Guest blog by Dana Torino, Founder of IVF Corner.
I have dealt with fertility issues. My husband has too. The journey is a difficult one to be on and it is one that we didn’t share with our friends and family for many years. Until now…It was a journey filled with many failed attempts, a few miscarriages, and a lot of heartache.
Parenthood – It’s not an easy road! The joys and fears, excitement and struggles of milestones is a lifelong journey of learning to be the best parent one can be. Whether you’re a newbie or a parent of 4, parenthood will teach you things you never thought of or felt you were capable of. Parenthood is not an easy road but it is certainly a blessing to embrace. Our journey to parenthood started with us figuring out what’s in vitro fertilization?
Not many people know this about us. Not even our closest family and friends truly know our story. But we figured now is the best time (we’ve definitely got some time now due to this pandemic) to share our story…in hopes of helping other couples through their journey to parenthood.
My husband and I will be married 18 years this July 2020. What a year 2020 has been – this coronavirus pandemic – has given us time to pause and reflect on our lives. Our new normal of social distancing from friends and family, wearing masks out in public just to go grocery shopping, and Zoom virtual meetings for work and school has shifted our lives we thought were just ordinary to extra-ordinary to stay safe and healthy for the sake of our loved ones. We’ll be celebrating 18 years of marriage this year with two kids – an almost teenage daughter (12 years old) and a soon to be kindergartner son (5 years old). That’s a big age gap right?
More than 13 years ago we wanted to grow our family and have kids but it just wasn’t happening naturally for us. We were married for 5 years – enjoying married life and had amazing jobs – I worked as a Special Education teacher and my husband worked in finance in a major corporation. We traveled and gained new experiences. I finally finished my Masters program in human relations, so the timing was perfect. Is there ever really a right and perfect time to have kids? We felt in our hearts it was finally our time to have kids – I always loved kids which is probably why I became a teacher.
We never discussed how many kids we would someday have when we got married. We both didn’t come from big families – I had two older brothers and my husband had only one sister. So one or two kids would be perfect for us. No one was pressuring us to have kids (thank goodness) but I know we were secretly pressuring ourselves. Was our honeymoon over?
Conceiving just wasn’t happening naturally for us and at the time no one really talked about infertility – not that we felt it was a taboo topic to talk about with others – we probably just didn’t want to talk about it with others so as not to believe that that was to become our reality. It was embarrassing and stressful. We didn’t know anyone personally, friends or family, going through the same situation as us. Maybe a few high-profile stars I read about in a few articles, but infertility was not openly discussed on mainstream media or widely advertised on social media back then more than ten years ago.
But we honestly felt that something must be seriously wrong with us if we couldn’t conceive naturally. You don’t learn about infertility at school or any of the pre-marriage classes we took. You don’t even discuss it with your family doctor when you go in for your annual physical visits. Was parenthood just not in our future?
What’s In Vitro Fertilization?
And so our journey to conceive through in vitro fertilization (IVF) began. What’s in vitro fertilization? In vitro fertilization is a process of fertilization where an egg is combined with sperm outside the body, in vitro. I didn’t even know that that was possible or even an option for us.
I honestly don’t remember all the details, the names of medications, or procedures we endured more than 13 years ago. But the feelings of sadness, confusion, fear, excitement, and joy will always remain with me and be a part of my journey to motherhood.
After countless doctor appointments, tests, and blood work we learned that my husband and I both had fertility issues so we were not in a good spot to be in. Devastating news to the both of us and news we didn’t want to share with our closest family or friends. He had a low sperm count and I had polyps that was compromising my uterus. I had to have surgery to remove the polyps.
I didn’t read too much about infertility or do research online when we received our diagnosis…again, I probably didn’t want to believe it. But all we needed is one good sperm and one good egg from each of us according to our doctor who specialized in reproductive medicine to make a baby so we took a chance. IVF was our only viable route to parenthood at this time.
I remember thinking how the heck are we going to do all this when we received our first box full of medications. Our doctor and nurses were so great and supportive in guiding us through the step by step process, but we had to do all the injections ourselves. The insane amount of shots and medications I took would make any person cringe and possibly give up – its toll on your body both physically, emotionally, and financially – were immense.
My husband and I had to become overnight pros in giving me my shots. He drew two circles on my lower back with a black sharpie so he would always have the perfect area to give me my daily shots. Even giving me my own shots on my tummy still made me grimace every time. I remember always having to count up to three, maybe 5 or 10 and visualize it going in with ease before actually doing it.
With lots of soul-searching and patience, we didn’t give up. It wasn’t pretty, there were lots of arguments, feelings of hopelessness, and a fair amount of shot bruises – but we endured and took that leap of faith. I remember when my husband would give me a shot and it would bleed a little, he would feel so terrible as if he was hurting me and our chances of conceiving.
