Written by Ashley Flanigan
One of my biggest dreams was to be a mom. My life as a teacher, coach and aunt has been centered around children. But some things just don’t happen like you think. After about four years of trying to add a baby to our family, my husband Greg and I were starting to lose hope. We prayed and had faith that it would happen if it was God’s will, but our faith was rocked when it just wasn’t happening. Were we not meant to be parents? Were we not compatible to create a healthy life? So many questions and ‘what ifs’ ran through our heads.
Backing up a couple years, we got married pretty young. I knew that I wanted to be married for a few years before having children. I competed at a high level in CrossFit and Greg enjoyed going on backpacking and four-wheeling trips, so we didn’t really have the life for kids right then anyway. When we started trying, I was practically married to ovulation predictor tests and trying to get the timing just right. Month after month went by each with a heartbreaking negative pregnancy test. So we decided to put it aside for a while and stopped actively trying. We focused on work and our sports and hobbies and changed our thinking to it will happen when it happens, a mindset that was always hard for us.
Eventually, it was time to figure out what was going on. In June 2015 we had a meeting with a fertility doctor to start testing and talk about options. After our preliminary tests, the results from Greg’s tests came back showing hardly any viable sperm and what was, wasn’t moving much. Our best chance of conceiving would be through IVF. Why us? Being surrounded by kids and family who have had no problem conceiving, why was this going to be our new journey? After that visit and hearing about the procedure and cost, it was a hard pill to swallow. How would we ever afford it financially? Were we ready for something to be so life consuming? Was I ready to do a procedure that would be so rough on my body? By December of that year, we were ready to move forward. If this was our best chance, we would do everything we could to make it happen.
In January 2016, all of the medication started and we did our egg retrieval where they took 54 eggs, much more than usual. Apparently the medication worked a little too well! They were then fertilized and after the five day waiting period we ended up with 32 embryos frozen. A couple months later, my body had recovered and we were ready to do our first transfer. I was convinced that since the problem was male factor infertility that this first round would work and we just needed a little help. Not so much. During that first year of IVF we did a transfer in March, June and August. Some ended quickly with my HCG not increasing much resulting in painful miscarriages and one moving forward to a pregnancy that we soon lost. I remember going into each transfer feeling so hopeful, like this next time had to work since the last one didn’t. Eventually our turn had to come. Each time, however, left us feeling frustrated and discouraged and after the third try it was time to decide what we were going to do next. Would be take a break? Give up on our dream to have a baby? We couldn’t afford to move to adoption at this point. We needed to lean on our faith and on each other even more now.
In December of that year we decided to give it one more try. This time it had to work. I can so clearly remember sitting on our couch reading stories of other couples going through IVF and it worked before the fourth try. This had to be the time. Our doctor was willing to give it one more shot before needed to do genetic testing on our embryos, a process costing thousands of dollars. We were ready to go for it. In January we transferred two embryos and prayed and prayed this would be the time that worked. In February we got the good news, it worked! We were expecting! A couple weeks later after our first ultrasound we got the news of a lifetime, we were pregnant with identical triplets!! We were so excited, shocked and panicking all at the same time. Our dream had finally come true, a little more than expected, but we were ready to take it on! The weeks went by and we started wrapping our heads around bringing three babies into our life. It was amazing how quickly I felt like I could look past our previous heartbreaks and be excited about these babies. I felt as though there was no way we could lose them all and that we for sure would have our miracle babies! We thought through the logistics and dreamed about what life would be like and how we would share the news with our families, all while trying to stay true to the fact that this would be very risky and there was a chance all three wouldn’t make it.
On March 1st, we went in for an ultrasound to hear their heartbeats! Finally, what I had been waiting for! Instead, we got the hardest news of our lives. All three babies no longer had heartbeats. At 9 weeks, we lost our miracle babies and were heartbroken. It was a long, silent drive home as we processed the news we just received. Upon returning home we knew we needed to be out so we spent some time at the lake that evening with our dog and were sad together. The next morning I went in for a D&C which would then need be done agin 8 weeks later (on my 32nd birthday). Happy birthday to me.
This was such a low time in our lives. It felt like there was no way this dream would ever come true. We had invested so much of our time and finances into this journey with nothing to show for it. It felt impossible to stay hopeful. At that point we couldn’t financially do genetic testing or look at other options and we both felt like we needed a break and to reevaluate.
As the months passed my mind was searching for other options. I wasn’t convinced IVF was ever going to work. After 4 tries, I wasn’t hopeful anymore. Greg and I had a hard conversation about using a sperm donor. From what we knew, using a donor was a fix to our underlining problem. After long conversation, prayer and consults with our IUI doctor, we found our donor and were ready to move forward. Planning to purchase our sample, we were waiting for me to have one more cycle to make sure we timed it well.
In August 2017 my period never came. At first I was so frustrated thinking here was another roadblock keeping us from having a baby. Was this a sign not to use a donor? About 9 days after I should have gotten my period, I faced one of my biggest fears and causes of anxiety, taking a pregnancy test. After too many negative pregnancy tests to count, I swore I would never take one again. This time, I knew something was different. On Friday, September 29th, I took a test. Positive. I was pregnant. Naturally. Our dream had come true, and the fun of planning how I was going to tell Greg had begun!
The next 6 months or so tested our faith even more. The pregnancy did stick, thankfully. I can’t say that I felt very connected with it, keeping myself pretty disconnected in fear of losing it. I had a terrible placenta resulting in many abnormal test results, blood work that came back as having a high chance of our baby having Down Syndrome, and in the end suffering from Intrauterine Growth Restriction where our little miracle stopped growing. I was induced at 33 weeks and 5 days gestation to a perfect 3lb 5oz baby girl, Blakely Elizabeth. She spent her first weeks of life in the NICU practicing eating and gaining enough weight to come home and after 3 long weeks, she joined her family at home. This little fighter proved to us that miracles absolutely happen in their own time. She couldn’t be more perfect and is growing and developing by the day. We are forever grateful.