As a strong, independent, and successful woman, there aren’t too many of life’s challenges I can’t overcome or that truly knock me to my knees. That doesn’t mean I don’t whine about stupid days at work or occasionally count the hours (or let’s be honest, minutes) until I can have an oversized glass of wine, but I can deal with it. I wake up the next day and move on.
Infertility is different. Infertility is a beast. Infertility makes you question everything you thought you ever knew.
Infertility has taken me to some of my lowest lows and my highest highs… sometimes just days apart. Here’s our story.
After a full—insurance company mandated—year of two-week-waits and negative pregnancy tests, with a single round of Clomid we were blessed with a beautiful baby boy. It was frustrating to go through so much anticipation and let down for 12 months, but just $6.25 and 9 months later, it was over. I had a perfect baby to snuggle.
This was my new frame of reference for infertility.
Fast-forward 2 ½ years and we were ready to grow our family again. Little did I know this would be the beginning of a rollercoaster of emotions. It went a little something like this…
Low: Blood work confirmed I’m not ovulating and would need Clomid again
High: Got pregnant again on my first round of Clomid!
Low: Nothing can prepare a person for the moment you answer the phone at 5:30 p.m. on a Friday and hear the doctor’s, not the nurse’s, voice on the other end.
Something was wrong.
Over 48 hours, my HCG levels had only increased by 4 when they should have doubled. I was told to prepare myself for a miscarriage. I could not stop crying.
A new all-time low.
High: Several months later, we were pregnant again!!
Low: A few weeks later, another miscarriage… On Mother’s Day. The cruel irony of that still makes me cringe. And with miscarriage number two and many months of unsuccess, we were sent to the infertility clinic.
High: Three hopeful rounds of Intra-Uterine Insemination (IUI)
Low: Three failed IUIs and my body was no longer responding to the medicine to make me ovulate
At this point with our history of unexplained infertility and repeat miscarriages, we were moving on to the journey of IVF. At first we were thrilled because we were looking at an 80% chance of success, but we weren’t mentally prepared for all the paperwork, the insurance battles, injections, medications, or the choices we would be faced with.
Choices… That’s the thing about IVF… You have so many choices you should never be asked to make. Choices that are overwhelming and unnatural:
Do you do ICSI (a process where the lab injects a single sperm into the egg for fertilization) and have the random lab dude chose the specific sperm that will hopefully create your future child or not and run the risk that the eggs you worked so hard to mature may not fertilize overnight and eliminate the ability to do pre-genetic screening?
Do you go for the genetic screening and significantly increase your success rate or not and be able to do a fresh day 5 embryo transfer and pocket the $3,000 (not covered by insurance) to spend on the baby you will hopefully have in 9 months?
Do you implant one embryo and reduce the risk of potential complications of a twin pregnancy or two and increase the odds you’ll get pregnant at all.
These are choices the average person doesn’t even have the option to make. It was overwhelming, but we had to do it, so we did…
ICSI: After a lot of discussion and a whole lot of prayer, we were confident God would guide random lab dude to choose the exact sperm he was supposed to choose, and we signed the paperwork approving the ICSI process.
We had 12 eggs retrieved and 8 of them fertilized, all of which would make it to the blastocyst stage (day 5)! Another high!!
Pre-Genetic Screening: This one wasn’t easy, but we ultimately did PGS. Five of our eight little embryos came back from genetic screening. This was tough, emotionally. While I was ecstatic to have 5 embryos, I still had to grieve the three sweet pre-babies that weren’t compatible with life.
Embryo Transfer: Despite our doctor’s hesitation to transfer two embryos, I simply couldn’t handle any more failure or bad news. I was desperate. We transferred two embryos for our greatest odds. They were simply beautiful.
Then it happened… the moment we had been waiting for.
We saw two tiny little beans with two little flickers!
We were pregnant. We beat infertility. We were having TWINS!
Not many of life’s challenges can knock me to my knees, but infertility did. It brought me my lowest and darkest of days, straining every aspect of my life. I know now that I’m a stronger woman than I ever knew and that there truly is always light at the end of the tunnel!
Infertility is a beast… but a beast we beat!
Steff Sumrall grew up in Grinnell, Iowa and went on to play volleyball for Coe College. After my first season, I was facing my 4th and final knee surgery and transferred to Iowa State University where I met the love of my life and future husband, RJ.
After significant struggles with infertility, we’ve been blessed with a 4 year old and twin 8-month-old boys. I’m now a working mom and a total boy mom. When I’m not at work, you can normally find me bouncing with kids on the trampoline, trying to keep the twins from injuring each other, cleaning up other people’s messes, trying to prevent my kid from peeing on trees in public, or on the couch with a large glass of wine watching the latest season of The Bachelor.