I’m still speechless. I stare at that photo and I feel like someone photoshopped my face onto that girl. But oh wait… that’s me. That’s Bryan. And that’s my precious B holding two fingers up. Two. One, two. At night after B says his prayers he says… “and thank you, God, for our babies.” Our babies. Back in November of 2013, we gave up on the whole fertility thing. We had a sit-down with our fertility doctor where he told us IVF was our only remaining option – after multiple failed IUIs, years on crazy fertility drugs that made me feel awful and more procedures / scars on my belly than I ever dreamed of having.
We laughed nervously and told him “But we weren’t supposed to get here. We have a child. We’re capable. IVF was so far down the road. How’d we get here.” So we stopped it all. We took a break and enjoyed Christmas. We sold a lot of planners (and shipped a lot of planners). We celebrated Brady’s third birthday. We worked hard at our jobs and found ourselves enjoying being a family of three more than anything in the world. Being JUST the three of us was / is a joy that we didn’t even realize until then. Still, I cried at the idea that our family may never grow. God had opened this piece of my heart that I KNEW was to be filled with another child. I prayed and prayed and prayed that God would open doors and CLOSE doors so that we would know the route to take.
There were many options but none felt like the ONE. Until one night at dinner, Brady asked us who was going to sit in the empty chair. Our little circular wooden table seats four. And he asked why there was always an empty seat. And my heart broke in half and I hid my tears and ate my dinner. And Bryan and I decided to make the scary decision and give IVF one shot. Just one. If it didn’t work, we would celebrate our family of three and be unendingly grateful that we’d been able to have a child together and move on. The scariest part of the whole process was picking up the phone, calling our nurse and telling her that we decided to move forward with IVF and that we were ready.
That was in March. It takes a long time to get all the ducks in a row and all the tests done and everything ready to begin the process. I focused on the National Stationery Show and kept busy to distract myself. Sidenote… we struggled a lot with the decision to do IVF. For a thousand reasons. And for weeks, we said we weren’t going to share our journey at all – just because it is so personal. But when the emotions of it all started to wash over me we both knew that I couldn’t’ keep it a secret. That’s one reason why infertility is so hard. We alienate ourselves. And we become unbearably lonely because we think we are the only ones who have to travel these difficult roads. I hope someone reading this is able to pull this virtual hug out of their computer screen because you are not alone. Not at all. We all stand with you. And we pat you on the back for every step forward you make – no matter WHAT road you choose to grow your family.
We started our cycle on Mother’s Day, I started the injections. The next few weeks were a blur. I gave myself daily injections while in NYC for the Stationery Show (thanks Sarah for being my alarm and keeping me on track). Throughout the process I noticed little coincidences that made me feel like God was showing me we were taking the right steps forward. For instance, my trip to NYC almost cancelled our cycle. But my flight home saved it by less than 8 hours. I flew home at 11pm and I was in my doctor’s office at 7am the next day. Day by day we followed the protocol. I kept my chin up and stayed hopeful (Bryan is ALWAYS hopeful… I tend to be the “prepare for the worst” one in our relationship). My little belly bruised. My calendar was FULL of appointments – most at 7am across town. And my body felt the affects of the TONS of medications. The day before Father’s Day, I started feeling bad. I wasn’t sure what it was but my belly was beginning to swell a little – all part of the process, I assumed. I begged Bryan to get me a pregnancy test. He was very much against me taking one at home and wanted me to wait for my blood test two days later. After a while he gave in and drove to CVS. That night I sent Bryan and Brady into the living room. I took the test and shook as I held it under the bedroom light next to Bryan’s side of the bed. That little stick determined the rest of our lives.
That’s a lot of pressure for one little stick. And just as fast as could be… those two little lines appeared. Pregnant. In an ugly-cry, racing-through-the-house sort of way I ran into the kitchen mumbling and sobbing and scooped up Brady and tossed the stick at Bryan. (Poor thing, he didn’t know whether I was happy or sad). “Yes!! Yes!! Yes!!” I kept saying. I’ll never forget that ugly cry for as long as I live. The next day I started to feel worse. I called my doctor and let her know about my little belly. She said we’d keep an eye on it and asked me to check in with her later that day. But that afternoon I gained 6 lbs and couldn’t eat more than a tiny bit of food. When my kidneys stopped working they pre-admitted me to the hospital and asked me to come in right away. Over the next 48 hours, I gained an additional 14 lbs of fluid (22 total) in my belly. I could barely walk, eat or even sit comfortably. I was diagnosed with severe Ovarian Hyperstimulation. It only occurs in 1-2% of IVF cycles, but wouldn’t you know it… it happened to me.
