Written by Jessica Di Bella, Guest Blogger
We started dating when we were only teenagers back in 2005— dreaming together what our wedding day would be like, how we would build a life together and of course, what our future babies would be like. The value of family and wanting to create one of our own one day, has always been a common value we treasured about one another. By being intentional in our prayers over parenthood, we believed that our desire was a calling the Lord had placed on our hearts not merely as a “lifestyle”, but a ministry to further bring glory.
Our fertility journey began unknowingly in 2012 after we said, “I Do”. We decided to not use birth control, as we would have joyfully welcomed the gift of a child in the sanctity of our marriage, if the Lord saw fit, while we intended to use the first couple years to enjoy being husband & wife. Assuming we were just “really good” at avoiding getting pregnant without contraceptives, we decided that we were ready to start growing our family in January 2015. After 6 months, we knew deep down something wasn’t right. We decided to seek help through my OBGYN, who after running blood tests & ultrasounds, encouraged us to “keep trying” for another 6 months and was optimistic that would do the trick.
Fast forward 6 months… nothing.
A few more blood tests, a few more ultrasounds, a very painful HSG procedure… nothing. Convinced that it could possibly be my husband’s contribution, he tested and was found to be above average in all areas. Back to the drawing board. Our OBGYN was beside herself and was honest, that she didn’t know what else she could do to help. I left the doctor’s office in tears, as it sunk in— something was wrong. We felt disappointed and lost, but we continued to pray for the Lord’s direction & to answer our prayers to conceive.
Coming to terms with the fact that we were struggling with infertility was overwhelming, frustrating and devastating. We continued to do our best to keep a smile on our faces and even though we are happy for them, it was tough to watch our closest friends and those around us get pregnant with ease. Each month we clung to hope & prayed with white knuckles that THIS would be the month. Walking past baby aisles and periodically making small purchases for the moment I could tell my husband and our family that, “We’re pregnant!”
There were so many times I would visit friends in the hospital just after they had a baby. Filled with joy while holding their precious miracle in the hospital room, I would sit in my car for an hour afterwards sobbing and praying for God to take away my desire to be a mother, if it wasn’t His will for my life.
We never thought we would struggle to grow our family, and nevertheless sought help from a Fertility Specialist after the encouragement of friends through church who had struggled with the same trial. We did our research and made an appointment with one of the top Fertility Specialists on the west coast, with one of the highest success rates for couples struggling with infertility in the nation.
With my husband’s side of things being excellent, our doctor ran me through a few more routine tests and procedures. We were put on a level 1 for our treatment plan— medications + vitamins + multiple monthly ultrasounds + multiple monthly blood work + restrictive diet + trigger shots + timed intercourse. We were excited that this could finally be it!
Three months into treatment and we had no success, so we switched medications, hoping my body would respond better to a different drug. Each month, being harder and harder, as well as becoming more devastated emotionally, physically and financially with no results. We were now classified as “Unexplained Infertility” after 2.5 years of trying to get pregnant intentionally, and almost 5 years unintentionally with no contraceptives. Realizing that there could be a chance we would never become parents naturally, we made sure to continue to keep our marriage as the focal point- going on trips away to spend quality time together, making date night a priority and even going to marriage counseling when we saw that our fertility journey was putting a strain on our relationship.
After a traumatic car accident, ovarian cysts from medication and what felt like countless setbacks, we completed our last round of treatment for level 1 and it was unsuccessful. We were told that we had exhausted the level of treatment we had been trying at (with a 39% chance to get pregnant overall), and with our testing results and lack of fertility insurance coverage, Level 2 (IUI) wouldn’t provide us with any greater odds than that of which we had been trying already. Since I was currently under 30 years old, as well as all of our other tests show in our favor, our doctor was very optimistic and said that IVF would provide us with a 80-90% chance to become parents on one try.
In Vitro Fertilization is intensive and extremely expensive. Unfortunately, our medical insurance didn’t cover a dime. It became more and more difficult to come up with the funds to proceed with fertility treatment, after spending thousands upon thousands of dollars. With over 2.5 years worth of blood work, testing, procedures and medications all paid for out of pocket, we had exhausted our personal finances. This is when we came to terms with the fact we needed to vulnerable and ask for help, so we started at GoFundMe. It was both difficult & humbling to even ask for help for such a personal journey, but we pray that through our transparency & vulnerability, God will be glorified and other couples will be comforted. We knew ultimately the Lord would provide as He saw fit and most importantly, we wanted to give glory to God through this entire journey & process. We knew medically, the longer we waited, our chances for success would decrease, statistically speaking.
