“When I met Patrick in May 2012, it was purely by chance. He rented me my car at Enterprise on one of my many trips to Alabama for work…but I knew he was it, he was my person. It was a whirlwind romance, and in a few short months of doing the long-distance thing, I packed my bags, left my home in Michigan and traveled the 10 hours to Alabama with my best friend (Emma, a 4-legged friend!) by my side. I moved to Alabama in October 2012, just before my 25th birthday. Everyone considered me crazy, but when you know, you know. Our relationship wasn’t possible 800 miles apart, and I had an opportunity to move, so I took it. We moved in together instantly and began to build a life together. We had one huge common goal, to have lots of babies. We both dreamed of big families, and to be honest – it pulled me to him. A man, immediately with marriage and kids on his mind? I was sold.
What we did not know, is that even though we did everything right to plan for our family, to plan for the future we wanted, it wouldn’t come easy. We married June 28th, 2014, and joked that we would get pregnant on our honeymoon, and we would just keep having babies. We even bought a baby gift on our honeymoon, a cute little bib just for our first child. Instead, it was just negative pregnancy tests. Month, after failed month. I tried ovulation kits, relaxing, read blogs and did research about getting pregnant quick, but nothing worked. Patrick had a semen analysis somewhere in the early months of 2015 due to low testosterone, but while it wasn’t perfect, the doctor said some dieting and exercise would fix him right up. However, when I came to my yearly pap-smear that July, we had had 4 more negative months under out belts and decided we needed to talk to our doctor about it.
August 2015, was our first appointment at a fertility clinic our doctor suggested. I felt like I didn’t really matter to them. Just a number. Did they even really know me? Did they know how much I yearned to be a mother? How much we did not want to do IVF?
The next year, our 2nd year of marriage, was the hardest for us. We went from being hopeful, to having no hope at all. I never peaked on ovulation kits, and the fertility clinic was useless for us, they never called or followed up – we were left with no hope, and no direction. They literally ghosted us after we left that one day… I was depressed, Patrick was depressed, and we took it out on each other. Didn’t anyone know how much we wanted to be parents, how much I wanted to carry a child of my own? In my own womb?
After 7 months of more negative tests, more marital spats, more hurt, I learned of a new fertility clinic, and as hesitant as I was to go, I looked at their doctors online and became immediately drawn to a sweet looking blonde lady. The very next day, during a photoshoot with one of our longtime clients, I learned who that lady was. By some chance, our client knew her and just wanted to mention it to us. It was fate. I knew in that moment I would make an appointment with her the following Monday. Mamie McLean became our new hope.
Our appointment was just after our 2nd anniversary, July 2nd, 2016. I immediately felt at home. Mamie was so incredibly kind. I could not get past how awesome it felt to be listened to. Patrick and I created a symptoms list for me over the months prior, and we spent an HOUR going over them. Yeah, an HOUR. She wanted to know everything. We went to an exam room to get an ultrasound to see what my ovaries, uterus, etc. all looked like and she immediately took PCOS off the table. I had no indication of it, and she really thought I had some other issues going on. She scheduled me for an HSG, and a 2-hour glucose test since I was having some blood sugar issues. I will always remember the HSG way too vividly because it was the most painful thing I had ever experienced in my life. My husband could hear me crying from the hallway, I had a full-blown panic attack after they were done.
After those two tests, she diagnosed me with glucose intolerance, irregular ovulation, a slight hormone imbalance, and endometriosis, in 4 short weeks…. Wow. Okay, now we had some answers, we had some guidance and a direction to go. I started Metformin for the glucose intolerance, a diet under a registered dietician, and I was put back on birth control to get things under control. We would try again immediately after I went off birth control, and see what happens. In just under 4 months, we lost 70 pounds together. It wasn’t easy, but the birth control helped my emotions and we were finally getting back to a better place in our marriage. We had also started counseling during this time to try to manage the emotions of infertility. It was more for me, but Patrick went from time to time as well. It really helped us wade though the tough waters.
In October 2016, we went off birth control. For the first time in 2.5 years we were able to detect a ‘peak’ on an ovulation kit. We were excited, and tried during the window we were given. Unfortunately, it was another negative test. Another failure. We did all the right things this time, but it still didn’t work. Our doctor chose to do my laparoscopic surgery just before Christmas 2016, the remaining piece to our puzzle to confirm if I had endometriosis or not.
After my laparoscopic surgery, we did indeed learn that not only did I indeed have endometriosis but I also had pelvic floor dysfunction. The most devastating news was that the endometriosis was covering some very sensitive areas – my fallopian tubes. Our chance of conceiving on our own, was about 1% before this. It significantly decreased after that. This was also the time our marriage hit an all time low. Somewhere between hopeful and hopeless, I lost the desire to fight for our marriage. I wanted him to be happy, and if it was with someone else – just so he could be a father, then so be it. I was done being a failure, I wanted better for him.