Essentially my one little ovary got VERY big and my veins started pouring fluid into my abdomen, which made me very dehydrated, totally confused my kidneys and eventually went into my lungs, back, chest and legs. Miserable doesn’t even describe what it felt like. I had a drain installed in my stomach and was drained 4 times for a total of 7 liters during my hospital stay. But… during my first day in the hospital, my HCG blood level was drawn and my pregnancy was confirmed… on Father’s Day. :) Little did I know at the time, but late onset OHSS is a strong indicator of multiples.
Eight days later I was released from the hospital. I was still up 22lbs of fluid but my body had finally stopped adding fluid to the problem. I was able to continue recovering at home. Unfortunately, with pregnancy-triggered late onset OHSS, like I had, the pregnancy hormone (HCG) feeds the problem. So it takes a long time for your belly to go down (I looked about 6 months pregnant). I was put on a (I can’t even type this without cringing at this point) high salt, high protein, all gatorade, no water diet. (Gross). And slowly but surely I started to recover.
My mom and dad and Bryan and my friends here have been just incredible. I’m so grateful. A few weeks ago we received the surprise of our lives when the sonographer confirmed two babies with fluttering little heartbeats. Since then we’ve been shocked, overjoyed, terrified and over the moon.
I knew, knew, knew that painful little infertility fear shaped piece of my heart was being shaped for something big. I just knew it. And now, it all makes sense. The timing, the twins (!?!?), the lessons learned. I don’t even have words anymore. Either that or this UNBELIEVABLE nausea is drawing me away from the computer screen. Thank you friends for supporting me from near and far during our 3 year journey to baby #2…. and #3.
And for those of you reading this who are just a few steps behind me in the process, know this… The tears are ok. Its ok to have bad days. Know also that an incredible plan was put into place long ago and you are in the middle of it. The ending, whatever it may look like, however your family may grow, will be the perfect completion. It may not be easy, but it’ll always be worth it
Emily – soon to be Mama to 3 under 4 (AHHH!!!!)
A few thoughts for anyone discovering this googling “late onset Ovarian Hyperstimulation” from their hospital beds miserable and tired of drinking Gatorade:
- OHSS is miserable for about 1-2 weeks. Buckle down. Walk as much as they’ll let you, when they let you. Eat what you can. Give yourself grace and rest.
- OHSS is still affecting me (my belly is still quite big) at 10 weeks pregnant. Doc says it’ll be a few more weeks before my one ovary (I only have one) goes down. It’s the size of my head right now. That’s crazy. It’s big, but I have no other symptoms at this point. At 6.5 weeks things started improving drastically.
- There’s not a lot of info about OHSS online. And my nurses didn’t know much about it in the hospital. Late onset is rare but not bad. Don’t be scared, just be honest about how you feel and do what you can to feel better.
- I went straight from OHSS into the worst nausea I’ve ever had in my life (and I had it BAD with my first pregnancy with my son). Keep reminding yourself of the happy things. Don’t focus on what’s uncomfortable or you will drown. Seriously. I still haven’t processed the gravity of what I was hospitalized with. Let people help you.
A few thoughts on IVF for anyone considering it:
- IVF is not for the faint of heart. But thank goodness for it. After much prayer, it was clearly the right move for us. Do I regret it after OHSS? No way. I had incredible doctors and nurses and just happened to be one of the 1-2% that got it. BUT, I was also one of the 55% IVF works for on the first round. I’m forever thankful.
- Should I do IVF? I can’t answer that. :) It’s such a personal decision. And one that I really feel like needs to be prayed over, thought through, talked about very carefully with your family. There are SO many noble options for growing your family. And I can name SO MANY women who have seen their infertility circle drawn to a close through all of them. Beautifully. And so happy. Consider everything.
- Was IVF painful? Expensive? It’s different for everyone. Needles puncturing your skin never feel good :) But they didn’t hurt too bad. I gave them to myself. The other procedures were relatively painless. Expensive – worth it.
- Did you transfer two embryos? We did at our doctor’s recommendation. We had a 15% chance of having twins. And wouldn’t you know… I’m just winning all the games with this! I should go buy a lottery ticket…
- Did you keep IVF a secret from Brady? Nope. We’re a pretty open family. He wanted to watch me give myself shots every day. He knew we were visiting a doctor to help get mommy’s belly ready for a baby. :)
To our sweet babies, Sweet little ones. We’ve loved you for a thousand years. And every hour has come to this. Every appointment. Every tear. Every worry. We never dreamed God would meet our worries here in this space with the two, sweet, perfect, tiny two of you. We can’t wait to hold you in our arms and kiss your “squishy faces” (as your big brother, Brady says). With all of our hearts, Mommy, Daddy & Brady