I always knew I wanted to be a mother. Playing "house" as a little girl, giving my baby dolls bottles of milk and orange juice, and playing barbies for hours on end... Motherhood was like this perfect little fantasy. You grow up, get married, and have a perfect family and everything is wonderful. That's the idea right? As I grew up, my fantasy started to become reality. My first year of college I met my wonderful husband. We only dated a few weeks before I knew he was the man I was going to marry. We were married and sealed together for all eternity in the Provo, Utah LDS Temple less than a year after we met. Things were looking great. I wanted to start a family right away, but I knew it wasn't very realistic since Forrest and I were both on our college track team, and we had a couple of years left to compete before we graduated. So I thought I'd run for those two years, then have a baby as soon as possible afterwards. Great plan, Holly, really great plan.
Too bad our plans don't always go the way we'd like. Correction - too bad our plans rarely go the way we'd like! Forrest was determined to make it through grad school before we had kids. He felt that he needed to have a job secured before we started a family so that he could provide. I understood his point, but it was so frustrating to me to have to wait! We don't ofter argue, but when to start a family was one of the few things that we didn't see eye to eye on. Finally, after being married just over 2 years, we agreed to start trying to have a baby.
I knew that it took most couples approximately 3 months to get pregnant the first time. I was terrified that it would take us longer. We have close family that has struggled with infertility, and I had seen how difficult it can be. Even knowing all of that, I was devastated when I didn't get pregnant right away. I soon learned to hate pregnancy tests and all the emotions that came with seeing yet another negative result. After about a year of getting my hopes up when my period was a day late, I felt a little nauseous, or had to pee a lot - then crying for hours after taking a pregnancy test, we went to see a doctor. They ran a few tests that came back with pretty depressing results. Sitting in the doctors office, hearing her tell us that while most couples have a 20-30% chance of getting pregnant each month, we only had a 3-5% chance... then her instantly switching from the bad news to pushing us to pay $15,000 to do a cycle of In Vitro Fertilization that month. That was bad. Forrest and I both left the clinic feeling hurt, shocked, terrified, disappointed and so much more. I honestly can't describe what it feels like, knowing that teenage girls can get pregnant without even trying but we couldn't.
Clearly our experience with that doctor and clinic was.. uh... less than ideal. As soon as we left we decided not to go back. We took a step off of the trying-to-get-pregnant train for a few months while we casually asked around for a good doctor that we could trust. As luck would have it, Forrest had a co-worker who highly recommended a doctor in Newport Beach, which was only a few minutes away from our house. We made an appointment for a consultation, and the minute we walked into the office we felt different. At the first office we felt like they wanted our money and didn't really care about us personally. In contrast, Dr. Anderson made us feel like he cared about us individually and truly wanted to do what was best for us. He recommended some next steps for us, which took us a few months to complete, and then we proceded with what he thought was the best course of action.
In August 2012 we attempted our first of three IUI cycles (artificial insemination). Each of these involved me giving myself 10-15 shots in my stomach, and having my blood drawn and an ultrasound done every other day. After each cycle is complete, you wait 10 days then go in to have your blood taken for a pregnancy test. After the blood is drawn, you go home or to work or wherever, and wait. Wait for the phone call from the nurse that will bring you to tears, either out of joy or sorrow. Three times I got my hopes up. Three months the doctor told me everything looked perfect and there was no reason that it shouldn't be successful. The last of the three times we even thought we might be getting triplets (terrifying thought, but when you are so desperate to have a baby, 3 for the price of 1 doesn't seem like such a bad option). But all three times I got the phone call from the nurse. I pick up the phone anxiously and the first word out of the nurse's mouth is "unfortunately". I don't even listen to the rest of whatever she says. I shed some tears but then try to hide them as best as I can while I resume working, and hope that nobody asks me what the phone call was about. Then I call Forrest on my lunch break and tell him the news. He tried to stay positive but I know how hard it was for him, and for me, to think that there was an end to it all.