We never shared with anyone what we were going through.
The Long and Difficult Journey to Parenthood
Our first IVF procedure resulted in an ectopic pregnancy in my first trimester. That’s when the fertilized embryo implants outside of your uterus, not where it’s supposed to be and could cause serious complications. A total heartbreak and devastation to us. I wouldn’t wish this on anyone. This baby was loved from the very first moment.
Maybe we weren’t meant to be parents? Maybe that’s just how our life was meant to be? What did we do wrong? Thoughts I had to wrestle with and possibly accept. The struggle was heartbreaking. I guess I never really entertained the thought that our IVF procedure wouldn’t work on our first attempt. We now know that IVF procedures aren’t always successful on the first attempt. I was physically, emotionally, and financially drained.
I remember going to a dear friend’s baby shower soon after my miscarriage (no one knew I was pregnant and had just suffered a miscarriage) and I just felt so sad and alone. Registering for a baby registry, picking a name, and setting up the nursery was what I wanted to be doing too. I couldn’t bear to talk about the heartache with any of my closest friends and family. I just didn’t think they would understand our struggle or want to overwhelm them with our sadness and stress.
I had to find the silver lining to all of this – grateful for my husband that he was with me in sickness and in health, the good and the bad, and that we would get through this together. I was still thankful for the life we shared. Life goes on and we made the best of it together. We didn’t want to dwell on this heartache and lose sight of all life’s other blessings around us.
We had to remain hopeful.
The Journey Continues
We ultimately tried again a couple months later. We didn’t want to give up even though we knew the journey could be unbearable. I gave my body time to heal, but most importantly my soul to heal. I silently grieved for a child I never met, but felt in my heart.
Nothing is guaranteed, but we took another chance at parenthood. We still didn’t share what we were going through with anyone. This time around I didn’t want to feel too excited for fear of another miscarriage. Just feeling extra cautious and taking it day by day – the life growing in me was immensely loved already.
I tried my best to eat the healthiest foods, drank lots of water, and just kept a positive attitude. With every shot and pill I took daily for months, I kept telling myself I just need to get through the first trimester – according to the doctor that’s usually a safer zone to be in. Which is why most people don’t announce their pregnancy until after the first three months of pregnancy because the chances of a miscarriage decreases after that time.
The morning sickness I felt this time around lasted all day long. I did not have a pretty or easy pregnancy to say the least, not that I expected to at this point. I remember someone telling me that morning sickness is a good thing to have – that it means the baby is definitely growing in you. Whether that was true or not, that made me embrace all the nausea and headaches I was experiencing daily.
I had to have a cervical cerclage done in my second trimester – a surgical procedure whereas your cervix is stitched up – this time around so as not to go into premature labor as well as go on modified bed rest due to my high-risk pregnancy.
It was a long and difficult journey to endure, but I made the best of it with positive thoughts and prayers.
13 years ago, we welcomed our first child – our miracle daughter – a journey we endured with the grace of God to become parents.
Our daughter has definitely given us great joy. She is an A honor roll student, loves to play soccer, and is a sweet, caring person. She looks like her mom a mini me, but has her dad’s personality. You always hear that daughters are closer to their dads and she is definitely a daddy’s girl.
We learn everyday how to be better parents for her. With her being our first child and the struggles we endured to have her, we don’t take any moment for granted. Parenthood is definitely not easy. The sleepless nights and a few more gray hairs every year, but something I wouldn’t trade for the world. Hearing your child call you mommy for the very first time is pure joy.
Going through this IVF journey to parenthood made us grow as a couple and taught us that life is truly precious and to treasure every moment. To have patience for one another and to love no matter what. We hope finally sharing our story gives others hope and strength to endure in their IVF journey and accept whatever the outcome may be. It doesn’t have to be a silent journey anymore and you are not alone.
I know everyone’s infertility experience is different, but let’s provide positive support to whoever is going through infertility. Be kind to others – we all go through storms, we’re just not all in the same boat.
IVF – Part 2
Eventually we wanted our daughter to have a little brother or sister to grow up and share memories with. We went through another round of IVF – again it was not successful. Feelings of sadness and hopelessness was overwhelming to suffer yet another miscarriage.
I remember it was around October and we got invited to a Halloween party. I remember dressing up in our costumes and having to hide our feelings of sadness amongst some of our closest friends and family. We didn’t want to ruin the festivities by sharing our heartbreaking news. It was a pain we kept to ourselves.
I don’t remember how many embryos we decided to transfer during the IVF process, but we froze the remainder of my embryos called cryopreservation – we weren’t ready to try again soon after like before. We decided to freeze the remainder of our embryos because we never knew when we would need it again, especially the hard work we went through to get them.
