[Editor's note: This essay discusses miscarriage and infertility.]
As I write this, I am 19 weeks pregnant with our rainbow miracle baby. We might not know when this global pandemic will end for us, but we do know that our long-awaited little one brings us love and light after two painful losses, repeated fertility treatment failures, and the challenges of pursuing pregnancy over 40.
Our journey to create our own loving family started back in 2015. After a year of monthly disappointments, we elected to seek professional help at a fertility center in Illinois. It only took two cycles of intrauterine insemination (IUI) and we were pregnant and over the moon in love!
Sadly, the joy did not last very long, and at the start of my second trimester, we lost our daughter, Charlie, to the diagnosis of Trisomy 18, a chromosomal condition. To say that we were devastated is an understatement. But I was staring down at the final years of my thirties, and we had to try again. It took two more IUIs, nine months of nail-biting anxiety, and we had our first rainbow baby son.
Without the help of the local chapter of Share Pregnancy and Infant Loss Support group, I could have never navigated through picking up the pieces of a soul-crushing loss of a child, and a subsequent pregnancy where my naivety was gone; where every day I was convinced something bad would happen again.
In 2018, when a job promotion led us to move from Illinois to Michigan, I immediately checked to see if they had a similar support group. There was not one active support group in a metro area of over a million people. I decided that that needed to change. I established my own chapter of Share; we hold bi-monthly online meetings, and last month we had our inaugural remembrance ceremony and walk to honor our babies we lost.
But our struggles continued. I might be the only one to say that my 2019 was far worse than 2020. In the first month of 2019, we bravely decided to do what it takes to have another child. The year brought three failed IUIs, three failed attempts at in vitro fertilization (IVF), and an early miscarriage that ended my year in December 2019.
Running out of options, I took a long shot and told everyone I knew to ask their friends and family if they knew anyone who might have frozen embryos they would be open to donating. I never thought it would work.
Two short weeks later, while my husband and I were on the couch enjoying a movie after putting our little one down for the night, I received a text that would forever change our lives: My sister had found an astounding couple who had completed their family and had seven embryos left.
The embryos were stored at the same center where we had our son before moving. Without even meeting us, the family was willing to donate their precious embryos to us, so that they could have a chance at life and we could fill our arms again with joy. I thought to myself that this had to be a helping hand from God. It was just too easy, at the exact right time in our journey—and in the middle of a global pandemic? That is how we started 2020.
The process of adopting embryos was surprisingly easier than I had imagined. Both couples had to complete physicals and labs, and meet with a licensed clinical psychologist. Legally, we both needed attorney representation to transfer ownership of the embryos. Even though COVID-19 was in full swing at this point, the attorneys were able to procure an agreement remotely, and after a mountain of paperwork, we were the new parents of seven embryos. It was unbelievable.
The next step was to wait for the fertility center to safely open their doors after the initial COVID shutdown. It felt like years, but eventually, the clinic started seeing patients again. In another stroke of fate, our physician, Dr. Jennifer E. Hirshfeld-Cytron, was the same physician who treated the family we adopted the embryos from. She quickly created a treatment plan to get us pregnant, although there were some unexpected curves in the road due to the pandemic.
Michigan's stay-at-home order was just being lifted and the local place I could have ultrasound monitoring done was not open yet. We couldn't transfer an embryo without regular monitoring of my uterus, so I had to travel six hours over three states every week for monitoring appointments. Though it was difficult, the medical team was great; they were as accommodating as they could be with timing and location, and I felt truly cared for along my journey.
My embryo transfer went as smoothly as possible. I got to spend three days of rest at my parents' house to help the pregnancy stick and waited the long ten days to see if it worked.
And it did! Since the moment I got the call that I was, in fact, pregnant, I felt deep down that this was going to work. All of our hard work to get to this point had paid off. And so far, every test has confirmed that we have a healthy baby on the way.
I would be remiss to not mention that there have been a few emotional times this pregnancy that I did not experience in my other biological pregnancies. I do worry that this child might have some emotional difficulties when they find out that it is not my DNA that runs through their body. And I feel sad that I am not able to play the normal parent game of "whose nose does he have?" But I quickly remind myself that I am giving this child a chance at life and he will be loved beyond measure.
In the end, it was all worth it. As I write this, I feel the soft kicks and jabs from my little one. We can't wait to meet our sweet baby, as he is already a big part of our family.
Here's my advice to all of the women out there struggling with loss, infertility or trying to navigate adoption: Treat it like a part-time job and muscle through the hard times the best you can. Dust yourself off and keep moving along your path. I promise, it will be worth it and you will appreciate it that much more when you are holding your new little one in your arms.
Believe that parenthood is possible for you.