The views and opinions expressed are those of the authors and should not be considered medical advice. Always consult your doctor for the most appropriate treatment.
Endometriosis is a medical condition that I knew all about growing up. It runs in our family—my aunt, grandma, and sister all suffer from it. Years before I even started my period, I knew about the pain and infertility that can come along with it. Many women say that it took years before they were diagnosed, but I didn’t need a doctor to tell me since I suffered like the women in my family. My periods were incredibly painful. All through my twenties I used birth control to manage my cycles and would take off work when my period was due. I would plan my entire life around the dreaded pain.
In 2014, at the age of 33, my fiancé Ryan and I were eager to start our journey to parenthood. We knew it would come with challenges, as an ultrasound had confirmed what I already knew—I had endometriomas (cysts) on both of my ovaries. A month after our wedding, I was scheduled for my first laparoscopic surgery to have the endometriomas removed. I went into the operating room equally terrified as I was hopeful. I hoped that the surgery would be enough, and we would be able to conceive naturally on our own once the cysts and lesions were removed.
The surgery took 3 hours, and we were told it was pretty bad. One week later we met with our surgeon (also our fertility specialist or reproductive endocrinologist), and he told me what I had deeply feared—in vitro fertilization (IVF) would be our only path to parenthood. One fallopian tube was completely blocked and the other would be a “bumpy ride” for a follicle to travel to the uterus.
I spent a solid week depressed, scared, and heartbroken. The thought of doing IVF was terrifying. We prayed, we talked to friends and family, and then we prayed more. At some point, I remember the fear lifting and the weight of worry disappearing, and my heart was full of hope and courage. Social media became my support group. I searched hashtags like “#ivfmiracle” and “#ivfsisters.” I connected with so many women who were on the exact same path to motherhood as I was.
Eight years later, I am still friends with many of those (now) moms. I leaned into the stories of hope from other women who held their IVF miracles. Their stories are why I openly talk about our path to parenthood with everyone I meet. I am an open book.
In March of 2016, after suppressing my cycles with medications and allowing my body to heal from the surgery, we took that leap of faith and started the IVF process. The scary injections weren’t really that scary. Ryan gave me every single shot. I showed up to the appointments feeling pretty clueless. I’ve learned a lot since then.
I went into the egg retrieval hoping for a lot of eggs that would turn into embryos to freeze. I think that all couples hope for a bank of embryos. We dreamed of a big family. We had 6 eggs retrieved, and only 3 were mature. I was very disappointed, but Ryan was excited and hopeful. He was my rock and the one that led me to faith over fear time and time again. The next 5 days were agonizing as we waited to find out how many would make it to the “day 5 freeze.” By day 3, we knew only 2 were progressing. On day 5, we got the call: one perfect embryo was frozen. I remember sitting on the sofa sad and scared again—all of our hope was in only one embryo.
He was my rock and the one that led me to faith over fear time and time again.
Ryan remained optimistic. He encouraged us to celebrate, and that’s what we did.
On May 17, 2016, we transferred our one and only embryo. I remember the day like it was yesterday. We prayed in the bedroom before we left. We wore our lucky socks. We went into the transfer feeling happy and blessed and hopeful. When we got back to our room, the song “Breathe” by Anna Nalick came on and Ryan instantly started crying. It was a sign from above that filled our hearts with endless hope.
The 2-week wait was very hard, but I do remember turning to prayer when the fears came on strong. I did not test before and I’m so happy I didn’t. The night before our beta (pregnancy test) I dreamed about my grandma, and she told me I was pregnant. I knew I was. I just knew it, but it didn’t take away all the nervous feelings. Waiting for the nurse to call felt like an eternity.
When she called to say, “You are pregnant,” I fell into Ryan’s arms with the happiest of tears.
Pregnancy was a dream. I had some discomforts, but it was a time when I loved my body more than ever before. And I was 100% free from endometriosis pain.
Our miracle baby girl, Magnolia, was born on February 3, 2017, after 14 hours of labor.
In February 2018, when Magnolia was one year old, despite all odds we got pregnant naturally. My doctor was as shocked as we were. It was another miracle, but sadly after seeing its heartbeat, we lost that baby at 10.5 weeks. I was still breastfeeding Magnolia, and I will always wonder if my progesterone levels were too low to support a pregnancy. I’ll never know the answer, and I’ll always mourn the loss of the baby that I miscarried at home on Easter Sunday.
Looking back, I realize that miscarriage was very traumatic for me. I was torn between mourning the loss of that baby and living in the joy of our miracle daughter. We didn’t even try again after the loss because I was terrified of losing another baby. Time was ticking by, but my heart was shattered, and I let fear take the lead.
A few years later, in early 2020, we got pregnant again naturally. It was just as shocking and surprising as the first but laced with fear because of our previous loss. That pregnancy was a chemical, and I lost it within a week of finding out. I was shattered but also numb from already experiencing the loss at 10.5 weeks. Then the pandemic changed our lives. We didn’t want to try again because we didn’t know what was going to happen.
Fast forward to the summer of 2021 and I found out I had cysts on my ovaries again. I was devastated to think about doing another laparoscopic surgery. I had been living a very clean lifestyle, working with a naturopathic doctor, and doing everything in my power to keep the endometriosis at bay. I felt like I had failed my body.
In June of 2022, I decided to have my second laparoscopic surgery. Immediately after the surgery, I told Ryan that I wanted to do IVF again. I never dreamed I’d speak those words, but something in my heart knew we had to try more aggressively to grow our family. Magnolia was 5 years old at this point, and she still didn’t have a sibling. I was also 41 and knew the odds were against us. By October of 2022, we met with the doctor we had hoped to work with.
In February of 2023, we started IVF round 2. I went into it way more knowledgeable and much braver than the first time. Ryan was traveling regularly, which forced me to do all the injections myself. I was nervous about the first shot but felt like a pro within a few days. After all the monitoring appointments, we were given the option to cancel the cycle because I only had 2 follicles. Ryan and I talked, and we decided to go for it. Both fertilized, and 1 perfect embryo made it to freeze. We chose not to do preimplantation genetic testing for aneuploidy (PGT-A) because we wanted to give the embryo a chance regardless. In June, we transferred our beautiful embryo. We were full of so much hope, and the entire process was laced with signs from above. Two weeks later we did our beta and the nurse called to tell us my hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) was only a 5. I knew what that mean—another chemical pregnancy. We all mourned deeply. We booked a trip to our favorite beach, and we let the ocean do some healing.
In July, we had a re-group with our doctor and told him we were going to try naturally for a few months and also look into embryo adoption. Doing another egg retrieval was not something we felt called to do. Our doctor said he’d be up for doing monitored cycles with intrauterine insemination (IUI), which I was surprised to hear. I didn’t think he’d see us as a good candidate for IUI because of my age and the fact I only had 1 open fallopian tube. The main thing against us now is the age of my 42-year-old eggs, but we are still holding onto faith that there is 1 golden egg waiting to be fertilized so Magnolia can be a big sister. As I type this, we are in the 2-week wait after doing our first IUI. I keep reminding myself: faith over fear.