Written by Brittany Ortiz, guest blogger
Often people say “You have to experience it yourself to understand.” And in most cases I tend to disagree. I personally feel that one can understand something without personally going through it. They can relate in some way or put themselves in someone else’s shoes per say. However, there is one situation you have to go through personally to fully comprehend; the loss of a baby. Whether the physical loss or the ability to have your decision to have one ripped from you. Until you have tried and tried for a child that you physically and financially cannot have- until you become pregnant finally after years and years of treatment and are on this amazing plane ride of joy and happiness to suddenly have it ripped from you- pushed out of that airplane without a parachute, you simply just cannot truly understand. Welcome to our plane ride.
Our journey began on in the spring of 2013. My husband and I had been married for a little over a year and we made the decision for me to go off birth control and “see what happens.” When I didn’t fall pregnant that first month, I immediately had this feeling that something was wrong. Call it an intuition, but I literally told Harrison that I felt it wasn’t going to be easy for us.
A month turned to six months, and six months turned to a year. I went to my gynocologist who ran a bunch of blood work and swore I was perfectly healthy. I was put on Femara (a similar drug to Clomid but with less side effects) and we tried that for another six months, adding in Estrogen and Progesterone. Harrison did a semen analysis and his swimmers were almost Olympic athletes. I specifically asked my doctor after researching Google for hours on end if I could possibly have PCOS or Endometriosis. She swore I could not as I had no symptoms of either. I ovulated fine every single month and my periods were regular — every 28 days on the dot. No pain, no fuss. I was young and should just keep trying.
That wasn’t good enough for me. I may have only been 24 but I was beyond ready to be pregnant. So we asked for a recommendation to an RE which lead us to Dr. Homm and Dr. Devine at Fertility and Endocrine Associates. At our consultation, Dr. Homm looked at me and immediately told me that he believed I had Endometriosis. I argued with him assuring him that my doctor told me I could not and that I had no symptoms. He told me that the next steps were to do an HSG test (where they inject dye into your uterine cavity to see if your fallopian tubes are blocked) which would cost Harrison and I $1,000 since we did NOT have infertility coverage. This test would tell Dr. Homm A) my tubes were open or B) my tubes were blocked and either way he would have to then do a laparoscopic surgery to explore and figure out the issue which my insurance WOULD cover. He offered to skip the expensive HSG test and just go straight to the surgery which we chose to do. Why spend $1000 if regardless I’d have to do the laparoscopy? Right?
In April 2015, I had my laparoscopic surgery. Upon waking from the anesthesia, I laughed and told Dr. Homm “See I didn’t have Endometriosis, did I?” Joke was on me. It was stage II Endometriosis! It was one of those moments where I was relieved to finally have an answer to our problem, but terrified there was something was really wrong. I also felt tremendous guilt. It was my fault I couldn’t give my husband a child. It was my body that was failing us. We tried for the following three months naturally (still on Femara for assistance) with big fat negatives each month.
Next steps were IUI. We tried three rounds total. All failed. Big fat failures. Our last attempt would be IVF. We consulted with Dr. Homm and realized it was our absolute best chance, but it was costly. VERY costly. With the help of our family we were able to go forward with our treatment.
I began stems for IVF in November 2015 with my egg retrieval in December. We decided to do PGS testing on our embryos to ensure the quality before we transferred so transfer would have to wait a month until January 19th, 2016. Out of the 12 embryos that we retrieved, 10 fertilized, thanks to ICSI, and only 5 made it to blasts five days later. Out of those 5, we had 3 perfect embryos- 1 boy and 2 girls.
We decided to implant the 2 girls giving us a whopping 46% chance for twins and an over 87% chance of pregnancy. I got my positive pregnancy test just four days after transfer. We were ecstatic! Our first ultrasound showed 2 perfect embryos with heartbeats! We were going to be parents to twin girls. Finally. After 3 years, we were finally pregnant.
I shared our entire journey on Facebook. I documented with pictures and made videos explaining the entire IVF process and each step we took during it. I had so many family and friends following our story. They were just as ecstatic as we were. Each ultrasound we fell more and more in love with our girls. We went out at week 8 and purchased their nursery furniture. I purchased their first onesies and just couldn’t wait for October to get here!
