“We had a fairy tale love story, but we did not get our happy ending. Empty arms and silent hallways haunted us every single day. We never could have imagined we would be the 1 in 8.
This is our story: of young love, infertility, and IVF.
My name is Sharon Stone, and no, my parents did not do that to me, marriage did! I met my husband Richard when we were both in college. He was a barista at the time, so we had a movie-type moment of our eyes meeting from across a coffee shop. Richard caught my attention by showing kindness to every single person he interacted with, including an individual with special needs that his other coworkers were politely trying to avoid. He was super cute also, so that is an added bonus I am still enjoying to this day!
I knew in that moment that this guy was something special, so after talking for hours, I gave him my number. I called my Mum as soon as I left and said ‘I think I met the man I could see myself marrying… but my name would be Sharon Stone. Should I still go for it?’
Call it a basic instinct if you want, but even at 19 my heart knew who it wanted. We dated for two years and then got married when I was 21 and he was 23 years old. Richard and I have been married for 5 1/2 years now and we are still best friends. Our marriage has been tested by unsupportive family, graduate school while working multiple jobs, moving 3 times, and….infertility.
The way our love story happened was a ‘fairy tale’ so it was a devastating shock when our story did not lead to the next expected chapter: children. We had built a healthy marriage, established our careers, and we were eager to finally start a family. We started ‘trying’ by getting off birth control, but I had never had normal cycles and it was hard to predict when things were supposed to be happening. Six months went by, and we started to feel the fear creep into our bedroom; could something be wrong? We had always heard about infertility, but that was what happened to ‘other people.’
I started to become angry with myself. Was I broken?I was angry at him. Did he care about this as much as I did?Richard and I have never had to try hard to fill our days with laughter, but suddenly the fear of the ‘what if’s’ started to choke out our joy. We decided to try temperature charting, ovulation tests, dietary changes, and any other straws we could possibly grasp. Six more months went by and we became ‘officially’ infertile. The writing was on the wall, but the tears kept me from seeing it. We began to seek help.The silence was just too much to carry any longer.
My parents had rallied behind us from day one, but we felt it was time to let a few other confidants into our circle. We found both freedom and pain in sharing our story. People do not know what to do with something so heavy, and that’s okay. Part of the hurt came from the fact that we were still young, so I heard ‘You guys are fine, you still have time’ A LOT…and it cut me. Whether you are 23 or 33, the ache of empty arms and silent hallways stings the same. Every month of not being pregnant felt like a piece of my heart was breaking, and over 50 negative pregnancy tests later, I honestly didn’t think I had anything left to break.
We were referred to see a specialist, which was terrifying. It takes a lot of humility to walk up to a stranger and immediately start discussing the most private and shameful details of what isn’t happening between the sheets. We had a game plan to run some tests, and as we walked out of the office I looked at Richard and said ‘I will do anything they suggest, but I could never do IVF.’ Our specialist did a hysteroscopy on me, which basically turns your uterus into an ink blot test, and a sperm analysis for my husband. We then scheduled a follow up appointment to discuss our results.
I remember sitting in the waiting room with my arms resting on my shaking legs. My thoughts were racing. Right before I first met Richard, God put on my heart to start praying for twins.Had He forgotten me? Did I hear Him wrong? How was I supposed to be praying for twins, when one baby seemed so far out of reach? Our specialist called us into her office. I had to focus all of my attention on putting one foot in front of the other, because every ounce of my being wanted to run away. I knew what she was going to say, but still her words shocked me entirely.
‘You have PCOS, Endometriosis, Blocked-Tubes, and MFI…basically the only safe way for you to become pregnant is through In-Vitro Fertilization.’
I don’t remember too much of what she said after that. I remember seeing charts with statistics, a panel with the astronomical costs laid out, and hearing something about how it was a good thing I was young. My body is literally at war and attacking my eggs. Had we waited any longer, I may not have had any viable eggs left.
That was it. God closed the door. I will never be a mother. I barely made it home where I instantly fell to my face in the middle of our living room. My husband picked me up, carried me to our couch and prayed for us. We were devastated. We just sat together, sobbing, and focusing on inhaling and exhaling. We had to lean in to our faith; that is all we had left.
The following days were agony, as I slowly tried to accept the reality that I may never be a mother. I had to beg God for the strength to get through each work day without having to hide in the bathroom to cry. Richard and I prayed about what to do, and we both kept feeling like God wanted us to do IVF. But, HOW?We crunched the numbers and could only afford about ⅓ the cost for a single attempt. There was just no way.
One day my phone rang while I was at work. It was the financial advisor from our fertility clinic. ‘Sharon…are you sitting down?’ I held my breath, sat down, and told her to continue. ‘If you do IVF within the next two months, insurance has agreed to cover ⅔ of the cost.’ I immediately burst into tears. This was it! This was our one chance!We immediately began preparing for our IVF round, still in total shock about how we got to this point. It again felt like a movie, but this time I was in the audience. I kept thinking, ‘IVF is the big leagues…there is no way this chick can do this.’ I was both right and I was wrong. IVF is no joke; it is HARD…but this chick could do it!
