When I learned about Hadassah’s reConceiving Infertility initiative to decrease stigma around infertility by sharing people’s personal journeys and helping people access treatment, I felt compelled to share my story with Thrive Global readers in time for National Infertility Awareness Week 2021 (April18-24).
For as long as I can remember, I have always wanted to be a wife and mother. When friends would ask what I want to be when I grow up, I typically would reply with, “a mom.” I found the love of my life and we married in 2010. We did everything right. Dated for five years, traveled, truly got to know each other. Waited about a year into our marriage to start trying to have a baby so that we were financially and emotionally ready to start a new chapter in our lives.
Four months went by, six months went by, seven, eight months. My doctor said that we had to try for a year before having any tests done to see what was wrong. We finally got pregnant with a very faint line on the test….and then started heavily bleeding a day later. My doctor said this was normal and to rest and stay hydrated. I tried not to think too hard about what was happening, I needed to stay mentally positive. I didn’t talk to anyone about this. People just don’t talk about these things.
About two months after the visit, I took another pregnancy test and this time it was a digital test with a very bold wording box that said “Pregnant.” I woke my husband Jesse up and said, would you like a cup of coffee? He said sure, and I said, you’ll have to drink one for me too because I can’t have coffee for nine months!
We were over the moon excited for our first baby. I had an iron and vitamin D deficiency during our pregnancy however the doctor just said to take supplements. Our eldest son, Ezekiel, was born during an extremely hot summer in August 2012.
We thankfully became a part of a few mommy groups and our babies were all born around the same time which allowed us to experience things together as our babies grew up. We helped each other when we started feeding solids, when our babies started walking or when we had troubles getting them to sleep. Having that support was so helpful. Once our son was a little over a year old, we decided to start trying for another baby. Especially because it took us a while to get pregnant with our first. And most of our new mommy friends also decided to try again.
A year passed and all but one of my mommy friends had gotten pregnant. Some had even said they got pregnant the first month trying. I tried not to think too hard about what was happening, I needed to stay mentally positive. We got pregnant however the test had a faint line which brought back memories of what had happened to us before. Same thing happened and I started to bleed very heavily. And again, my doctor said this is normal, it happens, just rest and stay hydrated.
I had an appointment about a month later to go see if everything looked ok so that we could start trying to get pregnant again. I felt nauseous but I chalked that up to nerves. I took a routine urine test when I arrived at the office and waited to be called back to the room.
The nurse took my vitals and said the doctor would be in shortly. When the doctor came in, she said, very casually, “Well, you’re pregnant so we’ll need to do some blood work today.”
I was in shock. For a few reasons. I wasn’t expecting to go in and find out we were pregnant. And my doctor knows that I just had a horrible month of bleeding after a faint positive test (I had called a few times and I know it’s in my file because it was in my online patient portal). It also said, the patient has been trying to conceive for over a year. Do the doctors look at the patient file before coming into the room? Not that I was expecting confetti to fall from the ceiling. However, a simple, “I have some wonderful news. I know you’ve been trying for a while and I’m happy to tell you, you’re pregnant.” Perhaps this is an overreaction on my part, but you’ll see why I bring this up later in our story.
The pregnancy went well, again needed to be on vitamin D and iron supplements. Our daughter, Hadassa, came a few weeks early but other than pregnancy nausea, carpal tunnel, back aches and fatigue, it was a good pregnancy.
Once she turned a year old in 2016, we decided to try for another baby. A year passed and we were still not pregnant. 2018 came around and we found out we were pregnant. We were so excited. We heard the baby’s heartbeat a few times which is what every mama wants to hear. The day after one of my ultrasounds, my world came crashing down. It was the end of March 2018 I was cramping all morning and went into labor. The contractions were very intense, I had just dropped off both my son and daughter at their preschool and decided to head home to rest. I was hoping the contractions were just Braxton Hicks however I knew in my gut that something was very wrong. Not too long after getting back home, I gave birth to our teeny tiny baby. I remember there was so much blood, and I sat there holding this very, very, small baby wrapped in a washcloth in my hands. I was in shock. I couldn’t process what had just happened. I didn’t call my husband and I didn’t even call my doctor. I took a shower, cleaned up the mess, got myself dressed and headed to the doctor’s office. Once arriving, I typed out on my phone “I just had a miscarriage, and I need to see the doctor please” and showed it to the sweet lady behind the front desk who quickly escorted me to a room. I remember sitting in that small cold room, waiting for the doctor, thinking, why is this happening? Did I do something wrong? I felt like my ears were buzzing, my skin felt clammy, and time passed yet I felt numb.
