The Journey To Pregnancy Is Not Always Easy

I’m now almost 30 weeks pregnant, but the road to pregnancy isn’t always easy. Our journey below consists of naturally trying for a year followed by 4 IUIs and 2 IVF transfers. Bear with me, this is a long post that covers 27 months!

But first, I always thought I would be married around age 25 and have at least 1 if not 2 kids by age 30. I’d be a fun, young mommy and be done with the baby making. They say if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans. Well I must make him laugh a lot! I was 27 when we got married and will be just shy of 32 when our little boy makes his appearance.

I always assumed it would be easy to get pregnant and wow, how naive was I! I didn’t realize until we started “trying” how many people battle with infertility and struggle to get pregnant, stay pregnant, etc. You will hear me say it many times; I believe God has a plan for everyone and there is a reason he puts you through certain trials and tribulations. Our journey to pregnancy was not how we envisioned it, but I’m proud of what we’ve been through and what’s in store for us. Here is our story…

March 2014: Month 1

It all started around my 29th birthday and a few months shy of being married for 2 years. We decided it was time for me to stop taking birth control and try to have a baby! I have had a few friends that took 6 months to a year (or longer) to get pregnant so we already had it in our minds it might not happen right away.

We met with my OBGYN and his only suggestion was to drink some wine and have fun! Umm…ok, I can do that! 🙂 So we just decided to roll with it. If it was meant to happen quickly, it would. I wasn’t quite ready to be one who watched the calendar, tracked cycles, took ovulation tests, etc. quite yet so we just kept trying through the summer.

In the fall, after 6+ months of trying, I started tracking my cycle and using ovulation tests. I never got a positive ovulation, not once over the course of a few months. So we scheduled an appointment with my OBGYN and he suggested I try a different brand test (I was using a generic CVS brand). He also suggested Adam have a semen analysis and I have an HSG test done—both precautionary measures to ensure that there are no glaring issues.

January – March 2015: Testing & Trying

After almost a year of trying naturally, it was time to get serious about baby making.

  • I switched to Clearblue ovulation test and lo and behold, I got a smiley face!
  • I had the HSG test done where a radiologist filled my uterus and fallopian tubes with a dye to make sure there are no abnormalities and also to make sure the tubes are clear and there is nothing blocking the eggs from dropping. Everything checkout out fine.
  • Adam’s semen analysis came back slightly abnormal. Volume and mobility were fine but there were just enough “abnormally shaped” sperm to raise a flag. This was more of a speed bump than a roadblock but nothing the doc was too concerned about.

After all the testing, the doctor told us to continue trying naturally for a few more months.

In March of 2015, Adam planned a surprise trip to Napa for my 30th birthday (he was smart and told me a few weeks in advance where we were going so I could pack accordingly). My ovulation calendar said I would be ovulating during the trip so I for sure thought a relaxing, fun trip would be our lucky moment.

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While we had an amazing trip, we we’re not as lucky in the baby department. We scheduled a visit to the OBGYN to discuss next steps and what we could do to help move the process along.

April – August 2015: Taking Fertility Drugs

My doctor suggested I try taking Clomid which is like steroids for your ovaries. Instead of producing one egg during ovulation, Clomid hyper-stimulates your ovaries to produce multiple eggs, which can increase the chances of fertilization. For a few months, I tracked my cycle with an optimistic attitude that Clomid + ovulation tests + perfect timing would equal success.

Again, we tried for a few months with no success and made another appointment. As a next step, the doctor suggested we try Intrauterine Insemination (IUI). In short, IUI is the process of monitoring my eggs via ultrasound, triggering my ovaries to ovulate via an HCG trigger shot, and depositing the sperm directly into my uterus. I read many success stories with IUI and we were excited to try it.

October – December 2015: Attempting IUI

I was traveling during my ovulation window in September so we had to delay our first IUI until October. After the first IUI cycle, days felt like years as I waited to see if it worked. No go. 🙁

IUI is simply an intermediary step to In Vitro Fertilization (IVF). The doctors said that after 3-4 IUI attempts you’re really just wasting time (and money), as your odds don’t get any better with each try. With 1 down and 2-3 more hopeful attempts to go, we immediately signed up for another round.

At the same time, we were also given a referral to meet with a fertility clinic here in Jacksonville called the Florida Institute for Reproductive Medicine (FIRM). If the second attempt via my OBGYN was not successful, we wanted to try the same procedure with a specialized fertility clinic. After a second unsuccessful attempt, we met with Dr. Freeman at the FIRM, who suggested trying IUI with their office 1-2 more times.

