The Road to Stella

On October 9th of 2018, Diego and I woke up at 6am for what would change our lives forever – our frozen embryo transfer. We did not confide this in one another, but we both were feeling the same. We were extremely guarded and had zero expectations. Really, we were going through the motions. This wasn’t our first rodeo. After our last failed transfer, we did not want to get our hopes up and have them shattered, yet again. We were so guarded, that we only told Diego’s parents about this upcoming transfer – and for the simple reason that they work together and he needed time off for appointments (and yes, he went to every single one).

As we pulled up to our IVF clinic, it was time for a shot. Nope, it’s not what you’re thinking. It’s not a celebratory tequila shot. See, for an embryo to stick around, you have to prep your body to make it a sticky and welcoming place for it. Once he parked, Diego prepared the progesterone shot that he would inject into my butt cheek. I reclined the passenger seat and lied face down. He shot me up, and that was that. If you’re an IVF veteran, this is no big deal.

We walked into the clinic and checked in. Again, zero emotions. Our nurses and doctor seemed excited, but we knew there was only a 25% chance of this really working out for us. I reluctantly took pictures of Diego and I to document the moment. I did this for two reasons. For one, a tiny glimmer of hope made me believe this would work out and I wanted to remember this moment. And second, I wanted to document this moment anyway in hopes that I can one day share my story to those struggling, too.

Diego and I before our transfer.

When we left the clinic, we knew there was one thing we HAD to do. See, if you’re part of this community, there are several superstitions. One of them is that you HAVE to have McDonald’s french fries immediately after a transfer. The idea is that the saltiness makes the embryo stick around. (My doctor confirmed this is not true – but we do anything to make this work for us.) Our last embryo transfer, McD’s failed us. This time, we decided on Checker’s fries. (Spoiler Alert: They did the trick and Stella stuck around!)

The lucky Checker’s fries.

Then, we embarked on the dreaded TWW (two week wait) that it takes to find out if this worked. During this time, it takes all the effort to not POAS (pee on a stick). By the way, those acronyms? A huge thing in the infertility community. Any who, this transfer I decided to distract myself and surround myself with all of the positivity. I refused to take a pregnancy test – for a long while. I talked to my embryo. I asked it to please stick around. I told it I did not know if I could take another heartbreak. And… I waited. I’m not sure what thoughts were going through Diego’s mind. Men are wired SO differently. But I do know that a lot of his efforts went around making sure I was emotionally and physically OK. He rocked it.

This picture was taken at about 10 days post embryo transfer. I had zero symptoms. We came here to keep our mind off of things.

Then the day came… BETA test day. I can’t remember why, but Diego could not come with me this day. He had to work. Remember the superstitions? On the way to all of my appointments throughout the cycle that led to Stella, I had a set of my own. I would listen to Florence + The Machine’s new album. And on the way home, I would listen to Ariana Grande’s Sweetener album. Don’t ask me why, but it was my coping mechanism. Anyhow, I sobbed on the way to that appointment as I listened to Florence’s sweet voice. I was so sure this transfer had not worked.

I put on my brave face and I walked into my IVF clinic. My favorite nurse, Ana, saw the look in my eyes. IVF nurses do not get enough credit for all that they do. They hold your hand and reassure you through procedures, hug your through the tears, and feel the sadness for you when things do not go as planned. I could really not have done this without them. Ana saw the look in my eyes and told me she knew this was our time. She drew my blood and assured me they would call me later with my results.

I drove home, obviously jamming to Ariana Grande. I worked from home that day. I could not handle receiving bad news while at work. It was late afternoon and the suspense was killing me. I was sure this transfer had not been successful, but I needed to know once and for all. I had no pregnancy tests handy. Now, this is odd for someone who is trying to conceive. But, I really did not want the temptation. However, I drove my butt to the nearest CVS and bought some pee sticks. Can we all talk about the way we feel when handing them to the person at the register? Is that just me?

I took the test. I waited. And…. almost immediately, I saw two pink lines. I was in shock. My entire body shook from excitement. I really wanted to wait to tell Diego in person, but I really could not. As it is, this was no regular pregnancy. We had been trying for four years. We experienced loss and disappointment together. He deserved to know as quickly as I did. I immediately FaceTimed him to show him. We both teared up. This was our moment.

The clearest result we have ever seen.

That afternoon, my nurses all called me on speaker phone, and I could hear the excitement in their voices. They counted to three and yelled, “You’re pregnant!” Just two weeks later, we went to our IVF clinic for our first ultrasound. I was so nervous. Immediately, memories from our first pregnancy came to my mind. I expected the same outcome as last time – no heartbeat. However, there she was – stronger than ever. Seeing that little flicker on the screen was so surreal.

