Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Ready? Let's Do This...

First of all, I just want to say thank you so much for everyone who is reading this. I cannot tell you how incredibly terrifying it is to disclose this chapter of my life. Only a few very close friends and family know this much about this part of my life. In the past few weeks I have really felt called to share my story, even though the thought of it all being out there for the world to see literally paralyzes me with fear. Fear of what others will think, how they will react and in turn view me and my family. Fear that they will begin to treat us differently. It's like deja vu 16 years later! I just have to trust that this is what God wants me to do. This is my testimony of faith as much as it is my journey through infertility. Deep breaths...

I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. - Philippians 4:13

Part One
Part Two

Part 3

I vaguely remembered sitting in the doctor's office that day (that will go down in history as the worst day ever), and her talking about "how far science has come", blah blah blah, "in-vitro fertilization with donor eggs", blah blah blah, "I see no reason why you couldn't carry a child yourself." My ears perked up, say what? I wiped my tears away, and with a wrinkled brow asked how that would even be possible. By 16, you think you've got the whole birds and the bees thing down, or at least the logistics of it all. But this weird science stuff was all new to me. I remember hearing about a "test tube baby" once and was never able to get the image of some newborn baby stuck in a giant tube out of my head (hey never said I was the brightest crayon in the box). The doctor went on to say, that with the advancements in reproductive science, they were now able to take eggs from one woman, fertilize them with sperm, and insert them into the body of another woman, therefor making the infertile woman, pregnant. I would carry the child. I would deliver the child. Just like any other woman. I locked this little nugget of information away in my brain and planned to process it more when the time came. Well, in the spring of 2009, the time came.

I suppose my mom had a hard time dealing with everything going on with me too, but instead of talking about it with me, she turned to her own mom (a bit ironic don'tcha think?). Now I love my Nana dearly, but the woman is a loose lip sally and loves to gossip. As you know, my goal in life was to make sure NO ONE knew about my secret and I would die of embarrassment and shame should anyone find out. So imagine my surprise, when my favorite cousin pulled me aside (I don't remember exactly when it was) and wanted to talk to me about it. I was mortified and hurt. How could my mother have told everyone?! What a B, doesn't she know how incredibly personal this all was to me?! I felt completely betrayed. Luckily my cousin did most of the talking (as usual), because between the tears of anger and the tears deep rooted sadness of reliving it all, I was barely able to say a word. To this day, a lump forms in my throat when I start to talk about it. She kept it short and sweet. She just wanted to let me know how much she loved me like a sister and would do anything for me. And with that said, she told me that when the time came for Jason and I to start our own family, that she would, without question or hesitation, offer to donate her own eggs. She went on to say that she had talked about it with her husband, and they had absolutely no trepidation about whether it was the right thing to do. Because this is what you do for family. What do you say to that? How do you thank someone who is offering to give you something that you never in a million years thought you would get to have. How to do you thank someone for giving you LIFE, literally LIFE? I cried like a big fat baby, and let me just tell you, I am a self admitted ugly crier, I mean y'all, it's bad! My face gets all red and puffy and splotchy, it's not good.

So fast forward to 2009, Jason and I both had successful careers, bought a house, got a puppy and managed to keep it alive, so we figured maybe it was time to think about adding another member to the family. I struggled a lot with what the right thing to do was. I mean on one hand, clearly God didn't want me to get pregnant, right? But then, why would God put someone like my cousin in my life with her insanely generous offer if that wasn't the road we were meant to take? Would it be weird? Would my extended family be weird about it? I don't recommend trying to figure out God's plan. You won't. You just gotta go with your gut and wing it like the rest of us. So, I called her up and said, hey, wanna make a baby? And so it began. This was the first step in a very long, heartbreaking, roller coaster of emotions, doubt, and tests of faith.

I was incredibly optimistic and naive going into this whole process. It never crossed my mind that it might not even work. In fact, all that was running through my head was what to do if we had twins or triplets, what we would name them, what their rooms would look like, etc. To say that I was putting the cart before the horse would be putting it mildly. In my surge of optimism, the hubs and I started to seek out a church home. I hate to admit it, but I had not attended church regularly since grade school. I knew that we were going to need the big guy on our side for this, so now was as good a time as any to jump on board with church. We found a great church in our town and adopted them as our new family. I only share this with you to set the scene for yet another chance of fate in our lives. After a few weeks of attending the church, we were invited to participate in an adult bible fellowship with other couples in our age group and season of life. Despite having to get up even earlier, we drug ourselves out of bed and decided to go. The class was very informal, lots of chatting and general fellowship, followed by a bible application lesson from a mentor(s) leading the class. What are the chances that on that day, we would sit there as they discussed infertility, miscarriages, and IVF?! I mean, seriously?! I tried my best to hold back the tears, but there was no use, it wasn't long before I was in full blown ugly cry mode. Hi, my name is Candice, and I'm a blubbering hot mess! In a class of maybe 30 people, I was amazed at how many had their own stories and struggles with infertility. If this wasn't a sign from God telling us that this was exactly where we needed to be, I don't know what is. Among the group there was even another young couple who was pregnant with twins after going through 2 rounds of IVF. This new found support system only fueled my hope and faith that this would work for us. I should note that I was still very guarded and did not disclose to anyone in our group that the IVF procedure we were about to undertake was with my cousin's donated eggs. I guess everyone has their secrets, even in the house of God.