If the remaining IUI attempts were unsuccessful, he briefed us about the IVF process. This appointment honestly gave me an odd feeling inside. As each month passed, I knew IVF could be our fate, but for some odd reason I was either afraid of the thought or didn’t want to accept it. Now I have no idea why I felt that way. I couldn’t be happier to be a part of the IVF family! It’s a wonderful and amazing miracle that so many families have this option to help them achieve their goal of having a baby.

We did try two more rounds of IUI with the FIRM before jumping into IVF. Everything went well with my final two IUIs (eggs, sperm, uterine lining, etc. all looked good) but neither attempt were successful.

2015 was a long, emotional rollercoaster ride that felt like it would never end. Luckily I had an awesome, much needed trip to Las Vegas planned for my best friend’s bachelorette to start off the new year. I knew when I got back, we would start the IVF process…

January/February 2016: Preparing for IVF and Egg Retrieval 

During the IUIs I felt as though a little bit of hope and a piece of my heart slivered away with each attempt. But something came over me when we decided to go the IVF route—I felt like I finally could see a light at the end of the tunnel. Once I accepted that I wasn’t going to get pregnant naturally (at least this time), I knew that God had this planned for us all along. He just wanted us to grow as a couple, love and appreciate each other more and learn just how strong we are, especially as a team.

So, cheers to 2016! A new year, new beginnings, and the start of our IVF journey. We had numerous appointments to prepare for the process, a list of medicines to order, and a detailed itinerary of what to do each day leading up to egg retrieval.

I started the shots on February 3, 2016 with 2 shots every afternoon. A big thank you goes to Adam for being my “mixologist” and actually injecting the shots into my belly. I tried a few times and just couldn’t get myself to do it!

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On day 5, February 7th, I had an appointment to check to see how my ovaries where responding and there were multiple eggs in each ovary. A great sign that my body was responding just as it should to the shots! Another shot was added to the routine. I had 1 in the morning which left me feeling itchy for about 20 minutes and left an oh so cute little rash. I continued the other 2 in the afternoon.

On Wednesday, February 10th, I had another ultrasound and I had over a dozen eggs growing!! It was crazy to see them all and realize that I was walking around with all that precious cargo! As they continued to grow, the next few days were mission critical. I was restricted to walking as my only form of exercise and was expected to feel bloated, which I did!

That following Saturday, I went back in to check on the growth. The eggs were the sizes that the doctor wanted (ideal size is 15 to 20 mm, like a dime or nickel). I was given the HCG trigger shot (like during IUI) and was scheduled for egg retrieval on Monday, February 15th. Happy day after Valentine’s Day to me! The doctors rotate and while all the doctors are wonderful, we were happy to hear that Dr. Freeman would be doing the egg retrieval. We love Dr. Freeman.

The next 24-72 hours is a blur to me as I was scared, excited, nervous, joyous, etc. We were actually doing this and my body was doing exactly what it was supposed to be doing. I felt that much closer to the end result, a baby! Egg retrieval day went exactly as it should have, although I don’t remember much as you are put under local anesthesia. I ended up with 14 viable eggs and those 14 were injected with Adam’s little guys.

I knew while going through all this that I would someday want to blog about my journey so apparently one of my first questions when I “came to” was, “Where is my phone? I have to take a picture for my blog!”

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The Waiting Game

Four days later, on Thursday, we found out that 11 eggs fertilized! Out of those 11, 9 passed the “grading scale” where they want them to have grown 2 or more cells during a certain time period. Those 9 embryos would be monitored throughout the weekend and we would get another update on Monday…so torturous!

Next we were told that 6 of the embryos continued to mature. We opted for Preimplantation Genetic Screening (PGS) so a biopsy was taken and sent to a lab in Miami to do chromosomal testing before they were frozen. It is crazy to think that the doctors can actually biopsy something so small.

PGS is completely optional and not a standard part of the IVF process. This screening can help detect embryos that have a high likelihood to not take, result in a miscarriage, or have a condition such as Down’s syndrome. We decided that after investing all this time, money, and most importantly, energy and emotions, we wanted to do whatever we could to have the best chance of a successful pregnancy. The test results take about 2 weeks to get to back so again, we wait.

March 2016: Test Results and Transfer Number 1

On Friday, March 4th, we got a call from the doctor that our test results were in! Out of the 6 embryos biopsied, we had 3 embryos that were “normal” and viable. But we had 1 that showed “no DNA” and would require further testing before using. The other 2 were missing a chromosome.

I am absolutely amazed at modern medicine, and I’m so thankful to have had these resources at our hands. Going through all of this has given me a new appreciation for the doctors, modern medicine, how precious life really is, and how lucky those with children of their own should feel to have that blessing in their life.

After my retrieval, my cycle continued so we couldn’t immediately transfer one of the viable eggs. I was in between cycles and had to wait for my next cycle to start. On Monday, March 21st (day 10 of my next cycle), I went in for an ultrasound to see if my uterus and ovaries were ready to try an egg transfer. Everything looked good, and I was ready to start prepping for transfer!