Stella’s second picture – after her embryo picture ūüôā

All this said, I am so grateful for science. Without it, we definitely would not be here. As my fellow infertility friends know, the worrying does not end after that first ultrasound. Or the second, or the third. You walk into every ultrasound expecting the worst. Those early weeks, I remember continuously asking Diego: “You think our booger is OK in there?” To which he’d always reassure me. Once I was able to feel her kicks, it was so reassuring. The worry was still there, and it was most definitely hard to enjoy my pregnancy without the fear of loss.

If you’re still in the waiting, I am so sorry. I stand in solidarity with you. I truly hope this sheds some light and hope on your journey.

More to come on our journey, and our teeny embryo that could.

Continue reading “The Road to Stella”

an open letter to my mom;

It’s been almost a year since I embarked on my self-healing journey. I have so much to share since, but for now I will share a sneak-peak of my writing. Throughout my healing journey, writing has been so therapeutic to me. I have my therapist to thank so much for this. Writing was the core of my therapy, and it’s almost like my therapist was made for me. (Thank you so much, Tania).

It’s been a few months since I have talked to my mom. My heart is heavy, but I made the decision that was best for my mind and my family. It’s sad to finally be a mom, and to not have my mom with me to experience all these firsts.

This quarantine brought back some heavy feelings, so I did what I knew.

I wrote. (A special thank you to Rupi Kaur. If you do not follow her on IG, I highly recommend you do. She hosted a special (and free) writing workshop. It was exactly what my soul needed during a time like this.)

Here ya have it:

Mom, I’ve been dying to tell you
That I miss you.
I long for maternal guidance.
You’re broken and flawed.
But I see so much of your goodness in me –
The Mother Bear Instinct,
The laughter an inappropriate times
Your perseverance to truck along, no matter how tough the going gets.

You may not be what I need at the moment, but you are what I need in my future.
I fear that time is slipping away.
I fear that I may lose you without so much as a goodbye.
I’m scared.
I fear that I am wrong, though I know I am not.
But still, this does not change how much I miss you.

I wish that things were different.
I wish you knew your worth.
I wish your mom loved you like you needed.
I blame her, because it’s easier than blaming you.

I miss your smell – a sweet mixture of your go-to perfume and fabric softener (boy, you love laundry so).
I miss your willingness to save the world, when you cannot even save yourself.

I wonder what kind of mom you would have been, had the world been easier on your soul.
Had your dad not abused you.
Had your mom not abandoned you.
Had my dad chosen you over drugs.
Had your husband loved you the deserve.
Would you have hugged me more?
Would you have wiped my tears?
Would you have protected me?
Would you be here now?

I long for a mom.
Being a mom is hard, but having no mom during a time like this is harder.
And I’m doing my best.
But still, I miss you.

Stay tuned for more. I hope this helps those struggling with something similar.

Sending so much love.

 

miscarriage talk;

November 19, 2016: (n.) the worst day of my life.

In October 2016, over a year after trying to conceive with no luck and already having given up on trying, my husband and I found out we were expecting. I remember the influx of emotions. What we dreamed of was becoming a reality. We were finally going to be parents. Immediately, my mind raced with ideas – nursery themes, bump picture ideas, pregnancy announcements.

I immediately booked my appointment with our OBGYN. Because she knew we were full of anxiety, she got us in for an early ultrasound at 5 weeks. The tech was able to see the sac, and the yolk. The doctor explained to us that there was no heartbeat, but that it was typically normal at this time. She booked us for an U/S exactly a week from then.

We went in for that ultrasound full of hope. I walked in, heart racing, but thinking:¬†This could never happen to me. What are the chances? (Little did I know, they were 1 in 4.) Waiting for the U/S technician to look around was the longest 15 seconds of my life. She was unable to give me the news, but she did not have to say anything for me to know it was not good news. As I put my clothes back on, I remember sobbing and my poor husband tearing up as well, trying to console me. As my doctor was not in office, I was scrambled into another room to speak to another doctor to confirm the dreaded news I already knew. This doctor could not have been more insensitive. He threw statistics at me, and mentioned:¬†The great news is, now that you got pregnant, we now know you are able to get pregnant.¬†(Two years and one failed IVF cycle later, joke’s on you, doc.) I left the doctor, called out of work, and drowned my sorrows in food and sad music.

I felt like what we had so desperately tried for was given to us and ripped from us within seconds.

That same week, a nurse call me to discuss my need for a D&C. She also explained to me that it would cost us $1600 with my doctor. I explained to her that this was not affordable to us. She recommended we try to miscarry naturally, and offered me an address to our local abortion clinic, which offers a D&C for $400. A week later, we had not miscarried.

I remember hearing so many hopeful stories of a heartbeat not appearing until 8 weeks. I scheduled an appointment with my mom’s OBGYN. My husband and I, again, were so hopeful. Yet again, disappointment. There was no heartbeat, and our baby stopped growing at 5 weeks.

