“I can vividly remember hearing these words for the first time…
‘The only way you will get pregnant is through IVF.’
The tears began pouring before I could even tell myself to hold it together. I hate crying in front of people, especially someone I don’t know very well – a doctor I had only met a couple of times. We sat in a couple of plush chairs in his cozy office as we discussed what IVF actually entails.
Walking down the hall leaving the office, the doctor noticed I was still upset as I was waiting on my husband. He approached me and said…
‘It doesn’t really matter how you get there, because the end result is all the same – a baby.’
In that moment, little did I understand the power of those words. What that doctor said right before I left are some of the truest words ever spoken, but at the time, I couldn’t believe he had the audacity to utter them. In fact, when we got in the truck, I turned to my husbands and said, ‘Can you believe he said that to me?’
I was very unsure how I felt about IVF. The financial, emotional, and physical aspects were so much to consider. In the back of my mind, I had always felt led to adopt, so was IVF something that I wanted to endure? For a ‘chance’ to carry a child? As I felt uneasy about the news and answers we received from the first reproductive endocrinologist that we spoke to, we got a second opinion from a highly recommended RE.
‘Yeah, I think he was right. Your best chance of ever getting pregnant is with IVF.’
The second time hearing this, the blow wasn’t as hard as the first. When we received this news, we were already almost licensed as a foster to adopt family. So, we told our doctor wehad a lot to think about it, and we return if or when we decided to proceed. Before leaving the office, he says ‘I think you may be candidates for a study we have coming up if you’re interested just call this number or send an email.’ He hands me a card with a name and some contact information. If we were accepted into this study, the cost would be minimal compared to the normal cost if IVF ($20,000+). So, I thought, ‘What do we have to lose?’ I shot a short e-mail to the study coordinator that week and soon after got a phone call. ‘Hey Jessica, you guys have been accepted into the study, and you will start in October or November if all of the preliminary test results are within the study parameters.’ I couldn’t believe that we were actually accepted. The clinical study was regarding a medication that has been used for years just in a different delivery method.
Fast forward another month, on September 28, 2018, I was a part of a group message with our FAD worker and my husband stating, ‘You guys are licensed!!!’ How quickly that flew by, and how excited we were to begin our fostering journey. I made sure the volume was on and all the way up on my phone, and we waited. Just five short days later, I opened the door of our home to see Little Man, all 5 pounds and 8 ounces, being swallowed up in the infant seat he was resting peacefully in. I reached out and grabbed the infant seat and carried him inside. I unbuckled the seat, picked him up, and oh how he fit so perfectly in my arms. The ‘Mama’ part of my heart was so full it felt like it could explode, and I just kept thinking, ‘welcome home, baby boy.’
Nearly two months later, November 26, was ‘STIMS’ day 1. For those of you who can make babies the old-fashioned way, this is where the real IVF part begins.
Basically, the stimulation phase involves injections of multiple medications for 1-3 weeks to induce the ovaries to produce many eggs prior to the retrieval. So, for three weeks, I continued to decorate for Christmas, wrap Christmas gifts, plan for Topper (our elf on the shelf) to do crazy stunts, care for a 2-month-old and my stepdaughter, work and just live life while internally I was not okay. This was the HARD part. I was already tired from everyday life and all of what we had going on. Not to mention, I was taking medications to send my estrogen levels in to orbit (I believe toward the end it was around 4000 and prior to beginning it was around 17). In the final days of the shots, I would cry and work myself up before each injection because I had started a new one that really burned going in, and I was just exhausted and not feeling well. I can remember telling Jonathan so many times ‘I am NEVER going to do this again!!’ Some injections I had to administer to myself and some Jonathan was home to help me with. These injections had to be given at specific times every day. I would stand there with the medication drawn up in the syringe and some fat pinched up on my stomach to poke and tell myself ‘you can do this.’ I would say on the count of three ‘one…. two…. three’ and nothing. Finally, I would work up the nerve to do it each time.
We made it to retrieval day, December 15th. By this day, I was so uncomfortable, bloated to high heavens, and ready to get that part over with. We wake up very early and make our way to the hospital in Houston. ‘This was all going to be worth it,’ I kept telling myself.