March 3, 2016. Harrison and I argued that morning because he forgot to request off to go with me to our 9 week scan. He felt terrible about it and promised he wouldn’t miss any more. So I went alone. We lived in Louisville, KY but our entire family lived in Dayton, OH, where we are from. I remember that appointment vividly. I was super excited to see the girls looking more like gummy bears than specs. They would have little nubs for arms and legs now. I was so excited!
I remember Dr. Devine beginning the scan and seeing that Baby B was MUCH smaller than Baby A. I said something about it and Dr. Devine smiled and didn’t say anything. But I could see her eyes. I knew something was wrong. I kept saying over and over in my head “It’s okay. You still have Baby A. It’s okay. I know you wanted twins. It’s okay. You still have another baby. It will be okay. You can do this. Losing a twin is common. It’s okay.” Dr. Devine moved on to Baby A. She kept pushing on my lower stomach. Moving the wand around inside, putting pressure on my belly, asking me to move here and there saying “I’m just having trouble seeing clearly.”
Then I said “Baby A grew!” Because Baby A did grow! She was much larger! She looked like a little gummy bear with nubs for arms and legs! Dr. Devine smiled again and removed the wand and gently said “Yes, but unfortunately I cannot find heartbeats on either baby.”
…. I sat up. ….
She explained I was most likely in shock. I was. 100%. This wasn’t happening. It’s just not possible. She explained the process of miscarriage to me. I should start to bleed within the week and if not, I would return to her office and we would schedule a D & C. I just wanted to get out of that office. I couldn’t get dressed and out of that room fast enough.
I made it out the door and halfway down the hall before I fell to the ground. I collapsed and cried. I curled up in a ball and cried in the middle of a hospital hallway with people walking around me. I don’t remember much in that moment. I know someone stopped and tried to console me. I remember pushing them away and standing to search for a restroom, and to that person I am truly sorry. I know you were trying to help me and I appreciate that, but in that moment I just wanted to run away.
I made it to a bathroom and immediately thought I needed to call my boss and tell him I’m working from home. So I did. Thank God he was flying at the time and I could leave a message. I still broke down crying in the middle of it. Then, I called my husband. He answered excited. He wanted to hear all about the girls’ scan. Instead he heard his wife sobbing on the other end. I could only get out “I lost the babies. They don’t have heartbeats.”
I don’t remember anything else of that conversation. I called my mom at work and she answered just as excited as my husband had. I sobbed “They died.” She tried to console me and I just got out “Get here.” My mother, who was 3 hours way, immediately left her job and drove to me. My husband left work and met me at home. My boss called me and told me to take as much time as I needed.
I just laid in my room. For days. I felt like a failure. My body failed me once again. It killed my babies. I had to have done something to kill my girls. It was my fault. I couldn’t give my husband a child. I failed. I felt disgusting. I was carrying two dead babies in my body. I wanted them out. I wanted it to be over. I couldn’t handle it. I hated anyone who tried to tell me “God has his reasons.” That was the WORST thing anyone could say to me. Or “At least you got pregnant.”
Yep. At least I got pregnant. $20,000 down the drain. But at least I got pregnant.
The miscarriage happened 6 days later. Nothing could prepare me for that experience. If you ever have to choose the option for a natural miscarriage or a D &C, do yourself a favor and take the D & C. I started to have contractions like labor. They grew more and more intense as time went on. I bled through my pads, sweats, towels, and sheets on our bed. I screamed through each contraction and arched my back in pain gripping our headboard. My husband felt helpless and watched as I suffered. I felt the need to push so I would go to the bathroom and sit on the toilet. I’ve never seen so much blood in my life. I tried to shower to get it off me, pushing more and watching my tub turn into a horror film. This continued for hours. Finally, I was on the bathroom floor screaming in pain at 4am. Shaking. I had NO energy left. I had been going through this since 8pm the night before. Harrison came to the bathroom and picked me up off the floor and told me that was enough. We were going to the ER.
I bled through a brand new super plus pad and my thick sweats on the 10 min drive to the ER. Blood was pouring from me as we walked into the ER waiting room. As they tried to take my information, I passed out and seized. Later we found out that the girls tissue had gotten stuck and kept my cervix open- causing me to lose all that blood.
We went to my scheduled appointment with my RE at 11am that morning after spending the early hours in the ER. I had passed everything. Dr. Devine called me “strong”. I laughed. She said that we could try again with our remaining embryo in 3 months. But I was still mourning the death of our twin girls who I just ‘ birthed’ hours ago.
