Written by Lauren Bennett, WTF Content Editor
“Reach for your baby!”
My doctor’s words will forever echo in my mind and heart as I relive the day my long-awaited babe was born.
I opened my eyes and pulled my baby from my body onto my chest. And sobbed. I looked at this beautiful being and told him over and over again how long we had been waiting for him.
He was here. Beautiful, perfect, and exactly as I had dreamed. Awestruck by his head full of dark hair and bright eyes, relief poured from my body. This baby was the product of 62 months of waiting, hoping, crying, and praying.
In 2012, after two years of marriage, my husband, Andy, and I decided it was time. Time to add to our family. This was, after all, the next logical step in our journey as husband and wife. As the second of nine children, I figured within months we would be making our pregnancy announcement to friends and family. But as life would have it, that wasn’t the case and we were thrown into a world of unknowns.
After a year of trying without success, we sought the help of my OB-GYN who concluded that nothing was wrong – we were two perfectly healthy people with no explanation of why we couldn’t conceive. He referred us to Yale University to work with a reproductive endocrinologist and I thought that if anyone could help us, surely someone from Yale would know the answer and we would have our baby in no time. There, we went through countless tests, three rounds of Clomid, and three medicated IUIs, but still, no baby to hold. We were heartbroken and tired. So tired. IVF was the next step and the hurdle of paying for it stood in our way. Our dreams of having a family seemed to float further and further out of reach. After our last failed IUI, we decided that we would take the summer in our new home in North Carolina to enjoy ourselves and save for our first round of IVF best we could, no matter how long it took.
But as anyone who experiences infertility knows, you never truly “take a break” from trying to have a baby. It is always on your mind. Infertility is always there lurking around the corner to remind you of what you don’t have. In the midst of all this, I was actively seeking advice from an RE at the Jones Institute for Reproductive Medicine. So much for a “break”, right? Based on my history, and some additional bloodwork, she thought that I may have endometriosis (which I later would have surgery to remove), but what’s more is my egg reserve numbers were low for my age. At 30 years old, my biological clock suddenly sped up. We were devastated. How would we be able to save enough for IVF in the time needed before my ovaries essentially gave up?
Enter: the world’s best friends. After hearing this, four of my very best girls got together and secretly set up a GoFundMe page to help fund our IVF journey. They reached out to friends, family, and even strangers, and within 24 hours, the exact amount needed for our IVF fee was raised. I will never forget the shock and overwhelming love we felt looking at the page and reading notes of encouragement along with the thousands of dollars of donations. We could pursue our dreams of a family because of these people. These precious friends gave us a renewed hope, something we hadn’t felt for a long, long time. My tired heart suddenly found new energy to push forward and work to hold our baby.
IVF. Wow. To put it lightly, it sucks. You do it because you know what the potential outcome is, but when you boil it down, you pay thousands and thousands of dollars to stick yourself with needles and inject an insane amount of hormones into your already tired body. Then you willingly get up in stirrups and expose yourself to not only your doctor, but probably some fresh interns as well. By the 3rd appointment, the nurse would barely leave the room before I started to get undressed. I knew the drill.
At my last appointment before my retrieval, I had around 20 beautiful follicles, which was amazing considering my low egg reserve numbers. The butterflies in my stomach fluttered as we pulled up to the clinic for the retrieval. In my lovely hospital gown and hair net, I kissed Andy and they rolled me back. It was relatively quick from what I understand, and as I was coming out of it, the first groggy words out of my mouth to Andy were “How many did we get?” His answer – “Five.”
Five? That was it? I was devastated and cried the whole two hour ride home. I anxiously awaited the fertilization report, not expecting much. I had already started the mourning process for the babies we wouldn’t have. When the report came back, I was able to breathe. Out of the 5 eggs, 4 had successfully fertilized! Now, we waited again to see how many would make it to transfer. I went back to holding my breath.
Transfer day came and we still had 4 beautiful embryos! It was decided we would transfer the two best looking ones, although they were all good looking in my opinion. Holding Andy’s hand, we watched as our first real shot at becoming parents happened on the screen next to us. We were officially pregnant. A few days later we got notice that our other 2 embryos didn’t make it to freeze. This transfer of our amazing two was our one shot at our family.
We consider ourselves some of the lucky ones. Our first round of IVF was a success. We were pregnant. For the first time in five years, I saw two lines on my pregnancy test. I didn’t cry. I just stared in disbelief. Was this real? My mind started spinning thinking about my baby (or babies!) and was quickly followed by fear. What if this didn’t last? What if my beta came back too low and all our excitement was for nothing?
A positive beta meant we could schedule our first ultrasound at which we heard the most perfect single heartbeat. Our baby was coming. Finally.
One uneventful pregnancy later, on October 8th, my water broke at 3:00 a.m., almost 3 weeks early. After only 8 hours of active labor, at 6:01 p.m. that evening, I finally held the child we had been waiting for.
All of the heartbreak and uncertainty of those long, hard, and lonely years lead to reaching for our sweet, sweet little one.
But, what I’ve come to realize is that aside from that brief and surreal moment, I’ve been reaching for my baby for years. Each month, I went a little further and stretched myself a little more to grasp what we so desperately wanted. I reached through seeking treatments, by surrounding myself with others in this community, praying, and educating myself. I reached by being vocal about our journey and spreading awareness so others could feel less alone. I reached by envisioning what our precious little one might look like and how life would be once they joined our family, in whatever way that may be. And when I felt like I couldn’t hold out much longer, my tribe reached for me and surrounded me with the support I needed to push forward. For 62 months, I never stopped. And that long reach was so worth it. Every tear, worth it.
My sweet mama in waiting – I know how dark these days are and the pain each one brings. My heart aches for you as I know that same pain all too well. The fear, uncertainty, jealousy, and sadness are far too real and all encompassing. But, I beg you to never stop reaching for your baby until, in whatever beautiful way they come, you bring that child into your embrace and look in those gorgeous eyes and say “We’ve been waiting for you.”