The doctor did an ultrasound and saw that indeed I had delivered the baby. She said I could go home and rest. She also said I wouldn’t need a D&C and to call her if I spiked a fever or had any symptoms other than bleeding and cramping. I walked out to the parking lot and realized I need to make ‘the call.’ The call to my husband to let him know that once again, my body had let us down. That I had lost another baby.
Bleeding and cramping continued for months and my doctor said I needed to go in for tests. I set up an appointment. I remember I was taken back to the same room where we had last heard our baby’s heartbeat the day before we had a miscarriage. I sat there waiting to be seen while all the emotions came flooding back when I heard a light knock at the door. The nurse came in and said, “Hello, how are you feeling?” I said ok. She then said, “Do you know if this baby is a girl or boy yet?”
I said, “Excuse me?” She said, “Or are you keeping it a surprise? Are you feeling the baby move and kick yet?” I didn’t even know what to say. I mumbled something along the lines of, we lost the baby and I’m here to run tests. She said, “Oh, I’m sorry, okay we’ll go ahead and take your blood for testing and the doctor will be in shortly.” Does anyone look at the patients charts before walking into the room? I feel as there needs to be a bright neon post-it on the chart of those recovering from a miscarriage or those dealing with infertility so that they are aware before walking into an exam room.
After blood work indicated that things were okay, my doctor said the bleeding should stop soon and to contact her if it continued for another month. Sadly, the bleeding didn’t stop. I was bleeding on and off for another two months and my doctor once again, said to come in for more tests. Unfortunately, the tests came back saying that things were okay, and I was sent home to rest and told the bleeding would stop. By August 2018, five months after our miscarriage, I was still bleeding. The emotional toll was excruciating. Having a daily reminder that your baby was gone, that your body had once again failed you was heartbreaking.
Thankfully, finally, my doctor said that I would need to go to the hospital for a sonohysterogram to see what was going on. A sonohysterogramis an imaging study of the uterus. The doctor inserts fluid into the uterus via the cervix to examine the uterine lining. This approach allows them to identify more structures than if ultrasound with no fluid was used. This showed that I had leftover lining from the baby we had lost back in March and that I had a polyp that needed to be removed. The doctor said I would need to have a D&C and a thorough scraping of my uterus.
While speaking to my doctor, I asked a few questions. I had to start fighting for myself. After months of bleeding, I realized I needed to speak up. So, I asked, because we’ve been having troubles getting pregnant and because I’ve been told that I could possibly have endometriosis. Endometriosisis an often-painful disorder in which tissue like the tissue that normally lines the inside of your uterus — the endometrium — grows outside your uterus. This causes very painful periods and infertility. Endometriosismost commonly involves your ovaries, fallopian tubes and the tissue lining your pelvis. While I’m put under for the D&C surgery, could we also check my fallopian tubes, and ovaries. She said, “Yes, that would be helpful. It’s a longer recovery but would help give us answers.” I asked why this wasn’t suggested to me. She said, because insurance doesn’t typically cover it and it’s a longer recovery time. I couldn’t believe that this is how the system worked. If someone has had three miscarriages and one of them leads to bleeding for five months. Wouldn’t the natural response from the doctor be, let’s see what is wrong. Let’s find answers. Let’s get you pregnant. Sadly, this is not the case.
I had the surgery the very last week of August which resulted in the doctor doing a deep scraping of my uterus and found two polyps, a few cysts that she drained and a large amount of endometriosis and scar tissue on both my ovaries which she was able to remove. She also did an HSG test where they put dye through the fallopian tubes to test if they were blocked. Overall, the surgery went well, and I was thankful to have more answers. She also informed us that this surgery would help us get pregnant. That in a way, it had given us a clean slate.
January 2019 came around and I had a faint positive test. At this point, I didn’t let myself get excited. I had a trip planned to fly out for a friend’s wedding and I was going to focus on the joy of seeing friends and family. During that trip, I began bleeding. I tried not to think too hard about what was happening, I needed to stay mentally positive. Thankfully, the bleeding only lasted for two weeks this time around. My doctor said to just keep trying, to relax, that it would happen.
In March, my period was late. However, I didn’t even want to take a test, so I booked an appointment to see my doctor a few weeks later. They did a urine test and an ultrasound. We were pregnant.