There are some very dark emotions that come while coping with infertility. Every time I saw a pregnant woman my stomach turned. I lived in constant fear that my friends and family who had gotten married after me would get pregnant and have babies before me (something that did come to pass. I cried, selfishly, every time. Not that I wasn't happy for them, but it's a painful reminder of everything I couldn't have). I got frustrated every time I heard women complain about their children. I couldn't handle looking at pictures of people's kids all day, so I rarely looked at facebook. I alienated myself from so many friends because I just couldn't deal with it any other way. I couldn't walk by the kids and baby sections in stores without averting my eyes. Anything related to babies and children was painful.
During those depressing times we found some ways to cope. One of them was walking. Every Sunday we went to the park and walked. For hours. And we just talked. About work, mostly. Occasionally about our trials with infertility, but we tried to avoid that subject as much as possible. I found a quote that helped me a lot. From Elder Neal A. Maxwell, "Faith in God includes faith in His timing." I tried so hard to remind myself of that whenever I started feeling sorry for myself or started thinking negatively. I also received countless cards, notes and gifts from family and friends who knew what we were going through. Those helped me more than the senders will ever know.
Mothers' Days are particularly hard when you want so badly to be a mother but can't for whatever reason. One Mothers Day, a fantastic friend and her sweet little one baked me cookies and brought them to me with a Mothers Day card. I burst into tears and hugged him (I don't think he understood, but it meant the world to me). I am so grateful for wonderful friends and family. Forrest and I would have been much worse off had it not been for them.
After 3 failed IUI's, the doctor recommended we move on to IVF. It was a lot to take in, but we prayed about it and felt like it was the right step for us. It was November 2012. We had been trying to get pregnant for 2 years. Forrest was working over 80 hours/week, I was in the middle of my 2nd season as head coach of the high school soccer team, and we were swamped. But we felt like we needed to do this. So we proceeded. Thankfully we had infertility insurance, but between the lab costs, medication costs and copays we drained our bank account to make it happen. We barely scraped by, but we had enough. I gave myself over 110 shots, some in the stomach but most in the hip. I again had my blood drawn and ultrasounds done every other day. I underwent surgery to remove the eggs before they were fertilized, then a week of bedrest after the procedure was done. I will forever be grateful to my sister who came and waited on me hand and foot that whole week, and my friends who brought us meals and cared for me while I was down.
During the procedure, the doctor picked out two perfect little embryos, and they became my little Charlie and Caroline. Perfect as can be.
When the nurse called with the results from my pregnancy test I was at church. I stepped out of Young Women's to answer. "Hello?" "Hi Holly, this is Raquel from Dr. Anderson's office." Then, excitedly, "Guess what?! You're pregnant!" And I burst into tears. I could barely finish my conversation with her I was so overcome with emotions. I tried to call Forrest and frantically searched the halls until I found him. When he saw my tears he at first thought it was bad news. I finally got the good news out and we held eachother and cried. We went out to the car and called family and cried some more. Up to that point, that was the best day of my life. And I didn't even know there were twins until a week later.
It is the weirdest feeling, having a trial end after years of dealing with it. Getting pregnant was on my mind nonstop for 2 years, and then all the sudden, after one phone call, bam! I'm pregnant. It was a lot to take in, and it took a few days for it to sink in that I was finally going to be a mother. It was a long hard road to get there. And the thought of going through all of that again to get another baby is terrifying. But so so worth it. I would do it all 1,000 times to have a perfect little miracle (or two) in my arms.
I'm not sharing our story so that you'll feel sorry for us. I'm sharing so that we can all become more aware of what others are going through, and know how it feels when people ask things like "so when are you going to have kids?". Our experience has changed the way I look at others, especially couples without children. I no longer assume that they are just content and comfortable to live on two incomes without any dependents. Because chances are, they would do just about anything to have one more mouth to feed. I'm also sharing because maybe, just maybe our story can help someone else struggling with infertility, just like others helped us on our journey.