In my early 20's I was diagnosed with fibroids during a routine annual exam. The gynecologist told me I had several fibroids the size of grapes. I said to myself “ok grapes are small. I have time.” Then the gynecologist said to me “if you were my daughter, I would advise you to settle down and have some children, that is, if you want to have children.” I remember leaving the office feeling devastated and not really believing the seriousness of needing to have kids as soon as possible. Although I knew I wanted to have children someday, I did not want to have children in my 20’s since I was not settled in my career. Being the oldest of seven children and growing up poor, I spent my life getting an education and trying to do the "right things" so my child would have a better childhood and "better hand in life" than "the hand" I was dealt. I decided to wait and do what I thought was the right thing to do.
So, I went on with my life. I decided to go to graduate school for a Masters in Public Health. No sooner had I completed my master's, I met my husband. I told him early in our relationship that I had fibroids and may not be able to have children. I felt that was the right thing to do. He accepted this reality.
Within a few months after we got married, I started having very painful symptoms from the fibroids. Clearly they were no longer the size of grapes (I am in my early 30’s now and about 10 years since I was initially diagnosed.) The pain and extremely heavy periods were so bad that sometimes I had to call out sick from work. So with great fear but desperate for relief, I went to the gynecologist for a consultation. My husband was with me when the doctor told me that I needed to have surgery to remove the fibroids (a myeomectomy) and she referred me to a Reproductive Endocrinologist (RE).
The RE did a complete fertility work up including blood tests and a hysterosalpingogram (a mini procedure to check my fallopian tubes). This procedure was so painful, I think mainly because of the fibroids. I was literally crying throughout the procedure. Thank God for the nurse who held my hand, wiped my tears and encouraged me to believe that one day I would be a mother and this would all be worth it.When all the results came back, the RE said that I needed surgery (myeomectomy) to remove the fibroids and that my hormone levels were normal.
When in woke up from the surgery, the RE came to see me. All I remember him saying is something like "everything went well but you are going to need to do IVF." I said "ok" but inside I was confused. I was like "WHAT?" I didn't know much about IVF except that it is expensive and there was high probability that my insurance didn’t cover it. All I saw in my head was dollar signs, and I thought that my husband and I would have to survive on Ramen Noodles and tuna fish for the next few years. An overwhelming feeling of fear and sorrow came over me. "Why me?" I did everything I thought was right, got an education, a career and was lucky enough to find someone to share the rest of my life with. I couldn’t help but think that we just didn't deserve this (not that anyone does), we were good people. Then some of my very next thoughts were the opposite. I was going to do everything in my power to have a child. I was on a mission.
During one of the first visits to the RE after the surgery, he suggested we try an Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) although he said there was a high probability that it would not work. I was frustrated to be doing something that probably wasn't going to work but hoping that somehow we would beat the odds. In preparing for the IUI, one of the things I had to do every day was to give myself shots in my belly. I must admit that for the first time in my life, I was happy and grateful for my muffin top. For once it came in handy. Besides the serious mood swings that affected my work and relationship, I only had minor bruises from the daily shots. After a week or two of taking the shots, the RE told us when it was time to come in to do the IUI. A week later, my period came so I knew the procedure did not work. I was devastated and remember crying for what felt like for days.
I pulled myself together and saw the RE for the IVF consult. He was more hopeful that this would work for us. Luckily we were able to get some grant funds and we paid out of pocket for the rest. We left the RE’s office with a list of medications to get and instructions on when to take them. When I picked up the medications and supplies from the pharmacy it took up an entire shopping bag that was stapled to keep closed. I came home, put the bag of medications and supplies on the table and stared at it. Then I started crying uncontrollably. I was not prepared for this. I could not believe that I had to take all this medication, shots, and suppositories to get pregnant. By this time I decided to keep a roll of Bounty near me at all times because tissue just wasn’t enough for all the tears.
I managed to pull myself together yet again and start following all the instructions. Finally the day comes to retrieve my eggs. We were really fortunate in that the RE was able to get around 20 eggs. 12 of them fertilized. 3 embryos were transferred three days later. The waiting period was intense. I did my best to stay busy by watching a lot of funny movies and I taking floral design classes. But as soon as my mind was quiet enough, I would wonder if I was pregnant. Then I started feeling cramps and I thought my period was coming so I became really sad and discouraged. But my period did not come and I went first thing in the morning for my pregnancy test. I spent all day keeping busy waiting for the call from the nurse with I was hoping for good news. I got the call around 2pm and the nurse informed me that I was pregnant. I was so happy I didn’t know what to do. I called my husband to tell him the news. The nurse told me to come in, in a few days for a sonogram.
