Yes, it is with GREAT JOY that Andrew and I can announce that we are expecting a BABY GIRL in July.
I’ve been writing this blog post in my head for years, yet now that I’m actually sitting at the computer, the words don’t seem to be flowing as easily.
Honestly, most of the time this post began a much different way. “It is with heavy hearts…” is how I thought Andrew and I would bring our infertility journey to light.
We are incredibly thankful that God has heard our prayers and given us this great blessing. We spent the better part of the last three years inside an infertility clinic, met only with disappointment time and again. It’s not lost on us that we are some of the blessed few who come out on the other side with a positive pregnancy test.
For years, we endured the pain of watching those around us get pregnant. Younger siblings, newly married friends, friends who were now having their second child since we started trying…all their happy announcements brought both joy and sadness. We listened to the complaints of those who were up with a crying baby, wishing we ourselves could be up with a crying baby. Our seemingly ‘carefree’ lifestyle garnered more than a few “Just wait until you have kids” comments, each of which felt like a punch in the gut. Going places where lots of kids would be became harder and harder, since most young moms are so entrenched in motherhood that there could be no other topic of conversation.
My heart hurts for those who are still hoping and praying for their positive test. I have struggled about the writing of this post and the sharing of our news. I know the pain of seeing another’s happy announcement on social media. I know what it means to ‘be happy for her and sad for me’ at the same time. I pray our news is shared in a way that doesn’t cause another pain, but understand that it will, and I’m sorry.
During this process, Andrew and I have kept much of the details to ourselves and those in our support group, understandably. Now that we’re making it ‘Facebook-official,’ it’s important to me to get some of it out there, if only to help someone else struggling or give a little more background to our situation.
Trying to Conceive
Andrew and I headed to Buffalo IVF in January of 2016 after six months of trying with no success. Because we’d stopped preventing pregnancy seven years earlier and were in our early thirties already, the doctor had us begin IUIs immediately. We were diagnosed with ‘unexplained infertility,’ which was to me the most devastating news, in that there is no problem to fix. About 10% of those diagnosed with infertility are unexplained, and those with unexplained infertility have a 1-4% chance of conceiving without treatment, compared to the 20-30% chance fertile couples do in any given month. On the one hand, it’s nice to know you’re both ‘completely healthy.’ On the other, it’s harder to fix a problem if you don’t know what it is. And while I was very thankful that we had not suffered the tragedy of miscarriage, I did not have a lot of hope that I would get pregnant at all.
After six IUIs and no pregnancies, the clinic advised us to move onto IVF. Before beginning this journey, we might have said we’d stop before attempting IVF. At that point, we felt like we had to exhaust all our options before giving up conceiving our own child. We were scared and a little hopeful at the same time. Unfortunately, nothing we’d gone through up to this point would prepare us for IVF. With IUIs, I only had oral meds and a single injection with each attempt. With IVF, each cycle included weeks of nightly injections. I had to enlist the help of a friend to receive my medications as they had to be signed for upon delivery, I had to make countless calls to arrange the doctor appointments and blood work and purchase medication. Injections became part of trips and vacations, and more than once I had to poke myself in an airport bathroom stall. If you want a taste (albeit dramatized) of what a cycle is like, watch the show Friends from College, Episode 4: “Mission Impossible.” It’s a doozy, and quite funny. Thankfully, I was able to laugh and appreciate the misadventures. And let’s not forget the cost. While IUIs are, at least in part, covered by insurance, IVF is not.
We learned very quickly that just because we started an IVF cycle didn’t mean that we would end that cycle waiting to pee on a stick. Time after time, we were thwarted by high estrogen levels, too few follicles or simply being out of town during our target week. We had prepaid for two cycles (buy one, get one half off!), the first of which ended when neither of our two embryos made it the five days before transfer, in January of 2018. At the time, we (blessedly) weren’t as devastated as we should have been. It would be another nine months before we got that close to finishing a cycle again.
Finally, in mid-October, we made it to the ‘finish line’ again, as the doctors like to call it, and I went in for my second ever egg retrieval. This time, we were nervous. We knew this wasn’t a guarantee–not even close. Yet again, they removed fewer eggs than we’d hoped, but still a respectable number and the doctor was hopeful. The following day, he called to report we had two embryos–just like last time. I hung up the phone, numb with emotion yet unwilling to get worked up. Statistics say there is a 30% survival rate over five days, which means you need THREE embryos to have anything left to transfer. Yet again, we only had two.
