• Ashley M.

Why it's weird to say never

Things our house used to say never to... "I’ll never want to gain enough weight to put my body in its happy fertile zone.”- me

“We’ll never know what it’s like to have a baby without IVF.” -Scott and I

“We’ll never be able to have another baby.” -Scott and I

“I’ll never get to be a big sister.”- Olivia

“You'll never know what it's really like to be a parent unless you have another kid.”- several unwelcome comments by others

"You're daughter will be the weird kid if she never has a sibling." more unwelcome comments by others

“I’d never wait until the baby is born to find out the gender.”- me

"I would never have two kids with such a huge age gap.”- me

"I would never have a baby during Christmas.” ...and there we were, our family of three, expected to become a family of four the day after Christmas with a baby whose gender was unknown.

The backstory

My husband, Scott, and I dated for several years prior to our marriage. During the time of our courtship, many challenges occurred in my family life and with my physician health. In 2009, I was hospitalized with a blood clot after returning from a trip to Paris, France and then Toronto, Canada. Because of my blood’s supposed clotting factor, I was instructed to refrain from all estrogen methods of birth control. My body became estrogen deficient, my body’s BMI was underweight and I entered a state of amenorrhea.

When Scott and I married in 2011, we were most certain (and informed by many physicians) the only way we would be able to make a baby together would be through either IUI (intrauterine insemination) or IVF (in vitro fertilization). We decided to go for the best odds and begin IVF. Our first IVF cycle was a success and in March of 2013, our beautiful daughter, Olivia, was born. She was perfectly healthy and we convinced ourselves we were, “one and done!” The IVF process has changed a lot since our experience, and even though we were blessed by a successful first round, my body went through misery that I simply cannot forget. For starters, the medications used to force my body to create eggs caused me to go into hyper stimulation. The doctor was able to remove 23 eggs from my body and I went home to irritated ovaries that each swelled to the size of cantaloupes. Our embryos were still growing in a Petri dish, yet I was hiding at home in some of the worst pain I’ve ever experienced. At our five day transfer date we transferred our only two strong embryos. After the transfer, I returned home only for my ovaries to become more even more inflamed from high hcg levels (pregnancy hormone) surging through my body. This is also when the 22 gauge 3 inch needle containing progesterone was to be pushed through my back each evening by Scott in order to prevent miscarriage. Eight o’clock each evening become ridden with anxiety as we continued this for 12 weeks. My back was so sore from the injections that simply sitting in a car was excruciating and Scott was tormented by being the one to inflict the pain each night. Two weeks after embryo transfer, I had my morning blood work taken and by that afternoon we got the call, I was 4 weeks pregnant! We sobbed the happiest of tears on I-670 (Columbus, OH interstate) that day. Because my body was so swollen from the hyper stimulation and none of my clothing fit properly, I ran to a maternity store right away. I was estimated by the store clerk to be five months along based on the size of my stomach. I was in maternity clothes from that day on since by the time the swelling subsided, my actual baby bump was present.

Because I was so nervous about anything going wrong during the IVF process, I had stopped my entire exercise routine. Although my weight gain was normal, I felt lethargic and it took me a a full four months post baby to get back into running (side note: running is my happy place).

Hearing our daughter’s first cry in the hospital the day she was born was simply the best sound I had ever heard in my life. We had done it! We created a human life together. Motherhood was always something I desired, but I never knew how much joy it would bring me until becoming a mother to Olivia.

Fast forward a few years, Olivia was two and we had already made the big move from Ohio to Texas. My husband and I still told people in public that we only wanted one, which usually led to the same rude response we have heard far too many times. “You don’t want to have a weird only child do you?” I will not digress to how I feel about that statement, but please please if you are reading this, refrain from making that statement to others.

In our own hearts and private conversations we absolutely wanted a second child. When I looked for an OBGYN practice during our move I looked for good reviews, but thought I would only see the doctor on an annual basis and never thought I would be looking for someone that would one day deliver my child. I found a doctor that was just fine and in a nice practice. We met with two different fertility doctors and both times were told IUI and IVF would be the only way to conceive. I felt defeated and broken knowing that even though Scott would support either process, it just was not in my heart. My body was still in a state of amenorrhea and my BMI was underweight. During my annual physician with my primary care doctor, he looked at me straight on and asked if we want another child. I could not lie. The stinging of tears crept in. He said, “go to the store, buy bigger pants and gain weight. It is simple.” I left his office mad, offended and in denial that gaining weight would change anything. I looked at myself as broken and incapable of creating a human life on my own. It made me feel ugly and useless.