At the sonogram appointment, on the screen were two sacs. You are having twins the RE said. Don’t get me wrong, I was happy but really shocked at the same time. I was like where are they going to sleep? In the drawer because my apartment is so small? I called my husband to tell him. I think he was silent for what seemed like 5 minutes. I kept that sonogram picture in a picture frame next to my bed and looked at it every night before I went to sleep. Well, I figured two at once maybe that’s a gift and we would not have to do IVF again.
So my pregnancy was progressing nicely until one day at around 16 ½ weeks I felt a very sharp pain in my vagina. When I got home, the first thing I did was go to the bathroom. A thick gooey glob greeted me. I asked my husband come to the bathroom right away and I showed it to him. He ran and found one of the pregnancy books and a description of what I showed him. It was a mucus plug and according to the book, I was in labor. I lay down in the bed and called my doctor's on call service. The doctor told me to go to labor and delivery immediately.
After the chief resident examined me, she told me that my cervix was open and the first twin was coming out. This individual was cold, no emotion, empathy nothing. I was completely devastated, I realized at that moment that I was going to lose my twins. I was transferred to a labor room where I could hear other women screaming from delivering their children. This was one of the hardest and most cruel things I had to deal with. Hearing the other women in labor and knowing that at the end of it all they would have their baby to hold, while I had to wait for my labor to progress but I would leave the hospital with no babies.
The doctor basically said that I would have to get a procedure done (a D & E) since my labor did not progress. The doctor was aware of our history and encouraged us to try again since we had more embryos. I remember feeling calm up until the point they came to get me to go for the procedure. When I got in the wheel chair, it hit me like a ton of bricks that when I woke up from the procedure, I would not be pregnant anymore. First one tear flowed from my right eye and then there was a slow steady stream of tears. It was trying to keep myself composed so others would not see me crying I was being transported to the operating room. When we got to the area outside the operating room, no one was there so I just let everything out and cried. My husband felt awful and I saw it in his face. He kissed me and hugged me. I know that he had to be in as much emotional pain as me and he too was trying to be strong.
I don't remember much after the surgery except being glad that I was in a room alone and didn't have a roommate. I got up from the bed and went to the restroom. After using the rest room I was so overcome with such deep sorrow that I knelt down on the bathroom floor and started crying. The doctor came in, and saw me on the bathroom floor. She put her arms around me and said "Marlene, you are going to be alright, you will get through this, let's get you back to the bed." The doctor helped me get up from the floor and walk over to the bed. She told me that there were no complications during my procedure and that I just needed time to heal. She also said that she was going to get a social worker to come talk to me.She too was really helpful and encouraging. By the time I was discharged from the hospital I already decided that I was going to try again. We had around 6 embryos left from the first IVF procedure. When I left the hospital, I said to myself, "one day I am going to walk through these doors with my baby." I really believed that with all my heart.
So it wasn't long before we did the procedure again and I was waiting for the phone call to find out if I was pregnant or not. The call came at around 2pm and I was at work in my office. When I saw the number on my cell phone as the phone was ringing, I felt a wave of all sorts of emotions go through my body. I answered the phone and I could tell by the way the nurse replied that I was pregnant. I wanted to scream and jump for joy but at the same time I felt this was a small victory and that now I had to focus on getting far enough along during the pregnancy so that I could actually have a baby.
A few days later we went in for the sonogram and much to our surprise we were pregnant with triplets. So the doctor advised us to consider reducing, which we felt horrible about. However we were willing to do the procedure to increase our chances of having a healthy baby. Before the procedure, the doctor wanted to do one more sonogram in a week or two, to see if there were heart beats. When we went to that sonogram appointment, there were only two heart beats. Our third soul went away and we were now having twins. The doctor still advised us to reduce to one to increase our chances of having a baby, but we could not do it. For some reason were more comfortable reducing when there were triplets but not with twins. We decided to move forward with the twin pregnancy. This time I had a cerclage at around 9 or 10 weeks. A cerclage is a procedure done for an incompetent cervix (I really dislike this term) to stitch the cervix closed. We hired a personal chef, so I wouldn't have to stand up and cook and we hired a personal car service so I didn't have to go up and down the train stairs and have to stand up on the crowed rush hour trains. We did everything we could, to try to get this pregnancy as far along as possible. The pregnancy itself was difficult not to mention i was also working full time.
Sadly one day while I was at work I started having contractions at 20 weeks. I called my doctor and she told me to go to labor and delivery right now. I left work fighting back the tears because I was already fearing the worst. This time though I knew I was having contractions and they were getting stronger and stronger. The nurse gave me a medication to try to stop the contractions. It worked but when I got up from the bed, to urinate, my first twin's water broke. I screamed out loud "oh my god no, no." I was hysterical as my aunt and the nurse tried to calm me down.
