Conceiving Triplets After Cancer | Fertility Out Loud

Shelby’s Fertility Journey: Conceiving Triplets After Cancer

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.

My infertility journey began early. I was diagnosed with cancer at 15 and received chemo and radiation that, unknown to me, left me “infertile.”

At 19 my oncologist told me I would not have children and would likely go into menopause by the time I turned 26. I immediately saw a fertility specialist, who confirmed my fears: that my hormone levels were nonexistent. This news devastated me. It changed how I dated. I would tell myself, “Who would want to marry someone who couldn’t give them a family?” It took me a long time to make peace with it.

At 23 I married my husband, who always had the most positive attitude toward my doubts of becoming a mother. We immediately began “trying” and after two years, multiple failed medicated cycles and two intrauterine inseminations (IUIs), to everyone’s shock I became pregnant with our daughter, Bennett.

I was 26, the age I should have already been in
menopause. Instead, I was rocking my miracle baby.

I was 26, the age I should have already been in menopause. Instead, I was rocking my miracle baby. I was on top of the world—MY BODY DID IT! I was so grateful, and even though pregnancy was incredibly hard on my body, I couldn’t wait to do it again.

Knowing my window for kids was rapidly closing, we went back to the fertility clinic at 6 months postpartum and started the process again. I naively thought that it would happen even quicker this time. We knew IUI worked, so obviously it would work again.

Our first IUI was an early loss; with the second, third, fourth, and fifth IUIs we came up empty. I was devastated. But I reminded myself that the fact I was even producing follicles was a miracle. So, we dived into in vitro fertilization (IVF) headfirst.

Our first transfer ended in a miscarriage, closely followed by a dilation and curettage (D&C). Our second transfer ended in a miscarriage and D&C. Our third transfer failed. I was broken, my body was tired, my soul was hurting. We had no embryos left, and we’d spent so much time and money trying for baby number two I honestly almost gave up.

Our family and friends carried us; they showed up and cheered us on in ways I could never have imagined. I was heartbroken but also in awe of how loved and supported we were.

We talked many times about when we’d stop and both agreed that if we felt done, we would. But we both never got that feeling.

So, we began our second egg retrieval. This time I responded better than the doctors could have predicted, and we ended the process with 6 perfect-quality embryos! While preparing for our fourth transfer, I grew a small follicle but was assured it was too small. My hormones were checked, and it was confirmed I wouldn’t ovulate (I never really could on my own). They told us my inability to ovulate could never affect my cycle, and we proceeded to transfer our best boy and girl embryo.

At 5 weeks we went in for a scan to see THREE perfect sacs! TRIPLETS!! I was so thrilled to not be miscarrying, it took a few days to come down from that high and have reality sink in. Triplets are extremely high risk, especially with my health history. But we felt sure that our 3 miscarriages were being matched by these 3 perfect babies. After a very rough pregnancy, I was able to carry them for 35 weeks!

After the babies were born, we realized our girls were not identical as we’d been told the entire pregnancy. After lots of investigating we discovered that I did in fact get naturally pregnant during our transfer, resulting in our 2 embryos sticking and a spontaneous triplet!

This journey to complete our family has tested me at every point. I’ve felt so betrayed by my body at times, but time and time again I am in awe of all it has accomplished.

I’ve felt so betrayed by my body at times, but time
and time again I am in awe of all it has accomplished.

Speaking up about these struggles has opened up so many relationships and helped me grow and learn so much. Standing here on this side of infertility, I’m realizing that the grief doesn’t go away once your babies are here. But it does change what type of mother and friend I am. For that, I can say now, I’m so grateful.

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