I gave myself 3 shots a day in my stomach for 11 days, and I went to the clinic 3 times a week for blood tests and ultrasounds. The shots made my ovaries create eggs, while also giving me all the symptoms of menopause. At 24 years old I was walking around with a small fan because I kept having hot flashes and nausea, but I didn’t care. We had something powerful pushing us forward, something we had lost for a long time…we had hope!
I then underwent an egg retrieval, which went beautifully, except that my body overreacted to the medication and began to fill up with fluid. I woke up the day after my procedure in complete agony. I looked down and panicked. I had the appearance of being 3 months pregnant. I was immediately hospitalized for a week. The doctor put a drain into my stomach so the fluid could drain out of my body. It was honestly the most pain I had ever experienced. Again, hope and anticipation of our lab phone call kept me going. We chose to fertilize just 3 eggs and freeze the rest because we did not want any unused embryos. The doctor expected 1 or 2 of the 3 to make it to the embryo stage, but we went into it knowing we would accept any outcome. We had learned by this point to forget about our own plans. God was doing something bigger than we could have ever expected.
‘All 3 of your eggs made it to embryo stage!’ I hung up the phone. ‘Did she just tell me I was going to have triplets?’ We were scared and thrilled at the same time. To most people triplets may seem like too much, but for us, the idea of chaos was a welcomed change from the haunting silence of our hallways. We made it to transfer day. Then to the longest two week wait ever. We finally got THE call. ‘Sharon…you are pregnant!’
I had started doing one injection a day 3 days before transfer day, and continued them until I was 13 weeks pregnant. If you’ve lost count, that is over 100 shots, not including blood test pokes. It was all incredibly hard, but it was so worth it. After 50+ negative pregnancy tests, we finally got our positive!
I wish I could tell you that this was it, that we finally had our fairy tale ending. I thought that we would get a break, that we had finally ‘arrived.’ By God’s graciousness, I was wrong.
At our first ultrasound appointment it was confirmed: triplets! Richard and I held hands and immediately fell in love with our Baby A, B, and C. The nurse cautioned us that Baby C looked a bit weaker than the other two, but we continued to pray and trust in God’s plan. The next week I started spotting. I panicked but stayed in close contact with our nurse and I tried to remember that sometimes this is normal. Then right before Christmas, I felt intense pain; the bleeding worsened, and I was back face down on the floor sobbing. Our Baby C, who we named Charlie, went to Heaven.
I had to somehow find a way to mourn the loss of Charlie, while still finding joy in this long awaited pregnancy. I felt guilty for being sad about the baby I had lost, but I also felt guilty for being too happy about the two babies I still carried. I was then put on bed rest when I was 21 weeks pregnant. I went into labor when I was 31 weeks pregnant and was life-flighted across the city to a hospital with a higher level NICU. My daughters made it one more week before making their entrance, and at 32 weeks Lani and Libby were born. It was the happiest and scariest day of our lives. Unlike the birth of a full-term baby, our daughters were rushed off in opposite directions with their respective medical teams.
We spent 59 days in the NICU, which is a whole story on its own. We almost lost our daughter Libby twice to illness and infection. Both of our girls required specialist care for acid-reflux for 9 months after the NICU. I felt like I was running a marathon, except mile 25 was a never ending loop. My parents and our church family gathered around us and helped carry us to the finish line. They provided meals, hugs, lawn care for our house, pet-sitting, and prayers. I remember the first time I actually fully exhaled was the first night all four of us were finally HOME.
Our lives are back to a fairy tale. We never got our happy ending, rather we have a joyful present. Our rainbow after the storm appeared, and that rainbow is simply every single day that the four of us get to be together. Our hearts all beat gratitude. Once you have known great loss and pain, you can experience even greater love and joy.
Your story may be a painful one, a sad one, or maybe one that you don’t even want to read anymore. I cannot promise you that tomorrow it will be easier, or that you’ll be any less exhausted, but what I can promise you is this: there IS a plan that is bigger than you and me. I prayed for twins when I was 19 years old, and it took me: 2 years of trying, 100+ injections, an emergency hospitalization, a miscarriage, 11 weeks of bed rest, a life-flight, and 3,562 miles of driving during our 10 weeks of hospital life, all to get to my family. Every single ounce of pain has turned into joy. The nitty-gritty of life that most people struggle to find patience for, is something I lean into with a smile. There is no amount of sleepless nights, toddler-tantrums, or diaper explosions that rocks me back to the place of ungratefulness.
Character is forged on the battlefield, and infertility is a war worth fighting.”
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