The story of our summer is a long one, full of ups, downs, and loop-de-loops. So bear with me as I try to find the words to share it all with you. This will be a long post, so hang with me as I continue to process the highs and lows with you on this blog.
After school let out in May we headed to Knoxville again for our 2nd frozen embryo transfer. This time we decided to choose a set of 2 embryos from the closed donation pool. This decision was made after the emotional toll our first open transfer took on me. After losing those babies, I also mourned the loss of the future I had imagined with our donors. Clayton felt strongly that we should make the switch to closed. “All babies deserve a chance at life. They don’t get to make the choice of open or closed adoption, and we need to respect the choice of the biological family,” Clayton told me. His words gave me the assurance I needed. I’m so thankful to have a husband with a grounded, level headed mind. He helps me see more clearly when my emotions can cause me to overthink details many years down the road.
With this transfer, we also decided to make a vacation out of it and take Clark with us. It was very special to be able to include Clark in the process. We have explained embryo adoption to him in kids terms and he understands to the best of his 4 year old ability. However going to the National Embryo Donation Center with us and being able to experience the process seemed to help him understand even more. The day of the transfer I told him, “When you were a baby God put you in my tummy. This time God and my doctors are helping to put a baby in my tummy. And afterwards, we will pray that it grows.” Transfer day went smoothly and our two embryos were safely placed inside me, ready for the chance to attach and grow.
After the transfer we headed to Gatlinburg for a few days in the Smokies. It was a really sweet trip. Clark especially loved the Pirates Voyage Dinner Show (we were all impressed to be honest). We also did some hiking and explored Anakeesta. Also on our trip, we got to spend some time with my best friend Jessi and her family outside of Nashville. We always treasure time with them and it was so special to see our kids play together. Clark is already asking to go on vacation to Tennessee again!
Here are a few highlights from our trip!
Once we made it back to Branson we continued the dreaded “2 week wait” until my blood draw. Unfortunately once test day came, we got the news that our transfer did not work, another failed transfer. I had been taking at home tests prior to the blood testing, and even though they were negative I was still crushed by that phone call.
At this point, we had said we would be finished after the 2nd transfer. We didn’t want to try again. So as we were processing the loss, we were also processing moving on as a family of 3. I am forever grateful for Clark and if God wanted it to be just the 3 of us, I know that would be perfect.
A couple days later, I received an email from my nurse at the NEDC (she, by the way is amazing and I now consider her my friend). She very sensitively asked if we were interested in trying again in the July cycle. I received this email on June 3rd, meaning if we wanted in we’d need to make a fairly quick decision. I remember shutting my computer and thinking, “nope, I’m not putting myself through this again.”
Later that day, while Clark and I were at White Water of all places, I started thinking about it more….I thought, well what if I can get another transfer in before I go back to school. So I sent an email asking what the dates would be, just so I’d have the information.
Over that weekend, Clayton and I spoke with our close friends and family and began to weigh the pros and cons. Of course my dad, always the encourager and dreamer said, “YES! Why wouldn’t you try again!”.
The more we prayed the more we began to feel our hearts soften to one more transfer.
That Monday, we had a video consultation with my doctor in Knoxville to go over the 2nd transfer and to discuss our plans moving forward. As we discussed a 3rd transfer I told him we weren’t planning to try again, but the idea of fitting it into my summer break made me reconsider. He looked down at his calendar and said, “Well, how to you feel about a June transfer?” I remember saying, “June?!?, June is now!”. He smiled and said that as long as my baseline lab work came back okay, I would be good to jump right back in. So the next morning I went in for bloodwork and started taking my medications again.
We got right back onto the database to select a new set of embryos. This time we landed on a set we had previously considered. They were still available and we both had peace these were our babies.
Also, during this same time frame, Clayton got the unexpected news that his job was ending. I add this to the story because, it truly felt like all of our plans were completely upside down. And saying yes to another transfer also meant, paying for another transfer during a time when our financial status was a question mark. However in the midst of the uncertainty, we just knew that God would provide and everything would be okay. Although we had a lot of unknowns, we had peace this was the right choice.
We also decided that my mom would take me for this transfer! This was mostly so Clayton would be available to work (he started working a couple days a week with a good friend of ours cutting trees and also doing his own photography). He also said, “Wait your mom can go?! I really think she should because everything is always okay when your mom is there.”
So the last week of June, my mom and I headed to Knoxville. It was a great road trip with my mom, it’d been forever since we’d taken a trip just the two of us. On July first, mom and I headed to the NEDC. This was my 4th trip there (including my initial visit) so the familiarity was definitely a plus. Also everyone there is so kind and genuinely rooting for you.