The baby was growing and a small part of me was so happy, but I felt like I couldn’t get excited. Not yet. It’s this horrible tug of war mentally to try and stay positive and yet prepare yourself for what might happen. The doctor put me on progesterone suppositories to try and hold this pregnancy, which is around $60 per month and I was on them almost four months. A routine ultrasound appointment was coming up in June and I had arranged to have our kids stay with a friend while I quickly popped in for my appointment. Should have taken about an hour at the most.
This is where, once again, my world came crashing down on me. I laid back for the ultrasound, had a chat about the weather with the doctor when her face became concerned. As I looked at the ultrasound screen, the beautiful flickering light that I was used to seeing on my baby’s chest, was no longer there. I think I stopped breathing. She continued to search.
She said, I’m so sorry. But I can’t find a heartbeat. I could hear my own heart throbbing in my ears, and I remember thinking, what a sick joke. She said I need to send you across the street to the hospital to get checked out and have a more exploratory ultrasound. In shock, I texted my husband who said he could meet me at the hospital. Thankfully after texting my friend, she said she could watch the kids for as long as we needed.
I remember sitting in the hospital, thinking, my baby is inside of my belly but is gone. No longer has a heartbeat yet my baby is still in there. I held onto my belly hoping that this was all a mistake and the doctor at the hospital would be able to see that our baby was ok. Sadly, that wasn’t the case. The ultrasound showed that indeed the baby no longer had a heartbeat. They had me set up an appointment for a D&C 6 days later. And to go home, relax, rest, and see if the baby passed naturally or they would see me back in six days for surgery.
The next four days were a sick joke. I wasn’t bleeding, still had pregnancy symptoms, and yet, I knew my baby was in my belly, but was gone.
On the fifth day, I told my husband to go and enjoy Father’s Day with our kids and family, that I’d stay home and rest up before our scheduled D&C surgery the following day. They left that Sunday morning. Around noon, I started to have some cramping and very little bleeding. By 2 PM, I started having painful contractions and bleeding heavily. Since I have been through previous miscarriages I thought, this will be painful for a few hours but once the baby passes, things will settle down.
That’s not even close to what happened next. By 3 PM I was bleeding so heavily, that as I would pull my pajama pants down to use the restroom, blood would quickly pour out of me, splattering the floor, walls and door. I couldn’t call my doctor because it was the weekend. So, I asked my husband to come home and he thankfully was able to leave the kids with family. With traffic, he couldn’t get home till around 5 PM. By then, the bleeding had continued to get worse. I was so lightheaded that bending over to clean up blood resulted in me almost fainting, so for about an hour as I waited for my husband to get home, I sat on the toilet, covered in blood, with blood splattered all over the floors, walls and door, hoping that he’d get home quickly and that the pain and bleeding would stop.
When he arrived, I broke down and cried. For the baby we had lost, for the horrific sight that my poor husband was about to witness, and because once again, I was feeling like my body was failing me.
A few more hours passed, and the bleeding did not let up. By then I started to feel more and more dizzy until I did end up fainting a few times. My husband rushed me to the emergency room around 9 PM. It took four almost five hours of tests, blood work and the most painful ultrasound that I’ve ever experienced (later to find out that when you’re fully dilated and in labor, the ultrasound probe can be excruciating). They finally put me on pain meds after all the tests and ultrasounds were done. And around 4 AM, we had our D&C surgery. While in recovery, we finished paperwork and were discharged to go home and rest around 9 AM.
Something they don’t tell you until you’re unfortunate enough to have a miscarriage. No matter how much you desperately wanted and prayed to have a baby, if you have a miscarriage, insurance couldn’t care less. It cost more to have a miscarriage than to have a baby. They also have it written on your medical paperwork as an abortion. Now I realize that the ‘definition’ of abortion is a procedure to end a pregnancy. And I can see how because my baby died, the pregnancy ended.
However, the first thing that comes to mind when someone thinks of the word abortion is the baby wasn’t wanted. Why is it that the medical world doesn’t use the word loss of life, loss of baby or miscarriage? It’s insensitive and painful to see that on your medical paperwork and bills after a gut-wrenching loss.
After many years of loss and heartbreak, and after countless appointments with our OBGYN, we realized that unless you seek out infertility help, and fight for yourself, we won’t get answers. An OB is there for a pap smear, healthy pregnancy, and routine checkups; however, they are not helpful when it comes to infertility.
We decided to be proactive and seek out an infertility clinic. Within the first few appointments, I already felt more confident that we were in the right place and finally going to get answers. However, it was going to cost, A lot. They took many rounds of blood work, ultrasounds, tested my husband’s blood and sperm and set up our first IUI appointment within a few weeks of our consultation.