I scheduled my D&C for November 19th. At this point, I was numb. I had zero feelings, and wanted all recollection of this pregnancy to be done and over with. My husband and I, to alleviate the situation, laughed and joked on the 40-minute drive up there. Upon getting there, it was apparent I did not belong. The clinic was full of teenagers, laughing. Some were with a parent, others with their boyfriends. Some came with a friend and were gossiping. None discussing what they were here for. I wrote my name on the list and waited to be called. My husband held my hand firmly. We sat in silence.

Once my name was called, I asked if my husband could accompany me. I was told he would have to wait in the lobby. Tears brimming my eyes, I kissed him and went in. I paid the $400. I was then scrambled into a room, where a nurse quickly took my vital signs and asked me to remove all my clothes and cover myself with a blanket they provided. I was then escorted, still wrapped in a blanket, to a line of women. They were all wrapped in blankets. They were all in line for the same purpose. In all their faces, I read a hint of fear. As the line gets closer to the room, I could hear the noise. It almost sounded like a vacuum.

It was then my turn. I went in and immediately sat in the chair. An IV was placed in my arm, where the anesthetic would eventually put me to sleep. The doctor asked me some questions. To one of them, I remember tearing up and explaining it was a miscarriage. He attempted to console me, clearly uncomfortable, and told me it would be quick. I woke up from the procedure, not even realizing it had already been completed.

I was then escorted to yet another room for “recovery.” It was a tiny room with two recliner chairs. A girl sat on the other chair, asleep. I was sat in the chair, offered water and a heating pad. The cramps were almost unbearable. About 10 minutes later, I was allowed to leave.

I sobbed the entire way home, barely able to tell my husband about the experience.

While the procedure was quick and almost painless, I was left with an unbearable feeling of pain, disappointment, and emptiness. Nobody knew what we were going through. We hadn’t even told our parents, as we were waiting until at least 12 weeks to tell our families. Holding this secret, and then the pain, brought me into a horrible depression. I blocked out the hurt for weeks. I went out with friends, went on dates with my husband, until I couldn’t anymore. I broke.

This day truly was the worst day of my life. But I know that the day I’m graced with the ability to be a mother, I will only cherish my role that much more.

October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. In honor of this, I decided to tell my story. This is such a taboo topic nobody talks about. But, the reality is, 1 in 4 pregnancies will end in miscarriage – a mind-boggling statistic I had to learn about as I found out my baby had not made it. Spread the word. Tell your stories. I hear you. I hurt for you.

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time stamps;

For these past four years, I seem to pass through days with time stamps that remind me of monumental events. Many of these bring back not-so-pleasant memories, but some of them absolutely beautiful –

June 2015: My love and I decided to start our family. He has been asking me from the moment we met, and I would always push it off. I was young and we were so new to each other, and I wanted to know it was the “right” time. I remember the day like it was yesterday. We were lying on the beach, catching some rays. He brought up the question for about the millionth time – “Babe, do you want to make a baby?” To his astonishment, I responded yes. In that moment, I remember the utter bliss of life itself. I was going to create life with the person I loved the most in this entire universe and life.

October 2016: At this point in our journey, we gave up on the idea of babies for a bit. It was over a year of trying. Month after month, we were disappointed. We decided to just enjoy each other, live life, and continue to try – but not think about it. And we did just that. I had a business trip to Atlanta, where my husband tagged along. I remember my period being late, but I thought nothing of it. I remember going out to dinner and ordering myself a beer, as usual. However, I couldn’t find myself to drink it. Upon getting home to Miami, I peed on a pregnancy stick. I remember leaving the stick to my husband, because I was too afraid to face to disappointment. Low and behold, we were pregnant. Later that month, the excitement was ripped from us as we found out our little bean had stopped growing at 5 weeks.

November 19, 2016: This day happens to be my younger sister’s birthday. However, this day was the worst day of my life. After about a month of waiting to naturally miscarry, my doctor recommended a D&C – pretty much, an abortion. Doing the procedure in a hospital was almost $2000, money we did not have lying around. I opted for an abortion clinic. I will save this for its own post, but this day was excruciatingly painful. A few hours later, my husband and I ¬†went to my little cousin’s volleyball tournament.

February 8, 2018: After years of “not thinking about it,” we figured something was wrong. We started our long journey with a fertility doctor.

June 19, 2018: We transferred our first embryo baby. This was the most pregnant we ever were, and we were so full of hope.

June 29, 2018: We found out our transfer failed, which brought on weeks of depression and hopelessness.

Infertility is hard. Before embarking on this journey I did not choose, I did not know how debilitating it is. I did not know how certain memories, reminders, or dates could trigger an onslaught of emotions to rush in. Some days feel lonely, even amongst my family, coworkers, and friends. It feels as if I talk, and nobody TRULY just¬†gets it. As I blog more, though, and include snippets of this journey, I hope to help more people understand. Because, the reality is that 1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage. 1 in 8 women suffer through infertility. But nobody is talking. It’s time to talk.

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June 19: Embryo transfer day!