I was diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) when I was 17 after years of not having a period. That same year, I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. My gynecologist told me that conception would not be easy, but that was about it. She never said what this would entail. This meant little to me and I didn't really process it at the time. I guess I was in denial or just in my invincible adolescent mind figured everything would be fine. Over the years, I became comfortable with the understanding that when the time came, I would need help getting pregnant. I am grateful that I didn't have the devastating diagnosis that some have after a period of trying to conceive. I had time to grow into it and mentally prepare.
Danny and I met in 1994 at Hampton University while I was a freshman and he was a senior. After years together, we inevitably had conversations about the future. Though I told Danny that I had PCOS and would have a hard time getting pregnant, when the time came, there wasn’t really much to do about it. The distance in time at that point kind of made it unreal. Neither of us knew what was to come. In hindsight, that was probably a good thing.
The Ups and Downs of Treatment
We have had so many ups and downs I think I have started to lose count. We were with another fertility practice and had two unsuccessful rounds of in vitro fertilization (IVF). We decided to switch over to Shady Grove Fertility when we heard about the Shared Risk Program on the radio. Boy am I glad that we did. I never would have envisioned that we would still be trying to conceive almost a decade and so many procedures later. Since we have been with SGF, we have had one intrauterine insemination (IUI) cycle cancelled (due to too many mature follicles), four IVF cycles, and maybe four or five frozen embryo transfer (FET) cycles. Three pregnancies and three miscarriages later, I don't know how we would have gotten through it without prayer and a God who can comfort the most uncomfortable and bring peace to the peace-less. We hang onto the Holy Spirit that says this is bigger than you and you will have a testimony when it is all over. I am also grateful to Dr. Browne, who learns something new from each cycle and keeps pressing forward, giving us hope. With each visit, I feel like she wants this for us as much as we do. Never once have I felt like she was getting tired of seeing us or answering our questions or that she was ready to give up.
“Life Would Not Stop So That We Could Bring Life”
Our first pregnancy was confirmed on December 2, 2009. A short time later, we found out that it was twins: both embryos had implanted. Two months prior I had been laid off from my employer and I thought, “This is God setting me up to be the stay-at-home mom that I wanted to be.” The day of my second ultrasound, I had had some spotting, but thought that it was normal. The heartbeats were just under 140 beats per minute. We just saw them on the screen! Our babies were fine. I miscarried that night into the next morning.
I was devastated. Over the next few weeks, I was comforted by stories from other women that let me know that I was not alone, and I was reassured that miscarriages in early pregnancy are common. After the trauma started to subside, I remember Danny and I talking about how life couldn’t stop so that we could bring life into the world. The details of the whole conversation are fuzzy but that part stuck with me. We proceeded with the next IVF cycle, which fortunately (due to the PCOS), produced a plethora of eggs. I endured near-hyperstimulation and several more big fat negatives in 2010 and 2011. During this time, we held onto the fact that I had actually gotten pregnant. It happened once, so it could happen again.
Turning to Our Faith
After my lay-off, I was not sure what I wanted to do. I spent lots of time and money investing in a career in architecture, but just felt like it wasn’t the life for me. The best way to put it was that I felt afloat. I wasn’t rooted. My husband had his career and ministry, but the thing that I had been working hard at—managing my Type 1 diabetes so that I could have a healthy pregnancy and harvesting a plethora of eggs—had all been swept away. My only answer was to turn to my faith and have God show me what to do. So I turned to God spiritually and physically.
By 2012, I was very active in volunteering with our church on my own and with Danny, and I decided to go back to school for health information management, a career that allows a bit more flexibility. While I was in school, we took a long break from trying to conceive. I didn’t think that I could be pregnant and start a new career all at the same time. It was hard to spend that much time not being a mother or trying to be a mother, but what always rang out in my ears was “You aren’t positioned yet. What kind of mother do you want to be? Prepare while you wait. Prepare yourself, your marriage, your career, and the space that he or she will come into. What kind of life do I want to model for my children? What kind of marriage do we want to model for our children? Will my career work with my family or against it?”
These things kept me mentally, emotionally, and physically busy so that the loss/lack of little ones was not so pronounced. I wanted to take advantage of the gift of time. This kept me focused when I went to baby showers or when I walked through the toy section to get gifts or saw the set of twins in the food court at the mall. It is challenging, but when I feel the pang of jealousy, I reassure myself that, “What God has for us is for us.” We don’t want anything more or less than that.
In 2014, two years after our previous IVF cycle, we conceived in June via FET, but from the start this pregnancy did not progress well. The heartbeats peaked at 60 beats per minute and slowly decreased. The sac looked strange. We had a D&C in September after weeks of waiting. We conceived again on our very next FET in December and I found out that I was pregnant the day before my birthday (December 24th). On January 9th, we lost our third pregnancy, another set of twins.
With the help of Dr. Browne and the wonderful staff, we continue to seek what God has in store for us. We began another cycle on June 1, and though it is terrifying to think that this could happen again, we are comforted in knowing that God has a plan for us and we are just walking it out, one day at a time. Whatever will come, He will guide us through as He has done thus far.
Sara’s Advice for Future Patients
It’s okay to feel sad and be disappointed, give yourself that time and space. However, continue making space for the child that you want. Look around yourself and ask what in your life is or isn’t prepared to receive the awesome task of parenting. Don't spend that time being so sad that you let yourself go and then when they get here you are a wreck with the grief and pain. Work on the life you want and that you want to bring a life into. Make those things better so you are at your best when that life comes and they get the best of you.