“Brian and I met in college and it was love at first sight. Just kidding. It was love at first sight for me…. but not so much for him. Not because he didn’t think I was cute, but because my flirting seemed more like…stalking. Looking back now, I totally see how texting him, ‘I see you,’ as he walked through the courtyard was totally creeper status. Don’t worry, I came to my senses and we were married a year and a half later.
Growing our family has always been a priority since day one of our marriage. Little did we know – it was going to be really hard and really expensive just to try to have kids.
I knew something wasn’t right after trying to get pregnant on our own for over six months without success. My OBGYN suggested a SA (semen analysis) to make sure things were good on Brian’s end. The results came back great. According to Brian, his swimmers were Michael Phelps’ (he is the funny one in the relationship). She recommended we try for another six months and then we can move forward with treatment if needed.
You would think trying on your own would be fun and full of love. I hate to break to you – but when you go through infertility it is neither of those. It becomes a job and consumes your every thought. You obsess over ovulation, the two week wait, and anything you can take or eat to help your chances of getting pregnant.
Six more months passed, and it was time to accept the fact that we needed fertility treatment to help grow our family. After meeting with our fertility doctor, we were diagnosed with Unexplained Infertility. I was also diagnosed with stage one endometriosis but was told that it shouldn’t keep us from getting pregnant. The thing about our diagnosis is you have no idea where to start with treatment or what is causing the infertility. So… having a plan of action is hard. Knowing how to fix it is hard. Making a baby is…. hard.
We started with three medicated IUI’s (intrauterine insemination) and all were unsuccessful. We moved forward on our fertility journey with stim shots and IUI. After our fifth fertility treatment we were pregnant! You guys, we were FINALLY pregnant! We were overjoyed and so grateful. Our fertility doctor had my HCG tested every 2-3 days for a couple of weeks. At first the numbers were great but by the end of the second week my numbers weren’t doubling like they should be. On May 23, 2017, our world stopped. Brian and I sat in silence waiting to hear if our baby had a heartbeat at our 8-week ultrasound. Click…. click…. click……. the silence continued. The sonographer asked me, ‘Have you had any bleeding, Carissa?’ I replied, ‘I haven’t, nope. I felt some cramping…a little bit…but nothing too bad….’ Click…click…. more silence. Brian chimed in, ‘Zero bleeding.’ ‘There’s a little sac there but no fetus inside…. I’m sorry, dear, I wish I could give you better news,’ she said. We were diagnosed with a blighted ovum and had a miscarriage on May 25, 2017. A moment that we were almost certain would be joyful turned devastating.
I was broken. So, broken. I felt so alone. I felt like I wasn’t good enough or worthy enough to carry a child. I felt like something was wrong with me. I had no idea a miscarriage was so hard, lonely, painful, and heartbreaking.
A couple of months after our miscarriage, we attempted a 6th IUI. It failed. We tried to move forward with a 7th IUI but I had too many cysts to continue and it was cancelled. We couldn’t go forward with another IUI. I was still so broken. I couldn’t handle it emotionally. It was a rollercoaster and I just needed to get off of this ride.
It wasn’t until after our almost seven rounds of fertility treatment that I was finally at peace with the idea of IVF. To be honest – before then the thought of it terrified me. The cost stressed me out so bad it would make me physically sick. How does a normal couple with a normal income and zero fertility insurance coverage pay for it? Seriously, though?! And more than once?! I had no idea how we were even going to make it work. Thankfully, we had an amazing tribe around us on Instagram and YouTube from sharing our fertility journey who donated to our crowd fund and made our IVF cycle possible! We are forever grateful for their generosity.
June 22, 2018, I got on a plane and headed to NY for our IVF cycle. Brian was going to meet me out there when we had a better idea of when our retrieval would be. So, for the majority of our cycle I would be alone. How was I going to do this alone?! Brian gave me all of my shots before and now I am going to have to do them all myself?! I kept thinking there is no way. But I was going to have to just figure it out because our baby would be worth it.
The next day, I went in for the baseline sonogram and blood-work to make sure things were looking good so we could start meds. The clinic started me on 300 iu Gonal F to help my follicles grow. I even gave myself the first shot in the office! You guys, I could actually do this by myself! If you have never been through IVF or watched someone go through it – it’s a big deal. It’s freaking hard. There are endless of shots, side effects from the meds, stressors, and heightened emotions from…everything.
We did that for three days before I gained the courage to ask my doctor about a specific medication that I hadn’t started – Menopur. His response to why I hadn’t started it was, ‘We didn’t have it.’ That didn’t make sense to me because I had it. I brought it with me across the country. But…I didn’t fight him for more answers on it like I normally would because I didn’t feel comfortable saying anything. I didn’t know if my protocol was messed up or if they dropped the ball, but his response did not give me a peace of mind. It caused me major anxiety.