The procedure required me to be put to sleep, which as a Nurse Practitioner/control freak, I despise being put under anesthesia. But here goes nothing, right? I donned the hospital gown and the bonnet. The nurse started an IV, and I nervously waited to be taken back. For this part, my husband couldn’t go back with me, so I kissed him bye and took my wheelchair ride to the procedure room. Next thing I remember, I was waking up in another room with my husband by my side. I immediately wanted to know how it went. How many eggs were they able to retrieve? The nurse would later come in as I was more awake and tell us that 23 eggs were retrieved. That was great!! We headed home before the good pain medication wore off but made a quick turn in to the McDonalds drive through for me some salty French fries. Avoiding Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome was key at this point, so plenty of water, protein, and salt was key.
The next steps were a waiting game. The embryologist would take the sperm and fertilize the eggs. Then, over the next 3 days, we would get updates every morning from the embryologist letting us know the progress of our ‘merbabies’. The last update we received from the embryologist was on day 3 telling us that 6 embryos were progressing as expected.
We wake up around 4 am on December 20th, get ready with our bags packed and head back to Houston for the transfer. I was a mix of emotions as I was still in a lot of pain from the retrieval, but I was hopeful and ready for transfer day. Jonathan and I gown up in the hospital room and wait to be taken back to the procedure room. We were taken back to the sterile environment under all of the florescent lights where I sat on the bed with the awkward stirrups, freezing in my thin gown. My doctor walks in to deliver the news of our embryos…. only one made it to day 5. Four of our other embryos had not stopped developing completely so there was a chance they may develop enough by day 6 to be able to be frozen. I was so shocked to get that news, but I was thankful there was at least one to transfer that day. With Jonathan by my side, another needle was poked in my arm to deliver medication to help me relax, and we watched on the screen our embryo be placed in my uterus. ’Stick baby stick’ we hoped and prayed.
We went to our hotel as we were instructed to stay in Houston that night. I slept deeply most of the day. I was purely exhausted, but I made it. I finally made it through the hard parts, and now all we had to do was wait.
One week later on December 28th, I would go in for yet another blood draw to check my serum HCG. This would be the defining moment. Did the embryo stick? Was I pregnant? All day at work, I continued to check my patient portal online to see if my results were posted yet even though I knew I was supposed to be getting a phone call with the results before they would be released online. I refreshed the screen for the millionth time that day – the ‘HCG’ results were posted. This was it…I clicked on the HCG beta…. I was pregnant. I immediately called my husband to tell him the good news. I was officially 3 weeks and 6 days pregnant. I get a call a while later from the study coordinator to tell me the good news that I already knew. ‘Congratulations!’ she exclaimed over the phone. My first ultrasound was scheduled for January the 15th. I couldn’t wait to see the baby’s heartbeat.
The antagonizing two- and half-week wait was over, and it was finally January 15th. Jonathan took off work early to meet me at the RE’s office for my first ultrasound. The moment we had all been waiting for! I have seen the flutter of a baby’s heartbeat on many other women’s sonos but never my own. Never a baby in my own belly. We anxiously waited in the lobby for my name to be called. I get a call from my FAD worker, ‘Hey, there is a newborn baby girl that we are trying to place, are you guys interested?’ Our entire IVF journey was a secret to most everyone except our very closest friends and a few family members, so my FAD worker had no idea that while we already had a 3-month-old at home we were expecting our own baby September 7, 2019! We declined the placement, but that tugged on my heart strings to say no. Moments later, my name was called. I knew the routine as I had visited this office what seemed like a million times within the last couple of months – vital signs, weight, ask me about any changes and how I was feeling… ‘Okay let’s get on with it’ I thought. I was taken back to the exam room to change into my gown and wait. The ultrasound tech comes in, and we talk about her new baby and our little man at home. I am staring at the screen and holding Jonathan’s hand. ‘Why am I not seeing anything yet?’ I nervously think as I squeeze his hand harder. I can tell the US tech is getting more nervous, and she said ‘Well, I am not seeing what I am supposed to see just yet…’ as she moves the wand around a bit to get a different view. Minutes pass, tears well in my eyes and she finally say ‘I am so sorry, but I am not finding a heartbeat. Let me go grab the doctor.’