Harrison and I talked about what our next steps would be in the next couple of months. We both didn’t want to use our final boy embryo. There was something about losing the girls that were PGS tested and perfect that made me feel uncomfortable putting their brother in and risking that happening all over again. Plus, if I miscarried again we would move to surrogacy and I would have to do another round of IVF to get more embryos anyways. And if I endured another loss, I didn’t know if I would be strong enough to go through that again.
We decided to start from scratch. IVF round 2. We named our girls Hope and Faith because without getting pregnant with them, we wouldn’t have had the faith and hope to continue with the IVF process. My strength was tested majorly during these next couple months before our next round. Our nursery furniture was delivered to our home — for babies we had lost. It sat in our nursery in boxes as we passed it day by day. I had a cousin who was exactly 10 weeks ahead of me in our pregnancies would post bumpdates when I should be posting my weekly bumpdate too. I had to move forward with caution. I would cry at the drop of hat when I saw babies in the grocery store or was asked by a coworker who didn’t see the news of our miscarriage how my pregnancy was going. It was rough. My lowest low.
I began stems again in June 2016. We retrieved 9 eggs this time. I felt defeated. That was worse than our first round. But as the days passed and we got our daily updates, I became more and more encouraged. All 9 fertilized with ICSI. All 9 continued to grow until day 5. We lost only one embryo as 8 had made it to blasts for PGS testing. Out of our 8 blasts, we had 6 that were viable for transfer after PGS — 2 girls and 4 boys.
July 27, 2016. We transferred 2 perfect girl embryos. This time my RE put me on Lovenox as a precaution. I knew I was pregnant again two days past transfer. I had the exact same symptoms I did with Hope and Faith. I broke out all around my chin and mouth, which I NEVER breakout. My pregnancy test was positive again on day four. I went in for my BETA early at 7dp5dt. It was 99!!!! Then it doubled to 210 on 9dp5dt. I requested one more at 13dp5dt and it was 2,488!! I knew I was pregnant with twins again.
On August 12, 2016, we went in for our first ultrasound. There were two perfect gestational sacs. I was terrified. I went in weekly this time for ultrasounds. I was so afraid that history was going to repeat itself. Somehow, we made it to week 8. The same time Hope and Faith’s hearts stopped beating. But this time we still had two healthy babies. Then it was week 10 and I was graduating from our RE! I took it week by week. Each week I grew more confident in my pregnancy. When I made it to 15, I finally relaxed. We were going to have these babies.
Parker Reagan and Emery Kate Ortiz were born at 5 lbs 9 oz and 5 lbs 10 oz on March 28, 2017. They were worth every single heartbreak. Every single penny. Every shot. Everything.
Infertility is one of the hardest things someone can go through. This journey is hard. It forces you to endure pain unlike any other. I wouldn’t wish this journey on my worst enemy. But, it also makes you strong. It makes you one hell of a mother before you even ARE a mother. You fight as hard as you can for just the possibility for a baby. There is no guarantee when you are spending thousands and thousands of dollars on treatments. There is no guarantee when you are giving yourself shots after shots and popping pills after pills that make you literally go hormonally insane. It tests your marriage. It tests your strength. It engulfs your life. It makes you appreciate being a parent SO much when you finally overcome.
I still share and post about infertility continuously. I believe that couples shouldn’t be afraid to share their struggle. I want to be a voice for them. I want to encourage and help them in any way I can. Because I get it. I have been there. My journey brought me to motherhood. Thankfully. However, some cannot get here. They need a little more help. So now… my journey has brought us to Surrogacy. I want to help a couple have what we have. They deserve to experience every single bit of happiness we get to experience. I’m hoping I am approved and will be the perfect fit for my intended parents. I hope that my body will help them bring their beautiful baby into this world and provide them with their dream come true.
I want to help as many couples who are struggling in any way I can — through my voice, being a surrogate, or donating what little I can to help them. I know what it is like to watch everyone else’s dreams come true while knowing yours are slipping further and further away from becoming reality. I know that the woman struggling is strong, but she’s exhausted. I know she is brave and broken all at once. She is me. I am her. We are all in this together. Infertility is a loss. It’s the loss of a dream. It’s the loss of an assumed future. And like any other loss, it too will be grieved. Know that you are allowed to scream. You are allowed to cry. You are allowed to break. But do not, DO NOT give up.
Because when you are pushed out of the plane without a parachute, you realize that you have wings. And one day you will be writing about your plane ride instead of reading about mine.