly Father was telling me I needed to think about this. But I didn't want to be thinking about any of it. I wanted to enjoy my baby's sweet-smelling head, snuggle him and my girl and take hundreds of pictures every month, and get through the sleepless newborn nights without added stress.

Shaun and I did fertility treatments before this. Before Bean was born, we did everything up to IVF or ICSI. I knew that I'd be injected with awful hormones that would make me extremely tired, extremely moody, and extremely emotional. I knew that I'd gain weight. I knew that I'd be an emotional wreck if we took this path.

But the more I pondered it, the more I also knew that God wanted us to take this path.

And so, after more prayer, more research, and more yes-es from the Lord, Shaun and I began applying for the grant. We had blood tests done, semen analyses, and all of the other usual things. We filled out paperwork (remarkably similar to our adoption paperwork) and submitted W-2s, pay stubs, etc. There were so many things that worked out SO well. Our adoption homestudy from Lil"Man's adoption was still usable, so we were able to submit that, which not only saved us money but sped up the process. We began our application in March. We were told it would take at least six months to get approved. It didn't. TWENTY DAYS later we were approved for the grant.

Needless to say, it was a whirlwind.

As I said, even though I didn't know for certain what was ahead, I knew that once I started IVF medications, things would be rough. I like to think I was pretty easy-going about things with the pending IVF craziness, except one: I refused to start any of the process until after we were sealed to Lil'Man. The temple sealing is really sacred to us, and I wanted to be myself for it. I'm so glad I was stubborn about that, because it was the most beautiful experience--such a happy day, being in the house of God with my husband and both of my kids.

After being sealed to Lil'Man. Pure bliss! Families are forever.
After that perfect milestone, I steeled myself. This was real. Generous donors literally gave us $14,000 to do a fertility treatment with mediocre odds. Without the grant we couldn't have afforded to try IVF anytime soon.

I say mediocre odds--that's not quite accurate. Going in, we were given roughly a 50% chance of becoming pregnant if we implanted one embryo, and a 70% chance with two. BUT, a few notes--our actual fertility issues aren't certain, even now. I was told that my AMH levels were low (basically this means the age of my eggs is older than my actual age, by quite a lot). Levels for Shaun's tests were inconsistent but still seemed good enough. There were variables that weren't great, but our doctor (sidenote, he's the most fabulous man, we can't begin to recommend him highly enough) was confident that we were good candidates.

Me on bedrest hanging out
with my Lil'Man, who was
enjoying my Dr. ordered
gatorade (well, he just got
the bottle, but he still
enjoyed it...)
There were a couple of months of crazy medications. A few weeks of injecting giant needles in my stomach three times a day. A ton of long drives to the fertility doctor an hour away. Lots of babysitters. Lots of hormones. But it wasn't so bad. I knew we were doing what God wanted us to be doing. And because I knew that, I felt confident that it would work. I was so confident that it would work, I was almost certain we'd actually have twins. I had names picked out and all sorts of plans.

You know how this story ends--at least the gist. We still have two kids, so I was wrong. It didn't work.

I remember really well the surgery to retrieve my eggs. I remember feeling so antsy, anxious to know how many would be usable. Would we have enough to freeze some after implantation? I wasn't stressed. I felt confident that everything would work out perfectly. Even though I was a hormonal wreck, and felt terribly sick, I was so confident. Then we got word that there were five. Fewer than expected, but that was okay. If we just had two fertilized, that was enough.

The next day I got a phone call. Shaun was at work and the kids were napping. It was our doctor. I knew something was wrong--why else would he be calling us, rather than a nurse? None of the eggs were fertilizing, and so they'd try using the backup semen sample, just in case. But things didn't look good.

I began to hope and pray for one--just one embryo. I felt so selfish for ever hoping for more. I prayed so hard.

When had I changed, and begun actually wanting this myself? I really wanted it to work. I had submitted my will to God's. I was all in. I called Shaun and told him it didn't look like it would work; that we weren't good candidates for IVF after all. I could hardly get the words out, I was crying so much. I felt my heart breaking all over again, and I was furious with myself, and with God. I hadn't wanted this in the first place, because I knew it would possibly hurt me. I'd been so happy with my two kids, I don't mind that I didn't bring them into the world, being their mom is such a gift, and I wouldn't change anything about them or how they came to us. This is all completely true.