Transfer was set for Sunday, March 27th. Yes, it was Easter Sunday. We kept saying this baby would be our little Easter bunny surprise! There are a few methods when it comes to transfers and my doctor decided that the best route for me was to take estrogen pills and apply Crinone, a progesterone gel, twice a day leading up to the transfer. While estrogen is usually given to women going through menopause to help subside symptoms like hot flashes, I experienced the opposite and I actually started to have hot flashes, mood swings, etc. I told Adam that it was just good practice for him to get used to what pregnancy would be like. 🙂

The morning of transfer Adam and I enjoyed Easter sunrise service with a few of my cousins. Transfer wasn’t until 10 am so that was the perfect way to start the day. Transfer is much easier and faster than egg retrieval. We decided to transfer 1 embryo so that 1 embryo was taken out of what I like to call “the Feber locker” to thaw. Unfortunately you don’t know if the embryo survives thawing until right before, but our embryo made it and was ready for transfer.

The transfer is very similar to the IUI process. A small catheter is used to insert the embryo directly into my uterus. Fortunately, the nurse keeps the ultrasound on my belly so that I can watch this whole process. It is amazing watching the embryo release from the catheter—it is so small and happens very quickly. The embryologist confirms that the entire embryo was removed from the catheter and just like that, we have an embryo in the uterus waiting to implant!

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We went home, I propped myself up on the couch, and Adam and my parents started to prep for our Easter meal. The next step is probably the worst part: waiting 10 days to have blood work done to see if I’m pregnant. I had to continue the progesterone and estrogen during these 10 days as well. That week and a half seemed to drip by, but I kept myself as busy as I could and tried to just let go and let God. Whatever happened was supposed to happen.

On the morning of April 6th, I had my blood drawn and went home to wait for the doctor’s call. They do your blood work first thing in the morning but don’t call with results until between 2:00 and 4:00pm. So of course, at like 3:30 we finally got a phone call. As soon as I heard the tone of the nurse’s voice I dropped to the floor because I just knew it, I wasn’t pregnant. The embryo did not take.

To try to explain how I felt in that moment I can’t do it justice. I felt many emotions; sadness, anger, denial, confusion, despair, guilt, loneliness, and the list goes on and on. I curled up in the fetal position on our bed and just laid there holding onto Adam. I did work up the nerve to call my parents to break the bad news.  They were speechless but did their best to offer encouraging and supportive words. They are always wonderful at reminding me that God has a plan for us and while we might not understand or like how the plan is unfolding, we have to keep faith and trust in Him and His plans. I don’t even remember what we did the rest of that day or if I even ate dinner.

There is no explanation and we will never know why that embryo didn’t take…

Since getting pregnant is all about your cycle and timing, we decided to try to get a head of them game and met with Dr. Freeman just 2 days later. Adam was also leaving for a week for work and I wanted to get a head start. Going to the doctor’s office really flat out sucked but talking with Dr. Freeman and hearing his positivity for our next steps was reassuring. Long story short, we decided we would probably take a break the next month/cycle and regroup mentally and physically.

Dr. Freeman suggested our next try be what he called a “natural cycle.” This is where I don’t take the estrogen pills or use the progesterone cream. I would let my body have a normal cycle and let mother nature (and God) do the rest with a little help from the doctors. Our embryos were originally frozen 5 days after fertilization, so in our case, we would track my ovulation and transfer the embryo 5 days after I ovulated. Essentially you’re placing the embryo based on when and where it would be during a natural cycle.

May 2016: Transfer Number 2

After taking a month off, and hopefully my last period for a while, we went to the doctor to check my uterus and ovaries. Everything looked good, and I went home with very little instructions since we were doing this as naturally as possible this time around. On day 10 of my cycle, we had another ultrasound. And again, everything checked out and my uterine lining was measuring exactly where it should have been measuring.

Transfer number 2 was set for Thursday, May 26th! I don’t even remember what that next week was like as all sorts of emotions were running through me. I was nervous (but excited), scared (but happy) and overall very hopeful. We were very excited to learn that Dr. Freeman would be doing the transfer this time (again, all of the doctors are wonderful and very qualified!). The transfer was quick, and made quicker by Dr. Freeman cracking jokes throughout the procedure. It was Memorial Day weekend and he joked to “not drink too much beer, but don’t let this stop you from having a fun, great weekend.” We went home to start the 10 day countdown…again.

