‘Help me!’ The color drained from my face. I awoke to cramping and blood dripping on the bathroom floor.’: LGBT couple navigate homophobia, reciprocal IVF journey, ‘our girls will be filled with lots of love’

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“No one ever tells you how hard it will be to have kids when you are gay. Coming out is a huge deal and afterwords, you are still faced with issues. Issues will exist like how others will react to your love in public, how your job will treat you, and how you will create your family. Even though it is almost 2020 and we live in California, there are STILL so many issues LGBTQ people deal with because of who they love.

For many heterosexual couples, boy meets girl, they fall in love, get married, and start a family. For some, they will sadly encounter lots of problems. Well, basically ALL LGBTQ couples will encounter issues when starting a family. There is no ‘normal’ way to go about it and end up with a child. There are many options to explore whether it be adoption, foster to adopt, surrogate, IUI, IVF, Reciprocal IVF, even the good old turkey baster! Whatever route you choose to take will be an emotional journey.

For my wife and I, the story goes like this. Girl meets girl, they fall in love, they come out to their family and friends, they get married with a civil union (which is not recognized by many as a legal marriage), then get married again when marriage becomes legal for same sex couples, and lastly, try to start a family.

Courtesy of Christina Bailey

We didn’t have a big wedding on purpose so we could save for a family. I have always wanted a big family and didn’t realize until I was gay that creating said family was going to cost us a LOT of money. We looked into all the different paths and we both decided actually carrying a baby was important to us. Every relationship is different but we wanted to physically play a role in creating a child. It seems impossible for a lesbian couple where genetics will never be 50% me and 50% my wife. However, we found something called ‘Reciprocal IVF’ to be the best way we could each play a role. By using my eggs and donor sperm, we would fertilize our eggs in a dish and then our embryos would be transferred to my wife. She wanted to carry my eggs so the decision of what roles we played was simple. Luckily, my family was supportive whereas Katie’s mother claimed she was my ‘surrogate.’ She wanted Katie to have ‘her own baby.’ The words hurt but our support for each other remained strong.

Our journey began. We researched everything there was to know about Reciprocal IVF. We found a clinic and made an appointment. Our first visit was filled with many questions. I don’t think there was ever a moment where my wife or I wasn’t asking the doctor a question. ‘What were our chances of success? What were the chances were of abnormalities? Where do we get our donor sperm?’ We were also concerned about our chances for success. We were assured since we were both young (23 and 25) our chance of success were very high.

Courtesy of Christina Bailey

A few weeks later, our process began. We ordered all our shots, learned how to give ourselves injections, and kept track of everything we needed to do. It was key to be organized since shots needed to be given at different times of the day and there were different shots for each of us.

I had to have my eggs retrieved and when the day came, we were not prepared for what was about to happen. I started feeling cramping early in the morning on the day of egg retrieval. I remember being in so much pain on the three hour drive to our clinic. I was ready to be put under so the eggs could be taken out. After retrieval, I was left feeling sore, but feeling SO happy our eggs would soon fertilize. Soon we would have little embryos ready to transfer to my wife! However, it wasn’t quite the way it happened.

Courtesy of Christina Bailey

Our first phone call came shortly after we got home. The embryologist called and asked to open and use our second vial of sperm. The first vial they opened wasn’t fertilizing the eggs. He said he would call back in a while. I remember having my phone right by me anxiously waiting for it to ring. When the embryologist called again, he didn’t have good news. He said, ‘Out of the 13 eggs which had been retrieved, only 2 had survived.’ The embryologist asked to perform rescue ICSI on the two remaining eggs and hoped they would fertilize. He informed us of the low percentage of eggs which survive this procedure so late after retrieval. We agreed to go through with it and held onto hope it would work. Immediately after hanging up, we turned to the internet and searched for success stories of emergency ICSI being a success. We didn’t find much. We spent the rest of the day feeling extremely worried.

The next two days were filled with sadness. The first day we had one egg survive and the second day we had none. We had gone from 13 eggs, to 2 eggs, to 1 egg, to no eggs.

We were left feeling completely empty. My wife and I were so depressed. I felt like there was something wrong with me and that was why we ended up with no embryos. I blamed myself. My wife said, ‘Of course it wasn’t your fault!’ Supporting each other through this process was key. I don’t remember much in the days which followed the last phone call from our embryologist except lots of crying and lying in bed all day.

Eventually, I knew we had to make a decision. Each night we were still giving my wife progesterone shots preparing her body for an embryo. We were still unsure of what our next steps were but this bought us a little time to decide. I turned to the internet for help and came across embryo adoption. Should we try this? We could have a baby soon if we did and it actually worked. It would require more money we didn’t have but my wife’s body was ready and waiting. I borrowed the money and we moved forward.

Using our license IDs, the clinic matched our faces to an egg and sperm donor. We signed all the paperwork and read everything about each donor. Then the day came for our embryo transfer. I remember walking into the clinic and feeling sad. I watched other couples in the waiting room and wondered if they were doing IVF like we had wanted. Our names were called and we walked back to our room. My wife climbed onto the exam table and we both waited. We didn’t speak. Neither of us looked excited. Then our nurse came in.