And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness. - Genesis 15:6

I spent countless hours researching the best Reproductive Endocrinologists in my area and finally settled on our doctor. We set up our initial consultation and discussed our game plan. The RE was not too impressed with my cousin's age (34) and highly suggested we consider a different donor, but told us that if we were set on going forward with her, that he would still do it. I wasn't quite sure what to think of that. She had 2 kids, one of which was a 2 year old, and seemed to be perfectly fertile. I was sure it was going to work, so we forged ahead. The whole process was quite involved. I had to get back on birth control pills (oh the irony of it), and we had to align our cycles, and then start a series of self injections. My cousin clearly had the short end of the stick (no pun intended) when it came to the injections. But I also had my fair share. I had to give myself injections in my belly as well as injections in my butt/hip area - with a 3 inch long needle I might add - for up to 12 weeks! My poor bum was so sore and bruised and swollen. It was truly awful. Poor Jason hated every second of it (he was the one doing the injections for me). When I asked my mom as a child where babies came from, I'm pretty sure she didn't mention needle injections, fertility drugs, hormone pills, syringes, and tubes! Alas, it was a means to an end. Finally, July 15th, the day had come where all this pain would be validated. My cousin went in for the egg retrieval procedure. They were able to get 10 eggs (not great, but not horrible), heck in my mind, my mantra was, "all we need is one." Now it was up to fate. We waited 5 days and were left with 3 viable embryos to transfer. They don't ordinarily transfer more than 2, but my doctor decided that since none of the 3 were "high quality", the risk was relatively low that we would end up with multiples.

About to go back
Astronaut Jason reporting for duty

two of the 3 embryos
We would then have to wait 9 excruciatingly long days to learn whether or not we would be parents. I didn't sleep a wink the night before the big blood test day. It was an anticipation like nothing I had ever experienced before. I gave my blood and sat impatiently by the phone all afternoon. I told them not to call me until after 5 so Jason could be there when we got the call. The phone finally rang. It was the doctor's office. I put it on speaker. The nurse went on to talk numbers, but all I could think was "just get to it already, am I pregnant or not?!" I had a level of 5. To be considered pregnant, you need a level of at least 50. I was not pregnant. It didn't work. I thanked the nurse for the call, hung up the phone and completely lost it. I felt completely deflated. Empty. Worthless. I was a failure. I had failed my cousin. I had failed my husband. I had failed myself. I cannot speak to the feeling of having a miscarriage, but I can't imagine that it would have felt in that moment any less devastating. How was I going to tell everyone? How was I going to tell my cousin? I wanted to crawl into a hole and just die. It was a good thing I was on summer break (I was a teacher) because I was not worth a damn at that point in time. I would just sit in the shower every day crying until the hot water ran out. I don't know why, but for some reason that has always been my go to coping mechanism. As the days and weeks dragged on, I slowly worked my way through the stages of grief and resolved to focus on a way to thank my cousin for her own sacrifices and overwhelming generosity. I knew that absolutely nothing I did could ever repay her for what she did for us, but I knew I had to do something. Being the wine aficionados that they are, it was easy to pick the perfect place for them. We sent her and her husband on a surprise anniversary trip to San Francisco and Napa Valley complete with hotel accommodations and wine tours. I only wish that we could have done more. In the midst of planning their trip and preparing for another school year, we made an appointment with our RE to talk about where to go from here. Jason and I talked about adoption, and that perhaps that was the direction the Lord was leading us in. But after finding out the cost and knowing the emotional risks involved, we decided that we could handle a non-pregnancy better than we could handle having a baby taken away from us. We also knew that this time around things would be very different. I didn't have any sisters or any other cousins or friends coming forward offering up their goods, nor would I expect them to, so we were faced with the daunting task of finding the perfect donor. It is a very surreal thing to scroll through profile after profile and reading people's life resumes and health histories and trying to determine who will be the "mother" of your child. It seemed wrong. This is not the way it's supposed  to be. But I softened my heart and realized that these women were offering up a piece of themselves so that people like me could have a family, so how could something that comes from such a good place be wrong? We finally settled on a donor and moved forward with what we thought would be a for sure, slam dunk of an IVF cycle and our dreams of being parents would finally come to fruition.
I'll work on part 4 tomorrow



  1. oh girl! I am a new reader and I think I have become a blog stalker in the process!! My heart goes out to you and every woman going through this ordeal. You are a fabulous story teller, you should write a book!

  2. Oh my heart! I can't wait to read the rest of your story. I also battled infertility, but in a very different way. Thank you for sharing your story!

  3. I am really into your journey reading this. I am in the midst of deciding to use a couple of embryos that are left over and have been offered by my cousin (who also used a donor). I am however, petrified that something will go wrong or my and the baby's health will be compromised, as I myself am in perimenopause at 44. Reading your story allows me to breath, that others are going through their own process in finding the best outcome to reach a happy life of having a family. We thought to adopt, but this offer just landed in our you, I am thinking this may be God's interception in saying, this is your path. I still have reservations though, and I am not sure why...