In 2017, my OBGYN retired and I inherited another physician within the practice. During our first meeting she asked if we want a second child. I sobbed. I told her how I never want to go through IVF again, but that I think about a sibling for Olivia all the time. She looked through my chart then up at me and said, “we can do this!”

Step one, she told me to gain weight. There was not a number associated with this, but the goal was to put my body back in a state where menses was possible. She advised me to still run, kickbox, spin, etc. and still eat the healthy foods I love, just eat more of them. She understood that exercise during a second pregnancy was something that was very important to me. She was also baffled as to why previous physicians had been trying to force a menstruation cycle for me using progesterone pills when my body was deficient in estrogen and not progesterone. She felt strongly that estrogen based birth control pills would be the way to start regular cycles, but first had to rule out clotting factor from my 2009 blood clot incident. I was referred to a hematologist oncologist and ten vials of blood work later, it was clear I have zero clotting factor and estrogen would indeed be safe for me to take. This time I was motivated!

I let myself be okay with wearing a bigger size. My husband told me daily how beautiful I was. I did not step on the scale and any time the negative thoughts creeped in my head, I pushed them out with thoughts of a beautiful baby.

On November 20, 2017 I got my first menstrual cycle since August 2009! This of course occurred at the mall with my daughter and yet, I was on cloud nine. We were making progress! The plan was to use Clomid timed with my ovulation schedule, but since we travel often we went through two months of missed opportunities. At the time, this felt huge and super frustrating!

The evening of Christmas 2017, Olivia sat with me at the dining table while Scott started cleaning dishes in the kitchen. She told me that she was praying to God all the time for a brother or sister, but he doesn’t listen. She started crying and telling me how sad she is to be an only child and asked if God doesn’t love her because he is not answering her prayers. We sat together sobbing and hugging each other. I told her how mommy and daddy pray too, but we don’t always know the Lord’s plan. We talked about how much we would enjoy another member of our family, but how it cannot define us. It was the most heartbreaking feeling I have ever experienced to hear her feel as defeated as us.

This brings me to...

On March 20, 2018 Olivia turned five and we spent a full day running around town doing all the things she wanted to do. It was a wonderful day, but that very next day I started my period. Periods then started feeling like a sign of the previous clomid and Ovodrel cycle failing. I cried that entire day. I felt like the hope we once had was lost. Two weeks later was ovulation time again, time for yet another ultrasound to check my follicle growth, injection at home with Ovidrel (to stimulate ovulation) and two weeks after that would be time to take another pregnancy test. Our months were divided by these moments and my body felt yucky from all the Clomid.

At 3am on April 6, I woke up wanting to take a pregnancy test. I was three days late, but was nervous to feel let down by another negative pregnancy test. Immediately, the test read pregnant. I stared at it for two minutes in disbelief. This was my first ever positive pregnancy test. I crawled back into bed and Scott asked if I was okay and gave me a hug. I turned to him and said, “yes, I’m pregnant.” We laid in bed for about a half hour hugging each other, laughing and also getting a little freaked out before he said, “want to go make a pot of coffee and watch something?” I do not even remember what we watched, but I know we paused it a million times turning to each other with comments like...

my first ever positive pregnancy test

“I just looked in my Ovia app and the baby’s due date is December 26, poor kid.”

“Olivia and the baby will have almost six years between them in age.”

“We need to start another college savings account.”

It was so hard to hide the joy and emotions that I felt were seeping through every pore in my body! We wanted Olivia to be the first to know, so kept our big news from family and friends until we neared second trimester and could tell if it was a viable pregnancy. Telling Olivia about the news of a sibling was one of the best moments! Her responses as she processed the news were pure entertainment...

“So does the baby eat trash in your tummy?? Is it eating coffee?” “I need to practice changing diapers!” “Can the baby crib be in my room?” “Will the baby have to get shots? I hope they are gentle.” “Can I watch you feed the baby eat from your boobies?” “My life is gonna change!”

We decided to not find out the gender because we wanted to just enjoy the baby growing in my tummy with as little medical intervention as possible. The IVF process was so controlled and requires so many visits to my he doctors and so much blood work, we wanted to just he or she be.