My day four scan showed that my follicles weren’t growing as much as they would like. I had one follicle in my right ovary and around four or five in my left. Menopur (75 iu, for egg quality) was added, as well as Cetrotide (to keep me from ovulating). I asked a nurse if it was normal that I hadn’t started on Menopur on day one like so many people do. She asked me if I had it the whole time. I had. The uncertainty in her answer made my anxiety even worse. My lungs and breathing got heavier. Overwhelmed by all of the info coming my way without any explanation to an IVF first timer, lack of a calendar, and feeling like the clinic/my doctor just dropped the ball – I had a panic attack in the office. Something wasn’t right and I knew it. A little acupuncture and a nap helped calm me down, but Brian and I were still uneasy about the responses we got when I questioned my protocol.
By day eight, I had about 10 mature follicles and was told I was ready for the egg retrieval. I asked if they were sure because in the past, I had always done a minimum of 10 day stim shots. They said I was ready…and I trusted them. Trigger shot would be on day nine and our egg retrieval would be on day 11. It was time to get Brian a flight to NY!
Day nine was our last day of stims and trigger shot. The exact moment his flight would be landing is when I would be doing our final injection. So, I did ALL of the shots all by myself. You guys, I didn’t think I could do it. I thought I would need to go to the clinic for help with every single shot. BUT I DID IT! I felt like Superwoman!
July 3, 2018 was our egg retrieval. We went in super hopeful that we were going to get a baby out of this. I went to the OR room first and Brian met me in there. That is not standard. The clinic allowed Brian to record the entire procedure for our vlog. Which is actually really cool, and I am so grateful. They put me under anesthesia, removed the mature follicles, and I woke up about 15 min later. I was still delirious when my doctor opened the door and said they retrieved 17 follicles! WHAT?! I thought we were only going to get around 10? We got 17!? I was in tears. It had been a long time since I felt that much relief. Brian and I were so grateful. It felt like it was finally our turn for some good news after almost four years of infertility.
July 4, 2018, we got a call from my doctor about the fertilization of the 17 follicles retrieved. We only had 10 mature follicles that were injected with sperm. Out of those 10 only one fertilized. They would continue to watch the other eggs, but he did not seem hopeful. He mentioned doing another cycle and maybe our issue was also a sperm issue. We prayed for a miracle and continued to stay positive.
July 6, 2018, we were anxious for an update on our results and hadn’t heard from the clinic, so we set up some time to chat with our doctor before our flight home to Kansas City the next day. We met with our doctor in his office. He told us we still had one egg left and asked if we wanted to transfer it the next day (Saturday, July 7, 2018) before we left. He went to check on it and we decided that we would. He came back and without any emotion or even sitting down to look at us he said, ‘It didn’t make it.’ Twice. I said, ‘Why didn’t anyone call me?’ He was busy. We just sat there in disbelief…and I cried. The little faith that I had left in him and this clinic was gone. We left our first IVF cycle empty handed. Heartbroken. Confused. Frustrated. Angry. We felt so many things and had so little answers.
July 26, 2018 was my second laparoscopy, hysteroscopy, and chromopertubation. We were searching for answers as to why we had awful IVF results. Stage one endometriosis was found and removed. My uterus looked great and had zero adhesions. My tubes were not blocked, and no other issues were found. Sadly, we didn’t receive the answers we were hoping for. We were grateful everything was okay but still so dang frustrated. I am ‘fixer’ and I couldn’t fix this. I felt completely helpless.
Four years of infertility included: six IUI’s, one miscarriage, and one failed IVF cycle. Four years of uncertainty, heartbreak, stress, breakdowns, loneliness, and anger. We were drained emotionally, physically, and… financially. It was time for a break for our well-being and our marriage.
I worried less about our next steps and focused more on just enjoying life and my husband. I worked out every single day, drank tons of water, started a new business, got a life coach, read some amazing self-help books, re-connected with friends, took a break from sharing every little detail on social media, and just lived in the now. It was amazing!
Nov 29, 2018, I was seven days late for my period. I had never been that late before and had never been pregnant without fertility treatment. There was no way I was going to be pregnant. I was wrong. We took a pregnancy test when Brian got home from work and it was positive. You guys, it was freaking positive! We got pregnant on our own! We were full of so much joy and gratitude for this miracle pregnancy. It felt like it was finally our turn to catch a break and receive some good news.
Dec. 1, 2018, we had our first panel of blood work done. HCG was 2252 and progesterone was 15.2. We were definitely pregnant.
Dec. 3, 2018, we had a second blood test done. HCG was 3748. Progesterone wasn’t tested this time. I started to get nervous because it didn’t double in 48 hours. It felt like we were going down the same path as our first pregnancy that ended in a miscarriage.
