Four years. That's a long time. That's a bachelor's degree. A presidential term.
That's how long we've been trying to have a child.
It's included a lot:
- 3 fertility specialists
- 2 rounds of intrauterine insemination (IUI) with Clomid (a drug that turns me into a wildebeest)
- 2 reasons for infertility diagnosed
- Literally hundreds of shots in my abdomen and rear end
- 2 rounds of IVF, resulting in 29 eggs total
- 3 intralipid infusions
- Literally dozens of pregnancy tests
As a result of all of this, we got 4 total embryos.
We got two embryos from our first round of IVF. We didn't get pregnant with the first one, but did with the second, and were thrilled. At nine weeks the heartbeat we'd previously been thrilled to see was suddenly gone. I will never forget Jim clutching my arm and both of us silently crying while the ultrasound technician searched in the dark room for the heartbeat.
They got two more embryos from our second round of IVF. We got pregnant with the first one, and that was Grace Pearl. We terminated our pregnancy at 21 weeks, 5 days, due to discovering she had a fatal fetal anomaly. Grace is the reason for us telling our story and for this website.
There are constantly people asking us what we're going to do. Will we try again? What about the last embryo? For National Infertility Awareness Week, I wanted to share an update.
To answer that, there is one more letter that we gave to Senator Dianne Feinstein when we met her in Washington D.C. I haven't shared this before now because I wasn't ready. It was this letter:
Dear Senator Feinstein,
I wanted to provide an update on my husband’s and my journey to have a family:
When Jim and I did in vitro fertilization (IVF) in March 2016, we were blessed with two 5-day embryos, both girls as we learned through pre-genetic screening, which we had performed to avoid another miscarriage. We were utterly delighted to have two embryos to attempt to get pregnant with, and one of them was implanted in July 2016: Grace Pearl. Unfortunately, we learned at Grace’s 21-week anatomy scan that she had bilateral Multicystic Dysplastic Kidney Disease, which is 100% fatal, and we terminated the pregnancy for medical reasons, which is documented in our included testimony and media.
While it felt far too soon emotionally to be pursuing pregnancy again, my husband and I were terrified of the legal limitations that are being proposed, considered, and potentially passed in our state of Missouri and nationwide. For instance, a 20 week abortion ban is being considered in Missouri, and a personhood law has been proposed.
We decided we should try with our remaining embryo as soon as was physically feasible. What if our remaining embryo had the same disease Grace did, or another fetal anomaly? We feel so strongly that we made the best and most loving choice for Grace that we would want the same option for her sister should she encounter similar problems; unfortunately our state's laws are not written or implemented in a way that gives families like ours the legal right to make these decisions past 21 weeks 6 days, despite the fact that problems in pregnancy can and do occur far later that than.
We learned on Wednesday, March 22, 2017 that our final embryo transfer did not result in a pregnancy. We are devastated, and do not know what the future holds for us. We are now mourning this loss in addition to our loss of Grace Pearl.
If we do pursue a family again, we hope that we will legally be allowed to make the best choices for ourselves and our family. We are the illustration of the fact that starting a family is not as predictable or easy as many think, and that instead it can be a heartbreaking process full of defeat and loss. We do not need legal limitations to worsen this experience for us. It’s hard enough as it is.
Maybe you're reading this knowing a few other people who have told you about their infertility, and perhaps it has already resolved for each of them. We hear a lot of stories about never giving up, 'I have this one friend that they gave up and then bam, it happened!' or 'I have another friend who did IVF and then got pregnant by surprise right after with another one'. These things are well-meant, but aren't going to happen for us. They simply aren't. We cannot get pregnant without intervention due to the nature of our infertility diagnoses.
A lot of people share about infertility more publicly after it has resolved for them. Because of Grace Pearl, and how everything has unraveled for us, instead here we are, living our lives right in front of everyone.
And we're stuck. Our last embryo had a 60% chance of working, but it didn't. And now we're out of embryos. And IVF costs a lot of money. And we're just so, so sad.
We are considering adoption again (which we looked into extensively in the past, and honestly aren't sure we can handle after the rollercoaster we're already on). We are considering trying again with our own genetics because there is nothing technically wrong with them... we've just been supremely, shockingly unlucky. We're considering donor embryos.
We are considering giving up and no longer pursuing children.
I share all of this to let you know that while you may hear about infertility after a happy ending has arrived for someone, that happy ending doesn't always come. Sometimes you get too many bruises along the way to keep on going. Too much heartache, too much dread and hesitation and pain, and you just get paralyzed in indecision. This isn't even my nature, but that's where I am.
I cannot imagine putting ourselves through the uncertainty and lack of control of the adoptive process, nor the thus far absolutely anxiety-inducing and downright punishing process of being pregnant again.
But the idea of giving up and changing course and not having children, while it would be ultimately ok as Jim and I are unbelievably, after all of this, very, very happy together, it feels like slowly walking into a cold pool. Every step I take further in, there's a new shock to the system. Eventually I'd get used to the temperature, but it's not what I wanted.
I have no idea when we'll decide, or what we'll decide. I hate being in limbo AGAIN. Have we not been through enough? Are we just not supposed to have biological kids or kids at all and I just won't get the message? Do I even believe in that sort of thing? Is it worth the risk to try again when all we have had thus far is heartache? We don't know what to do, and the only answer is to give it more time.
We aren't the only ones in this position. This is what infertility looks like. An extreme version, but we're not the only ones. There are so many stories out there, and they all deserve to be told and heard. Every single one is hard, heartbreaking, and deserves care, compassion, and understanding.