Thankfully, the man I married pushed back. He wouldn’t let me go, which meant we were stuck in this for the long haul, no matter what the outcome. Before the next major fertility decision, we took some time for our marriage. We did a marriage conference, and worked to re-kindle what drew us to each other to begin with. While we were not 100% there, things had improved, so we made the choice to begin the next course of treatment with our doctor. She knew our desire to do IVF was last, due to our Catholic faith, so we chose to do 3 months of meds and timed intercourse.
April 25th, 2017, approximately two weeks before starting the first round of medication, I sat in the waiting area of the tattoo parlor for my 4th tattoo. It may be the smallest tattoo on my body, but it likely will always have the biggest, most important meaning. ‘Be Still,’ in calligraphy done by a very special friend, which would be permanently engraved into my right wrist as a silent, but daily reminder of my mantra. ‘Be Still and Know, that I am God’ Psalms 46:10. I was flooded with emotions as I watched the artist silently line up my tattoo, perfectly straight, to get my approval. In that moment, time stood still and I reflected on what has happened, and what is to come.
After those 3 months, the only thing we were left with was negatives, vivid dreams, and bruising from injections. No baby, no positive pregnancy tests, nothing. I still had such a strong desire to carry a child in my womb, something I could never adequately express to people who pushed us to adopt. Adoption was not something I could settle for at that time. I needed to know what it felt like to carry a child inside me. To love something so deep, before it was even here. I truly felt like I was never going to get there. We went into our 3rd anniversary childless, yet again.
October 2017, our amazing doctor had started at a new fertility clinic, in which we of course followed her to. In the new exam room, she started talking through our infertility factors, our changes, and best course of treatment… I will be honest, I tuned her out when she said we have less than 0% chance to have a baby naturally. I was numb. With my tubes being covered in endometriosis tissue, it is impossible to remove without destroying my tubes, and being blocked hinders the idea of natural conception. IUI was off the table for this same reason, no tubes, no eggs into my uterus. IVF was literally our only option. Somehow in that moment, it was clear. Regardless of our faith, God had brought us to this moment. We were going to do IVF if that is what it took for me to carry a child.
I am grateful as my employer has IVF coverage and with the support of friends and family, financially we pulled the remaining costs off. We made the money we needed in 2 weeks. We called, and got on the schedule for the November IVF cycle. Just after my 30th birthday.
The injections were horrible. I was so bruised, but I knew it was needed. I trusted the process. Patrick chose to do every single shot. He felt like he had to. We received the go ahead to do our trigger shot the night of November 10th, my sister’s birthday. Our retrieval was scheduled for Sunday, November 12th. That day was foggy but everything went perfectly. Our doctor chose to do a 3-day transfer for us, partially because of age, partially because embryos do better inside than outside the womb….and since we only had 13 eggs retrieved, we wanted the best outcome possible.
We came back on Wednesday, November 15th for our transfer. Sadly, we had only 4 embryos make it to day 3. That was very discouraging, but our amazing doctor was confident in transferring 2 of the higher quality embryos that day. We would allow the others to go until day 5, and then freeze them. We prepped for the transfer, and went back into the exam room. We watched as they dropped two tiny embryos into my uterus…hopeful they would stick.
We were so excited. How were we going to wait until November 27th for our beta test? I couldn’t of course. I started testing a mere 5 days after the transfer, and on November 21st, I received the first negative. Then another the next day. And on Thanksgiving I received another negative. Since we were now 8 days post transfer, I was heartbroken. It didn’t work. We were not pregnant. Once again, I failed. My body did not do what it was supposed to do.
Friday, we went shopping and I tried to get my mind off it. I was so sad, but still told myself I needed to wait for the Beta on Monday to confirm. Patrick let me sleep in on Saturday, as it was the big Alabama vs. Auburn game. However, when I woke up, I just felt off. I said screw it, and I took another test.
This time, for the first time in 3.5 years I saw two lines. I saw a second line where I had never imagined I would see one, where I had only visualized with my eyes closed…. I ran upstairs to where Patrick was, stunned and just blurted out, ‘it’s positive, Patrick it’s positive!’ and we celebrated because we knew without a shadow of a doubt that test meant one thing, no matter what, in that moment….he was a dad, and I was a mom….something neither of us felt we would be, and something no one can ever take away.
Monday confirmed we were indeed pregnant. So did all the consecutive tests. I just implanted late. We learned only one embryo stuck, but one meant we had a baby and that is all that really mattered.
Everything after that day has been a whirlwind. Seeing our baby for the first time, hearing the heartbeat, getting to find out that our baby is a girl. Knowing that every single step of the way, we have been ‘perfect.’ To say pregnancy has been a breeze is kind of a slap in the face to some, but it really has been. Our pregnancy has mirrored a dream I had before we decided to do IVF, down to every single detail… At the time it was torture, but it all makes sense now, and we now know that dream was God telling me to ‘Be Still’ and trust that in his time, our daughter would be ours.
We are so blessed that through the pain, we have been able to see light. We pray every day for anyone struggling, that they too get to see their light, however it may come.
In a few short months we will be welcoming Josephine Rhene to our family. She is going to be one loved, wanted, and cherished little girl.”
This story was submitted to by Laura Skellie of Laura Skellie Photography in Pelham, Alabama.