Behind the tears, the rest was a blur. A doctor that was not my normal physician came in the room to discuss my options about where to go from there and how this would ‘end,’ but I felt too numb to process what I was just told. I sobbed into my husband’s chest, and my heart broke into pieces.
Later that evening, Jonathan and I were sitting in LM’s nursery with him and working on tummy time as we witnessed him roll from his belly to his back for the very first time. ‘Yayyyyyy!!!’ and ‘Way to go!!’ we would cheer as he hit a new milestone.
There may not have been a baby growing in my belly, but there was a baby growing in front of my eyes and in our hearts.
‘Thank you, God.’ I thought as I watched this little miracle in front of my eyes. Thank you for allowing me to love him and watch him grow. Thank you for allowing me to be his Mom right now.
All of the plans we make and all of the things that we try to control are laughable when placed up against the will of God. It wasn’t our time to have a baby that I would carry. Maybe that time will never come. Maybe we foster more babies, maybe we privately adopt, maybe we try IVF again, maybe miraculously God laughs at the doctors and I get pregnant naturally. These things are not for us to know, but guess what the Lord says?
‘For I know the plans I have for you. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’ Jeremiah 29:11
Fast forward a couple of months…
I had been under the weather for nearly a solid month by the end of March. Baby J had come to live with us in early February, so we were caring for a 12-month-old and a 4-month-old. Baby J was sick 90% of the time we had him, but fortunately, we were able to get tubes placed in his ears before he moved thanks to my amazing boss.
I push people to take care of themselves and take necessary medication, but when it comes to myself, I avoid seeing a medical professional or taking medications at all costs. This time, I had to concede and admit I was actually sick, it was NOT just a virus, and I needed medication. Four weeks of a sinus infection – enough is enough! I knew I had to feel better to handle taking care of the boys. Whew, they were a handful.
It was March 26th. I left work on my lunch break to head to see an ENT about my sinuses. As I pulled into the parking lot, I see Little Man’s caseworker’s number pop up on my phone. The next day there was a court hearing scheduled concerning his case, so I figured she was calling to see if we were coming or not.
‘Are y’all going to be at court tomorrow?’ she asks. ‘Yes ma’am, of course,’ I quickly reply. ‘(Little Man’s) birth mom was wondering if you guys would be willing to meet and speak with her tomorrow while we are there?’
Both my husband and I have seen her before, but to say we were formally introduced or knew anything about one another – not really. This was not what I expected to hear from our caseworker.
‘Sure, no problem. See you there.’ I told her.
I immediately called my husband to tell him that LM’s birth mom wanted to meet us the next day. I was already nervous thinking about how court was going to go for LM. What was CPS going to recommend? Was his plan going to change? What would the judge have to say? Before every conference or court date, we always prayed for God’s provision for his path to permanency. But why was she wanting to meet us?
The next morning, I wake up and get ready for work thinking about meeting his birth mom later. What is she going to ask me? What is she going to think of me? My brain never stops thinking. I worked for a few hours, and I went to meet my husband for lunch downtown by the courthouse where we would later find out the next step for Little Man.
We leave for lunch and pull up to the courthouse. ‘Okay, well here it goes.’ I nervously pondered. Walking through security, my mind is still in full motion, ‘Is she already here?’, ‘Do I initiate conversation or will she?’ The ride on the elevator is quiet. We are ahead of schedule before the time we were summoned to be at court.
We walk down the long hallway of the courthouse, and the only sound I hear is the ‘click’ of my heels as my anxious feet move forward to our destination. Last door on the left of the hall is where court is to be held. We don’t see any familiar faces outside of the court doors, so we take a seat on the hard, cold, wooden benches. We wait. As a last-minute thought, I wondered – ‘Will his birth mom even show up?’ I text the caseworker to see if she was sitting inside the courtroom or if she was there yet.