Our 4th of July "fun"
included a trip to the
grocery store to buy
donuts and chips and
salsa. Nothing more
American (or at least
comforting) than
junk food, right? 
But I had let my heart open up to the idea of more kids, of new experiences, of Lil'Man having two little siblings just a grade younger than him at school, of growing some of my children in my own belly, and of family portraits with two distinct faces added, faces that I could picture perfectly. And now I was terrified as I saw all of these hopes and images and plans crashing and shattering.
I tried so hard to swallow my worry and fear. I prayed desperately. Shaun was just as stunned as me. We were caught completely off-guard. We'd been prepared for terrible scenarios--I had all sorts of awful dreams about losing these babies--but never had I imagined that they would never have a chance. We never made it to implantation. The next day we got the call that there were no embryos. It was the 4th of July. The news was difficult. I'd been braced for it for about 24 hours, but it was still hard. I wept uncontrollably for hours. We tried to make it a good holiday for the kids but it was really just a hard day. Actually it was a hard month plus some. Everything was raw, everything hurt. It was like all of the old infertility wounds that had healed over time and stopped bothering me suddenly were open, festering and bleeding.

A couple of days after "the news."
Still sad, but really savoring time
with my family, and feeling
beyond blessed to have them.
Some days I was jealous, angry and bitter, but most days I was just heartbroken. I've never felt so much sadness. I felt like my faith had been shattered. Every time I saw the bruises on my stomach and arm from injections and IVs, I felt a stab as I remembered that, had things worked out like I'd been sure they would, I would be 6 weeks pregnant that day. I'd see little boys who looked like Shaun or my Dad and I'd want to sob uncontrollably for the little boys I'd been imagining but would never know. It slowly subsisted into a dull ache.

Shaun and I on our first date
post-IVF. I called it our
"Renewal date." But really,
we'd just eaten a bunch
of donuts, so this hike was
definitely in order. So
grateful I have my best friend
to help me through the
good times and the hard times. 
Over time Lil'Man started learning naughty new tricks and Bean developed some attitude that resulted in Shaun and I assuring one another that we couldn't handle more kids anyway. I know we could handle more, but it's easier to pretend we couldn't--it makes the questions less hard. We agreed to be done trying, in any way. One of my biggest fears is that one day I'll wake up and know that we need to do something else to try to bring more kids into our family. I'm terrified of stepping out of my comfort zone again and getting hurt again. I don't feel like I can handle that kind of emotional turbulence anymore. We are beyond grateful for the kids we have and for the life we have together, but that doesn't change that things were really tough for a while.
I still knew God had wanted us to do IVF, but why?

Since then, the "why" has been on my mind a lot less. I wish I had a profound reason to share here, but to this day I don't know why we felt so strongly like God wanted us to do this. I have some theories, but nothing concrete. Sometimes God asks us to do hard things. Sometimes it really doesn't seem to make sense. But I know God loves me. I know he didn't ask me to submit my will to his, and go through something that, for me, was torture, for no reason. Looking back at other hard times in my life, I can see growth, and I can see blessings. Someday I know I'll be able to see more good from these experiences as well. And, even though it doesn't take away the hurt or make the hurt less valid, looking at what I already have is enough for me.

I know God loves me, and I know he has a plan for me. Trusting God is sometimes hard, but I do trust him. He knows what he's doing; of that I'm certain.

3 comments:

  1. So hard! I am so sorry. We had a similar experience this last fall. We got a very strong YES to doing IVF. We went through all the preliminary testing (drove six hours to PDX each way for all of this and paid a lot of money) and got right up to the point of being ready to start a cycle and we then got a very strong NO. It was heartbreaking. I had all the same feelings as you in not wanting to start the whole IVF experience because I was afraid of the wounds it would open. I do not know that answers to why we were told yes then no, but like you have some ideas. I have been struggling with the back and forth of feeling like our family is not complete and to just enjoy these two beautiful kid I have and not worry about it. Love you and praying for your heart to continue to heal through this.

    Brenley

    ReplyDelete
  2. Your background image is pretty but it makes it super hard to read your post. :(

    ReplyDelete
  3. I really feel like I should comment, but I am not sure what to say except for I am sorry. I am sorry for the pain you had to go through (physically and emotionally).

    ReplyDelete

thanks for commenting!

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