It was not until my week 24 ultrasound that our second child finally felt real to me. I was at the doctor and got to see our baby on a 3D ultrasound. The technology since I was pregnant with Olivia has changed so much! The picture was so clear and I immediately fell in love. Our growing baby is beautiful and through the ultrasound looked to me like a mini Scott. In my heart it felt like baby boy, Max. After the ultrasound I had to sit in the lobby waiting to see my OBGYN. I could not stop crying! I can imagine to others in the room it may have looked like I had received bad news, but my emotions were pure joy. It really was happening. We were going to get our second baby!

This all would not have been possible without a physician that took the time to investigate and find a solution or my husband that has been supportive every step of the way. I am also very appreciative for in vitro fertilization. It gave us our daughter and makes millions of lives possible.

During my pregnancy with Max, I was able to take spin class three days a week, weight train one day a week and kickbox two to three days a week. I felt strong and healthy and I loved every little kick and nudge Max made in my tummy. Despite being nauseous the entire 39 weeks, I was a very happy pregnant woman.

An aspect of child birth I have struggled with is always wanting to deliver a child vaginally and without medical intervention. I’m not sure why this quest has always been so important to me, but it has. During our pregnancy with Olivia, Scott and I took a twelve week natural child bird class (The Bradley Method). Due to medical complications along the way, Olivia was born March 20, 2013 via a planned cesarean section. A strong motivating factor for my workouts during pregnancy with Max was to be strong enough to endure a VBAC (vagina birth after c-section). During our 28 week ultrasound Max was in breech position, but since he was small enough to turn and we had time, no one was that concerned. At my 36 week cervical exam the doctor could feel baby was engaged and I was dilated, but was immediately convinced she was feeling his booty and not his head. An ultrasound confirmed Max was in a ‘Frank Breech’ position. I used what I found from Spinning Babies at home and in the gym. I visited the chiropractor daily to try and manipulate him to move, but he would not budge. During week 38 we went to the hospital early on a Wednesday morning for an ECV (external cephalic version) procedure. During this process, baby’s heart rate is monitored, IV fluids are administered, and anti nausea medication is taken along with a medication to relax the uterus. My doctor and her partner physician tried for 30 minutes to get him into a different position. They successfully dislodged his booty from my cervix, but his head then because lodged in my rib cage and they could not move him any further without assuming risks. I laid in that hospital bed sobbing. I felt so defeated. Another c section. I was again wondering doubting the capability of my body and feeling frustrated by how natural all this seems to come to other women and not myself.

We scheduled our c-section for December 20 at noon and after my days of grieving I came to accept my lack of control and tried to focus more on the big picture. We checked into the hospital at 9:30am on the 20th and once paperwork was complete, gown was on and IV was started, I laid in the hospital bed freaking out. For starters, we still did not have a girl name. Also, all the panic and trauma from my first c section was consuming my mind. At 11:15am they told us the doctor wanted to get an earlier start than planned and we met with the anesthesiologist and walked back to the operating room. The nurse that prepped me was an angel. She was funny and kept me distracted. The spinal was started, my body went numb accordingly and my husband entered the room. A clear drape was used as a partition so that when baby was removed, Scott would be the one to call out the gender. After about 10 minutes of them operating and Scott playing my inappropriate labor and delivery playlist as a distraction (yes, I love 90's rap in all their explicit lyric glory), they told us to get ready to meet our baby. Max came out and my tears were flowing! A boy! I’ve always idealized having one girl and one boy! I couldn’t believe it! He was ours! We did it! All the stress about a c section disappeared. There he was! After cleaning him up a bit and weighing him, he was brought to my chest and none of my previous struggles or frustrations mattered.

As it turns out, a Christmas baby is pure joy! We were sent home from the hospital the day before Christmas Eve and still got to do all our family traditions. Christmas morning was even more magical with Max. We took our time sitting and opening gifts (I also nursed through it) and this year I cared even less about what was under the tree. I panned the room with my eyes and saw all I’ve ever asked for sitting together.

As I finish writing this post I’m giving myself grief that it took me so long to complete. The house isn’t as clean as I want it to be and several unfinished projects are hanging around our house. I have meetings I haven’t made and I’ve seldom left the house. My hair often is caked in spit up and I wear the same nursing tanks and leggings every day. I sit all day long with my baby in my arms and my life feels absolutely wonderful and complete. This time around I am more aware of how fast these moments slip away. One day, I will have time to be more productive, more put together and the house will get cleaned. Right now, I am going to enjoy this precious life we thought we would never have.

-Ashley M.

#infertility #pregancy #motherhood #kids #familylife #childbirth

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