The 10 day wait is treacherous. I tried to keep myself as preoccupied as possible with work, but it is still the longest 10 days you’ll ever imagine. Day 10 fell on Monday, June 6th. I had my blood drawn around 9 am but knew I wouldn’t hear back until between 2:00 and 4:00, so awful! I also had a closing at 4:00pm for some of my buyers. While I was so happy for them, I knew the closing would either be very difficult for me or I would be smiling from ear to ear.

Let me insert here that I totally cheated this time and took a pregnancy test over the weekend. It was negative, and I had already started to prep myself that I wasn’t pregnant. What Adam didn’t tell me is that hours after throwing the test away, he looked at it again and saw a very faint second line. Adam was too nervous to say anything since this line (called an evaporation line or “evap line”) is usually a false positive when shown after the 5-10 minutes window. Here it is:

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Well 2:00 passed and 3:30 came around. I started to gather my items to head to my closing so nervous that I would miss the call while at my closing. Well, all of a sudden I had a voicemail from the FIRM but no missed call! We both listened to the voicemail, which I still have saved on my phone….

“Congratulations!!” I didn’t even listen to the rest of the message at first. I once again fell to floor and started crying, but happy tears this time. OMG WE ARE PREGNANT!!!! In shock, and some disbelief, I called the doctors office. I was on a quest to got ahold of a nurse to confirm that the voicemail was meant for me. IT WAS and I was in fact Pregnant!!!

My HCG level was 169 and since I was technically considered to be 4 weeks pregnant, anything above 50 was a good number. HCG is simply a hormone that the body makes to nourish fertilized eggs, which they need to survive. Holy Moly, I couldn’t believe what my ears were hearing! I hugged (and kissed) Adam, called my parents, and ran out to the door to celebrate my first-time homebuyer’s closing—all the while trying not to scream, “I’m Pregnant”!

While we were super excited and speechless, and this was of course wonderful news, we weren’t in the clear yet. I had to do more blood work two days later and my HCG levels had to at least double. So, early Wednesday morning, I had blood drawn and once again, I waited for the phone call that afternoon. Praise God, my HCG level more than doubled going from 169 to 406!!! We were moving in the right direction, at the right speed and could take a few deep breaths. Conveniently our 4 year anniversary was on Thursday June 9th and we were headed to Savannah for the weekend. We planned the trip knowing it would either be a celebration or a time to be together just the two of us and regroup. Thankfully, we could celebrate! Well, Adam was able to enjoy lots of yummy red wine Lol.

I won’t go on too much more but I have to take a moment to reflect on all that we went through, all that we learned and how we have changed.  We learned so much along the way, and we both have a new appreciation for the whole pregnancy process in general and value the life of a child in a way I can’t even begin to explain. It’s just like anything else in life that you work so hard to get where you are, you tend to look at things differently and have a different level of appreciation once you reach your goal. I know I have a new respect for modern medicine. I am also beyond thankful to have access to the doctors and staff that have helped us get through this difficult time and cheer us along, every single step of the way. I am so grateful for our family and close friends that were also here to cheer us on and offer support.

I have always loved kids and have dreamt about being a mommy for as long as I can remember. Whether or not we only have 1 child, or have more either through IVF or happen to get pregnant naturally, I know that I will forever value the life of a child even more than I already did. I will also value my relationship with Adam and the person he is more than I ever thought I could. And my relationship with God is somehow even stronger and I trust him and his plan for me more and more each day. Life is precious, love and respect the one you have and always be thankful to wake up each day.

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Happy 4 Years to us and cheers to being pregnant!

7 Responses

  1. Cindy Atnip
    Reply
    1 December 2016 at 9:43 pm

    I love this SO much. I thank God every day for you two and the precious life growing inside you.

  2. Marla McGill
    Reply
    2 December 2016 at 1:27 am

    Jen, I cried reading this. I’m so incredibly happy for you. Reading about this long, but worthwhile journey was inspiring. I am so excited to see you and celebrate baby Feber this weekend. You are such a beautiful person. Love you!

    • 19 December 2016 at 4:30 pm

      I love you Marla!! (Totally meant to reply to this like the day I posted it Lol) Thank you for always being there for me, you my friend, are a beautiful person!! xoxo

  3. Katie Nedrow
    Reply
    2 December 2016 at 12:48 pm

    This was such a great post Jen – I’m so so happy for you and Adam. You are going to be such an amazing momma :).

    • 19 December 2016 at 4:29 pm

      Katie, sorry I didn’t reply sooner. Thank you so much! I love watching your precious family and am so excited for your next addition!!

  4. Brookes P
    Reply
    6 December 2016 at 2:13 pm

    Literally tears flowing at work! Thanks for sharing. It’s a good reminder of what an amazing blessing these little people are, and not to ever take it for granted!

    • 19 December 2016 at 4:27 pm

      Brookes, sorry for the delay in my response. I am glad my story touched you 🙂 Your little princess is adorable!!

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