In August 2017, we started our IVF journey after raising over $8,000.00 in funds, family donations and pulling from savings we put away over 6 months for this moment. I remember walking into the fertility clinic with $12k+ in cash, because we just wanted to put the money down as soon as we got it and out of our bank accounts. September 2017, I started my pre-egg retrieval stomach injections and boy did they suck. As a wedding photographer, I would have to plan in advance when I would be able to sneak away (in a short window of time) to give myself multiple injections out of sight from guests and my clients. It was physically and emotionally taxing to say the least. As we were a few days out from our egg retrieval and countless injections later, I got the call 15 minutes before a photoshoot that my estrogen levels had plummeted and my egg retrieval would need to be rescheduled for a later date and I would need a whole NEW protocol for medications. I felt like the wind was knocked out of me and tears streamed down my face, as I knew my doctor wouldn’t make that kind of call unless it was in my best interest. Regardless, I was devastated that I would now have to wait even longer to get closer to holding my baby I had been dreaming of.
November finally came. My egg retrieval was a success in medical terms and 30 eggs had been retrieved (Holy Crap!)… my husband and I decided to not do genetic testing for personal and faith based reasons, so we had no idea the “medical” chances we had for a success transfer once reaching day 5 with our embryos. Day 5 came, we got the call that 6 embryos had made it to the end. Kind of crazy when you think about it- your start with 30 eggs, about half of those fertilize and each day a few drop off until you’re left with your find number.
Because my ovaries were SO swollen from the medications and the procedure (the doctor said they were “kissing” over my uterus), we were denied a fresh transfer and put our little babies in the freezer (so to speak) and waited for clearance to do a frozen transfer.
Once again, being a wedding photographer, my timeline had to be very strategic for when we would not only do the transfer and I would be on bedrest, but when our potential baby (or babies) would be born. So while we were cleared for January 2018, we chose March 13, 2018 as our transfer date. Now came the intramuscular injections… I was terrified. For someone who is covered in tattoos, intramuscular injections were something I was dreading the entire journey. I remember that first injection in the doctors office. The nurse showed my husband, so he could help me on a daily basis to do several injections into my upper butt cheek- (enter sarcastic “yay” here). I kept asking question after question to avoid the inevitable needle going into my tooshy. Although, I will say that they got better or more tolerable with time, it was still a task I don’t look back on fondly. Like with my stomach injections before egg retrieval, I had a routine for the process before and during my injections. I would take deep breaths to relax myself—because getting injections while tense isn’t fun for anyone— and I would put on worship music to focus on, while getting stabbed with a needle. I would envision myself pregnant and ultimately holding my baby at the end of all of this.
Transfer Day came after what felt like forever building up to it. We transferred two non-genetically tested embryos into my womb and waited 10 days for the blood test that would tell us if we had indeed became parents. I still remember that day like yesterday— it felt like waiting for Christmas morning as a little girl… would I get the present I had wanted all year long? We went and got the blood work done as soon as they opened, so I would hopefully be one of the first people to get a call later that afternoon with the results. Then we waited what felt like an eternity to get the call. It was around 3:00pm when I saw the call come in and I anxiously answered it. My nurse coordinator had become a good friend to me over the years of treatment and heartache. She messed with me- asking me how I felt, if I had any symptoms since the transfer and then asked me if I wanted to know the results. “You’re Pregnant!” I heard on the other end of the phone and tears streamed down my face, still in disbelief. I had never heard those words, had never seen 2 lines on a test… how could it be?! Immediately after hanging up the phone, I went to pee on an old test I had in my drawer and quickly 2 pink lines showed up. I held the test and sobbed tears of joy… IT WORKED! All those years of heartache, pain, frustration and tears brought us to this day. Quickly, I realized I had about 45 minutes before my husband would be home from work, so I rushed to the store and got a digital test and balloons that said “BABY” to surprise him as soon as he walked through the door. As soon as I got home, I hit the record button on my phone and waited for his reaction. Right after my wedding day, it was the most joyous day of my life.
Fast forward December 3, 2018. The day our little girl was born. One of our embryos made it and we got to hold our little girl in our arms for the first time. It was ALL worth it. Every tear, every heartbreak, every year, every dollar, every injection and all the prayers for our precious baby. There were several moments I had felt like giving up along our road to becoming parents. Several times I broke down crying at the idea of becoming 30 and not having a baby in my arms and no one to every call me “Mom”… but with faith, fight and an amazing team of gifted medical professionals, our dream is now reality. If I could give advice to anyone in the trenches of infertility, it would be to not give up. Your miracle could be on the other side of the storm you’re currently in. Find yourself a good community of others going through the same journey, whether online or in person. People who have never gone through it, unfortunately will never understand no matter how hard they try. Try to not let well-intentioned people with bad advice or unsolicited suggestions get in your head and take away your focus from your goal of having a baby. Keep your eye on the prize and don’t lose faith.