I was taken yet again to a room in labor and delivery to wait and see what would happen next. For hours nothing happened, no contractions and no more leaking of amniotic fluid. The next day I was moved from the labor and delivery unit and put in a post partum unit, which was terrible for me because I was in a room with a woman who had a baby but her baby was in the NICU. Meanwhile I was thinking at least you have a baby! My daughters were not likely to survive, though I could feel them moving all around and doing what felt like summersaults. In the meantime the doctors visited me everyday and reminded me of the very slim chances that I would make it far enough to deliver two healthy baby girls. But nothing they said mattered to me. I had been through too much to get to this point and I just wasn't willing to end the pregnancy. In my mind god was going to have to take them. I lasted about twelve or fourteen days in the hospital on complete bed rest (I couldn't even get up to go to the bathroom) before I started having contractions again. I was about 22 weeks and I knew in my heart the fight was over. I was in labor and my daughters would not survive. I had a vaginal delivery and gave birth to Roslyn and Desiree on November 9, 2008. I asked the hospital for my daughters bodies and they released them to a funeral home. My husband and I had had a small private service and we had them cremated. I picked out two little heart shaped urns to hold their ashes.
Needless to say, after losing my second set of twins, I was through. I was emotionally numb and much of what happened after this time is like a very thick fog. I don't remember much at all. I do remember that going back to work was excruciating. I worked in a place where there was a midwifery and pediatric practice so I was constantly running into pregnant women and mothers with newborns. To this day I don't know how I made it through every day. One thing that gave me solace was the support group I found through Resolve. It was a safe, comforting environment. They gave me the strength to think about trying again.
I thought about the three embryos we had left. Maybe we should try one last frozen cycle. I told myself, if we end up with twins again, I would reduce to one since for whatever reason I could not carry twins. When I told my husband that I was willing to try again he was happy and willing also. This time around I did some additional things in order to improve my chances of success. I did acupuncture and saw an herbalist who prescribed me Chinese herbs. The acupuncture made me feel like a million bucks after the first few treatments. I was calm and not stressed. The herbs, well they tasted like dirt and water mixed together but everyday I drank them. When I started the IVF process I stopped the herbs but continued with the acupuncture. This time the RE inserted two embryos and we ended up with a singleton pregnancy. Hallelujah! I went right away and got a cerclage again and my doctor gave me some work restrictions.
This pregnancy was different right off the bat. First of all I didn't have morning sickness which I was thrilled about and deep down I knew the baby was a boy. Then during the 16 week ultrasound, the technician asked if we wanted to know the baby's sex. She said "it's a boy." My husband actually stopped playing the game on his cell phone and looked up at the monitor. "Let me see his penis" he said. The technician showed my husband our son's penis and she took a picture of it for him.
I made it to 20 weeks when I started having contractions at work. This time I left work and called the doctor in the cab on the way to the hospital, I knew the drill by now. I get to labor and delivery and by this time, it's like everyone knows me. I got an IV and miraculously, the contractions stopped. I was discharged and told to stay out of work for a week. Then at around 9pm, that night the doctor called me and said after talking with the other providers on my medical team she decided to put me on bed rest effective immediately. I was not going back to work until after the baby was born. I said ok and after the call I burst into tears. I was not prepared to be out of work so soon. I take my work very seriously and I felt awful that I was going to be out of work for so long. I called my boss and told her right away. She was understanding and supportive.
But now came the hard part. I was on bed rest at 20 weeks. I watched TV all day, Judge Mathis (my favorite), Divorce Court and all pregnancy shows that came on. My aunt was cooking meals for me and my husband because I wasn't allowed to stand up to cook. I was so grateful for my family and friends that really helped me and my husband during this time.
Well all the bed rest paid off and I made it to 38 weeks for my scheduled c-section. My son was healthy and weighed in at 7lbs 9oz. When I gave birth to him, I was so overcome with joy that I cried immediately after the doctor held him up for me to see him. He was crying and I was crying. I couldn't wait to hold him. I was brought to the recovery room where I held and nursed him for the first time. He was the most beautiful baby I have ever seen. I know all mothers probably feel this way. But it was a little different for me because I realized that that during the pregnancy I never allowed myself to think about what my son would look like because I feared that I would lose him. But here he was breathing, in my arms, and looking at me. So this is little guy that was kicking and punching me for the last few months. This was the little fella who was getting the hiccups everyday. This was the baby I waited for all my life!