We were thankful for our healthy daughter and we were content if that’s how our life was meant to be. We would be okay with that decision. We relocated due to work soon after and didn’t really think of trying to conceive through IVF again for many years.
A Blessing in Disguise
One day I went in for my annual women’s checkup appointment with my new obstetrician/gynecologist (ob/gyn) doctor in the area. During the appointment, he soon learned of my history of infertility and I told him about my miracle daughter conceived through in vitro fertilization. He kindly asked if we would like to try again and I was a bit surprised actually because my husband and I haven’t discussed it in a while, a long while.
Our daughter was almost 8 years old. Our frozen embryos were in another state. I wasn’t as young. Like anything, there were risks involved. Is it even possible? My new doctor handed me a pamphlet and said to speak with a lady that handles the logistics of the procedure. I went home and discussed it with my husband – he was surprised too.
Maybe it was worth a try again after all these years – a blessing in disguise. One phone call and numerous clinic visits led to another and we were soon at our first appointment with a new doctor and team of nurses to embark on our next IVF journey. We promised ourselves that we would try again this one last time and if it didn’t work out that would be our final time and we would be okay with that decision.
We decided to use fresh eggs so we had to start from the very beginning of the IVF process. From our personal experience when we used frozen eggs, our chances to conceive weren’t successful. Studies I’ve read show that using frozen eggs has a more successful rate. Everyone’s experience and health history is different and unique, so we advise you to consult your team of doctors for the most viable option for you.
On our first trimester they detected 2 heart beats. I was having twins! Both embryos that were implanted stuck which was amazing because that never happened in any of our cases.
It was recommended I be on modified bed rest again. I never had an easy pregnancy as some would say. The daily injections, medications, and constant visits to see specialists were all too familiar. My husband became a pro at giving me my shots again. I guess it’s like a riding a bike, once you learn you don’t forget. I developed an allergic reaction to some of the shots this time around, so we had to closely monitor and adjust the medications.
Towards the end of my first trimester, I remember waking up in the middle of the night bleeding on the bed, not just light spotting but blood on my garments and sheets. Not again…another miscarriage? I remember frantically having my husband call my doctor’s mobile in the early morning hours to ask him what to do. It was a Saturday. Was there anything the doctor could possibly do? We knew if I was having a miscarriage there was nothing to stop it. We were so fearful going into the doctor’s office that Monday morning. Were we going to hear the dreadful news again – that I was experiencing a miscarriage once again?
It doesn’t get any easier even though we’ve experienced it a handful of times. At the appointment during the ultrasound, we only heard one heartbeat. We ultimately were referred to see a specialist. My ob/gyn recommended I travel to see this specialist immediately and made travel plans to leave on the next flight out.
We learned that although I was having a miscarriage of one fetus, they still detected the strong heartbeat of the other. I was still pregnant with one. We didn’t think that was possible, but it apparently was. One was all we needed and hoped for and it was thriving. We are so grateful for our team of doctors and nurses that showed us so much compassion during this time.
Our bundle of joy – our miracle son – arrived 5 years ago.
We call him our “boss baby.” Watch the movie “Boss Baby” and you’ll soon realize you know one or two in your lives. Our little boss baby is definitely mommy’s boy though. He loves preschool and was disappointed to not be going to school anymore due to the corona virus pandemic– or as he calls it “conora” virus. He has adjusted well to online distance learning. Like his big sissy, he loves soccer and misses his weekly soccer practices and Saturday games with his teammates. Our son recently celebrated his 5th birthday while we quarantined and practiced social distancing
Hope for the Future
Our IVF journey was now complete. We shared a little more with our closest friends and family this time around. And now it’s something we don’t shy away from talking about. We can answer that question “what’s in vitro fertilization?” without any hesitation or embarrassment.
People are actually surprised when we talk about how our kids were conceived. I still get teary eyed sharing our story. The roller coaster ride of emotions you experience is a difficult journey. We want others going through the process and enduring the struggles to know that you are not alone.
Fertility issues is now more mainstreamed – you hear and read more about it compared to more than ten years ago. I wish I knew about Circle+Bloom and its programs or reached out to support groups. IVF is practically a household term now. It doesn’t have to be a silent journey or one to be embarrassed about. We hope our story gives you strength to endure your IVF journey. You are strong and resilient. May you find strength to keep powering through regardless of what’s currently going on in the world.
A Community of Love
My IVF corner is a personal journey I want to share with you – to give you insights, support, and resources as you embark on your journey to parenthood. You have the strength to be a warrior in this community. I pray you find faith, hope and love to endure in your personal fertility journey.
Dana Torino is the founder of IVF Corner, Special Education teacher, wife, and a mother of two children. Loves to shop, travel, eat out, and play soccer. A newbie to the blogging world, but wants to share her story in order to help others in their IVF journey. Currently resides in Guam, USA.