Despite the chill in the air, my palms were sweating. Why was I so anxious? She just wants to talk to us. ‘Breathe, Jessica,’ I tell myself. A few minutes later, I hear the ‘thump’ of flip flops down the hall. I look to my right, and I see his birth mom walking with her father down the long hallway. Here it goes. She and her father sit down on a bench diagonal from us. I timidly smile her way. I whisper to Jonathan, ‘I wonder where our caseworker is? Do you think she still wants to speak to us? Should I go talk to her?’ If you knew my husband, you would know he is the yin to my yang. Every ounce of nervous energy I produce, he deflects. ‘Would you just chill?’ is his normal response.
I don’t do chill! But just a moment later, our caseworker walks out of the courtroom. She greets us and walks over to birth mom. They exchange pleasantries, and I see them look over our way. They turn and his birth mom walks over to us and sits down beside me. I ask how she is. She asks how Little Man is doing. I could sense she was nervous too, as she spoke so quickly and didn’t want to make much eye contact. I explained to her all of the funny things he was doing, what milestones he had hit, how much he weighed, and how much he has grown. She proceeds to tell us her plans and some personal things and says, ‘I wanted to meet you guys, because if I sign over my rights, I wanted to make sure you guys would be willing to adopt him? I know that you guys are the best thing for him right now, and I know he will thank me for this one day. And, I don’t know if y’all know this or not, but I am pregnant. If needed would y’all be willing to take this baby too?’
I am holding back the tears, hoping that they don’t spill out. His BM is shedding tears, and I see and hear the turmoil of making this brave decision. I reach out and place my hand on her leg to try to comfort her as she is battling tears. I am fighting for the right words to say, as I know nothing, I say will fully heal the hole that is forming in her heart. I told her, ‘We would absolutely adopt him and make sure he is the most loved little boy in the entire world.’ She wanted to see a recent photo of LM. I pulled out my one million pictures I have of him and showed her his ‘5 month’ photo. I told her what some of his favorite things were as we were drying up her tears. She told me that the next day was a fresh start for her. I gave her my phone number, so that we could stay in contact if needed. I hugged her briefly and told her to let us know if she needed anything at all. I reassured her that we would take the best care of him.
She walked away and reunited with our caseworker. We watched her with freshly wet eyes walk into a room where she would sign an official document that would say she was relinquishing her parental rights to Little Man. A permanent decision that she felt was the best for this time in her life and the best thing for him. What a brave soul she was that day. I was in awe of her.
My heart was trying to process all of the emotions I was feeling. I wanted to be excited about the potential of adopting Little Man, because I love him with all of my being; On the other hand, my heart was absolutely in pieces for this broken soul in front of me. I know that some choose not to show empathy in situations such as these. Me – I think everyone deserves a little grace. Lord knows he has shown me a lot of grace over the years. I have never been nor ever will be perfect (I ain’t Jesus, y’all!). I have not always made the best decisions. Should we be judged or labeled for the worst decisions we have ever made? Absolutely not. She is human just like you and me. She has feelings, just like you and I. Sure, she may have not done what you or myself would have done placed in the same situation; however, I have never been in those shoes faced with the mountains she was facing either.
Not long after seeing her walk into that room, I saw her walk out. We smiled at each other and waved bye. I watched her walk down the long hallway to start her new chapter in her life. So many times, I have prayed for her along her journey, and continue to do so. After she left, we spoke with our caseworker about the next steps. Now that one parent had relinquished parental rights, the other parent’s rights would have to be determined. The next court date would be in July, so we would wait yet again. Four more months until we would find out what LM’s forever plan would be.
LM birth mom and I still remain in touch. Since she has begun this new chapter, she is feeling empowered to raise her next baby. We have talked and gotten to know one another over lunch a few times. I send updates on LM. I send her videos like when he took his first steps. One of the sweetest things she has ever said to me was ’He is YOURS, Jessica. I just carried him for you. God had different plans for him all along. He heard your prayers.’ Now, while I don’t think God wanted her to be in a place in her life where these circumstances would have occurred, I do believe He orchestrates beauty from brokenness. Just be still and watch for the masterpieces He creates!
To be continued…”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Jessica Plunkett, 30, of Lumberton, Texas. Follow her on Instagram here. Submit your story here. For our best stories, subscribe to our free email newsletter.
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