The nurse who walked into our room was the same nurse from our previous procedure. She had been with us since we started this process and she walked over to me and gave me hug. I remember my eyes filling with tears and I began crying on her shoulder. I looked over and Katie was also crying. We realized we couldn’t actually go through with it because it wasn’t what we truly wanted to do. We walked out of there with no embryos inside my wife. We decided we would try IVF one more time.

We tried to be extra cautious the second time around. We injected ourselves with more hormones. Egg retrieval time came. We waited by the phone yet again. And guess what, the phone call we received was good news. The doctor said, ‘Out of 18 eggs retrieved 11 were fertilized!’

Embryo transfer day was so exciting. We were happy again. We watched as two little flickers of light appeared on the ultrasound screen. Two embryos were now transferred to my wife.

The excitement soon faded when Katie woke up one morning with cramping and blood dripping all over our bathroom floor. I walked into the room after hearing her yell, ‘Help me!’ The color drained from my face. Our babies! Were they gone? We drove the three hours to our IVF clinic. We anxiously waited to see what would appear on the ultrasound screen. We heard a heartbeat and I felt relief. Were they both still there? The doctor informed us, ‘One baby is still there and next to the baby is a blood clot. Since the blood clot was four times the size of the baby, he or she will most likely not survive.’ We left feeling crushed and wondered if and when we would ever have kids.

However, time passed and eventually our baby grew bigger than the blood clot. During our third trimester, we were informed the pregnancy was no longer high risk. Yet it was still hard for us to feel like we would actually have a baby.

Courtesy of Christina Bailey

It wasn’t until the day our daughter was born we both believed she was really here. She was a healthy baby and she was truly ours. I remember walking over and staring at her in shock. I can’t believe after everything we had been through this little girl was here. We both felt immediately connected to her and I remember thinking back to the first picture we held of our baby. It was her embryo photo. We both just couldn’t take our eyes off of her and were speechless.

Courtesy of Christina Bailey

A year later, we went back for baby number two. We knew the routine and had many embryos still frozen. My wife wanted to carry again and we knew the cost this time would be much less. We thought they would remove one from the freezer, thaw it out, transfer one to my wife and we would have another baby. This is exactly how it went at first. Transfer day came and we saw the little flicker appear on the screen.

We anxiously waited the dreaded two-week wait to see if the embryo stuck. My wife took the blood test and we waited by the phone again. The phone call came and we got the news, ‘YOU’RE PREGNANT!’ We cried tears of joy.

My wife did the routine blood work a week later and we received a devastating phone call. ‘Your pregnancy hormone levels are not good.’ The nurse ordered another blood test to be sure. A week later, the results showed my wife would miscarry the baby or have an ectopic pregnancy. We needed to watch for the warning signs so we could head to the emergency room if needed. Both of these outcomes were awful and we were left wondering why things like this kept happening. Were we not meant to have another child?

We waited and waited and the day finally came where my wife started to bleed. We drove the three hour drive to our clinic to confirm she had miscarried. Instead, we heard a little heartbeat. It was a miracle! We were told to still be cautious.

Courtesy of Christina Bailey

Weeks passed and our baby grew just fine! A healthy baby girl was born and Katie and I were in shock, again. We have been blessed with two healthy girls. The journey to having our two daughters has been anything but easy. Was it all worth it? Most definitely! I would go back and do it all over again.

We spent thousands making our family, listened to terrible comments like, ‘What you two are doing isn’t right.’ We also endured a lot of physical and emotional pain. But none of it mattered when we held both our girls in our arms for the first time. Love is what matters.

Courtesy of Christina Bailey

Nothing about being together in general has been easy. Coming out wasn’t easy, getting legally married wasn’t easy, dealing with issues in our daily lives because we are gay still isn’t easy, and having kids wasn’t easy. But could our lives be harder?  Of course. I am thankful for having the courage to come out and having found my beautiful wife. I love the life we have built together.

Courtesy of Christina Bailey

I started our Instagram back when my wife and I were searching the internet for help. What started as a way to connect with gay families has now become a place where we share our life, our journey to kids, and connect with others all over the world. It’s a place where we help others and give back hope and inspiration other families gave to us at the start of our Reciprocal IVF journey.

Courtesy of Christina Bailey

I hope our world continues to improve for the LGBTQ community but until then, finding each other and supporting one another helps get us through those issues we encounter. Am I worried about what our kids will encounter as they get older? Yes. I am an elementary teacher. I see daily how kids can treat each other because they are different. Our kids have two moms. I don’t think it is a big deal but will it matter to others? Possibly. It’s not something we will worry about until we get to that point. Until then, our girls will be brought up knowing they were brought into this world filled with lots of love.”

Courtesy of Christina Bailey

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This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Christina Bailey of California. You can follow this family’s journey on InstagramSubmit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.

Read more inspiring stories about same sex couples starting families here:

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