I spent the following five days distracting myself, waiting for the morning of the scheduled transfer. If one or both of the embryos had survived, no one would call and I would simply come in for the appointment. If they hadn’t, my phone would ring. As luck would have it, Andrew had the biggest presentation of his career that morning, so we arranged for a friend (my drug dealer, as I affectionately call her) to bring me to the clinic. Andrew be able to meet me there once he was finished. As the time of my appointment grew closer and closer and my phone still didn’t ring, I was incredulous. It looked like we were actually going to go all the way this time.
The ride to the clinic was surreal, and seeing–actually SEEING–those embryos on the screen in the operating suite was magical. Both had survived–we had a 100% survival rate–and I don’t think Andrew or I have ever been so hopeful in our whole lives.
After the arduous five-day wait between retrieval and transfer that I had just undergone, the two-week wait (which was just slightly shorter since I had a bit of a head start) was not nearly as bad. On the day of my blood test, I risked peeing on a stick and was shocked when I was able to see a second faint line. Finally, on Oct 29, a positive test!
Pregnancy So Far
I’m about halfway through, 21 weeks to be exact, and it’s been quite the experience.
There are so many things I didn’t anticipate. I expected to have food aversions and cravings; I didn’t expect to worry immediately about having a miscarriage, to have no motivation to do the things I normally enjoy, or to not want to eat anything I normally would. The first trimester was filled with joy, but also fear and fast food. My exercise took a nose-dive and I don’t think I ate a single ‘healthy’ meal until after Christmas.
I’m more tired now in the second trimester than I was in the first, perhaps because I didn’t notice extreme fatigue early on. I do continue to exercise a couple times a week, but can honestly say that I’m simply too busy–if only mentally–to fit it in every day. I’ve had four illnesses so far this winter (pregnancy = immunocompromised), and between that and simply not feeling motivated or intermittently nauseous, I’ve actually started to miss working out! I’m hoping to get back into a routine soon.
Pregnancy paranoia, insomnia and brain are definitely ‘things,’ and I’ve experienced each one. Andrew even had to talk me down via phone from his hotel room late one night when I thought an intruder was actually under my bed, or somewhere in the house. I blame British crime shows and our lack of door-locking during the day. He reminded me, finally very sternly, that we have a giant dog and that no one was in the house. I have since begun locking the doors at all times, giant dog or not.
I’m not wearing maternity clothes yet, but can’t button the top of my jeans anymore and have to instead secure them with the old ‘hairband trick.’ I’m actually looking forward to maternity clothes and looking more pregnant (instead of simply having had too much bread) as time goes on.
I can’t believe we’re halfway there; it feels as if the time has flown by! Back at week four, when I first found out I was pregnant, I didn’t know how I’d make it to week 12, and then week 20, when we’d find out the gender of our baby.
We found out at the end of week 18, when our anomaly scan was scheduled. It was the first time we saw the baby, and she moved the entire time!
I felt the baby move early in week 18, and Andrew felt her sometime late in week 20. That is perhaps the most amazing and miraculous thing I’ve experienced in my life so far. She’s an active little girl, just like her mom.
Her name will remain a secret until she’s born; we’ve had our names (or some close variation of them) for about a decade. I’ve been in love with her name for the past three years, so while I missed not going through the name-picking process with Andrew, I wouldn’t change it.
I’ve been working on my registries and it’s like Christmas every time I open them on the computer. I’ve been the ‘27 Dresses’ of baby shower gifts and post-baby meal deliveries, and I do look forward to my turn to experience everything about motherhood, from labor to midnight feedings and baby’s firsts.
Because Andrew and I are having a child later in life, we’ve had the privilege of watching our friends and family walk this road before us, and trust me when I say, we really HAVE been watching. Instead of the challenges of parenthood taking us completely by surprise, we’ve been able to discuss so many things ahead of time and get on the same page about what we think is important. I have a best friend with a three-year-old who is now pregnant with her second, and because she has allowed me to see so much of the daily struggle (what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right?!) and joy of raising a child, I feel just a tiny bit more prepared for what will surely be the hardest job of my life. I haven’t felt the need to read a ton of books, because so many of my friends have been there already. I didn’t realize that building a large group of strong, like-minded women friends would be so critical to both my infertility journey and entering pregnancy and motherhood.
I’ve been pretty quiet on the blog for the last few months, probably in part because it’s been hard to write without sharing such big news. Pregnancy really does invade every aspect of your life, and (at least for me) much of my brain as well. I’m excited to get back to blogging, being able to be the open, honest, over-sharing Holly that I am. Expect some pregnancy- and baby-related posts, but I’ll also get back to my regularly scheduled content, like our next house project and upcoming Babymoon to Sicily!