Dec. 10, 2018 was our first ultrasound and third blood test. It was also our first prenatal appointment. We were cautiously optimistic with this new pregnancy. For the first time ever, we saw a baby and a heartbeat. The heartbeat was a little low but not too low to be worrisome yet. The sonographer told us that it could have just started or maybe she wasn’t getting an accurate reading since we were so early. Another ultrasound was needed the next week.
The night before our second ultrasound I got an email from the lab that said my third blood work results were in. The HCG and progesterone were added onto the OB blood work that was needed before our 10-week checkup. I think because of this we weren’t notified of the results. My HCG increased to 17156 but my progesterone dropped to 11.3. I started to panic. I just kept thinking – I should have been on progesterone. My clinic assured me they weren’t worried, and it was still within normal range. I started progesterone suppositories that night.
Dec. 19, 2018, we went in for our second ultrasound. I didn’t have any symptoms with our first pregnancy, but I had them all with this one. We were confident that our little baby was going to have a strong heartbeat and we would welcome this little one in August 2019. The sonographer told us she was going to look and see what was going on before saying anything. As I laid there on the bed, with Brian sitting next to me, there was silence with some occasional clicks as she measured the baby. I couldn’t see the screen, but I looked over and saw Brian put his head down. I put one arm on his back and one over my eyes and began to sob. It was happening all over again. The sonographer put her hand on my thigh and said, ‘I’m sorry, there was no heartbeat today.’ Brian and I held each other and cried.
My heart was finally healing from our first miscarriage only to be shattered again. We were angry and in so much pain. Sitting in the car after our appointment, both of us crying, we tried to make sense of it all. But it hurt and there was no sense to be made. Our miracle pregnancy was gone.
The thought of going through another miscarriage naturally terrified me. I will spare you the details but our first one was traumatic and the worst pain I have ever been in. It makes me sick to think about and hurts me to know that other women have gone through the same thing. We opted for a D&C the Friday before Christmas.
Dec. 21, 2018, was our D&C. My sweet husband grabbed my hand and we walked into the hospital ready to face another trial together. My tears fell harder with every nurse, anesthesiologist, and doctor I talked to. They all knew why I was there and all of them expressed how sorry they were for our loss. Before I was wheeled back to surgery my husband kissed me and told me he loved me. The last thing I remember was going into the OR a little dizzy, the mask being put on my face, and tears falling while I closed my eyes. It was time to say goodbye.
It’s been one week since our D&C and we are doing okay. Heartbroken but okay. One of my favorite things about my husband is just how positive he is. He is my rock and has more faith and hope than anyone I know. His heart is hurting but he is focusing on the silver linings of this miracle pregnancy. We are still considering it a miracle pregnancy because it is one. It is a miracle we got pregnant without fertility treatment. It is a miracle we had a heartbeat. It is a miracle we met our deductible and now we are being tested for so many other things that could be contributing to our infertility and recurrent pregnancy loss. I couldn’t imagine going through this trial with anyone else and I wouldn’t want to.
We know our story is hard, and we haven’t had our happy ending yet. But you better believe we will! I don’t want to just show the happy ending. I want to show the struggle to the happy ending because we all have some kind of struggle. Seeing other people in the middle of hard stuff helps me to feel less alone in my struggles, even if our situations are totally different. That is why we continue to share our life on Instagram and YouTube. We hope to help someone else feel less alone through infertility, miscarriage, and just life because it’s all so hard. I think it’s a beautiful thing to watch someone go through hardship and then come out on top stronger than they were before. It gives me courage to keep going and to keep fighting. That is what I hope our story does for someone else. We have been knocked down over and over again over the last four plus years. It is sad and not always fun to see and share. That is not what matters. That does not define us. What matters is that every single time we get knocked down, we get up.
This is the theme song to our life:
I get knocked down, but I get up again
You are never gonna keep me down
I get knocked down, but I get up again
You are never gonna keep me down
I get knocked down, but I get up again
You are never gonna keep me down
It’s true. You are never gonna keep us down. We are going to keep fighting for this dream of ours. We trust the Lord and His plan for us. We know that no matter what we were going to become parents one way or another. Praying about our next steps has always brought us overwhelming peace and we have followed the path we felt we needed to go. Right now – our next step is to use this three-month window after a miscarriage to get pregnant on our own again. We know it can happen and we have faith that another miracle is waiting for us. Until then – we are going to keep laughing and looking for joy to help get us through this season.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Carissa Barzee. Follow their journey on Instagram here and Youtube here. You can follow her work on Facebook. Submit your own story here, and subscribe to our best stories in our free newsletter here.
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