My husband and I were put on many vitamins to help both our reproductive health and when running my blood work, they found that I have a blood clot disorder. Which could have contributed to our previous miscarriages. So, once we did get pregnant, I was to have blood thinning shots, called Lovenox, daily until the baby is born. We were feeling very thankful for answers but had a long way to go.
Bills started flooding in. Insurance wasn’t going to cover our infertility journey however, if a miscarriage were costing us $6,000 or more, we were hoping that putting the money into finding answers would result in our rainbow baby.
Before and after an IUI, you need blood drawn and ultrasounds multiple times. Again, none of that is covered by insurance. However. We were told it’s cheaper than IVF so trying IUI first was routine.
We ended up having three failed IUI attempts and by November 2019, we officially started IVF stems (shots) and estrogen to help stimulate multiple eggs as well as prevent ovulation. The shots are emotionally draining, take a toll on your body physically and send your hormones on a wild roller coaster ride. But we felt like we were heading in the right direction which kept us positive. Bills continued to fly in. Our egg retrieval surgery was in December 2019. The surgery cost $4,500 and on top of that, there were more bills, for anesthesia, another one for embryo testing, and another for extra lab costs.
Our egg retrieval surgery went well, and the good news was, we had 33 eggs retrieved, 24 were mature enough to be inseminated, 20 fertilized successfully. Out of the 20, 17 embryos survived to day five blastocyst. At that point we could only afford to test eight of the embryos (again, not covered by insurance, out of pocket costs- another $3,500). There was only one that came back with chromosome issues, so we were down to seven tested embryos making that a total of 16 frozen embryo babies. These are all incredible numbers. We felt on top of the world.
Between January-February 2020, we were put on progesterone shots as well as estrogen for about a month to prep my body for our FET (Frozen Embryo Transfer). Again, none of this was covered by insurance so we continued to have bills flooding in.
Our embryo-baby was put in on February 27th. Very calm peaceful experience. They made sure I drank water so that my bladder would be full for the procedure. They gave me a valium to help keep me calm and had soothing music playing. We were sent home to rest and wait…and wait…and wait…until two weeks later when we were able to go in for blood work to see if we were pregnant.
We got the call with amazing news. Our beta was high, and we were officially pregnant with our sweet little rainbow baby.
But that wasn’t the end. We had to continue taking estrogen, progesterone shots and Lovenox shots daily. Which made me extremely tired. Once we made it past 15 weeks, I was able to stop taking estrogen and progesterone shots but needed to continue Lovenox shots.
By 20 weeks, I started to feel the baby moving around which helped me emotionally. After so much loss, it is hard to get excited. You guard your heart knowing that the storm might swoop in again. However, that wasn’t the case, and our Rainbow Baby is happy and healthy. Our baby, Elijah Jackson, was born on October 27th at 8:21 AM.
We’re so very thankful to be pregnant. It’s been a long journey. The bills, shots and medications are endless. Not to mention the emotional rollercoaster that infertility puts on everyone involved. And could be less stressful if insurance would help cover the financial burden. It’s heartbreaking that so many go through infertility. I hope that sharing our story brings light to a subject that tends to be shoved under the rug. Infertility needs to be talked about and stories shared so that those in pain can be comforted and supported. And hope can be spread as well.
In the time since our baby was born, Hadassah, which advocates for women’s health issues, launched reConceiving Infertility to raise awareness, destigmatize and confront prejudices and misconceptions on this once-taboo topic, drive policy change at the state and national level, and empower patients to advocate for their own health.
reConceiving Infertility features a series of videos narrated by Amy Klein, author of The Trying Game: Get Through Fertility Treatment and Get Pregnant Without Losing Your Mind(April 2020, Penguin/Random House). Klein’s powerful story involved nine rounds of fertility treatment, 10 doctors and four miscarriages – in just three years. The first video, “How to Help People Struggling With Infertility During COVID-19,” is available at www.hadassah.org/infertility. “What Not to Say About Baby-Making” and “Infertility: Costs, Coverage, and Creativity” are next in the series.
The inability to have a child affects 6.7 million women in the U.S, according to a Centers for Disease Control study, or about 11 percent of the reproductive age population. Given limited access to insurance coverage and the high cost of treatments, including assisted reproductive technology (ART), many families incur substantial debt or are prevented from seeking treatment due to the financial burden.