After the transfer, we stopped for some McDonalds French fries. This is an IVF superstition, it’s not medically proven to help, but I figured it was a good excuse for a snack! Also, as with every transfer I went back to the hotel for a long nap. The transfer day medications always make me sleepy. Mom and I were able to go to a nice dinner that evening, before heading home early the next morning. It was truly a blessing having her with me! She even did my shots for me, which is not an easy job to do. But she did a great job! Mom’s really are the best ❤️.
This time during our two week wait, I decided not to take any home pregnancy tests. I felt really hopeful it was going to work and I wanted to hold on to that hope as long as possible. On July 11th, I went in for bloodwork (I’ve had so many blood draws in the past year and a half!). That afternoon I received another phone call from my nurse in Knoxville, this time is was good news! My beta HCG numbers came back high (253), I was officially pregnant!!!
We were obviously so happy to have such a strong positive test. It was so fun being able to tell our families and close friends this amazing news. At this point I was officially 4 weeks and 1 day pregnant. This is a little confusing, but it has to do with the fact the embryo is already a few steps ahead of a traditional pregnancy at the time of transfer.
Next we waited for our 6 week ultrasound. For my local fertility monitoring, I used the Women’s Clinic in Springfield. They are wonderful and I received such great care there, I highly recommend them if you live in the area! On the day of our 6 week ultrasound Clayton and I were excited to get a glimpse of our tiny baby. As soon as the ultrasound started our technician asked, “How many embryos did you transfer?”. I smiled and told her 2, then asked if she was seeing two babies? She confirmed that she was. She then continued to measure and we got to see each babies heartbeat. Then to all of our shock, she found a 3rd baby, a 3rd heartbeat. One of our embryos had split on its own into identical twins. This meant 3 babies! We all cried, including our ultrasound technician (she is also a friend I have gained in this process).
I will never forget the way Clayton and I felt leaving that appointment. We literally didn’t know what to do with ourselves. We finally decided to go get some food and try to process the thought of triplets. I remember Clayton saying, “I feel like I weigh 300 pounds and 3 pounds all at the same time.”
For the next 3 weeks we continued to process the news. We worked through the fears and the shock and finally got to a place of excitement. We began to imagine life as a family of 6 and all the sweetness 3 babies would add to our household.
On August 17th, we headed back to Springfield for our 9 week ultrasound. Unfortunately we learned the devastating news that our set of identical twins had stopped growing and no longer had heartbeats. As shocked as we were initially to see 3 hearts beats , we were equally as shocked to only see one. Again, we all cried.
To be honest, this was very hard for me to process. Although I was so thankful to have one healthy baby I was very frustrated to endure another loss. I didn’t understand why God would show us 3 babies and then take 2 away so quickly. I was mad because if He only intended to give us one child, why did He allow my heart to love 3.
Infertility and our process of embryo adoption has been one of the hardest trials on my faith. There have been many days I wanted to tell God to sit in the corner on the other side of the room and leave me alone. I didn’t want Him to leave me completely, but I needed some space. I couldn’t open my Bible or turn to Him for the comfort I know He so freely gives. Thankfully God knows my heart and sees my pain, He is big enough to see me at my lowest and love me no matter what. I’m also grateful for the power of prayer and thankful for those who have stood in the gap and prayed when I could not.
Over the past few weeks, we have been processing our loss and adjusting back to the idea of one baby. We know having one baby is a lot safer for me and the baby. We also have continued peace in knowing that I have now given 7 babies a chance at life through embryo adoption and 6 are with Jesus.
The past week and a half have included some big milestones and huge reliefs for us. I am finally finished with my fertility medications! We had a little celebration, complete with sparking cranberry juice after we finished our last progesterone shot! I’d basically been on medications since May, so this was a BIG deal!! I also was officially released back to my OB here in Branson. She delivered Clark and is his pediatrician, so she knows our family well and has been a big supporter of embryo adoption. I had my 12 week appointment this week and everything looks great! Our sweet baby is growing right on track. It was a blessing to hear this good news and to see our baby again on the ultrasound.
I am officially 13 weeks today (9/11/22). While I’ve been excited to share the news publicly, I’ve also been nervous. Because of all the unknowns, it still feels a little risky to make things so public. However, the more people we have praying with us, the better. Plus since we started this process so openly, I truly wanted to keep the sharing our story.
Even though this road has been hard, much harder than I expected we are thankful God called us to this journey. He never promised following His will would be easy. He also never guaranteed us a baby. He is gracious to walk beside us through it all. And by His grace, we said yes one more time. Through His strength there is life growing inside me. A beautiful image bearer. Who was chosen, first by God and second by us, and who is loved beyond measure by us all.